Sunday, 30 December 2012

My Post Box

Thanks Yvette for telling me that my tablecloth added something to your Christmas table - and I wonder if you had traditional English feast or did you slip a few French treats in ?- I seem to remember a wonderful custom of twelve special desserts sometime over NOEL OR HAVE I GOT IT MIXED UP ?- YOU HAVE SO MANY SAINTS DAYS AND CELEBRATIONS IN FRANCE THAT YOU KEEP, AND WE FIND IT HARD TO KEEP PACE - SOMETIMES IT IS A VERY USEFUL DATE TO HANG ON TO AS A BROCANTE OR ANTIQUE FAIR IS ALWAYS FIXED ON A CERTAIN SAINT'S DAY, SO I DON'T NEED TO BUY ALADIN TO FIND IT OUT!   ANYWAY,

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Answers to your comments

My Rag Market Fair on Sunday 19th May will be held in the Mason's Hall and in the old wine vaults next door in Bradford on Avon, nr. Bath.  Details:  email

Monday, 17 December 2012



A bientot! Elizabeth  

Friday, 23 November 2012


In the days after the last war when old houses were being broken up into flats, shabby old family places were emptied of their contents and people moved into smaller more manageable houses.  There were lots of auctions run by the local auctioneers, some of whom were more used to selling farms and livestock than the domestic contents  They were held in old marquees with village hall chairs and roneo'd catalogues that were often incomplete and certainly did not give details of each item to be sold. You had to make up your own mind as to the quality, age and condition, so  view-day was essential if you wanted to know what you were buying.   Much had come out of store after being shut away during the war and there was a huge variety of Victorian furnishings, often shabby and damaged.  I was furnishing a big old house on a very low budget to accomodate my growing family and attended many sales in the Essex, Cambridge area with very good results.  Small items sold for a lot of money but the big old lumps were almost given away and I made the most of this.  I had a Volvo shooting brake and was able to transport everything myself, would search the pantries,  kitchen, servants rooms, stables for the bargains which had often been stored there for years as old fashioned and surplus and were often unlisted at the end of the sale under a heading  'contents of the....'. tool sheds, lamp sheds often had interesting bits waiting to be re-discovered!

     Some of the 'Executors' sales were the best,as they were badly advertised, at short notice, and no-one knew anything about the chattels to be sold.   One of the best was a villa where two maiden ladies, descendants of the great Warren Hastings, had lived with masses of family papers and belongings going back to Georgian times.   The few dealers who were there were interested in the historic papers with details of his Governorship of India, and I found the most delightful and charming momentoes, sewing tools, mini boxwood pill boxes, snuff boxes, etc.  I saw some linen tied up and stacked below the big dining table and had a peep without undoing it as I had seen there was a pretty Paisley shawl I wanted.   I was the only bidder and I think I paid £13 for the bundle.  In those days some of the dealers used to hide the more interesting lots under tables so that the ordinary 'punters' missed them. When I got home, I undid it and to my delight found this amazing lace table cloth, perfect and unused.  I have since found out that it is very rare to have anything so large made with this Bedfordshire lace;  strips of narrow lace are all stitched together to make the square and then the border is worked around the whole.  And I have been told that the wavy line running round the edges was inspired by the river Ouse which runs through the flat lands of Bedfordshire in big loops.  I would be so glad to know more if there are any readers with knowledge of Beds. lace and to know if this is fairly unique - I have seen collars and cuffs for dresses but never anything of this size.   Do Email me at   or put something in 'comments'  for the benefit of other readers.

Monday, 5 November 2012


Jen Jones  is indeed the foremost expert and collector of Welsh quilts and at any one moment has several hundred in her collection for sale at home in her cottage shop and at the Quilt Museum in the  old Town Hall, Lampeter, which she has recently opened with the help of her architect husband.    Jen has produced books, gives talks and has organised several exhibitions abroad, and is very well known to all the visitors to the Talent for Textile Fair at Bradford on Avon, where she brings a wonderful collection well displayed quilts on large rails.   She will be with us on May 19th, next, for our Rag Market when she will bring a selection of quilt seconds, Welsh blankets and linen, lots of bargains!Contact her on 01570 480 610 for visits.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012


   This is Mme de Pompadour stitching away at her tambour frame 1764/4.   One of her hands is below the frame to guide the hooked tool which was used to trace lines of chain stitch across the net or muslin stretched over the frame.  I have a net canopy over my own four poster bed worked on net and it is a real pleasure to look upwards when lying on the bed to see the elegant tracery above and I much prefer this airy look to the rather grand and stuffy pleated chintzy canopy you see on some old beds.    In the past some of these false ceilings were necessary because very old houses often had no plastered ceilings and were open to the slates and tiles of the roof, draughty and dusty, and sometimes inhabited by insects and animals and birds, a bit of a menace to a good night's rest.
   Madame P's dress is itself a lovely concoction of fine embroidery, trailing flowers, a deep and elaborate border to the skirt and layer upon layer of fine lace swathing her arms, not forgetting the silken striped bow at her bosom  The little lace bonnet with matching ribbon completes this charming portrait of a lady in her boudoir, surrounded by her pet dog at one side and very fine gilded furniture and a musical instrument on the other.  French civilization at its peak! 

