Signs of the Times

Hannah Whaler SignwriterWriting signs by hand might be considered anachronistic but Tinsmiths has had a wall waiting for the right writer for ten or so years. Last week, signwriter Hannah Whaler originally from Malvern, brought her brushes and brilliance to Tinsmiths Alley and enlivened the space. Her canvas, long and thin, stretched down the alleyway to Ledbury High Street providing passersby with a harbinger of what they could expect if they followed Hannah’s sign.

Hannah Whaler SignwriterTo see a short video of the finished sign click here. Tinsmiths Way In Sign.

Three days of painting and a creation – part fairground, almost steampunk but more than anything a celebration of type with convincing 3D drop shadows –  was complete and clients absolutely thrilled with it. Before Hannah (23yrs) departed we asked her a few questions about her career to date.

How did you get interested in hand-painting signs?

I first became interested in hand painted signage when I was at university in Falmouth studying Illustration. We were taught how important it was to be able to understand and work with type, often with illustration your images end up responding to or accompanying text, with book covers and posters especially. Once I started looking into vintage lettering styles (all of which are designed and drawn/carved by hand) my obsession began. I moved from drawing letters to painting them, training myself to use a brush and understanding proportion and layouts.

Hand painted letters by Hannah Whaler

What sustains your interest?

I’m really inspired by all the traditional cultures that surround and stem from sign painting – so the circus/fairground, canal boats, gypsy wagons… the folk art side of it really interests me. I do a lot of reading up on these things, looking at how the whole culture and way of life of these people feeds into the craft. As well, just the old examples of sign painting I see around me on the street, there are so many examples still standing as bold as ever tens of years after being painted, hidden away amongst the peeling vinyl! Nowadays there is more new stuff out there than there has been for a very long time, there’s an incredibly talented new generation of painters that are hitting the high street and bringing sign painting alive again. It’s so encouraging to see.

Daily Bread SignWhat’s the best/worst part of it?

The best part is standing back and seeing something come together from what was just a sketch a day ago. I love how the client can watch that happen too, it’s like magic for them, because you kind of know all along what your plan is and how you want it to turn out, but when they see it form before their eyes it’s exciting stuff. I absolutely love working with small independent businesses, meeting people and creating a piece that will benefit them. The worst part is the cold if you’re working outdoors. You sort of paint with your whole body when working on a large scale, so being relaxed and focused is really important, and thats hard when your frozen stiff from 7 hours painting up a ladder! I also have reynolds desease (poor circulation) so in the cold loose my sensitivity in my hands, making it hard to hold a brush.

Hannah Whaler

What do you see yourself doing in the future?

I’ll painting for a long time to come… But short term future I’d like to be in some kind of apprenticeship. I’m self taught, so I know there is SO much left for me to learn. Skills like gold gilding, more knowledge of materials and processes, they are all more strings to my bow and open up more opportunities and avenues for work. Long term future it would be fantastic to travel with my skills – go abroad and paint for people elsewhere in the world.

Who is your best supporter?

It has to be my old manager, James. He owns the bar that I used to work in (for the last year I have been sign painter by day, waitress by night!) at The Gallimaufry. He was the first person in Bristol to give me a proper sign writing job, then by securing me a waitressing place at The Galli I could afford to move over there and start my new life. Since then he has been my guardian angel, hooking me up with other painters and artists, promoting my work and just being a constant source of support and encouragement. He’s passed on not just contacts and work, but a real spirit of generosity that has formed a big part of my ethos now. And of course my mum and dad, because they are the ones ALWAYS at the end of the telephone whenever they need to be there!

