Friday, 31 December 2010


   I do not think  'SHOULD AULD ACQUAINTANCE BE FORGOT'' will ever apply to my old friend, Bryony Thomasson, about whom I wrote a little post A legendary dealer some long time ago.  So it was a great pleasure to hear from her daughter Mary today who seemed to have read it (by chance? - I do not know) and she said that the stuffed figure of Jean, the faithful follower and companion  maraicheur,  was actually sitting beside her while she (Mary) emailed me!  It was so good to have this link with the golden times of the Brocante world and I hope this tells Mary what a generous and helpful person Bryony was to those whom she wished to encourage.  She certainly told me lots of wonderful stories about her finds in remote areas and was very conversant with local customs and was on intimate terms with some of the old farmers who were clearing out their barns.  She also had many connections with the convents which were at that time being disbanded and their enormous stores of linen, laundries, workroom remnants weaving works were being scattered to anyone who would buy them.  She knew the names and use of the many strange garments the nuns wore and she had connections with the charity Emmaus who disposed of surplus belongings for their charitable homes housing some of the aged and disadvantaged S.D.Ps  (Sans domicile permanent) . She was very helpful in passing on good clients interested in buying rustic items and when she heard that I had been dealing in sacks and string, rope and twine, as well as hemp and linen, the knot was well tied and we kept in touch over several years;  I spoke to her when she was terminally ill and she said the best thing that had happened was that an American friend/client had bought her entire collection and was going to kept it intact and displayed in an old barn in Connecticut and that made her very happy.  R.I.P. Bryony.  Click on brochure to see more!    It's a very good example of display and full of info.

Sunday, 26 December 2010



Flowers made with modern ticking fabrics from Ian Mankiin, London
Click to see the detail..

This is to wish all my readers a very happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.  I seem to have collected quite a few new readers in the States - welcome to you all - I do appreciate your interest and please do send me any thoughts and queries that you may wish to share.   I am a great admirer of Kaari Meng of French General, Hollywood, Calif. USA. and her most interesting Blog The Warp and the Weft.  You can reach her for lots of inspiration at  Don't miss it - she brings parties to France which have been a great success and huge fun for all!    Another good one with lots of info. about every kind of textile is      Best wishes to you all,   Elizabeth.

Saturday, 18 December 2010


    The first time I saw a design of little monkeys swinging through jungle trees was down the Kings Road in London. It was on a pair of early 19c.chintz bed covers in a very smart antique shop called Browns. I was shocked to hear they were more than £30 but you have to know that this was in 1950 when I was newly married and trying to furnish a little mews house on a wage of £5. 50 a week! Somehow they stuck in my brain and next time I saw another pair of lovely green chintz counterpanes with ivy leaves in a trellis pattern and a rich border with red berries for £10, I bought them to console myself! In fact I got them from Robin Eden in Pickwick, Corsham, on my way for a Cornish holiday. I was to meet his son Matthew, another antique dealer, nearly 30 years later, when I moved to Freshford and I was able to tell him that his father (much missed by many) had started my love of old textiles.
     I have always loved the 'singeries' but they are quite rare - porcelain, silver, carvings and textiles were decorated with monkey figures in the 17th .18th C. and give a playful, exotic Eastern image to European designs. The picture shows a good example and comes from the collection of Julia Basset who lives in France and is a well known textile dealer.   I saw her at the Textile Society's Fair in Kensington in Septembrt.  She has lovely and rare things and often takes her textiles to Newark Antiques Fair..

Wednesday, 8 December 2010


            I love this gentle Indienne design from France, late 19th C. The flowers and buds are in soft misty colours so the bolder brown branches make an effective trellis, running in diagonal lines across a background of tiny dots and other greeny- gray flowers that hardly show. This diagonal line is very important in designs and particularly effective when used on wallpapers and curtains.
         A long time ago when I learnt a bit about flower arrangements (I had two flower shops for several years) I was shown how to create a diagonal line across large arrangements, taking one colour  from top left to bottom right using four or five stems of the same flowers and pulling them forward or recessing them alternately and repeating with another colour from top right to bottom left. It not only gives a life to the design but gives a rhythm and line to the whole.which is very satisfying to the beholder. This has a sort of connection with the S, or serpentine line, which artist and classic draughtsman, William Hogarth, decreed was the' line of beauty' in the 18th Century following the High Rococo movement in furniture and art designs.
      If you look at the beautiful calicos of 19C. they often have interesting backgrounds of dots, wormlike squiggles (vermiculate) tiny geometric diaper patterns which add to the depth and charm of the overall design - something that modern copyists often leave out and neglect.  The dots (picotage) were made with a board that had pins driven into it and then the board was hammered on to the cloth with the dye on it - this was because it was almost impossible to get the fine pattern on an engraved metal 'bat'. A lot of Colefax &Fowler designs do have this feature - I think John Fowler was very exact in his reproductions of beautiful old fabrics that he found in the country houses he helped to re-furnish and restore.  There were coral, seaweed, mosaic and other popular patterns all used for the background of larger designs;. in fact  inspiration was often from nature - leaves, ferns, feathers,  all used in repetitive forms.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Do you find Camel a bit tame?