Thursday, 25 October 2012


This last year was very successful for Talent for Textiles and we had 5 good fairs during the summer months.   Yarlington and Bradford were particularly well attended and busy all day (although rain spoilt the afternoon at Y. but neverthless the profit for the two charities was over £6000)  It is always so good to see all our regular long term supporters coming back and bringing so many friends.  We really do value this support and it makes the fairs happy and successful events enjoyed by everyone.This is advance notice of a rather different sort of Textile Fair I am planning for late Spring, next year.  This is for anyone wanting to dispose of surplus textiles.
   I propose a Rag market to be held on May 19th, Sunday in our usual spaces in Bradford on Avon, with 1/3 our  regular exhibitors, 1/3 new exhibitors (decorators, curtain makers, craft workers), and 1/3 private sellers with surplus  textiles.  All will have a 6' trestle table, with small space for one card table (bring your own) or a short clothes rail, not both.  Simple home-made refreshments by The Fat Fowl, as before. The idea is that everyone who has dress and furnishing remnants, ends of rolls, surplus linens, blankets, buttons and trims, and vintage oddments in their stores, cupboards, attics, should bring them along and make a modest profit!  Good designer label clothes welcome.
   I am always hearing the refrain, 'I don't know what to do with this old thing from my Granny, too good for a jumble sale and not enough to put in an auction',  This is your chance to clear the decks while you Spring Clean!
  We have held similar Rag Markets on the South Coast and they have been highly successful and copied elsewhere!  Large amounts of stuff have been moved and keen buyers have loaded up and often come back for more!
  The rent for the day will be £20 per stand, 9 am. - 3pm.  Application for stands can be made any time up to the end of November;  new exhibitors, please give an indication of your goods.  Those selected will be sent flyers to distribute among their friends, (a really important part of the deal)  full details of parking and unloading, and a request for the rent to be paid by March 30th, 2013.  Send no money now, please.  This will be a fun and sociable event, and better than a Boot Fair!  Start sorting now all the things you can live without!  Contact me at   I am trying to do as much as possible by Email to save time and expense as I am on the verge of retirement and this may be my final fling!

Sunday, 21 October 2012


Traditional West Country Shepherds Smock

  Have you heard of the highly mobile shepherd's huts that are rolling round the countryside, providing extra office, studio and lodging space ?  For years they have stood neglected in remote grazing fields where shepherds used to watch their flocks in the lambing season, with primitive lighting by lanterns and small iron stoves to keep the newborn lambs warm in their little hay-beds.    The huts had large iron wheels and could be pulled from one field to another.  I used to see several high on the Marlborough Downs when walking with the beaters on a game shoot there.   Now a friend of mine,  Caron Cooper, who runs a delightful B and B in her traditional farmhouse, Fosse Farmhouse, near Chippenham,  has renovated two of these old wagons and many of her visitors book them ahead for a totally peaceful and romantic stay.  Here she is wearing the best smock I ever had with fantastic smocking back and front, looking the part in front of her renovated van.   Contact Caron 01249 782 28 for accommodation , and contact me for another genuine West country smock, newly acquired!  These are now rare to find in good condition as many have gone into the County Agricultural Museums, and are kept for agricultural shows.

Caron's B and B

Kate Humble's new spare room

Caron's smock bought last year

Friday, 19 October 2012


  I have written before about some of the aspiring and inspiring young people who  have started with a skill and used it to develop into a successful business.  Getting started can be quite a struggle and to get in touch with the right outlets and sponsors takes time and money!  So I applaud those who make it to the top and try to encourage any young person whom I feel has that 'star' quality.  Mel   White is just such a person and she sent me news that not only has her work been taken on by the prestigeous firm of Zoffany, but her design Verdure in the Arden collection has been given the House & Garden  best printed fabric  award - it is a lovely greenery view based on the famous French tapestries - and also now nominated for the Elle Decoration British Design Award. If you have a medieval cottage or a moated mansion, what better way to commemorate period furnishings and English talent !

Wednesday, 17 October 2012


This large and handsome piece of furniture is an Irish Regency pine housekeeper's cupboard for storing the linen of a large household.  Sheets, pillow cases, table cloths, napkins, could all be neatly stacked on the narrow shelves and good ventilation for when the cupboard was locked was provided by the ornamental mesh covered holes.  There are two keys and normally the linen would be kept under lock and key by the housekeeper who kept the keys for all storage cupboards on her chatelaine key ring attached to her waist.  Linen was valuable and could be 'borrowed' and stolen by dishonest servants.  The housekeeper would dole out the required sheets and other linens  to the housemaids  who made the beds and  helped to lay the tables and she kept hand-written lists of the contents pinned to the cupboard doors as well as lists for the house laundry.   When the housework was done, the maids used to go to the housekeepers room and repair and sew some of the laundry items, so they were never allowed to be idle.
  I have used this cupboard for over 25 years (in two different homes) and I must have sold many hundreds of sheets, tablecloths, napkins and tea towels to my customers.  It was a great place to display them and keep the piles tidy.  Now, alas! its usefulness is gone and the room where I have it is to become a spare room and a large double bed will replace the cupboard so my linen cupboard must move on;  it is for sale and will move in two parts.  Price on application to E.Baer at

