Sunday, 24 August 2008

More buttons and trims

These are some of the trimmings and buttons that were taken to Cowslip Workshops this week-end.

We are going to be down there again in November for the Christmas Market. Full details of this is on their website : and also on my Diary page on my website: .

If you missed us this time try not to miss us next time. We won't be there on our own this time there will be other interesting people and things to see.
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Button, Lace and French Textiles

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Linen Sale at Cowslip Workshops

I have just returned from Cowslip Workshops, Launceston, Cornwall, where I have been working on Friday and Bank Holiday Saturday. I travelled down with my friend and working partner Linda to set up a sale of our French Linen and vintage textiles.

The weather was good to us for our journey down and the rain stopped and out came the sun. It takes two hours to drive to Launceston from Dorchester and the miles sped by as we chatted excitedly about the forthcoming two days. While I had been at the Festival of Quilts held at the NEC Birmingham Linda had been in France shopping. She had a successful trip and we spent the three days before we set off to Cornwall, washing, ironing and in my case dyeing as well. We had a car fully loaded with mouth-watering textiles and were pretty confident that anyone who came to see us would not be disappointed.

We both love going to Cowslip. It is such an inspirational place, set among the rolling Cornish hills with views of the Castle at nearby Launceston in the distance. The view itself is quite historic. The Castle stands at the top of the hill with the town settled around it and from a distance it is like looking at a still from any historic epic film. It is very easy to understand why Launceston was the historic capital of Cornwall.

We managed to get the car unloaded before the rain started again. Then we started to unpack our stock accompanied with many oohs and aahs as we re-discovered some of the things that have been in boxes packed away for a few months. It is not very often that we get the opportunity to get it all out at the same time. At most of the Fairs we do we take a variety of things so inevitably some things are overlooked a few times before they make an appearance again. The other thing is that we have been to France a lot this summer and have bought an awful lot of stuff so some things had still been in the process of being washed and pressed. When we had finished we were a bit gob-smacked to see just how much stuff we had.

The Kaffe Fasset exhibition was on in the Workshop at the same time as we were there so Jo had put us in her dining room and we had no trouble in filling that!! Working in this room was a priviledge as the walls are lined with textile art made by many famous Textile Artists and Quilters. Jo has created something really special at Cowslip. She brings really famous and talented teachers to Cornwall thereby giving her local customers and others who travel to the shop the opportunity to work with and learn from Internationally acclaimed Artists without the need to travel out of the West Country. I am a Southerner born and bred and I can't imagine living anywhere else in the United Kingdom but it does have some drawbacks. We are a little starved of culture at times and it usually means a few hours driving time to get to see things, and Dorset does seem to be right out on the fringe.

Anyway back to Cowslip and our Sale. As you can see by my photographs we took a huge selection of things. The table was loaded with beautiful monogrammed sheets and our favourite rustic hemp fabrics. These are a lovely creamy colour and have a marvellous texture. They are excellent for cushions and other soft furnishing projects. The sheets make lovely curtains. We also had a great selection of striped mattress tickings. We have been lucky this summer and have found a great range of the caramel colour. These tickings are getting harder to find so we count ourselves fortunate to have found these.

We also have a large selection of linen shifts and the linen and hemp workshirts. I have started to dye some of these and we have found a great range of French dyes. The colours are different from the ones we find here. I prefer the French ones, but then I am biased!! Our customers liked them as well as we sold quite a few of the dyed garments in several of the colours.

We had both taken some of our own personal stock as well as our joint. We both had our buttons and I had brought some of my lace and a selection of English linen and printed fabrics. We had geared ourselves to taking things that would be appreciated by quilters and embroiders as well as people looking for household linen.

Another wonderful thing about Cowslip Workshops is the Restaurant. The food is unbelievably good. The menu is excellent and it is at times very difficult to decide what to have. The Restaurant is open on Friday evenings and we had an excellent meal. We both had crab salad to start. This was very good. I haven't had a crab salad for a long time even though I live by the sea!! I had Salmon for the main course and Linda had Chicken and for dessert ....... !!!!! ....... we both had Lemon Meringue Roulade with a red berry coulis. Enough said. This was all washed down with an excellent red wine and a cup of coffee. You might think that we spoil ourselves but we do work hard and it is quite physical with all the loading and unloading heavy boxes so we do need to keep our strength up.!!!!!

This has turned out to be a very long post so I hope I haven't bored anyone.

We had a really good weekend and so did Cowslip Workshops. I hope that some of the success of their week-end was down to us. I like to think so as Jo and her staff work so hard and nothing is too much trouble for them. There is always a smile and kind word. They all deserve as much success as possible. It is sometimes easy to forget while being carried away with the ambience of the place and the beautiful shop with all its temptations that all this takes place on a working Organic Farm, and this has in itself a whole host of different problems to surmount, and Jo is just as at home behind the wheel of a tractor as she is in her shop or restaurant.
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Saturday, 16 August 2008

