Tuesday, 16 December 2014


  DEAR GINGER - YOU ARE SO CLEVER TO RECOGNISE THE HAND OF IAN MANKIN IN THE CHRISTMAS WREATH OF A PREVIOUS BLOG!  It happened because my two daughters Caroline and Susanna, opened a shop called Baer and Ingram in the Wandsworth Bridge Road and traded there for about ten years.  Next door was Ian Mankin which was a huge draw for all the young marrieds of Fulham, Wandsworth and Chelsea  The shop had great interest for me because he was the first to copy and improvise the stripes and checks of the old French bedding and domestic fabrics that I had long been selling second-hand in short lengths.  When I saw this pretty Xmas confection I telephoned the shop to know where it had been made and the lady assistant said quite casually, oh we just made it up from a few off-cuts and stiffened them up a bit so the petals stayed put.   I sort of adopted the design as my Christmas motto and have used it a dozen times and still think it shows 'home-made craft' at its very best!  but then I am a  fanatic admirer of these sort of fabrics and I think  Ian Mankin did a great job making them available to everyone at very reasonable prices. Elizabeth.

Thursday, 11 December 2014


    This is the time of year when business plans slow down, family gather round with plans for the Christmas holiday season and we are all thinking about how best to go ahead with Textile Fairs, newletters and other promotions.  We are now all aware of the limiting boundaries of high prices, especially car fuel, hotel charges, and meals out,  in fact everything to do with living in this country - there is no escaping the draining of funds and people are beginning to count costs very seriously.   With regard to T.forT. and its popular fairs which have always been well attended, and the stallholders, who have made reasonable profits, the new organisers, Linda Clift and Caroline Bushell,  are suggesting less fairs (cutting out those that might struggle to be viable) and limiting all fairs to one day -  The main idea of this is to cut the costs for the stallholders who attend all the fairs;  their rents have to cover the high postage costs of the programmes, the paperwork, inks and printing of invitations, emails, and newsletters.  We do not wish to charge entrance to any of our fairs unless they are specifically in aid of a charity, when we pass all on without deductions.   Our fairs have gained a high reputation for quality and reliability and we are determined to keep this going and hope you will all manage to come to as many fairs as possible to support us.  WE  HAVE BEEN OFFERED ONE VERY SPECIAL COUNTRY HOUSE VENUE WHICH WILL BE LISTED IN the next 2015 list of Talent for Textile events, an Email in the late Spring 2015 .
   My textile business is almost finished and I can no longer travel to France to buy and have now finally left the organising of  TforT  in the capable hands of Linda and Caroline - but I shall keep in contact and watch my baby grow year by year!
    Most of this was written last year, but for some unknown reason I did not publish - but I think it all applies to this year and I know there is a very special venue for a summer event again - country house owners know we get a very interesting lot of buyers and textile experts and are happy to open their houses and gardens
for us and their  own charitable causes.
Happy Christmas to all who read my Blog!

Tuesday, 9 December 2014


Large scale 1880 woven Vichy bed quilt, ticking cushions, chequer cotton bonnet, striped red/white French peasant skirt on model, Irish ' Drunkard's Path' patchwork quilt, toile cushions in a cherry picking basket (Kent), lined in Vichy toile,  vintage 1880 prints on chair and pouffe, painted marriage armoire, Czech, 1830, ticking bolsters on top..  All now sold.The cushion on bed shows one of my ideas for using ticking in various ways, making geometric designs.  This was a typical view to greet buyers at my showroom at Freshford, " Pile it high, sell it cheap!"
   When I first started dealing from home in a rambling old house in nearby Freshford, I stacked all my goods in the disused basement kitchen that had a wonderful built-in Bath Dresser with massive cupboards and shelves, ideal for displaying my French brocante and kitchenalia. I then decided that the best way to sell the textiles and decorative pieces was to arrange them in a room setting. The old study with three garden outlook windows was ideal and I worked out a new colour scheme every two or three months. At that time I had quite a lot of London and overseas customers and so I sat them down in my sale-room with the cup of tea or coffee to discuss their wants and preferences. After a bit, I discovered that if the decor was distinctly in red patterns, they suddenly got quite energised and said they were keen to finish some project soon, and started choosing and buying in my other stores as well. If, on the other hand, the room was cool and pretty with lots of blue and white and greens, they were inclined to sit and relax and were not in any hurry to shop. Such is the influence of colour on our moods and I read an article all about this phenomenon, citing the psychological use of colour in canteens, restaurants, hospitals and prisons, and of course shops.
     Think about this when decorating, as it makes sense to have restful schemes in bedrooms and more dynamic contrasts in kitchens and playrooms!    The living areas of your home can do with some stronger schemes, and bathrooms, utility rooms and kitchens can have some really eye-catching decors with a bit of bling and zing which cheer you up when there is work to be done!

