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.