Archive | March, 2011

Fairground Mugs

31 Mar

I’m more than a bit in love with these splendid mugs from Snowden Flood, inspired by vintage fairground text and images.

They’re £15.95 each, or £60 for a set of all four designs.


Make-Your-Own Knickers

28 Mar

Thanks to the lovely people at Flo-Jo’s Boutique, you can now make your own beautiful fancy pants knickers!

The patterns are available in gorgeous prints like the cherry gingham one above, and also blue gingham, black gingham, gypsy rose and, my favourite, vintage rose:

The kits, which sell for £12.50, include a graded pattern to fit sizes 8-18, knicker material, gusset material, frilly elastic, ribbon and a label reading “Handmade by me.”

If, like me, you don’t have a sewing machine (yet), you can also buy beautiful ready-made knickers from Flo-Jo. This pair, upcycled from a gorgeous vintage silk scarf, would be my pick:


23 Mar

Alec Walker's 1920s 'Ding Dong Mine' textile design.

Last night I went to a wonderful talk at my local public library on the subject of Cryséde, the 1920s-’30s St. Ives-based textile company.

Cryséde was really the work of two men: Alec Walker, the artist, and Tom Heron, the businessman. The two together created a hugely popular enterprise that produced printed silk and linen fabric and clothing. I was particularly interested in Heron who was a Fabian, a pacifist, a socialist and a supporter of the suffrage movement – certainly not typical of a Yorkshire industrialist of this age. He was also the father of artist Patrick Heron.

Walker had been to Paris and met with Raoul Dufy who taught him how to recreate his artwork as design. Back in Newlyn in the mid-’20s, Walker set up shop in his home, Myrtle Cottage. The business later moved to St. Ives, into larger premises in a vacated pilchard works building.

Walker's designs were cut into blocks which were then hand-stamped onto Cryséde's silk and linen.

Tom Heron came on board as manager and the business thrived with, at one point, 28 shops nationwide and thousands of mail-order customers. Many of the designs were based on Cornish places and scenery, with patterns named Godrevy, Mount’s Bay, Cornish Farm, St. Hilary, Isles of Scilly, Lelant Flowers, and Zennor.

A 1936 linen Cryséde coat in the 'Godrevy' pattern.

A 1930s Cryséde silk dress.

Cryséde’s 1931 summer catalogue read:

Printed by hand in original and very distinctive designs, Cryséde have again taken and kept the lead in these wonderful Linen Coats and Frocks.  So very different and so unlike anything seen elsewhere, they have captured even the imagination of the French.

Seen last year in other designs along every water’s edge from Le Touquet to the Lido, they are proving more popular than ever in 1931.

For obvious reasons, I’d love to own this dress:

A 1928 Cryséde linen dress in the design 'Lelant Flowers'.

Some of my friends who are readers of Persephone Books might recognise a Cryséde design as the endpaper for Dorothy Whipple’s High Wages:

Walker ultimately suffered from marital problems and a nervous breakdown and had a falling out with Heron and with the Cryséde board. What had been a promising venture ended. The company continued to struggle along under various guises until it was ultimately sold to Debenham’s and eventually ceased to exist entirely. It’s believed that most of the blocks used in making Cryséde designs were destroyed by Debenham’s.

Cryséde textiles can be seen at Penzance’s Penlee House, and are also part of the collections at The Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester and at the V&A in London.

Cryséde 'Lobster Supper' design, printed on linen.

Pretty Thermoses

19 Mar

It feels as if spring has really sprung around here this week and that, of course, has started me thinking about picnics in the sun. Or, more likely, Cornish summers being what they are, tea and a pasty in the car in the rain. Either way, I’m going to need a new thermos and here are a few of my favourites.

The Classic Penguin Stainless Steel Flask, available from The Gifted Penguin for £16.99

The retro Beano flask, £17.99 from gottohaveit:

A William Morris anemone design flask from the V&A,  £13.75 at Present Provider:

The Albertus thermal flask, £20 from Berry Red. I like the turquoise one with the pink top best:

A lovely cricket thermos from Ladybird books, £14.95 from The Gifted Penguin:

The Scrabble stainless steel flask, only £8.99 from Great Gifts Etc.:

A thermos featuring Celia Birtwell’s Mystic Daisy print, £15.95 from House of Fraser:

But I think my top pick is this gorgeous mini leather-bound flask from Beg (the bicycle people) for £29.50. It also comes in a larger size for two people:

Happy picnicking!

World Book Night

6 Mar

What a brilliant day yesterday was! Thank you, thank you, Jamie Byng for coming up with the concept of World Book Night.

For those of you who’ve missed out on this amazing event, in a nutshell it’s:

… the most ambitious and far-reaching celebration of adult books and reading ever attempted in the UK and Ireland.

On Saturday, 5 March 2011, two days after World Book Day, with the full support of the Publishers Association, the Booksellers Association, the Independent Publishers Guild, the Reading Agency with libraries, World Book Day, the BBC and RTE, one million books will be given away by an army of passionate readers to members of the public across the UK and Ireland.

The book give-away will comprise 40,000 copies of each of the 25 carefully selected titles, to be given away by 20,000 ‘givers’, who will each distribute 48 copies of their chosen title to whomever they choose on World Book Night.

The picture above represents my takings! I did rather well, don’t you think?

I went to a morning event at the wonderful Morrab Library in Penzance where I was given a copy of John le Carré’s The Spy Who Came in from the Cold … not to mention a scrumptious cream tea.

Then in the evening, a friend and I made our way to the St. Ives Library. I think the library expected a smattering of people, but it was standing room only! The place was overflowing! That was, of course, brilliant news for the library, but it meant that people didn’t necessarily get the book they wanted. But I still managed to snag copies of Alan Bennett’s A Life Like Other People’s and Ben Macintyre’s Agent Zigzag.

The books were given away by local authors Chris Higgins, Marion Whybrow and Liz Kessler who all talked a bit about why they chose the book they did.

Each book given away has a unique identifying number. The point is that you read your book, log your name in the back, then pass it on to someone else. You enter the number on the World Book Night website and can then trace its progress from reader to reader to reader. Brilliant.

My only regret is that I didn’t get myself organised enough this year to apply to be a giver. Not that I didn’t enjoy being a receiver, but I  hope next year to experience both sides of World Book Night.

Mr. B’s Emporium of Reading Delights

1 Mar

Bath has no shortage of lovely bookshops (including the amazing Topping’s), but Mr. B’s holds a special place in my heart.

In addition to a great selection of books over three floors, lovely comfy chairs, book groups and author talks, there’s the wonder of THE READING BOOTH. You pay £3.50 for 30 minutes of peace, quiet and bliss. Close the door to the world, sink into a big leather chair, enjoy coffee or tea and Mr. B’s cookie jar, and lose yourself in a stack of books, audiobooks or music of your choice.

I think my favourite thing about Mr. B’s, however, is the gorgeous giftwrapping.

It’s a beautiful way to give a present to a friend … but I’ve been known to have books for myself giftwrapped because it looks so nice. And when I open my book, it feels even more special.

So next time you’re in Bath, take a walk down John Street and spend an hour or three at Mr. B’s.