Archive for January, 2009

Vintage Linens

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Fabrics Set the Mood

Fabrics Set the Mood

As I am busy preparing and packing inventory to bring to our new shop I can’t help but to stop and admire the beautiful handwork of our vintage linens. Taking in the beauty of the designs, the delicate stitches, the soft vintage fabrics, I can’t help but wonder about the woman who labored over these pieces. So much of this handwork is almost a lost art in this modern age of technology. We spend our evenings working a computer keyboard instead of with a needle, crochet hook, thimble or bobbins creating beautiful and useful items with thread. As the old saying goes, “idle hands are a devil’s workshop” , our hands are not idle but we are missing the joy of creating a thing of beauty from our heart and hands for our family and friends to enjoy. Fortunately antique dealers like myself who appreciate and value these pieces of handwork, rescue them from estates, wash and iron and pass them along to new generations to use and enjoy. Today’s article is going to pay tribute to these artisians of the past and give you ideas on using vintage linens.
What makes staying in a bed and breakfast so special? Why do so many BnBs describe themselves as a romantic get away? Their extra edge over staying at a hotel is the personal attention that they give to their guests. The special touches, the special soap , the flowers in the room and the beautifully dressed bed. Spoiled, pampered and all your senses indulged makes for a memorable stay and a want to return again. In this crazy stressful world we need to create this peaceful get away right in our own bedroom. What better way to create the BnB feeling is in a beautiful inviting well dressed bed. The popularity of high thread count luxurious sheets shows that people want and need this pampering. I myself have always loved the feel of luxury sheets. Vintage sheets with crocheted edges, lace trims, embroidered designs, fancy monograms have always been a favorite but are becoming harder to find. I have supplemented my vintage sheets, which are always flat sheets (fitted sheets are a new idea since the 1950’s) with coordinating new high thread count fitted sheets. I love to mix and match, florals with solid colors or coordinating stripes. I also mix and match the pillowcases, vintage with modern. The vintage pillowcases have pretty handwork embellishments, maybe embroidered designs or special crocheted or tatted edges, they add the the romantic touches. Vintage linens were for the most part, trouseau linens, a bride-to-be spents months before her wedding doing the handwork to decorate these fine linens. Many shower and wedding gifts were linens done with handwork by loving mothers and grandmothers. The bride-to-be filled her Hope Chest ( usually a large wooden trunk like container) with this beautiful handwork saving it for her first home. Many of these linens were packed away, considered too beautiful to use. Many decades later or generations later when I do estate housecalls, I find these linens carefully packed away and I am so thrilled to see and be able to appreciate all the special details these trouseau linens have. So I rescue them, some look like brand new, never been used or some so cared for, some may need a good washing and ironing so another generation can enjoy using them. Even not so perfect linens can be rescued, the trims can be taken off and added to modern sheets and pillowcases. I have even framed some beautiful embroidered sections from no longer useable linens and used them as wall art for a bedroom. Vintage sheets can be sewn together to create new larger modern sizes because today’s beds are larger in size than antique beds or vintage linens can be supplemented with new modern linens, even if pretty vintage pillowcases maybe your only added antique romantic touch, you can still achieve that bed and breakfast feel. Who doesn’t love sinking into a bed full of lots of comfy pillows, extra ones for propping yourself up for reading in bed, watching tv or eating a special breakfast in bed. Top it all off with quilts, what greater work of fabric art than a quilt. They come in all types of designs and styles and color combinations to match any decor. For your situation, modern quilts may be more practical because they are machine washable but antique quilts can be used as a decorating accessory, folded, stacked or hung on a wall. I have pets who love to snuggle especially when it is cold so my antique quilts are strictly used to display and add color to the room and not to cover the bed.
Fabrics can add such drama to a bedroom, or be used to soften a room. Florals can be mixed with the same colors in a small stripe fabric, accented with a solid color pulled from the floral or stripe print. Dust ruflles can be layered this way using different lengths so a little of each type shows. I have used a king size dust ruffle layered with a queen and topped with a double to get a multi-tiered look. Pillow shams can be mixed and matched this colorful way. Fabric can be draped over the bed, canopies faux or real created. Colorful needlepoint throw rugs to protect bare feet from cold floors add accent colors. Crocheted, woven or fabric doilies and dresser scarves, not only add decorating interest are practical as well, protecting your fine wood furniture from harm or hiding a well-worn finish on a dresser or table. Coordinating window treatments ties it all together.
So without a big decorating or remodeling job you can turn your bedroom into a private oasis just like your favorite bed and breakfast by spoiling yourself and your partner with all the added little romantic touches found in all the best BnBs. A well-dressed beautiful bed you can’t wait to get into. Beautiful soft linens, sprinkled with lavender water, lots of plump pillows, a vase of fresh flowers on your bedside table, a small box of decadent chocolates, maybe a great novel and of course someone to snuggle with, with fur or without!
I am going to close with the thought of the next time you see a piece of handwork, appreciate the dedication, the art and the hours that went into creating that piece. At first glance it may be just a crocheted doily but maybe the young girl who created it was doing it with so much love and hope for her new home, for when she married her handsome soldier when he returned safe and sound from the war. So much love with every stitch.