Monday, 8 December 2014

DIG MINERALS ? I'm in a dark place.

Damaged Welsh woolen blankets (cartheni) are ideal for making up into cosy and colourful cushions and bolsters.  These perfect ones are from the Jen Jones collection.   Visit her museum and shop for similar as well as the fabulous quilts.  Email  - quilts@jen-jones.com 

    I'm quite happy with a bit of gold or the flash of silver in my house decorations, but would you choose slate,  pewter, zinc or  stone for the colours of your bedroom.???? parchment, taupe, canvas, camel, cream, oatmeal, caramel strike me as being a more gentle background for rest and reviving, and easier to mix with the pastel colours I would always want for my own space.  I love bright colour but I want it to shine in small doses, making a sort of exclamation mark in a room that is used for entertaining, making a splash or impressing the guests!   I am not very fond of sludgey, dingy shades, which I find so depressing- they make me think of black clouds, rainy days,  and sunshine seems very far away.
   I recently stayed in an excellent medium-priced hotel, where I could not fault the beds, bathroom fittings, and furniture, but all the materials were 50 shades of dingy brown including blankets, bedcovers, all seating,  curtains and carpet.  Sad!   Just one chair in a cheerful print or two bright cushions could have rescued the view and made a cheerful, smart, first impression.   I left a note for the comments section!
   I know some cushion makers in a small factory who make them for the big chain hotels and when I see the huge piles of drab squares awaiting stitching on the machines, I long to mix and match them with a bit of colour relief and cause a revolution!

Friday, 5 December 2014


A small section of my stores of laundered French linen and hemp sheets, all  measured, laundered and stacked.
 I have known three professional laundresses in my life and I have always admired their professional way with washing, ironing and folding family linen.  The first was a Lancashire woman who lived in a lodge near my home and did all my mother's washing in the Victorian laundry in our rambling old house (long since demolished). Jessie, a lovely red-haired Lancashire lass,  and another local woman, spent two days there working the old machines, heating the coppers, pulsing the linen with a dolly, rinsing, soaking, drying, airing, ironing and folding. Jessie took much of the ironing home to the lodge. Ironing boards were unknown there and she used her kitchen table with an old blanket and old linen sheet, standing in front of her little kitchen stove, and watching various pots bubbling away with soda, soap shredded into flakes and other cleansers.  Large folding drying racks were ranged round the kitchen with loads of snowy linen airing,  folded and ready to pack into the wicker laundry baskets that had our house name in large black letters on the lid.  They were heavy and the farm cart was used to transport them back to the house where all was neatly stowed away in a huge slatted linen cupboard near the kitchen.  In grander houses they would have been placed in the housekeeper's linen cupboards, where everything was listed and kept under lock and key.  
  My next laundress was really just a 'presser' - she was my weekly cleaner when I was first living and working in London and she had worked in an Irish shirt factory, ironing the newly stitched gentlemen's shirts as they came off the sewing machines - I had no idea how to iron my new husband's city shirts so was grateful for some very expert help - she always said that it took her exactly 20 minutes to iron a shirt, pressing every seam, and then pinning it all down in a box ready for sale.
   I have written elsewhere about my grandmother's laundry and also about my Breton friend's laundress mother;  these women worked immensely hard with a lot of very heavy carrying of buckets and wet washing, the endless scrubbing and rinsing and long hours of ironing with their heavy irons, gophering irons and other metal equipment and I have to remember that clothes on a farm were very dirty with all the rain and dirt making everything muddy as people worked on the land.  There was no special protective work-wear then, plastic was unknown and there were only old sacks and rubber- lined mackintoshes to keep you dry and warm with a length of binder twine to hold all in place - not the Burberry touch!  An old felt hat or a sou'wester kept some of the rain off your head and shoulders. and after work all had to be steamed dry in front of the kitchen range - airing cupboards were a luxury., but it was very usual (in Wales) to have a heavy brass rail, highly polished, just below the mantlepiece, to carry everything that needed heat and airing.  You might think these were curtain poles, but they were often bevelled so the clothes did not slip off on the stove!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014


