Holidays: The Kids’ Table

When I was a kid, our big family gatherings had the traditional kids’ table. At first it was fun to hang out with your cousins, having those chocolate-milk-bubble-blowing-contests without garnering parental stink-eye; but eventually you wanted to age-out of that table and join the grown-ups because you weren’t a kid anymore.

And then one day you did!

christmas-at-the-kids-table We all must have collectively aged-out of the concept of kids’ tables because I’ve noticed lately that the kids’ table has gone the way of the dinosaurs.

Now if there’s a rickety little card table it has a new fancy holiday tablecloth on it instead of last year’s tablecloth and you could find anyone sitting there — just as you’ll find plenty of kids at the regular dinning room table.

And I hate it.

Like every child before me, I couldn’t wait to be deemed an adult and join the grown-ups and now view this as a rite of passage that those younger ought to earn too.

But more than that, as an adult, I long for adult conversation unfettered by the little ears. It’s not that I want or need to swear like a sailor all through dinner, but some topics are not suitable for children.

And even those that are suitable, are often the sort that require you to stop every five words to explain who people are, define words, and provide context. I do that all day, every day; and some times I’d just like to have a meal in which I can talk grown-up stuff with people I don’t often see — and not be bogged down with a learning situation for children, complete with adult-to-child thesaurus, a world globe, & a flip-chart.

Possibly worse is having the kids blurt information. You know, like ruin the story you are cleverly crafting by giving away the punchline. Or how about when you are waxing nostalgic, making an insider joke with your sister about that bad thing you both did that one Thanksgiving — and your kid catches on, blurting, “You and Aunt Jackie stole a street sign?!”

*sigh*

I’d like those adults only conversations — after all, I sat at the kids’ table for years, I’ve earned them!

Does that make me a bad person? I don’t think so… My parents did it. My grandparents did it. And the only bad thing I have to show for it is a sack full of memories.

So what the heck happened?

People started treating their children like adults — small-bodied adults, but adults nevertheless.

People thought that the kids’ table was mean; “Kids shouldn’t be ostracized for their age,” they whine. The kids’ table is seen as an archaic memento of the days when children should be seen and not heard. But when I look back, it’s the secrets shared and conspiratorial conversations with cousins at the kids table that I remember most vividly.

I remember the pride my male cousins had at making we girls giggle and gross-out over their status as pull-my-finger kings — with no gassy uncles to over-power them. I remember the turns my female cousins and I took, mocking the boys for their uncouth ways. I remember laughing so hard, milk squirted out of our noses. And I remember the gossip we shared, the secrets we confessed — things we never would have dared to say around the grown-ups. (Those dumb old grown-ups would have needed a hip-lingo-to-uncool-adult translator, a map of the school, and flip charts — and even then, they wouldn’t have been cool enough to get it.)

Sitting at the kids’ table was our private time.

So kids now can sit where they want; never mind that Great Grandpa has to sit at the rickety card table and 7 foot tall Uncle Kevin has to fold himself in half to get on that folding chair. But we’ve lost more than those physical comforts.

The kids have lost kid time and we’ve lost grown-up time.

So bring back the kids’ table, I beg of you. I miss it, and our kids are missing out on it.

Meanwhile, I have my memories… Which I am reminded of every holiday and every time I flip through old magazines, vintage photos, etc., and see images of the kids’ table.

Display, Protect, & Store Ephemera

What I like about these Lil Davinci Art Cabinets is the fact that each cabinet is a storage container as well as a display piece, holding up to 50 sheets at a time with a spring-loaded pocket.

That means you can store multiple pieces of artwork — and ephemera — in one place, with the one in front on display. The hinged door opens from the front, giving you easy access for rotating what’s seen as well as keeping other pieces within reach.

I’m thinking they’d work wonderfully for protectively displaying vintage magazines!

The art cabinets come in two sizes: The Li’L DaVinci (8.5″W x 11″H) and the Big DaVinci (12″W x 18″H).

