The Cottage Orné Quilt

The Cottage Orné Quilt
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Sunday, 29 May 2011

The V&A effect.

When I saw this picture in a magazine recently, it raised some questions in my mind -

This French patchwork coverlet was sold at Christie's in London earlier in the year for £625, failing to reach it's estimate of £700 - £1,000. Patricia Frost, the textile specialist at Christie's, is quoted as saying that in the wake of the V&A exhibition last year it was hoped that prices of patchwork quilts would be more buoyant, but that this hadn't happened.

Now I am not sure whether to be sad or glad about that?  Of course we want these wonderful objects to be considered valuable but in what way valuable?  It seems in this day and age that things have to have a large price tag to be appreciated.  On the other hand when we pay a lot of money for things we generally  look after them!  High prices for patchwork quilts also means that those of us who want them for the "right reasons" can't afford them?  So in a way I am glad that the V&A effect hasn't pushed up prices.

This leads me to thinking what effect the exhibition did have, if any?

Though I make patchwork quilts and belong to a group,  I don't know much about the big picture.  I would love to know how many people came away from the exhibition and took up the craft and if they did what most influenced them?  Whether they liked the modern work or were intimated by it?

I am not sure if we will ever know, though I for one would be really interested.


Wednesday, 25 May 2011

A favourite room

Many years ago, just after I moved to my present house, I saw this picture on the cover of "Homes and Gardens" and because it was a British magazine I assumed that the pictured room was here in the UK.

Actually it isn't, it's in Houston, Texas and I've just found out that it is a room in the the house of Carol Glasser, an interior decorator, who is well known in the Southern USA.

I confess I have always been compulsive reader of design magazines so am familiar with the work of many American decorators, but her name didn't ring any bells.  However, when I saw pictures of some of her work on a favourite blog  - (
I realised I had clipped and filed many of them.

Of course my living room is nothing like this room (I wish) but it has so many elements that I love. The dresser (of course) filled with blue and white Staffordshire - well I have quite a bit of that!  The dark and interesting portrait over the mantel, the wicker furniture and the large scale gingham and toile fabric - I have those too.  The seagrass matting on the floor - well here I was ahead of Carol Glasser on one thing at least!

Now that I analyse the elements, I know the source of our inspiration, it's Colfax and Fowler, that legendary decorating establishment in Brook Street.

In my opinion, John Fowler was the ultimate interior decorator and his body of work has influnced so many of today's designers. Although he died many years ago, if I ever won the lottery I would make a beeline there as it is still in business.  The premises are delightful even though I have just gazed through the showroom window and was too overawed to enter.  So I content myself with just buying wallpaper and some bits of fabric to put in my quilts, but oh one can dream!

The main Colfax and Fowler website isn't very illuminating, this one is better and will give you an idea of their style and it shows Nancy Lancaster's  famous "butta" yellow drawing room on the home page -
There are also a couple of good books - both on Amazon.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Promised Poppies

"Promised Poppies" - that would be a good title for a quilt and I know just the pattern!

A couple of weeks ago I promised you that some lovely poppies would soon be out in my garden and
here they are -

Many of my friends favour poppies over all flowers, I love them but they are not my favourite flower - Pinks are my favourites, but I love their dramatic entrance!  One minute seemingly tight budded and they whoosh they appear!

The first thing I do every morning, after struggling from my bed, is to look out at the garden and see if they have burst their buds!  You can see from the photos that there are lots more to come, but I just couldn't wait to share them with you.

This variety is supposed to be Cedric Morris, named after the famous artist, but I have my doubts!  When I Google that name the poppy that appears looks different.  That often happens to me, someone recommends a certain named variety, I faithfully buy and plant it and it's something else entirely!

In this case I don't mind at all.  I love it's ragged edges and I don't even mind it's colour which I wouldn't have chosen.  My dear Mother used to miscall it Choral Pink, which I thinks sums up the effect these poppies make!

Now to the pattern - I have always liked Ruby McKim's floral patterns and I think this one would do my poppies justice -
Another bright idea to stifle at birth!  I have far too many other things to finish!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011


I have been meaning to share this picture with you for ages.  It was taken last year at the opening of Jen's annual exhibition at her Welsh Quilt Centre in Lampeter.

It is part of a small quilt, obviously done in Victorian times when crazy patchwork was all the rage.  Of course there is nothing "Welsh" about it, as this type of patchwork was done by middle class women in every part of the British Isles then.  It is an example of a "quilt made in Wales" rather than a "Welsh Quilt".

What I found interesting about it was the fact that each little rosette of hexagons had been appliqued to a large black velvet hexagon - you may be able to see this if you zoom in -then these larger hexagons were pieced together.  I thought it an organised way to cope with what is sometimes a difficult shape to assemble.

Jen's 2011 exhibition is now on and I will be writing about it in a future post.  Meanwhile, here's a link that gives some pictures -!/photo.php?fbid=140672539331840&set=a.140672312665196.28935.100944959971265&type=1&theater

Some of my little quilts are also on display in the little gallery. 

