Tinsmiths Shop windows shining determinedly through the temporary pause.
We are so, so pleased to be out the other side of a foggy, second lockdown and opening our doors once again. It has been such a pleasure to fill our new shop space in anticipation of the return of Tinsmiths customers, old and new. We, as always, have a bountiful selection of seasonal delights, one-off treats and our timeless Tinsmiths favourites. We are loving having shop front windows and dressing them has been such a delight. At the time of writing, they are showcasing a fantastic selection of Angela Harding prints, woven willow baskets, Tinsmiths 2021 calendar and the best ever Christmas wreaths and garlands.
Cork trays! So many practical and environmental positives.
Cooking and Dining essentials on display with Tinsmiths Ceramics favourites and wonderfully cosy Fair isle jumpers.
Ruffle cushions sitting pretty. Made up in our sewing rooms using Tinsmiths Ticking Fabric.
Our Card Wall is back! A card suitable for any occasion or simply to stock up the card box!
Our extensive range of books never ceases to fill us with intrigue, wanderlust or a desire to make.
Utility at Tinsmiths. A cornerstone of good quality, functional items for the home with longevity.
We are still very much using the original Tinsmiths spaces and they continue to serve us heroically. Our fantastic former showroom has taken on the role of warehouse and oversees the packing of orders which continue to go out in great numbers everyday. Likewise, Little Tinsmiths is now used as the Sample Room and is home to the infamous sample draws. All our fabrics are available online and we offer fabric swatches and returnable samples so you can be sure you are happy that the fabric you choose is going to work for your projects.
Tinsmiths former Showroom.
A snippet of our extensive range of natural fabrics. With something suitable for any project, big or small!
Both the shop and the town of Ledbury have been spruced up in anticipation so if you plan on visiting the area this month we think you’ll like what you see. With a variety of independent shops to choose from, there has been a real effort by the town and local businesses to create striking window displays and put up festive lights which, as the night draws in, really make the town sparkle. What better time to pay us a visit?
We would recommend making a day of it, not forgetting to include time to stop for lunch at the Malthouse Cafe or perhaps to pick up some delicious deli treats at Ceci Paolo to take home.
Our current shop opening ours are Wednesday-Saturday 9:30am to 4:30pm. Our office is open Monday-Friday from 9am to 5pm. We look forward to seeing you and wish you all well, stay safe!
On a quiet shelf in our showroom among an abundance of fabric rolls and remnants lies a humble pile of antique patchwork quilts. These quilts all unique with their own story in every stitch and fold, combine the intricate art of patchwork with the precise skill of quilting.
In the past, patchwork and quilting techniques were essentially ways of recycling and repurposing cloth. Limited availability or high prices drove makers to come up with new ways of creating cloth for clothes, bedding, blankets, curtains and so on. Stricter social roles also meant that women, often the makers in those times, were limited in their artistic expression and creativity. So, quilting and patchwork blossomed as art forms as they did not carry the same expectations as mainstream art. Assorted scraps and offcuts were carefully collected and delicately stitched together in geometric blocks or floral designs then sewn to a back cloth and wadding layer. Reflecting their makers culture, aesthetics, life events, stories, principles and imagination, these textiles are an advocate of beauty in imperfection and most importantly an unwillingness to waste.
An unfinished antique quilt in our collection
Quilting is quite simply the stitching that holds the two or more layers together; some of the earliest quilted work was made up of two layers of cloth with a plump batting in between. The stitching of the three layers can become the decoration just like the elaborate all-over designs of the whole cloth quilts of Durham and the North Country.
Patchwork & Quilting, A Maker’s Guide from Thames & Hudson and V&A.
Before modern industrialisation, larger quilts had joins as the early looms were not so wide and so the wholecloth quilts were made up of strips of cloth to make them large enough for bed covers. In many types of quilting, patchwork especially, the stitching is a consistent running stitch or backstitch. These methods can be seen across a range of quilting techniques from English and Welsh wholecloth and strippy quilting to the Sashiko techniques of Japan or the Kantha patterns of India.
