Fabric of Life – for Dorset Living Magazine

A little while ago I was asked if I would be interested in doing a ‘questions & answers’ interview for Dorset Living magazine. I’m always happy to try and promote my business – so much effort goes on behind the scenes and it’s such a bonus if a magazine is prepared to support you. I was overjoyed with the resulting double page spread, I couldn’t have asked for more.
Here is a copy of the article.

Dorset-based fabric company Jacqueline Milton was launched during London Design Week in 2017 at the Chelsea Harbour Hotel in London. Jacqueline tells Dorset Living about her passion for local business and what the future holds.

HOW DID THE IDEA OF STARTING YOUR OWN COMPANY COME ABOUT?
A: Like a lot of ideas, it didn’t suddenly happen, there was a great deal of planning before the first fabric collection was launched.  With 30 years’ experience in the interiors industry working as a designer, it seemed a natural progression to produce my own collection and the digital era has made that happen.

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND IN FABRIC DESIGN – IS IT SOMETHING YOU ALWAYS SET OUT TO DO?
A: From an early age, I’ve enjoyed drawing. At college I wanted to be a cartographer or an illustrator, but I was lucky enough to become a designer for Axminster Carpets, Devon. I can only describe my early days there as the equivalent of an apprenticeship. Computers were not part of everyday life and so I was tasked to mix paints and match the yarns. It was some time before I was let loose on designing my own carpet patterns, but I’m proud that one of my designs won a national award and is still available today.
Learning the basics was the best thing that ever happened. I loved it, and it gave me a good understanding of pattern, pattern repeat and the restraints of design in relation to manufacturing.

WHAT FABRICS/PRODUCTS/SERVICES DO YOU OFFER AS A COMPANY?
A: Working from my studio in Halstock, near Dorchester, I offer a collection of printed linens based on my original paintings and floral studies. I use cloth which has been carefully sourced in Scotland and the patterns are printed in England using the latest technology. My collections have been designed to mix and match using a palette of gentle, chalky colours and are perfect for all kinds of soft furnishings and curtains.
Fabric is printed to order, and you can have as little or as much as you need for your interior project. I also have a small selection of cushions and shades made with my popular bee fabric. These have been made locally, I’m a big believer in supporting local business.
As the designer, I’m able to offer a truly bespoke service, for example If you are looking for a particular colour to match your decorating scheme, my studio can tweak any of our fabrics to match your scheme or paint choice.

WHAT INSPIRES YOU WHEN IT COMES TO FABRIC/PRODUCT DESIGN?
A: It’s been a busy time in the studio finalising our new collection called Melbury Lane. Using local names gives a nod to my environment where I gather my inspiration. My work is hugely influenced by my surroundings. I know that sounds cliché but it’s true for a lot of creative people. Miles of hedgerows bursting with life, orchards, crops and rolling hills. I’m constantly inspired by the effortless combinations in nature and this collection is based on just a few of my studies.
I have just introduced six new patterns and each one is available in several colourways. This is a big undertaking for a small business, because in total that means 24 new fabrics.
It’s difficult to know when to stop adding new colours or patterns, the desire to keep adding is huge.

TELL ME ABOUT THE DESIGN/PRODUCTION PROCESS. HOW DOES IT ALL WORK AND HOW LONG DOES IT ALL TAKE FROM THE FIRST IDEA TO THE FINISHED PRODUCT?
A: The design process starts with sketches and once an idea starts to germinate, I will draw it into a repeat pattern. This is quite a mathematical process. The pattern must match top to bottom to produce a continuous roll. And it must also match side to side.
Once I’m happy with the placement, I will mix the paints for the final piece of work; this is the fun bit! I use a variety of mediums – water-based paints, inks and pencil are my favourites. The finished painting will be converted to a digital file in my studio.
In all, the design process takes about 3 weeks, but that is just the beginning. It takes time to decide on the final colours and to ensure that the new patterns link to the existing fabrics. Each new fabric must work on its own and also with the other fabrics – like one big family.
I will spend several months testing different colours on linen. The process of launching a new collection from start to finish will take 6 months to a year. There’re always a few challenges along the way, but it’s exciting seeing the finished fabrics emerge all that time after the initial sketches!

WOULD YOU SAY YOU HAVE A SIGNATURE STYLE/COMMON THEME?
A: We are not mass market, we never will be, but we appeal to people keen to create a relaxed country feel. I believe interiors should be comfortable and easy to live with. There is a common theme with my work and that is my love of flora and fauna. I like to add an insect or two into a floral design so there’s an element of surprise.

ARE THE DESIGNS IN YOUR WORK IN LINE WITH YOUR OWN PERSONAL STYLE IN YOUR OWN HOME?
A:Where possible, I use my own fabrics in the home because they reflect my personal style. However, the ultimate thrill is when a customer buys my fabric. They’ve chosen it above all others because they love it, and that is the best reward any artist could ask for.

