Wednesday, 20 August 2014

ANOTHER BED POST



Picture taken from THE BED by Alecia Beldegreen
    French beds come in all shapes and sizes and I am always amazed by the variety of decorations and curtains that were used to dress them. The traditional 4 poster was a very elaborate affair with curtains, swags and tails
, canopy and assorted tie-backs, ropes and ornaments at the four corners - plumes and coats of arms for the grandest.
Sometimes when I buy a big lot of curtains, I find one odd one, much longer and tightly gathered at the top with small hooks or little brass rings and with a shaped bottom seam. This is what is called the 'ciel de lit' or 'heavenly ceiling' and was attached to the corona or baldequin above the head of the bed, usually fixed with an arm from the wall behind the bed or hung from the ceiling like a chandelier. The coronas were often made of metal, engraved and decorative, but sometimes also of carved wood, and the baldequins were usually very heavy Victorian style carved and polished hard wood, in various shapes like a half-tester, a semi-circle, or shield shape and needed strong support from the rear wall. Usually the fabric matched the curtains of the room, and often were not lined - sadly many are somewhat tired and damaged where hands pulled them aside and/or they were held back with ropes and metal fittings. Also the base hem suffered from feet and maybe the little pet dogs that they seemed to allow in every room! Anyway, the extra material is always useful if you need pelmets, cushion or seat covers to finish off your colour scheme. Sometimes you will come across a strange piece of carved and polished pole that you think might be a towel rail AND IS OFTEN MIS-SOLD AS SUCH, - this is in fact a pole that was inserted directly into the wall centrally over a bed placed sideways against a blank space in the room, a long piece of fabric was hung over it and the two ends fell over the high bed ends. See the picture above of a bed draped for Napoleon at Malmaison. Very simple, most effective and easily done. Traditionally, many provincial beds were dressed with blue/white checked Vichy fabric or the lovely Ikat woven flamme toile. I buy both from time to time as it is still one of the decorators' favourite combinations for pretty beds. Both were woven, not printed, in 19C. and you can see examples in the remnants I use to make my tote bags; see Post Remnants and Remainders

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Sheet music in a wash tub

A really fine linen sheet with fillet lace insertion and a Princess' crown (exquisite hand embroidery!)I have one left for sale,having sold over a dozen very similar. 
   Two of my overseas buyers have sent chatty emails to me, and both said something rather nice!  They said that they think of me every day (I think they meant every night) as they sleep in beautiful fine linen sheets from France and I suppose they enjoy that cool silky feel as they slip into bed every bedtime!  It's so good to know that they use the very best on their beds and enjoy them, rather than keeping them  'for best' or putting them away in a drawer to be handed on,  perhaps to a member of their family who may not want, after all, the slight extra work of laundering and looking after the delicate rows of hand embroidery, stitching and (sometimes) lace.  I always feel that the original workers who reaped the flax, spun the threads and wove the cloth, and then decorated it with finest stitches, would be so happy to know that their handiwork is still appreciated  a century later and gives pleasure to 'ladies' all over the world!
     The ideal way to wash a delicate sheet is to soak it in a bath of cold or tepid water for several hours, then pull the plug, drain,  and fill up with warm water (40 deg. or so)and a mild soap powder,  push the linen up and down till it is clean, letting the suds carry the dirt away, then pulling the plug once more and filling up with plenty of cold clear water, and drain again.  Lift gently up and down with your hands pushing remaining water out and lift gently into a large container, then hang up to drip and dry.  Drying on a sloping lawn is a traditional way for this job, but worm casts and mud are not a clever mix.  Otherwise,  a careful short 'delicates'  wash once a week on a gentle programme with a good (non bio) soap powder is alright but if there is any sort of lace, then avoid all the spinning cycles of a washing machine which twist the fine threads and break them,  and hang it up on a long line to dry, folded in half. - don't use a tumble dryer- maybe you have a garage or utility room where you can put up an old fashioned ceiling rack (lazy Susan) which does not strain the seams and hang over a couple of the poles) and then fold it all in four layers thick while still slightly damp and press all down with the rest of your larger items on top, then air well,  that will all help to give longer life to the fabric - I am lucky to have a large press iron which means I can do the job in 12 minutes, sitting down.   Elna and Blanca Presses (see Google)are two possibilities, but I have to say that the Blanca (not cheap, but very efficient) is my first choice as it has a regular square shape;   the Hotpoint is shaped for shirt pressing, so not quite so good for square sheets and pillow cases.  It is quite difficult to put a sheet into a suitable washing bag to save wear on lace and embroidery and the sheet does not get properly rinsed and comes out very crumpled!  Do not use bleach unless it is for small individual stains, applied diluted with a cotton bud, as bleach rots the fabric and often leaves cloudy marks.  Sunshine or moonshine is much more reliable!   Almost all stains will eventual fade, all except black marking ink and rust spots - see another Blog for removing rust, even the multi-coloured mildew spots will fade a bit in the end after several soaks and washes.  In France the  process of soaking ('tremper') is considered to be almost more important than actual scrubbing and washing, by the skilled old washerwomen).

