Wednesday, 28 May 2014

The last call Curtains

  I am clearing the last of my big curtains, mostly from large windows and in big sets, and I am reducing the prices so that you can make huge savings -  When I look at the new prices of current designer curtains, I am quite shocked and wonder how people manage to have the best or do they have to compromise all the time? My prices are the lowest possible - these top quality curtains have all but disappeared from the market.
 Here are two, now three, examples:.
 The first is a set of three to cover
windows 12' wide in all in a fresh sort of wild flower mix
in yellow, orange,green and blue, some sun damage on leading edges (about 3")
10' drop, plus a fantastic pelmet with double frilled edging all finished with
 orange scallop embroidery shown in picture.
 New York, £175.for 3,  one curtain has lost its lining but easily replaced.

Another other set for one window is a chintz by Beaudesert, 9'10drop  X  4'10 head, pr., hand blocked in soft pinks, lilies and grey/green foliage bouquets. £  The base is shaped so it can fall in decorative folds from a bracket for tie backs.  Beaudesert is famous for its classic designs and hand printed chintzes (v.expensive.) I have managed to hang them up this week!  I can't climb high ladders any more so had to wait for help.

Both lots are lined and interlined and hang really well
with lots of hand sewing, weights, etc., top quality!

The third lot are a really lovely lot of two pairs of lined and interlined French chateau curtains
each 10ft drop X  3'4" head
in a striped tapestry weave of pink and cream silk/linen mix, with woven flower borders, all in really excellent order except that the leading edges need new bobble or fringe braid to finish them off.  There is a fifth curtain which is the ciel de lit for a corona above the bed with little rings to hang it, there is also a deep pelmet and some remainder pieces for small drapes, etc.   The heads of the curtains are very attractive, goblet pleats bound by a thick silk knotted rope all across the top. These are best silk/linen mix 1880 curtains.
Price £850 the lot.  I would choose these myself for a really pretty room with good furniture.
Goblet pleats with cord trim at heading
Set of 2 pairs long curtains,  and a ciel de lit and pelmet, plus extra drapery,  French late 19C. silk linen mix, excellent condition A 10ft drop is extremely long for curtains - most are about 9'

Saturday, 24 May 2014

The ladies are amused

18c.silkwork on papeAfter collecting silk on silk and decorative feather pictures from 18c. in old, junky shops (and never seen in proper antique shops till several decades later), I moved on to various other genres known as Ladies' Amusements; there were the pictures of fruit, especially peaches and those with a 'bloom'', painted on velvet, and called 'theorems' a short-lived fashion, (problems with the paint running). These are somewhat similar to the 'sand' pictures where different coloured sands, usually from Alum Bay, Isle of Wight, were carefully spread on to gummed paper - the specialist was a Mr. Benjamin Zuber who often illustrated animals and rustic scenes, rare and expensive. He decorated dining tables at Windsor Castle with sand designs, and must have caused the butlers a sandy problem! In addition I still have some exquisite silk needlework on a paper base, completely reversible and sandwiched between two sheets of glass, called 'fichy' something, a very special skill taught to the young ladies who were sent to French convents to learn to sew a fine seam, and I have only once seen examples, in a Scottish castle, worked by the young ladies of the house in 18c. Mine were bought from a dealer, the late Gabriel Olive, who had a shop in Wincanton. I bought a lot of old family needlework from him and he had the most delightful stock as well as a great knowledge of fine work, samplers in plenty, and quaint cottage needlework, not very expert, but full of simple charm.


