The eclectic look in home decorating is trending. Repurposing, reusing, refurbishing is
in vogue. Thank Goodness. I never thought my house would ever get back in style. Actually one of the reasons why are in the antique and vintage linen and lace business is because we love quality. Hold a piece of 1890 – 1930 lace up to a piece of lace from the “mart” stores, you’ll see what I mean by this. Remember the 70’s? Avocado walls, polyester and shag carpeting? I can do without the long shag, but the denser and shorter shag does make a great retro look for select rooms. How about the 80’s with the popcorn ceiling and the color “salmon?” What, you don’t remember salmon colored walls? How about avocado? We don’t use sideboards that much anymore and we don’t store blankets or linens in chest of drawers that much, because our homes and condos are getting smaller. We don’t have the room for too much furniture, but we still want the quality and style associated with that era. So, what can we do? One popular idea is to repurpose / retrofit a Victorian Chest of Drawers or Side Board into a remodeled bathroom sink and cabinet. My next decorating change will be to scrape the popcorn from my ceiling. However, thinking with my retro state of mind, if I don’t look up, it can wait for another year. Who knows, it might come back in style.
I wish to thank all you who helped make my stores as successful as they were last year, especially those of you who stopped in and said hi on the weekends when I had a chance to be in the stores. I had a ball meeting with you. Let’s do it again real soon.
I want to thank those who stopped by my Facebook Page and who visited our website/blog at Linens2Lace.com. Thank you for your kind remarks. I want to thank those of you who purchased the many types of vintage linens I have in stock and those who simply browsed and had kind words to say. Thank you for picking up our “Use Anytime” discount cards and for telling your friends.
I want to thank my furniture buyers. You made my year. We decided to mix up our offerings this last year by bringing in antique and vintage furniture that reflected what you might find in sewing rooms or the bed and bath area. We are very pleased with the results of this mix.
My wish for all of you is a very prosperous 2014. My mother always told me to never discuss politics or religion, so I won’t – except to say that my hopes are for 2014 to find a congress that remembers that they are “for the people” and not just their individual party affiliations. Sorry Mom – I had to do it.
I am looking forward to this year. I am looking forward to meeting all my friends again, including strangers who I consider friends I haven’t met yet. With my teaching schedule, I get in to the stores on weekends and on holidays so once again, if on a weekend you see someone with their nose buried in a pile of vintage linens or lace – it’s probably me. Stop in and say hi. I’d love to visit and show you around.
Rummaging through our lace box, the young woman asked me if we ever dyed our lace. I smiled thinking back to the hours of hand washing, categorizing and pricing each piece. I told her no, that due to the demands on my time, that was one area of owning a vintage linen store, I had yet to venture in to. I asked her what she was looking for. She didn’t know, just looking but she mentioned that she was in town for her Aunts second wedding and was looking for a special gift, “something old,” she said. Lace and Ribbons for sashes are used for weddings or first communions. They make great gifts and because they are from gentler eras long past, they represent something very special. Pale blue or light rose are perfect colors. Think about a spring winter morning sky.
By the way, as long as we are talking quality vintage and pricing, (we were, weren’t we?) monogram bed linens are often very heavy. They were favored by the wealthy who could afford to have them monogrammed. The thread count for many of the vintage linens is over 1000 and some we have estimated approach the 2000 mark.
Remember, if you like bargains, (and who doesn’t) when shopping either one of our stores; “The Treasure Shoppe” or “AmericanClassics Antique Mall”, be sure to pick up your discount card. Keep the card with you, give one to your friends and every time you or your friend purchase our linens, just present the card at the checkout counter.
And once again, if you see a woman with her nose buried in the linens, it’s probably me. Stop in and say hi. Tell me what you’re looking for. I probably have it.
And now I want to step away from the store for a moment. These last couple of weeks in Colorado have been devastating. The flooding has uprooted and separated family’s, destroyed or severely damaged homes and cost lives. As I write this, the news is reporting on another tragic loss of two young people caught in rushing waters. I’m trying hard not to cry. We may be strong here in Colorado and we can rebuild property, but we cannot bring back loved ones. My heart goes out to all who are affected by the floods. Please head the warnings and do whatever you can to keep you and your families safe.
The Scranton Lace Company stood as a testament to quality industry. The company was the largest producers of Nottingham Lace using massive Jacquard looms brought in by ships from Nottingham, England in 1896. Construction workers and engineers installed the massive Jacquard looms, planting them firmly on huge concrete footings, then built the plant around them.