Hannah Whaler will be exhibiting at Tinsmiths in July 2016, if you would like an invitation to the show just e-mail your details to




I can think of no other textile so quintessentially ‘English’ and ‘country’ as corduroy – think farmer, cord trousers held up with baling twine or the upper classes off for a day’s shooting.  So I was surprised, after a little investigation, to discover that it is a relatively modern derivation of fustian, a cloth woven during Roman times in Egypt and thought to have originated from the city of Fustat. Fustian, like corduroy, is a plain or twill weave with supplementary weft yarns that form ribs running the length of the fabric. It was originally woven with a linen warp and cotton weft, although other unions, for example cotton and wool, have been popular through the ages. This differs from modern, quality corduroy which is generally 100% cotton. The other distinct difference is that with fustian the weft is not cut, leaving a hard cord, whereas with corduroy part of the finishing process is the cutting of the weft to form the ‘pile’ of the soft cord.
Fustian travelled to Europe from the 12th to the 14th century, accompanied by a number of family members, most notably velvet, and was initially favoured by royalty and the aristocracy. It was also a firm favourite with the clergy and at one time Cistercian monks were allowed to weave no other cloth. Unlike velvet, however, corduroy did not keep its place at the top table. Corduroy’s modern name is thought to come from the French, ‘cord du roi’ or ‘King’s cord’, possibly due to the fact that in 17th and 18th century France royal servants were known to wear it as uniform.
By the 18th century it was the modern, practical, ‘sporty’ choice for outdoor clothing due to its qualities of warmth and durability and its ability to dry (relatively) quickly. By the end of the 18th century though, this was all it was seen as – the prestige and association with wealth had gone. During the 19th century although on the one hand it became popular with gentleman farmers, on the other it became the urban working man’s uniform. Where velvet had retained all its associations with money, royalty, glamour and the night, nothing said a day’s work like corduroy – the English denim.

Image result for English Farmers


A velvet clad toff, in stark contrast with the working farmer!

The 20th century saw a marked improvement in corduroy’s prestige due to the fact that it was picked up by the smart set for sporting and leisurewear during the ‘20s and ‘30s. However, the credentials that had always made it so down-right practical meant that it also saw use as soldiers’ uniforms during WW1, upholstery for Henry Ford’s ‘Model T’ and jodhpurs for the Women’s Land Army – giving their sartorial signature.

Women’s Land Army recruits, dressed in cord and ready for the hard graft ahead of them!

During the 1960s soft, warn corduroy was donned as an anti-establishment symbol. It was the ‘70s, however, that saw the biggest explosion in popularity that corduroy has ever known. During this decade people of all ages, classes and colours swathed themselves in cord of every shade then lounged on their corduroy clad sofas!

Image result for 1970s corduroy

There are no words!

Although corduroy originated in the east, by the 16th century fustians were being widely manufactured in Britain. Lancashire was a hot-spot of production and in many parts of Europe corduroy is still called ‘Manchester’ (a bit of a contrast with ‘cord du roi’!) Sadly though, there is no production left in the U.K. Today a myriad of cords, ranging from needle cord (at 14-18 cords or ‘wales’ per inch) through to elephant or ‘constitutional’ cords at as few as 3 wales are still being produced and consumed worldwide. That said, you might be waiting a long time before it becomes super-trendy again (in large part because we’ve all been left feeling a bit queasy from the ‘70s!) It seems to me that in its main application as clothing corduroy is a bit of an unsung hero of the wardrobe; like the potatoes on the plate, over-shadowed by their tastier, more exotic and highly seasoned companions. Yet in the present day this wonder-cloth can boast more kudos when used for upholstery. In this application it seems to have managed to untie the fetters of bumbling country squire and dicey cord flares and instead attained an air of knowing cool!
Image result for corduroy upholstery tinsmiths

Victorian armchair upholstered in Tinsmiths’ Forest Corduroy


To describe something as “chintzy” nowadays is to describe it as rather blowsy, a bit “Mills and Boon” and not very sophisticated. So let’s see whether this is deserved…….

Interior by The Prince of Chintz,  Mario Buatta (US) who is best known for his English Country House style using Chintz widely.

Interior by The Prince of Chintz, Mario Buatta (US) who is best known for his English Country House style using Chintz widely.

Chintz, when first discovered in India by pioneering European tradesmen was a hand printed, mordant- and resist-dyed patterned Indian cotton cloth flattened and burnished with buffalo milk and myrobolan (a dried fruit containing tannin) to give it a smooth surface. Pattern was usually large scale and exotic in the Mughal style.