As I look at the fashion pages of the magazines, I seem to be invaded by a caravan of camels - warm and cosy for a top layer, soft and bland for the cashmere underneath with a swirly chiffon skirt below in caramel, shoes, bag and curls to blend and so I then turn the page hoping to find a brilliant accessory that will lift the whole ensemble and raise my spirits - I find an echo of all this now in decorating a room - at the moment I am sorting out a small maisonette and trying to make a plan to suit my purse as well as attract a good tenant. I now see that I have myself been in a camel mood (except that in underwear it is called ecru), and while it hasn't given me the hump I feel I must pep it up, or I and my house will look like the Sahara sand desert. I have recently had two easy chairs and small settee upholstered in lovely porridgey hemp in stripes that are caramel to butterscotch (all sackcloth from the Ukraine) and these sit on a mushroom fitted carpet. I have decided that the dining chairs shall have a fairly graphic orange and green print and the curtains will be of the same material (a neat Laura Ashley remnant). I shall pick out the red in a couple of cushions and the lampshades.  I will add one upholstered side chair in orange and red silky stripes and hope the room looks cosy and inviting, with a spark of colour here and there.   A pine tramp-work framed mirror goes on the wall and a series of red and black pictures showing painted panels in an Italian 18C. style will complete the job.  Upstairs will be in my favorite pale turquoise with a bit of French painted furniture in pastel shades., pale blue bedding and bluish flower print curtains and light canewood bedside tables and matching chair..  Hopefully I will find a calm tenant to take up residence and my safari-inspired interior will work.

Monday, 29 November 2010


     I went to a rather good fair at Fayence, in Provence behind Nice, and found an old friend selling lots of linen. He rather diffidently opened a large metal box and showed me an amazing collection of different patterned alphabets in copper, all unused, and arranged in little cardboard boxes. He explained that they had come from a linen factory where the bridal trousseaux and dowries were woven and that the templates, with powder tamped with a stiff little brush, were for marking the initials of the bride, ready for embroidery. They were all complete and unused and varied from very small, for hankies and underwear, to very large, about 6" high and with elaborate swirls and decorations, meant for sheets. I think there were 12 or more sets, in every possible combination and in many sizes, using all 27 letters of the alphabet. I took them to fairs and they were a great success and people found many uses for them, decorating their craft work and so on. After about a year, one of my friends suddenly decided to buy all the big ones and she started a wonderful bespoke business - she placed the double initials, well spaced out, and pushed acrylic paint through, like a stencil, and she used white paint on a blue linen ground, and blue on a white linen sheet. The resulting fabrics thus had the personal initials of the clients who hung them as curtains and bed drapes and found many other uses for these exclusive designs. It was such a simple idea (though it did demand patience and skill to get the spacing right) and I thought she deserved her rich reward for a very original invention. As Polly Lyster had the business of dyeing the hemp and linen, it was a rather good example of co-operation by T4T members working together. We all made a reasonable profit for our work and the customers had something quite original and exclusive.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010


   When I bought this pretty little tablecloth lovingly embroidered with hearts and flowers in red, blue and white, the seller told me that it had a secret message in the design.  It was embroidered during the last war by a patriotic housewife to show defiance to the occupation, the colours are taken from the tricolor flag of France and the hearts an obvious symbol of patriotism.  Such small acts of bravery remind us of the cruel times suffered by the French under Nazi rule.   During the war there were acute shortages and the women used to gather nettles, thistles and broom to spin and weave into cloth for clothes and home;  the broom made a very lovely silky golden fabric which is rare to find but much prized for its colour and softness.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010


   The name Georgina von Etzdorf will ring many bells.  Her silks and scarves were the talk of the town several years ago and now, after a long break, expanding in other directions,she is back with treasures from her archives to sell in time for Christmas.  Although I deal in old textiles, I am fascinated by her bold and innovative designs and colour combinations and this could be a chance to give something rather unique for Christmas that could be someone's best fashion accessory.  The enclosed invitation is for all lovers of fine design and they will be welcome at Shrewton, not far from Salisbury, and the entrance fee of £1 will go to the Alzheimer charity.  Refreshments available.  THE DATE IS  SUNDAY NOV.28th  12 pm - 5 pm
The place is Zion House, Salisbury Road, Shrewton SP3 4EQ.  Tel. 01980 621940.
    I have kept the picture on the right for many years - an early work of her art entitled WURLITZER
which has a wonderful 3D dimension and embodies the harmonies and swelling sounds of the organ in a very graphic way.  I like the idea of two different arts being joined in this way - music and art and design.