  In the days when I sold decorative antiques in London, I used to keep a small glass cabinet of collectible 'trifles' and learnt a bit about many rather useless things!   I purchased them all in East Anglia at Crown Fairs where there was a most interesting dealer who taught us all a lot.  He would buy job lots from house clearances, which included byegones, old tools, personal effects and gadgets and all manner of oddities, then sort the best out,  and bring  a jumble in an old box or two along to each fair..  We dealers gathered round and as we saw each item pulled out by the dealer,  we could shout 'yes' and purchase it at his given price (not expensive at all. but not always very saleable).  In this way, as he described each item before pulling it out, we all learnt a lot about corkscrews, kitchenalia, signet rings and sealing wax stamps , candlesticks and lanterns,  needlework tools and special equipment for different trades and jobs, and all the minutiae of Victorian and Edwardian households and persons.  I tried to buy some of the most attractive but was often outbid by a quicker dealer.   When the bidding was complete, he carried the unsold back home, mixed it into the unwanted surplus and put it all back in the next chattel sale for others to appraise!  Clever!
    The best I took to London and sold quickly but the problem was always how to display these small items without losing them to collector-pinchers unable to resist small items of interest, and if they were in a locked display case, people did not bother to look at them closely and buy.   At the end of these London Fairs I was left with a small collection which I am now going to sell through my Blogsite, as it is not worth putting stuff at small prices on Ebay  so I am now listing them under the heading PLUM PICKS.  All will be plus postage, probably quite low as they are not breakable and packaging will be small.  I am not interested in any big profits, but guess that anyone finding these in my stores when I am under the old apple tree, would just ditch the lot so if they are of interest to anyone, that is good news.  Apply  by email


Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Fun with finials

   I have a box with lots of finials in it, just like these pictured above, all removed from some late 19c. bourgeois houses in France, where they graced the ends of heavy curtain poles.  They are beautifully carved and turned in hard woods and quite decorative.   I came across this idea for using them as hanging knobs, driven into walls for hanging bags, and clothes and thought what a good idea!  I can see them holding shopping bags, kitchen aprons by the back door, dog leads and walking sticks, by the front,  and in bathrooms for dressing gowns, shower caps and laundry bags, I have the D.I.Y instructions as well if you want to buy  -  I could send scans of the different patterns if you let me have your Email address.  Mine is  The finials are £3 each plus postage, many different styles and several pairs.   N.B. now sold all at the recent Rag Market!

Saturday, 17 May 2014


       I'VE JUST OPENED THE DOOR OF MY DRAWING ROOM (NOT USED FOR A COUPLE OF WEEKS) and met a couple of moths flitting about.   On closer search, to my horror, have found a major infestation in and down the sides of my precious Biedermeir settee covered in old silk and alpacca  velvet  with lots of beautiful old canvaswork (wool) borders - eggs, larvae and emerging little silken clothes moths, leaving behind horrid little scars and chewed remainders. - probably about a hundred little brutes flew up and I have sent off for a major disposal kit from  the website  PEST CONTROL SUPERMARKET, daughter recommended, as you can fumigate the whole room and cope with major infestation.  She dealt with a bad case last year!  It is really quite tragic to lose  treasured textiles, and wool, silk and anything like cashmere are at major risk.   The very mild winter is probably to blame but I think I should have checked earlier in the year - late April.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014


     I cannot conclude my list of Fair Ladies who attend our Talent for Textile Fairs regularly without mentioning some of our occasional visiting ladies -  and a couple of Gents!    Depending on space at the various venues and their own programme of fairs, we often welcome Liz and Jack von Hasselt from Dorset whom I describe as the Royalty of Razzmatazz!  They work full time at Fairs so you will find them at many other Fairs - they are especially good at textiles and clothing of all kinds and the accessories that go with fashion and adornment.    Haberdashery is always to be had and very quirky bits and pieces, always well chosen for each particular venue and they often supply film companies with valuable costumes (Recently helped to dress Johnny Depp!).
    Hannah Whyman has a very popular stand, and her stock is very high grade as she attends the big Decorative Fair at Battersea which is glamorous and well vetted!  She often has beautiful fabrics and things like fans and paste jewellery and is a good source for really pretty things and party-mood stuff.
  Rosie Murton is so well known and such a character she hardly needs introducing but if you want the Brocante look, she's your girl!  Rosie has a love of pretty vintage fabrics which she frames herself very
appropriately and has an endless supply of charming cottage decorations, china, boxes, ornaments and souvenirs of France which she knows inside out.  It's all very reasonable and most of us treat ourselves to some of her bits and pieces. She usually attends the Ilminster Fairs
   Slow Loris has recently joined 'the gang' and is a welcome masculine additition.     Martin's speciality is Chinese couture made to his own designs by groups in deepest China whom he regularly visits.  His jackets and coats are a byword and several of us have bought more than one!  They are practical and different and made of really good materials, wool, hemp and fine cotton.   Some of the blouses and scarves are made by skilled dyers in tie-dyed and shibori techniques which are unique to him. Easy, smart, clothes at low, low prices!  Find him in a Gazebo or by the garage, depending on the weather!
    Another intrepid traveller and trader is Barbie Campbell-Cole who visits India and Africa and brings back lovely collections of ethnic beads, jewellery and attractive clothing, which she often designs herself, so there is none of that cheap 'bazaar' look!   I wear her tie-dyed cotton shortie jacket all summer and it has often drawn comments from complete strangers - how we all love indigo dyes!


