Monday, 8 August 2011
A RIOT (of colour)
I have just been to France (Brittany) and visited a few fairs hoping to add to my stock of attractive floral prints and some jolly striped tickings. I found none - just one ticking I sold the day after returning home - and now the cupboard is bare - I was able to find some good really rough hemp sheets, hand-woven and very grainy in oatmeal shades, plus masses of good offcuts from a workshop which will be useful for people making cushions, table mats and tote bags (I'm bringing them to the American Museum fair) I did find one beautiful shirt smock with fine embroidery on the collar and 6 tiny and amazing hand-made linen bobble buttons - I think it must have been a wedding shirt, it is so beautifully embroidered on such coarse heavy fabric and I find it a very touching example of skill with very primitive materials.
While in Brittany, I went back to see my friend in the France profonde to hear more about her family. She told me her mother never learnt to read or write and was a washerwoman for the village for 27 years. She washed the clothes and sheets and hung them to dry on a line which went right round a field that she hired from her landlord, the local chateau owner.
She soaked it all first in cold water, then boiled it up in a great copper, used blocks of soap and a brush to clean everything, rinsed it in another lot of clean water and carted it out to her washing line - rain was a disaster and sometimes she had to re-wash to get rid of the mud, and then there was the ironing and folding. My friend, aged 14, with her 3 brothers, had the job of delivering the laundry back round the village. Her mother lived long enough to see her daughter open an antique shop which specialised in antique costume and linen, and was so pleased she had an easier life than hers.