Saturday, 13 November 2010


This watercolour, 'Red bedroom, hunting lodge' by Alexandre Serebriakoff, shows  an interesting interior design which is vibrant and warm.  There are a great many different striped treatments, including the half-drawn blinds, and I felt myself drawn to the warm and stimulating colours of all the soft furnishings;  the rich rug, the red tablecloth,  the bed ends, the trellis pattern bedcover, pennant pelmet and striped curtains, with plenty of lighting in table lamps and bracket wall lights for dark winter evenings.  Little book case, small ornaments, vase of flowers, mirror and w.p.b. complete the details and I guess this was painted in the 1920s?  With a bright fire in the grate I can imagine a wonderfully cosy bed-sit in a rather grand style!   It's always interesting to see how other people decorated their houses in other countries - we are used to seeing the fabulous  ballet costumes and jewels of the Russians and the grandest of palaces, but everyday living in more modest houses is difficult to discover.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010


WELSH QUILTS discovered by a fanatical American collector - you will know that I mean Jen Jones , Queen of Quilts, from Llanybyder, Ceredigion, who has the biggest and best collection in the world and who has recently opened this Museum. It could make a very nice day out if you joined with a friend and motored there (the roads there are good) and looked at her museum collection with excellent home-made snacks in the cafe, and maybe visited her cottage where you can try out on actual beds her big collection of quilts and blankets for sale. You might think that her quilts would be very expensive as she is such an expert, but in fact she has lovely covers at all prices and her Comfy quilts in pretty Paisleys sell fast - I buy them myself from time to time as I remember them fondly from my childhood in Wales.  They were printed, usually in pretty Paisley designs, in Manchester, usually in a large diamond outline and they are reversible, as inexpensive alternatives to the traditionnal hand stitched and stuffed Welsh quilts.

Thursday, 4 November 2010


   The rag markets are turning out to be a great success - although the term rag might put you off, you can, in fact, find some very useful things and occasionally make a good discovery which will please you - antique dealers often have to buy  mixed lots to get what they want and will discard some of the odds and ends that they cannot display or sell easily - they would rather clear them out in a clean and neat state for a very low price than have them turn into surplus rag-bags at the bottom of the pile!  So you  might find some unfinished embroidery that it would amuse you to complete, or an odd length of braid or cord that is just right to finish off your own-made cushion, or a length of cheap cotton that will cover your ironing board or make the lining for a knitting bag you intend finishing for Christmas.   You never know!  The whole thing is full of fun and go, and there is quite a rush to be the first to grab the bargains - and I can assure you that there are plenty around for the sharp-eyed.  You need to have your measurements ready with you and track that treasure down before someone else does.  Good luck!  See previous blog LOOKING FORWARD for more info on Rag Markets

Wednesday, 3 November 2010


For a people who mostly lived in small stone built farmhouses and little cottages with dark grey slate rooves, the costumes of Brittany are surprisingly rich as shown in this picture of local dress by my friend Alain Le Berre's antiques barn, at La Plage du Ris, Douarnenez, well worth a call if you are serious about genuine Breton costume and many other special antiques. He speaks English.  The people lived by hard work on the sea and the rather poor soil but created magnificent costume with much goldwork and very fine lace.
   There is quite a lot to discover in Brittany,and one of the most attractive little towns is Locronan which is full of beautiful large stone houses that apparently belonged to the pirates on the high seas nearby! It has excellent antique fairs in the streets and squares, and shops full of local arts and crafts. These old towns have spectacular stone built churches and clusters of fine memorials all around them.  All the cafes and restauranrts sell wonderful fresh fish and shellfish - usually with lots of chips - but you can always ask for a salad.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010


   I have made a new pair of curtains out of some rather battered old ones, French
Indiennes late 19th C. The linings were shot so I used some rather dashing old red linings of the period, and made the curtains up in French style - they often layered the three fabrics, top patterned, interlining and lining on top of each other. trimmed all the edges and sewed them together with the edges raw. Then they used a special braid which had two rows of pattern, this was folded down the centre longways and it was sewn by hand down the front and back of the curtain edge. It seems to work very well, and helps to preserve the edges which often get damaged by sun, hands pulling and the metal tie-backs
Indienne print, late 19C.
The charming design includes red roses and foliage and garden tools, a flail, spade and baskets of fruit in trophies well spaced across the fabric. There were endless versions of these themes which had already been used the century before in the Toile de Jouy designs, showing romantic scenes of lovers, cherubs and peasants dancing, all with flowers, fruit and romantic buildings incorporated in the overall design. These Indiennes were highly popular because the Empress Eugenie was known to use them for her own clothes and for furnishing the Royal palaces and the French printers produced masses of these pastoral and floral patterns

Thursday, 21 October 2010


     This blue coffee pot is part of a machine embroidered border made in France quite recently to decorate kitchen shelving, pelmets and mantlepieces. These were very popular in the twenties and thirties and the picture on the right is typical of the borders worked by house-proud housewives. I think the patterns must have come in ladies' home or needlework magazines because there are a great many of them still about, some rather crude and comic, showing chefs chasing geese and cockerels, and others more artistic with bunches of cherries and fruit, coffee mills, spoons and other kitchenalia. They often had buttonhole edged scalloped borders and often come in quite long lengths. Applied to nursery and kitchen curtains they can be quite attractive.
     Many kitchens in France in the big old houses faced North or had very little natural light, and were furnished with dark brown oak or chestnut furniture, so the housewives must have felt the need for something gay and colourful while they slaved away in a gloomy place.

