Updated: May 13
When a restoration project begins on a historic building which is very close to total collapse, as Kambones was, you know that there will be many phases before it even begins to look like a habitable home. First came the structural work, really heavy and potentially dangerous work . A huge fault on the North face, from the top roof to the cellar threatened the stability of the entire building. Repairing this entailed rebuilding from the cellars to ground level and up to the second floor, reusing all the original stones. All the wooden floors were destroyed by water damage and needed to be removed and replaced. The stone floors had to be lifted and laid again because the base on which they stood was rotten (seaweed used to be placed on top of the wooden beams and then the flooring materials either stone or wood were laid on top). The walls, inside and out, had to have whatever old plaster remained chipped off and replastered using the old lime based formulas and traditional techniques. Windows, doors and shutters were mostly rotten and had to be replaced. Bathrooms were installed from scratch since the house had never had running water or electricity. Every item of old furniture that could be rescued was painstakingly restored.
Aunt Benedicte seems to have been the most talented artist of them all. Her embroidered table runner is the most complex piece of cutwork I have ever come across.
Even when Kambones was technically a habitable house with functional plumbing, electrical fittings and retro kitchen appliances installed and the repaired furniture back in place, for me it did not become a home until the pieces of our ancestral antique lace had found their places again after more than forty years in which the house slowly crumbled away into near ruin.
The four sisters whose home it was were excellent needleworkers and lace makers, though Aunt Benedicte seems to have been the most talented artist of them all. Her embroidered table runner is the most complex piece of cutwork I have ever come across. When it took it's place on the dresser I finally felt that Kambones was once again a home.
All the aunts made embroidered silk photograph frames , decorating the wide silk frames with intricate crewel work .
The sisters were also proficient lace makers , having learnt the art of creating bobbin lace from the Ursuline Sisters on Naxos , who ran the renowned Ursuline School for Girls in the Castro of Naxos which they all attended. It is interesting that what we know as Venetian Lace appears to have been introduced to Italy via Constantinople and Cyprus , and what we recognise today as Greek Island Lace was reintroduced by the Ursuline Sisters as early as 1700.
The last person who made bobbin lace on Naxos was our aunt Anna, Benedicte's daughter who is featured making lace in an excellent series of books about Greek Lace.
Anna not only made lace with white cotton but she also made intricate lace door panels using sisal fibres which she extracted from the numerous sisal plants which were grown as low maintenance fences on the periphery of the farm to keep out animals .
Photo Credits: Greek Threadwork Bobbin Lace by Tatiana Ioannou - Yannara Melissa Publishing House, Athens 1990