WHAT ARE YOUR ASPIRATIONS/FUTUR PLANS FOR THE COMPANY?
A: My next job will be to prepare for upcoming shows and possibly an open studio event next year. There’s always plenty going on in the studio and I’ve already started planning out new designs, but it will be a little while before they are in the pipeline.

WHAT DO YOU PARTICULARLY LOVE ABOUT BEING IN DORSET?
A: Being creative, Dorset is the perfect place to live. It’s a large county so there’s plenty to explore. I’m lucky to be near the coast, surrounded by countryside and near to some great towns and villages. Bridport is one of my favourites, I love the weekly markets. I live in a very friendly village where we have our own cinema club, a community shop and much more besides. There are some great walks from the front door, and if that’s all too energetic, there are some excellent pubs. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

Dorset Living, November 2018

 

Shepherd’s Hut

As I wended my way across the Dorset/Somerset countryside down little lanes, I felt more and more excited.

The story first started when Kirsty of ‘Dither and Faff’ saw my work on Instagram and fell in love with the designs and the yellow ochre colours that I use in some of my fabrics. She felt they would be perfect for her shepherd’s hut B&B, which was all but ready apart from the finishing touches like cushions and blinds for the windows. After looking at fabric samples, I put Kirsty in touch with Helen, of ‘Helen Izzard Designs’, who I knew would be able to bring Kirsty’s vision into life. Helen guided Kirsty with the final choice of fabric design and once that was chosen, the fabrics were printed to order. At that time, the hut was not finished, and Helen had to walk across the fields to measure for blinds – quite an unusual brief!
What I loved about this project was the coming together of local businesses. We have so much talent on our doorstep, and so I contacted Somerset Living to share our story.

That’s why I found myself in the middle of nowhere. Somerset Living thought it was a great story and so the three of us got together to take some photos for the magazine. What a happy day that was with plenty of laughter, cake and good weather. We trundled all the photographic gear over the field to the shepherd’s hut and soon caused chaos and mayhem in a very small space!

Between us we managed to get some great photos for the Somerset Living magazine, but the best thing to come out of the day was the forming of new friendships.

 

Rose Garden fabric in the bedroom

 

Cake – there was plenty of it!

 

From left to right – Me, Helen and Kirsty

 

Somerset Living – November Issue 2018

If you’re looking for a B&B with a difference in Dorset (and gorgeous fabrics) look at Dither and Faff

And if you’re looking for someone to make exquisite things (from gorgeous fabric) visit Helen Izzard Designs

 

Classic Blue and White

I’m really enjoying these crisp blue skies, and it got me thinking about blue and white schemes in the home. It’s a timeless combination that never fails to create fresh and elegant interiors.

Here we’ve used our new Clematis design in this classic combination, it’s uplifting, calm and dreamy.
There are so many shades of blue and white, a warmer blue will give you a more gentle and traditional feel, while cooler hues will feel crisp and modern.
Use the darkest shade from your chosen blue to add definition and the softer tints in the rest of the room, this will create a welcoming harmony.

I’ve put together this board to show you some of our pretty blue fabrics. They’re all on the website, so happy browsing!

Melbury Lane – our new collection

It’s been a busy time in the studio finalising our new collection called Melbury Lane.

Introducing one new fabric is a big undertaking for a small business, but introducing a collection can be quite daunting. Each new pattern must work on its own and also fit with the other fabrics. All my patterns are hand painted before being converted to digital files. Once they are digital, I spend a lot of time trying out new colours and colour combinations before they are ready for production. It’s difficult to know when to stop adding new colours or patterns, the desire to keep adding is huge! The process of launching a new collection from start to finish takes about 6 months to a year. There’re always a few challenges along the way, but it’s exciting seeing the finished fabrics emerge all that time after the initial sketches!

We hope you will be as excited as we are!

Summer Shades

In celebration of Summer, I’ve collated this pretty palette of pinks, greens, blues and whites. This palette is gorgeous, and for those of you who know me well, will know it’s one of my favourites.
I’m constantly inspired by the effortless combinations in nature; uplifting summer skies with wild flower meadows work together to make a joyous combination.

Here I’ve used our Wisteria sky as the lead design and mixed it with smaller scale designs to add interest. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different patterns in the same room, it’s unlikely they will be right next to each other and choosing a different scale adds interest. You might have noticed that I have sneaked in a new pinstripe fabric in the photo. This will soon be available in several colourways and I’ll keep you posted.

Meanwhile enjoy this lovely weather!

Bespoke colours

If you are looking for a bespoke colour to match your decorating scheme, we are very happy to do that for you.

Here in the studio, we’re able to tweak any of our fabrics to match your decorating scheme or paint choice. This photo shows a recent project where the background of our popular Wisteria fabric has been adjusted to match the paint. We need a good size sample of your chosen colour, I usually pop out and buy a match pot if we’re matching to a paint. The studio will spend time adjusting the colour and when we think we’ve got a good match, we print a fabric sample for you to approve.

Our wisteria design is very appropriate on this project because the customer has a wisteria just coming into flower growing round all three windows to be dressed! I love the idea of Wisteria inside and out!