Terriers That Follow Me Home

In the 1930’s and 40’s, terriers were quite the popular dog.

vintage-terrier-figure

I usually refer to these terriers as Airedales because they seem so large to me — not ‘to scale’ or anything, but something makes them seem like big dogs rather than smaller ones. But I think because the bodies are more white than brown this figurine anyway might more accurately depict a Wirehaired Fox Terrier. In any case, they are lovely. I think I’m keeping this one.

vintage-terrier-dog-figurine

What’s In A Name? (Seeing Straight About Book Collecting)

jennifer-jean-the-cross-eyed-queenAs I said, I don’t sell too much online anymore (I’m too busy blabbing about the stuff I find to list much), but recently I did sell this copy of Jennifer Jean, The Cross-Eyed Queen (by Phyllis Naylor, illustrated by Harold K. Lamson, © 1967; this was the Third Printing, 1970, Lerner Publications Company).

It’s the educational story of little Jennifer, who has pretty green eyes but begins having some troubles with her vision that causes her first to squint, then become cross-eyed…

The other children tease her.

Her parents take her to the eye doctor; first she must wear an eye patch, then glasses.

The other children continue to tease her.

jennifer-jean-rag-doll-eye-patch-illustration

Until everything is set straight all ends well.

When I bought the book and listed it for sale, I told the story of how it reminded me of my cousin Tina’s plight. But this isn’t the story of Tina, or any of my own memories, really. It’s the story of the book’s new owner — or at least what I gather about the purchased vintage book.

Sometimes buyers will tell you why they simply had to have something; sometimes they don’t. Sometimes I dare to ask… But in the case of a cross-eyed girl item, it just seemed too impolite. And it probably wasn’t necessary either — for Jennifer Jean was shipped to another Jennifer (middle name unknown).

In my decades of selling old books, one of the most common themes for collecting books I’ve encountered is the namesake connection.

rip-darcy-adventurer-vintage-bookMoms & dads who buy books containing their children’s names in the titles is a-parent-ly quite popular; I’ve sold two copies of Rip Darcy Adventurer, by Jack O’Brien to parents of children named Darcy — not to terrier lovers, as I had anticipated. The first copy went to a new father of a baby girl who was collecting books with her name in the title so that one day, when she was older, he could present her with a grand collection of all books Darcy. The second copy went to a mom desperately trying to keep her young son, Darcy, interested in reading.

Some people collect books for the delight of finding their name in the author’s name. My father snags copies of Edna Ferber works because Ferber isn’t a very common name — and there’s the hometown connection of Milwaukee. (When I was growing up, we’d refer to the author as Auntie Edna, even though she’s no relation. That joke bombs now because very few people remember Edna, even though she was a literal literary Giant in her time.)

So I probably shouldn’t ever have been surprised that people collect books for their names. In fact, it seems to be a far more popular reason for collecting books than first editions. But then again, that’s just anecdotal evidence based on my experiences, and I don’t find many first editions to sell.

Yet I do still wonder if buyer-Jennifer’s middle name is Jean. *wink*

New Life For Old Forks

It’s not always easy for me to accept altering antique and vintage items, but sometimes it’s a matter of salvaging things the best you can, breathing new life into them so that they are appreciated once again. When I spotted these vintage fork easels, I had to say I thought it was a beautiful way to display a collection of photographs, ephemera, small art works, etc.

display-old-photos-with-vintage-fork-easels

And given the number of unappreciated and neglected old silverware pieces (individual pieces and entire sets), it’s a great way to recycle not only the materials, but the appreciation and usefulness of old flatware.

vintage-fork-easels-displying-vintage-photographs

As a collector, I would suggest protecting photographs, especially antique and vintage photographs, by sliding them inside those little plastic sleeves first. And displaying little photographs this way not only saves the hassle of finding the right frame size, but allows you to rotate your favorite photographs so that they all get attention. What a lovely display! Even if the stems aren’t ornately decorated, the gleaming silver is elegant.

