Once she was fully reassembled, with a neat patch across her tummy to hide the joins of the sides and ends, I was very keen to put back Cécile’s glorious turquoise velvet saddlecloth. I started sewing it on in the centre of each long edge – roughly where her spine would be – and worked outwards, to make sure that the saddlecloth didn’t end up squiffy. I’ve also not stitched too closely, because I want the fabrics to be able to move a little when I put my feet on the finished footstool and the padding “gives” a little.
I should note in passing that while Cécile is unquestionably a darling, she’s been the most preposterously obstreperous pachyderm I’ve ever encountered. Getting her legs re-covered was hair-raising, getting the body attached suitably was a challenge and tidying up the undercarriage so that Cécile stayed in one piece involved the sort of contortions that make me wish I’d been doing yoga all my life!
Grandmama gave Cécile a browband of upholstery fringe – probably left over from one of the many lampshades she made – and that was the only real casualty of her years in the loft. Even a run through the washing machine didn’t revive it, so it was abandoned and replaced with a similar piece left over from a lampshade recovered by either my mother or myself. The tradition of keeping and reusing scraps is very strong in our family!
So here she is, refurbished and back to her former glory. I was very fond of Cécile when I was a child, and I’ve enjoyed bringing her back to life.
Even it she was occasionally obstreperous!
Allow me to introduce Cécile.
Grandmama made her for me when I was about two or three, we think, and I remember her as a constant and beloved part of my childhood. We rediscovered her recently in my parents’ loft, and I thought it would be nice to have her in my own living room, as a footstool and a seat for visiting children. Unfortunately, when I sat back and put my feet up, the stuffing collapsed, and Cécile began to look very sad indeed. So we skinned her (as it were!), washed the skin, and started looking for a suitable replacement for the padding.
In the end, we used a spare cushion pad, and rearranged the stuffing slightly to leave the cover free to be stapled through. I think my grandfather must have made the basic internals – four sections of square wood for legs, screwed firmly into some equally solid half-centimetre thick hardboard.
I have all of Grandmama’s books about needlework and crafts, and there’s nothing like Cécile in any of them, so I think Grandmama must have made her up as she went along. I can’t imagine how she managed to assemble the whole thing unaided, because it took the combined efforts of my mother and myself to put the stockings on, and covering the assembly with the body was even more of an adventure.
But we got there in the end!
I added more stuffing while I was doing the assembly, to make sure that the finished piece would be nicely padded, and swapped the ears around – there was a hole in one side of one of them, which is now the underside.
I’ve also replaced the feet. Grandmama had glued small sections of carpet to the bottom and then stitched around the edge with wool. The carpet was looking distinctly sad and tatty, so I removed it – not without considerable effort! – and replaced it with two layers of grey felt.
Cécile is now reassembled, and just needs some of her finery re-instated. I’ll write about that when I have returned her to her former glory.