 WASHING GOES ON LINE

I always thought I had the longest washing line in Somerset when I lived at Freshford, near the homes in Sharpstone of the washerwomen who did the washing of linen from Bath in the days of Jane Austen.  My line was stretched between two trees and I had three tall props  so that I could hang out eight double linen sheets to dry.   These sheets were the 19thC hand-spun, hand-woven rough peasant sheets;  I used to soak eight at a time , then wash them in my extra heavy duty Hotpoint machine and then stagger down the sloping lawn to the line and hang them up securely fastened with wooden pegs.   They were extremely heavy when wet.   My load of almost dry linen was much lighter when I carried it up the slope to my iron press and luckily,  I could sit at it doing the work while I got my breath back.   It was only when I went to visit my friend Polly Lyster who does all the dyeing of linen at her Dyeworks nr. Stroud  that I saw she had a line as long as mine but with several strands of wire, supported with lots of heavy wooden posts that I realised her capacity for drying was ten times mine and I was very impressed.  All the indigo-dyed linen and hemp of which she is a very specialist dyer, has to be hung out in bright light or sunshine to change from the sludgey- greeny shade when dyed,  to the brilliant blue that we recognise in indigo blue.  It looks like magic, and in a way it is!  Polly now dies linen, hemp. cotton in over 100 shades and is very well known in decorating circles!  thedyeworks@mac.com
A pile of French hand-woven coarse hemp sheets and torchons, 19C.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

STOCKING SMOCKS........

New art by Howard Hodgkin, an artist admired and sponsored by Tricia Guild, is featured in an article by Ros Byam Shaw in WOI.   She recounts a tale of his childhood, evacuated to a well-to-do Long Island lady in wartime, he was asked, aged 8, to help her choose some material, went to the shop, saw bolts of printed linen,"that one" he said, just like that.  And she said 0.K., and ordered an incredible amount, $500 worth.  This artist reckons it was a very formative experience which inspired a love of textiles, and comes out in his pictures of rooms, some with bedclothes, and the heavy red curtains in his home.
    I can think of many pieces in my own home which I both hated and loved as a child and my great treat was to rummage through an old tin bath, with lid, in the attics, that held all the surplus bits from my grandmother's decorations.   I loved the Victorian chintzy borders used to dress the valances on big old Welsh beds but hated the dark brown velvets that were shabby and faded.. I found there two old linen smocks which my father had worn for a portrait study with some sheep,  painted by my rather gifted grandmother, and I thought that was very romantic and resolved to find more smocks, which I did not find until I came to live in Somerset 70 years later.
    I acquired several and though I found the prices very high, they seemed to sell on their first outing at fairs .
The agricultural and County Museums were keen to acquire them and all the other old farm equipment - and people took to wearing them at local farming events and celebrations of old machinery and re-enactment displays of rural life in the 19C and ever since they have been in very short supply!   I have the two patterns shown here, so if you would like to have copies, contact me at  dbaer@onetel.com and I will gladly send them.  Maybe, your winter fireside project????

Friday, 8 August 2014

LOOKING FORWARD!


   Yes, everyone at Talent for Textiles is looking forward to meeting up with all friends and customers at the beginning of the autumn season.  Many of the dealers have been stocking up during the summer, either on their holidays (they never stop searching!) or making special trips overseas  to buy the best!   The exciting thing about textiles is that they are all different with different histories, different designs and workmanship so the variety is endless and even the most dedicated collectors are still finding new treasures.    There are no books big enough to cover all the various fields but we can all learn a lot by looking at the huge selection you will see at our fairs and the interchange of information is one of the things that draws visitors to our fairs, and we are always interested in hearing from people who wish to have a valuation or to sell something.
   So do come along to our next fair in the ancient Masonic Hall, Church Street, Bradford on Avon, BA15 1LN on Saturday, Sept 6th 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and if you need inspiration for an autumn/winter project you will find a very good choice of high quality goods displayed and dealers who know what they are selling!  Free entrance and light refreshments on a sunny terrace next door.more info. Email  at   talentfortextiles.com

