Friday, July 17, 2009

Treasure hunt (or the post that goes on and on)

Today was a fun day. I taught an old classmate (like from elementary school, who I met up with on Facebook) how to knit.

But before that, I decided to go on an antique treasure hunt. Wait, maybe I should back up.

OK, last night I attended a book signing at Bookworks, a local bookstore in Albuquerque's North Valley, for the "The Kitchen Linens Book" by EllynAnne Geisel.


I had to zip over on my dinner break. It just sounded sort of interesting, and she was supposed to have some vintage linens on display. She turned out to wonderful to listen to.

The book also has iron-on transfers in vintage designs included in the back, so I can try doing this on my own napkins. Which I will, because I certainly don't have enough hobbies. Soon I will be forced to quit my job, and maybe move to another planet where there are at least 48 hours in every day. But I digress.

You see, those old linens with silly pictures embroidered on them really have a tale to tell. Many women in the '30s and '40s had very little, especially during the Depression (Thank you, Robyn, for the history lesson). They may have had one set of napkins, and they were often handmade. They embellished their linens with embroidery to make them special. They embroidered kitchen towels with happy teapots and such to make their days more cheerful.

I overheard one woman saying that she and her mom used to embroider their tablecloths at the kitchen table, talking and rotating the cloth until it was finished.

I was smitten, to say the least. I suddenly wanted some of these linens to treasure. I wanted to bring back to life the careful handiwork of some woman before me. The handiwork that she took pride in, but that her family clearly did not understand or appreciate as they tossed it into the Goodwill pile.

I recalled the kitty pot holders my mother-in-law gave me when her own mother died. I pulled them from the drawer and saw them in a whole new light. I thought of my husband's grandmother living in a tiny house, poor, in a little mining town in Colorado so long ago.


I suddenly had a new love for those pot holders I once thought were ugly and old and icky. And that brings me to my treasure hunt. You know how I've been on a search for vintage sheets? I noticed that I never saw any vintage dish towels or things like that at the thrift stores. It had never dawned on me to try antique stores until last night, when I heard one of the book signing attendees say something. (And strangely enough, I never saw any vintage sheets at the antique stores.)

I looked online for the antique mall on Fourth Street and got the address. But as I was driving down Fourth Street in Albuquerque, N.M., I kept finding one antique store after another. I'd pull out of one driveway and two doors down there was another one. I also found a second-hand store (not clothing) called Ren's Thrift, where I got the best deals. For one thing, I got these cool rooster tins for very cheap there, plus a few linens.


I'll actually keep those inside my sewing cabinet to store notions.

Here are my linen finds:


You know, these women would actually hand-crochet borders to them. They'd intricately embroider the designs. It was all done with such care, and, most certainly, patience.


(Those napkins on the bottom right are probably not handmade, but the set of four was pretty, and also dirt cheap at Ren's Thrift Store. I've been trying to use cloth napkins instead of paper more often.)


This one, below, is one of my favorites. I like the colors. Unfortunately, no part of my house really goes with the antique or vintage look. Remember these silly cats from the estate sale? They feel right at home on these linens. They're all, "meow meow, I remember the good ol' days, meow. The days when people didn't buy all their crap at Wal-Mart, meow."

Vintage linens

I got this hand-crocheted lace, too. AWESOME!!!! I am definitely going to use this to embellish something that I sew or knit:


And these buttons, to go with the Argyle Lace Hat from "Boutique Knits." It requires seven buttons, and I thought these vintage ones would be a neat touch. There are only six, though they are in their original package. I'll be using this gray wool yarn.

hats,knitting projects,vintage

boutique knits,hats,knitting projects

I never did reach my original destination. I found it, but it had a sign that it moved a mile down the road, and I kept getting distracted by other shops. I actually found out that it's an area called The Antique Mile, and there are 15 or so shops there. If it weren't 100-plus damn degrees out these days, maybe I'd stroll about on foot. And also, if there were sidewalks in the area. And no scuzzy peeps. And no drunken drivers who may swerve accidentally onto the shoulder and kill me when I'm just innocently seeking out vintage linens. Goddammit.

The book's author says she collects these items to honor the women who made them. She doesn't care if it's not her monogram; she uses it anyway. And she uses all of her vintage linens. She doesn't keep them in drawers for safekeeping. I think that's what I'll do. Better to make use of them and enjoy them, in my opinion.


On a slight sidetrack, I'm going to make Simplicity 2927. I had picked it up for a buck on sale, and wasn't too thrilled by the looks of it. Then I saw that this version of it on My Daruma and knew I must make it. Hers is so awesome. I couldn't find good fabric. I wanted something simple and plain, maybe something that would match black pants. I picked this black linen blend with gray polka dot embroidery, and a cute button from Village Wools' faboo button selection.


(I see now that the picture is pretty useless. You can't even see the fabric. You'll just have to await the end result. ;) )

But I also decided to do a trial run, and chose this very unexciting gray fabric. Guess what it cost me for a yard. Go on, guess. OK, I'll tell you: 50 cents. That's right. It's just a practice run, but if it comes out OK, I may very well have a usuable, cute top for 50 cents. But I also got a button for it at Village Wools, and that was around $2.50, so something doesn't make sense here.



Alright, so back to vintage linens.


At one stop I got this piece of fabric with what appears to be a practice run on embroidery, and I'm looking for ideas on what to do with it. I could cut it and sew it onto something else. Any ideas?



amelie / my daruma said...

Now i can't wait to see your black version of simplicity 2927 ;o)

Kerry said...

Regarding the practice run embroidery - it reminds me of a vintage blouse a friend of mine gave me. She actually gave me an entire box of late 60s early 70s clothes that she thought I might like because apparently when she was just out of college she was, uh, painfully thin. She was trying to figure out who could actually wear clothes that were so tiny, and she gave them all to me.

It turns out that these things are too small even for me. I think she had a 23" waist or something, because I can't even zip these up (granted I am thick waisted for someone of my size).
Anyhoo, there is this blouse on there with a bit of embroidery in the middle, and the fabric is very linen-like. Perhaps you could find a pattern that uses panels and have this piece be a middle panel piece. Or not. this idea could totally suck. I'll send you a pic of the blouse so you can see what I mean.

MLE said...

Your cats still make me laugh...especially when you give them a voice! I like all your fiends, but I really love those vintage linens!!

Robyn said...

Kerry, I was also thinking of doing what the author of that book does when there is a linen that is too worn or is damaged. She sometimes cuts out the cute parts and uses them as the pockets on vintage-style aprons that she makes. That may be an idea, too.

I definitely like the idea of making it into part of a blouse or something.