Thursday, 21 April 2016

Laura Ashley and Pretty Floral Home Accessories

I've just finished reading 'A Life by Design', a biography of Laura Ashley, written soon after her tragic fall, from which she never regained consciousness, at the age of 60. 

I read the book when it was first published in 1990 but at that time, I read it from the point of view of a Laura Ashley Home Furnishings customer, having used gallons of Laura Ashley Navy paint in the refurbishment of my Edwardian home in Norwich. I even painted the outside of the re-sprayed, genuine ball-and-claw-footed bath that we found in an outhouse when we bought the house. 

And here's the 'Laura Ashley Navy' front door of my next (Victorian) home!

But this time around, I read it as a designer, more specifically a surface pattern designer with a strong interest in designing textiles for fashion and home furnishings.

And it was as if I was reading it for the first time. So many things jumped out at me that hadn't really interested me back in 1990.

First and foremost, I was quite shocked to read that Laura Ashley wasn't exactly a designer! Neither she nor her husband, Bernard, could draw and of course, they started their business well before the days of computers!

The legendary little 'sweater scarves', table mats and tea-towels that they printed on the kitchen table of their Pimlico flat in the 1950s, ('fixing' the colour by baking in the oven, where some fell down and burnt!), these small items had bold geometric shapes a patterns, which was all that their rather primitive printing equipment could cope with.

But they sold well, because Audrey Hepburn had popularised the 'sweater scarf' in the popular film, 'Roman Holiday'.

However, Laura was already intensely interested in tiny floral printed and striped fabrics. She had worked as a secretary at the National Federation of Women's Institutes and when she visited one of their handicraft exhibitions at the Victoria & Albert museum, she realised that women were capable of working at home to produce textiles that were of museum standard. She was particularly struck by the patchwork and scoured the shops to find suitable fabrics so that she could make her own while awaiting the birth of her first child.

As we moved through the 1960s, fashion trends changed dramatically. Out went the full skirts with hooped petticoats and in came the mini-skirt and sharply cut dresses and coats with geometric patterns. In case that was before your time, you can get a flavour of the era HERE 

And it was in 1968 that Laura Ashley - or rather, Bernard, her husband, opened their first dress shop, selling dresses that were almost shockingly different! Bernard oversaw the printing, dealt with the marketing and business side of things - so, given that she was not a designer, in the usual sense of the word, what part did Laura play?

Well, she did supervise the making up of the garments in Wales and researched patterns to use, spending a great deal of time in libraries and museums, pouring over antique pattern books and so on. 

But Laura's essential contribution to what was becoming a successful business venture, was her 'unique idea'!

Coming from a Welsh non-conformist background, Laura Ashley had her 'puritanical' side. But she was also a romantic, she loved the countryside and nature and she was more drawn to the fashions of bye-gone ages than to the current trends. She may have had some rather naive ideas about how a working farmer's wife would have dressed in days of yore, but her dresses were based on earlier styles and the fabric patterns were, at least to begin with, mainly historical.

She firmly believed that women were more interested in dressing to look beautiful than in following the latest fashions. And she also took the view that the more you cover up - long skirts, long sleeves etc - the more alluring you will be! 

Put those two beliefs together and you have the classic Laura Ashley dress of the late-Sixties and Seventies. 

'Pretty but Prim' would be how I would describe those early dresses that turned the Laura Ashley brand into household name. 

I remember my first visit to a Laura Ashley dress shop, when I was staying with my sister-in-law in Oxford - to me it was heaven on earth! In fact I never bought a Laura Ashley dress because I loved dressmaking and made my own in similar styles. But I do still have a full-length Laura Ashley nightdress, complete with pin tucks, tiny, concealed, pearl buttons, and lace-trimmed high collar and long sleeves. It's somewhat the worse for wear now but somehow I don't want to turn it into a cleaning cloth so it stays at the bottom of my drawer!