The seller/creator, WHIMSYlove at Etsy, also suggests using the vintage fork easels to hold individual recipe cards while baking. Clever!

vintage-fork-easel-holding-recipe-card

I’m not sure how easy this is to do — even if you’re the Amazing Kreskin, and you’re used to bending spoons, I imagine the tines are quite a bit more resistant. But thankfully, WHIMSYlove makes them for us *wink*

vintage-fork-easels

A Happy Camper At Christmas & Beyond

Christmas time always brings up toys. Now that I’m a parent, I try to remind myself that finding the perfect toy ought not to be the pressure point I make it out to be…

1971-sears-wish-bookSome of my favorite and most memorable toys were not ones I asked for. Even if my grandma would sit us down with the Sears Christmas Wish Book and have us play “pick,” by going through it page by page and picking one item we wanted from each page, she didn’t really shop off our list of picks. Instead my cousin Lisa, my sister, and myself each got the same thing — and for many years, this was the latest big ticket item in Barbie’s world. (It wasn’t until I was 16 or so that grandma deviated from this plan, or gave me any one of my picks — a manicure kit signaled the end of childhood.)

So each Christmas Eve, gathered with extended family, we three girls would open our gifts at the same time, simultaneously revealing the Barbie airplane, house, camper, etc. It made for fun with all three of us playing together — after our dads did the some-assembly-required parts. (My poor dad had to put together two of the darn things, while my Uncle Mike only had to do one before he returned to his holiday beer; the year we got Townhouses, the assembly was so intense, that I do believe all boxes remained sealed, were carried home to sit beneath the Christmas tree, and then went directly to reside in attics & basements.)

My favorite bit of Barbie property had to be the Barbie Country Camper.

cool-orange-barbie-country-camper

Not only were the campers most mobile and self-contained, but they had cool features. Features we put to use whenever the neighbor’s cat had a litter of kittens. And as a non-spayed, part-time outdoor cat, she had a litter every spring, giving us plenty of early summers to put tiny kittens into the campers and play with them rather than Babs and friends.

Once those kittens could eat crunchy kitten food, we’d filled the tiny camper sink with kitten chow, stick a lucky kitten or two in the camper, close the door, and extend the table off the back end, achieving a perfect view of kittens chowing down on the chow in the sink.

back-of-retro-1970s-barbie-country-camper

We watched them eat until they did as kittens do, and fell asleep, nose first in the chow-filled sink. Such sudden and sound sleep made us giggle — and it assured us that we could then drive the kitten-filled camper up and down the block.

When the kitties woke up and had the kitten zoomies, as kittens are want to do, we’d stop the camper and open the kit-tent (yes, we know it’s technically called a pup tent, but we couldn’t find any puppies small enough…) and watch the kittens crawl out of the orange plastic and down the vinyl ramp.

Sometimes momma cat followed the camper full of kittens; sometimes she just watched us return for another one or two of her babies, whereupon we’d start the process all over again.

Whenever I see a small kitten, I still have the urge… But I am without a retro 70’s Country Camper.

Santa, if you’re reading this, if it’s too much to ask… I’d love an old Barbie Country Camper — and a pair of kittens!

Image Credits: 1971 Sears Wish Book via Wishbook at Flickr; Barbie Country Camper photos via eBay seller goldenzelda.

Lessons In Plush Toys (Or Whose Head Is Stuffed With Sawdust?)

my-tigger-the-sawdust-stuffed-toy-tigerI don’t recall how old I was when I received this tiger, whose head at least is stuffed with sawdust. Tigger, as I named him, seems to simply just have always been… When not waiting for me in my bed, he often could be found riding on my shoulder, wrapped about my neck. We’ve had a long life together, the two of us. Every one of his scars tells a story, a story of a lesson I learned.

Tigger is the reason I cared to learn how to sew. I loved him so much, I had to repair him myself and there are the clumsy stitches of childhood sewing down his back — in multiple colors of thread, each indicative of the multiple repairs — to prove it.

tiggers-stitches

If it weren’t for Tigger, who knows if I’d be able to replace a button?