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

THE NITTY GRITTY

  
  Life on the main routes in France is good, passing through beautiful countryside with no congestion and no troublesome little winding lanes through the villages, plenty of resting places with decent refreshments and good clear signs for turn-offs and nearby cities.     The sad part is that you miss the local architecture of rural villages,  the lovely churches and chateaux and the chance of stopping at an interesting cafe or Brocante!There are no longer any old chairs put out on the pavement, with an elderly gent sitting there with his pipe and cronies, ready to show his mixed collection in a shabby old shed;  he has gone, because there is no longer any passing trade and the next generation has set up their business in big old barns on secondary roads near the bigger towns with big signs and bigger prices!
    Staying on the journey in a hotel is simple if you are not expecting great luxury or gourmet meals.  The chain, Logis de France, is very reliable for clean rooms, good beds and a very reasonable home-cooked meal, and there is usually one in every proper town.  You can collect a very useful guide to all the Logis, free, with good pictures and descriptions. For a good menu, allow 28 Euros plus wine.
    Diesel, as always, is cheaper at the nearest super-marche, which can also offer a cheap snack meal, but at meal times can be noisy and full.  Most petrol stations accept master cards but if you are buying antiques or from small shops, 'liquide' (cash) is essential.  Hotels and restaurants seem quite ready to accept credit cards but sometimes they have trouble with their machines and it can take quite a time to sort things out!   There are plenty of AMTs around in the towns.  We have always used the above Rough Guide, and found it very reliable for all levels of accommodation and the descriptions are lively and pretty accurate.
     A stop for tea and coffee is quite expensive and the cups are often small- but we find the small betting shops with bars (the P.M.U.s)are the best and you do see a bit of local life as the regulars come in for a gossip and a bet.  Croissants are delicious and cheaper in the bakers shops and carried in to the bar.  Sandwiches are usually large, long baguettes with generous fillings and freshly made to order in any combination you like, quick and filling!  available in most bars and some bakeries.  Keep bottled water in your car, especially when the weather is hot - refreshing drinks in bars are quite expensive and stopping and parking can be boring!  On the other hand, some of the motorway cafes have pleasant patios for eating and drinking outside when you need a break and to rest your eyes;  and the shops also sell all basic stuff for a simple picnic.  

Sunday, 3 August 2014

DOWN TO THE WIRE

   There is a lot of fine wirework in France, mostly produced in the early 20th century  for many different uses as well as decoration.  The fine wire could be shaped into all kinds of shapes, some very elaborate and purely for amusement and decoration,  but most were made as useful tools in the kitchen and home.    I often bought good examples as they made lovely decoration against simple whitewashed cottage and farm walls and many were  hung round old inglenooks and fireplaces and cast interesting shadows.  There were circular drainers for cheeses and for cooling pastries and cakes, all kinds of strainers and sieves and skimmers for sauces and soups, spatulas and slices for frying and grilling, hundreds of salad shakers, and egg baskets, hooks and racks for tools, carpet beaters, egg whisks, bird cages and so on, as well as the miniature coaches, furniture and other fanciful designs.  I bought several of the best from a dealer in Burgundy and I learnt a bit more about the craft and wished I could restore some of the many that had been neglected outside and had rusted away..
  This is a good reference book, (pub. Abbeville) I found that describes hundreds of fine wirework objects, all very decorative and delightful;   the variety is amazing and often quite exotic - bird cages, ornamental baskets and stands and a huge batterie of cooking tools and containers.   I was able to purchase several of the examples shown in these illustrations  (the owner  helped the authors of this book to find good examples).  There are plenty still in use and for sale, mostly on the tool and sundries stalls of market traders, but miniatures and really intricate examples are always difficult to find.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

REPLIES TO READERS' COMMENTS

To Aina:  your query re different techniques for customizing curtains has me a little puzzled as I am not sure if you mean actual decorations or different ways of draping the curtains.   Anyway for the basic techniques, I can heartily recommend The Soft Furnishing Book by Dorothy Gates, pub. Forbes Publications ;  but for more advanced designs there are large numbers of manuals and reference books in most large libraries and of course, there are always courses going on in local colleges where you can learn and make - which is where I first did some work and advanced from there, as I re-made many of my second-hand buys from France.     Dorothy Gates taught one of my daughters quite a lot of soft furnishing and she said she was the best needlework tutor she had ever had.   There are a number of coffee table glossy books available in good bookshops which can give you ideas for different ways of treating windows and they should inspire you.  Amazon will have copies of most.
Lisa vanden Berghe  I have found the source of the picture of a garland of silk worked flowers (on paper)
which I showed on a Blog recently, The Ladies are Amused  It was in a little book called 'Regency and Victorian Crafts' by Jane Toller. Ward Lock Ltd.  It says in the text that paper was quite popular for craftwork and that during the 18thC.superfine needles were made and also very fine embroidery silks as fine as human hair - the example shown appears to have been worked on ordinary writing paper.     I knew Jane Toller briefly when she was very old.  She and her husband kept a little shop in Eton High Street and sold very early oak furniture.  She was quite an authority of 'Ladies Amusements' and also wrote ' Papier-mache in Great Britain and America ' pub. G.Bell & Co., both of which I have found very useful while making small collections.   I have a number of things which are mentioned in both books and if ever you would care to look at them you might like to visit me - contact email  dbaer@onetel.com


I will make further BLOGS on other Ladies Amusements - pin-prick work, hair embroideries and momentos,  tinsel pictures, theorem velvet pictures, scissor- or cut-work, felt-work fruits and animal portraits, feather pictures, dried flowers and ferns, sea-weed and shell pictures, of which I have a few examples in my 'pictures without paint' collection, now adorning the walls of my work-room and inspiring me to keep sewing and making!
   These scans  might interest some readers who have their own examples - some are very finely worked and others very much folk art and quite crude, but all now quite rare to find and so,  full of interest to those who admire them.
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