18th Century Block Printed Indian Chintz

18th Century Block Printed Indian Chintz

Spice traders of the late 17th century brought this new bright and colourfast cotton to a world used to rather dull wool and silk fabrics. Cotton was something new and it was immediately adopted for bed-coverings and home furnishings. It may have been at this point that the fabric gained a poor reputation as it is reported that the worn-out wall coverings were recycled by servants for clothing. It wasn’t long before the comfort and vibrancy of these fabrics became popular for all classes of society; reportedly, Daniel Defoe protested that “persons of quality dress’d in Indian carpets.”

Jacket in chintz, skirt in wool damask, 1750-1800. Jacoba de Jonge Collection in MoMu - Fashion Museum Province of Antwerp, / Photo by Hugo Maertens, Bruges

Jacket in chintz, skirt in wool damask, 1750-1800. Jacoba de Jonge Collection in MoMu – Fashion Museum Province of Antwerp, / Photo by Hugo Maertens, Bruges

Soon after its introduction in the West, orders for specific designs were sent back to India with the Traders. These would include heraldic motifs and European flowers, for example, desired by the home market. As trade became established orders for small scale designs were made, the cloth being used for waistcoat lining and other uses in dresses and coats.

Enter the protectionist backlash: England may have been tired of the dull wools, linens and even silks but they were a little more “homegrown” and livelihoods were under threat by these imported Chintz fabrics. In 1701 a law was passed forbidding the import of printed cotton or silk chintz fabrics – unless they went back out of the country as exports! David Garrick and his wife even lost their bed coverings to the law.

The workaround; passion for chintz was unstoppable. In a sense the original artisan cloth was a victim of its own popularity. Demand was so high that quality suffered and reputation fell opening the door to an innovative and lawful imitation. Plain cottons were brought in and roller-printing techniques developed which are still in use within the commercial fabric industry today. This Western “take” on Chintz is what is broadly recognised today.

So, there are two generations of Chintz in the West – the original artisan-produced labour-intensive fabric imported from India and Asia and the second later European version which, by 1850, roller-printed cloth using synthetic dyes.

Putting a good “shine” on Chintz increases the vibrancy of colour and so, from the beginning, Chintz was coated with wax, starch or resin and hot calendered between polished rollers to produce a sheen on the printed side of the fabric. This also helped to protect colours from damage from sunlight as the face surface became to some extent reflective. This finish is now part of the definition too.

So, is Chintz to be looked down upon? It seems there are chint and chint fabrics – but let’s go to the source and say that exotic, large scale and vibrant designs printed with a confident depth of colour can be very effective and bring something really rich to a room.

From Tinsmiths' range of Extra Wide Cotton Fabrics:  Pondicherry

From Tinsmiths’ range of Extra Wide Cotton Fabrics: Pondicherry

From Tinsmiths range of Extra Wide Fabrics: Bukhcotta

From Tinsmiths range of Extra Wide Fabrics: Bukhcotta



Crewel Work

normandy_bayeux_7383cBayeaux Tapestry, depicting the events of the Battle of Hastings and Norman Conquest in 1066, record of it first appears on the Bayeaux Cathedral  inventory in 1429.

Well, I thought I knew what was meant by Crewel Work, but there is debate amongst embroiderers, historians and enthusiasts. So, to be specific, I am describing raised embroidery on heavyweight linen or cotton using wool rather than silk or any other yarn. I say “raised” because the designs do not completely cover the back cloth, leaving a texture to the fabric. Traditionally, a rough pattern was marked on to the back cloth using either a pricked pattern and a pounce (a talc-filled bag, padded onto the pattern and allowing talc through to mark guides) otherwise the technique was “free” allowing interpretation and embellishments, in contrast to the thread-counted silk embroideries.

english-crewel-v&aThis curtain is from a set of bed hangings which, when pulled closed around a bed, provided warmth and privacy. They were usually the most important part of the bed, generally referred to as the ‘furniture’, and were often valued more highly than the wooden bed frames they decorated.