But the most embarrassing story involves the mark on his left or backside.

This dark spot marks a dirty secret… When I was about eight years old, I thought I was super smart, sneaking a big grape gumball into bed with me. Once tucked in, I popped it into my mouth, assured that I’d chew for awhile and properly rid myself of it before falling asleep. I mean what sort of idiot would fall asleep chewing gum and risk choking on it, as my parents feared?

…Morning came, the gum was forgotten about until I grabbed Tigger to bring him down with me for breakfast. When I picked him up to place him on my shoulder, there it was – a giant gob of chewed purple goo.

Poor Tigger!

And poor me if I were to be busted!

Amazingly, the gum had only attached itself to the plush tiger, not my nightgown or my bedding, so I rushed to save Tigger (and my own hide). Not having access to any how-to guides, or knowledge or possibly using ice to help me, I began to scrape the gum off. It mushed, but it didn’t really move. My mind flashed to a gum at school memory, when Liz had to have the teacher cut the signs of Scott’s affection out of her hair — I grabbed the round-tipped scissors from the desk I shared with my big-mouthed baby sister and managed to hack the purple blob off before she discovered — and outed — me.

Tigger still has a purplish bruise. But no one else would notice. Like my bruised ego, he carried it around as a reminder that not all parent’s rules are stupid.

bare-bruised-tigger-spot

Preservation Of Heirloom Textiles, Collectible Clothing, Etc.

1940s-silver-grey-and-rspberry-dressing-gownThis stunning 1940s dressing gown in silver grey satin with raspberry embellishments, serves not only as a reminder of just how lovely vintage lingerie can be, but also to properly store your clothing because this beautiful old dressing gown has color transfer marks.

Sometimes these spots are not permanent, but remember to use archival tissue when packing away your collectible fashions, your own wedding dress, etc., and you’re more likely to avoid them to begin with.

In fact, as a general rule, any valuable textile not in continual (or rotational) use at least every 2 months, should be properly stored and put away to preserve and protect them from damages.

Here are some tips for properly packing away clothing, fine vintage linens, and other textiles:

1. Begin with clean, dry clothing. Unless instructed to do so by a textiles archivist professional or clothing conservator, do not dry clean, starch or otherwise treat the clothing; just prepare the piece by gently, but thoroughly, cleaning it. (Any fabric items to be packed away must be completely dry before you begin.)

2. Look over the textiles for any damages. If you discover insects, mold or mildew, isolate the item in a sealed container immediately so that these live things (yes, mold and mildew are as alive as insects!) do not spread to other textiles.

3. Clean hands only. As oils and dirt, etc., can be transferred from your hands, causing future damage or deterioration, it’s best to wear archival-quality gloves. If you do not have such gloves, begin with clean hands — and wash & dry them as needed to ensure they remain as clean as possible.

4. Textiles and clothing to be preserved should be stored in special archival boxes only.

Never store valuable textiles in plastic containers (or even ‘protectively’ use plastic wrap) for two reasons: One, plastic deteriorates over time, creating poly vinyl chloride gases which may cause fabrics to yellow; and two, plastic does not breathe, which, with temperature and humidity changes, may encourage the growth of mold and mildew.

Longterm storage of linens and textiles in a cedar or wood chest is not recommended. Wood fibers contain acid which, when in direct contact with textiles, may cause deterioration and decay of the material, often resulting in dark yellow or brownish stains. While these stains may be removed (via the use of bleaching agent, for example), the fabric is weakened by both the exposure to the wood acid and to the bleaching or cleaning agent.

5. For the best results fine vintage linens and textiles should be carefully stored in acid free tissues.

There are two basic types of acid-free tissues: Buffered and Unbuffered.