Employing over 1400 people in its heyday, Scranton Lace Company had to be a great place to work. The plant; spanning over two city blocks, was not only the largest employer in the area, but it also housed its own theater, bowling alley, infirmary, gymnasium and barbershop. When WWII broke out, Scranton Lace was right there with the troops. The plant shifted some of its looms into producing camouflage and mosquito netting. For looms of this size using Punch Card technology, this was no easy feat.
During the 50’s, import competition from a war-torn Japan looking to rebuild and China with its cheap labor force, forced the company to layoff workers. This hit the town of Scranton very hard as the lace company was it’s largest employer. Then, when risky investments in the fledging Television industry of the 50’s failed to pay off, the company could no longer compete. It held on with a skeleton crew producing minimal lace products, until finally in 2002 the company president – walked on to the production floor and during mid-shift, announced the plant closed – effective immediately. The plant lay abandoned from then on.
Being a lover of fine vintage lace, I started out to write this post to impress you with how lace was produced and to show you one of the best examples of manufactured lace that ever existed. However, words alone cannot give you the full magnitude of this process, nor the sense of loss you feel when you look upon the abandoned plant. To appreciate the process fully, you have to see it and to do that without travelling to Scranton, I recommend the pictorial journey through the abandoned Scranton Lace Plant you can find at http://wiseminds.com/thedigitalmirage/?p=136 . The photographers did a fantastic job of capturing the heart and soul of this plant. It is well worth your time to see the photography; especially the looms and the punch cards used to produce the miles and miles of lace, that came off them.
I caution you however. If you love antiques, and long for the quality produced in an era long past, you will come away from the pictorial journey feeling a sense of loss for an era we can never hope to recapture again. An era when “quality” was a word you heard more often than “profit” in the board meetings.
There is hope for the old plant however. On December 30 2011, the company’s abandoned building was featured in the pilot episode of the Abandoned TV series. That drew national attention to it. In 2012, the factory complex was added to the National Register of Historic Places and then in 2011, plans for restoration were placed before the Scranton City Council.
So, my husband; feeling a bit left out of my vintage linens, (what man isn’t?) decided to add a “Dads Corner” to my AmericanClassics – B30 space. “Dads
Corner” in a Mom & Me space? What, is he crazy? Well, as it turns out, he may not be. He put in some of his vintage pens that he took from his other case in the store (case 409), some beautiful paperweights that I had admired when he first purchased them, and some funky art pieces that frankly make me laugh every time I look at them. (The “Primitive Printers” on top of the case is so ugly – it can only be a piece for a man cave or a writer with a sense of humor.
Anyway, he set the case up and immediately it started to gain attention. Mostly from the men who’s wives were forcing them to wait while they visited my lovely linen selection. I began to see my husbands thinking here. Mom & Me should be a shop that everyone could enjoy. Of course his reasoning was that it helped poor husbands who are doing their best to pass the time while waiting. Then he began to put in some Japanese and Chinese Netsuke carvings. Now he had my attention and, as it turns out, some of the attention of my visiting wives. Now he has three cases – two in Space B30 and one in Space B26 where he has many of his older Victorian items.
Good for him – it keeps him out of trouble and out of my . . . well you know what I mean.
When you are facing a raft full of gingham, lace, satins, silks and velvet, what do you think? The first thought that came to my mind was “I need to open a section of Mom & Me’s Vintage Linens and Lace, devoted to Victorian / Gothic (Goth) style. The idea intrigued me so much, the more I thought of it, the better it became. Of course, that thinking led my creative side to go crazy. That expansion led me to adding a partner who’s an expert in furniture and the styling’s of the Victorian era, especially the American Victorian era; where, if you were in the south, extended into the Antebellum era. (After war) Naturally, a theme setting like this, demands authentic furniture and they have some beautiful pieces. The more the idea nurtured and the more we talked about it, the better it became. So, we did it.
We added Furniture like a three-piece parlor set with chairs, footstools and a beautiful couch. Add in matching 1860 velvet couches. Not reproductions mind you, serious Victorian era furniture, including a Barrel top desk and a Victorian dresser with a marble top that will knock your socks off.
Want to see what we produced? Stop in at the American Antique Marketplace and right next to my store in space B30, you will see my new addition in space B26, which include the furniture I just described. If you love Gothic, Victorian, or Steampunk, you will be sure to find something that matches your taste here. Stop in, finger the Satin. Run your hands over the Battenberg lace banquet tablecloth that’s hanging on at the entrance. That’s 123 year old lace you’re holding. Still beautiful to this day and it has many more years left to grace your table. However, if you see me holding tight to the 130 year old Rose colored Watermark satin with Battenberg inserts, please try to understand. I’m having a little separation anxiety.