The curtain is embroidered in a technique known as crewel work, from the crewel or worsted wool used. Crewel work was popular through much of the second half of the 17th century, and was used extensively for bed hangings. It was usually carried out on a strong ground fabric of linen and cotton twill. The embroidery is worked in stem, satin, coral, herringbone and link stitches.

Needlework was a skill taught from early girlhood in 17th-century Britain. Adult women might earn their living from it, or use it in the upkeep and decoration of their households.

The seventeenth century was a high point in the production of crewel and it is often referred to as Jacobean embroidery featuring highly stylized floral and animal designs with flowing vines and leaves. Many of these would be exotic and incredible to their audience. The term “Crewel” is thought to be derived from curl, meaning the staple or average length of fibre used to spin into the yarn used for such a technique.

waistcoatImage traditionally called Dorothy Cary, later Viscountess Rochford, c. 1614-1618 showing richly embroidered waistcoat.

Outlining stitches such as stem stitch, chain stitch and split stitch create areas that are often filled with satin stitch, using tonal graduations to give the impression of shade and light. Occasionally couched stitches (where one thread is laid on the surface of the fabric and another thread is used to tie it down and create a trellis effect), Seed stitches and French knots embellish the overall design.

stem_stitch-LGNchain stitch

frenchknotseedsatinsplit stitch





The crewel work of the 17th century was used lavishly for bed drapes and wall hangings – it was a time of affluence in Britain and, with the establishment of trading links via the East India, crewel work began to be produced in Asia. A wave of interest also carried across the Atlantic to America and there are many fine examples of crewel work appearing in the USA in the 18th century up to the time of the revolution.

bed rugBed rug, 1796
Maker Unknown (American)
Colchester, New London County, Connecticut
Linen/cotton and wool;

The Arts and Crafts Movement of the late 19th century next saw a revival in the UK. Led by William Morris, the movement believed in going “back to the earth” and his marriage to Jane Burden and the establishing of their home was the pivot that steered Morris to his devotion and study of the decorative arts.  In particular, Morris invested time in producing natural dyes to provide soft shades of blue and green woollen yarn. Morris expanded medieval design to reflect his generation and need. The long and short stitch was nicknamed the Kensington stitch and a cottage industry was formed to produce the embroideries.

morrisEmbroidered hangings or bed curtains designed by May Morris (1862-1938) in 1891-2 and stitched between 1898 and 1902. Worked in crewel wools on natural linen in stem stitch with satin, chain, running and knitting stitches and French knots, the ground is of narrow widths of hand-spun and woven linen with the edges butted and seamed prior to embroidery.

crewel-fabric-berrington2[1]morants4[1]When we, at Tinsmiths, found a supplier of crewel work fabric a couple of years ago, we decided to offer the fabric on the basis that it has a weirdly austere luxury – a contradiction in terms but one that describes a cloth that is quite distinct from any other.

You can find our “Hall” fabrics Berrington & Morants in the patterned fabric area of our on-line fabric shop. If you are inspired to sew some crewel of your own, linen backclothes can also be found in our web-shop. We would suggest using a linen such as Wholemeal, Highland or Linen Flax.



What do Cider Maker’s Do All Day? Tinsmiths’ Calendar Post

Simon Day Cider MakerIn this series of “working lives posts” I have tried to ask everyone comparable questions and not assume that anyone chose their career! Cider-maker Simon Day gave me a great set of answers so I have simply given them, unedited, and added photographs.

How did you (or did you) choose to become a cider-maker?

My background is in winemaking, having been brought up at Three Choirs Vineyards, and then working in various wineries and vineyards around the world, so I wasn’t expecting to become a cidermaker. That all changed when my wife Hannah & I moved to Putley.

In May 2007 I went along to the Big Apple Blossomtime Festival and tasted ciders and chatted with a number of producers – it was the proverbial “light-bulb” moment  – so many ciders in so many styles, it brought it home to me just how alike wine and cider really are.  At the same period I was enjoying taking our dog walking around the Putley countryside.

