Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Cupboard Love

A traditional English smock made to order for me by a farmer's wife in Dorset, with Dorset buttons made by another skilled lady in Milton Abbas nearby, I wore this garment to Chelsea Flower Show one summer and 3 people stopped me to ask where they could find similar - alas! the lady was killed in a road accident and never made another. The stuff was called drabbet, the smocking and buttons were done with Anchor embroidery hanks and the collar, yoke and cuffs were all double to take a lot of wear and washing. Beside it is a pretty Kashmir woollen shawl and in the background a useful chart depicting the crowns and titles of the French and other 'noblesse' so I can check on my linen to see if it once belonged to a Duc or just a mere Count!
The cupboard is part of a huge Regency housekeeper's linen cupboard that I found in Bath. It has a special panel to lock everything away and was used for the safe-keeping of fine linen in a big household., The housekeeper or mistress of the house kept the key on her waistband chatelaine and doled out the sheets to the housemaids who made up the beds. In a few months, I shall put up this wonderful Irish housekeepers linen cupboard for sale as the room it is in is to be converted to a spare room, with new bathroom ensuite, and, sadly, there is no wall wide enough to take it when I move beds in. Details from me 01225 866 136. The linen tablecloths stack neatly in it and there is an interesting 3o's Art Deco hat box and another metal one, now sold. Go to my website for further details re linen.

Friday, 6 March 2009

A Pig in a Poke

This is how I got into buying sheets in a big way and became, I believe, the biggest dealer, ending up with a stock of over 800!

I stopped at a Brocante shed near Marmande in the South West - usual sign said 'ferme' - CLOSED - so rang the tel. no. scribbled there. Madame answered, slightly breathless, saying she had just collected a huge load in her van and would I like to come and view it all. By the time we reached her ramshackle farm, she had opened not only her van doors but a good bottle (or two) to recover from loading it. An amazing sight it was - pile upon pile of creamy (and grubby) sheets, bolster cases, tablecloths, napkins and hundreds of torchons, the entire contents of an old vineyard farm's linen store. The van was chock-a-block.
Madame was now fairly incoherent but dismised it all as useless old peasant stuff and wanted to sell us 'much better things'. Though I had no idea of the value or use of this load, she acepted a ridiculous bid for the lot, much to our amazement, and we spent the evening loading it into our van and trailer. When I got home I hung a pair of the lovely coarse hemp sheets in my spare bedrom as temporary curtains - everyone adored them and I had a wonderful new use for sheets, an idea which was copied by a great many decorators, and the French housewives then started turning out all their old sheets, regardless of condition!! And so it all began.....

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Fine French Linens and Fabrics

If you love France with its wonderful countryside and fascinating history, follow me, a passionate admirer of the French way of life, and I will show you some of the treasures I have collected over the past thirty years, and pass on some of the lore and provenance that I have gathered from many of the old country dealers known as brocanteurs.

Sewing a Fine Seam. I introduce myself, as a 'vintage' textile and antiques dealer, with this picture of me working on some old linen. I am keen to re-cycle all this beautiful old stuff from the great armoires of French households, and it is all on sale by appointment in the 4 large wine vaults of our Georgian town house in Bradford on Avon, near Bath.

Because my unequalled and large stock is unique and of varying size, quality and colour, dating back to the 19th Century, I am not able to describe each piece fully and recommend you to pay me a visit (by appointment) to view and choose suitable pieces for your projects. You can see examples decorating my own classic house and I am very happy to advise and help you.

My fabrics have been used by top well known decorators and consultants for houses ranging from Shakespeare's Birthplace up to contemporary Trump Tower, NY. To view typical examples of my stock with approximate sizes and prices, go to my website