Sunday, 20 October 2013


   It's just a year since I posted my notice for a clear-up, clean out, very informal fair here in the wine cellars of my house and in the Mason's Hall next door, Bradford on Avon, BA15 1LN. We had piles of lovely stuff ferreted out from cupboards, lofts and old trunks, new and old, humble and grand, and a lot was quickly mopped up by eager buyers looking for bargains and something a bit different.  The range was huge, from Russia to China and Africa to India, and knowledgeable buyers found some real treasures.  Many sellers have asked for a repeat event to clear more space, and enjoyed the experience of being on the other side of the counter, so here goes!  I plan to have a similar event next Sunday,
June 15th  2014, in similar spaces with table and chair for each seller, starting 9a.m. ending 3pm.with setting up the previous afternoon, Sat. June 14th after 3p.m.  Access is rather limited so you may have to be patient about parking.  Quick unloading is essential and all cars can be parked in the Station car park.
  As soon as I receive enough applicants, I will sort them out and will be giving priority to private sellers, as last year,  and making sure we have a wide range of goods   The most important thing you can do to ensure the success of the event will be to distribute at least ten flyers amongst your friends and contacts, and I will send these to you when I confirm your booking.   This worked very well last year and we had a record attendance of new buyers as well as plenty of old friends and this gave the whole thing a jolly atmosphere, enjoyed by everyone.  I will do all I can to make the event fun and profitable and if you have never had a stall at an antique fair, you might find this was a really exilarating and amusing way to dispose of your surplus and earn some money on the way!  Donations will be made to Dorothy House and the cost of stalls will be £25 per table payable a month in advance of the fair.  Cheques to E.Baer, please.
All applications by Email to  

Saturday, 19 October 2013


When I stayed with my London Granny as a child, I was very impressed with the dainty hand towels in the bathroom with her initials beautifully embroidered in the centre - After use, I couldn't see how they had been folded and worried about how to put them back so very neatly! She then told me about the rule of three; it seemed that all pillow cases, hand towels, table napkins, hankies and small linen with initials were folded into three parts so that the initial was always displayed on top or in the middle with the two sides folded underneath. Later, I inherited quite a bit of linen from her and members of my husband's family and then had no trouble in following the rule for my own linen cupboard.
When I came to wash and iron my large stock of French linen for sale I found that this system was good in that with the folded edge always towards me on the shelf, with a neat tie of fine tape, I could count the number of tea towels (at one time I had over 300 all in different coloured stripes and checks) and it made selling and stocktaking so much easier..A mall selection is shown above in my huge Irish linen cupboard. All sold long ago!
Having initials hand-embroidered is now very expensive - it takes much skill and time, A friend of mine has just bought a very advanced electronic sewing machine and I am going to persuade her to have a go with it - will show results if acceptable.

Thursday, 17 October 2013



 The different  styles of decoration in the Indian Palampores are one of their main attractions, with precise drawing and outlines for the flowers, leaves, insects and other wild life.  The intricate patterns on the flower petals and leaves were often taken from Persian designs.   These cloths were highly  prized  in Europe and caused much grief to the traders at home and in France, heavy fines had to be paid for their purchase and use by the public.  This only increased their desirability!  Later on, the ban was removed and factories at Mulhouse and elsewhere produced their own copies and adaptations.  I have been interested to see that Sanderson have produced bed-linen based on Palampores and think the sheets would make very attractive curtains! Keep on scrolling down

   The great palampores of the Coromandel Coast in India are some of the greatest treasures in the world of textiles.   They were huge curtains or wall hangings, hand blocked usually with elaborate Tree of Life centres, incorporating leaves, flowers in amazing elaborate designs, birds and animals and insects, to show a gentle passage through a long life in beauty and calm.  The borders were complicated intricate designs and there was room for the rock-work which formed the basis for the growing tree.    Their production  and that of many quite dis-similar designs, was a long and highly skilled job for many workers who first drew the outlines and then filled in the patterns with wood blocks carved with the details of each petal and leaf, changing them to fit precisely on the original drawings.  Some of the colours were applied by hand with fine hollow bamboo sticks which had little reservoirs of colour.   Inbetween each stage there was the art of fixing the colour with mordants, bleaching, etc. etc., and a final polishing with wax and starch with a shell to make the cloth glossy.   The panels were often printed on very fine cotton woven in big sizes 8 or 10 foot wide and high and when finished after these many processes, were exported to France, England and the Netherlands on the great East India trade routes, partly by land or sometimes entirely by ship from Indian ports past the Cape to Europe..  Their history is well documented and examples can be seen at the V.and A. and the curtains I have in my dining room are super repros hand blocked by the famous textile printers, Bracquenie, who also did the same replacement curtains for David Garrick's bed ( V. and A.). There is a lovely book by the curator of the collection, Rosemary Crill, titled Chintz Indian textiles for the West.   N.B.This is really a re-cap of my  previous notes after I saw a stunning collection in the Museum at Port Louis, Lorient, in Brittany and which is for me, the most memorable exploration of textile design I have ever seen.

