Lessons in Living a French Life

Bringing a touch of French culture to everyday life

Lesson Offerings for Spring 2020

A long weekend in France can invigorate your creativity. It’s a respite from the usual, fast-paced travel itinerary, providing the chance to see the country in a new light. I envision the perfect country setting to experience an intimate and inspiring workshop in southwestern, France.  Between May and October, we'll offer a weekend "lesson" in living a french life where you can learn a variety of d’arts ménagers or French lifestyle skills from natural dye work and knitting to cheesemaking and creating medieval tisanes or teas. Our events will be casual and enjoyable.  Educational and relaxing. Once a year, a renown artist will be invited to share their talents on various art forms. It’s the opportunity to combine my love of all things beautiful and useful, entertaining guests in a special setting in France, and sharing and learning new artistic expressions. Permit yourself the indulgence.

 

Pastel: Discovering Southwest France's Ancient Blue Dye

 

You might know Isatis tinctoria by its name, woad. But in southwest France, the Occitan word for this dye plant is "pastel." This same plant brought wealth to the region surrounding Toulouse during the medieval and Renaissance periods, was prized in Chaucer's poetry, and dyed the uniforms in Napoleon's army. Not only useful, this plant is steeped in a rich history.

We will pick this green plant with yellow flowers right from our garden and turn it into a "blue gold" dye bath. Beginning with soaking the leaves, we'll use the 18th-century, environmentally sensitive recipe to create the dye. Bring your own fleece, yarn, or natural fiber fabric to transform. It is the magic of alchemy in a Renaissance-styled garden.


Apothecary: Making Soaps, Balms, and Natural Body Scrubs

Caring for our skin requires a bit of mindfulness and a walk through a beautiful garden. We'll gather plants that are beneficial to our skin and prepare several natural body care products using fresh French ingredients.  Formulations are simple and you can recreate similar items when you return home.  Favorites include a simple goat's milk soap and a French clay and lavender mask.  It is a weekend dedicated to shelf care and peaceful rejuvenation.


Ink is somewhere between colored water and dye. It’s fluid. It’s used to communicate. It’s invention is directly tied to the written record of history, poetry, music, mathematical formulas, and cultural stories. My passion for ink began when I dipped a pen tip into a saucer that contained a bit of brewed coffee. The color when touched upon paper was rich and variable. Lichen, wild berries, a rusty nail can all create natural inks. We’ll spend time foraging for pigments while we enjoy the countryside, historical sights, and shops of the local village. We’ll take inspiration from medieval French recipes and prepare our own liquid colors. Finally, we’ll test the fruits of our labor on cotton papers and share our results. A simple recipe is all you need to recreate and endless array of hues gathered from natural materials. I bring the medium. You bring the expression.

Making Color: A Guide to Creating Natural Inks


Nature's Colors: Recreating a 15th-century Burgundian Dye Palette for Fiber and Fabric

We begin by examining colors used in late medieval France and learn how ingredients were procured, dyes made, and the application for fiber and fabric.  For the early Renaissance artists, understanding how to preserve color and create pigment powders was an essential skill.

There is something about creating dyes within the walls of a 17th-century building.  You cannot help but be inspired by the colors and the possibilities for future projects.  Rather than be overwhelmed by color theory, we will use the palette of Burgundian masters in a new innovative way.  By the end of your stay, you will create color samples on paper, fiber, and vintage fabric and trims.


All Things Fiber: Designing a Yarn from Scratch

There is something very special about creating your own yarn.  Not only do you have full control of the end product, but you have the pleasure of designing a project from start to finish.  We'll begin with preparing local fleece.  We will wash, card, and comb the wool in preparation for spinning.  Simple techniques of drafting, twisting, and winding the yarn will be executed on a drop or high whorl spindle.  We will learn how to ply and prepare the yarn for weaving, knitting or crocheting.

Whether you are a novice or an advanced spinner, you will enjoy the pleasure of  french fibers in a beautiful setting.  Use the lesson as a refresher class to remind you how to create the yarns you imagine.  It is an opportunity to learn new skills or hone the ones you already know.  Tuck your favorite spindle from home into your luggage or purchase a locally made one from a nearby fiber studio.  No matter, fiber and shopping will be your pleasure all weekend long.


Traveling Companion: Knitting or Crocheting a One Skein Project

A retreat in the truest sense.  There is no formal knitting or crocheting instruction and the workshop is open to all levels. We gather to share our projects that travel with us from one adventure to the next. It is an opportunity to learn something new. We can inspire others, answer questions on technique, demonstrate a new stitch, and share our fiber stories.  Set in our 18th-century salon, the atmosphere is meant to inspire creativity and encourage pure contentment.  Shopping and eating will be an enjoyable part of the weekend event.


A Culinary Retreat: Incorporating French Cooking in Your Kitchen

From confiture to cheesemaking, our culinary retreat is French cooking 101. It is an opportunity to tackle a french sauce or two, make a really good Dijon mustard from scratch, and learn how to create a simple liqueur. At its heart, this lesson incorporates the love of French food into your daily kitchen. The emphasis is on reconnecting with how we source our ingredients and prepare our food, and instill a sense of pride and quality that is often lost in today's modern interpretation of food.


Antiquing in France is an art. Imagine spending the weekend hunting for your favorite French finds. I love to share my most favorite spots that are often difficult to find unless you know the region. But this is more than just shopping at local markets, brocante shops, and flea markets, it is an opportunity to share creative ideas with like-minded individuals, enjoy good food and wine, and be inspired by the French countryside. Of course there is the thrill of discovering the perfect French something to take home with you. No doubt we will find ourselves saying, “Je n’en ai pas besoin, mais . . .” - "I don't need this, but . . ." How can one resist when one is before a table of French linens or jam jars or well-worn pitchers. The most difficult part of the weekend lesson: packing your bag for your return trip home.

The Hunt: Antiquing and Brocanting in the French Countryside