Blog

rural retro 

Hello and Welcome!

I am passionate about all things handmade and vintage with many interests.  I create, paint and love to gather and research lost,  overlooked or discarded lovely things. Thanks for stopping by.  Jacs x 

 

 RSS Feed

  1. If you are a dolls house fan, then you will already know about Queen Marys Dolls House and the quality furniture, original artworks and books it contains, produced by over 1,500 artists, craftsmen and makers.

    Designed as a gift for Queen Mary between 1920 and 1924 by British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, it went on display at the British Empire exhibition held in London from 23rd April 1924 to October 1925 before being re-located to Windsor Castle. For over 90 years it has continued to raise money for charitable causes and be admired by thousands of visitors.

    queenmarysletter

    Queen Mary's 1924 letter of thanks

    empireexhibitionleaflet

    empireexhibitionmap

    British Empire exhibition leaflet and map

    Accompanying the dolls house when it was completed in 1924 were two volumes of books - vol 1 The Queens Dolls House, with a complete inventory and lists of donors, artists makers and craftsmen. Vol 2 - the Queens dolls house library devoted to the authors that produced the many books the library contains.

    In the same year, extracts from the books were produced in a smaller book entitled "everybody's book of the Queen's Dolls' House" with profits from the book going to Queen Marys charitable causes. 3 detailed sets of tucks postcards were also produced showing many rooms and individual items in the house.

    While I was researching the history of the Old Bleach Linen Co  ( you can read it here ) I discovered that they produced a host of finely stitched tiny replica linen items for Queen Mary's Dolls House so this is a follow up post about these amazing items.

    Old Bleach supplied the Royal Household with Damask tablecloths and other linens so it seems natural that they would be selected to replicate tiny versions of all of the household linens for the dolls house. These included linen towels, bed and cot sheets and pillows, tablecloths and runners for both the royal household and the domestic staff, as well as the more mundane domestic use items such as dusters, pudding cloths, knife cloths and aprons.

    oldbleach_queensdollshouse_items

    oldbleach_queensdollshouse_items2

    These incredible hand stitched reproductions in miniature were monogrammed for the dolls house with white for the royal rooms and red for the servants and housekeepers. Bundles of linen were also  stored in the dolls house linen room  tied with "colour coded" ribbons denoting the household use. One of the full size Damask tablecloths was sent to Ireland to help with reproducing it in miniature for the dining table in the dolls house.

    oldbleach_queensdollshouse1

    oldbleach_queensdollshouse_linenroom

    the linen room in the dolls house

    oldbleach_queensdollshouse_HKroom

    The housekeepers room with Old Bleach Linen towels

    The dolls house book from 1924 tells us that "certain properties of matter do not scale down comfortably when size is altered.. the clothes, linen table cloths, the bed sheets etc.. though exquisitely made, of the very finest known materials, are liable to behave as if they had been slightly
    starched... Curtains, carpets and the table cloth laid on the dining table all required extremely careful coaxing"

    oldbleach tablecloth_diningroom dolls house

    The Old Bleach Damask tablecloth in the dining room

    Old Bleach proudly advertised their connection to the dolls house - the following advert appeared in New York in 1924 when the dolls house was completed :

    1924_US_dollshouseadvert

    The Royal collection has some lovely photos of some of the linens in the dolls house made by Old Bleach, I especially love the beautifully made aprons which were pictured in black and white in the 1924 book about the  dolls house and also show the cross over fastening with tiny buttons.

    595583-1457628888_apron

    royal collection_linen towels by old bleach

    royal collection_pillowcases_old bleach

    Monogrammed pillow case for use in the Royal rooms

     The Lisburn Irish Linen centre and museum in Ireland  has a selection  on display of some of the monogrammed Old Bleach linen contained in  the dolls house, donated to them in the 1990's. I have not been able to find out how the donor came to acquire the items, but I think most likely the collection was kept as a record by an old Bleach employee. Many employees often built up personal collections of items they had produced at the factory.

    Makers also re-produced  items supplied to the dolls house for purchase by the general public.  Old Bleach Linen co produced a boxed set of "Dollies Towels" which contained  a set of 6 replica tiny linen towels that can be found in several rooms in the dolls house. They are not marked as such, but   I think these little  sets  were  most likely sold as  souvenirs  during  the  British Empire Exhibition.  The set I have date to this time and came in a tiny 10cm or so long box, lined with tissue paper, tied up with a green shamrock ribbon together with a card insert explantion. 

    The box and it's contents are  a fantastic historical reference to both the Old Bleach Linen Co and Queen Mary's dolls house -  a rare survivor now over 90 years old. There may have been other miniature replica items sold as souvenirs by Old Bleach, and I would love to know if this is the case.

    old bleach miniature towel

    Old Bleach dolly towel

  2. As a  linen and fabric fan, a small hoard  has been gathered over the years as part of my passion for the discarded, the overlooked or the lost. A recent rummage  has prompted me to blog about the Old Bleach Linen co, an Irish linen company with a fascinating and long history of textile manufacturing in Randalstown, Northern Ireland.

