Tuesday, 25 August 2009


Many of the pretty modern printed cottons are in fact adaptations of older ones - often with small changes in colour shades, the spacing of the designs and other changes like tiny spots, or 'vermiculite' or sea-weed backgrounds omitted - they are pretty enough but still, to me, lose some of the vintage charm of the originals - the whites are very ice cold, and the other colours do not have the mellow shades that make them easy to blend with other colours. I particularly like the 1890s patterns, called Indiennes full of exotic Eastern flowers and others which often have border designs, with little ovals of garden tools or little birds and lots of bows and ribbons weaving in and out, usually in soft pinks and reds in the main parts, with touches of grey, blue and yellow. Green is quite rare as it was a very fugitive dye which faded badly, and not popular with French decorators. The Indiennes are usually printed on very fine cotton so they are often damaged. A later Post will give you my ideas on using fragile fabrics, and more examples of Indiennes

I sometimes find small remnants of these charming old cottons, unused and unfaded and use them to make the small sack-like bags that hang from the bars of travailleuses, which are folding, cross-legged portable sewing baskets, very popular with Edwardian ladies who spent a great deal of the day working on their needlework, and no doubt moved the work-bag about the room to get a good light and keep the materials clean and tidy.  I have sold a great many, refurbished with Indiennes and new frills, and lots seem to go to knitters and tapestry workers who like to have everything tidy and to hand!

Sunday, 23 August 2009


Some years ago I made an opportunity to visit the Citadelle, Port Louis, near Lorient, Brittany, to see a brilliant array of goods shipped in the great importing days of the East India Companies. Not only were there wonderful examples of the textiles, decorations, and clothing made with the chintzes, including some Toile de Jouy inspired by these exotic designs, but there were also examples of porcelain and other goods made for the European market, and in addition, some interesting, details of the lay-out of the slave ships, complete with model figures of the crews and passengers, and many other models of the fortress and the sail ships in times of war - so there was much to interest children and people keen on naval history. Both my husband and I thought it was one of the most fascinating places to visit and the huge fortifications were on a vast scale with rooms for ammunition, powder, etc. all open to the public for a modest entrance charge. Check times and dates   If you were camping with children and the weather was typical rainy stormy SAtlantic type, it is a good place to lose them for a few hours, there is so much to intrigue and see.
 The nearby harbour of Lorient was one of the main bases of German Uboats during the last war, but now Lorient is the centre for a big gathering of Celtic musicians, singers and dancers every August - a strange mixture of ancient and modern; the Uboats were latest technology and the songs and dances go back to medieval times.  All through the day small groups of musicians wander round the town in their local costumes and rehearse and dance at street corners which makes it a good spectacle.


You could write pages on any one of these lovely textiles, wall hangings, bedcovers, shawls and clothing. I have long had a pair of curtains in my dining room (see earlier Post titles: Heavenly Curtains and knew they were from a famous firm of French cloth manufacturers, Braquenie, whose printing blocks and designs had been bought some time ago by Pierre Frey. They are copies of an antique design called Le Grand de Genne.(Genoa.) It is well known that the Italians there copied some of the palampores from India, mid 19c. and they were worn as shawls by ladies over their crinoline dresses for warmth and protection - These were called mezzaras and are very desirable in good condition. The palimpores were produced on the Indian Coromandel Coast from the 16th C. in an unbelievably complicated process, then called chintz, i.e. painted cloth. The different colours were applied by hand with a little pointed bamboo stick with a small reservoir, or by hand-applied carved or etched blocks and there were endless treatments of dyes, mordants, waxing, washing, bleaching etc. till the design reached its completion - often more than 8' square and occasionally done in pairs, usually on very fine, smoothly woven Indian cotton which could be painted with great accuracy. See the new reference book Chintz, (detailed illustrations and many facts) by Rosemary Crill, of the V.and A. Museum, out this year. More later!

Friday, 14 August 2009


If ever you think of going on a quick trip to France to look at the Belles Brocantes of France, but don't want to tackle the slightly daunting business of arranging travel, accommodation and sourcing the best markets, with not too much knowledge of the language, you might like to think of joining my good friend and long -time stallholder at antique fairs, Rosie Murton, who is now taking small groups to good markets near to Paris, organises transport door to door, advises on money, exchange,and how to bargain for the desirable items you want for your home or garden. She will provide all the know-how and practical help you will need to buy successfully and bring (modest) amounts of your purchases back with you in her own vehicle. She has been sourcing from markets all over France for years and is much admired for her good eye as well as her excellent contacts over there.. She is also a very helpful and friendly person, will give you an enjoyable time and look after you in every way. The accommodation is central, clean and simple, good meals can be shared with one or two others and as the bedrooms are shared, you might prefer to come with a friend . The tour is well planned and energetic, with no frills, early starts to catch the markets, but it will set you off in the right direction for future bargain hunting. Sue S. recently returned with a lovely load of stuff after her first trip, was elated to have sold most a couple of weeks later at a Northern Fair at a handsome profit. Tally Ho! AllonsY! This 'puff'' is totally unsolicited by Rosie, I would just like to help her get this good small project going.
Contact Rosie Murton 01952 883 709