Decorating with Vintage Fabrics

Sunday, January 18th, 2009

My trusty Antique Sewing Machine

My trusty Antique Sewing Machine

[caption id="attachment_27" align="aligncenter" width="434" caption="Layering Tablecloths"]Layering Tablecloths[/caption]
In no other area of collecting can you have so much fun, get so much value for the dollar and make such a decorating statement than by using vintage fabrics. For any style of decorating there is a world of choices. You don’t even have to be an expert sewer, many projects require little or no sewing. My girlfriend Sandy and I have a running joke”Who ever has collected the most fabric when that person dies, Wins”! I admit I have quite a stash of fabric pieces. When I come across an interesting piece I like, I buy it, even if I have no immediate plans for it. But sure enough I am always going thru the collection and pulling out the just perfect piece to create a redecorating project before long. I don’t limit myself to just fabric by the yard, if there is an interesting curtain, sheet, duvet cover, any already made item, even clothing at times, that is made out of an interesting fabric that fits my color scheme or decorating style I purchase it and put it away to be cut-up and redesigned for a future project. My favorite haunt for these snippets of treasure are the local thrift stores. The ultimate form of recycling!

As I have talked about in earlier posts, about saving the intregrity of an antique, the same word of caution applies here. Example: A beautiful handmade lace tablecloth in perfect condition should never be cut up and the value destroyed, it has lasted through the generations and should be appreciated, treasured and used without ruining the original value and design of the piece. But there may be a miriad of other uses for the piece other than what it was originally designed for that will not damage the piece and give you the decorating look you are trying to achieve and the item still can used for it’s original purpose at a later date. My cut-up and redesign projects are usually made out of vintage items that have some wear or damage and by redesigning I am saving or salvaging the piece. The handcrafted items of yesteryear, whether a crocheted or tatted doily, an embroidered pillowcase, a bobbin lace collar, a crocheted bedspread, all these items were crafted by some woman’s creative hands and made with love and pride. These handcrafted artifacts are a piece of someone’s life and history, many of these needlecrafts are a long lost art, the number of people mastering the skills to do this handwork now a days is almost non-existant. My Gram was a talented seamtress and could do all types of needlework, when I was a little girl she patiently taught me, now as an adult I wished I had paid even more attention to learn from her. My skills could be so much better now, but a little girl doesn’t sit still for long and fully appreciate the art that was being taught her with love. I was fascinated and wanted to do like Gram but also was itching to get outside and run with the boys!
Let’s start with a few kitchen projects. Back in the late 1940’s and 1950’s, bright colorful textiles were all the rage to make a cheerful homey kitchen, after the drab World War II years when there was a shortage of everything, including fabrics. Those great colorful vintage tablecloths are still a best seller today. Made of 100% cotton, they wear like iron. Stains can be bleached out, even if the colors fade over the years, it adds to their charm. (Some of my secret cleanig tips will be in a future post) Have one in excellant condition, use it to dress your table. Most of these vintage tablecloths were made in small square sizes, perfect for placing on the diagnal or for layering. Find one that has a few problems, cut it up and make colorful curtain tiers or valences. Make it into a runner for the center of your table or make a dresser scarf out of it. Line cabinet shelves with strips of them, removable and washable alternative to shelf lining.
Vintage aprons, can make a wonderful accessory in the kitchen, display one hanging from a hook. These were works of art, Grandma created these from scraps of fabric, embellished with ric-rac trim, bits of ribbon or lace. She had her every day apron with deep pockets to fill as she did household chores, and you would be amazed how fast she could dust with her apron as she ran to answer the door for unexpected guests. Then she had her Sunday apron, styled with fancier fabric and embellishments. Many of these have survived through the generations in pristine condition. The memories that they hold are priceless. Still a great ulitiarian item to wear, I have a couple of old favorites that I use gardening, those pockets come in handy.
Colorful linen dishtowels, whether plain with a simple stripe or printed with a souvenir travel graphic can make great decorative accents as well as be still used as towels. Potholders, placemats, teacozies are just a few ideas for them.
Tablecloths of all kinds are a great source of fabric to make all kinds of things out of. Natural fibers are the best for long wear, have bright colors and are easy to clean. Some may need a little touch up ironing, a spray of starch, but the crisp fresh look is worth the little time needed to press. Some may come out of the dryer needing no further care. Polyester blends to tend to hold stains and don’t have that soft feel of well washed cotton.

