A Visit to Charleston House East Sussex

Charleston farm house in East Sussex was the country home and meeting place for the Bloomsbury group, a famous collective of artists, writers and thinkers. It has always held a fascination for me, not just due to it’s artistic fame but because of it’s internal decoration. Whenever a new inhabitant lived there they decorated not just the walls but the fireplaces, furniture and almost every surface to evoke their individual style. The house was lived in by Vanessa Bell, her children Quentin and Julian, Duncan Grant and David Garnet. Charleston now offers guided tours which I highly recommend if you’re in the area.

Unfortunately internal photography is not allowed at Charleston but I can at least show you a few pictures from the garden. The house started life as part of a farm where Duncan and David had both lived as conscientious objectors during the First World War, working as farm labourers. I asked the gardener if I could take his photo, he agreed but asked me to wander around first before taking my snap, by which point he would have forgotten our conversation 🙂With such a gorgeous garden it’s easy to see why this setting inspired so many creative minds. Vanessa Bell had her own fantastic studio room opening straight out into the heart of it and a lot of her paintings depict her flowers in jars or vases.

The house offered a hospitable retreat to many Bloomsbury residents, who were known to lead unconventional and freethinking lifestyles. Some of the most frequent visitors were Clive Bell (Vanessa’s husband with whom she had an open marriage), Virginia and Leonard Woolf, John Maynard and Lydia Keynes and Roger Fry. At times Charleston was completely inundated by self-invited visitors in need of entertainment, on these occasions Vanessa would put a notice at the end of the drive which read “Charleston Out”.

Some of the decoration inside the house can seem almost slap dash but it was not intended for the world to see. However, Vanessa, Duncan and her son Quentin did paint the walls in a local church and here you can see paintings intended for public viewing.

The church still encourages art and decoration to this very day. There was a large board painted by school children and ceramic birds and flowers made by local college students.


Vanessa’s granddaughter Cressida Bell is also an artist. She designs and hand paints lamps, lampshades, rugs etc and has recently bought out a book on cake decorating. Her work can be seen and bought from her website cressidabell.com

Note. In the current issue of Selvedge Magazine there’s details of a walk about Charleston, so make sure you take a look. http://www.selvedge.org/


Atlantis Books Santorini

The blue and white churches of Santorini are a quintessential ‘Greek’ image, despite being almost solely confined to this one small island. I have visited the island before and I was recently fortunate enough to go back.


This photo was taken in the small town of Oia which is famous for it’s sunsets. While I was there I saw an advert for a local literature festival organised by the Atlantis bookshop. When you see events advertised on holiday they are usually due to happen a week or two after you get home, but on this occasion we were there at the right time. 🙂

The bookshop itself is like a fairytale store come to life. From the street you descend a small staircase which leads into a small cave house (the shop itself). From floor to ceiling every surface is covered in books, you could spend hours and hours just perusing. The staff are all very helpful, friendly and willing to give advice.


The idea for the bookshop was conceived by two English students Oliver and Craig, when they spent a week on the island in 2002. The shop finally came to life in 2004 and the full story can be read on their website www.atlantisbooks.org

They also publish books through Paravion Press. I adored the small books which come with an airmail envelope, ready to post to friends back home. These books also have an empty page at the front for you to write a message on, I bought several just for myself!


There was a real buzz about the place with talks and music continuing until late into the evening.


On my second visit I noticed some very small books that had been made to look like a match book. They could be bought individually or four in a larger match box.

For some reason I didn’t buy any of these (I blame the sun messing with my judgement!) and I regretted it as soon I got home. I’ve rectified my mistake and ordered myself a set from www.bookexmachina.com. All these mini books and written and handmade on the island of Cyprus.

If you like the idea of writing or producing your own book or zine there is a self publishing fair at Quad in Derby this Saturday. It is free to attend and will include talks and workshops.


Glasses Case Tutorial

This is a quick craft to make for yourself or to be given as a present. It’s also a great way of using up leftover scraps of fabric. We used the wonderful London Map Fabric. You might have gathered from previous posts that we simply adore this fabric and have made kindle cases, purses, bookmarks, phone cases and recovered chairs using it! Sadly we are now running to the end of our supply so this project was just perfect for using it up.

To make the case you will need:

Two pieces of your chosen fabric 18cm x 10.5cm
Two pieces of wadding 18cm x 10.5cm
Two piece of lining fabric 19cm x 10.5cm???

The lining fabric is cut one centimetre longer as it is going to be seen on the outside at the top of the case.

To attach the three pieces together, firstly place down the wadding and then lay the outside fabric on top (right side facing up) and lastly add the lining fabric (right side down).The lining and the outside fabric should be layered right side to right side.

Do the same with the second three pieces and then machine across the narrow top through all three pieces. If your outside fabric has a right way up make sure you are stitching at the top of the case.

Once these three have been sewn the seam needs to be pressed open.

Now the two pieces are sewn together right side to right side. You need to sew all round the edge about one centimetre in and leave the short edge at the bottom of the lining open to be able to turn your case the right way out.

Now is a good time to trim the seams. I start by carefully trimming the wadding back to the line of stitching and then trim the fabric about halfway between the edge of the fabric and the stitching.

It is also a good idea to cut across the corners to make it easier to turn these out.

Before turning the correct way out I turn over the seam allowance at the bottom of the lining and press. This makes it easier to sew later.

Carefully turn the case out the right way and ease the corners, this can be done by pushing a ruler down inside your work. Once it is the correct way out, edge stitch across the end of the lining and then push this down inside the case, again a ruler can help. At last you have an attractive and useful item!