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.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

dropping names and shopping

Polly Lyster in an Indigo mood                    Dorothy Reglar of Cirencester, working with weavers and dyers in S.W. Asia

Katrin Cargill launches indigo dyed hemp from Polly
and indigo striped sackcloth from Elizabeth
A new look for old fabrics.
Recently I listed in BLOG 'Dropping Names' some of our friends in the decorating world whom we know through our textile fairs, Talent for Textiles, and who have made a good name for themselves; so it was no surprise to see two of them in the press this week.  Do you know them?  They were once 'up and coming' and now they have arrived!  Both enjoy country life in old houses with their families and have a keen talent for spotting what will be the next wish-list for decorating and are clever enough to produce it using their own talents and skills.   Polly Lyster's (in this month's SELVEDGE Mag) dyed linens and hemps have been seen in the grandest country houses here and in the USA, and they have many uses;  bed linen, table linen, curtains and clothing and Vanessa Arbuthnott (this month's COUNTRY LIFE) makes and covers her own-make lovely chairs, sofas, as well as designing all the fabrics with a rustic accent for cushions, curtains and all soft furnishing.   I sing their praises because I think it is great when young women start their highly individual careers while still looking after their children and home, and keep the original inspiration which shines through all their designs till they emerge as confident and successful with their very own style and with a great range of products.  I think Mary Portas would approve - be British! Buy British!

Thursday, 10 May 2012


  IF YOU HAVEN'T ALREADY NOTICED,  the annual plague of clothes moths is with us - those little creamy silky bugs that do such horrific damage to our precious clothes and textiles - the larvae emerge from the little grey cases tucked in the folds and eat a good breakfast of the most precious furs, cashmeres and jerseys, as well as tweeds, gent's suits, felt hats and anything else with wool in it.  They flutter around, lay eggs and cause horrific damage, so be on your guard.  Chemists and hardware stores have remedies and you want to get them in place before the damage happens - it can be really serious and rugs, carpets and blankets will suffer.  They have hatched out early this year and already there are tales of woe, even museums report bad infestations.  One of the most successful remedies is a little paper moth trap with a piece of sticky card which is loaded with male moth pheremone - the females are instantly attracted to this and come to a sticky end.  It really works!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Our Queen of Quilts

A very fine Welsh Quilt - what a bold design!
I never came across a quilter working in Cardiganshire while spending family holidays at our cottage there.  When I asked for stories, I was told by our nearest farm worker that as a child he sat round the kitchen table near the kitchen stove,  the quilt laid on the table with the paraffin lamp in the centre, and chairs for the children all round the table, with his mother directing the work.  His father sat in the rocking chair and read from the Good Book (bible) and that was how they spent their evenings.  When I asked where I might find some quilts, everyone said that they were old and gone, but my neighbour said to try the Butcher Boyo as it was known that he had sometimes taken payment in quilts from the poor people who could not afford to buy his meat.  And sure enough, when the little van came round with its load of delicious Welsh lamb he was able to find two lovely red Paisley pattern quilts for me, and the price was less than a whole leg.
   If you want to see the very best, come along to Yarlington Textile Fair on Friday, July 6th 2012 as Jen Jones will be there with a good selection from her stores of several hundred.  She is the acknowledged Queen of Quilts and her expertise and fame are world-wide.   She lives in Wales and has a new Museum there showing some of the rarest and best, but also has some of the very pretty inexpensive Manchester-made machined quilts which are in delightful pastel Paisley patterns. easily washed, and very practical.
People have now discovered the old Welsh blankets in soft muted colours and stripes and Jen always has some of these as well as good value picnic rugs.  She only exhibits at our antique textile fairs!

Sunday, 6 May 2012


   I did not expect to see an old French peasant's shirt in the august pages of the Financial Times - but of course it has been given a new twist, and is featured as elegant 'artisan couture'  It is available new, in robust Irish linen with some fine details and costs a bit as it is a 'couture' version of the work-wear clothing of the late 19th C.  I hope it will have great success as it is a timeless garment, wearable for most occasions and very practical in that it is completely washable and will fit most sizes.   I have been selling the coarse linen and hemp originals for 25 years and they have always been attractive work-wear for potters, artists, cooks, sculptors, and gardeners, also worn by people in hot climates keeping the sun off them(the long sleeves are good for this) and for special things like safari-wear in Africa and post-bathing wear in India.  These new ones are meticulously hand cut and hand-sewn and a most attractive and practical addition to any wardrobe, and are available exclusively from Brown's of  South Moulton Street, Mayfair.  The make is 'Jenny M.'