bottled buttons

  I have recounted how I reluctantly bought in a French street market, a double orange box full of packets of glass buttons in three colours, white, red and blue.  They were made of glass so the colours were there for ever and they glistened in the sun and  I thought knitters would like them for chunky jerseys and cardigans.   It turned out that everyone liked them and this is how I sold them;  I thought plastic bags were not a good idea and plastic boxes were too expensive.   One day after I got home, I saw a big crate of Bonne Maman French jam jars in my cellars - problem solved!  I was able to put a hundred or so, I did not bother to count them, in each glass jar and screw on the pretty red/white gingham screw lids and I sold them all complete for £3 each.  They soon disappeared and I was amused to see other button sellers then using the same jars for the same idea and also using the very tiny hotel breakfast jars for more valuable buttons, m.o.p. ones especially.   The big wine jars acted as door stops in my showroom and were always commented on.


Monday, 12 May 2014

Staying the course

Stacks of linen sheets, destined to become curtains, loose covers, bed covers, valances. A view of some of my stock, all clean, sorted and labelled with size, condition, and price.
          I wrote earlier about some hints I had picked up from a well-known exhibitor on how to attract the buyers to your stand at any fair or exhibition. This made me think about the end of a Fair, when you may be in a hurry to get away at the earliest moment, daylight may be fading,  traffic revving up and an urgent need for a meal and sit-down after a long day. I have to admit this is a real temptation, but as a small fair organiser, I must say that the rustling of tissue paper, the sliding of piles into boxes, is a real put-off for any late visitor to a fair.  As most are aware, you may actually have an unwritten contract to stay open until the official time of closing and most buyers will turn away if there is a flurry of packing and stands are being broken up. You are also in danger of losing some very good last minute sales - twice I have had this experience - once at a small and fairly unsuccessful fair at Olympia (not the big international one) all the stalls had packed up and I stood my ground until closing time and just 5 minutes later, in rushed a frantic lady decorator who said she had to furnish a show flat by the next day,  customers waiting, everything had run late and she had an empty van at the exit door!  Wow!  She bought all my folding French garden furniture, some Regency bamboo stuff and various decorative pieces and ornaments which I helped her to pack up, and I went home with a featherweight load and a full purse.
    Another time I was at the Little Chelsea Fair and had a rather poor two-day result, when at the last minute, a prosperous City Gent dashed up to me and asked me to find a special house gift for a Texas millionaire 'who has everything' . I was able to say 'not quite everything, because he will not have this very rare and special steel collar piece for the leading cow in the great transhumance, yearly procession of cows from the plains up into the high pastures in Provence' - it was a fantastic old piece of 18c. metalwork with medallions and chains and a wonderful treasure for an American Ranch owner!  And a final coup for two of my dealer friends, who had already packed their vehicles at a fair in Bradford, when a late, known good buyer arrived just after closing time and they had to unpack, and all their furniture all went to two properties that the good lady had to furnish in a hurry. You never know!

