Category: Vintage bedding

Jun 01

21 years on

My homemade wedding dress


This rumpled specimen is my homemade wedding dress, precisely 21 years on. It has been squashed in at the back of the wardrobe.

I made it myself, inexpensively. Very inexpensively: the entire cost was somewhere around £30. I picked a fabric I liked the feel of which was downproof cambric, a utility textile designed to encase duvets and pillows. It had an oystery-pink glow and made a satisfying crinkle when it moved (as if making the right noise when you move is of importance to a bride).

But it was hell to sew, and the clue should have been in the name. Because if it won’t let feathers through, needles and pins won’t be easy either. It must have been sewn on Josephine, and if she’d been able to speak the air would have turned blue.

I remember that the choice of patterns at the time felt really limited. I was looking for something simple and understated and this was the best I could find. We’re talking pre-internet, of course. I  didn’t particularly want those princessy details: a bodice that shape or pointy sleeves (which I should have lengthened in any case) but I didn’t have the skills or confidence to draft my own pattern. And, of course, I didn’t make a toile.

Nevermind. It did the job. And I am still married to the man in the Liberty Tana Lawn tie.



Feb 27

Scrap of the week #19

Death by mustard


These hexagon flowers have been meticulously hand-pieced then machine-applied to a massive  ’70s bedspread which I picked up in a charity shop a while back.

I really don’t like the ground fabrics at all: greeny oatmeal plus mustard textiles, presumably leftovers from curtain projects. Thankfully, the entire item is threadbare around the edges, so I’m toying with the idea of releasing the appliquéd patchwork portions for another purpose. Each hexagon grouping is 13.5 cms across. And there are a lot of them. There are also some bigger hexagon sections which would make great bags or cushions, if teamed with more sympathetic textiles.

Whoever created these hexies was obviously a perfectionist as their pattern placement was scrupulous.

It occurs to me that if anyone out there is staging (or re-shooting) The Good Life, this would look just perfect on Margo Leadbetter’s washing line, or possibly covering Tom & Barbara’s sofa. And now I’m beginning to get flash-backs of the mustard dralon sofas and avocado bathroom suites of my childhood so had better go. Enjoy your week!


Dec 15

Christmas at War

I’m going to be making-do-and-mending with the Museum of Bath at Work this Saturday, helping them to celebrate a World War II-style Christmas. Pop by between 10am and 4pm on Saturday 17th and you’ll likely find me wreathed in brown-paper chains with a ton of darning mushrooms and other selected vintage notions, including some gorgeous Fair-Isle knitting patterns. The museum’s usual entrance fee applies, but you’re guaranteed to really get in the mood; re-enactment group the Blitz Buddies will be there, and I hear there will be music and dancing to make the experience come alive. Incidentally, this event kicks off the 70th anniversary commemorations of the Bath Blitz next year. Bath was bombed as part of the retaliatory Baedeker raids on 25th and 26th April 1942. You can find out more at the Bath Blitz Memorial Project. If you have memories of Bath during the war, the museum would be delighted if you’d come along on Saturday and share them.

The Christmas at War organisers have broken it to me gently that I’m expected to dress the part. I’ve decided to go land-girl style, sporting a Fair-Isle tank top. Fair-Isle knitting was a great way to use up stray odds and ends of yarn (one had to unpick worn-out knitted garments and re-knit) but its popularity during World War II possibly owes as much to an interesting rationing loophole: whereas knitting wool was rationed (two ounces of knitting yarn took one precious clothing coupon), mending cards not exceeding one ounce were exempt. Yarn producers cottoned on to this and duly produced mending cards in an array of colours to meet the demand. Cunning, eh?

Mrs. Sew-and-Sew darns

There were, of course, five Christmases celebrated while the nation was at war. The festivities of 1939 weren’t so different from those pre-war, though new blackout restrictions ended the sight of lit Christmas trees in front windows. Rationing hadn’t kicked in yet, and people spent quite freely on gifts, in spite of the Chancellor’s injunction not to be wasteful.

1940 was the first real wartime Christmas. Britain was under siege. The Blitz had kicked off in London in September, and November had seen the devastating bombing of Coventry. Food rationing had begun in January. Practical Christmas gifts were in: gardening tools, books, bottling jars and seeds, with the most popular gift that year being soap.