I am going to take a break here. The subject of decorating with vintage fabrics is quite a passionate subject full of creative ideas and interesting history spanning the decades. It is a lasting tribute to the women of yesteryear and an endless source of inspiration for our times. I could fill an entire book on this subject. I will be revisiting this topic and traveling from room to room with ideas. So you “fabric junkies” out there, continue the treasure hunt and check back here soon for more ideas and tips.

NEWS FLASH !!! I am so dedicated to vintage textiles, it was one of the founding blocks of my Lavender Path Antiques Shop, linens were my speciality. Over the 20 years I have been in business, the product lines have changed and evolved. Two years ago, with energy costs spiraling, I had a hard decision to make involving downsizing the amount of space that the shop occupied. Certain products had to be discontinued to make room for other products that needed additional space. Much of my vintage linens and textiles were packed away, just a few of the exceptional pieces were on display, but I couldn’t bare to part with the rest. They came out for special customers or special sales. After much thought and running out of storage room, enlight of the tough economic times we are experiencing , it seemed people are turning more and more to redecorating using accessories, rather than the expense of redoing a whole room with completely new things. Going green and recycling is a big part of my re-design work with vintage and antique items. So I am opening a new satelite shop in addition to the original Lavender Path Antiques, located here in Harwinton, Ct. . The new shop will be stocked with all re-decorating treasures , lots of linens, lace and textiles as well as china, and lighting. Plus small furniture. All the handwork will be out and available for adaptations and adoptions. It will be located in the Historic old Collinsville Axe factory building in the quaint village of Collinsville Ct. So I will be up to my elbows in sorting, packing and moving those wonderful fabrics the next few weeks, getting ready for a Feb. opening, I look forward to displaying these items full of potential and memories.

So check back here soon for more on this subject as well as other ideas.