Looking back, it seems strange now that the only fashion choices at that time were limited to 'bold geometric' or 'romantic with frills'! Today's fashion trends are far more eclectic so that you could almost believe that 'anything goes'. 

But even so, I think those two main, sharply contrasting, trends are still around.

Alongside the 'funky', 'quirky', sometimes bordering on 'outrageous' fashions, you only need to delve into Pinterest or visit an online store such as Etsy to see that nostalgic, romantic and downright 'pretty' is still as popular as ever.

Of the two design strands, the nostalgic, vintage 'look' is easier to live with in the long-term. Eventually, in the 1980s, Laura Ashley branched out into Home Furnishings. I'm only surprised she left it so long. 

I used Laura Ashley Brick Red wallpaper on the staircase, above the dado rail, in my Victorian home in Hereford. 

And the colour was the perfect backdrop for the pictures I hung on that wall. 

I also still use a Laura Ashley tea-cosy! Like all of her products, the quality is head and shoulders above most others.

Sadly, I've never found a good replacement for my Laura Ashley heavy cotton lace curtains, that looked fabulous, hung over slimline, navy blue Venetian Blinds, in three different homes, from 1987 - 2013, when they finally started to fall apart, as you can see by the hole down near the hem!

Bright, bold and minimalist is exciting, but perhaps more suitable for clothing than for home furnishings, which we expect to last somewhat longer than a dress, bought and worn today, possibly discarded a few months later! That is not to say that the more 'modern' style doesn't look great in an office building or a city apartment.

But for a home, especially a period home, the vintage, 'shabby chic' is much more comfortable to live with, day in day out, for a number of years.

I'm far from suggesting that we decorate and furnish our homes as faithful replicas of times gone by. But our surroundings do affect our mood and some of the more outlandish patterns currently available seem to have an almost 'aggressive' feel to them. Whereas a few 'pretty things' can soften the edges of our daily existence.

So here are a couple of my Home Furnishings Collections - not exactly 'Laura Ashley' but also based on floral designs and patterns -

100+ Floral Coffee Mugs - some ready to personalize:

Click on the image below to see the full Coffee Mug collection -

100+ Floral Pillows or Cushions - arranged by colour:

Click on the image below to see the full Pillow collection -

And just by the way, a floral mug or throw pillow or cushion, would make a wonderful Mother's Day gift or a birthday present for your mother!

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Indigo Bedroom and Bathroom Ideas for Gifts

Blue and white is a perennial favourite when it comes to home accessories and fashion.

Whether it's the bright, light blue and white stripes of the famous 'Cornishware', a softer light blue that paints a 'coastal' atmosphere, the royal blue and white of 'Willow Pattern' china . . . or the darker blues found in so many ethnic patterns, blue and white is always popular!

Just at the moment it's the deep, rich Indigo Blue that is particularly trending. I wrote a blog post all about 'The colour Indigo' a while back so I won't repeat myself here.

From the Patternbank website

The Indigo and White combination will suit almost any type of home decorating environment, adding an intriguing hint of the exotic - and there are very few people who don't look good in blue! I'm currently working on a new Indigo pattern to submit to Patternbank but I'm already well ahead of the curve with this pattern that I created last year!

This is how it started! 
Just some doodles on scrap paper while I watched television . . .


But that was the easy part - developing those doodles into a collection of coordinating patterns took a bit more time and thought!

Here's the original, "main" pattern -

Next I took two of the motifs and made a new pattern from them -

- and then reversed the colours, and set them on a soft denim blue background:

As usual I made a stripe and a check to coordinate with the main patterns -

Ticking Stripe

Preppy Check

And finally, a Faux Patchwork that included a little pattern that I didn't much like on its own but which seemed to fit well into the patchwork -

Last year I set myself the goal of learning to create border patterns in Photoshop, complete with 'corners' because I love patterned borders! And with a bit of trial and error, I finally found a way to do it that was not too complicated -

So then I moved on to the next challenge - a circular border! A little more tricky but I got there in the end and I hope you'll agree it was worth the effort!