During the Great Depression Feedsack Quilts were birthed as a new style. Women used the plain cloth of sacks of grain or corn to make undergarments or blankets; these were plain but essential. The sack manufacturers soon realised they could market off this necessity and began to print coloured sacks and then all kinds of patterned sacks from florals to landscapes to pre-printed doll patterns. There was much competition to produce the most desirable sacks and women would choose the feed for the farm based on sack design. In today’s connected society, feedsacks have been rediscovered in the abundance of textile waste and creative recycling has sparked designers to use the sacks in their pieces. 3 Women Co of Long Beach, California create sustainable garments using vintage rice, flour and feed sack cloths.
3 Women Co, two piece made from 1960s flour sacks.
On the whole, patchwork is made by sewing small pieces of fabric together creating a larger patterned cloth. ‘Patchwork’ and ‘quilting’ of course go hand in hand but really quilting has its own story. A lot of patchwork actually remains unquilted. America, Europe and Asia have historically produced geometric patchwork designs with uniform shapes and repetition. There is a shared need to save precious fabrics and the similar designs of these continents share influences through their expanding trade routes.
19th Century Diamond Patchwork Quilt
Antique patchwork quilts sit rather suitably in our range of homewares. Bringing such rich history and intrigue the quilts are an absolute labour of love, something rather valued at Tinsmiths.
In the latest in our occasional series of posts about cloth the focus is on linen. Starting with the basics; linen is a fibre which is obtained by processing the ‘Linum’ or ‘Flax’ plant. ‘Flax’ has a pretty blue flower and is grown for both the fibre and the seed all over the cooler regions of the world, with high quality linen being particularly associated with Ireland, Belgium, Latvia and Lithuania.
Linen has a number of properties which make it really good to use in the home; it is cool to touch and can absorb up to 20% moisture before it feels damp, it is lint-free, does not pill and is durable to abrasion although because it has low elasticity repeated ironing of folds will eventually cause the fibres to break (the cuffs of linen shirts bear witness to this) . It is not of interest to moth or carpet beetle and is easy to take care of washing well even at high temperatures and has only moderate initial shrinkage. It can be finished to maximise or reduce these properties and can be woven as a ‘union’ with other yarns to produce cloth with particular characteristics. Linen has been used by humans as a textile for at least 30,000 years and with such a long history and with it’s particular properties the uses that linen are put to are extensive; bed linen, tablecloths, napkins, dish towels, glass towels and bath towels, home and commercial furnishing items (wallpaper/wall coverings, upholstery, window treatments, sheer curtains etc.), apparel items like dresses, shirts and suits, luggage, artists canvases, it is used by bookbinders and bakers and for paper and banknotes. The Tinsmiths selection of ‘Linen Fabric’ has grown steadily over the years and we now offer linen in qualities from very fine sheers to the chunkiest 712gsm upholstery linen.
As curtain makers we have always been slightly dissatisfied by the drape achieved by some of the stiffer linens and we now offer ‘Washed Linen’ in a really good range of colours and stripes – curtains made with this ‘Washed Linen’ drape fantastically, falling heavily to the hem.
Linen has always been the luxury choice for bedlinen in hot climates because it keeps cool and dry even in the most humid conditions, however we have always felt that natural unbleached linen for curtains and furnishings is an excellent option for bedrooms where a calm and relaxed environment is required.
Of course Linen is a good upholstery cloth, the heavier weights are required for durability and for ‘severe domestic use’ some linen unions stand up to wear outstandingly, achieving very high rub tests; many of our upholstery fabrics have a high linen content and achieve very good results when tested for durability. For loose covers the stability of linen comes into it’s own, because it generally washes with a minimal initial shrinkage and takes washing and cleaning processes well, it is the ideal choice for loose covers.