    Irish linen is known for its quality which is put down to the climate in Ireland which is perfect for the growth of flax and over hundreds of years  the low worker costs and high demand resulted in Ireland becoming a dominant force in linen production.

    old_bleachprocess_usaadvert

    1909 New York dealer Advert for Old Bleach Linen

    oldbleachadvert1949

    1949 advert

    The  Old Bleach company  was started by a quaker called Charles J Webb in 1864, and  started out  using the  age old method of linen production, where the flax was hand pulled, stacked and left to dry, before being processed to separate the seeds and core to leave the fibres. The resulting woven fabric was "bleached" by laying out in the open air, and this  old method of bleaching  continued to be used by the company during its long history.  By the 1930's  the company was a large textile manufacturer employing  a workforce of over 1000 people, using the nearby railway to help export their textiles and linens all over the world. 

    old)bleach_factory1940s

     A photo postcard showing the Randalstown mill C 1940s 

    old)bleach_factory1

     old_bleach_advert_1940s

    Furnishing fabric advert from late 1940's

    As the company expanded, they commissioned textile designs from leading artists and they were also one of the first companies to perfect screen printing of designs onto textiles. The company produced a  portfolio of design samples for the festival of Britain, bringing together science and design by using a pattern produced by crystallographer Helen Megaw which produced some striking  patterns on their fabric samples. The company supplied fabric and textiles to prestigious customers over their long history such as furnishing fabric for  HMS Queen Mary, designed for the company  by Norman Webb. The V & A has a collection of old bleach furnishing fabric designs produced by  designers from the 30s - 50's such as Paul Nash & Marion Dorn which you can view online.

    old_bleach_festivalofbritain_50s_va

     oldbleachsperrin_1933

     advert for designer fabrics

     old_bleach_advert_1950s

     The company also produced the miniature textiles and linens for "the Queens Dolls House", and went on to retail similar miniature towel sets when the dolls house went on public show. 

    queens_dollhousein_the_linen_room

    oldbleach_dollshouses_towels 

    Old Bleach Dolls House towel set box info

    oldbleachhandpaintdamask_leaflet

    workers  hand painting the  flowers on damask C early 1950s

    The strategy of using  designers of the day, new dye techniques and producing quality products helped to keep the company at the forefront of Irish linen production. In 1971 the company was acquired by  Carrington Viyella (which was the merger of 2 companies called Carrington Dewhurst and  Viyella)
    Production in Ireland and the trade name "old bleach" continued after the buyout throughout the 1970's, with a prolific output that is  still snapped up by vintage and retro fans today - Rural Retro favorite Belinda Lyon produced several designs for Old Bleach tea towels during the 1970's.

    The Old Bleach co employed generations of families from the local town  during their long history  and the proud workers  formed lots of "old Bleach" recreation and sports clubs such as bowling, tennis and hockey. Some of  these mill worker  clubs are still in existence today in Randalstown such as the local  cycling and bowling clubs.

    oldbleachbowlingclub

    At the start of the 1980's the Old bleach  mill was closed  as part of cost saving by Carrington Viyella as the luxury linen industry declined and  demand turned to cheaper man made fibres imports. The trade name continued for a  couple of years  -  labeled as "made in the UK"  before the “Old Bleach“ linen company Ltd was formally dissolved in 1982.  The closed mill was left disused until most of the buildings were  eventually demolished during the 1990's - a  story familiar across the linen  mills in Ireland.

    oldbleachmill_disused

     

  3. I am finally emerging from my winter hibernation. It has been way too  tempting to hang out on the sofa with a roaring fire, the cats and a good book, but I have  been busy getting creative.

    I am a complete techno novice, so am proud of my new Etsy shop that is now up and running together with my new Instagram page  - it's great to share my creations and passions with a  new  friendly community.

    My website has also had a bit of a spring clean makeover - still a work in progress to re-invent my  virtual home but getting there!

    It's not all been about  virtual creativity - I visited Susie Hunt in Scotland, with a lot of snow still hanging around but  it did not stop us getting creative in Aberdeenshire 

    aberdeenworkshop

     

    aberdeenworkshop2

    Meanwhile, in the great outdoors, I set out my wares at the  Aardvark books spring garden event over Easter. Spring may well have sprung but we were too cold to notice - even with 4 layers we were frozen - but hey, we hung tough... least we did until the hot chocolate ran out... !

    ardvarkspringfair

    Painting Playschool for creative grown-ups

    We have had some really fun creative  sessions in Aston on Clun village hall, so I have decided to extend these and now host workshops every Monday.  Let me know if you would like to join us to share your ideas, try something new or finish that artwork you have on the go.  Here is a taste of what we got up to recently - a lino print in progress to turn into a small print of Bishop Castle town hall by Tess, and one of my empty jugs , one of a series in progress.

    paintingworkshoplinocut

    paintingworkshopgicle

    Jacs x

     

  4. I recently came across a fascinating  article on the history of Gee Bee dolls houses by Rebecca Green on the excellent  "Dolls Houses Past & Present" website.