Clothing and textiles were rationed from June 1941, and food rationing increased to its peak by Christmas. Petrol and manpower shortages prevented home-delivery of shop goods, so people now had to carry their purchases. Wrapping paper was very scarce, and toys were in short supply and (when they could be found) shoddily made and expensive. Home-made or renovated gifts were the thing. Yet this was an optimistic time because, with the Allies now in the war, Brits felt they would definitely beat Hitler.

By Christmas 1942, two popular gifts had succumbed to the ration: soap and sweets. In order to prepare for the festive season, food coupons had to be saved for months ahead. Homemade decorations were the order of the day; the Ministry of Food made the helpful suggestion that, though there were ‘no gay bowls of fruit’, vegetables could be used instead for their jolly colours: ‘The cheerful glow of carrots, the rich crimson of beetroot, the emerald of parsley – it looks as delightful as it tastes.’

Christmas 1943 saw shortages at their height. There was little chance of turkey, chicken or goose, or even rabbit. Much Christmas food was ‘mock’ (i.e. false): mock ‘turkey’ (made from lamb) and mock ‘cream’ and ‘marzipan’.  Make-do-and-mend presents were the order of the day; magazines printed instructions for knitted slippers and gloves, brooches made from scraps of wool, felt or plastic, and embroidered bookmarks and calendars.

Mending threads

Vintage mending threads

Christmas 1944 was probably the least joyful of the entire war. People had hoped it might be all over by Christmas, after the Allied Normandy invasion of June,  but mid-December saw the Ardennes Offensive with thousands killed on both sides. German air attacks (now V1 and V2 rockets) began in June, with 30 hitting England on Christmas Eve. One surprise benefit of the pilot-less doodlebugs was that blackout restrictions could be lifted, so churches lit their their stained glass windows for the first time in 4 years. DIY gifts were once again a necessity; the book Rag-Bag Toys gave instructions for making a cuddly pig from an old vest, and a doll from old stockings.

The unconfined joy of VE Day 1945 suddenly makes a lot more sense to me. I think I will be relishing my Christmas turkey and tree lights as never before this year!

The Museum of Bath at Work can be found on Julian Road (the Lansdown Hill end), tucked behind Christ Church.










Sep 26

The Bath Brocante

On Saturday afternoon I wandered around the corner for a constitutional and happened upon a little corner of France here on the Eastern fringes of Bath.

Alice Park Brocante

Ooh la la! What a great poster!

The Bath Brocante is a new venture from antiques dealer Katherine Gilmore.

La Brocanteuse!

La Brocanteuse elle-même!

Katherine conceived this as a monthly outdoor event taking place during the relatively clement seasons of the British year. Brave Katherine! Happily, she brought rather a lot of jauntily buntinged canvas along with her too, though in the event the weather turned out to be surprisingly kind; it didn’t rain and was actually warm! So much so that Katherine hardly needed her beautifully embellished tweed jacket at all (which I had to take a close-up of because it was officially adorable and I am nothing if not fixated by such details, especially when they include Liberty fabric. Katherine is probably issuing a restraining order as I type…).

Revamped jacket detail

All the occasion needed was a little music — like this, perhaps (please be patient as it doesn’t play until 21 seconds in) — and maybe the relaxing clink or two from an adjacent boules game? I’m sure these could easily be arranged.

Brocante bunting

If you like what you see, The Bath Brocante series next year will run on the 2nd Saturday of the month (remember the formula, folks!) from May onwards. Do contact Katherine if you’re a French-inspired trader or maker interested in booking a 2012 stall. The brocante’s blog is over here, or you can email Katherine at this carefully disguised spam-defying email address: gilmorekatherine AT hotmail DOT com.

Bath Brocante cushions

Jaunty cushions made from vintage textiles

A bientôt, mes amis!




Jul 12

It’s Darling! Summer Spectacular

It's Darling! summer fair 2011



It's Darling! summer fair flyer back

I’ll be at the It’s Darling! vintage & artisan fair again this summer on Saturday 16th July, bringing my specially selected batch of Scrapiana vintage haberdashery, textiles, handmade items etc. Oh, and lots and lots of strawberry emery grit, just in case you’ve got a yearning to make your own vintage strawberry needle-cushions (as featured in Mollie Makes magazine). Last summer’s It’s Darling! event was the very first of its kind, and the fair is really going from strength  to strength. I hope I’ll be sitting next to the lovely Faith Caton-Barber again (and her glorious bespoke wearable Something Fabulous creations). I’ll be featuring Faith in greater depth on the blog very soon.

