Thursday, 21 April 2011

HomeThoughts from abroad

As we leave the scenes of the big 'deballage' (literally, the lorry off-loading) fairs of France, we usually have a post mortem review and think how we can do better next time.  Getting there at the crack of 8 o'clock is essential if you want to see the best before someone else snatches it up - a good torch and big zip bag are both useful - the textiles are often spread on the floors of the big aerodrome hangars.   When there are 7 or 8 further hangars to explore, in no kind of order, the hunt is a bit of blind man's buff combined with luck and two pairs of sharp eyes now wide open!  The sellers are casual and inclined to give that famous Gallic shrug of the shoulders if you point out the damage, stains and other faults.  But if you hold it up to the light and check the condition and make a fair offer, they will often accept as they know that French buyers are unlikely to go for their stock and you may be their only interested customer as well as a pro.   The difficulty is to find the really special pieces and they are scarce and very expensive.  I bought a lovely striiped oxen coat (used to keep the flies off the cattle) and an unused horse blanket in a splendid checked ticking with leather straps. but both were too expensive!  I did hit on a lovely lot of checked linen kelsches (the handwoven covers for feather beds in Alsace Lorraine) which are excellent for sturdy seat covers, curtains and cushions for rustic rooms, kitchen benches, pine furniture and cottage curtains - I found them still in their carrier bags under a trestle table and was glad I had poked around and got them into the light, and bought a big stack for my new Talent for Textile fairs.  A good search can be more rewarding than a hectic dash round just skimming the top layers of the stalls.


  You may not have seen, let alone heard of, the molleton blanket.  It's a French summer blanket in flannelette, with stripes each end,  a distinctive knotted fringe, and often has initials and numbers actually woven into the border, a sign that they were ordered in some quantity for the client. These were very much part of the dowry of  brides living in a hot climate, in the Southern half of France,  the evenings are hot there and steamy, but later in the night the temperature goes down and that is when you need a light soft cover to keep you warm in bed.    I have sold a great many of these, mostly for holiday use and for children - to a log cabin in Aspen ski resort and to a new mother who covered nursery furniture - nice and cosy and washable for a new baby!   
I find them in strange plaxes in France - often wrapped round furniture just like our removal men use old army blankets to protect the Chippendale.  They stay snowy white unlike the woollen ones which go so yellow and cannot be boiled!  I sell them for about £45 each in really good condition.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011


    I was very cheered and encouraged by the rows of nice things everyone has contributed to Linda Clift's piece on our new Talent for Textile Fair at Glastonbury.   Here lay the riches of the Abbey tithes, the harvests of the Abbey's rich lands.
 Get to Linda wrote a very generous approval of the site and produced, with the aid of her clever camera, a whole gallery of shots that give you the complete scene - much better than any wordy description, and then there are a host of notes of approval from many friends and dealers who are all backing it up to the hilt, telling everyone about it and distributing flyers by the dozen.   This is the way to get the crowds we need for such a big space and no amount of black and white expensive advertising will do it as well.  I have actually managed to get the news out to several thousand people in a news bulletin that goes to most villages at very reasonable cost as well as the Mendip Times, and hope that the readers and their friends will come along - it is still up to you, the readers and the stallholders who are attending, to get this new event known in the West and to build it up as we have with all our other Fairs.   The whole thing is free entry as usual;  fair, museum and grounds, so all you need to spend will be in the pretty little shop very much angled at the thousands of school children who visit the Somerset Rural Museum there, and maybe a cup of tea and home- made light refreshments in the cosy little cafe with garden seating, surrounded by a locally crafted willow fence,  (especially if you fancy going up the path from the farmyard to the famous Tor high on the hill above the farm).   Friday, May 20th is the date, open from 9 am to 4 pm and I advise getting there early for easy car parking and a good view of all the exciting and colourful textiles on display, with some interesting byegones, small antiques and brocante. There are 25 stands with dealers from all over the South West and this is the first ever antique fair in this wonderful 14C. timber and stone building which has a remarkabvle history but has not been  used before for events like ours. I will print a little map later early May.