House Warming Present

Some of you might recall me writing about our Canadian friends, Allan and Dinah.  They own one of the houses on the outside wall of Lucignano and 18 months or so ago bought the one right next to it and started work to open the two up to each other.  I helped when they were clearing out the new property and found many wonderful things, some of which I sold and some of which I kept.  You might remember the poppy pillow…  

It was very obvious from the things that I saw in the new house that one or several of the former owners valued needlework and made beautiful needlework things of all sorts.  As I thought about all the work, time, money and effort that Allan and Dinah were putting in to this property to make it come alive again I knew that I wanted to make them something to honor their efforts and to recall the spirit of the past needle-working owner.  I thought about for a long while and then it finally came to me.  A pillow or a hanging using the symbol that Dinah designed for the gates of the property.  Click on this link to read about the symbol and the gate.


So I took the photograph that I had taken, enlarged it and printed it off.  After some searching in Arezzo I found cross stitch  canvas and traced the pattern on it.


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Then came the hard part… figuring out how much thread to use.  Normally, when someone makes  something likes this, there are directions… You know, ‘use 5 skeins of white’… that sort of thing.  You don’t get those when you make up the project.   I turned to the internet and found a site that suggested cutting several lengths of thread in equal parts and then stitching a 1 square inch square.  Figure out the square inches of the project and how much was used for 1 square inch and then estimating the percentage of each color needed and going from there.   (Yes, I thank a teacher for giving me those math skills) 


The problem was, at the store, the most available of each color was 10 skeins. Of course I needed more than 10 of several colors.   Years of shopping and needlework projects with my mother taught me that you always buy all the yarn you need and that it has to be of the same dye lot.  Well this is cotton embroidery floss and there are no dye lots on it.  I was afraid of getting almost all the way done, running out, going back to the store, then finishing the last few rows with a color that was just off.  So I decided to blend, 2 threads from one shade of the cream colors with 1 thread from another shade of cream color and the same idea with 2 different blues.  Hoping that would protect me if I ran out and giving me enough to finish the project.


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I started work on it in July, setting it aside in late August as we packed and moved.  I didn’t really pick it back up again until October. 


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Here is the progress at the end of 2012. 



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Being inside because of the rainy and cold weather has really given me time to get it finished.  And I was very afraid that I would be working on it one day and Nerone would come in and slap a big old muddy paw on it.  I wanted to get it finished for Dinah’s visit starting in February.  So I have been working hard on it for the last few weeks.  Finally finishing on Valentine’s Day.


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The backside.  (Needlework folks automatically turn a piece over to judge how neat the stiches are on the back too.  Don’t ask me why, we just do.)


So yesterday, Ben and I were in Lucignano to present this to Dinah.  Even though her house is not finished, I wanted to go ahead and give it to her so that she could decide how to use it and have it ready when the house is finished. 


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I think she was truly, really happy to receive it.  Now it is her choice to make it into a pillow or to have it framed.  And where to use it.  And I don’t have to worry about it getting dirty!  In the end I overestimated and have 4 skeins of blue and 2 skeins of cream left.  But that’s not too bad.  So now I’ll have to find something else.  I’m sure there will be something.



  1. Anna Lee B

    Martha, you are amazing. And so creative. I have been following your blog for some time now, vicariously enjoying life in Italy through your experiences. I haven’t managed a trip to Italy since 2008, having bought a condo in Vancouver, BC in 2010. But I will get back there in the near future! Back to your creation – I do needlework as well and you are right, we DO always look at the back side of the work. Well done!

  2. Anna, thank you for reading and writing back. Always nice to hear from someone and with nice compliments. So why do we look at the back of a work?

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