Monday, 15 October 2012

A bit of Happenstance

I have a good friend, Sharon Mrozinski, who has a lovely shop in Wiscasset, (pictured in detail) far away on the cold North seaboard of Maine USA. It is a popular Marina for large yachts and apart from her folk art, tools and furniture, she has interesting costume items and some Ralph Lauren 'seconds' for her wealthy clients. One day, a chic English lady came in and asked about the smock-shirt that Sharon was wearing. She was told that it had come from an eccentric English dealer near Bath called Elizabeth, and with that, the chic lady drew a magazine cutting out of her bag (Hermes of course) and asked Sharon if it was all about the same person! Fame at last! She later came shopping here with her London -based decorator and I heard all about the strange coincidence. The smock shirts are what the French peasants used to wear every day for working. They were made of cream linen or hemp, entirely hand-sewn with finely gathered collars and cuffs, and I have bought and sold several hundred of them for film costume work. I have written more about them in 'Keep your shirt on...' For more about Sharon, go to

Sunday, 14 October 2012


   I thought some of my London readers might like to know about the SELVEDGE WINTER FAIR so here is the pretty card advertising it. Chelsea Town Hall, Kings Road, SW3 5EE.Saturday 10th November, 10 am - 4pm. £5 entry.
The magazine is interesting with much expert knowledge of the textile world and I would expect the exhibitors to be a lively lot with individual new small businesses and goods that are affordable and original.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

A window of opportunity

  I think a lot about keeping warm in my old house and have packed the roof space with plenty of insulation to keep all rising heat within.  Our chimneys are semi- blocked  with brick lids, so no escape there, but there are still the many windows, large and single-glazed.  We cannot triple glaze them and they let in a lot of cold air through the joints when the wind blows.   I have good blinds that I pull down every night, shutters that I close after tea, but there is still a notable chill round them.  My best solution is to re-line all the curtains with good interlining from top to toe and this makes a big difference. 
Just some of the bump cloth available
  When I bought huge old chateau curtains in France they were always beautifully hand sewn and interlining was de rigeur.   The curtains were often far too big for their next homes and I saved all the surplus linings if they were clean and tidy.   I have finished doing all my own windows and have now a tidy pile of pre-war bump cloth, as it is known in the trade, and offer it at give-away prices to anyone who can use it in any way - or could it be used for quilting?  Some of it is really heavy and thick,  and in panels over 10ft long,and I just hate the thought of dumping it all while I clear the decks (for my extreme old age) and I hope someone will be glad to recycle it all and keep warm. I live near Bath, Email  to view.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Got it all taped

Shopping bag with linen applique

  I have several of these tapes in large rolls and they are so good for apron strings, loops for tea towels. Applied to a plain linen base they look very smart decorating aprons, table mats, tote bags.  You may remember the super quality linen sleeping bag liners I was selling last year (as used by me above) and which all sold in a flash!
  I bought  many similar small notions from a good friend in France who used to buy up  the stock from long-closed little mercerie shops and she stored it all in the original boxes, with lids on, in great piles in a dirty old shed. I had to climb a step ladder to get at them and gingerly lift the lids to view the contents which were always fascinating;  feathers and flowers for hats, hair,  soutache cord, corset laces, boot buttons and much more. And then one day she told me that there had been a terrible fire and she lost everything and closed her business;     oh! how I miss those trifles!  Some of them will be on sale at my clearance fair next May 20th, 2013, if you can wait. Check details on latest Blog:  STOP PRESS FUTURE FAIRS as usual. or Email
French linen tapes with many uses.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Molleton, a soft Touch

   Molletons are wonderfully soft, thick, flannelette summer blankets made from about 1910 in France. They are white and have broad bands of red woven into each end or a group of several finer lines, with a fine, knotted cotton fringe, and very often they have initials and numbers woven into the fabric. They were very much part of the dowry of well-off girls and were used as summer blankets, to pull up when the days were hot and the nights were cooler. I have used these in many ways and so have my clients. Ideal, because so washable, for children, they are so cosy. Cut up, they are good for bathroom chairs and seats, I have used some to line curtains so that the stripes show through the window and you could make lovely dressing gowns or bed jackets with them. I sometimes find them in the back of lorries at Fairs, wrapping furniture just like our removal men use old army blankets! Exclusive and innovative, I think. I just love finding new uses for these attractive old pieces, such as cushions on Lloyd Loom chairs in a nursery or bathroom.Sadly some of the bright red stripes are faded to nothing where bleach has been used, but they are still very useful and cheap to use as underblankets or cot blankets as the material is very thick and cosy and I am currently using one to interline some curtains to make them warm and draughtproof.  No more in the pipeline!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Cellars and Sellers

    A busy Autumn!   Our T4T fair at Bradford on Avon hit a lovely sunny day and we had a big crowd of friends with us and quite a few extra visitors as well.  The lure of free entry always works and our regular buyers bring them along for a look around and a good sociable lunch on our sunny terraces.   My cellars were open with a very mixed selection of ends of lines, remnants, etc. and we worked hard to look after everyone, many of whom came back for a final sort through my remaining stock and shop fittings.  Many knew that I am retiring from active dealing and running the TforT fairs and it was good to hear their nice and flattering comments - many made new textile contacts round the lunch tables with tasty food supplied by the Fat Fowl, our nearest Restaurant in the town - and jolly good too! So altogether a very good day for us all!
  Sellers !  You may be interested to know that next month I shall be giving details of a large Rag Market event I shall hold in the same venues for a final clear out,  asking everyone on the mailing list if they would like to join our trade sellers and get rid of surplus textiles themselves and turn them into cash.   Places will be limited to about 30, all details will follow next month;  you should then apply with brief details of your goods to sell.  Many people have inherited good linen, for instance, which they are keen to sell - ideal!  Good vintage 20s 30s clothing, even better! quilts, eiderdowns, first class!  Needlework, tapestries, samplers, very saleable!  Buttons, needlework tools, beads and accessories, all very collectable!
I know that there will be a big demand for the places and I will try and get as good a spread and variety as I can for the benefit of the visitors whom I expect to arrive in big numbers after my newsletter next month, repeated in late Spring.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Dorset Buttons, High Tops, Knob ; Birdseye

