Monday, 28 April 2014


   This chair, with its well-stuffed arms and deep seat and padded back, is a typical example of a Howard chair.  This was the best- known firm who made upholstered furniture, easy chairs, sofas and stools from the 19C. and was patronised by the well-to-do in Edwardian days.    Many have lasted well and are still in circulation.  The chairs and sofas have always been known for the quality of their workmanship and materials used;  they were covered with distinctive strong basic cloth, the firm's initials were incised on the back legs or named plates were applied, and  a special feature was the deep down feather cushions both on the seat and behind at the back..   Americans and Australians who were adding 'status' libraries to their grand houses cottoned on to the name Howard and during the nineties paid vast sums for genuine Howard furniture - I  knew someone who did the re-upholstery with grand new damask fabric, and she said it took a man to do a lot of the work  as there were three and four seater library sofas which were incredibly heavy and needed a great deal of webbing and stretching to re-make.    They sold for many thousands and I see they still make a great deal on Ebay., but I've been warned that casters with the name Howard incised are sometimes switched on to other makes!

OUR FAIR LADIES Polly's Blue Heaven

     Have you seen Polly Lyster, the landmark Dyeworks artist in Gloucestershire?   In the current copy of the BBC Homes and Antiques Mag., there are six pages about her gradual climb to fame, her widening circle of buyers and admirers as well as lots of interesting details about how she copes with the various loads of work.  So if you thought of dyeing as just dipping an old bit of cotton into a mix of dye and water and stirring it well, then you might be interested to know more about the many stages of Polly's beautiful tones and tints and why she is the chosen artist/designer for many top decorators.   I have known Polly for over 20 years and first met when we were starting our various trades - I was selling old fabrics collected in France and she was just beginning her indigo-dying business and she showed me some of her work when we met at the Shepton Mallet Antiques Fair.   Since then Polly has learnt and prospered, she now has over a hundred subtle shades to offer decorators, she is now an expert on all the processes that go into dying different fabrics, cotton, hemp, linen, silk, and can also produce many special effects such as dye-resist patterns of dots and spots,  tie-dyed patterns shibori, which are a Japanese speciality, shaded pieces for fashion clothing, as well as sturdy upholstery fabrics for upholstery and curtains, in subtle colours for any decorating commission, mostly using natural vegetable dyes.  See her and meet her and look at her work at our Fair here in Bradford on Avon on June 15th, Sunday, 9am -- 3pm.

   I am delighted to hear she is thinking of hand block printing.  We both share a love of the wonderful early 17th and 18th  designs  produced in the East, many on the Coromandel Coast of India, later adapted and copied by the printers in France, which have now become so rare and difficult to find in any quantity, and with her expert knowledge of both fabrics and dyes, I think she has a winner.  She will be at our Rag Market on Sunday, June 15th at Bradford on Avon, with examples and remnants of her varied works.

Sunday, 27 April 2014


What is worth buying when you get into the French supermarkets? Columbian real coffee and Decaff are cheaper and better, we think; cheese of course is in prime condition for transport - our long time favourite is CHAOURCE a delicious creamy soft cheese which keeps up to 3 months in the 'fridge but is edible after a day out in 'the open'; the local tomatoes seem to have more flavour than the hard-skinned varieties over here, the white nectarines are more than delicious, and melons are a must in season. Shoes, trainers and sandals and sun hats are in great variety and a bit different. Maps and hotel guides are obviously cheaper and we are slaves to the Rough Guides for choosing modest restaurants and simple hotels that do not let you down. The wine is a bit cheaper and the selection much greater and we now only buy the boxes of wine which you get in two sizes - the wine keeps well for a couple of months and it is very nice having it 'on tap' for a glass with each main meal and this works out just amazingly cheap - we usually go for Cotes de Rhone or Bordeaux and think them most drinkable, and good enough to share with guests for a simple sort of meal in the garden or kitchen!