Saturday, 14 May 2011

The John Wilson Orchestra and Rod Gilfry

I have never been to the BBC Proms, it's on the list of things to do.  Every year I think maybe next year, but  this year's seem to be booked up already, I just checked!  I can at least watch the TV coverage though and for the last two years the John Wilson Orchestra has been thrilling us with an evening of music from the shows, filling the Royal Albert Hall with their wonderful Big Band sound.

Last year it was a tribute to Rodgers and Hammerstein with a great line up of singers, some of whom were familiar because they were British, the one exception being Rod Gilfry.  All you from the States reading this, please excuse my ignorance, because he is a Californian, who is famous on the opera scene in the USA and in Europe, where he worked for many years.  I am not interested in opera so had never heard of him, but I checked him out after hearing this performance.

I rarely like opera singers who sing popular songs.  As far as I am concerned they should stick to what they can do and not try and muscle in what they don't do very well.  Obviously these albums sell, so what do I know?  Rod Gilfry is a rare exception as he seems to be able to moderate his very powerful voice and sing a ballad very well indeed.  "Some Enchanted Evening" has never been a  favourite of mine, even with Rossano Brazzi miming it, but when Rod Gilfry sang it at the Proms, I heard it for the first time!  Just great!  I was smitten!

Here's the link to the video, have a listen, it's about third of the way through, so be patient -

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

A temporary blip!

Since I gave up teaching, I have also stopped giving talks. I  found driving to a strange area and searching for the venue, together with transporting stuff back and forth without mislaying it, was beginning to pall.  So now I just go and listen to other people giving talks and admire them for all the effort I know it takes.

Well not quite, because somehow I have been persuaded to speak in Birmingham tomorrow.  However, it's not quite the same as I am being driven there and donating the fee but, as ever, I vow that I won't do it again.  When my good friend asked me it seemed such a long way off,  so I agreed and this week I have been preparing.  Here are some of the preliminary sortings -

Unless you do it,  you have absolutely no idea what time and energy goes into the whole process and because we are operating in a female world, the remuneration is meagre.  Most of us accept it because we enjoy it and perhaps treat it as a lost leader to publicise something, maybe classes or a new book.

One of my friends, an experienced teacher of textiles, was once the only female on a  photography course, and found things different in  a male world.  She said how surprised she was that men do not hesitate for a moment when it comes to spending quite large amounts of money on their hobby, including paying the experts who advise them.

I don't think things are going to change anytime soon here in the textile world of the UK.  Financial restraints have always been an excuse but now it's crucial for people who run Guilds and their branches.  However I do think that those who sit in the audience should appreciate that, certainly in the case of textiles, it has probably taken the speaker the best part of three days to prepare and a great deal of confidence and  experience to be up there on the platform, hopefully making it look easy!

Sorry for the rant, normal service will be resumed after Wednesday! 

Friday, 6 May 2011

No more Royal Wedding - now Eric and Tizah Ravilious!

It seems that having "Royal Wedding" in the title of a blog post certainly brings in more readers!   I can't keep doing that however tempting, so it's time to move on!

As my enthusiasm for quilting is still zilch and the Royal Wedding quilt is languishing in my pending basket, I' m having to enthuse over other favourite things.  One of them being the work of Eric Ravilious, who as an official War Artist, was lost on a mission over Iceland in 1942.

This now means that everything he did, and he was extremely versatile, is extremely collectible and so, very expensive.

Naturally because I love jugs and mugs,  I  particularly like the very distinctive commemoratives he designed for Wedgewood.  This Gardening jug is now mega bucks, if you can find one -


He married one of his students, Tizah Garwood, and last Sunday her niece brought two of her pictures to the Antiques Road Show at Winchester Cathedral.

I love naive pictures and I was totally charmed with this one -

Tizah was well known, in her own right as a wood engraver, but of course her reputation was and is  considerably overshadowed by Eric's fame.  Later in her life she did oil painting, a medium that Eric never mastered and she certainly seems to have developed a very different style to her wood engravings.

Paul Atterbury, the Road Show expert, was, I thought, rather condescending about her paintings.  He liked them, particularly the one I have shown above and valued it at £5,000,  rather than a couple of hundred pounds for this one -

This seemed to be mainly because it chimed with the subject matter of some of  her husband's work, as he had done a series of railway images.  It certainly was the most colourful but I like the other too.  Very unfair I think!  This picture doesn't really do it justice as it was extremely detailed and almost three dimensional.

In the meantime, her grandson, Ben Travilious, has put out an appeal for information on the whereabouts of many of her paintings, there are quite a few of them on the list.  Do take a look - you never know, you might have one in the attic!

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Best Dad Award

I would like to award a Best Dad Mug by Emma Bridgewater to Michael Middleton, the father of the new HRH Duchess of Cambridge.

There has been a great deal of coverage on all aspects of this wedding but nobody seems to have mentioned him. 

I think he did the most wonderful job and must have given great support to the bride before the ceremony. His journey down the aisle was measured and calm and he managed it without stepping on her train.  He looked just like a dad ought to look at his daughter's wedding.  I salute him!