Monday, 27 September 2010

French Leave

Once again off to gather a few bits but mostly to extend the summer and find peaceful uncrowded  places to explore Back on 15th Elizabeth.  Entry on 19.10.10.  this date turned out to be over-optimistic - we got involved in the French strikes on our return and as all transport services were cancelled, we had to drive the long journey from Avignon home (over 900 miles) instead of the ease and comfort of Auto-train, TGV and Calais crossing.  The worst was not knowing if the petrol strike would catch us out and the fact that none of the services would give out any info. at all, even the telephone and Websites were blank!  We saw the gathering crowds of schoolchildren and many others gathering for the manifestations and suspected it would become ugly and spread fast - and so it did and does.
The weather was perfect, a French Indian summer,  and we took our ease in a favourite hotel with lovely terraces and gardens , had many a picnic and some good meals - the French can still cook!  But life is now very expensive and the antique goods are mostly far too high for re-sale.   However,  I did load up with masses of old French bleues, the old workmens' dark blue jackets, blousons, shirts and aprons - all attractive old workwear that is enjoying a fashion moment in this country - and especially among the young in London.   I now have a good row in many sizes hanging on the washing line, and they make a change from the  popular white and cream linen and hemp smock- shirts which I also bought in quantity.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

French Seams and Top Ideas

My latest lot of vintage French curtains, all of the salon or reception room type, have individual details which I find fascinating and inspiring.. There are so many ways to construct and hang fine curtains and I hope a short account might interest would-be curtain makers who want that little extra touch. Now that pelmets are not so fashionable, the top gathering and pleating of the curtains is important and can give a touch of luxury and expertise that may please you and your guests! The first is a cord trimmed top, where a thick cord matching the richest colour in the silky tapestry woven curtain, is laid and knotted over the goblet pleats - very effective if the cord is really chunky and slightly glossy - silk of course is the best. Two pairs and an extra bed curtain available now.

The second, pastel chintz Indienne, has hand-covered buttons placed over the soft gathered pleats and the leading edge and the bottom have a charming gathered frill with piping holding it in place, just R. of button,- every seam and frill and all piping is entirely hand sewn with the tiniest stitches, as well as the lining of course. 6 curtains, but only 5 tie backs! The third example is a single pair in a fine cotton print with simple gathered top and it does have a pelmet which is gathered in 5 soft ruched swags, all edged with very good (and complete) pom-pom trim. I would say very suited to a pretty bedroom or small sitting room. All curtains are at least 8' drop, in very good condition, date from 1880s, and are for sale at moderate prices. View by appointment near Bath, email

Thursday, 16 September 2010


Pagodas, fishermen, parasols and exotic birds conjure up a Chinese scene for me and my very favourite fabrics are the Chinoiserie prints of 18th C France. Many were copied from the designs of Jean Pillement whose etchings inspired fabrics, wallpaper, lacquer work and porcelain. The beauty and richness of Eastern civilisations was carried by the ships of the East India Companies to the great ports of Lorient, Marseille , Amsterdam and London, and the rich and fashionable classes eagerly adopted the new decorative styles. and copied them for their houses and wardrobes.

The Dancing Lesson is one of the most charming and I have a large panel of this in the raspberry red colour which was one of the most popular colours produced from Madder plants and cheaper than some of the other vegetable dyes. Toile de Jouy was expensive, even then, and was often mixed with the Toile de Vichy a large red/white check to complete the furnishing in a room, lining pelmets, backing chairs and making bed valances.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Children's Towels, Help me find

I have just had an SOS from dealer friend asking for a source for Victorian children's towels - I have never seen or heard of them but there may be some lurking out there and if so the film co. will be very grateful -contact me at if you have anything likely. I have had a lot of dealings with wardrobe ladies and it is well worth running round for them as they are always short of time, their deadlines are terribly short and they do tend to come back to you if you can help. I have just sold a load of damaged linen sheets for dyeing and making up for another epic film and was pleased that someone (as always) found a good use for 'seconds'.
I will give you full credit, of course.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

The Real Thing

This charming scene is one of the designs by Jean Baptiste HUET who drew many scenes for the original Toile de Jouy factory. He was specially gifted in drawing animals and rustic scenes in a romantic and idealised style. This is dated 1783 - 89 and is only known in red. The toile is named l'Escarpolette (The Swing) with all its romantic associations and also shows a coach and donkey carrying the happy couple away! Several large unused pieces, bright as could be, had been stashed away in the attics of the Chateau de Montesquieu, nr. Bordeaux, and appeared at a country Antique Fair, where I spotted them in a dirty cardboard box.
Funnily enough, the seller told me it was a Beautiran print, (he came from nearby Bordeaux) but when I found it in my book of Jouy patterns, that made it that much more special! Jouy is much sought after and it was good to find even a snippet in good condition. Each little scene could make the centre of a luxurious cushion or chair seat! Would M. Huet approve??