If you’re planning a day (or even a weekend in Bath), don’t forget that there’s a new exhibition of film costumes (Dressing the Stars) opening at the Fashion Museum, Marilyn’s costumes are still on show at the American Museum, and the Roman Baths are open till late (10pm in July and August – last entry 9pm). Hope to see you on Saturday!


Jul 04

Patriotic hearts

Patriotic hearts

Patriotic hearts


Comments Off on Patriotic hearts

May 31

Progging rocks

A week or so ago I went to a rag rug workshop at the Museum in the Park in Stroud led by the uncrowned queen of rag rugs, Jenni Stuart-Anderson. I met Jenni at Wonderwool this spring and was fascinated to watch her working on a progged rag rug with a curious sprung tool called a bodger. Only when I got home did I realise I’d picked up one of her workshop leaflets at another event years before and crammed it into the back of a rag-rug book. The leaflet was dated 1993. How time flies when you’re having fun a family! So I decided I’d better try this fantastic scrap craft fast, before something else conspired to distract me for another two decades. And nothing beats a good workshop for learning a new technique, I reckon.

Museum in the Park

The Museum in the Park, Stroud

Happily, Jenni was visiting the Cotswolds for the Stroud International Textiles festival, leading a workshop at the Museum in the Park. The museum itself was a delightful surprise; I’d never been there before, but hope to again. The location, once you find it (my sat-nav wasn’t playing), is lovely and tranquil, and the facilities for classes are excellent (spacious well-lit rooms, nice tidy loos, and just look where you can have coffee!).

Jenni showed us a couple of techniques: progging and plaiting. Here are some of her progged examples:

Rag rug - Jenni Stuart-Anderson

Jenni Stuart-Anderson's circular progged cushion

Blanket rag rug - Jenni Stuart-Anderson

Stunning progged rug by Jenni Stuart-Anderson

And here’s what one of the other workshoppers made from old tea-shirts.

Rag rug workshop

T-shirt curl

I love the way the t-shirt pieces curl like that, like a textile Vienetta. Progging produces a similar result to prodding (have I lost you?), though differs in the execution: it’s worked from the right side of the fabric and is much quicker.

I had a go at plaiting too, so had two rather bitty samples to show for my day. You can see there was a general gent’s textile theme working in my head (old pjs, jeans, plaid shirts etc).

Rag rug workshop

Progging and plaiting

The little circular mat in the middle there was made by my grandmother for a doll’s house. I’m not sure when, but probably mid-twentieth century, if not earlier. It’s made from what looks like striped shirtings. My plaited attempt is supposed to be a kind of homage to that. I’ll let you know when I’ve finished it.

Pretty much as soon as I got home, the cat found the proggy. Jenni assures me that this is quite normal feline behaviour.

Mittens on rag rug

The cat sat on the unfinished mat

I haven’t finished the plaited one yet, but just completed the proggy. It’s a rough beast. I decided to make it very irregular (and succeeded!) throwing all kinds of odds and ends into it, leaving the seams on the denim and not measuring the pieces at all. This sludgy flight from perfection is good for me, I reckon.

Lumberjack proggy

Lumberjack proggy

Some of these scraps are significant: my dad’s old dressing gown, gingham left over from my wedding bunting. I quite like the out-in-the-woods lumberjack feel of the end result. It’s what I’d call a hap rug, after hap quilts. These were pieces that were not really designed, just worked for utility however they happened to develop. In the case of my proggy, from the outside edge in ever-decreasing circles.

Proggy cushion

Lumberjack cushion

Yes, the result is a bit of a mish-mash, but I’m sure the cat will enjoy it.


May 24

Grandmother’s quilt

Shredded quilt

My grandmother's pinwheel quilt

Just take a look at my grandmother’s quilt.

Made in the 1950s – I think, though employing older fabrics – it has been well worn (dare I say abused?) and is terribly shredded but retains much its pinwheel charm.

Feedsack pinwheels

Feedsack fabrics

I washed it yesterday using a delicate soap, gently agitating it by hand in the bathtub (just prodding it, really) before letting it drain (boy, that water was satisfyingly yellow!), rinsing it, draining it again, rolling it carefully and putting it in the washing machine to spin. Then I let it dry flat and supported before hanging it (just damp) on the line to finish drying in the fresh air. All in the name of work avoidance, of course.