Dorset buttons were hand-made in tens of thousands from the 17c. until late Victorian times. They were a major West Country cottage industry, especially round Shaftesbury, and sent by coach to London where they were distributed by a Mr. Case and his son to many customers at home and abroad who used them on clothes and linen. They are made with small brass rings which are then covered with a linen-threaded needle and made in various patterns - cartwheel, pyramid, etc. Unfortunately cheap factory-made buttons ruined the trade, causing much distress to those who had made their living working at home; with no income or employment, they emigrated, and the skill was lost. The various revivals later failed to survive and the buttons are now highly collectable. Illustrated are some very small ones for babies' clothes and larger ones for linen and clothing.  Those on yellow cards were 'seconds'.  In the past I have found these old Dorset buttons on pillow cases from France and on feather bed cases from Germany, so they have almost returned to their native birthplace in Dorset. I will send sewing directions if you send me an SAE, as I have the 1930s Dorset W.I. pattern leaflet which I can copy. But you will have to find the little brass rings., I only have a few now. Since writing above I have interesting news on Dorset buttons from a new contact and instructions on how to make the rarest models, which had previously defeated needlewomen. They were usually made by skilled lace-makers. P.S.  My info. above on the source of buttons on German feather bed covers turns out to be quite wrong.  These lovely linen buttons were also made in Berlin and used by German housewives - nothing to do with Dorset, tho' maybe copied by clever fingers!

Sunday, 16 September 2012


For Pilgrim!  Yes I have lots of bags as I make them up as I gather the remnants from cushion making, etc.  they are nearly all indigo/woad blue and natural linen, usually early 19c. occasionally 18th, and lined with vintage checks and stripes from late 19C or from the 20s, often a bit shabby but tidying up all the seams of the fronts and giving extra strength for constant use and heavy bottles!  The handles are also double fabric strong and 'handy'.and I machine the seams with very strong thread.  Prices are £20 or £25 depending on rarity of fabrics used and the sizes are medium to large.  I must have sold dozens in the past ten years and lots of people try to copy but don't have access to the rarer patterns and weaves.   A very smart (English) client who lives in N.Y., 5th Avenue, told me she was in the lift sorry, elevator,  with Lauren (R.) who admired her shopping tote and she said to him 'I am so lucky to have the original fabrics, which of course you have copied with your American names like Martha, etc'  I will try and photo a group for you to see - each one is different and unique to me!  Sede BAGS OF BAGS previous Blog

Saturday, 15 September 2012

A Pearly Queen

The button factory at Sees, Sarthe who made and designed every kind, turtle, jet, pearl, leather, p.mache, etc.
sold to all the Paris couturiers, Balenciaga, Dior, etc.
 These lovely little folders, silvery grey 19c. borders, with little blue strips slotted in, each holding 12 m.o.p. buttons, are a real delight. I had several dozen of them and plenty of extra strips to choose and insert, all from a lady who had a vast store of buttons. She had them passed on to her in the late 20s. when her friend, the proprietor of the biggest button factory in France, retired and she sold his remaining stock at a stall in Paris for many years. She then bore a handicapped son and retreated to Burgundy to give him a country upbringing and put thousands of buttons away up in the attic, reached by a steep ladder.   Her daughter started taking a few cards to local brocante fairs and she told me their history.
After several visits, when I realised what a lovely cache she had, I bought the lot and I am still selling them.
Correction! now every last one sold!
More about the rare Dorset and German handmade linen buttons in a later Blog and more button biographies from time to time as there seem to be as many button collectors as button patterns!  But I do not deal in them any more!

Wednesday, 12 September 2012


   If you are thinking of trying a new hobby this winter, consider joining some of the interesting classes going on at JUMBLE JELLY, Silver Street, Bradford on Avon.  The enterprising young owners (experts themselves) have gathered a bevy of skilled teachers to teach you.  It will be fun too! Phone 01225 866 033

A good address if you need some re-furbishing (before Christmas) is my long-time friend Joanna who is a girl of many parts.  She launches craft magazines and is herself an expert of many skills.   I have seen her work and it is excellent, original and reasonable.I mention these two small businesses because the owners came to visit us at our last fair here and I asked their permission to insert these for wider contacts        Bit far for some of my Blog readers, but I hope people will support local enterprise.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

BAGS OF BAGS (Continued)

Two examples for Diane at Pilgrim.  Blues are old French bedding, linen /cotton ikat, hemp, mattress ticking (19c.) blue stripes
natural unbleached linen and ticking from a horse blanket.
 All fully lined with vintage fabrics, doubled loop handles, all sewn with very strong thread for general use.£20 and £25 depending on rarity of fabric.  No two the same!

