Monday, 4 May 2015


Dressing table set

    If, like me, you enjoy collecting small and pretty things,  make a bit of impact in a corner or above a low piece of furniture.  I have always preferred to make a small group which give interest in a room or passageway, rather than repeating the same object many times!  Having a theme gives you much more chance of finding additions, both cheaper, and  much more interesting to the casual visitor!   I started collecting 'same things' for my 3 daughters;  china shoes for the second, mini tea sets (2 or 3 inches across their little trays) for the eldest, really as a means of getting into antique shops and spying out stuff for my own collections.  It worked well, and god parents and aunties knew what to give them as little presents, but now there are few shops that deal in such trifles and the prices, if they do have any in stock, are not at all triffling! so the fun has gone out of it.  Last month, on Ebay,  I did buy a pretty dressing table set, Victorian with blue/green foliage and pink flowers on the candlesticks, little lidded pots and a ring tree for £10, which is great,  and there are more at that sort of price, but there is a limit to my number of dressing tables to hold them and my time for dusting them.  Kitchen dressers are an obvious display area and personally I love a good mix of pottery, jugs, mugs, bowls and tea pots, either all rather bright and rustic, or china in soft pretty shapes and colours in a more elegant layout.  I like to have a shelf of pretty things below a window on the stairs, or high above the kitchen stove or the sink which are not usually  things of beauty - and they cheer me up when I have chores to do!
  A collection of different patterned French enamelware can be good fun if you have a good space to fill;   if it is chipped and faulty, it will be cheap, but do not be tempted to use it for cooking, it can be very dangerous and poison you!   French  kitchen and table fine wirework arranged in a group can look so attractive against whitewashed plaster walls and you can still find good examples.  Baskets hung from the ceiling always look good;  butter and cheese making tools are other possible fields for collecting.  Looking round the 'byegones' and tool stalls at French fairs can start you off and do allow time for the seller to tell you their history and use.  Ebay can be a useful source, but is not such fun as digging and delving at a big general antiques fair and actually handling the goods before you buy.
Breakfast time!  Egg baskets and part service
 French 'marriage' china on shelf below and a white rabbit jelly mould
A good collection of baskets. Laduz Museum, France
French wirework kitchen tools

Vintage Dorset Buttons for Babies' clothing

Saturday, 2 May 2015


     Sat. Sun. 6th, 7th.  June, 2015. This is part of a new series of small fairs organised in my home town of   Bradford on Avon in the interesting old vaults (ground level) in the centre of the town!   free entry, parking nearby  and a good medley of coffee shops and eateries within a few steps.  This is my first attendance on the first day, Saturday, and I will be clearing the very last of my old stock of antique fabrics at rock-bottom  prices, to include sewing gadgets and tools, spools of thread, tapestry needles etc., etc. as well as a pretty Paisley shawl, unused hemp grain sacks from the Ukraine (for upholstery) and a rare large panel of Toile de Jouy for a bed hanging plus my usual array of interesting oddments!   I have  been trading for over 30 years so this is my final fling!
  Our ancient market town is full of lovely old Bath stone buildings, the famous Saxon church and splendid Tithe Barn, and the river Avon flows gently through the town under an ancient bridge, with a smart new hotel and spacious terrace and pub, Timbrells Yard, on the river bank, only minutes away.  We were amongst the top 8 towns chosen to live in, in a recent newspaper survey, and I would agree, so do come and spend the day in a bit of lovely old England!    FREE ENTRY.

Monday, 27 April 2015


 A cushion cover made from Basque kitchen tea towel, a ticking window seat and a bit of Toile curtain

   If you  read my blogs, you will know that I am passionate about recycling old cloth into other uses so that they live a happy and useful life till they are rags!   I never throw any remnants away and somehow manage to find other bits that go with them and I will illustrate a few of my ideas in case they amuse or inspire you :

seat cushion (2) and cover (3)
 3 different tickings
 Linen and ticking back cushion (1)           
a 'flower power' pin cushion


Cushion made with old linen sheet and two strips of ticking, 
 pin cushion, quilted scraps, pins with sequins threaded through.
coat hangers, first lined with curtain bump cloth 

Tickings and ginghams -cut-offs from cushions!


   I came across this review of a new book THREADS by Julia Blackburn, Jonathan Cape, that made me want to get it out of my library for the amazing story and illustrations done by a sea-faring mental patient who found sewing so therapeutic.  I myself have always found using my hands and creating something give me peace and happiness in a way that trying to use my brain does not always do!  And there is always the added benefit if it is successful, that you have made something physical which you can keep or pass on for the pleasure of someone else.
                            John Craske was a restless and unhappy man who spent much time in mental hospitals. It was his wife Laura, a sturdy Norfolk woman, who suggested he try to soothe himself by making a picture and sewing - she took some calico which she was saving for the Christmas pudding, tacked it on a frame, found some wools and showed John how to fill in the outline of a boat.  Craske died while  working on a 9ft piece depicting the evacuation of Dunkirk.

