Sunday, 29 May 2011

Media friends

    This month's Home and Antiques magazine features vintage linens in great variety - I was pleased to see some of my T.for T. customers and friends in it ;  Jane Sacchi, Carole Wilson, Polly Lyster and some in the textile world like Kate Forman, Kath Kidston, Caroline Zoob, and other names to drop from the pages of the glossies!    It is good to know that we have watched some of the early beginners in textiles make it to the top of their respective trees, and that others, already there, have found it worthwhile to buy and collect with us while they sought inspiration and built up their collections and are now world celeb.s in the decorating world.

A rich display of trifles and a rainbow of old tickings.   An old smock shirt and a view of odds and ends.
French stock has a je ne sais quoi thing about it? n'est ce pas?
    It is also good to know that many of our private customers come to us for some very special fabrics and decorations and that we have helped them achieve their own exclusive schemes. Many of us have taken trouble to search out rare and difficult- to- find items for them.   We had some special visitors from Missouri here recently and one honed in on Linda Clift's  unique Fair Isle knitted bed quilt, lovingly pieced on a tweed backing, and couldn't wait to show her friends at home this unique bedroom accessory.  We all need our friends to spread the good news of Talent for Textiles events and I can assure you that the more we network and recommend each others' special lines, the happier the clients are and the more they come to our fairs with their friends and buy.  I am going to write a little piece on the word Vintage which is now bandied about in the fashion and textile articles.

For Dorset read Germany

Linen buttons from Germany similar to Dorset buttons.  Lower examples are the rare high top pattern.  The brass ring is all buttonhole stitched and then the spokes are added ,  sometimes to be completed with  stitches worked in ever wider circles from the centre, or is it the other way, from edge to centre?  My efforts with string and a curtain ring and darning needle not surprisingly,  were not at all successful!

Mini Dorset buttons on a yellow card (sign of third quality sold in home market)
Disregard the old address on the leaflet - I have moved nearer to Dorset!
   My Post on Dorset Buttony has to be updated - I know now that these lovely and decorative buttons made with a brass ring and needle and linen thread were also made in Germany and explains why I have often found them on the bedding, kelsches and pillow cases that I have bought in France and which I know were imported to feather factories  from German charity shops.   I now have some of these very special buttons which were once made by the thousand by home workers and very poor women, men and children, for a few pence  per card and were sold in haberdashery and drapers shops.    A skilled worker could make a gross in a day!  'High top' was the rarest and only recently has a man re-discovered the technique of making them.   The others were called knobs, birdseye, singleton, mite, crosswheel, cartwheel and honeycomb. One of the advantages over bone and m.o.p. buttons was that they would easily pass through the mangle after washing.  These 'Dorset' buttons were in great demand for costumes made for the Hardy film and that was when I first heard of them and found some at Shepton Mallet fairs.  I have tried to copy them but found my fingers far too big, the needle far too small and the thread far too thick to do a good job - I have a good W.I. leaflet on how to do it if anyone would like a copy. Email me.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Kelsches, quilts and covers

  Bedding in France has always been a very important part of the household goods  In early times there were feather beds which were downproof bags, the size of the bed, not hanging over the edge like our duvets, and there were often two to soften the feel of the hard wooden slats of the primitive beds and placed under the sleeper.  Next came the sheets which were usually hand-woven, consisting of two lengths of linen or hemp woven on the narrow wooden looms of every village and many convents and priories.  They were handstitched, the best were edge to edge with tiny close stitches which avoided the hard -edged line of sewing made by whipping both edges together.  Initials were added in one corner, usually red cross-stitch and all seams were also handworked.     Over the top was another feather bed which acted like a tea cosy locking  in the warmth all round the body.  In addition you sometimes come across a very small and soft eiderdown, also known as an edredon, which was specifically placed over your feet to keep them extra warm.On top of that was a quilt, handmade with scraps from clothes and curtains, sometimes quite a work of art., others just a jumble of scraps from the rag bag. The best, often used in Provence, and called Boutis, were made from printed calicos which had Indian or Persian small designs and floral  motifs, often dyed and printed in the town of Mulhouse near the German border,  where there were highly skilled manufacturers, who led the way in dyeing and printing, dress fabrics, pretty foulards and fichus  and other fabrics for decorating interiors.  Otherwise covers were made with coloured plain throws and also thick white cotton sheets (called Marcella - an obvious contraction of the port of Marseille which imported cotton from Egypt  India and the Far East.) I have written elsewhere of the linen Kelsches peculiar to Alsace Loraine. The feather bags were known as coutils, but that is a word almost forgotten.    See post about pillows and bolsters for more bedtime stories.  CUSHIONS DOWN AND OUT FROM EIDERDOWNS.

Monday, 23 May 2011


  These surprisingly decorative patterned macrame little hangings were specially made to shield the eyes of the oxen from the flies that pestered them.  I do not know if these were for special festivals, processions or what, but like so many French textiles they were made for a specific job and made with great skill and care - very fit for purpose!    This is the last pair I have - I used to find them in Burgundy and near Bordeaux where the oxen were used for tilling the fields and vineyards.  All were different in colour and pattern so I think there may have been an element of competition for the best among the local crochet and netting experts.  I have shown the colourful fly sheets with lovely stripes elsewhere which were used to keep the flies off the backs of the animals; and the ox-yokes, heavy chestnut wood sort of brackets to link the oxen pairs together, have often been converted to hanging lights with parchment shades and extra ironwork to hang from the beams of old farmhouses and bars.  The huge carts for carrying the hods and barrels now stand unused around the farms, while tractors and trailers cope with the heavy loads - I have not seen a single ox in my recent travels.

Saturday, 21 May 2011


    Last month at a  French fair, when I was running low in funds (not unusual by the end of the morning and no A.T. M. handy), I saw an interesting pile of 'taupe'  Everyone seems to be into taupe, which is French for mole, and is a pale dirty beige, or khaki shade.  As I felt the tightly woven linen I remembered buying some similar linen fifteen years before and selling it to an American decorator who converted these sheets into tab-topped hangings for metal four-poster beds which were easily available then and used them in her other commissions;
   As this lady  took all I had, I always wanted to find more as I knew they were winners.   So fifteen years later, I hit the right spot and was able to stock up -  I told the seller I wanted as many as he had and he replied that he had 1000 in the van behind his market stand.   That was 900 too many for me  and my low funds, but I weighed the car down with this great find and have been selling them ever since.   They are finest Flemish linen sewn into sleeping bag liners for the French army - their M.O.D., like ours, restock every so many years and the surplus is sold in big auctions where  dealers go and buy in bulk.  These liners are so closely woven that they are waterproof, they make up very smartly and are easy to pipe and tailor.  They are being used for clothes (jackets, skirts and trousers) table mats and napkins, bed valances and bed ends, cushions, etc., Taupe happens to be the shade of the year, (together with all the other 'stone' colours, brown, grey, slate and so on).  I can send a small sample if you like - email me -the bags measure 6'10 X 3' double sided.  Unused, clean, £25 each plus postage, so they are a real bargain.  The linen is absolutely top quality and very fine and strong.  I have mixed the linen with bright striped ticking and checked Kelsch material and it is stunning!  Well anyway a top Spanish decorator thought so and ordered 14 bespoke for 2 Royal homes to put into garden rooms!
My latest contact in USA is ordering a couple of dozen to cover some special armchairs - taupe is the new 'in' colour over there as well as here - stone colours, slate, granite, sandstone etc., are cool and restful.

French  fine linen sleeping bag liners