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!