Long sets of fine linen damask table napkins, circa 1900 in diaper and geometric patterns.
  If you are really interested in the laying of tables and have had a go at a 'tablescape' (very popular in the States where it is considered a refined art involving fruit, flowers and objects), you could amuse yourself by looking at examples of  Napery as this domestic art was called - in Medieval times there were Masters of Napery who skillfully 'sculpted' table dressings with linen and accessories for the centres of the long refectory tables.  If you look at old master paintings of domestic scenes you will see that the tablecloths are skillfully pleated and folded .  Sometimes the corners are knotted in a ball to hang clear of the floor (in the Last Supper) and of course the folding can vary from just a few creases to lots of narrower ones - you can see how linenfold panelling got its name.  Originally the napkin was a shared long communal cloth which stretched over all the knees of the diners - later this was chopped up so that each one had their own. Mrs. Beaton gives exact drawings and directions for many classic designs, water lilies, etc., and as a child I used to practice these shapes in my mother's old-fashioned kitchen and dream of giving grand dinner parties with all the trimmings.
   If you love linen, I think you will always prefer to use fine linen for special occasions rather than the very clever paper reproductions, and think it worth the extra trouble.  I have many large sets of 8 and over for sale, all in perfect condition, often with red embroidered initials and very large sizes from 1900 or so and they work out about £9 each.  If you use candles, the silky damask patterns woven in the linen will give an extra bit of glamour to the table setting, and the hand embroidered initials will impress and intrigue your guests.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Thoughts from my Bath Chair

   As I tidy up the remnants of my French stock, now all assembled in one large wine vault room with a stone floor, stone walls and big wooden shelves, the oddments there bring back memories of our expeditions to rural France.  The old linen was so cheap, you hardly had to ask the price - in any case I always tried to buy by the dozen so that when washed and ironed and tied in attractive bundles they looked inviting and were easy to sell. Although there were often faulty, stained, ripped sheets amongst the big lots I bought, almost unseen, just opening a few samples to check they were not all just rags, these joined a big pile at my home in Freshford, which began to cause me worry!  I thought of bandages, window cleaners, painters and so on but there were far too many and I was not anxious to become a rag merchant!
    However, like so often, eventually there was an absolutely splendid use for them - for film costumes for battle-damaged Romans, Greeks, Picts, Scots, Arthurian knights, Elizabethan swordsmen
Trad. red/white check cotton Toile de Vichy.

Red/white print curtains and cushion. Red /white ticking covering an old school trunk
Caribbean pirates and all war-like scenes.  It saved the wardrobe ladies beating the life out of new heavy cloth, with knives and torches and staining dyes to get that authentic war-stained look.  So literally hundreds of old linen sheets were re-cycled this way.  My piles disappeared in one big lorry-load!
   Anyone who has had a shop or stall knows that presentation is all!  I used smart linen tape for tying and my own home-made labels made from disused card files, rubber stamped with my name, address and
phone no.on one side and wrote all details, quantity, size, condition,  approx date and price, on the back of the label, and if I sent scans on my computer all this could be seen and read quite clearly.   Good scans of damask linen were difficult to show the glossy patterns, but making a soft pleat on the top layer helps to catch the light, and of course any lace can be seen perfectly if you place a piece of dark blue tissue paper beneath.  Good scans are an absolute must and highly successful once you get known for being prompt and reliable in your responses, by post, telephone or if you use a Blog as I do.  You do not get the huge exposure of Ebay, but on the other hand you are probably contacting a very specialised audience and can build up a good relationship.                                         
   Presentation! It really is vital for a good show at a Fair or in a shop:  study those of the most successful  dealers and note how they arrange the look of the whole thing and what attracts buyers.  I recall being at a small French fair and seeing a largish crush of women all around one stall.   When I joined them, I was surprised to find it was just a linen stall, but the whole thing was a brilliant combination of red and white and no other colours.  All the red and white tea towels were to the fore and all groups were tied up with new smart red ribbons and bows.  A few red checked and gingham tablecloths and napkins were prominent, with duvet covers and cushions and a pair of red curtains backing the show.  It was brilliant and very eye-catching.  A few strips of red crepe paper hung down the front over a white valance completing the show, and I would not have been surprised to see the lady seller dressed in a white blouse with red shoes and a skirt to complete the picture!