Now where are my paintbrushes! The Bohemian art of the Bloomsbury Group.

I wasn’t sure how I would feel after visiting the homes of the Bloomsbury Group – Inspired? overwhelmed? or maybe even discover that it’s really not my kind of thing. I have been to East Sussex quite a few times this year visiting the stomping ground of this Bohemian circle and have found the experience, artistically, quite liberating.

Virginia Woolf’s Bedroom at Monk’s House; Hand decorated paper covered books,; Hand painted furniture.

My first visit was to Charleston Farmhouse was the home of Vanessa Bell and frequented by artists including Duncan Grant. The interiors are oozing with deign and liberating freedom of expression, found in a multitude of mediums from mosaic, paint, pen and ink and clay. It is a bit of an assault on the senses – anything goes. It is the kind of house we would all like to live in. Just take a paint brush to the walls and furniture and doodle designs to make the house your own. Each and every surface is your canvas. Their creativity spilles over into the garden too. Photography is not allowed in the house (but you can check out this website) so I took lots of photos in the gardens – I must try mosaics.

A curved mosaic fountain in the garden with raised seating area
Mosaic patio area
Broken plates from the house soon found a new use in the garden decoration

On my next trip I visited Sissinghurst Castle, the home of Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicholson. Although Vita’s love was poetry and gardening, you can see some of the artistic influences in the interiors of the writing tower.

Tiling on a windowsill in the Writing Tower


Vita’s monogram on her garden tools

Later on in the day, we arrived at Monk’s House, the home of Leonard & Virginia Woolf (the sister of Vanessa Bell). This was also a poet’s home and, I thought, a ‘calmer’ version of Charleston Farmhouse. The rooms are painted with a plain colour and are filled full of heavenly furniture and art. The paintings were gifts from fellow artists of the Bloomsbury group, and the painted furniture was bought up by Virginia at one of Vanessa Bell’s exhibitions. Painted tiles tables by Duncan Grant, and paper lampshades, lovingly recreated by Quentin Bell, are in each room. The house has a real feeling of being a lived in home.

Tiled, hand painted table top by Duncan Grant.
Hand painted furniture by Vanessa Bell and detailed with Virginia’s initials.
Embroidered chair backs; Hand painted paper lamp shade by Quentin Bell.
Painting of Virginia above a hand painted piece of furniture.
Needlework mirror frame.
Hand painted kitchen cabinet – LSW (Leonard Sidney Woolf)


Hand painted tea trays
In Virginia’s bedroom; hand painted tiled fireplace;
hand painted paper lampshade and handmade ceramic lampbase.
In Virginia’s bedroom – detail from the painted fireplace
VW (Virginia Woolf), VB (Vanessa Bell).
Handmade shell frame
By Vanessa Bell

If you get a chance to see these properties, please do. The whole liberal lifestyle of the Bloomsbury group was not only expressed in their interwoven relationships but in their art. I have fallen in love with their various forms of expression and have a burning urge to create some mosaics and maybe paint up the dining table!
Now where are my paintbrushes?
…..I hope you have managed to see the BBC series Life in Squares.

Hand Embroidery Samples 12 ….. Raised Chain Band Stitch

This stitch was a new one to me, and now I love it. Raised Chain Band consists of a column of parallel stitches which are then interwoven with a second thread – the woven stitch sits on top, proud of the fabric. A very effective stitch, the variations are endless. This sample was created on Irish Linen.

The following experimental sample was created on Mulberry Bark Cloth and stitched with Perle cotton, DMC stranded embroidery thread, variegated hand dyed wool and coats cotton 50 weight sewing thread.  Maintaining an even tension takes serious concentration – it pays off with a fab run of stitches.



There are a multitude of ways to create variation in this stitch – the obvious being the variety of threads and colours used – but it can also be found in altering the balance of thread thicknesses between the parallel and woven stitches; the placing of the woven stitch (to one side, leaving it central or letting it meander along the run of stitch); and playing with the columns of parallel stitches – varying the width of stitch and the size of the gap or interval between the stitches.
This Embroidery course has been a joy to take part in.  I have learned so much.  I hope you have enjoyed looking at my samples and are inspired to experiment yourself.

Hand Embroidery Samples 11 ….. Pekinese Stitch

This stitch, at first glance, looks relatively simple to do –  back stitch with a second thread looped through. The key to a good finish is maintaining a constant tension to create even loops – not as easy as you think.
This sample on Irish Linen was created using weaving silk, sari waste silk yarn, hand dyed variegated wool and hand dyed perle cotton yarn.

The following experimental  sample was created on pages from an old book (three pages layered and machine stitched onto calico), using a range of Anchor stranded embroidery threads.


This is not as easy as it looks to create. Have a go yourself and experiment.