Friday, 9 May 2014


   This lovely old linen cupboard, Regency pine. with masses of shelves and ingenious folding doors, was my most favourite piece for selling  my best stock..  Bought 20 or more  years ago from Penny Philip in Walcot St. Bath, I just could not resist it when I thought about my textile business and the huge piles of linen I was bringing back from France and needing to display them for my many customers.  The narrow shelves were just right for showing off tea towels in neat bundles, also pillow cases, kitchen cloths of all kinds and sets of white damask napkins.   It was always full and rather impressive when piled high and I opened the folding doors (made on the folding shutter system).  The metal grills were for ventilation;  if stored for a long time, linen is apt to show mildew spots which are extremely difficult to remove.   These large storage cupboards were usually placed in the housekeeper's room, a place where she and some of the female staff did some of the domestic work, sewing, repairing  and folding the linen.  Often, however, they were built into the room with the addition of a clock on the shaped cornice,  and they were made of heavily carved mahogany, really Victorian in style; so it is rare to find one that stands alone..  The housekeeper kept the keys on her chatelaine, (a belt or chain round her waist) and unlocked the cupboard when she doled out the linen for the bedrooms.  Good linen had a great value in every household and was apt to go missing if not closely guarded and counted as it went backwards and forwards from the laundry to the cupboard.    I don't know how much I sold from this cupboard but it was probably several thousand items, as I moved it from Freshford to Bradford on Avon 12 years ago and continued to use it for my best stock.   Sadly, now I have retired, I have had to re-furnish my special first floor show room as a spare room and the 'trade' aspect of the furnishings no longer applies.

   I advertised it just once on this Blog and it has now been sold to one of my readers so that is really a very happy outcome for me and I am glad it will be in use once more as a display fitting.   'Top of the morning to you', my old Irish friend!  The best sales assistant I have ever had!

Thursday, 8 May 2014


    I have invited several 'occasional' new traders,  to my June Rag Market;   they are all old friends and colleagues, they have rooted out surplus textiles and allied stuff, while down-sizing and moving house - so there are plenty of good things to find on their stalls.
Sue Wales and Gabi Tubbs are both former journalists from Country Living magazine and have collected interesting souvenirs on their many trips abroad, often for styling photos for articles.
Jane Newdick and Caroline Arber are both very well-known illustrators and photographers with plenty of kit for styling their shots, and Caroline is bringing her personal collection of Victorian children's costume - collectors will make a bee-line to her stall in the wine vaults at No 29, as these garments are famously difficult to find in good condition.   Ann le Coz' shop is well known to Bathonians decorating and wanting high grade upholstery work for their schemes.  She takes 4 poster beds in her stride.  Here top name designer remnants are a snip!
Julie Pryor and her ladies are known for their very high standard of needlework of all kinds.  They meet, work and show as a group locally and I am always drawn to their fine handwork and their brilliant new ideas for making garments and artefacts.  I have just acquired a very pretty  blue,slightly sparkly, neck 'warmer' which adds something to a denim jacket and does not slip about as it is quite stretchy!
Sue Conrad  travels to India while collecting special textiles and photographing them;  her stuffs sold well at the last Fair to a discerning buyer, and Jenny Garrett-Smith has a dazzling collection of bright striped tickings which were grabbed by eager collectors last time.   Some appeared in a very stunning cloth picture portrait which sold immediately in a Bathonian gallery!  Tickings are now quite rare to find especially ones in good condition. They were mostly used to cover feather beds so got a lot of use and constant washing.
 Times Past are a husband and wife team with a very wide collection of clothing, household linens and all kinds of finery, useful and very well presented.   You might find a Victorian sun bonnet, a frilly nightie or a super christening robe in their collection!  Collectors love their interesting stock!
Caroline Ingram  (family) sold a great many top Italian shoes last time and returns with lots of inherited Italian, hardly worn, fashionista  trousers and accessories for your approval! (All the top names are there in spades!)
 Cecille Gemmell (linen sheets)  and Deborah Ruff (costume)are newcomers and we welcome them to add to the variety of stock shown at the forthcoming Rag Market!
The glorious moments of SHOPPING! at one of my former Fairs!