“Nobody wants to live in the past, we just want to be able to step into it when we need to breathe.” That was the philosophy of the
visitor who stood before me, casually fingering the 1860’s Waterfall Satin bedspread I had hanging in the corner. She went on to say, “That is why I created my “get away” room using a Victorian theme. I love everything Victorian. I can step back into that era when ever I want. When things are going too fast, I can close the door and slow the day down. The rest of my house I call modern country but my room is strictly Victorian. I don’t have a telephone or any other modern conveniences in there.”
She stepped around to finger the French Victorian Lamp shades. We were in the Willowstone store and she had been there for about five minutes when we struck up a conversation. She went on to tell me, “I have my books, my Victorian couch, my tea set; which I have filled with Earl Grey, and I have my plush French Provincial chair and footstool, in which to plank my butt in and close my eyes for a while. Sometimes I read, sometimes I merely sit there, unwinding. I may sit there for hours doing nothing but quilting, sewing or reading. Then there are those days when I may only get to sit there for a minute or so. No matter what, this is my sanctuary and I use it.”
She went over to the lace section and picked one of our Quaker Lace tablecloths. “This will look beautiful draped over the back of the settee and used as a shawl.” Just the right weight to keep the chill off the legs in the wintertime, without being as heavy as the wool blankets I have in our living room.”
As she folded it up and stuck in her cart, she went on to say, “ I love to repurpose. Lace of all types are my favorite, plus damask. The quality of the old world workmanship, lives on forever and you can’t find the intricate patterns like you get in bobbin or Quaker lace or the beautiful patterns you see in a pure white Damask tablecloth.” I asked her if her whole house was Victorian Style. She said, “Oh no, more eclectic than anything else. She was mainly into repurposing. “For example,” she said, “I purchased the entire set of vintage lace curtains you had in your store at American Classics and used those over my windows in my office area. They were vintage Chinese lace; a very delicate pattern. They do well over my modern roll top desk which better accommodates my computer screen. I also purchased that large roll of lace trim you had at the Treasure Shoppe and used that on the walls in the daughter’s room. As you can tell, I shop all your stores. I wanted to do something different, so for their room, so I made a lace-ceiling border, like those stick on borders, around the entire room.”
“I used Elmer’s white glue, watered down slightly to make it paintable with a brush, and then glued the lace to the top of the wall. When it dried, I painted over it. I messed up the first time when I inadvertently stretched it too tight. I got in a hurry. It shrunk and separated from the corners. It was easy to peel off and the second time, I just laid it making sure it wasn’t stretched and I only did one wall at a time.”
She promised to send me pictures I will share with you, but in the meantime, do a Google search for interior decorating lace borders and you should find instructions.
By the end of her stay in my store, I was ready to go home and redecorate. Instead, I sat down and shared her conversation with you. I think she has the right idea. If you are into antiques and vintage, decorate to an era and not just to color, plus, repurpose anything and everything you find for that era. The best part however was her advice on de-stressing by building a “get away” room. Good advice and I’m so lucky to have the perfect stores for it. Now if I could just find that room.
Did you know that in 1846 cans were first invented? How ironic is it that it took 12 years for someone to invent the can opener? What did they do with the cans for twelve years; sit and look at the shiny metal lining their shelves; wondering what the contents tasted like? Of course, by 1858, someone had managed to invent the Rotary washing machine. This invention provided the young homemaker with other things to do than stare at cans.
How many of you, when you were kids, remember chewing Blackjack gum? Remember your parents looking screaming in horror, thinking you had swallowed black paint? (Maybe it was just mine who did this; they were a little over dramatic back then.) Well, in 1872, the year Blackjack gum was invented, kids everywhere shoved it into their mouths by the bucket full. Who knew it was so old? So millions of kids (with black gums) chewed Blackjack on the way to the woodpile, because it wasn’t until 1896 that the first electric stove was developed. This leads me to my next revelation.
Before 1896, it was little Johnny’s duty to stoke Moms cooking fire. If he was good, his treat was more Blackjack gum. Only the rich could afford coal, so wood had to do until the something better came along. In 1896 “better” came in the form of magic. The first electric stove graced the family’s kitchen. Homemakers everywhere were happily cooking away on this newfangled contraption up until 1921, when along comes Mr. Henry Ford – a man who couldn’t stand to waste anything. You remember Henry; he invented the Ford Model T and Assembly Line Manufacturing, but in 1921 after the electric stove had already been in full use and loved my millions of Moms, good Ol’ Henry brought to us the now-familiar charcoal briquette. Up until then, no one knew they wanted to go back to wood, but Ford got the idea from the scrap lumber left over from building his model T’s. He had all this scrap, that he could turn into smaller scrap by heating the snot out of it, and that the resulting (now black – semi burnt – scrap) got very hot and lasted a long time when burned in a stove. Being the salesperson he was, he sold the public on using his newly coined “charcoal” for cooking. Low and behold 1921 saw the birth of the “Grill Meister.”