Buffered tissues are ideal for wrapping and padding cottons or linens, this acid-free paper has an alkaline buffer or Alkaline Reserve (commonly a calcium or magnesium salt) to help prevent acid migration. (Buffered tissue is a little stiffer and more opaque than the unbuffered tissue.) However, this alkaline buffer can be damaging to silk or wool objects. So when in doubt, or for general textile preservation purposes, go with unbuffered, or pH neutral acid-free tissues.

6. Acid-free tissues are used to prevent folds and abrasions between textile surfaces. This is done by stuffing and interleaving (placing or layering of barrier sheets of tissues).

Lightly stuff any sleeves, bodices, etc. with archival tissue, giving clothing a three-dimensional shape and so keeping any fabric from laying or rubbing against itself.

Multiple layers of tissue are sandwiched between the front and back layers of garments; apply generous layers of tissue to protect fabric from metalwork such as zippers, hooks & eyes, etc., as well as decoartive work such as beading, to avoid rubbing and imprints.

7. Prepare the box. Before placing the clothing in the box, line the box with sheets of the acid free archival tissue paper and loosely cover the item, so that it is fully wrapped in tissue (rather like hiding a sweater in a gift box).

If the garment is so large that you must fold it to fit in the box, ‘stuff’ the fold with crumpled archival tissue paper (so that the fold doesn’t lie perfectly flat or make a sharp crease) and layer the garment with other tissues (so that the fabric does not fold back upon itself).

8. Clothing items should be individually stored in special garment-sized archival boxes; but you may pack away several smaller items in a box, as long as you don’t overload the box &/or “smash” the clothing or tissue.

9. Where to store the box/boxes? Sunlight is damaging for all textiles, so dark is a given.  But avoid basements, attics, and other locations with extreme temperatures &/or humidity as well as great fluctuations in temperature and humidity.  Simply put, the best place for storing the properly boxed textiles is where the living is most comfortable — on levels of your home that you live on. Closets in an interior wall, under your bed, etc. are typically the best options.

10. Ideally, these storage boxes are opened at least once a year, the textiles and garments unfolded, larger pieces such as quilts are aired out (inside, away from direct sunlight) and then refolded differently before being stored again.

If this doesn’t exactly appeal to you, remember why you are doing it! And why not consider making this preservation anniversary a celebration or story-telling event with family and friends? (Just save the punch and snacks for once all the textiles are safely in their boxes again!)

Other People’s Family Letters

kathct-vintage-20s-30s-depression-era-diary-letters-photosPeople often are shocked to discover personal things like old photos, diaries, scrapbooks, and letters up for sale at auctions and estate sales, like this collection (shown at left, sold by kathct). Many people, like myself, like to adopt such ephemera, and as we carry it home in our hands we wonder just how these things were available for sale… And weren’t we lucky to be the one to rescue and adopt them!

Once I was given a pair of vintage scrapbooks, and I thrill flipping through every page, reading every scrap between the covers. One of my favorites from the books is a handwritten vintage letter from Cousin Henrietta. Since the 1948 note consists of just two complete sentences, a closing and a post-script, the bulk of the news centers upon Henrietta’s intent to see her cousins soon — despite an injury:

we hope to see you soon I am keeping my fingers crossed for I pulled a piece of my toe nail off and I sure have a sore toe, think there is a little infection there but am doctoring it and hoping it will be O.K.

dear-cousins-letterFor some reason, such a short note all about a toe is amusing to me. It’s not just a “I hurt my toe,” but a rather detailed account of injury in such a short bit of correspondence yet. And years later I feel I must be in the same boat as Henrietta’s cousins — left wondering just how she managed to pull off a piece of toenail!

We collectors like vintage letters which make us feel like we know the sender — or make us want to!

But the most popular letters are sets of letters over a period of time. As correspondence, there are typically two sets of letters; each a side of the conversation, collected by the recipient. It’s quite rare to have both sets of letters, like this collection of 115 letters between a father and daughter between 1911 and 1934 (photo below; sold by bdbrowncollect), but just one set or side of the conversation can tell you quite a story.