Ticking fabric was traditionally a very densely woven cotton herringbone or twill weave cloth used for making mattress & pillow cases. The derivation of the word ‘Ticking’, material used to cover pillows and mattresses, is from the Greek theke, “receptacle”. Ticking cloth was traditionally woven with even narrow stripes in the warp, usually in navy or black & cream, however many variations of stripe pattern & colour have evolved.
Our collection of vintage tickings gleaned from bric a brac sales, flea markets etc.
Modern ticking fabric is generally not feather proof as it is woven and finished for qualities of drape and wear for curtains or upholstery. Traditional ticking fabric was also made feather proof by waxing or soaping on the back. Tickings have been a mainstay of the Tinsmiths’ fabric collection since we opened in 2004, and we now stock an excellent range of excellent quality ticking from mills in the UK & EU. We only stock traditional woven ticking cloth with a herringbone or twill weave, & over the years have used it for many successful projects as curtains, blinds & upholstery. For curtain use our tickings have an excellent drape & for upholstery use we have found our ticking to be extremely durable with some of the cotton ticking that we stock achieving a rub test of 35,000 cycles.
Old Armchair re-upholstered in Anthracite, note how well ticking works as piping to give a lovely finished edge.
Ticking fabric is an excellent choice for those wanting a scheme that will not date; neither cutting edge contemporary or fussy or twee, ticking is a straightforward classic cloth which will look good for decades.
Cotton Ticking Curtain in Dove Grey with slightly wider stripes than tradition ticking.
Tickings from a huge range on the shelves at Tinsmiths:
Cork Harvesting – a one-man job
Cork, a beautiful material which has fallen from favour in recent years following over-exposure in the 1970’s, has a fascinating history and stunning properties. In a world that must manage resources more and more carefully, re-considering the use of cork is a great idea.
“Unusual” Uses of Cork
Portugal is the largest producer of cork by far and the wine stopper remain the most common use of the wood. But, would you consider sitting in a car seat made from cork? If you did your car could be 45 kg lighter, use less fuel and at the end of its life the seat would be entirely recyclable. This is one of the new applications being pioneered by Magna, the world leader in automotive parts. It is undoubtedly a supremely functional material, light, warm, water resistant and sustainable but what about good looking too? Here are some examples from Tinsmiths’ Homewares.
Tinsmiths’ Corkage – cork for bathroom, dining table and kitchen.
Rectangular Cork Placemat
Thick Cork Teapot Stand
Cork Shower or Bath Mat
Insulating Cork Tea or Drinks Tray
Large Round Cork Placemat
Cork Facts: Cork oak grows in areas of the world that would suffer desertification without it and provides employment for local people with specialist knowledge. Cork Oak is harvested from the outer layer of the tree every nine years, for an average of 150 years and when expertly done, the tree is unharmed. There is no waste in the processing of cork as even the smallest or least valuable pieces are used in a composite material that can be shaped and moulded.
The world’s largest and oldest cork oak is called Assobiador (whistler). This name is inspired on the sounds of the songbirds that land on its branches. This Cork oak was planted in 1783 and it is over 14 metres high and has a trunk perimeter of 4.15 metres.
Assobiador – 235 years of cork from the oldest known tree.
If you think, when strolling around Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona, that sounds are “soft” and the floor is warm – well guess what? Yep, cork.
Sagrada Familia Cathedral Cork Floor (Gaudi, Barcelona)
Finally, to make an even more forceful case for cork, let’s compare CO2 emissions; cork versus plastic stoppers? A plastic closure emits 10 times more CO2 than a cork stopper and an Aluminium cap closures emits 24 times more CO2 than a cork stopper. Hurrah for cork and its future use.
Following last year’s trip to Ukraine, we are bringing some of Ukraine to Ledbury this March with a Pysanky Egg Workshop and Traditional Ukrainian Lunch held at Tinsmiths and run by Nataliya Cummings (Experience Ukraine) and Helena Orlowski.