We charge an affordable one-off fee, which covers our studio time and fabric sampling for one colour change (normally the background). If you’ve looked everywhere and you can’t quite find the right colour, this could be the answer. Please contact the studio for more information – we love anything a bit different!

Finalist in the BITA Awards 2018

BITA is the voice of British Interiors & Textiles and aims to inform, support and promote all aspects of the Interiors & Textiles Industry.  As an organisation, BITA promotes all areas of the British Textiles and Interiors industry and helps to represent our work and products throughout the UK and abroad.

Launched in 2017, the BITA Awards celebrate excellence, originality and hard work across the sector.

I am so excited to have been nominated as a finalist in the Best Fabric Brand category for 2018.

Finalists and winners are chosen by their peers from across the interiors and textiles industry here in the UK, which is a great accolade.  I understand that there have been a huge number of nominations this year, so I feel very proud to be in the finals.

The finals will take place later in the year at a Summer Garden Party…..so fingers crossed.

Along with the votes themselves, BITA members and customers have given feedback about the company and my fabrics – here are some of the generous comments:

“So lovely to receive a personal message.”

“Love the softness of your colours – beautiful.”

“Thank you very much for being so attentive”

“Can’t thank Jacqueline Milton enough for her help, the fabric was recoloured and printed railroaded specifically for our project.”

Somerset Lavender

When we think of lavender, we often think of the purple fields stretching into the distance in Provence. But lavender is grown commercially in this country too and the lavender we use for our lavender bags is grown locally in Somerset. That’s the bit that I find particularly exciting!

Talking to the local growers, I learned so much about this wonderful herb.

There are lots of different varieties of lavender, some are used for culinary purposes and other varieties are better suited for beauty products and fragrance. Because of its versatility, lavender is a hugely popular plant. I love growing it because it attracts the bees and butterflies; in fact, our path can be quite noisy with the sound of buzzing in the summer!

This ancient herb was used as far back as the Greek and Roman times to scent the bathwater and its name derives from the Latin word lavare, meaning to wash. Over the centuries it’s been grown in gardens for its many uses around the home.

Lately it’s seen a revival in the culinary world and there are lots of delicious recipes to explore (something for a future post).

Lavender’s medicinal properties are well known but I was surprised at how many different remedies it can be used for. The flower has been infused as a tea to soothe headaches, calm nerves, ease flatulence, dizziness and halitosis. Lavender (lavandula angustifolia) is the most versatile of all essential oils. Most commonly known for its relaxing effects on the body, therapeutic-grade lavender has been highly regarded for the skin. The essential oil has antiseptic properties and can be used on insect bites and stings. Blended for use as a massage oil in aromatherapy, it can be used for throat infections, skin sores, inflammation, rheumatic aches, anxiety, insomnia and depression. In fact, the list goes on!

Around the house the dried flowers are loved for their insect repellent properties and long-lasting fragrance.

Used for centuries, I can see why lavender remains such a popular garden plant, from cottages to stately homes; it should be in every enthusiast’s garden.

My photo shoot in Devon

The idea behind the photo shoot is to showcase a selection of our designs enabling you to visualise our fabrics in your home. A huge amount of pre-planning goes into the day, to try and create homely scenes with ornaments and everyday objects.

To make it easier on the day, I draw up a visual plan of the scenes. This is useful for reference on the day of the shoot and also for creating a list of items that will be needed for the photo. For example a bedroom photo will need bedding, cushions, lampshades, throws, flowers…….the list goes on. In fact, it is like moving house!

The day has arrived and I’m getting quite excited as we drive down the windy Devon lanes; we eventually pull up outside ‘Susie’s House’, a lovely old farmhouse. It’s so charming with oodles of features including a fabulous stone spiral staircase; every corner is a photo opportunity, but I have to remember we’re here to soot my fabrics.

Armed with cushions, fabric and all manner of props, we take over this delightful home!

Once all the items are in place Deborah Schenck gets to work with her lighting and makes final tweaks to the display. What looks good to the onlooker, doesn’t always work as a photo. Deborah is our fabulous photographer for the day and such fun to work with.  She is patient, enthusiastic and bursting with ideas; far too many to cram into one day! My role throughout the day is to change the scenes, make cups of tea and anything else that’s needed.

I’m delighted with the results and I hope you enjoy spotting some new photos across my website.

Here’s a little peek behind the scenes…

October Interiors

The October Interiors Show is just around the corner and I’m hugely excited to be exhibiting alongside many leading brands and artisan crafters.

The show is hosted by the Curtain and Blind Makers Friendly Forum (CABMFF) and held at the world-famous Cheltenham Racecourse.

If you’re a fabric and interiors professional, this is one for the diary. Click here to pre-register.

We look forward to showing you the full collection along with a couple of new additions for the autumn.

Open from 10am – 4.30pm with unlimited free parking. Cheltenham Racecourse, The Hall of Fame, Cheltenham GL50 4SH.