Saturday, 27 June 2009

Time Warp

I have always been interested in, and attracted to, the bold patterns of painted walls in Elizabethan houses ever since I saw some at Queens Hoo, nr. Tewin, Herts, which was owned by an aunt. So when I saw an article and photos about a young artist, Melissa White, who was painting wall hangings and plaster decorations, I contacted her, hoping that my old handspun, hand-woven linen might be useful in re-creating ancient decorations. She was, by chance, coming this way on a course run by a good friend of mine, Victor Chinnery, who is a leading expert on Tudor furnishings and buildings, so it all came together and she spent a night here and went on to the Merchants House in Marlborough with its fabulous painted 'Rainbow' room, brilliant stripes all round and a wonderful staircase with 'shadow' bannisters opposite the real ones, in a building open to the public. They went on to Exeter where the Museum there has rescued a complete English pannelled room from the Hearst archives/stores in USA, never unpacked (!), set it all up in the Exeter Museum, and it turns out that it had all been taken from a building a few streets away - what a coincidence! She did some work there later. Now Melissa has started designing 'Elizabethan' cushions on hemp, linen and vintage velvet remnants and you can see her work on line.. She can be contacted at for info. and commissions. If you have any really nice vintage velvet, I will pass on messages for her.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

A legendary Dealer

I was lucky to meet Bryony Thomasson early in my time as a French junk and brocante dealer.
She was a highly intelligent, well educated lady who left a business career as recruiting officer in the electrical industry, to become the best known dealer in artefacts, folk art and rustic items from La France Profonde. She was used by many major film wardrobe directors during the time of Fleurette and other productions showing the true poverty and tragic stories of the paysans. She lived in a small terrace house in Fulham and her living area was an incredible showcase of everything that she collected and loved from the farms and small workshops in France.There was a cascade of string and ropes, nets for chickens, rabbits, hammocks for sick horses, halters, girth webbing, whips and blinkers - piles of the roughest sheets, sacks, seed bags and curls of horsehair for filling mattresses, hanks of coarse thread for weavers, as well as her own special collections, (not for sale )- tiny buttons from uniforms, silk and cotton foulards (neckerchiefs worn inside the shirt collar) and then the rows of all the old clothes, especially men's which are always so hard to find; berets, les bleues working trousers, jackets and her beloved smocks in polished cotton worn by the maraicheurs (small market garden dealers)to go to market and to wear at Mass and also the quarterly hiring fairs. She was so generous with her experience and deep knowledge and much loved and respected by her French suppliers. She drove a tall red van with a stove, some bedding and a bicycle at the ready. She was first at every fair on her bike wheeling down the aisles and there would be piles awaiting her arrival. Her collections of vintage clothing inspired several top couturiers and her strong language and stories of intrepid travels endeared her to many. Her constant companion was the maraicheur Jean- seen above.

Monday, 8 June 2009

My Work Station

Good light, a good view, comfy upright seat, my wonderful Necchi sewing machine and my radio to hand, set the scene for my hobby - re-cycling old French rags into acceptable, useful accessories for home and person! I bought my Necchi complete with worktable for £42, 40 years ago in Colchester at Reeman and Dansie salerooms - the motor burnt out last year - disaster, as spares no longer available; but at last found local electronic genius to fix everything and it is purring away once more. I have a very large flat-bed iron (Blanca Press for all the linen, which will iron a sheet folded in 4 very well and no effort for me as I just sit there pulling levers and thinking about my next Blog! The sheets are all folded in exactly the same way so I can separate the long from the short in my store and I remove any iron stains with the excellent Rubigine Anti-Rouille bottle from French supermarkets. Check the small stain removal shelves next to the detergents.
This room was a dressing room with huge cupboards where I can store all my materials, and with two multi-drawer chests, I have everything I need easily to hand, and it is a real pleasure to get down to work with no telephone, T.V. or computer to bother me for an hour or two.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Little Treasure, much Pleasure

I found these little accessories for sewing and embroidery at the last Ilminster T4T Fair on April 1.. All beautifully packed and a delight to group round my sewing table. A small sliding tray filled with linen covered buttons, with a ribbon pull, a fascinating DCM book with masses of miniature cross stitch patterns for borders and many different alphabets and list of booklets for all kinds of needlework, a star shaped disc for linen thread and a funny little booklet with 'fancy' designs for the 'little ones' by Owbridges's Lung Tonic -hope it made the medicine go down! I bought them all for pocket money prices and will pass them on in due course at our American Museum T4T Textile Fair early September. If you want to come, contact me for the green free card invitation.