115-letters-vintage-letters-daughter-father-hawaii-1911-1934That story may be regarding a situation, such as life during WWII or a courtship; or the story may be more intimately revealing of an individual person’s character, like a diary. In either case, such old letters are fascinating — and not just for the vicarious among us. Writers love to get their hands on such letters (and old diaries) as they inspire characters in novels, plots for films, etc.

I recall just a few years ago when there was a special set of letters listed on eBay that went for nearly $300 dollars. (While we don’t like to dwell on the monetary values of things here at Inherited Values, I am compelled to mention it, in context; to illustrate the desire to own creating demand, affecting price.) Three hundred dollars is a pretty pricey sum for approximately two dozen letters; but these were no ordinary letters.

This set of letters, written in the 1930s was saved by a woman who had an affair while she was married — and there were letters from both her traveling salesmen suitor and her eventually heartbroken and disgruntled husband. Though the seller had read all the letters, every ultimatum, every plea, the letters contained no final outcome of this vintage lover’s triangle.

Can you just imagine the delight in filling in the blanks of each person’s plight? An author or screenwriter’s dream! (Not to mention my own!) Hence the high bidding. (Too high for me to even get involved in the bidding, so I just watched the auction’s progress, sighing and wishing I had more disposable income.)

But not everyone gets rid of their family’s old letters.

I found this gem of a blog, Matrilineal, by a woman who is not only keeping her family’s old letters, but transcribing 15 years worth of them. This is how she describes the previously unread family letters:

I now know that my grandmother at 60 taught 6th grade, bought commercial real estate, took in boarders, thought flying saucers were a mode of transportation, worried about getting sued because of an ill-tempered Pekinese, and commented on every murder and suicide when she wrote to my mother who was a 20 year old student at UC Berkeley. I’ve been obsessing over these odd letters, and I think I know where in the familial gene pool that tendency might have come from.

In this case, I find myself almost wishing Linda would sell her family’s old letters! But if she did, I might just have to wait for the film. *wink*

Recycle Vintage & Used Hosiery

Often at estate sales you’ll find bags of vintage hosiery; women, especially those who learned lessons of thrift from The Great Depression and wartime conservation, didn’t throw anything away. When one stocking was laddered (had runs) but its mate was perfectly fine, a lady typically kept the mate for the day when a similar situation occurred with another pair; this was very possible as stockings were usually sold with multiple pairs per package. (And it’s practical thrift advice you can still use today!)

While stockings and hose either unworn or still in their vintage boxes can be pricey, the large bags of worn stockings can be quite cheap — and they can be of great use in recycling for the creative.

stockings-go-to-warI know this can seem rather “Eeeiiiww!” to some, but the re-purposing of stockings and hosiery has a long history. During WWII nylon stockings were recycled for the war effort.

And the resurgence of the re-use of hosiery was also a huge arts & crafts recycling fad in the 70’s.

So why not grab a bag full of vintage stockings and hose and put it to good use?

First I recommend going through the bag, hand washing the stockings. As you so so, evaluate them for possible pairings, stockings in your size, stockings completely unwearable, etc.

Of those which are too damaged to wear, assess them for possible craft projects and re-purposing ideas, like nylon corsages, hanging plant holders, and even rugs.

pantyhose-craft-bookIf the stockings are in very poor shape, use them as stuffing material for sewing projects. Why buy foam pads or bags of poly-filler when you can re-use old hose?

Sometimes worn vintage stockings are just tossed away by the people running estate sales — but if you are interested in recycling vintage hosiery, let your local dealers, estate sale organizers — even local thrift shop managers — know of your interest. They may just save them for you, often letting you name your price because they would toss them otherwise.

PS If you ever get to the historic Hingham Shipyard, check out my contribution to the wartime homefront exhibit!

Determining The Size Of Vintage Stockings

Let’s say you love vintage stockings, so at an estate sale you buy a bag full of them — only to get home and have no idea what sizes you have.

