Thursday, July 16, 2009

craft day in the chateau studio


Greeting each of us in our rooms on arrival was our own cheery French General craft bag, sewn from Kaari's new Rouenneries fabric line for Moda. Inside were several smaller kit bags, the longstanding French General jewelry tool kit, and a needle book from Moda.

After Monday's leisurely breakfast, we gathered in Lizzie's reconstructed craft room up the narrow railinged staircase among the rafters over the barn. Our first craft session with Kaari was a lesson in needle felting, using dyed alpaca wools.

Photo by Cathy Mogull

Many of the ladies made sweet little felted animals. Sitting across from me, Megan made a bumblebee complete with wings, while I made a striped heart. Lizzie had also hired two masseuses to give massages throughout the day, so one by one the ladies interrupted their craft sessions to go be pampered.

We also laid out our supplies to start putting together the necklace and bracelet kits from Kaari's bag. The studio remained open for us to come and go, working on our crafts as we had time, even after dinner if we could muster the energy.

Later in the afternoon we headed off to Septfonds for a tour of Chapeau Willy's, a small local hat factory and one of the oldest in the area. In spite of its age, we couldn't see evidence of old millinery supplies, so we asked. Isabella, the 6th-generation family owner, told us her sad tale of a burglary followed by a fire that destroyed fingerprints and almost all the old inventory.

As we gathered around her, a woman who had worked in the hat factory for over 40 years nimbly machine-stitched together strips of straw braid to make the factory's specialty, the braided straw hat. Most of the machinery, both sewing machines and hat-pressing molds, were fairly old, a few newer machines sitting idly by and critiqued as unequal to the task.

Cathy spotted this straw beauty, one of the few remaining older hats hung on the factory wall. Since Isabella could not part with it, Cathy decided to have a similar one made. After choosing the width and color of straw braid, she found some rosy vintage-looking flowers high on a shelf plus chocolate grosgrain for the rim, and ordered the molded shape she wanted, all to be done by the end of the week.

After another full day, dinner on the veranda was followed by a local wine and cheese tasting, presented in French by a local sommelier. Lizzie translated while we sampled fig and nut breads, soft cheeses, goat cheeses, and red and white wines, all specialties of the neighboring areas. Dusk enveloped us after 10 pm, but we lingered on.


Heather ~Pretty Petals said...

oh my goodness, I am just SO excited for you to have experienced all of this! the crafting together looks like SO much fun... and the hat factory! WELL, I am just speechless about that!!


Sue said...

ok - now I know I will just have to learn to needle felt - that bee is just precious and I love the heart you made! The hat factory looked like a wonderful experience - how neat to see them actually being made!


Maili said...

Wonderful! Melissa loved this! Her first project was a heart as well. Now she is making flowers.