Dotty pinwheel

Feedsack pinwheel

You might see it as a cutter, but I think I will drape it somewhere and watch it gently deteriorate.


May 04

Larkhall Festival

I had a very busy time on Saturday afternoon showing the Eastern fringe of Bath how to make little lavender hearts from what began as an old blanket. This was one of the larks of the Larkhall Festival.

Larkhall Festival - Scrap Heart Workshop

Larkhall Festival larks - scrap blanket workshop

Preparing on the Friday was fun; I was able to watch the royal wedding from behind a pair of scissors, cutting out 150 little individual hearts. Can you see how it influenced me as I compiled my groups of ten? No, neither can I.

Blanket hearts a la royale

Cutting out materials for the scrap blanket hearts

And I didn’t shed any tears. That was just blanket fluff in my eye, honest.

Then I grabbed a load of lavender.

Lavender jar

Big jar of lavender

And a few embroidery threads and balls of mohair (which I like to use for the blanket-stitching, though the latter’s not so very good for beginners as it tends not to behave). I took my trusty bunting (made twenty whole years ago for my very own wedding and loaned out since to a gazillion garden parties & fetes), and Mimi’s fish, just for the company and inspiration (“One day, small child, you could upcycle something like THIS!”)

Thanks to the very capable Polly for helping me out. And to everyone for being so patient while I made my way round to you to help thread needles, tie knots and finish off loose ends. Teaching sewing is fun. It’s such an eye-opener, for one thing. Polly asked one very small boy if he knew how to thread a needle. Yes, he replied. A couple of minutes later she looked back at his needle to find he’d meticulously wrapped his thread ever so neatly around the full length of it. Hmmm. I guess that would be one way to legitimately ‘thread a needle’, just not the one we were looking for. She could hardly bear to disappoint him by unfurling it again. That brought me up short as I realised that sewing terms, like any other technical jargon, are fraught with confusion for the complete novice. We quickly forget the strangeness of language, once we’ve digested and understood it.

I was aiming for this type of thing, but the results were more vibrant and various. Blanket stitch wasn’t always the stitch of choice for participants (even if they started out doing it, they frequently ended up producing something else, even if not intentionally) but there was plenty of personality, and I was delighted to see lots of personalising and initialising going on. The lavender seemed to be loved by all, and children were witnessed ‘losing their needles’ in the lavender box just so they could scrunch their fingers through it again and again. And why not? We were chilling. The needles were reassuringly blunt, by the way.

Though tolerant of irregularities and differences of approach (there’s usually more than one legitimate way of doing something) I find myself driven to correct one thing: tying a knot in the thread behind the needle. This one makes me twitch. I don’t know but assume (can anyone confirm?) that this is how sewing is taught in primary schools when kids work with Binca and yarn. I feel that this makes the yarn and needle behave a little oddly and try to encourage simply leaving a longer thread-tail. Am I alone in having this aversion?

I’ve decided I should get off my derriere and offer sewing upcycling classes. Venue tba, but somewhere in Bath. Do leave a comment or get in touch with me via my email (eirlysATscrapianaDOTcom) if you’d like information about these. Be sure to mention if you’d be interested in children’s or adults’ classes, and if daytimes, evenings or weekends suit you best. And don’t forget to leave a means of contacting you.


Mar 14

Green shoots

According to those in the know, we’re hurtling at full tilt towards Bath’s big spring event: the It’s Darling! Spring Fair on Saturday 26th March.

Excitingly, this will be It’s Darling!‘s first spring fair, and it takes place in the midst of the Bath in Fashion festival, though happily no ticket is required to get into ID! If you’ve been to the other It’s Darling! Vintage & Handmade Artisan Fairs (note the re-brand), the venue will be roomier this time: the Friends’ Meeting House, just across from the Abbey, past the benches and buskers –  if you can make it past the SF Fudge Factory.

Yes, I’ll be there all day, toting vintage fabrics, old cotton reels, ric-rac, and Mother’s Day treats galore!

Vintage Fabric

Get your spring greens

I’ll have some particular gems for fashionistas too: vintage silk scarves, brooches, buckles, buttons, as well as the odd eiderdown and… well, you’ll have to come along and see for yourself. If you’re planning a full girl’s day out, don’t forget the Marilyn: Hollywood Icon exhibition, just opened at the American Museum. And you could take a peek at the Behind the Scenes expo at the Fashion Museum. Hope to see you then!

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