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 dbaer@onetel.com.   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 , www.fossefarmhouse.com and contact me www.dbaer@onetel.com 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  dbaer@onetel.com

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 http://www.marstonhouse.com/

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  www.dbaer@onetel.com.  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 www.dbaer@onetel.com.
French linen tapes with many uses.