Thursday, 23 April 2015


 Here is my suggestion for a really good day out!   This lovely old house and garden are the setting for one of our most prestigious open days!  Talent for Textiles are arranging a large quality textile fair in a marquee at Deans Court and judging by the reports of the last year's event, this will be a delightful and interesting occasion:  lovely architecture, excellent refreshments, big choice of  well selected textiles of every kind, and a beautiful garden to wander around. Entry £5.
For more info. maps, etc.,Email

Saturday, 18 April 2015


THE CLOTHES MOTHS ARE BACK WITH US earlier than ever after the mild winter and they are out looking for cosy, warm, woolly nesting places.  Yesterday, I found 5 just crawling out from under a blanket chest, all ready to mate and lay their tiny eggs all over the house as they did last year when the larvae nibbled small holes in quite a few places.  Go to the ironmongers/chemists now for the moth traps that work well for telling you they are seeking their mates and on the offensive!  My ironmonger has already almost run out of supplies OF SPRAYS AND CAMPHOR BALLS, and said he had big problems last year getting the right sprays etc after that pandemic!  I have found that the moths especially love anything with animal hair in the weave - cashmere, angora, alpacca and Persian rugs, as well as sheep's wool.   I just pray I have everything covered and safe.  My neighbour has already lost a favourite tapestry cushion to the little pests.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015


  One of my favourite bedside books!  To be dipped into when I have a little spare time and I always feel both refreshed and inspired with the photo pictures of  quaint objects, many beautiful and rare, but others as common and cheap as pebbles on a beach, which are the work of Olive Cook and Edwin Smith, a delightful couple. There was a restrospective exhibition of his photographs recently and she was the co-author with Edwin of a book called the English Country House through Seven Centuries that was one of the earliest coffee-table-sized such books and very attractive.
     They had great knowledge of  many British folk art items and were amongst the first to elevate them to  the 'collection' status - they immersed their small homes in this rich mixture and their enthusiasm and erudition on all subjects to do with buildings and their contents was very endearing to me.    They were friends of my Uncle Clough, architect, and we went together to visit Olive somewhere near Dunmow for strong black coffee with all the grounds in the bottom of the cup - my uncle told me I should make coffee like that in future, as he was staying with me, aged 90, while his wife Amabel, went off to India to learn more about Hare Krishna Religion, as a granddaughter had become involved!  Clough Williams-Ellis, creator of the hotel village Portmerion, was a very memorable character and much loved - we went to Bishops Stortford College to see about some of his urns that had been removed from a high gabled entrance block building, the first modern building to be given listed status, and all because of  H. and Safety concerns, which annoyed him greatly.  However they were later found in a local garden and re-erected so honour was saved and he went back to Wales very happy.
          The book I quoted was called Collector's Items from the Saturday Book, by Olive Cook and Edwin Smith 1955 Hutchinson pub.  It features several hundred objects, often small and primitive, covering pottery, needlework, carving, furniture, toys, pictures and much else, often taken in their original surroundings, mostly cottages and old shops but also circus, seaside, and often regaling their own mantlepieces.  When I look at all these illustrations, I get quite sentimental as they show so many of the things I used to see and buy in my forays into dusty old shops and junk markets, and I have kept a few examples for myself in my little groups for decoration and amusement.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015


   Displaying textiles at a Fair is quite a problem - you can't do much with the one 6' trestle table usually supplied and there are no hooks or rails to help on the walls.    You can show small piles of similar things on the table but you really have to have hanging space for most larger pieces.  So you must resort to collapsible dress rails which are heavy (if strong enough for considerable weights)and take up quite a bit of your valuable floor space.  Over the years I have assembled a variety of props which work quite well and I list them for your info. in case you have similar problems.   The most useful aid is my  Florence Nightingale screen frame which has three rails on each side.  These screens were used at Scutari and other hospitals for privacy for the patients and are well made and very strong, I used to see occasional examples at the big Ardingly Fair in Sussex and have always assumed they were surplus army stock considered obsolete and unhygenic for modern hospitals and sold by the then M.O.D.  The upright poles are sturdy and the rails equally strong and the ingenious iron hinges are pretty unbreakable.  I sometimes set it up on top of, and at the back of, my sales table.  Some people find laundry airing racks handy but they are only good for small items.   I have never seen a Florence Nightingale screen  with any  original fabric, but knowing Florence, and how efficient and practical she was in all her efforts to improve the care of the army, I expect it was something very strong and serviceable and unlikely to have been any flimsy and pretty cotton that we associate with bedrooms screens. 
   A little wire newspaper stand with shelves for folded papers acts as another display aid.
   A folding bamboo bookcase, painted blue, makes good shelf space for heavier linen articles and is light to carry and set up.
    I have invented my own 'rack' which consists of two 4" X 2" upright posts about 8' long and have two circular holes (diameter of the two poles) drilled through the 4" side one at the top end and another 15" lower down, for two rails. It has no base . Also, at the top there are two small pegs about 3" long, attached with a string just above the holes, one on each side. I then have two round poles (the rails) about 8' long with pair of small holes drilled to be each side of the uprights when the pole is slipped through the large round holes of the uprights, to take the little pegs on strings. The second (lower) pole can then be inserted and I do not bother with pegs there as the top is firm enough. The whole thing is then safely wedged against a wall if possible, behind the display table(s) which are heavy with linen, etc., and I tie the uprights to any available table legs so it cannot fall forward and maim me and my clients! The two uprights and 2 poles fit in my car with the ends sliding down beside the passenger seat and the whole thing enables me to show large tapestries, long curtains and much more. This saves excessive handling, folding and creasing and gives the customers a good view of large pieces, and the scale of any patterns. See enclosed very rough diagram.
This home-made contraption is now for sale as I have only one small final sale to attend - It is £18 (rather less than the cost of the timber and will easily pack into an ordinary car or van.  Regret cannot deliver as am too old for long journeys!
Contact 01225 866 136.