Monday, 14 October 2013


  I have always had a special liking for hemp ever since I discovered the handsome working shirt/smocks of the peasants in France and the quilted backings of valuable toile pelmets and bed hangings.  I not only like the very varied textures of hand-weaving, but also the pale natural shades of the cloth that are never duplicated.  I have learned that hemp was the most favoured crop for poor families because it grew like a weed and needed no chemicals or fertilisers to grow well - very different from linen and especially, cotton, which suffers many pollutants in the growing and preparation of the threads.  I have always recommended hemp for curtains as it is softer than linen and hangs in very beautiful folds, it is sturdy enough for valances and for soft furnishing chairs or sofas, provided a firm and closely woven piece is used.  Normally the hemp is found in the old 19c. handwoven sheets and I have sold many hundreds to decorators and private buyers.  Having always insisted on the whitest of white linen, the American decorators finally grasped the beauty of rustic and coarse weaves in 'stone' shades a few years ago,  and with this extra demand the market has almost run dry.
   However it is very good to know that at last the fashion houses have realised the charm of hemp, now often mixed with cotton, or occasionally linen, and I show two examples that came as 'junk mail' to me from  poetry   and they remind me very much of the fine handwork on the old French work-shirts.  It is considered extremely healthy for babies and bed-ridden people as any moisture in the bedding is 'wicked away' to the centre of the fibres and the sleeper stays dry.    Maybe it will be for the sportswear of the future? Scroll sideways for the .full view.  I have no connection with the fashion house Poetry but rather like their stuff!

Thursday, 10 October 2013


  By now, most of us have seen the dashing blue and red striped corn sacks from Eastern Europe, mostly gathered from huge farms where they were used to transport grain to the cereal mills, and which were recognisable by their bright red and bright blue stripes down the long sides, often with attractive cross- stitched initials.    I remember selling the first few I ever saw to a very well-known decorator who  had (luckily for me), never seen them before and much to his surprise, his own special upholsterer, on a whim, covered his two big club chairs with the sacks and placed the initials boldly on the backs.  He told me they caused much interest and everyone wanted to know if they were the initials of his grandmother - reply no, she was not a Hungarian peasant!  Travelling a few years later, to French antique fairs, I saw whole stands with nothing but  these sacks decorating and covering every kind of furniture; stools, sofas, beds, cushions, bolsters, bags aprons, etc., and I stopped using them as many  people found that although they looked attractive and fresh, the weave was often too loose and covers sagged and creased with frequent use. 

    Recently I have come across a dealer who has an amazing supply of heavy hemp from Russia, and these cloths are much more satisfactory for soft furnishing - the weave is heavy and close and the decoration is generally in softer shades than the Hungarian and Romanian, and I am finding that they blend so much better with existing colour schemes, whether traditional with antiques or modern with blonde and sleek furnishings.  I have explained before now that the stripes were a sort of bar code by which the empty flour sacks were returned from the flour mill to the correct farm or village - the stripes said it all!

They are cheap enough, I sell mine for £45 each plus postage and 2 or 3 will do an armchair (the real cost is in the making up, of course)  They do not show marks and are easy to sponge or have dry cleaned by a professional.  I always have armcaps for all my own chairs which can be washed and changed as needed.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

French Affairs

Agroup of my tickings all sold to a Californian decorating business

 Above portrait for World of Interiors Magazine, several years ago!

      I have had a wonderful long love affair with French antiques and textiles - I was first hooked on the dashing, striped tickings used for the old feather beds that kept the French, and many other nations,warm in bed. Tough, closely woven, down proof, in jolly stripes, they were filled with feathers, and also straw, maize shucks and horsehair, two underneath the sleeper on the rigid planks of uncomfortable slatted beds, and one on top, like a tea cosy! The French had very conservative and traditional colours; mostly indigo blue in wide and narrow stripes and a few in red/beige combinations. Other countries, especially Germany, wove them in brilliant colours in hundreds of different combinations, although green was thought unlucky and a difficult dye to fix. Some covers were made with a long slit so the contents could be stirred and plumped up and easily removed when soiled or bug infested, but feathers had to be sealed in with very tiny stitches. In the North of France they are known as Kelsches.

Thursday, 3 October 2013


18c. block- printed quilted bed covers, lined in handwoven hemp. dyed indigo and rose madder

In a previous post I mentioned the overhead canopy of 4 poster beds often acted as a protection against debris from the unplastered ceilings of ancient houses - the curtains were also there for a specific purpose - to provide warmth and shut out draughts and noise - bedrooms were often shared with the large families and often there were low truckle beds for them which pulled out from under the larger beds. Privacy was also highly necessary with heavy quilted and lined curtains enclosing the whole bed. In the very old houses, all the rooms led one out of another with no passages or private doors so life was very communal whether you liked it or not! The curtains and valances from these beds can be very interesting and because they are lined and hand stitched all over, sometimes with a little wadding, they can be re-used for doorways, window pelmets and trims for more modern 4 posters - I always used to have a selection of these (about 16 ft long) to go right round the canopy, in flamme (ikat) weave, toile de Vichy pink checks, and red Toile de Jouy, and occasionally in block printed 18c. flower and arabesque designs, which are the most desirable of all, wonderful colours and superb original designs, still being copied but never equalled today!
Alas! I no longer have any of these as the decorators were always hot on their trail, and anyway they were very rare to find in good condition and large enough for modern four-posters.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013


My break in France on the Cherburg penninsula turned out to be a very pleasant quiet stay by the sea, with long stretches of deserted golden sands punctuated by little ports full of small fishing and pleasure boats.  Hotels and restaurants were largely closed after the efforts of the season but we had a smiling welcome wherever we went for a light and fishy meal.    Keeping to my resolution not to buy any more for my almost moribund textile business was not difficult as the brocantes were closed for holidays and there were no brocante fairs in our area.    Came back to find lots of interesting Emails, some from long lost contacts - Italian lady coming over for the Textile fairs in London this month, another from American author wanting news of handblocked French designs of 18c., Tour organiser thinking of visiting to see my decorations at home (mostly French vintage stuffs) with a party from Tulsa US,  and inevitably a film wardrobe lady wanting linen at two days notice while I was away.    All this is very cheering;  I miss my day to day contacts with buyers and sellers very much and this fills some of the gap.  I am always delighted to help people source what they want, to network in all sorts of ways and to solve textile problems if I can.   Contact me by Email
Different textures in French tea towels