Monday, 10 September 2012

A View of the Past

Looking backwards to the glory days of buying from the copious armoires of France when they were being cleared for modern and easy- care textiles and much was, either thrown away, burnt or bundled out to the local brocanteurs, I am thankful that I was in at the beginning of a great time for discovery, buying and then selling to a willing clientele. Things were very cheap and by selling them on quickly at very reasonable prices, I was able to dash back for lots more and fill a van on every trip. Now, you can travel hundreds of miles and find the depot has closed since the last visit, the fairs are full of retro furniture and fairly tasteless bric-a-brac, amd most things have gone up hugely in price, compounded by the wretched Euro exchange rate for us Brits. The buttons are all sewn on, the linen smock shirt has gone on Safari to shield a lady from the tropical sun, and the tickings are highly treasured by their new owners;   however. new doors do open and we can find new uses for some of the current linens still available - grain sacks, nappes de vendange (harvest cloths, red stripes) working aprons, old rolls of metis union cloth for furnishing, corona drapes for beds, voile cafe curtains and much, much more. We have to move on and use a bit of imagination for an original result, there is still a lot left in that rich country!

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Bags of Bags

Here is a small selection of my 'Patchbags' as I call them. They are one of the ways I use up every scrap of old French materials, specially the early indigo blue-dyed bedding ones. There is flamme(bottom left) which is, like Ikat, woven with slightly irregular tie-dyed indigo threads, which gives a flame-like pattern, in fine cotton for bed hangings and coarse weaves for pelmets and valances. There are a myriad checks, from very fine to large, in many different weights - the best looking cloths are the 18C block printed linens and hemp used for quilted bed covers and pelmets in splendid bold scrolling curls and foliage, or graphic pictures of children, historical figures (really the precursors of Toile de Jouy) or classical tablets, cartouches and emblems; then there are the gingham checks, mostly blue, but also red, varying from 2" square, known as 'Vichy' Toile,(upper bag) to gingham size, and the tartan-type blue checked fabrics known as Cholets, woven and printed in the town of Cholet which specialised in table linen, tea towels and hankies. They were all hand-sewn by an army of cottage workers. A purple Cholet handkerchief was the sign of a gentleman! I have many for sale with hand-rolled seams and exquisite initials in finest cross stitch.  Sorry now all SOLD.! None of these things are cheap in good condition, but you can do wonders with carefully cut remnants and as all the dyes are based on indigo, they meld together very well.

Friday, 24 August 2012


Poor, poor,Mrs Nur Nadir (otherwise Mrs Polly Peck) has nothing to wear - her shredded jacket was seen at court yesterday and looks as if it was made from an old dishcloth.  

Friday, 17 August 2012

Curtain workshop clearance

  When I first bought old curtains in France for my new home near Bath, I often bought them complete with all the fittings, usually brass or ormulu, but also often good hardwood carved stuff, together with the pelmet boards and wall brackets.
   Pelmets are not very popular just now, they are a bit dusty and often too formal for contemporary decorating.  So over the years I have gathered several boxes full of surplus fittings which I sell as complete sets or singly to match up with existing ones.   Most people want simple brass or wood rails and rings and I have quite a useful selection of these, ranging from elaborate bronze and ormulu  patterned rings, all sizes and in larger numbers, from pearl button size for finest muslin to massive mahogany and heavy bronze, and an assortment of runners, hooks, clamp hooks, safety pin type hooks, unused Rufflette tapes and double rings for the pull cords, as well as pole finials in carved hardwood and pressed brass (fruit and flower designs.)   etc. etc. for good curtain fixing, many in larger sets, also a few fluted brass rails complete with their inner railways, all now for disposal at really reasonable prices plus any postage.  They could be useful to people with old curtains wanting to match missing fittings.and complete the period 'look'  Try me!  I am clearing several old workshop drawers., and I just can't bring myself to dump them.  Send me the sizes wanted (inner measurement of any rings)to  and your phone no. and I will try and find what you want.

Monday, 13 August 2012


   Driving through Normandy, France, on our frequent shopping trips, I always called on a small roadside  brocante where a charming Spanish sort of gypsy lady was in charge.  There was no order to the place and I always felt like giving up one day of my holiday to help her sort it out - I found there was very little of merit downstairs but when I was allowed upstairs (very rickety) there was treasure to be found in the tottering mountains of old trunks and mildewed cardboard boxes.  I was allowed to sort through them on my own and most of the stuff there was old household linen , ancient haberdashery and clothing from pre-war years.  I then gathered from her that when the auctioneers cleared a house or cottage, they took away all the saleable furniture and left the rest of the chattels for her to clear at a knockdown price.  So it was all very battered but cheap.  There were lots of grubby shirts, worn but useful working aprons, sun bonnets, old felt hats, etc and a mass of shabby fabric flowers and feathers in dusty tissue paper.  I resisted most but came across some very interesting large old shirts with immense collars.  I took them downstairs and asked the provenance and as usual was told they came from the attics of a local chateau.   I was told they were very expensive because the linen was so fine!  but their usage unknown, maybe overalls worn by the nuns in hospital theatres over their habits?About 50 francs each (£5)! I bought the lot, of course.  
  A few weeks later one of my good film wardrobe clients called, looking worried - could I tell her what work-wear painters and decorators wore at the turn of the century, costumes needed urgently for a film shoot for Phantom of the Opera to be worn by the stage hands pictured decorating the opera sets. I brought out the said shirts as a solution and it turned out  - oh what joy !- that these were indeed artists overalls, each one with exquisite different initials and they were probably used for an early drawing and watercolour painting group entertained at the seaside chateau.  I got a few big hugs for this sensational 'treasure' find - I do know how hard these wardrobe ladies work to winkle out the required authentic stuff, so it's always a big pleasure to help.  I asked if I might have one back after filming as a momento - but no! they are all held in His Lordship's private collection!