    Gee Bee based in Hull were started around 1946 by 2 veterans using their army payment to finance the  business. They sold their doll houses, farms and garages  almost exclusively through a local toy distributor  who traded under the name Tudor Toys.

    The article reminded me that I gave my sister an  early Gee Bee dolls house quite a few years ago. The DHPP article has a photo of my sisters actual house captured from the original ebay listing, so for Gee Bee  dolls house fans everywhere here are some recent photos of it, still in it's original condition.

    The house has flat painted flowers rather than the "raised plastic" flowers and "green flocked" grass described by a Gee Bee worker but these were clearly painted by the same hand that painted "Sally L's" house also pictured in the article.

    It is made of hardboard, plywood and another softwood  with chisel marks clearly visible on the back base slot. I am not sure if this was an "offcut" reused, or hand chiseled to size  by the joiner who made the house.

    These early examples are  described as having no back - this one originally most likely  had 2 sliding hardwood backboards  that slotted into the groves and could be slid independently. Alternatively, perhaps "add on" rooms could be purchased seperately that were slotted into the groves?

    Gee Bee Dolls House - Front

    geebees_front_rr

    Gee Bee House - Back

    geebees_back_rr

     

    Gee Bee House - Front Side view

    geebees_rh_side_rr

     

    Gee Bee House Back Side view

    geebees_lh_side_rr

     

    Gee Bee House - Garden and path view

     

    geebees_garden_rr

    Gee Bee House - base view

    The house has lost it's "GB"label that would have been on the front wall, but it is initialed with "G B" for Gee Bee in pencil on the base. There are other initials that look like "F1 DB" and "E4" I would love to know what or who these other initials stand for.

    geebees_base1_rr

    geebees_base2_rr

    It is likely that there was some variance in size between individual houses, but this one is approx: Length: slightly over 18 inches Height: 14.5 inches Total depth: 10 inches, with 4 inches for the garden. The tall chimney is 5 inches in height.

    As Rebecca Green highlights in her article, Gee Bee evolved different variations of their original core designs through the years, as well as introducing new models.  This first cottage had a few  variations before it was re-invented  as the more well known "DH8" Tudor cottage during the 1950's that continued to be made until the company folded at the beginning of the 1980's.

    Variations of the Gee Bee Cottage

    Photos from  various ebay sellers - just like full size houses, these are often re-modeled, updated and repainted, so not always easy to date them

         

        geebee_cottage_sallyl_dhpp       gee bee       dh8 tudor cottage gee bees_ebay                

          Cottage - right hand door          Cottage - curved gables           DH8 - right hand door

          geebee_cottagedh8 tudor cottage gee bees small house side view_ebaygeebee litho hardboard1977

                DH8                                         DH8 left hand door             DH8 - 1970s

     

    You can read the full history of Gee Bee by Rebecca Green on DHPP here:

    http://www.dollshousespastandpresent.com/issue22sept2014p5.htm

    Rebecca has written another good article  about the handmade dolls  houses that were  constructed from designs and plans available in woodworker and other hobby magazines. I have a woodworker house together with the original edition of the 1935 magazine containing the design which  I have owned for many years. Rebecca's article also has a photo of a different house built to the same design. Mine is still on my list of projects to re-decorate!. 

    http://www.dollshousespastandpresent.com/magazine14sept2012p3.htm

     My 1935 Woodworker Dolls House

    1935woodworker_dollshouse_handmade

     

    You can see more photos of the inside  on my instagram page.

     1935 dolls house from wookworker plan

  5. Some creative workshops are being planned at the fabulous cottage herbery during summer 2018

    cottage_herbery_garden

    It's a very special garden to get inspired in, not open to the general pubic on a daily basis. Dates to be announced soon - sign up to my workshop mailing list  to be kept up to date with when these seeds are due to flower! View more of Kim & Robs nursery at www.thecottageherby.co.uk

    cottage_herbery_barn_garden

     

    Update:

    Excited to annouce the dates of A Bunch Of Flowers art workshops this summer are Aug 31st, Sept 1st and Sept 2nd - come and join us in the garden and get inspired. Book your place via my workshop page

    artworkshops_events_final

  6. I so enjoyed hosting a week of workshops at the lovely Retreat to the Farm in France surrounded by inspiration with plenty of time to enjoy the surroundings, relax, paint and drink wine - the perfect holiday combination for participants!

    france_12