At Jessie Chorley’s shop with friends

Yesterday had been a date in my diary for quite some time. It was the launch of Jessie Chorley’s new book in her newly decorated shop. Jessie’s open invitation had flocks of us turning up all morning. The book launch party was celebrated with cake served on vintage plates and glasses of Prosseco and Elder-flower fizz.

It was so lovely to meet the ladies from Hope and Elvis again, and to bump into my Facebook and Instagram friends – to finally put a face to the name. I am so lucky to have friends as barmy about textiles and I am.

Her shop has changed dramatically since my last visit a few years ago.  She has redecorated the interior with a coat of white paint which sets off her work beautifully. The shelving is made from scaffolding boards and all her goodies for sale are displayed in pre-loved china and vintage furniture.


The shop’s exterior decoration always makes me smile. Jessie puts out her hand decorated textile ‘flags’ and decorations each day, regardless of the weather. The shops’s window dressing is constantly changing. This weekend, there was a celebration theme – ‘Celebrating 10 years in business’ –  even the window pane had been decorated.  On the pavement trestle tables were full to bursting with cake, books and flowers, and there was a bench for visitors to rest or to sit and sew.  The whole shop had a wonderful warm buzz about it.

My visit to the shop was the first port of call as part of a day out in London with my DH. He popped into the shop and saw my eyes light up as I drooled over one of Jessie’s framed pieces of work – he bought it for me as a gift for our Silver Wedding Anniversary. I’m a lucky girl. There are very few things in life  that I have a real weakness for (apart from Pistachio ice-cream and nougat) . I am not really a handbag, shoe or jewelry kind of girl – textiles  are my weakness and this piece I adore. Thank you my DH.


Jessie Chorley’s  creativity and enthusiasm is so contagious. I went home with my head buzzing with even more ideas and I just had to sew!  Thank you Jessie for inviting me and for the very generous goody bag.

Jessie Chorley’s shop is at 158a Columbia Road, London.

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.

Shoes: Pleasure & Pain – the fabulous V&A Exhibition

The latest exhibition at the V&A is pleasure and pain all rolled into one. If you are a lover of shoes, or embroidery, or historical costume, or boots or are a collector of shoes (as I am sure a few of us are) then this is the exhibition for you.
The exhibition displays the fabulous, exquisite pieces like sweets in the window of an exclusive Parisian Chocolate shop. Each pair staged to be admired.
The shoes are grouped in collections, each inspired by a theme of – ‘fashion’, ‘obsession’, ‘cinema’, ‘showing a bit of leg’, ‘shoes to entice’, ‘fit for a king’, ‘Royalty’. All truly yummy. Here are just a few of the enticing goodies on display. Enjoy.

The Glass Slipper from the 2015 Disney Movie ‘Cinderella’, as worn by Lily James.
Designed by Sandy Powell.
The red ballet shoes as worn in the 1948 movie ‘The Red Shoes’


Shoes fit for a king
Men’s Mojari shoes, India 1800 – Cotton, silk, gilded silver thread embroidery.
Possibly owned by the Nawab of Awadh.

Such tiny shoes for an adult not a child.

Shoes for Bound feet, China 1740 – silk, sequins, metal thread embroidery, linen and leather.
Popular footwear in Han Chinese society.

Here are some shoes worn by British Royalty – Queen Victoria and the Duchess of Cambridge; the French Royalty or rather the mistress of Louis XV; and Celebrity Royalty – Kylie Minogue’s Prada killer heels and Carrie’s famous Jimmy Choo’s from Sex in the City.

Shoes fit for a Queen, a future Queen and Carrie’s from ‘Sex in the City’

There is something for everyone. I visited with the notion that I was about to spend a few hours looking at lots of scrummy shoes, but it was so much more! I left, my mind buzzing with embroidery, textures of fabrics and leather, colour combinations and beading. Visit if you can. The exhibition is on until the 31st January 2016.