I'd like to reserve a room, please

    When we go to a French hotel bedroom, the first thing I throw out is the large and stiff bolster on the bed which we find very uncomfortable under the neck. If you look in the wardrobe you will usually find two pillows in nice clean covers and the extra blanket for a chilly night.
By the way, if you are a non-smoker, always ask for a 'non fumeur' room and quite often they are labelled thus on the door - despite this, you sometimes get in to one that reeks of stale tobacco smoke and it is sensible to ask reception for another room. French people seem to like smoking in bed and it is a very unpleasant habit for the next occupant! Remember, too, always check the fire exit in a strange hotel - occasionally we have found them locked tight and once were told that the manager had the key and was off duty for the week-end!!! Most French hotels are now completely renovated with smart little bathrooms or tidy showers, they are clean and furnished with good firm beds, simple modern furniture, telephone and TV. very different to the state of the postwar period when you had to dash along the corridor for the W.C. and the bathtubs were a shared convenience! We always go for the Logis de France chain with hundreds of choices in an excellent guide book with photos and all details. They are family run, usually with good food and are regularly checked to comply with the rules of their particular classification, 2 - 5 stars.   While the menu or cooking is not usually as elaborate as a restaurant or brasserie, you can be sure of well cooked home-style dishes and these often suit better if you are tired after a long day of driving.


   Ah!  la belle Brocante!        The French tinsmiths of the early 20c. were busy making their wares and these were sold all over Europe;  but first they had to be decorated with enamel to make them safe and hygienic - that was the main idea!   Wooden utensils were considered dirty and unhygienic and china's cracks and chips not much better and so the 'modern' fashion was for a good coating of enamel, white or coloured, and much was decorated with art deco style patterns which suited its practical use very well.   It was not only manufactured in France, although hugely popular there, it was made in very large quantities in the Netherlands, Austria and other European countries following on the fashion.  Much prized are the long sets of canisters with lids which had labels in bold letters engraved on them - sugar, coffee, flour, etc., and these were for putting on the mantlepiece of the kitchen to show the visitors that the kitchen was well supplied with essential ingredients.    Poverty was not acceptable.
   The patterns were usually stripes or checks, but there are many other more interesting versions of chequerboard,  floral, spotted, etc. and all are highly collectible by English and American housewives!   Some of the other kitchen wares are also very attractive and in great variety,  sets of four or five saucepans,  racks for kitchen tools, for kitchen cloths (torchons), for laundry chemicals (soap, sand, soda, etc.), big bowls for mixing, draining, soup tureens, jugs of all sizes (many very decorative) spittoons, soap dishes, clysteres (douches),  fountains for hand-washing in the outside loos, candlesticks, match boxes (allumettes) and dozens of others!  Nowadays they are only hygienic if the enamel is perfect, otherwise beware of using them for cooking, especially anything acidic!
   There will be a good private collection of enamel goods for sale at our Fair here in Bradford on Avon, on Sunday June 15 -  but I can assure you it will not last long as there are some very striking pi           
Part of a good private collection of vintage enamelware for sale at the Rag Fair on June 15th

Friday, 18 April 2014


A lavender sachet with my initials.

Interwoven ribbons cover a bag of lavender

A scented cover for clothes and travel

Tidying up my clothes drawers today, I came across these three objects that have been there since first given to me - and I thought they might inspire someone to make something similar - to sell or to give.
The pink cloth , flanelette, with scallops all round, simple zig-zagged edges, is labelled with a ribbon that says idole, a scent which impregnated the cloth for many years. It was a wedding present to me 65 years ago from a friend in Paris and it was to cover and scent silk underwear in the top drawer! It was also similar to other pretty cloths used to discreetly cover underwear when undressing for bed in those modesty moments of pre-war ladies' life! Also used to cover the contents of travelling suitcases very neatly, in the days when there were ladies' maids to unpack visitors' clothes and hang them up to remove any creases.
The big sachet is full of lavender and was made by my granddaughter with two shades of satin ribbon interwoven with narrow lace border - still keeping the moths at bay, and the third tiny cushion is also full of lavender and my entwined initials (antique French) in the finest stitching give me great pleasure - a gift from an old friend, Polly Lyster, who made up the sachet for me.  Lavender is supposed to deal with the clothes moth but I do not think it very effective and put my faith in the latest pheremone sticky cards which were brilliant last year when there was a big invasion.  It's time to get ready now for the next one!