Saturday, 28 August 2010


All hand embroidery

On my last visit to France I had the luck to purchase the entire contents of a linen room, all from a prosperous bourgeois house where everything was of the best quality. I have now sorted it all out and can offer a lot of extremely good value linens, all clean, pressed and ready for use. Remember that a lot of French 'double' sheets are only just over 6' wide so these are a really good buy if you have a normal English size bed:
Extra long fine weave linen double bed sheets 10' long X 7' and 8'width
some with openwork hemstitching £20 - 25 each
Fine linen initialled double bed sheets with similar borders, extra large £45 each
Finest cotton percale double bed sheets, very large, 4 rows of drawn thread work and reveres
very bright white, £55 each, as new. 2 different pairs large fine linen, superb initials (pics.) £85 each, as new.
About 30 assorted linen double bed sheets, all v.g.c. £25 each various widths and lengths.
Fine lawn baby pillow cases with broderie anglaise borders, £6 each, linen cot sheets, £5 each, tablecloths £15, heavy linen sleeping bag liners,£20, etc.
Large quantity of double, pure linen sheets, many very large over 10' long, seconds, which have professional repairs, (mostly extremely neat double seamed patches along sides), which could have many uses for dyeing, accessory making, cottage curtains, sofa throws, cushions, crafts, already used for film costume and fashion designs. To clear, £10 AND £15 each. Most of this last lot NOW SOLD, BUT THE REST STILL FOR SALE! I have no room for these and would sell them even cheaper as a job lot! 6 odd ones @£5 each!
Email me at with your phone no. to view in Bradford on Avon, nr. Bath.

Friday, 13 August 2010

SWEET COLOURS are in good taste

Hempolin tea towels

Add Image

black/white pillow case
sweetie stripes on a grain sack

It was time to re-stock my reserve of rustic hemp, so went off to my supplier, and I had a lovely time rooting through a huge new stock that had just arrived from the furthest parts of Eastern Europe by lorry. I had no idea that the attractive grain sacks in handwoven hemp came in such a vast variation of colour and design. The stripes of colour woven into them were a sort of bar-code for identifying the actual village that the grain came from, so that the empty sacks could be returned to their owners. Most people have seen the common bright red and strong blue stripes, sometimes combined with large cross-stitched initials, known as Hungarian sacks. I have used them for years to cover French easy chairs. Now I was seeing (and buying) a wide variety of coloured stripes and very distinctive weaves, some in very close herringbone patterns, others looser and coarser, no doubt suitable for different crops and seeds that they might contain. Amongst the best were a whole lot in what I can only call toffee, butterscotch and caramel stripes, which with the creamy back ground of basic hemp, were lovely and very subtle in a muted palette. The black and white linen mix was very striking and has the latest contemporary look. I intend to re-cover my own fireside chair with toffee! Will post its portrait when done. You need to choose the closer weaves for chairs in constant use as some are fairly loose-woven and stretch and sag. I am getting very keen on hemp as an eco-friendly material with huge potential and I will keep on encouraging people to use this valuable stuff.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Darn! It's got a hole!

Inevitably, old materials have areas of wear and damage and it is best to do simple neat repairs before washing which will only make matters worse. Holes, if small, can be darned with a strong thread and fine needle, otherwise a neat patch of slightly finer weave makes the best repair. I pin the patch in place, turning the edges under and stitch all round by machine, then turn the work over and snipping four corner cuts into a rectangle shape, turn the damaged edges in and either darn across with a machine or make another neat square in the sheet, machining all round. If there is a split and no fabric missing, I either zig -zag, catching both edges together or machine-darn across the space, using a fine needle in the machine and a normal cotton thread. Some of the old French darns on linen are works of art, they are circular and rather like a cartwheel, the thread is woven round and round in and out of the 'spokes' .

Tuesday, 20 July 2010


Illustrated first are a nice pile of old tickings, both French and German which I had in vast quantities in the 80s and the portrait was taken in my garden to show them off for an article about the 'new' antiques of the period. The photographer arrived without the usual assistant and had not planned the picture at all. I suggested the iron gazebo already in our old garden and tried to drape the long lengths neatly to make a dome shape - the wind was blowing hard and whipped the ends off the structure and we battled as if in a sailing boat to get the scene under control!
After my climb up a ladder to find and buy a haybarn loft stacked with old tickings, forgotten and neglected by a bedding merchant, I had some very welcome publicity in a couple of decorating magazines. English decorators had newly re-discovered tickings and their bold colours and stripes introduced a fresh look to their 'mood boards' and colour schemes. Americans had always collected and valued tickings as they were amongst the most essential belongings that the early settlers took with them when they travelled across the States and set up home. They filled them with feathers, hay, straw, and corn shucks for bedding. To this day, many people in Pennsylvania and Connecticut display a neat pile of folded tickings as a sign of their ancestry and early beginnings. Many US dealers and designers visited me to buy the most unusual striped colour combinations with a view to getting the copyright and reproducing them - which they did in due course. Ian Mankin found his own designs elsewhere and was part of the ticking resurgence and it all helped my sales. I was very flattered when the photo above showed a pile of tickings from different decorating shops, all of which had come from my own stack! The garden gazebo draped with my tickings caused much amusement in the family who said they had never seen me sitting in the garden till then! The wind was blowing and it was the very devil to anchor all those long strips down for the shoot.

