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.