Wednesday, 16 April 2014


This was a delightful pictorial fabric showing this little family all dressed up.  I only had it for a few hours at a fair and it was sold to a delighted costume collector - wish I'd kept it longer but at least I kept a record!  If it is a contemporary design I would take it to be about 1830.
The colouring looks very like block printing by hand - I would be very interested to know if anyone has seen this print before, I find the little flower sprig background very sweet and wonder which French factory produced it.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Stripe me pink!

sold to a Californian dec. shop!
What a bundle of joy!

I have always loved stripes, both for wearing, and decorating my rooms,  and my portrait here shows me in a red/white stripey shirt in fine cotton poplin, with a pie-crust collar, that I bought on a visit to Rowlands of Bath 50 years ago and which I  wore regularly for 30 years.    Do you remember, Princess Diana had one like that?   So it was not surprising that when I discovered tickings in France at a feather factory in Tours, I was totally smitten with the brilliant combinations of stripes, especially those that were imported covering feather beds from Germany, where the palette was bold and beautiful.  I have recounted elsewhere how I discovered them in huge dirty piles tied in twenties in their original grubby, smelly, state, stacked high in the loft of an old factory warehouse and how I brought them home by the hundred, and after heavy and thorough cleansing, then sold them to eager buyers from all over the world, after a mention of the huge variety of colourways by W.o.I. Mag.  and a picture of a  little trug of samples in their Antennae column.  I have kept an archive of 145 different patterns, as there is no literature or record of the patterns that I have ever been able to source  and - I think they were considered too lowly, too domestic and possibly too varied to be worthy of proper documentation.  I always felt that each factory must have concocted its own mix of different stripes according to the coloured cotton thread available and just got on with production while it lasted and no celebrity, decorator or stylist was involved in the choice of pattern.
  A friend, Jenny Garrett Smith, has a super stock of some of these tickings and will be offering them at the Rag Market here in Bradford on Avon on Sunday, June 15th, 2014, 9am - 43 pm. so this could be a last chance!


    Have you ever thought it might be fun, and interesting too, to write an occasional or regular BLOG.  Well, there is a good opportunity to learn about how to start out and capture your audience.  I have long been a fan of the Gentle Author who writes a brilliant daily (yes, really, has never missed one)Blog about the Spitalfields area of London and the old days in the Cockney world nearby.  Everyday there are  batches of pro. snapshots of streets, institutions and people and I have found them fascinating, as does my husband who used to work in the City.     The Gentle Author, who is extremely fluent and erudite will show you how to go about your own Blog and you can contact him by Email.  He is holding classes ( on two days in May) in London and I know they will be extremely popular.  Blogs are free c/o Google.
On the road! Fairground figures.
      . Email   Have a look at his past Blogs and if you love London, you will be amazed at the varied histories and characters of the different streets, the churches, the monuments, the pubs, which will speak to you of their chequered fortunes and connect up with their historic past.  Immigration, poverty, skills, cafes, little shops are all dealt with and the studies of the faces and clothes of the families living there are a rich tapestry.    PERSONALLY I HAVE FOUND WRITING A VERY INFORMAL BLOG ABOUT MY FRENCH TEXTILE BUSINESS AND SOME OF THE ADVENTURES ON THE WAY, HAS BROUGHT BACK MEMORIES OF THE MANY GOOD TIMES WE HAVE SHARED IN OUR LONG MARRIED LIFE TOGETHER, JUST ON 66 YEARS NOW!