Sunday, 12 August 2012

First come, First served

Buying at a big trade Fair in France is a matter of sharp eyes, routine and of course, luck. We try to arrive in very good time, just before the gates open, mark the position of the car (as near to the gates as possible for ease of loading), wave our business card at the door and take one area or building between us. They are often full size aircraft hangars - comfortable shoes vital. We start by going round all the outer stalls, then work our way down the lanes of stalls in the centre, each one taking two rows to scrutinize, meet at the further end and take on another two rows each. If there is something of note we then double back to agree together, yea or nay. We have two or three HongKong zip bags under our arms, Euros in a safe pocket and pile the stuff in and ask for a bit of paper, or possibly a receipt (difficult to obtain in France!) We leave all at a friendly stall in their van, note the no. and position of the stand and return with a light folding trolley to cart all back to car. If you have stickers. put them on your bought goods, and remember to keep your hand on anything you want while you negotiate, as otherwise someone else can pick it up and get it under your nose! If stuff is piled high at the back or side of the van it is usually already sold. Credit cards and cheques are not acceptable.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Caught in the Act

Not by a blackbird, but by a cheeky photographer who hid behind a sheet while I was hanging up the washing in my garden - My line stretched between two trees and I had to have three line props to lift the big sheets above the grass and I could dry eight double sheets at a time. Wet linen and hemp sheets are extremely heavy so I was getting plenty of exercise - a good idea after eating a lot of lovely French meals collecting my 'laundry' from the old sheds and barns over there. When the wind blew and they all billowed out, it reminded me that a lot of linen and hemp in France was used for making sails and ropes and canvas for the old ships on the coast, as well as fishing nets. The bright blue sardine catching nets make lovely decoration on whitewashed walls in your Breton cottage!

Friday, 3 August 2012

Cushions and Bolsters

  Many of the old tickings I gathered in France were
 damaged and so I used the good parts to make a great many cushions and bolsters, also lots of 'Patchbags'. I tried to make every one different and discovered that with stripes it was easy to do this. I invented new names for the designs and the most popular was the 'Pinwheel' cushion fashioned from triangles and mitred seams. I did sofa bolsters and made endless geometric patterns for the ends - all filled with new curled duck feathers and fitted with zips, hidden under the piping, for easy cleaning. Ticking is ideal for this work as it is strong, completely down proof and washable. Some of mine went to the US, (without their pad fillings, to save space), and lots like those in the picture, went to Spain to one of the Royal palaces for a garden room.  The stripes were actually waste materials from the cutting room of a good friend who dyed French linen and hemp sheets and then made simple shirts, jackets and skirts for sale.  Since then she has made up dozens of bags of assorted pieces which are eagerly bought by the many patchwork quilting people.    Try Polly Lyster at the next TforT Fair (Ilminster).   I only mention this to show that economy (i.e. using waste and surplus stuff) can inspire new and original designs which no-on else can copy and are all the more wanted for that very reason.  Interior designers are always on the look-out for something like these cushions and obviously there is no fixed price for such things and they can make a reasonable profit!  A lot of  people disparage interior designers, but they can often save you a lot of time and they have good sources for all the little details that make a properly finished result.  You can use as much or as little of their skills and advice as you want and they can make a very pleasant and helpful partnership with you, for any project that you find a bit awesome and difficult.

Monday, 30 July 2012


  During the '70s I went to two 3 month courses on special paint finishes, taught by Leonard Pardon in a studio behind Knightsbridge.   I was very keen on painted and decorative furniture and thought it would be interesting to study the genre.   I have kept the kit ever since and it is time to pass it on - it is very complete with about 20 special brushes of all sizes - some are sable, camel, badger, and so on.  There is also a big set of metal combs for graining in a metal sleeve and a Faber Castell drawing set for plans and diagrams (unused!), lots of paints probably too dry for use now, not forgetting the invaluable white goose feathers!    There is a large file of pictures, recipes and notes from other special effect experts.  I remember the brushes were very expensive, so we had to take particular care in keeping them clean, soft and supple.  I will sell the lot (a biggish box-full) for £35.  Seen and collected near Bath.  Contact E.Baer 01225 866 136 (eves) or  The kit is now SOLD

Saturday, 28 July 2012

How Green was my Lawn


The picture of my 'drying ground' was taken in front of our last house in Freshford. The grassy sloping area was used for drying all the household linens and the green helped to bleach it (with the help of the sun and the moon). I copied this ancient custom when I had to wash a huge roll of fine linen. After halving it to fit in my super large washing machine, Natasha, my grandaughter, and I spread it out and were just beginning to roll it back for ironing, when two important visitors arrived, and from the balcony above, shouted to us to leave it as they wanted to photograph the scene. They were two powerful magazine editors, one from Country Living and the other from Victoria, US home mag., ( a very happy article about my work appeared, it then folded. but is now back in publication).

