Many years ago, as a singleton, I took sewing lessons in Geneva, and while I was the youngest by about - oh 50 years - I really enjoyed my evenings spent learning to sew (a little) with these older ladies. I found it very therapeutic. Even when I married and moved to the States, after leaving Washington, D.C. and having a baby, I still found time to take a sewing class one night a week. The problem with that was, you know how very occasionally you meet someone who feels like he/she was just made to be your lifelong best friend - admittedly not very often - well the sewing teacher turned out to be just that. J was lovely and I felt like I had known her all my life. We used to yack so much that in the end I never really did learn how to sew, but man did my jaws ache at the end of each lesson.
Then J moved to Florida with her new husband and we moved back to Switzerland, and even though we lost touch, we have skyped a couple of times (with a 20-odd year gap in between times) and it always turns out just like old times. In fact, J skyped me one Saturday while she was at the hairdresser's and from not having seen her in over 20 years, she pops up on my screen complete with aluminium wraps in her hair while waiting for the colour to take, and neither of us batted an eyelid.
Anyway, I digress. Last year I spotted a flyer for a sewing class taking place in a local village on Monday evenings from 8-10 pm. This was exactly what I was looking for because although Geneva has all this to offer it is usually about four times the price and means trekking back into Geneva in the evenings. That gets old very quickly I can tell you, especially in the winter. Moreover, while I love Geneva and everything it has to offer, many friendships can only be transitory at best because people move on, are transferred with their jobs etc. - it's the nature of the beast. And since I am almost certainly planning to stay here in France when I retire - even though this area is expensive - I want the majority of my social life to revolve around France and not the international community in Geneva.
So I went along to this sewing class on the first Monday and it proved to be lovely. The classes are actually free, except that they ask for an annual contribution of €40 to put towards buying material and supplies etc. People bring in whatever they want to make and the two or three volunteer teachers help whenever people need help. The local commune gives us the use of the room for free (my only complaint would be that it feels like a sauna most of the time - but the others don't seem to notice it - must be my English blood). The only proviso is that the sewing ladies agree to participate in the village carnival which takes place in March (bloody stupid time of year for a carnival if you ask me - but I digress). The women decide what they want to dress up as and the fabric is again provided free of charge by the commune. One year they went dressed up as colourful Caribbean women, something like this:
But what did they decide to do last year - get this - sweets/candies/bonbons! I kid you not. Well I knew I wasn't going to have as much time as the others to make my costume as I was going to Cuba for two weeks at the beginning of March, but I ended up going dressed as an M & M (something like the picture below - sorry I don't have any pictures - thank God!).
Bearing in mind I had flown back from Cuba on the Wednesday (34 degrees and beautiful) and then had to traipse round the local villages in the pouring rain and freezing cold dressed as an M & M four days later I showed, I thought, what must be the epitome of dedication! I leave to your imagination what we all looked like, given that most of the ladies are even older than me, but what good sports they all are.
Over the course of the year I was supposed to be making a dress but I bought the wrong sized pattern, bought the right sized pattern, put on weight and didn't like the dress anyway so didn't actually finish it, but in any case, what a lovely time I had over the course of the year, getting more yacking done than sewing of course (can you begin to see a pattern (pun intended) here). At the end of the year in July, one of the ladies invited us all over to "her place" for an apéro - "her place" being a wholesale wine and beer outlet that she and her family run. (It's not what you know but who you know that's important - obviously). After the apéro we went up to a place called the Plateau de Solaison to have lunch in one of the four restaurants up there and it was lovely. This was also paid for out of the €40 annual contribution, so you can see what a great little class this is.
|Plateau de Solaison|
At the same time I thought I would treat myself to a new sewing machine, my old one being over 35 years old and second-hand even when I bought it all those years ago (but still running sweet as a nut). The lady who sold my new machine to me told me it was "the Michael Schumacher" of the sewing world and indeed it does seem to have everything except GPS, although I fear I might need a PhD to figure it all out. I mean, it is a "self-threader" - it only took me about six months to get that down pat! This lady also gives patchwork lessons once a month so I jumped at that - once a month, in all honesty, being enough to allow some time during the week to get ahead. Her husband also services and repairs sewing machines in their "Aladdin's cave" of a shop. To be honest, there just aren't the same number of outlets for crafts/patchworking as there are in the UK (or the States!!!) so you jump at everything you find here.
First year she had us make a sampler in order to give us the basics of patchworking, appliqué etc. The course starts again tomorrow and while four of the ladies want to make a bag, I want to make a kit to carry my supplies. We'll see what that turns out like in due course, I suppose.
On top of that, I had spotted an advert for a patchwork and craft exhibition taking place this weekend in a small village about 15 minutes from me so I went along expecting to spend 15 minutes there at most. Well, I was stunned. Considering it is such a small village, the quilters' club (which includes one very artistic man) produced such beautiful work and made us feel so welcome that we stayed over an hour-and-a-half. I was taking photos saying "oh this one's my favourite", "no sorry, this one's my favourite" - and in the end couldn't decide. Everything was just so beautiful - judge for yourself (sorry if a few of the photos are a bit blurred).
|Actually I think this might be my favourite - a "friendship" quilt - each piece made by a different "friend"|
Well this small quilters' club meets twice during the weekday afternoons (no good for me) but once a week on a Monday night so I have signed up. Again only €35 for the year and (so I'm told) it's a sew-a-bit, chat-a-bit kind of club (just my kind of club then) where the ladies chose what they want to make and everyone offers guidance and assistance freely. I can't believe I have been lucky enough to find this club just down the road from me. If I were in the UK I would probably know where to find these things but here in France it is not so obvious (to me at least) to locate these groups - but I'm so glad I kept looking. Unfortunately, being on a Monday night, it clashes with my sewing class so I think I will end up doing one week sewing, one week quilting. Well, that's the plan anyway, but who knows.
But you know, I think I'm really going to have to re-think this "working full-time business" - I mean, it is seriously interfering with my social life!