On his most recent trip to the States, Tom was hosted by friends, and to thank them for their kindness, we'd asked what they might like from Italy. They suggested "Italian stenciled dish towels", which posed a problem, because I didn't know of any Italian stenciled dish towels, and had no idea where to procure them. Still, how could I let Tom's hosts down? Would, say, a hunk of Fontina cheese (which someone once requested) do in lieu of stenciled dish towels? Afraid not.
Then I realized that I could simply make them: clearly dish towels stenciled by an Italian would more or less fit the bill. However, around here the dish towels are made of thick, herringbone cotton that's not at all suited to stenciling. So I decided to embroider them instead.
I hadn't done any embroidering in ages (something to do with the horrible tangle in which my floss had gotten? Hmmm ...), but had a lot of fun making them! It did take me a little while to warm up, though (the somewhat wonky artichoke was my first attempt).
So Tom went off with a house gift of Italian hand-embroidered dish towels and ... came back with a gift of a loaf of American bread which his hosts had home-baked for us. Even though my dish towels weren't quite the perfect house gift, and certainly not the requested one, they clearly ended up in a house with a busy kitchen. And in a busy kitchen, you can never have enough dish towels!