Tag Archives: Kitchen Collectibles

The Reason I Collect and Sell


The other day, I was in the store straightening up the linens and repackaging some lace that someone had left out, when Kitchen Towelsa woman came in a started browsing.  I greeted her and she replied in kind then without another word, went about her browsing seemingly with purpose.  I went back to my straightening up and yet occasionally I could hear her softly chuckling to herself, as she would pick up one tablecloth or drapery at a time.  Soon, she started fingering the napkins and then the bed linens; all the while softly talking to herself or, as I said before, softly chuckling.  Eventually she got close to me and I commented, “Beautiful aren’t they?”  She looked at me and with a slight twinkle in her eye said, “Oh my, do I sound like an idiot?  I’m so sorry, but I must sound like an old nut job.  When I came in here earlier this week, I had to stop myself from smiling out loud.  I keep forgetting that other people are around.”  I told her not to worry, that she didn’t sound like a nut, when she continued to explain, “It’s the linens dear, the lace, they so much remind me of when I was a little girl, helping my mother wash and press the linens.  Every Wednesday was our wash day and my job was to iron and fold the little tea napkins and kitchen towels, when I wasn’t in school.” 

I could see the memories in her eyes as she very carefully folded each towel back up and neatly placed it back on to the stack.  I could tell she was doing it the same way she did as a child.  Rose (that was her name) eventually bought two 50’s hand towels and a couple of lace dress tops I had salvaged.  She said she was going to make a gown with a lace top for her granddaughter.  As I thanked her for her purchases, she stopped me and said, “No, thank you for the memories.  I’m going back home at the end of this week, and this little shop has added a special memory to my trip. 

I have to admit that prior to Rose coming in, as I was ‘cleaning’ up after people, I had asked myself if all the work I put into this shop was worth it.  In one brief encounter, Rose made it all worthwhile.  Thank you Rose – wherever you are.  You are the reason I collect and sell vintage linens.  You managed to put a smile on my face on a day when I needed it the most.

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Buying Vintage Linens


What is the difference between muslin and combed cotton? 

The sticker says 300 thread count.  I can see my hand through it.  Is the sticker correct? 

These are examples of the questions I get by e-mail, which lead me to believe that there is a lot of misinformation out there regarding the purchase of linens, especially vintage linens.  Let’s see if I can clear up a couple of questions I get most often. 

Muslin pieced
Muslin pieced (Photo credit: lovelihood)

Muslin vs Cotton.  If you have very young children and you are looking to stretch your dollars by buying long-lasting bedding for those rough little dirty feet, stick with muslin.  It’s a little rougher in terms of feel, but a lot tougher and easier to clean than pure cotton.  When your child grows out of their small beds, you can change over to a cotton blend sheets, usually called “percale,” which is softer because the thread count is between 160 to 200.  If you are buying 300 thread count or higher designer sheets for your little ones, I want to come live with you. 

Which leads me to my second question and answer.  Thread count.  Simple put, thread count is the number of threads per square inch of fabric.  Unless you shop with a “Linen Loop,” always on you, (a high-powered magnifying glass for counting threads) how can you tell if that sticker showing a 300 thread count is correct?  First look for a manufacturers tag sewn into the edging..  If none or faded into non-existence, hold the fabric up to the light.  If you can see the weave and the light through the cloth, you have a low thread count on your hands, probably 150 to 200 TPI.   Next, feel it.  The higher the thread count, the softer the fabric. 300 and higher thread count is very soft and not easy to see through. 

I hope this helps for now.  I’ll have more linen buying tips later.

Wrinkled Fingers and Time


 
A wrinkled finger after a warm bath
Image via Wikipedia

This has been a busy two weeks.  We, (Mom & Me,) have washed, pressed and folded more vintage linen in the last two weeks then we would have in an entire lifetime.  We both have wrinkled fingers.  I have to admit, half the time we sat admiring the linens we held and the other half of the time, between the folding and stacking, was devoted to commenting on them.  What is it about a pure white or cream Damask tablecloth that brings a sparkle into ones eye?  What is it about a table napkin with 1950’s colors and patterns that bring me back into an era I would have longed to live in?  What causes me to pause when I hold up a bit of vintage pillow lace?  Is it the thought that someone, years early, in a quiet and dusky room, sat patiently and painstakingly, twisting and turning each individual bobbin until inch by inch this lovely delicate pattern emerged?  Perhaps that’s why when I try to press out the wrinkles accumulated over the years it sat idle, I don’t get frustrated.  If they had the patience to make it beautiful, I have the patience to present it properly. 

Lace
Lace (Photo credit: Nefi)

Take a look the next time you are in our store.  We put our lace pieces in the lace basket, usually in zip-lock bags to keep them clean.  See if you see what we see and then let us know what you felt when you ran it through your fingers and held it up to the light.  I guarantee you will come to appreciate it more when you apply it to your new dress or table creation.

Until next time, recycle, repurpose and stay green.

Holding on to an age of quality


(Photo credit: George Eastman House)”][MCCALL'S MAGAZINE, KIDS IN LINEN CLOSET]It makes sense that as owners of a vintage linen and lace shop, we are in love with fine linens. Tight woven linen, some white, some cream, some with hand printed flowers and vines, with vivid red, yellows and green colors in distinctive patterns. Colors just as alive and vibrant today as when they were first produced. You can visualize the artist passing the linen through each color separation, but not always registering the cloth exactly, as would happen if it were in today’s high-speed linen press.