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Noughts and Crosses

I only discovered Welsh quilts when I grew up and inherited a cottage in Cardiganshire from  my parents.  Before that, I knew only the Welsh woollen tweeds and flannels which were woven and tailored near my home in the hills behind Criccieth.    My mother dressed us all in blue tweed, trousers and skirts, and then knitted lovely warm striped jerseys to go with them. I knitted garters for my father every Christmas, to hold up his knee-socks which he wore with his tweedy knickerbocker breeches.  The Bryncyr Mill produced a special black and white tweed which was made into gentleman's clothing and was exclusive to his family and known as the Wern pattern., a sort of shepherd's plaid pattern made from the natural black and white local sheep's wool and I have a lovely picture of him and my 5 uncles standing outside our family home all wearing the same stuff, taken just before the Great War 1914, all wearing knickerbocker suits.
     I met Jen Jones in South Wales and was amazed to see how beautiful the work and designs of the 19C. quilts were and started to look for them myself.  I was told by the local farm people that there was no-one left making them but most could remember their families using them before cheap blankets and eiderdowns took their place.  Here are two very different examples - One showing  needlework  on top of some beautiful fine quilting, with amusing cartoons of birds, children and flowers, dated 1901 and the other, 1875 or so, quite rustic and roughly pieced tailors' samples, enlivened with red stitching which lifts it to quite a contemporary level, in my eyes.  In the days when some of the children left school in their early teens, I always thought it remarkable they had such a sure touch with their patterns, hand work and colour mixing.
No doubt they learned from the older women in the family and there was probably quite a difference between the roughly cobbled family covers, stuffed with old woollens and patches, and those destined for the dowries  and best rooms of the better-off farmhouses.   There were, of course, skilled quilters who travelled from one farm to another making several during a stay at the house, their names are known and their work is distinctive and recognisable.  Occasionally they have dates and names sewn on them which makes them even more collectable.  They are quite expensive but they are a good investment for handing down the family to be enjoyed and used.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Yarlington shopper

Sue Stokes shopping at the beautiful Yarlington House Textile Fair a few years ago.
Au revoir! If you come to Yarlington Fair, you will find this new dealer on the other side of the counter - this is Sue Stokes, antiques and vintage costume dealer, who will be plying her trade in the big blue tent outside with a load of newly sourced stuff from the flea markets of Paris!  Here she is carrying home vintage textiles from the last Yarlington Textile Fair run by Talent for Textiles, and now she is selling as well as buying.  Her stock is lots of artisanal clothing - work-wear to most of us, the indigos, les bleues de travail, blousons and jackets, and lots of creamy hand-woven linen shirts, smocks and outer wear, just now all are top fashion and sought after by the trendy!  She has a good eye for folk art and some interesting objects for cottage and farmhouse.   She trawls through the markets in France quite regularly and comes back loaded with French treasures in her little van rouge.  If you miss her, you can find her again at her little shop in West Street, Lacock, Wilts, open week-ends. Phone first, Mobile 07986 247501.
Sue Stokes Decorative Antiques, West Street, Lacock (close to The George) Open weekends.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012


-    I have recently listed some of my star quality designers and decorators, whom I have watched grow into well known businesses, all through their own skills and hard work.   I have already featured four of them who all turned up in magazine articles this month and, purely by chance, I have just got the glamorous catalogue of Kate Forman today in the post.  It is glossy as ever, full of pretty tempting and useful ideas, and there is now an exciting new 'department' of elegant painted furniture ranging from dining tables to beds and wardrobes, and all the smaller pieces and accessories to give that je ne sais quoi  of French 19th C designs.    I first met Kate when she found her first few textile designs (all rosy and romantic) at our T4T fairs and she now has an international reputation.  Visit her London shop at Clarendon Cross. 0207 727 3777 or her showroom nr. Alresford, Hants. 01962 732244.   I had a note from her this week, recalling her early days - good luck to her!