The villages of Sharpstone and Freshford had been the original homes of Georgian washerwomen using our river Frome, and they washed the laundry sent from Bath where the waters were muddy and polluted; so of course, I was christened the 'Last Washerwoman of Freshford'.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Kaari, my Hollywood Star

I met Kaari a long time ago, just before she set off from her old New York jewellery business to find a new life with her sister in California. She bought from me a small drawer crammed with woven initial name -tapes in lovely scrolly style from pre-war France -- there were about 27X27 X 144, altogether, neatly packed in little cardboard boxes and she intended starting up a vintage linen and laundry business in California. She drove by car from N.Y. to L.A. and that was all she had room for! Within a couple of years she had produced four delightful books about French inspired interiors and other designs, wonderfully coloured and decorated with charming jewellery, paper ephemera, retro fabric designs, including the name tapes, and was being featured by all the ladies' home magazines. She has continued to produce a delectable variety of books, original furnishing ideas, teach classes, and is now planning a 'teach in' week in a chateau in S.W.France to show the French way of life. We have a lot in common and we keep in touch with our respective Blogs. You can see my curtains (French 'Indienne') in this view of  her Hollywood bedroom! Log on to  for colour, style and inspiration.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

A pair of Kelsches from Alsace Lorraine

This traditional damask woven pattern is very typical of the covers made for feather bedding.  It only comes in red or blue, and I have had tablecloths and napkins in this design.  The Kelsches were piled up on the bed, usually two below and one above the sleeper and were extremely warm for the very cold winters when there was no heating in the houses.  The feathers were contained in down-proof bags which were sealed tight shut, and sewn with very fine stitches, but these washable covers were buttoned together or fastened with tapes.  They are backed with cream calico   They have become very popular recently and it is good to have a pair in unused condition.   They can make useful covers for shabby eiderdowns, or attractive curtains and covers for kitchens.

Saturday, 14 July 2012


Our super-fair at  Yarlington is now past, so I take a little time to thank all who contributed to this highly successful event - both the stall holders who were so good and helpful in every way and the public who came in their hundreds (maybe thousands) to support this special event.  The house and garden are well known for their early Georgian beauty, the decorative interiors, the classic buildings in and around the mansion and the romantic gardens where the flowering plants were at their very best.   There were even Somerset dairy cows in the park so the picture was complete.   Buyers rushed to the bargain Bring and Buy heaps in the yard and carried away bags of loot, leaving behind over £2000 cash for the charities, the lawn looked as busy as Wimbledon, hundreds strolling round the jolly pavilions and gazebos and the Macmillan team in smart green aprons produced delicious plates of home-made treats and keeping the tea kettles boiling.  Yarlington events are always very special and our generous hosts work themselves incredibly hard to make them so.   I have been quite overcome with all the compliments since and thank all concerned for the success which has raised many thousands for Macmillan and the Royal School of Needlework (who provided 4 stimulating lectures about their Royal commissions and history).  This is a fabulous place to stage your wedding or corporate event. Enquiries 01963 210 200.


  This is Lucas McKenna at work creating new signature patchwork designs for the firm SQUINT.  It may look haphazard but the results are a very carefully composed patchwork using many modern fabrics.  There are many more pages about this remarkable man and his work to be seen in SPITALFIELDS LIFE website
which I highly recommend if you have time to spare and get some pleasure from your computer!  Look for Lucas!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012


  After a lifetime of doing, making and hoarding, it is time to clear the decks and pass  my goods on to anyone who can make use of them. SO..... when I have my penultimate textile fair in September, I will have a garage sale of surplus (and I hope useful) goods at give-away prices.  These range from sale room narrow display counters (3 matching), cubby holes in a large cabinet,  folding bookshelves, white wire hanging racks and basket stands for shop display and various really large wooden racks for really bulky storage - blankets, linens pillows etc.,also many kinds of fittings, for pegboarding, curtain poles and finials, curtain headings (rings, hooks in many sizes) and some household fittings left over from various country house moves in my life - door fittings, lighting chandeliers, table lamps, etc., and garden stuff - if you are interested to view these in advance, telephone me evenings 01225 866 136 to arrange appointment.   I am anxious to reduce all this as soon as possible before taking it to our local recycle dump!  We are not moving house just yet but trying to make maintenance of our wonderful old house simpler!

Saturday, 30 June 2012


This re-print is from Spitalfields Life Website, a fascinating daily record of Old London, its shops and artisans that is is my daily dip of nostalgia and I admire the big collection of 18C trade cards that have recently been shown.  I would like to have something as decorative myself but would not be able to provide quite all the services offered; everything supplied from blinds, 'coverlids' and  'ruggs' to funerals, and I rather fancy the three ornamental tents which would come in handy for our next outdoor textile event.  I do recommend a glance at the stunning old black and white photos of pre-war London's East End and its characters - mostly now swept away by bombs or slum clearance but still within living memory of some of the splendid Cockney characters illustrated.   Spitalfields antique Market, Thursdays, has become a very trendy new Vintage antique event, good for Brocante, vintage and workwear clothing plus decorative French stuff on the stall of my good friend Sue Stokes who has a good nose for the latest 'must have' and buys from Paris markets.  You will not be disappointed.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Friday, 15 June 2012


