Thursday, 28 November 2013

Re-using a pretty piece

This is a typical flowery chintzy bedroom of the last century. The curtains are old hemp sheets, lined and interlined, with an old re-used pom-pom fringe set well back to make a good silhouette against the light. The wallpaper is a trad. 18thc. design by Zoffany now out of production, and the piece of applique work using flowers from old chintzes was the centre-piece of the bedspread, also made from old hemp sheets, with similar valances.

Memories of the pre-war years, when I was growing up

I wrote a Post about my Welsh upbringing and my Nain's (Welsh) interest in needlework and design and a bit about the old laundry wing in our home. I was therefore quite surprised to find another huge laundry (cottage) at my London Granny's country house which I visited near Harpenden when I was little. She had to entertain large house-parties in the big house and she told me that she used to have up to 15 people to stay for a week-end (Grampa was a well known City business man) and as they had to have clean napkins for every meal, 4 times a day, that meant that there had to be hundreds of them ready, white and starched, to put on the long dining room table. I know I wondered how I would manage when I grew up, little knowing that I, too, in my Granny mode, would be myself washing, bleaching, starching, several hundred each year, mostly for my overseas customers who adore the big old fashioned initialled napkins...... shades of the last Washerwoman of Freshford!  Two long sets at Christmas-time, 30 to USA and 18 to South Africa for large family parties. It's so good to think these beautifully woven linens will be enjoyed by so many.
By the time I saw much more of my London Granny, she had moved into a lovely flat in London and all the paraphenalia of entertaining had gone - the huge banqueting linen damask table cloths had been turned into gorgeous loose covers for easy chairs and sofas, dyed in very pretty pastel colours. and the patchwork quilt over the grand piano had been made into sweet cottage curtains for the old laundry in the country which was converted into the family's retreat during the war. I inherited a lot of her fine Egyptian cotton linen and have used it ever since - so soft and so easy to care for on my spare beds, and it dries in a trice - unlike my own heavy linen that is beautifully embroidered but takes an age to dry in the winter when it cannot blow in the wind.

I found this beautiful piece of applique work amongst my Grandmother's linen and have used it as a centre piece on a heavy creamy hemp bed cover and found some good old guilloche braid to encircle it and run a border along the edges to hang down over the sides. The colours of old chintz are always something special and they blend with an antique bed and the Zoffany wall paper very well.

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