Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Meet the stallholders...a quick cuppa with Eirlys Penn aka Scrapiana

Eirlys Penn is another one of our amazing traders who’ve been with us since the beginning. She lives in Bath, sells the most beautiful vintage haberdashery and also writes a very popular blog, Scrapiana.

Hi Eirlys, tell us all about yourself.

I sell vintage haberdashery, textiles and other individually selected items, some handmade from scrap fabric by yours truly.


When and why did you start doing this?

In truth, Scrapiana was the sand-lined safety exit for my unstoppable impulse to collect old sewing items. My proper day job is writing, and I’m just beginning to combine my knowledge of vintage sewing items, my ability to make, and my writing skills - a really exciting development. I blog about my collecting, making and selling at

Where do you get your ideas/inspiration from?

I’m a probably a frustrated curator deep down, and there are a few museums which particularly inspire me. The Shaker sewing items in the American Museum (which has just re-opened for the season) are exquisite, especially the signature oval sewing box lined with unexpectedly vibrant, almost psychedelic fabric, and the collection of different sized, beautifully shaped thread bobbins. We’re also hugely lucky in Bath to have the Fashion Museum; their Behind-the-Scenes exhibition is well worth a nose round. But all hail to the mighty V&A! Last February half-term I took my sons to London for the Natural History Museum, but the monstrous queues circling right round the block persuaded even them that it wasn’t worth it, so we scooted over the road to the uncrowded V&A instead. There was ample amusement for the boys in the revolving door alone, but they actually found the exhibits themselves interesting (big surprise) and I was obviously in seventh heaven. I keep my eye on the museum’s free lunchtime talks list and their impressive array of courses.

At the moment, I have a soft spot for the early twentieth century when labels on cotton reels, darning threads, packets of pins etc tended to sport an understatedly elegant old-gold lettering; some nice examples are reproduced in this year’s V&A diary.

Have you been part of “It’s darling!” before?

Yes, I’ve been to all of them! Do I qualify for a loyalty badge? The organizers are very charming and helpful, and the traders are a really nice, friendly assortment too. And it’s wonderfully busy, otherwise I wouldn’t be there. I’m really excited that this one coincides with the Bath in Fashion festival.

What do you remember most about previous fairs?

Possibly talking to older visitors about their memories of darning. I sell old darning mushrooms (wood and Bakelite) and they evoke strong memories - not all good - of an era before the factory sock when girls were expected to mend Daddy’s holed ones. I’m all in favour of bringing back darning skills but think Daddy should really be capable of mending his own.

Are you doing anything special with your stall?

Yes, I’ll have lots of Mother’s Day goodies: special labels to sew into your textile gifts [see picture], teeny reels of ribbon and vintage ric-rac, covered buttons, old cotton reels which will slip happily into Mum’s sewing box. I also have vintage brooches, hankies and scarves, plus some Easter and general spring-time delights too, such as vintage children’s and natural history books and cross-stitch patterns featuring bunnies and birds.

Mother's Day label

Please finish this sentence: What I love most about Spring is…the Magnolia bursting into flower, and the bustling activity of nesting birds; a pair of blue-tits is nesting in an air vent just outside my office window and I keep catching sight of them bringing more material to line it. Nature is beautifully irrepressible.

Please finish this sentence too: What I need to buy most in spring is... Bird food! Those bird parents could do with our help.

What’s “It’s darling!” in your life?

I might have to say Mittens the cat [pictured with an eiderdown I’ll be selling] as your charity’s the Cats & Dogs Home. But at this time of year, the Magnolia stellata is really the star for me – a darling little pale pink Magnolia which is currently flowering in my garden. 

Mittens the cat and an eiderdown

I planted a tiny white Magnolia stellata in our London garden 16 years ago when my eldest was born. The lovely thing about these little trees is that they flower when still very small indeed, so are great value for money. When we moved (just after our second son was born, five years later) we uprooted the poor little tree and took it with us, so it became his birth tree too. Our new home was only round the corner, so we trundled the treasured specimen there in a wheelbarrow! – along with the well-rotted contents of the compost heap, which the new owners didn’t want. That was February, and the Magnolia still managed to flower that year. Sadly, it would have been utterly impractical to do another uprooting three years later when we moved to Bath, so we reluctantly left the little tree behind. I hope it’s putting on a good spring show still.

Magnolia stellata

For more details about Eirlys and her work go to, email or telephone  07769 655073


  1. Thank you, my dears! Always a pleasure to talk with you! - and share some tea out of those lovely (if smallish capacity) vintage cups. See you Saturday! - E x

  2. Wonderful interview! I'd love to run my hands over all of those vintage lovelies. Beautiful stuff, Eirlys.

  3. lovely interview. It makes me wish I was closer so I could come too. Beautiful interview and vintage treasures.


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