Calke Abbey – The Chinese Bed

State bed info, Calke Abbey, Derbyshire

The State Bed at Calke Abbey was only discovered in the early 1980s, it was packed away in wooden chests which is just as well as otherwise the Chinese silk would not have been in the pristine condition that we see today.

It’s really difficult to get a good photo of the bed as it’s shut away behind glass within the bedroom, to keep it as safe as possible from damage.
Chinese silk state bed hangings, Calke Abbey

The photos don’t do it justice at all, as it’s absolutely sumptuous in reality.

Chinese silk  hangings, Calke Abbey

There’s a display case in the same room which has some smaller panels of silk in it so you can get a closer look.

Chinese silk, Calke Abbey

It’s thought that the bed hangings were probably a gift from royalty in 1734 when Lady Caroline Manners married Sir Henry Harpur. But they were never used possibly because the rooms in the family’s apartments didn’t have high enough ceilings.

Chinese silk, Calke Abbey

When the National Trust took over Calke Abbey in 1984 they discovered the silk hangings in the chests in the photo below, they are in a room just behind the bedroom. Can you imagine what it must have been like opening up these very ordinary looking chest or kists as we call them in Scotland, and finding all that silk?!

Chinese silk store chest

Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Willow Tearooms, Glasgow

Willow Tearooms  in Glasgow

On our recent stopover in Glasgow I had thought that we might have our lunch at one of The Willow Tearooms in the city. But we were too busy photographing the loads of gorgeous buildings nearby, so we ended up just having Cornish pasties – on the go. Next time we’ll be more organised.

Willow tea rooms

These tearooms were designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh – as I’m sure you will have realised. The photos above are of the tearoom at the bottom of Buchanan Street. You can read about them here. The actual tearoom is upstairs I believe.

The photos below are of the tearooms at the top of Sauchiehall Street. These have only fairly recently been opened as a tearoom again as the building had been taken over by a jewellers for some years.

Willow Tearooms

I think the windows of this one are wonderful. You can see images of the tearooms here.

Willow Tearooms

It was Miss Cranston who commissioned C.R. Mackintosh to design her tearooms for her and you can see the original interior in the Kelvingrove Art Galleries in the west end of Glasgow. There are more images of The Miss Cranston interior in the gallery here.

Nowadays of course there are gift shops alongside the tearooms. There’s so much Mackintosh inspired ‘stuff’ around that we have taken to calling it Mockintosh.

In fact I couldn’t resist buying some Mackintosh inspired fabric from the nearby Manders shop. I got a couple of yards in their sale, at a seventh of the original price! I have no idea what I’m going to use it for though.

Mackintosh fabric

The Great Tapestry of Scotland

Last week we went to the Scottish Parliament where The Great Tapestry of Scotland is on exhibition, it’s the longest tapestry in the world apparently. I meant to visit it this time last year but didn’t get around to it, due to pressure of house selling and too many people viewing our old place. It was my old family friend Isabel who recommended that I visit the exhibition, I knew that it must be good if she was impressed because she’s a really great embroiderer herself.

Of course it isn’t a tapestry it’s an embroidery, but then neither is the Bayeux Tapestry a tapestry, there seems to be a tradition of misnaming such things. I took quite a few photos of the panels which were of most interest to me, but I haven’t sorted them out yet. Meanwhile, you can see images of the panels here.

The tapestry has been wandering around Scotland for the past year or so and nobody seemed able to give it a permanent home but I just heard on the Scottish news tonight that it is going to be on permanant exhibition at Melrose eventually. I’m so glad I saw it in Edinburgh as Melrose isn’t exactly central.

The author Alexander McCall Smith was the chap who came up with the idea of a ‘tapestry’ depicting Scotland’s history and the artist Andrew Crummy designed it with the work being carried out by hundreds of embroiderers from all over Scotland.

Below you can see the first stitch being put into the design.

Ingliston Purchases

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I had bought some 1930s pottery at the Ingliston antiques fair – stuff which I need like a hole in the head, especially as we have too much to pack up already. Anyway, by popular demand – here’s a photo of the things which I just couldn’t resist. If you hate them, just say as I do – each to their own!

I think I’m going to use the Sanderson fabric (Jubilee) in the background to re-cover an old screen which I have, eventually.

Townend, near Grasmere

It seems a long time since we were at the Lake District, in fact it was Easter but I haven’t got around to writing about it all. This is Townend which is an English National Trust property in the Lake District. It was quite a scary drive there, very twisty turny narrow road and at that time of the year there was still a lot of snow at the edge of the road, making it even narrower.

Townend House

As you can see, there are lots of books in this old farmhouse.
Townend, Lake District

In fact I believe there are about 1331 books in the collection. Sadly you can’t get near enough to them to see the titles. Have a look here if you want to see what there is in the house.

Townend, Lake District

I had to take a photo of the family samplers as I’m into that sort of thing and it’s nice to see them hanging where they were actually embroidered.

Embroidery samplers

And the photo below is of the adjacent farm, as you can see it’s still very much a working farm, set in lovely countryside, a great area for hill-walkers.

Lake District farm

Cragside, Northumberland

On our way back up to Scotland, after our short break in Yorkshire a few weeks ago, we stopped off at Cragside in Northumberland, another National Trust property. It was the first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity. Thanks again to Margaret @ Booksplease for pointing us in its direction. We were lucky with the weather, although it had been raining most of the week which meant it was a bit muddy underfoot in the gardens. We got a great day for viewing it all, it’s a very popular destination so it was fairly crowded in parts but most people stayed close to the house. I think it’s best described as quirky, I’m glad I don’t have to worry about all those roof angles but the inside is full of Arts and Crafts details.