Wednesday, 9 April 2014


 Skip this post if you have already made a note of my Textile fair ((ELIZABETH BAER'S RAG MARKET) BUT WE HAVE HAD QUITE A FEW NEW PEOPLE JOINING  BLOGS AND WEBSITES SINCE MY LAST POST ABOUT THE FAIR AND I JUST WANT TO MAKE SURE EVERYONE WHO MIGHT WANT TO COME IS AWARE OF THE DATE, TIME AND PLACE. 9.00 to 3pm. at the Mason's Hall, 29 Church Street, Bradford on Avon, BA15 1LN on Sunday June 15th, 2014
I AM NOW COMPLETELY FULL UP WITH NO STANDS VACANT, 24 IN ALL,  SO I WILL NOW PRINT THE FLYERS FOR YOU TO RECEIVE BY eMAIL LATER IN THE YEAR.  IF YOU WANT SEVERAL FOR FRIENDS, JUST EMAIL ME AND I WILL POST SOME.  ALL THOSE TAKING PART WILL HAVE SPARE COPIES TOO.  WE CAN NO LONGER USE THE POST OR ADVERTISE IN THE GLOSSY MAGAZINES - THE EXPENSE IS JUST TOO GREAT, and we find our friends are the best contact medium!  I will probably bore you with further notes about the Fair, but want to give details of the sellers so that you can make a first call at their stalls and find your special bits!  This could be my final Fair here at No 29, but I did say that last year and I am still going, and turning out the last remains of my once rather huge stock!

    We have a splendid group of sellers all lined up - several new  private collectors who are downsizing in their special groups - photographers, stylists, journalists and others with newly inherited stuff.  All the original 6 regular traders from  the 1990s T4T Fairs are coming, as always, so you will find many familiar faces, though their goods will no doubt be new and special.  Our last Rag Market was a most successful and happy event and a repeat seems in order!  Do come, free entry and Ginny's lovely refreshments as usual!
Our sunny terrace makes a good  spot for a convivial meeting place, when you want to stop and drop, and Natasha, in the wine vaults below, is running a depot to guard heavy parcels for you! (Small black iron gate on Church Street)
Sue Stokes of  Lacock shop, will show her brilliant collection of genuine French Brocante and work wear in the Vaults at 29 Church Street, Bradford on Avon on Sunday, June 15th, 2014.


     For new readers of my Blog, I am taking this space to introduce some of the many textile traders who have attended our Fairs, some more than forty times.   Thanks to their support,  the informal fair group, Talents for Textiles,  has flourished, growing into fairs that attract several hundred visitors and providing a very necessary outlet for all the skilled and dedicated traders who almost all work from home and find it quite difficult to contact new buyers.   Advertising is very costly and the big trade fairs are too expensive; also it is extremely difficult to display large items of household linen, curtains and other decorations on a small stand, with the extra problems of poor lighting and  lots of dust!   The fact that all the original dealers of the first few fairs are still with us and have hardly ever missed one fair just shows how hard-working and dedicated they are.  They have connected with many good  clients and business is done in a very friendly atmosphere.  Below are some of the original stallholders still with us.
                                                  Liz, Rosie,Caroline,Polly, Linda, Loveday
Members of the Talents for Textiles team 1990s

                                    To contact us for all news of our Fairs, Email   

Sunday, 6 April 2014


    This expression was much used by Welsh-speaking people during my childhood in North Wales,.  They were very poor and lived very hard lives in the old farms and cottages round my home.  There was no running water,  and I saw the women carrying buckets with  yokes from a well or the nearest stream, no heating of course, except an old black stove in the kitchen and a little coal in the parlour.  The best china was often kept  in a cheap and ugly glass cabinet in this front room,  often exchanged for good old Welsh oak dressers and shelves which the local dealers from Chester and more prosperous areas cleared, making a good profit. The farm women loved bright lustreware and Derby with all its brilliant colours amidst all the dark brown furniture and flooring, and this was the only decoration.apart from a few photographs of weddings and religious pictures, and very gaudy wall paper, with a border below the ceiling if they could afford it. Quilts were not common in N.Wales, but the woollen blankets were pretty and very warm
               In the kitchen there were often flag stones or quarry tiles which were mopped every day, and they often had odd rag rugs made from worn out clothing.  In one farm I saw a strange brick built 'pen' just by the fire and was told that was where they put sick animals, but if they had a sickly child or an imbecile in the family (there were a great many because of inter-marriage with close relations or possibly incest) it was a safe, warm place for them and quite common.   To send a child to a home was beyond most families.    Baths were taken in big old tin washing tubs, filled by kettles from the stove and the water and soap were shared by all the family, and there always seemed to be a new baby to admire.  The lavatories were all outside in little sheds and with long wooden boards with different sized seat holes, a pile of newspaper and buckets below and a supply of earth or sand.  We, children, thought it was fascinating and never realised how much work and discomfort were involved in these primitive arrangements.  We thought the paraffin lamps and candles were very pretty and loved the rocking chairs of the old people, and if we were lucky, were given a warm Crempog (pancake) with butter and jam dripping through our fingers.  We visited them with food gifts and clothes before Christmas, and it did open my eyes to what real poverty was like.


