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.