Altogether, I created more than 500 'Indigo' products for my Posh and Painterly Zazzle store - everything from cases to cushions, many of them ready to customize. 

So here's a Collection of just a handful of them that I think would make great gifts -

I've also collected together some Bedroom and Bathroom 'Indigo' products because blue and white is so fresh and clean for a bathroom, while blue is said to have a calming effect, making it the an excellent choice for a bedroom:

As ever, I have not been able to include every available product with each and every pattern. But if you see a pattern you like but it's on the wrong product, I'd be happy to create a new product for you with the pattern of your choice, at no extra cost. Just contact me through my Posh & Painterly Zazzle store.

Indigo may be forecast to trend next Autumn and Winter and it's always good to be ahead of the fashion. But Indigo and White never really goes out of style! I'm sure you will know someone who would love an 'Indigo' gift - maybe for a birthday or Christmas present or even as a Wedding Gift! 

Or you could just treat yourself to 'a little bit of what you fancy'?

You may also be interested to read this blog post: 

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Tips for a Budget Spring Home Decor Makeover

Now that we're beginning to see signs of spring and the days become, hopefully, lighter and longer, the bright sunshine can make our homes begin to look a little 'tired' and in need of refreshment. So, because our surroundings are so important to our mood, I'm going to suggest some ways we can revive and refresh them without breaking the bank!

If we're lucky enough to get a sunny springtime, the downside is that the sunlight can show up all sorts of little defects that we didn't notice in the winter. It's with good reason that we talk about 'Spring-cleaning' and not 'Summer-, Winter- or Autumn-Cleaning'.

Several world religions traditionally incorporate a good, thorough house-clean into their New Year celebrations. You can read about the traditional Spring-clean that is part of the Persian New Year or Nowruz HERE(It's also traditional to spring-clean the home in readiness for the Hindu festival of Diwali - though that falls in the Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere!)

But suppose we decide that our home needs something more than just an extra-good clean? What if the change of year has instilled in us a wish for a more fundamental change - some redecorating, maybe, some new soft furnishings? An exciting, but possibly also a daunting thought, especially if we don't have a lot of money to spend.

I hope to be able to show you that with careful planning, you can achieve a fresh new look for any room, even if your bank balance is still reeling from your Christmas expenses.

First of all, a couple of very general tips about planning your home decor. (If you already know exactly how you want your room to look, you can skip this section!)

1. Generally speaking, horizontal lines and shapes give a more restful ambience. You can use this to good effect in furniture, patterned wallpaper, rugs and carpets and even in the art that you hang on your walls.

Diagonal lines, such as in chevrons, can have the opposite effect - ie stimulating. So, for instance, you could achieve a calming, restful bedroom or bathroom with the accent on horizontal lines and use diagonals or chevrons for a shower room where you may feel you need an enlivening effect. (I've read that the seaside is the best place to be if you are anxious because the lines of the beach and sea are horizontal, while the zigzag effect of mountains is better for depression!)

2.There are plenty of websites that explain the use of colour for psychological effect in our homes. Here is just one with a useful diagram - though I would disagree about the bedroom. Blue is generally thought to be the most restful colour for a bedroom. 

Image from the 'Freshome' website

When I was studying Interior Design, we spent months on the Colour Theory module. I learned about all the various special names for the different colour combinations - triadic, split complementary and so on. Here they are on this excellent blog: 'Colours and Materials'

When I proudly showed some of my colour schemes for rooms that I had based on these theories, to an experienced Interior Designer, he winced and asked me whether I'd actually like to live with any of them - and of course, the answer was a resounding 'no'! So much for colour theory!

But in the course of gutting and refurbishing the several large Victorian and Edwardian homes that I've lived in, I've developed a 'colour theory' that works for me and you might be interested to try it. 

So here's my top secret colour scheming tip! 
When I make a 'mood board' for each area of the house, with snippets of wallpaper, fabric, photos cut out of magazines etc, I try to make sure that, one way or another, I include some Red, Blue, Green and Yellow. That way I achieve a harmonious, balanced effect.