 We used to see the children walking down our drive to go to school, walking in the rain to catch the school bus at our lodge, and sometimes one might be missing as it was not their turn to wear the little boots they walked in.  There were often 7 or 8 children in a family, though rampant T.B. took many away to sanatorias (it came from the cows milk)and my father helped to start the dairy co-operative that tested the milk and the cows and the disease was slowly obliterated.   The girls mostly trained for housework in large houses and local seaside hotels where there was work for them, or worked in the local hospitals as nursing trainees.  They were very small and rather pretty, and the boys, often rather wild,  mostly helped on the farms with their fathers.  It was a very hard life for all of them and the wives and mothers always looked worn out and strained,  with child bearing and almost all suffered 'rheumatics' and back troubles in their old age.;  the houses were damp and very cold all winter..  For health they  were 'on the panel' with the local doctors but found the charges and cost of medicines very onerous and often put off getting help - the district nurse coped with most things and she bicycled miles with her little bag to dose the children for worms (cabbage water) endless colds and coughs, and the infectious skin complaint, empitigo which was painted with a lurid purple tincture.

  I went to the local school myself and learnt quite a lot of Welsh, but found the maths, difficult enough for me in English, were more than I could manage and I was very unhappy about this, aged 5years old.
My mother took me there by car but I saw the little stove blazing bright and hot  at one end of the big classroom, which had a circular guard all round it and a rail for hanging all the wet coats that the children arrived in after walking miles, and they all steamed dry during the day ready to be put on for the return walk. - no umbrellas and no gum boots!   The lavatories were dark and dangerous places for the very young, and the playground was also quite an adventure and the little girls stuck to tight groups avoiding the big rough boys!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014


Jen Jones in her Welsh cottage
   I think most of us admire a pretty quilt, but it is only after seeing Jen Jones' wonderful exhibitions of Welsh quilts that I have started to learn and appreciate the huge amount of skill and the high quality of the designs.  As I am myself part Welsh I have always admired Jen's lasting passion for this folk art especially as she was raised in the U.S.A., (and married a Welshman),and the way she has not only collected hundreds of examples, but also researched the provenance, the fabrics, the stitching and the patterns so that she is the world expert in her field.   She has had exhibitions and lectures on an international scale; her Museum at Lampeter is fast becoming a "must see".    Tracking these family treasures has been a long and arduous career for her, driving to obscure farms on lonely lanes, sometimes to find a few remnants of past glories, but occasionally finding a rare treasure which her well-trained eyes can  recognise and she has the essential knowledge of repair and cleaning work to add to their restoration.   The examples I show here are from a catalogue of quilts displayed in association with some of the the famous Kaffe Fasset collection she showed last year.  You can visit her shop and the exhibiton centre in Lampeter all through the summer and there is a home-made food cafe so it makes a great day out for 'sewing' ladies. Telephone 01570 422088 e.                          Jen Jones has brought a big selection of her quilts at all prices, as well as the rare old wool blankets in stripes and checks, to our Talent for Textile Fairs in Bradford on Avon and at Yarlington, and The American Museum, Bath, so she is a very familiar friend and we are sorry that because of increased business commitments in Lampeter she cannot join us for our Fair this year.  We wish her well and must make the journey in reverse and visit her in her lovely new Museum. The quilts below are part of her special collection of wholecloth  examples with the finest stitching.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

The beauty of a wedding

I went to a French class every week, handy as it was 5 doors away from my house, and one of the 'pupils' sent me this lovely card from the part of France where she lives in rural isolation. The customs have changed little over the past centuries and this shows the bridal pair in a farm cart with an old man in a blue peasant smock (and hat) leading the horse with two musicians playing folklorique instruments in front while the children on bikes and the villagers follow on. The little balcony with boxes of flowering plants and a pretty awning complete the picture of life (1972) in Gargilesse, Berry, in the heart of France - truly La France Profonde.