Friday, 9 July 2010


Went to Brittany for a real summer holiday and had a great time on a beautiful estuary at Port
Le Pouldu, simple inexpensive lodging and the best sea food we have had anywhere and we have been to most places. We watched the boats, the sailing classes, the skiers and the swimmers and relaxed completely. However, before this pleasant peacerful interlude we had a very busy two days, first at a big fair at Chartres and the next day at Le Mans - I was looking to top up my linen and hemp sheets and to find chateau length big sets of decent curtains. I found three excellent triple sets from a smart house in Strasburg, next door to an American Embassy, in pale plainish shades with lovely trims, very drawing room (or ballroom if you happen to have one, ) They half -filled my transport, and next day at Le Mans, within the first half hour, I had bought such huge quantities of good linen that I could not fit it all in the van and had to hire some space in another dealer's lorry! Something has happened in the French markets - with no US and UK buyers around, suddenly linen is a drug on the market French dealers just do not deal in old linen! and there were huge quantities available at very modest 'all or nothing' prices. I will be passing on good stuff at much lower prices as soon as it is all washed, ironed and labelled (about two weeks' time). And if you want splendid rich curtains at really good crunchy prices, do get in touch - I now have a choice of 20 different sets, all over 10ft drop, in every colour.

Monday, 14 June 2010

New friends - old dreams

A sample card of linen tapes for apron ties and a colourful ticking used for feather beds
Since posting my website, which took me several days to compose with a lot of help from friends, I have embarked on this Blogsite and apart from some good business, it has put me in touch with many new contacts all over the world. I try not to make it a complete chat item, and to pass on a little lore on textiles, and a modest account of the old ways of rustic French life as told to me by the old traditional brocanteurs who have memories of Old France and are glad to have a keen listener to their tales. Many of my new friends overseas have been to France and have wonderful memories too, of armoires stacked with folded linen and bunches of lavender to make it sweet-smelling, of rough old fruitwood tables covered in snow-white linen cloths and laden with delicious local food, vegetables and fruit and jugs of wine or cider, cold from the cellars, I think they might find a lot of this magic gone, but would have to remember that life was very hard for many, that electricity, gas and drainage came very late to many rural areas, just before the last war. The peasant women in Northern France and Brittany wore heavy black cotton overall dresses and did all the household chores wearing a strong work apron, changing to a dressy one for going out. They lived in dark beamed kitchens with tiled floors and brown furniture so it is not surprising that they cheered the place, and themselves, up with bright checked curtains, frilly nets and creamy linen embroidered trims on all the shelves, mantelpieces and pelmets, and they collected bright china with lustre decoration to reflect the fire and window lights.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010


Gabi Tubbs, journalist and friend, who first wrote about my tickings 20 years ago in Country Living, was here today for a magazine feature with a young photographer, Jody Stewart. He is the son of another old friend, Gloria Stewart, who has done up lots of grand old houses in the Dordogne and is an antiques consultant for Judith Miller of the Miller antiques reference books. So it was a happy reunion and Gabi worked hard for two whole days fixing everything just so. Flowers had to be placed in strategic positions, ornaments tweaked into empty spaces and the lamps adjusted for light and shadow. Peering through the lens of high tech. small cameras, everything was vetted before 'shooting' and it was hard work for the pair of them to get round their chosen spots. I thought it was wonderful that the very experienced Gabi who has worked with many top photo people, was sharing her expertise with a younger specialist, and no doubt, he, too, will make the most of these opportunities - getting into good magazines is very difficult now that they are drawing in their horns and preferring to use 'in-house' staff, all for economy. Gloria will be here at my home in Bradford on Avon with a collection of fine brocante at our July 9th /10th Fair here. Apply for invites to me via with your full address please. Jody 07964 553229

Monday, 7 June 2010


If you are keen to learn a bit more about France, want to go there but are a bit unsure how to go about it, I can highly recommend you start with my friend and fellow dealer, Rosie Murton, who has been scouting round the country for many years - she is a great guide, a good driver and you will enjoy it all with her generous help and advice. Contact her at 01952 883709 and she will tell you more and her dates for travel. She calls her business SAVOIR FAIRE and it is well-named
It is highly recommended by a friend of mine who has launched herself into the brocante trade with some success.