Before you raise your eyebrows in horror, I don't end up with horribly garish rooms and this is why:

- I don't include equal amounts of each colour in any room. I choose a main colour, according to the room's function. And then I add in smaller amounts or maybe just accents of the other colours.

- Also, I rarely use the fully saturated primary or secondary colour. What does that mean in practical terms? Here are some examples from my home -

Red can be terracotta floor tiles or any shade of pink or red/orange spice colours.

Yellow can be light 'yellowish' woodwork, or, as in my kitchen, maple-effect worktops. Or the various shades of cream, 'natural' colours like 'wheat' or 'oatmeal' or 'sandy' yellows for walls or flooring. The 'sandy' colour pictured here is by Laura Ashley but you can find similar colours in most paint charts.

Brass ornaments and accessories such as coal buckets also count as 'yellow'.

Green is most often provided by houseplants or landscape paintings.

Blue can often provided by collections of blue and white china, either on shelves or hung on the walls.

In my shower room, for example, the walls are an Edwardian shade of green, the floor tiles are light blue, the stool and the loo-seat are a yellowish pine colour and the towels are burnt orange (red) as are the candles. The Paul Klee print hung on the wall brings all these colours together. And it's all set off by white tiles and paintwork- but that's just me, I love white, but too much of it leaves a house of the age of mine looking rather 'undressed', except in the bathrooms!

So how can we apply all this 'theory' to planning our home makeover? Well, it rather depends on how much of a change you want. Do you need to completely redecorate? Really? You might well be able to achieve a fresh new look by just changing some of the accessories. It's up to you. But in any case, I suggest you make a mood board. You can either do it the old-fashioned way with a physical clipboard and paper; or digitally, collecting together items for consideration on a site such as Pinterest or Polyvore.

Decide on the the main colour in your scheme - red, blue, green or yellow? Spend some time looking through 'home decor' magazines and searching the internet and you'll soon come to recognize the colours you are drawn to. But if you still need inspiration, and you're looking to follow the latest trends, why not check the Pantone colours for the coming year? This year, there are two Pantone 'colours of the year' - Quartz Pink and Serenity (Blue). Read all about them here - Pantone Colour of the Year, 2016

You may have noticed that my 'Rosy Posy' Fabric Collection at the top of this post, features some pinks and blues. And this could be a starting point for your makeover, especially if you're looking to achieve a pretty 'country' look. 

But wait, if you look closely, the main 'Rosy Posy' pattern contains not only pink (the 'red' element) and light blue in some of the backgrounds and coordinates, but there are also hints of yellow in the dog rose centres and green in the leaves - making up a nicely balanced colour composition!

If you are planning a complete makeover, including walls and flooring, the background colours to the four main patterns - white, deep blue, pale sky blue and taupe may suggest ideas for your walls, carpets or main furniture coverings. And if you choose one or more 'Rosy Posy' items, you can rest assured that any accessories or fabrics you choose from the collections below, will harmonize with the overall scheme. 

So here are my four 'Rosy Posy' collections - 

1. A very pretty and feminine collection of coordinating fabrics based on a Dog Rose theme, named 'Rosy Posy'. 
Available in seven different types of fabric, these floral patterns are suitable for home decor, dress-making and craft projects as well as being the perfect starting point for a patchwork quilt. As well as ordering by the yard, fat quarters and swatches are also available. The original Dog Rose design was created from a hand-painted paper collage and many products with the dainty 'Rosy Posy' patterns are available in my Posh and Painterly store.

Click on the image below to see the full collection -

2. A pretty collection of coordinating accessories for the Bedroom or Bathroom in a vintage, shabby chic style. 
Excellent as gifts, the pattern of pink and white Dog Roses on white, taupe, deep blue and sky blue backgrounds is from a hand-painted paper collage by Judy Adamson and you can see the full range of 'Rosy Posy' gifts and greeting cards in my Posh and Painterly Zazzle store.