Later that same year the first homogenized gallon of milk showed up on the steps of many a home. A man in a white coat and white hat, who jumped out of a milk wagon pulled by an old tired horse, delivered the new homogenized milk. If, in the summer, you didn’t get the milk off the stoop first thing in the morning, you had homogenized sour milk. You drank it anyway. It was also in 1927 that Kool-Aid was invented. It had real sugar in it. Kids preferred Kool-Aid to the sour milk. I
think this was the year they also coined the medical term “hyperactive.”
By 1930, a man named F.J. Osius had an idea for a mixer that could chew through anything. He also had no money. He went to the famous bandleader – Fred Waring for help. (They probably got drunk mixing the first margarita.) Waring ended up lending Osius the funds provided that he (Waring) could put his name on the product. The pair finalized the deal and then Waring took off, traveling around the country with his band plus a large trunk that opened up into (of all things) a bar. He would play, blend and demonstrate the mixer, then play some more.
Now for the last one. Do you know why metal lunch boxes are so collectible? Because in the early 70’s a group of Florida mothers, fearing for the heads of their children, launched a nationwide campaign against allowing metal lunch boxes in school. Apparently, they became very good weapons during schoolyard fights. Little Johnny was getting his bell rung with a metal lunchbox. Apparently, plastic lunch boxes only rang his bell a little.
You can find these tidbits of history and a ton of other information at a remarkable site called Food and Utensil Chronology at https://sites.google.com/site/coquesters/foodandutensilchronology. Check this site out. It’s great for vintage collectors who want to know the year a particular item they are coveting was born. It’s also a great spot for someone who’s been laundering a new batch of vintage linens all week after work, who needed a break and who says to her writer husband, “Please write the blog for this week.”
Linens, Lace & Faux Mink.
I am often asked for ideas about the repurposing of vintage linens. For starters, I’m not a tailor; I’m just a lover of fine silks, satins and lace. I sew my own creations and do small patchwork before I put our material on sale, but being a schoolteacher doesn’t allow me with a lot of time to take on big sewing projects. Speaking of patchwork, let me first get this off my chest. I want you to walk into your laundry room and grab your gallon jug of bleach. On the front of that jug, in bold black letters, write DO NOT USE ON ANY LINEN, VINTAGE OR OTHERWISE. Any bleach or bleach related product you have in your laundry room, do the same thing. Now put the bleach down and step away. Refrain from using it on any linen, new or old. In the last two months, I have tossed out more beautiful linens pieces, then I care to think of. I have tossed out Battenberg and Quaker Lace for the same reason. It hurts me to have a beautiful damask tablecloth fall apart in my hands. When I see bleach burn holes in lace, I want to scream. Bleach has its uses in moderation, but the culprit is the overzealous use of bleach. If you must use bleach, rinse twice neutralizing with a ½ cup of vinegar. I actually had someone look at a small stain on the lace corner of the Rose Victorian Watermark Satin tablecloth/bedspread we have on sale and ask me if they could use bleach to whiten the Battenberg lace inserts. After I calmed down, I pointed out that this was an expensive Tablecloth/bedspread with ecru lace, which was hand sewn circa 1880 – 1890. One should not whisper the word bleach in the same room as this piece.
Now that I have that off my chest, I feel better. The other day, I was going back through some old posts and one of my dear readers had asked if I had any ideas on repurposing left over Damask napkins. I apparently missed this reader question. I apologize. Because old Damask napkins are often large, the first idea that comes to mind is to cut off the damaged part and make Damask placemats. They would be usable with any tablecloth underneath them. Another idea is Victorian Doll clothing.
The third is, (if you have enough,) cut the good portions into smaller squares and make a damask quilt. If you don’t have enough, stop into any of our stores. We have plenty for you. A very pretty idea is a linen Damask border with a lace insert, using a vintage lace-curtain panel. It produces a beautiful tablecloth. On the reverse side, an old or ruined Damask tablecloth will often produce a large enough usable pieces make a beautiful center, bordered by vintage lace. Adjust the size of the tablecloth to take full advantage of the usable part of Damask that you have. Do a search for images on Google using the terms Damask and Lace Tablecloths
What about it readers; have any ideas you can come up with?
One last thing. Winter is here. It’s going to get cold. We just put a large bolt of FAUX MINK into the Willowstone (space 31) store. But I warn you. It is so luxurious; and large enough, that – after purchase – you may be overcome with the need to spread it out on the bed and lie naked on it. When I held it in my hands, my will power was strong, but professional photographers or husbands should take this as a hint.