Thursday, 3 June 2010


hemp and linen clothing

Hemp peasant shirt with linen collar

Yes, it is one of the most environmentally 'green' fibres. It grows like a weed, enhances the soil where it is grown and does not need any of the 8000 chemicals used to grow and process conventional cotton which hugely damage the environment. Linen is similarly almost pollution free and both need little water to grow, again quite unlike cotton (even the organic type) and in addition to making fibre for textiles, supply seeds, oil and pulp used for bank notes, building material, and other industrial processes, not to mention cosmetic creams , soap and cooking oils
You could also say that most linen and hemp cloths are re-used, second-hand, in vast quantities, making a huge saving. Most old household linens are passed on to new users until they literally fall to pieces, and the French were particularly good at this. They patched and darned the holes made by the cruel loose iron springs on the beds, the rips and tears from the hedges and bushes used to dry the wash, and sometimes you come across a darn that is a real work of art (probably as taught by the nuns who trained little girls to do it)and the end result is a circle formed by weaving in and out of the spokes sewn across each hole in a spider web pattern. I once had a textile student customer who collected all forms of mending, patching and darning for her thesis, which taught me that everything has a value to someone and nothing should be thrown away! Today I had a customer from Japan who makes very fashion-conscious bags and she specifically chose damaged hemp feed sacks, darned and patched oddments together with every tiny scrap of indigo dyed and printed material I had in my rag-bag. She sells these things in a remote, rural island in Japan and sews them all by hand with some old tape and linen thread I was able to find for her. Her grateful smiles were reward enough and she left happy with lots of new ideas for sewing, while she travelled round the South West. A lovely enterprising girl!

Sunday, 30 May 2010


L'Offrande de l'Amour ' Le Premier Navigateur
The lovely Toile de Nantes, (1805) on the right, is one of the many designs from the factory there which flourished during the years of T. de Jouy and other mills producing cloths of this genre. It is titled 'Le Premier Navigateur' and is from the collection of Elizabeth Gibbons, a well lnown dealer and collector of fine textiles.
The first example is original Toile de Jouy, 1792 - 1815 a very popular one and reprinted in different colours, purple, red and bistre, many times. The Offering to Love is full of romance and beauty. Many of these designs are reproduced in attractive books, but there are still many not listed and people like Morgaine le Fay , whose instructive, excellent blogs showing rare examples in wonderful detail, are worth studying. The other day I bought and sold quickly an attractive print on linen, showing a cherub riding on a dolphin, enough for a cushion, and was rather mortified to find, on a re-read of my reference book that it was a true Toile and it had skipped through my hands without a proper provenance - my loss and my customer's gain! Or did she think, like me, it was just a pretty old scrap ?

Friday, 21 May 2010


Here is a puzzle for a rainy day, no interruptions and a bright light - plus plenty of patience! The diagram is about as clear as it could be and it reminds me a bit of learning how to re-cane a Regency chair. I did my chair in two days hard work, 15 years ago, but with a poor quality lot of split cane and I sat through it this week, so that has top priority over turks-head knots which I do like and admire on other peoples coats and jackets. How many of my readers have ever made one? If you can't read the instructions I will make a copy on my scanner which will be larger and clearer, SAE please and send me your postal address.

Monday, 17 May 2010


This bedroom corner was styled years ago by a friend, Gabi Tubbs, editor, decorator and author, using some of Jane Sacchi's tickings, Mulberry curtains, Ian Mankin fabrics, and, I think, it achieves a perfect ballance of stripes, checks and pretty faded florals. The colours are warm and restful , the furniture is simple and comfy and all invite peace and relaxation. This shows how careful use of textiles and fabrics can give the mood to any decorative scheme - the scale is quite important, the colours must blend and the texture and weight of the cloth must be suitable for its use. Ticking is ideal for valances, cushions, squabs and bolsters which get hard use, lighter cotton for bedroom curtains can be lined and interlined for extra cosiness and bedcovers should be washable if possible. Gabi was with Country Living for many years and is now free-lance and living in Brighton in a Georgian house, which I long to visit as it will be full of inspiration.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Linen is for Life.

Linen and hemp are the oldest known cloths and are still with us, prized as long-lasting, comfortable and healthy; France used both until the beginning of the last war for most of their household linens. Skilled weavers produced sheets, other bed linen and towels, kitchen and farm cloths as well as material for all kinds of clothes. I have gathered large quantities of all these fine and useful domestic items and there are many excellent uses in the modern house. I have supplied much linen to top decorators for all kinds of furnishing and also huge quantities for costumes in the film industry. The picture shows some hanks of linen thread used for weaving cloth for clothing circa 1870, found in the attics of a seven-generation weaving family farm in Brittany. These hanks were often called 'cheveux d'anges' (angels' hair) and were used to decorate doorways on certain Holy days. From time to time I find these beautiful hanks and they are soon snapped up by weavers and craft workers. See my website for examples of all kinds of linen and hemp articles.

