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On our second day in France we went to the food market in Esperaza in search of provisions. Once loaded with pain, olives and tomatos we then came across the delightful Hat Museum. We started with a fantastically dated 1980s video explaining the process, however some of the explanations may have been lost in translation.

There was a small but perfectly executed display of the different machines involved including a beret knitting machine: 

beret knitting machine

A carding machine for the start of the felt making process:

carding machine 2

A felting machine to make the initial cloches:

felting machine

And a rather exciting looking pummeling (?) set up:

hat museum 2

A wide range of moulds:

hat moulds

Some shaping machines which wouldn’t have looked out of place in the early James Bond films:

hat shaping machine

 And a rather gorgeous copper steam (?) contraption:

copper machine

Finishing off with a display of antique French hats:

french hats

Good food and culture in the same day – who could ask for more…

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I have just come back from a relaxing stay in the Corbieres region in the South West of France. Our gite was a delight and I think you may be seeing some blue in my upcoming work as I was pretty taken with the shutters where we were staying and elsewhere in the region:

gite

I would thoroughly recommend where we stayed – Sliabh amharc (Mountain View) which is a 17th century stone-built long house which sleeps six. Marg and Jim are wonderful hosts and more details about the gite and the area can be found at: http://www.cubieres.co.uk/. We flew from London Stansted on Ryan Air to Perpignan which is a pleasant 1 hour drive away.

As well as finding time to relax and going swimming in the nearby rivers and gorges we also found time to do some sight seeing visiting the pleasant but very very busy Carcassonne with its fairytale medieval city.

carcassone

The architecture and colours provided lots of inspiration:

french building carcasonne 

As well as the quirky detailing:

murel

And the independent potteries which were abundant in the region:

french pottery

One of our favourites was L’Atelier in Esperaza, which also serves crepes and runs day classes. Fortunately I was with companions who were equally happy to do a last minute ‘u-turn’ to go and have a rummage in the Brocante (second hand) shops and yards which we passed. However somethings I just couldn’t fit into my hand luggage:

old singer sewing machine

The brocante market on Saturday morning in Perpignan was a treasure to find:

brocant

And I also found some more antique linen to add to the embroidered table cloth and set of 12 napkins I had already procured in Lagrasse from an antique store (more details to follow in future posts):

antiquelinen

Of course we also fitted some time in for some boutique shopping, and particularly feel in love with a shop – uBu…la suite in Perpignon which stocked my favourite brand Odd Molly and also had a lovely cafe/restaurant. If you are in the region I would definitely recommend a visit (especially during the sale season).

Boutique1

boutique2

So if I had any worries about having run out of inspiration after my HND course, I really needn’t have worried as I now have a wonderful range of rich imagery and fabrics and ribbons to explore over the coming months…