Wednesday, 7 May 2014


A beautiful fine linen sheet with hand embroidery and hand-made filet lace. The Princess' crown is very finely worked.
There is also a fine linen Oxford pillowcase with just a slightly larger crown. POA.
   Loveday James' stand is a joy to behold - all is immaculate and perfectly presented.  No wonder her textile accessories, silk scarves, lacy shawls and hankies make excellent presents for weddings, Christmas and birthdays!    Her linens are equally superior, lovely bedspreads, embroidered sheets and hand towels, and every kind of table linen, all in  fine linen, personally washed and ironed by her expert hands.  She lives in  Devon and brings a new collection of finery to all the fairs, especially our TforT ones!  Her fashion items can include 20s, 30s gowns, beaded and embroidered, fine blouses and underwear, smart bags and gloves, and they are always in good taste and condition - so if you have a summer party, try her! She attends our Rag Market in Bradford on Avon on Sunday June 15th. 9 - 3pm

   Cally Troup   I can hardly describe Cally's stock, as every time she comes to a fair it is original and different!   She is a charming artist with very original ideas and a gift for designing new and useful accessories which bring fun and colour to their owners.  Cally is an expert dyer and weaver/needlewoman and creates textile adornments like plaited alice bands for hair-dressing;  pencils and pens are transformed into rainbow coloured gadgets, and sometimes there are skirts of denim with wondrous new trimmings and borders.    Sometimes there are lampshades, and I really have no idea what her latest widgets are, but am looking forward to her array in June at our Rag Market
My personal collection of 'Cally' creations, much worn!  Perfect for fly-away hair-do's. Tiny shells have been added to the pale blue band as I once told her how much I loved them!   These stand up to careful washing and the colours do not run!  Perfect!

Sunday, 4 May 2014


Fine bedding typically sold at our T4T Fairs.    For dates contact                                            
 I thought it would be a good idea to record the amazing loyalty and friendship of so many of our textile dealers, most of thom have been with us since they first joined 'the party' twenty years ago, so I am giving you, the equally loyal and friendly supporters, a mini- view of their activities and talents. 

Caroline Bushell,  who now runs T4T with the able help of Linda Clift, knows the textiles of the South West very well as she has worked for local auctioneers listing and valuing sales items.  She is knowledgeable about lace, doll's and children's costume, and traditional West Country samplers and  needlework.  She often has a big stock of English domestic linens, sheets, pillowcases, bedcovers and damask tablecloths and napkins.   In addition she likes vintage quality furnishing fabrics like 1920s Sanderson prints and has a weak spot for all cottage furnishings.   She runs  the very successful Fountain Antique Centre in Honiton which sells all kinds of antiques so her experience and knowledge is wide.  She is a most helpful lady  who is easy and fair to deal with, so bring your queries to her.

Polly Lyster is well known to top decorators, country house interior designers, hotel and restaurant owners;  all people who want top quality and original fabrics for their designer plans.  Polly has a unique resource of colour  and dyes (by commission) in beautiful pastel shades as well as more dashing effects.  She is a mistress of many techniques and gives popular demonstrations from time to time.  She is about to start perfecting more elaborate dyeing techniques which involve tie-dying, wax resist and hand block printing so her work is always progressing in new directions, much to the joy of her clients!  You will find smart sets of table mats and cloths, enticing cushions and bags, a few designer garments, and exclusive remnant pieces in her stock at the fair here on June 15th at Bradford on Avon in the Masonic Hall, Church Street.  A chance to see antique French remnants and buy at basic prices.  She was recently featured in Home and Antiques Magazine.
Polly seen in front of her trademark Indigo

Thursday, 1 May 2014

The Fair Ladies of Franglais

Lavender crop in Provence, France
Linda Clift and Liz Drake combine talents in Franglais and are a great team.   Their combined, interesting, stock has made a great contribution to our fairs because they cover such a wide collection of textiles and have so much knowledge.  Ask them about sewing, quilting, knitting, embroidery, all kinds of needlework and a huge range of interesting fabrics and remnants for making up, and they will show you a bundle!  They produce clever garments , historic costume in good repair, ideas for decorating beds, chairs and windows, and their business, Franglais, combines traditional English stuffs with up- market French linens and a few peasant garments for good measure!  Haberdashery, French and English, is there by the tray-load, and buttons galore, all well displayed and with plenty of help on how to use it all.  Contact them at our forthcoming Rag Market at Bradford on Avon in their large gazebo beside the Masonic Hall in
                                                                                              Bradford on Avon, Church St.  They do speak                                                                                               English!    Email;