Saturday, 8 May 2010


18C. design chinoiserie fabric

Braquenie were the foremost designers and printers and weavers of fabrics, tapestries and carpets from early 18c. Their printing blocks and copyright were acquired last century by Pierre Frey who have reproduced many of the old patterns and some are still printed with the original hand-blocks.
French beds are one of the glories of decoration! I am thinking of the 18thC designs, with carved and painted detail, elegant pillars and legs, crowned with wonderful draperies, swags and frills with exquisite trimmings in fringes, braids and tassels. This picture gives a glimpse of one decorated with Braquenie silks and shows the immense amount of skilled work that went into its decoration. The red and white Chinoiserie model is really more to my taste as I just love the amusing pattern of a Chinese man swinging on a branch in his quaint costume. In the past I have had all kinds of brackets and bars, coronas and baldaquins to affix the drapes over beds; some for one end of the bed and the others sometimes for sideways fixing like the second example with its deep pelmet. These curtain arrangements were necessary in the old days for total privacy in bed, when there were no corridors in houses and people passed from one room to another. They also kept out the draughts and
protected sleepers from the falling debris from above, when roofs were left unlined and there was no plaster ceiling to keep out the insects, birds and other invaders.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Tribal treasures

I was shown today some bits of tribal handwork from North Vietnam gathered by a friend who scaled steep mountain tracks to remote villages where they were greeted by tribal people -still wearing their distinctive costumes and selling old pieces of handwork as well as more modern pieces, like the little hat and bag worked with lots of indigo and reds, mostly cross stitched, but with some interesting circles of braid with tiny stitches run along the top surface in white cotton. They were very eager to sell their work and my friend thought that with an influx of visiting tourists they would change their ways and much interesting costume would be lost - she said they were all working at their stitching all the time, even while walking along the very rough paths round their villages.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Dolly needs a hospital!

A young lady came up to my stand at the American Museum Fair last year and scooped up a dismembered doll that I had found in a mixed lot of chateau stuff, at the bottom of a big box. Not very pretty and needing lots of attention, I was delighted to part with her for a triffling sum. It transpired that this girl was going to open a doll's hospital in her mother's shop in Pewsey and I phoned her the other day and was pleased to hear it had got off the ground and she is in business - could be a useful address if you have battered members in your toy cupboard. Sophie Patterson is at 16 River Street, Pewsey, Wilts, phone 01672 772 146 (not always open so check before travelling.).

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Warren Hastings and Daylesford.

Daylesford Barn. organic produce and clothes
Ages ago, I read about this wonderful classic Georgian house, the home of Warrren Hastings in 18th C., in Country Life magazine. Lord Rothermere (great newspaper tycoon) had bought it and he got Colefax and Fowler to restore and decorate it. The walls were scraped to find the original colours, furniture known to have belonged to Warren Hastings was bought up, mostly beautiful and costly ebony furniture with ivory inlay from India, and magnificent silk curtains made in classical style for the morning room and the evening room. There was a story about the wonderful drawing room curtains which had patterns in hand-sewn sequins in exotic oriental style and these were eventually found bundled up in the attics and so could be copied afresh. I kept the magazine for many years as I thought it was all so beautiful and could not understand how Lady R. left her husband and this wonderful house which seemed like part of heaven to me! It is, of course, now in the capable hands of Lady Bamford who is herself a very dynamic and artistic chatelaine and it is good to know it is all flourishing under her care. It was writing about the lace table cloth in a previous post, A really special piece of lace, from Hasting's family, that reminded me of one of my pin-up houses, and as a second-hand curtain dealer, how I would love to see those ravishing curtains! Where are they now?

Thursday, 18 February 2010

A really special bit of Lace

I furnished my first village house largely from auction room buys. The best fun was to go to an old country house where the back quarters, servants' rooms, potting sheds and old larders were stripped and the motley family belongings of several generations were rapidly sold in a marquee on the lawn - and the catalogues were brief and not always very accurate. There was often no 'in the style of',' description, you were on your own against the dealers, pictures were unlabelled and porcelain and glass were knocked down at silly prices, in mixed lots. If you stayed till the end, the auctioneer rushed through some unlisted numbers, filling in as he saw the porters wearily carry stuff into the tent or yard, and you could sometimes get a great bargain (or buy yourself a 'pup').
I went to one, a remote country house in Cambs. which had belonged to two lady descendants of the famous Warren Hastings, who helped to bring India into the British Empire, while he was the first Governor General there. I spied 2 useful lots - one was the contents of a little glasstopped sewing table and was full of delightful little ivory and boxwood boxes, with screwtop lids, for pills and snuff - real 18th C. personal accessories, possibly souvenirs of Warren ? and the other was a little pile of linen with some nice 'embroidery' which I hesitated to open in case there were other needlework enthusiasts around - both were knocked down to me with my first bids and inside the little pile I found a remarkable Bedfordshire lace tablecloth.It measured 5' square, was solid linen lace, with no cloth borders and absolutely perfect, I still
have it and would like to find a lace collector. A real treasure!
I was told that the snake-like pattern round the edges was inspired by the River Ouse which winds through Bedfordshire in endless wavey loops through the fields. Maltese lace is rather similar to this Beds. lace and it was introduced by an Englishwoman to give employment to the poor people of Malta, and they added the Maltese Cross to identify it.