  For a fresh new look in your living room - sackcloth is hard-wearing and washable and the basic cost of the material is not too high - you can find sacks at about £45 each and two will do a small chair - 3 needed for something with big arms and even more if you want cushions!    I sell a great many myself (these are Hungarian from another supplier but illustrate a few uses for them; my chairs are a bit cheaper and I use the rather superior Ukrainian sackcloth)  I would not recommend using it for an armchair that is in daily use - some of  the Hungarian sacks are a bit too loosely woven and will sag and stretch, and the very light colour will soon show grubby arms and backs, unless you are very careful or use arm caps and head rest covers.  You can freshen them up with a sponge dipped in warm water with a bit of oxygen powder like Vanish  or with diluted  ammonia, but this is only partly satisfactory.  The really good thing about this stuff is that it is thick and heavy for good wearing qualities and the blonde shades and muted coloured stripes go very well with antique furnishings as well as contemporary schemes and the so called mid-century modern look, (which is nothing more exciting than 50s and 60s stuff!).  The Ukrainian sackcloth which is usually hemp rather than linen, is ideal for occasional soft furnishing, upholstered dining chairs and drop-in seats, stools, and plenty of firm, sober cushions where the attraction is the nubbly texture, the light porage shade of the main part, and the soft, natural dyes of the stripes.  I find the bright reds and blues of the Hungarian sacks a bit loud and they do not blend so well with old fabrics and polished furniture!

Saturday, 9 June 2012

crooks and drovers

  During the years I was dealing in folk art objects for a picture gallery selling naive paintings in the West End, I was often asked for English smocks to go with the beautiful shepherds' crooks that I  found - usually at Ardingly Fair in Sussex, but also several in Lincolnshire - typically each had a different curl to catch the legs of the lambs and sheep, so quite a lot of collectors were interested in them and even I got to know some of the shapes.  
The rarest were the goose crooks, very long and with a very small crook to catch their slim legs, used for driving the geese to market from Lincolnshire to London - a very long walk for the poor birds on the rough roads.  At the beginning of their long journey, the geese were driven across some tar which stuck to their feet and then over some sand, so they had little 'shoes' to protect their feet and arrive live in London markets.  
   Just at the moment there is a huge interest in artisan work costume, workrooms, sheds, tools and the older traditional work -wear of the English countryside - smocks!  I will feature my latest model in a  BLOG when I have taken its portrait.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Ticking all the Boxes

This gives a nice view of some of the many red and white tickings I brought back by the van -load from France in the early '90s They were featured in a small para. in the magazine World of Interiors and I did have visitors from all over the world wanting to buy them . Many designers bought them to copy and weave as there was no copyright on such mundane household cloths, and they raced to be the first to grab them. I was pleased to see this full page advert in a Californian magazine called Veranda as they had all been in my store a few months before. I found it amazing that they then became a global 'must-have'!

Sunday, 20 May 2012


   A French working shirt for everyday use, beside an English smock!  Was the English one kept for high days and holidays only?  The elaborate smocking on the front and back were works of skill and art and must surely have been only for 'best'.   There is more smocking on the cuffs at the wrists and the linen is fine and white.  They say that these were known as round collar shirts, with one side to the front all week and the other clean side turned round on Sundays.    I have a picture painted by my Welsh grandmother of my father and his brother dressed up in long smocks in a country landscape with sheep nearby.  I have an idea this was a romantic vision and that this was not a common sight in North Wales;  The Ladies of Llangollen are often accused of reviving and inventing old Welsh costume for the benefit of ladies who liked to dress up for social events, concerts and the like;  it consisted of checked woollen shawls, frilly white blouses, 'swallow-tail' striped black and red tweed jackets, red flannel petticoats and tweed skirts and of course, the distinctive tall hats, with a lacy frill round the face.  I have owned and sold several of these costumes, complete with little black lace-up boots; and my Welsh grandmother used to employ a harpist (called Telinores - spelling?) to come and play for parties at her home above Tremadoc, dressed accordingly.

Friday, 18 May 2012


Berthe Morisot was an outstanding artist, yet is not often featured - her pictures are brilliant examples of fast strokes of the brush that give a light and luminous quality to her intimate scenes from Parisian middle-class life.  Born into a prosperous family, her mother was able to support two artistic daughters and encouraged them to paint what contemporary society would appreciate and buy.  Berthe was a prominent member of the mostly male group of Impressionists and married Eugene Manet who gave up his own career as an artist to support and further hers.  She had the great gift of being able to lift mundane subects and scenes with a light touch  into something beautiful and rare.  The picture of a young girl getting ready for a party has a very touching simplicity and we enter the debutante's world of expectation and awe as she tends her charming hair-style.   The patterns on her dress, the curtains and the walls are indeed only impressions, but we know the period is late 19c. and the girl is dressed in  typical Art Nouveau style,  and the many different textiles, and shades of colour and texture,  show a
great deal of skill.


 BROWN AND WHITE is an interesting antique centre run by two friends of mine who have been in the business for many years.  They have lots of really useful and attractive things, furniture, decorations, textiles and quirky bits.   They have young families themselves and so know what their clients need to start afresh, or complete,  family homes in sensible and economic ways.  They are fans of French Brocante, very good at soft furnishing for chairs and sofas and beds and their enthusiasm and know-how are great assets.  I can heartily recommend them.   If you do not know Tetbury in Glos. and you enjoy scouring antique shops, travel no further, as you will find dozens of antique shops, antique centres at all levels along Long Street, (though no longer any real junk shops!)plenty of places to eat and drink and the pleasure of buying some of Prince Charles' (who has his country house nearby) smart presents and products complete with his armorials.