Click on the image below to see the full collection -

3. Create a nostalgic, shabby chic look with this pretty and feminine collection of coordinating kitchen and dining products, with Dog Rose patterns in pastel shades. Just a small selection of delightful products from the Posh & Painterly 'Rosy Posy' collection by Judy Adamson. Visit my Posh and Painterly Store and select Floral Mini-prints to see the full collection of 'Rosy Posy' Greeting Cards and Products.

Click on the image below to see the full collection -

4. Here's another collection of pretty and feminine, coordinating home decor products with Dog Rose patterns in pastel shades. 
Just a sample of charming products to mix and match, from the Posh and Painterly 'Rosy Posy' collection by Judy Adamson. Be sure to check out my Posh & Painterly Store and select Floral Mini-prints to see the full collection of 'Rosy Posy' Greeting Cards and Products.

Click on the image below to see the full collection -

I very much hope that you have found these home decorating tips useful!

And if you're interested in reading about the chance in a million that brought my 'Rosy Posy' pattern into being, you can read all about it in my earlier blog post,

Thursday, 10 March 2016

How to Make a Quick and Easy Quilted Patchwork

Periwinkle Blue Faux Patchwork Pattern
Periwinkle Patch Faux Patchwork

Sewing patchwork by hand is known to be a great stress-reliever. 

And, although I've never joined a patchwork/quilting group myself, I can well imagine that getting together to work on a communal quilt would be both relaxing and convivial!

However, there may be times when we would like to create something in patchwork, for a gift maybe, but we don't have hours and hours available to sit and sew. So I'm going to show you a way around that, using Faux Patchwork!

BHS Duvet Set
Faux Patchwork is enjoying something of a revival at the moment, though it never really goes out of fashion. 

Here's a duvet set I bought for myself not long ago -

And there are plenty more on the British Home Stores website!

Aren't they gorgeous!

My love of patchwork often leads me to create a faux patchwork pattern when I make a new pattern collection. 

Apple Blossom Faux Patchwork Tablecloth from Zazzle
Apple Blossom Faux Patchwork
Tablecloth from Zazzle

I use them to create pillows/cushions for sale on Zazzle and other similar print-on-demand stores - and also table linen, shower curtains, all sorts of homeware and fashion accessories such as Messenger Bags - and more recently, fabrics, by the yard, swatch or fat quarter.

In fact I recently sold a smartphone case with one of my faux patchwork designs:


And here are the pillows or cushions I've made so far -

Click on the image to see the whole Collection of Faux Patchwork Pillows


Egyptian Faux Patchwork Pillow or Cushion from Zazzle
Egyptian Faux Patchwork Pillow
from Zazzle

I sent my daughter one of these Faux Patchwork pillows recently, as part of her birthday present. 

And while we were talking about it, the idea came up that it wouldn't be too difficult to quilt the fabric by adding some batting and stitching along the lines in the pattern. With all the awkward angles, it might be easier to do it by hand than by machine, I think.

But then, the internet being an incredible source of 'how to' information, I came across a very useful blog post. The article below gives you all you need to know about making a faux 'Faux Patchwork' using a sewing machine!


So, in case I've sparked your interest in making a quick and easy Faux Patchwork, I've created a Pinterest board with all of my faux patchwork fabrics that are available from my Posh and Painterly Zazzle store - so far! I'm sure I'll be adding more from time to time - everything from pretty pastel florals to bold ethnic patterns.

Faux Patchwork Fabrics on Pinterest

I've worked out that a yard of 54" wide fabric is enough to make three 16" pillows or cushions, allowing for generous seams. But here, too, is a very useful article about the standard sizes of other common quilts -

So now you know how to cheat at patchwork quilting!

Have fun!

You can purchase my faux patchwork fabrics, 
as well as many other fabrics, 
from my 
Zazzle store

Some of them are also available
and I'm adding more whenever I get time!