Personalizing a Space with Books

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

A Collection of Books on Ireland

A Collection of Books on Ireland

Accessories add life, beauty, interest and a bit of excitement, whether you are decorating a room or an outfit to wear. Using accessories properly to add just the right amount of drama can make a boring, impersonal space into a warm, interesting, inviting enviroment.
One of the easiest ways to personalize a room is to use books as a decorating accessory. What announces and shares what your most passionate interests are, is the books that you read. Whether you are a bookworm who just has to be the first to read everything on the best-seller list or a casual reader who likes light fiction or a collector who loves to research their finds or just an armchair traveler who dreams about visiting far off places, there are so many books to enjoy and to share that reflect your personal interests.
Books come with beautiful colorful illustrated dustjackets. Did you know, that 1/2 of the value of a collectible or rare book is the paper dustjacket? Without the dustjacket, the book’s value is dimished, so protect and handle carefully those paper book protectors. Many books come with fine decorative bindings, leather or faux leather, gilt lettering or designs, embossed illustrations ect. Victorian novels had covers decorated with beautiful illustrations of the fashionable heroine of the story, many of my customers collect these just for the cover illustrations, sadly and not read the stories but these look beautiful piled and displayed in a bedroom, on a lady’s antique desk , even a powder room.
Bedrooms are the perfect place to creat a special reading corner with a comfortable chair, a footstool, a small table with room for a lamp, a cup of tea and a few books. A basket or the footstool can hold a collection of your favorite books next to your chair. A wonderful place to escape to for a few moments of quiet to enjoy your favorite author. Maybe you are like me and have a nightly ritual of reading a chapter or two before sleep, I even have a bookmark that says “There is Where I Fell Asleep” to mark my page. My bedside table always has a collection of books that I am reading or next to be read. A bookcase or even a china cabinet doing duty as a bookcase can add to the decor of creating a personalized reading nook. These private little spaces can be created in a corner of anyroom, at the end of a hallway, an alcove under the stairs, anywhere you can fit a chair, lamp and a place for your books.
For those lucky enough to devote a whole room to a library of books, nothing makes a space feel more warm and inviting than floor to ceiling bookcases filled with all kinds of interesting books to read. A comfortable couch, filled with comfortable pillows, maybe a throw to toss over yourself, several lamps scattered throughout the room with to be used to illuminate just where you are reading, keeping the light level, comfortable and flattering, not glaring with overly bright overhead lights. Perhaps a large table that can handle stacks of books and still leave plenty of space to open a book and spread out to do research or take notes, a library table or a large wooden desk. I have sinfully sold books with decorative bindings by the foot to customers who just wanted to fill their bookshelves, to impress their friends or clients with their selection of classics but had no intention of ever reading the books. It is with mixed emotions that I fill these orders being a true book-lover, don’t they know that they are missing out? As a book-buyer, finding these unread libraries that were purchased just for their decorative appeal and never read or even handled is like winning the lottery in the rare book market.
Hallways can also be used to creat a library, if your hall is wide enough floor to ceiling bookcaes or all matching height bookcases can create a really interesting space and focal point to be observed from many other rooms or areas. Perhaps you have a loft or open balcony that can be seen from other rooms, it’s the perfect place to creat a reading alcove.
Livingrooms have so many places to place and arrange books on . The large colorful travelbooks, also known as coffeetable books are perfectly at home here. Great for guests to enjoy and share with them your favorite places. A wonderful ice breaker to get people talking. After you may have visited one of these far away places, a travel book is a great remembrance of your trip to enjoy over and over again. It could also be armchair traveling and dreaming material. Studying the great interiors in magazines like Architectual Digest, piles of books placed on tables, stools, in piles on the floor, on any flat surface add so much interest to the room, I am always fascinated by the tittles to see what the celebrities are reading. I learn so much about people from the books that they have read, it really gives an inside look at how they think and what interests them. In my business of buying books from estates, I can get enough clues from the books, the tittles, the inscriptions, the bookmarks and letters found in the books to put together the story of the owner’s life and interests. Nothing tells more about a person than their books. I rescue the books and hopefully pass them on to someone else to love and enjoy.
Gardening and art books can reside in any room, but make a statement in any of the public rooms. their beautiful covers, jackets and illustrations make a beautiful decorating accessory no matter where they are placed. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t appreciate the beauty of flowers, gardener or not. I love to place a book of garden lore, garden art or garden poetry on the nightstand in the guestroom. One word about old garden and art books, if the books are falling apart and have lost their value, re-design, re-use, pull out the illustrations, mat and frame and display on the wall as artwork. I don’t encourage the pulling apart of a good book but to salvage a toss away and recycle the illustrations to enjoy for another decade or two is a great ‘green’ idea.
Cookbooks are not just books of recipes. We have an extensive collection for sale in our shop and the hundreds of International cookbooks we have are more travelogues, to learn from and are filled with photos to actually see the cities and countrysides and then complimented with anecdotes and text that will entertain you with the stories, traditions, and customs behind the dishes. Grandma’s favorite Red and White old Betty Crocker Cookbook from the 1940’s is perfectly happy sitting on a shelf in the kitchen but the new exciting cookbooks are meant to be on display and available for all to read. Books on wine wil not only educate you on making the right selections but the photos and with the travel information on the vineyards, whether France, California, Spain, Germany or many others, you can spend many happy hours armchair traveling with a glass of wine by your side.
There books on any subject, for any interests and there isn’t a place in your home that couldn’t be accessorized with a collection of books or just a single properly placed book. To protect your books from harm, try to avoid placing them in direct bright sunlight or in areas of extreme moisture. Try to arrange them to stand straight up or lay down flat. Move and rotate when on shelves, dust lightly with a feather duster. Don’t pack too tightly on the shelves, make sure they are easy to slide in and out without damaging the books or dustjackets. Books bring the world to your door, spread them around and share the ideas and dreams with all who enter your abode.