That’s what makes vintage so special; the imperfections afforded a warm hand, versus the cold steel of today’s production methods. Then you have the beautiful Damask linens, each with their subtle but distinctive pattern, that when laid out on a table, along with the matching napkins and fine silver, make dinner with friends a special event.

Oh, did I fail to mention we just picked up a trunk full of vintage linen this weekend? You probably would have guessed it anyway. I have spent my day, literally lying within the folds of history. I have smelled the clean air, the aroma of the slow cooked pot roast and roasted potatoes.  In my mind, I hear the clatter of dishes and dinnerware over the chatter of family- all sitting down to Sunday dinner.

I started thinking, what makes the experience of touching fine linen so special? For that matter, what makes the experience of collecting anything vintage so special? I don’t know the exact answer; it’s different for everyone, but I have my suspicions. The 30’s, 40’s, 50’s are my favorite years and it’s hard to pick any one thing that makes these generations stand out, until you voice all adjectives and realize that you have used “quality” more then once.

The fact that the linens that we hold in our hand are so crisp and wonderfully colored after all these years and hundreds of washings later, are a big part of it. Modern day linens miss this level of quality. Maybe it’s the fact that these were produced when pride and quality of workmanship was in everything. Perhaps that’s what all of us look for when we purchase anything vintage. We are purchasing a chance to get back an era when times were simpler and families were closer and pride in workmanship was paramount. When you pick up a napkin from the 30’s you get the same feeling your grandmother felt and the same feeling your children will feel when they are the recipients of your collection.

Secretly I want to keep every linen napkin I touch; every lace doily I wash, or every tablecloth I fold. I want my daughter to have this quality long after my passing. Then my husband says the magic words that bring me back to why we opened this store. He’ll say, “Do you know that when a customer buys these linens, that their children will probably end up using them in their future?” I pause and think about that and then it strikes me, that this is the guarantee that “quality” gives you. That’s what I live for. By retrieving, preserving and passing on this little bit of cloth, I pass history forward. That makes me smile.

Stop in a pick a piece of this history. Take a look at what American workers did. Some of them (many of them) were your grandmothers and grandfathers, maybe – if you’re older, even your mother and fathers. They did good back then.

A Long – Short Week


United States Olympic Committee headquarters i...
Image via Wikipedia. United States Olympic Center

Friday night, after a long – but too short Christmas break, I finally closed the classroom door and was happy to get home and hit my easy chair. Tomorrow, (Sat) we are heading to the store to add in some more lace and vintage material, then it’s off to the Antique Show here in Colorado Springs.

An idea for you teachers. Two years ago, I made seat back pouches for all my elementary student chairs. The kids would come in, put their books and personal items into the pouch, keeping everything off the floor and out of the way.  Naturally I used repurposed material. In this case, it was old car seat covers I had found, but any heavy canvas material would do.

Instructions:   Measure the width of your chairs and the length from the top of the chair to the seat.  I will bet that you creative types will already know how to sew the rest, but for those who don’t try this.  Take your length measurement times 2 1/2. plus 2 inch’s.  e.g If you measured 15 inches from the top of the seat back to the seat, then the length of the canvas you will need is about 38 + 2 or 40 inches.  The last 8 inches is the pouch part.  The first fold is at 15 inches.  The second fold, folded inside itself is at 30 inch’s  (I hem the top and bottom of the strip one inch before I fold anything, so that’s why the extra length.)  The width of the piece is two inches wider then your seat back.  Now sew the side edges and turn everything inside out.  Your pouch part is now on the outside and ready to be filled.  Slip the whole thing over the seat back and your done.  Do this 25 more times and you have a classroom full of happy kids with new seat pouches and a clean floor.

Until next time, recycle, repurpose and stay green.

Colors and Fabric by Season


Even though we deal in vintage linen and lace and stock a myriad of colors, we still try to coördinate our offerings with the seasons.  Our buyers are often craft or decorating people with upcoming special projects they are building months in advance.   Still, color and fabric type are important.

It’s winter as I write this and we find a lot of our wool and embroidered products going fast.  Anything blended that has wool goes quick as well.  Silk is popular with us and proper year round but the lighter silks for dresses and skirts are more summer wear while the heavier, multi-layered silks are right during the winter.   Summer is for lightweight cotton, light weight silk and linen.  Fabrics that have a loose weave and are made of a breathable fabric are great for summer. Fall is the season for wool.  Heavy weight cotton is also appropriate.  Spring is similar in terms of fabrics but you can also wear summer weights during spring.  Here in Colorado we tend to “layer” ourselves in both summer and fall weights.

We also look at colors of the season.  Traditionally winter colors are the darkest and much of our displays today have dark colors showing.  Starting with the blacks, winter colors go to charcoal, grey, browns, olives, golden’s, navy, burgundy, so on. )  Summer is the greatest pastel season (pale pink, butter yellow, baby blue, light mint, crisp white, etc)  Again, fall is often full of rusts, olives, camels, beige, light browns and so on.   Spring is light blues, roses, aqua’s, beige, and so on.   We are getting ready to rotate our stock from winter to spring.  (We do this months in advance because people are already starting to think of their spring projects.)

Don’t rely on color for what to wear.  Designers are using all colors in all seasons and craft people should follow suit.  Winter white is very popular and black is still a year round color.

The other day for example, a woman walked in and asked if we had any Hawaiian prints.  We had one or two, but a large selection is hard to find.  Here it is – dead of winter and she wants Hawaiian prints.  She said if we were vintage we should stock more Hawaiian.  After all it was very popular in the 70’s.  Go figure.