As I walked alongside Dragon Orchard throughout the seasons I could see that it was very well looked after and produced beautiful looking cider apples. Dragon OrchardsSo, there is a saying that “Wine is made in the vineyard” – in other words you can only make good wine from good grapes.  If the same applied to apples and orchards, I felt I was witnessing some potentially excellent cider! We got to know Ann & Norman Stanier, owners of Dragon Orchard later that year, and after a couple of meetings I proposed a coming together of skills – growing and making – and we formed Once Upon A Tree, making our first ciders in Autumn 2007.

Days and Staniers Walking in the Orchards

(left to right) Norman & Ann Stanier with Simon & Hannah Day in Dragon Orchard

I had made cider before at a winery and distillery in Jersey, but most of the cider production went into the pot still.  Once Upon A Tree was an opportunity to be more experimental and innovative with the raw materials, particularly to make cider in a wine-like way, to make ciders that were perfectly matched to enjoying with food – something I felt was lacking in the industry at the time.

* What is your daily routine?

The routine varies enormously.  We are a small company, so everyone tends to pitch in wherever needed.  One minute I might be in a meeting with a buyer discussing the minutiae of an export contract, the next, shovelling spent pomace from the press!

As production has grown we are now able to employ a small but very capable team, and I am spending an increasing amount of time in the office, but my heart belongs in production – tasting, blending, watching the ferments develop into the final ciders, coaxing the very best out of each vintage.  That’s where you will find me throughout harvest – September through to November, 7 days a week 12-16 hours a day and loving it.

pressing the pulp

Squeezing out the apple juice from apple pulp

* Who/What inspires or has influenced you?

I do enjoy our industry – cider makers are a very friendly bunch indeed, and I have to say that there are a number who have influenced our methods over the past few years.  From retired cider scientist Andrew Lea of Long Ashton with his incredible in depth knowledge and scientific approach, to the more traditional cider makers such as Mike Johnson of Broome Farm and Tom Oliver of Oliver’s Cider.  They may not know it, but they have all given generously with their knowledge and experience they have taught me to be more open minded in my production methods.  But perhaps my greatest inspiration goes back to the 17th Century when Lord Viscount Scudamore of Holme Lacy was working (with others) on in bottle fermentation – the Champagne method as it is now known – a time when cider was the drink of choice of the aristocracy and was lovingly served in the most ornate cider glasses as can be seen at the Cider Museum in Hereford.  I hope that we are a part of a cider revolution that celebrates the diversity and quality of a crop that so perfectly suits our county.

3650166746* What spurs you on when things don’t go to plan?

Sometimes when things don’t go to plan, you end up with something exceptional.  Our dessert pear wine “The Wonder” is testament to that being the case when I couldn’t manage to stop the fermentation at normal perry levels, and then onto 13% alcohol – deliciously warming and ice-wine like, it is now a regular!

The WonderWhenever things don’t go as expected, you look for the opportunities that may arise from the situation.  If I’m having a particularly bad day, I’ll drag my dog out into the orchard, and very quickly things straightened out in my mind.

* What are you planning in the near future?

Expansion!  We are joining forces with Haygrove to build a new cider making facility that will enable us to cope with the demand we have created – currently we are selling out of stock each season before the next ciders are ready.  We have already been making a small amount of wine and have recently launched our new range – Sixteen Ridges – available in our Three Counties Cider Shop at 5a The Homend, Ledbury (01531 248004).  Look out for our limited release of Sparkling Pinot Noir Rosé in time for Christmas and the New Year!

Three-Counties-cider-shop ledbury

Have a treat & visit the most wonderful cider shop – well, actually much more than cider. The word comprehensive comes to mind.

What do Fruit Growers do all Day? Tinsmiths’ Calendar Post

This morning was not the best time to turn up at Cilla Clive’s Fruit Farm, Redbank, close to Ledbury.

Cilla Clive Fruit Grower

Cilla Clive Fruit Grower

Despite the pressures of harvesting, monitoring ripening apples and huge decisions to be made as the fruit market across Europe reels at the fallout from Russian blockades, Cilla was welcoming.