Festival of Quilts

I have spent the last three days at the Festival of Quilts held at the NEC Birmingham. It is a fabulous show and I wouldn't want to miss it. There is such a lot to see. The most fabulous quilts from all over the world are brought together under one roof and it is quite spectacular. I am totally exhausted and must have walked many, many miles over the last few days. The photograph is of the quilt I entered this year. It is called 'Devon Reds' and is another piece of work in my Jurassic Coast theme. I dyed all the fabrics myself and it is actually two quilts. I made the blue background sky and sea first and then added the red cliffs. The 'cliff''quilt is made up of three panels of strip pieced fabrics which include some polyester sheers. In places these have been pieced leaving raw, frayed edges and the whole thing has been heavily stitched both by hand and machine to create texture. I finished the edges by machine using a loose satin stitch and then stitched the cliff top to the background by hand using thick threads that I had dyed at the same time as the fabric, and big stitches. I was pleased with the resulting quilt though in hindsight there are a few changes I would make if I were to do it again. I wasn't lucky enough to win a prize this year but that doesn't matter as I think to have won once at this Festival is an achievement and I shall continue to enter something every year as it gives me something to work towards and makes me use the skills that I have learnt.

I tried not to buy too much fabric as my cupboards are bursting but I was seduced by the Japanese fabrics and some great african indigo prints. I shall use some of these to make bags to sell at a Charity Sale in October. At the next available fine weather slot I intend to have a day in the garden Indigo dyeing and I have also bought some ferrous sulphate to have a go at rust dyeing which I am very taken with at the moment. When the rust dyed fabrics are overdyed with indigo the results are truly magic.
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Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Honiton Textile Fair

Today I have been working in Honiton again. This time at the regular Antique Textile Fair held three times a year at the Markarness Hall in the main street. It was an early start for me, getting up at 5.30 a.m. and leaving the house by 6. The drive down the coast road was not pleasant with plenty of rain and thick mist all the way. It is every stallholders nightmare to be unpacking stock in the rain and this was the case this morning It usually takes about 2 hours to unpack and set up the stall before the public are admitted, but Honiton is slightly different in that the front door to the Hall is open all the time and people wander in and out while you are unpacking and setting up. This is not my favourite scenario as I am in a mess for longer than I like to be but sometimes quite a lot of business is done early in the morning and as I am there to sell things I grin and bear it!! Honiton Textile Fair is a very relaxed event and I don't feel too bad if I am still up to my knees in unpacked boxes and bags at opening time!! It is usually slow to start and this allows us stallholders to have a cup of tea and some toast before we get busy.

In spite of the weather there were quite a lot of people about including some of our usual trade customers looking for stock for their shops or Fairs. I sold several of my 1960's dresses and a lovely 1920's pink devore velvet wrap with lovely long fringed ends to one of my trade customers who had travelled up from Taunton especially. It is always very satisfying to know that you are off to a good start and all the expenses of the day are covered. The high price of fuel is now making us think about how far afield it is sensible to go. As well as selling I have to think about buying and sometimes this is quite difficult to do
because I usually only buy what I like myself. Sometimes this makes it hard to pass it on.

One of the main things that I like about Honiton is that there is an interesting mix of people and styles, which makes for very desirable 'objets trouvee'. Today was no exception and I bought several things. An eclectic mix. From one lady I bought a pair of magnificent Tailor's shears for £8 - what a bargain - and also from the same lady I bought the most scrumptiouus indigo tie dyed strip pieced linen wrap from Mali. It has some damage but I never worry about that as it has many stories to tell and it feels so soft to the touch. I shall hang it somewhere so that I can gaze at it with great satisfaction before I decide what to do with it. The answer will be 'probably nothing' as it is too nice to sell on!! My real prize today, and the one that will keep me excited for a long time was two pairs of shoes. One pair are silk brocade dating from about 1770. They are truly scrumptious. They are not in perfect condition but they are over 250 years old. The silk ribbon on the backs of the heels has started to shatter but the rest of the fabric is fine. The only other damage they have is woodworm in the heels!!! The other pair are a little later - probably early 19th century Regency. They are a very fine duck egg blue kid. Absolutely flat like ballet pumps. These have no damage except for the absence of stitching around the top of one of them has perished. Neither pair look as if they have had much wear and if they have been worn it has been indoors only. These are my 'perks'. I have bought them for my collection. I have a 1770 Spitalfield Silk brocade sack bag dress and the brocade shoes can now be kept with this. I don't have any Regency costume yet so the little flat pumps can be the start. I have a small (about a dozen or so) collection of period clothes ranging from 1770 to 1920 and I get asked by women's groups to take it along to their meetings for them to see and learn a little more about clothes of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Eventually I suppose I shall get rid of it all but at the moment I am trying to fill in some gaps datewise to make a comprehensive collection.

My other purchase was a 1920's Singer hand sewing machine! It works perfectly and is going to live in my garden studio so that when I need to do some stitching I don't have to cart everything back to the house .

So the moral of this story is if you are interested in Textiles or are a Quilter, Embroiderer, Textile Artist, Designer, do please go and have a look if you see an Antique Textile Fair advertised in your area . You never know what you will find and you may just find something that will spark your creative juices and lead you on an inspirational journey.
We Textile Dealers are a happy, interesting bunch with lots of knowledge about our particular passion which we are more than happy to share. We are fair with our prices and will not rip you off - sometimes things are sold on for almost the same price as they cost once we have had them long enough to satisfy our habit!!
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