Traditional Psanky Eggs from Ukraine showing traditional motifs.
The tradition of decorating eggs using hot wax resist (Batik) techniques dates back to pre-Christian times and The Hutsuls––Ukrainians who live in the Carpathian Mountains of western Ukraine––believe that the fate of the world depends upon the pysanka. As long as the egg decorating custom continues, the world will exist. If, for any reason, this custom is abandoned, evil––in the shape of a horrible serpent who is forever chained to a cliff–– will overrun the world. Each year the serpent sends out his minions to see how many pysanky have been created. If the number is low the serpent’s chains are loosened and he is free to wander the earth causing havoc and destruction. If, on the other hand, the number of pysanky has increased, the chains are tightened and good triumphs over evil for yet another year.
Colours and symbols are specific to a region and family and these are passed from Mother to daughter. The blessed eggs are given to relatives and respected community members as a talisman against bad fortune in the coming year. A good number are placed in specific places around the house and with livestock to ward off evil and secure fertility for the coming season. Young women would present an egg to eligible batchelors in their community – the antidote to online dating!
One example of many, Birds, were considered the harbingers of spring, thus they were a commonplace pysanka motif. Birds of all kinds are the messengers of the sun and heaven. Birds are always shown perched, at rest, never flying (except for swallows and, in more recent times, white doves carrying letters). Roosters are symbols of masculinity, or the coming of dawn, and hens represent fertility. Very many of these symbolic motifs appear in the folk embroidery and textiles of the Ukraine.
Once a design is settled on colour has to be seriously considered as it carries its own meaning ie.
- Red – is probably the oldest symbolic color, and has many meanings. It represents life-giving blood, and often appears on pysanky with nocturnal and heavenly symbols. It represents love and joy, and the hope of marriage. It is also associated with the sun.
- Black – is a particularly sacred color, and is most commonly associated with the “other world,” but not in a negative sense.
- Yellow – symbolized the moon and stars and also, agriculturally, the harvest.
- Blue – Represented blue skies or the air, and good health.
- White – Signified purity, birth, light, rejoicing, virginity.
- Green – the color of new life in the spring. Green represents the resurrection of nature, and the riches of vegetation.
- Brown – represents the earth.
Some color combinations had specific meanings, too:
- Black and white – mourning, respect for the souls of the dead.
- Black and red – this combination was perceived as “harsh and frightful,” and very disturbing. It is common in Podillya, where both serpent motifs and goddess motifs were written with this combination.
- Four or more colors – the family’s happiness, prosperity, love, health and achievements.
For an opportunity to see all the colours, motifs and combinations you couldn’t do better than to visit the Psanka Museum in Kolomyya where you can see 6000 of the best examples of Psanka not to mention it’s eggcentric building design.
Pysanky means writing or to write and the eggs are decorated using a wax resist method. Beeswax was heated in a small bowl on the large family stove, and the styluses were dipped into it. The molten wax was applied to the white egg with a writing motion; any bit of shell covered with wax would be sealed, and remain white. Then the egg was dyed yellow, and more wax applied, and then orange, red, purple, black. (The dye sequence was always light to dark). Bits of shell covered with wax remained that color. After the final color, usually red, brown or black, the wax was removed by heating the egg in the stove and gently wiping off the melted wax, or by briefly dipping the egg into boiling water.
N.B. The eggs are never blown or boiled and must be fertile, ideally the first from a young hen. To stray from this could bring infertility and bad luck.
Pysanka continue to be made in modern times; while many traditional aspects have been preserved, new technologies are in evidence. Aniline dyes have largely replaced natural dyes. Traditional styluses are still made from brass and wood, but modern versions offer built-in, heated wax reservoirs and a choice of profiles for your dots and dashes….
You can easily book a place on our Egg Decorating event on Monday 26th March – just prior to Easter and in time to ward off any bad spirits. Places (10 available) are reserved through our website, here.