“I grew up on a farm growing hops, cider, blackcurrants and Hereford cattle. My father believed that women should have proper roles and, when I planned to go to agricultural college at Seale Hayne, he suggested I study agriculture, rather than specialise in dairy from the start. He didn’t want me to be tied to a cow’s tail”.


Cilla’s Father, Denys Thompson.

Her father wasn’t the only person to encourage Cilla to furnish herself with the knowledge that she needed to be an independent woman and fruit grower. In 1974 she embarked on a “crash” course in fruit growing with instruction from Dick Clive.

Dick Clive Grafting

Dick Clive Grafting

The winter of 1976 found Cilla planting strawberries in the snow on the south-facing banks of Wall Hills, near Ledbury which became Red Bank – the nucleus of a many enterprises in later years. The strawberries were a cash crop to help fund the longer-term investment in orchards which have been Cilla’s main concern in the intervening years.


‘Long term’ is a phrase that crops up around fruit growing – commercial fruit tree nurseries and marketeers need to know what you will be planting in the next five years and what you will be harvesting in the next decade.

Preparing the Ground 1976-1977

Redbank before Fruit

Redbank before Fruit 1976

Clearing Orchard Boundary 1976

Clearing Orchard Boundary 1976

Planting the First Strawberries 1976

Planting the First Strawberries 1976


Building the First Apple Store 1978

Building the First Apple Store 1978








First Strawberry Harvest 1978


Weighing them up 1978










Work starts at Red Bank at 8am at this time of year when workers arrive and the length of the day depends entirely on the season.Cilla at 73 yrs, has only just, under advice from medics, given up tractor driving but is firmly in the driving seat making decisions daily if not hourly.

Cilla Tractor Driving

Cilla Preparing the Ground 1976

First Apple Harvests

Buckets of Apples

Buckets of Apples

First Pickings

First Pickings






First Apples for the Apple Store

First Apples for the Apple Store


Of course, Cilla takes advice and she takes it widely and with great care. I was struck by the way she is constantly comparing fruit growing across the world, listening and filtering facts and anecdote. What in her working day would she gladly be rid of?

“There is a ton of office work, which is a pain, but I am lucky to have the back-up of my son’s business, Haygrove, which allows some relief from it. I am a grower – that’s it”.

Misty Morning at Redbank, Sept 2014

Orchards on a Misty Morning at Redbank, Sept 2014

So what to grow in the future and what drives her forward?“Inheritance Tax!” she exclaims, and, as it turns out, global warming. The champagne regions are on the move North and growing grapes for wine is becoming a real option in Ledbury. But this isn’t the first time that the slopes of Red Bank have been vineyards.


In 1266, Thomas Cantilupe, Bishop of Hereford and last English Saint, visited his palace in Ledbury to hunt boar on the Malvern Hills, instructed that the vineyards on the south facing slopes of the Wall Hills be re-planted. Now Cilla is doing it again. Bacchus (grape variety) is gradually re-claiming the slopes, and in this, its first year, looking good.

“I realised that apple growing was unlikely to be of interest to my son whereas grape-growing and wine-making would excite him. I put it to him and was delighted by his interest.”

Cilla’s excitement at this new area of activity is tempered by her practical, business-like approach and years of experience; she explained that it is always important to grow for demand rather than personal preference and to spread risk in this weather-dependent realm of horticulture. The world of wine-making is short of Bacchus, hence Bacchus……

First fruitings of Bacchus at Redbank 2014

First fruitings of Bacchus at Redbank 2014

Cilla has no plans to retire, she enjoys being part of a multi-generational and international fruit growing community all around her home in Ledbury and making research trips nationally and internationally.

“I had a great road trip two years ago to see my first batch of young grape vines growing in a specialist nursery in Luxembourg. The nursery-man was surprised to see me, apparently nobody visits their young plants, but it’s good to make the connection and I think people make a special effort in response”.

Jazz Apples at Red Bank

Jazz Apples at Red Bank

Many thanks to Cilla Clive for an hour of her time – in the middle of apple picking!  I look forward to a Spartan, Jazz, Cox or Bramley soon and a little later, a glass of something from Bishops’ Vineyard.