Cragside house from gardens

It’s a very homely place though, despite being huge, as it’s Victorian, the furniture isn’t too precious, lots of us own bits and pieces of Victorian furniture and knick knacks, so most of it doesn’t seem grand, especially the bedrooms. I’d love to own a patchwork quilt like this though.

A bedroom in Cragside.

I love this quilt too, as you can see, this room has William Morris wallpaper, one of his brighter designs, they can be a bit dark sometimes. I have absolutely no idea what the boxes on the floor at the bottom of the bed are, I don’t even recall seeing them!

Cragside interior bedroom 1

I took lots of photos of the interior as it was such a nice change to be able to, for some reason the National Trust for Scotland still don’t allow photos inside. So I’ll probably show more of Cragside again soon, it’s a real delight for anyone interested in Arts and Crafts design.

The C – Word

Yes, it’s Christmas I’m talking about of course!

I was walking along a street in Wetherby, Yorkshire, where we were staying for a few days, it was dark and wet – when hasn’t it been wet this year – and we were looking for a good place to have our dinner.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw a well lit window, a possibility for a restaurant or hotel I thought, but no – it was a Christmas window!

Wetherby window

It was early October so strictly speaking not too early I suppose. I remember a few years ago there was a department store near where I live which had a Christmas tree in its window at the beginning of September. SO ANNOYING! Because by the time Christmas comes around most people are sick to death of the whole thing.

Anyway, I must admit that it’s a cosy looking Christmas setting so I had to take a photo of it. I could be doing without the evil looking stag’s head on the upper right hand side, though. I’m wondering why tartan is always thought of as being Christmassy. Is it something to do with Queen Victoria and her love of all things Scottish?

Wedding Dress Tales

I was mooching around the PDSA (People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals) charity shop in Kirkcaldy last week, really just to have a look at the books which had been donated, you never know your luck. But I couldn’t help being struck by this long rack of wedding dresses, I just had to have a closer look.

wedding dresses

Now I was never the sort of girl who dreamt of traipsing down the aisle in a big frock, I really had to have my arm twisted, I would have preferred a much quieter wedding and I didn’t buy a dress until less than a week before the wedding, it was cream, just in case you’re interested because I don’t like bright Daz white, it’s especially unflattering if you have pale skin and red hair as I do. But having got the dress, I must admit that I wouldn’t ever part with it. It’s living in a white plastic bag now because its box fell apart and I’ve been trailing it around various house moves over the last 36 odd years – very odd actually!
wedding dresses

So I just had to ask the lady in the PDSA charity shop if the dresses had all been donated, and apparently they have been. If only they could speak, they would have some tales to tell I’m sure.

There are some absolute crackers of dresses there, if you happen to be looking for such a thing. Ranging from the 1960s right up to much more recent bridal fashions. There are a couple of lovely 1970s designs, similar to my own dress – think Victorian nightdress. A few of the 1980s designs were bought by a film company recently for use in a film

This one was my favourite, sort of champagne/pale cream coloured, with beautiful embroidered roses on the bodice and sleeves. I can only think that these dresses all belonged to women who ended up getting divorced and didn’t want any reminders of the day at all.

wedding dresses

It’s very sad, but maybe things will work out better the next time they take a trip down that aisle. And for any potential brides looking for a bargain – get yourself down to the Kirkcaldy High Street branch of the PDSA. The dresses cost from between £35 and £50 and when you consider that I saw a new wedding dress on sale further along the High Street – just £675 – that was it half price too. It was a hideous thing which best resembled a ruched nylon net curtain. I’d definitely plump for a lovely second-hand dress, after all it’s recycling and if you’re at all bothered about that word second-hand – just call it vintage. And of course, you’re helping sick animals at the same time.

I was sorely tempted to start a wedding dress collection, people do collect them you know, then I remembered, I’m supposed to be decluttering!

Make Do and Mend

I’ve noticed that a lot of people are looking for make do and mend articles at the moment. I haven’t got around to doing any sewing recently, but when I do, I’ve always found the Burdastyle website to be really helpful.

It has lots of tips and ‘how to’ videos which make everything seem really simple and you’ll find that it is useful whether you are a beginner or an expert at sewing.

This recession seems to have awakened a new enthusiasm in people to fix and re-make things rather than just chuck them out.
At least it keeps fabric out of landfill sites, which had apparently been causing problems before.

Floral bag

floral bag

floral bag

I don’t know if this would come under the category of ‘make do and mend’ or ‘remake.’ Anyway – I made this bag from a curtain pelmet. The fabric was actually new as I bought it from a local curtain shop. Someone had ordered the pelmet and then hadn’t bothered to collect it, so I got yards of this lovely floral fabric, all beautifully lined, for just £2.00 – bargain.

Obviously the fabric is very long but not so wide, however, it was just wide enough to make this summer bag and all I had to do was remove the curtain tape and sew a straight line down one end, shape the corners a little bit, trim off the excess fabric, turn the bag right side out and then add some fabric handles which were made from binding material which I already had in my stash.

Some more binding material and a big button finished the whole thing off. I must say that I’m quite pleased with the outcome as I’ve seen similar bags in the shops and they cost about £30 to people who are mad enough to pay it.