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Musings from an Umbrian Sewing Room

7 Apr 2020 1:53 PM | Louise Sparrow (Administrator)

This piece has been something of a UFO – a long time in the making, with lapses in attention. The long hot summer is over here in Italy, the last sewing project was finished a few weeks back, and now the sewing machines, gadgets, pins, scissors etc have been put away for the last time here. Now I will complete these musings.

We have been coming to Umbria every northern summer now for six years, when after daydreaming for years about the possibility, we bought an apartment in the medieval hilltop town of Todi.

The idea was to come for sojourns in spring and/or autumn and rent the property out in between. However, after spending some four months here over that first summer, organizing renovations – plumbers, electricians, tilers, painters etc – coming for the whole summer each year has become a habit.

But a girl can’t spend six months without time at a sewing machine. In our second year here, I bought a Pfaff Passport sewing machine, quickly followed by an overlocker, both purchased online from Turin. The machines were delivered to the door (three floors up) and so my Italian sewing room was launched.

I now have most of the necessary gadgets and tools assembled – either bought online or on excursions to Rome, or further afield in UK, France etc. And, of course, a very respectable fabric stash now nestles in containers under one of the guest beds. After a couple of years here I tracked down a very helpful man near Perugia – a 30 min drive away – who serviced both machines, with excellent results.

My sewing room (aka the guest room) doesn’t have the divine vistas of the sitting room and main bedroom, but it does look out on a neighbour’s vegie patch and part of the 1,500-year-old Roman wall still standing in parts around the city. Further down the hill is the younger medieval wall that circles the city, defining the Centro Storico.

Depending on which way I set up the ironing board, I can still gaze out through our bedroom window with magnificent views of the Umbrian countryside, and Apennine Mountains. If I am doing hand sewing, there is a comfortable armchair in the sitting room, with even more expansive views through the floor length windows there.

It is a view I never tire of, and at different times of the day and year, whether sunny, cloudy or lit up with a classic Umbrian thunder and lightning show, it is always stunning. Add to that the spectacle for ten days in July of the hot air balloonists literally coming over our balcony as we have our breakfast.

This summer’s completed projects include a black linen jacket for the husband, a viscose crepe dress (Max Mara black with white carnations fabric sourced from Marci Tilton online), a black striped linen dress – all of which were cut out in Perth for assembly in Italy. But how did I manage to plan three black garments?

Then there was the beautiful piece of Italian black patterned silk crepe that Lottie, a Swedish friend with a house here, showed me. It was a gift to her 25 years ago and she was looking for a style and a dressmaker in town. From my wardrobe and onsite collection of patterns a style was selected and, while Lottie did layout, cutting and pinning, I agreed to run that one up too. She was delighted with the result and looked fab in it when we all went out to dinner.

During June, with the BBC live on my new smart TV, I settled down to watch Wimbledon, while doing the hand sewing on my Chanel-style jacket - again a project commenced in Perth. A subsequent trip to Rome and a visit to an amazing passementerie produced a wonderful trim for the edges and pockets, along with chain for inside the hemline. The jacket was completed by end of August and made its debut at the opera in our lovely theatre.

A couple of pieces of linen became dresses, but a couple more will make the return trip to Perth unmade.

After sorting what stays and what comes home, the packing is now all but done. In a few days we leave for Dubai and then a two-week adventure in Uzbekistan…. I’m already thinking silk...There is always room in the luggage for some special piece of fabric, or shoes…

Sandra Moran
ASG member, WA



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