Jaynie Van Roe of Here’s Looking Like You, Kid (who has an excellent post on what you kneed to know about vintage fully fashioned stockings) shares tips for finding the size of vintage stockings:

cameo-burlington-mills-nylon-stocking-advertisement-1951Vintage stockings, original non-stretching nylon stockings, are sold by two measurements: foot size and leg length. But what if the stocking’s size markings, usually printed on the stocking welt (the top, where you attach the garters), aren’t legible or missing entirely? Well then you are going to have to measure the stockings themselves to determine their size.

Before we begin, please note the following:

In this case, “vintage stockings” refers to non-stretch nylon stockings which were made mainly from the 1940s through the 1960s, when Lycra and other stretch hosiery entered the market. Though 100% nylon stockings continued to be made, and its form of sizing continued to be used by some brands, the stretch hose limited the range of sizing to today’s more familiar ‘Small’, ‘Medium’, ‘Tall’ and ‘Queen’ — and the related A, B, C or D. (The extra give in these stretchier stockings and pantyhose literally allowed manufacturers to ‘lump’ women into fewer sizes, reducing cost and, we vintage fans feel, decreasing a more specific fit.)

Then, as today, there are variations in sizing by stocking brand — and sometimes within the same brand. The top brand names tend to be more consistent in their sizing (Hanes & Berkshire, for example, tend to be incredibly consistent), but even specific brand consistency may vary greatly from the sizing of other brands (stockings by Alberts, including the sub-brand of Araline, for example, measure an extra half inch in the foot and an extra inch longer in length too).

Since worn stockings will be a little larger (even freshly laundered ones), than unworn stockings, these sizing measurements work for unworn vintage stockings.

However generalized these sizing measurement tips are, you can get a pretty good idea of fit — especially if you compare the measurements to the measurements of your favorite fitting pair of worn vintage stockings!

How To Find The Size Of Vintage Stockings

In order to best measure the stocking, I recommend beginning by securing a tape measure to a table top, taping it down just like at the counters in fabric departments, so that you have both hands free to handle the stocking.

If you don’t have a measuring tape, get one; they’re cheap and you’ll use them over and over again. (I suggest you carry a tape measure with you when you visit estate sales, thrift stores, flea markets, etc. too — you can always ask for a literal hand with measuring!) Or, you can tape paper the length of the table, mark off your dimensions, and measure them later.

Once you have the measuring tape securely in place, you’re ready to get your measures. Since true stocking size is always determined by the foot measurement, we’ll begin there.

The industry standard for measuring the foot of a stocking is to measure from the tip of the toe to mid heel, however, most people are more comfortable defining the end of the heel rather than making a guesstimate of the middle of the heel, so I’ll be discussing measurements from the tip of the toe to the end of the heel. That said, that’s what you do.

Place the tip of the stocking toe at the top of your measuring tape and, holding it firmly in place, extend the stocking foot taut along the length of the tape measure. As you extend the stocking’s foot, keep it pulled taut — not stretched; apply just enough tension to remove the folds and wrinkles in the nylon. Measure the distance between the tip of the stocking’s toe to the end of the heel (the darker, reinforced area).

Just as with shoe sizes, a measurement of 10 inches does not equal a size 10 stocking — well, not quite, anyway. If your measurement was taken from the tip of the toe to mid-heel, then the number of inches does indeed give you the stocking’s foot size. (So if you’re comfortable with assessing the middle of a stocking’s heel, go for it!) But if you’ve measured the stocking from the tip of the toe to the end of the heel it’s still easy to get the size: subtract either ½ or ¾ an inch to obtain the true stocking size.

Which one? If your stocking is smaller, measures 9 ½ inches or less, subtract half an inch; if your stocking is larger, measures 10 inches or more, subtract ¾ inches. (Larger stockings have a larger heel reinforcement.)

To get stocking length, measure from the bottom of the heel to the top of the welt, using the tips above. The measurement you get is the size; no math necessary.

STOCKING 

SIZE

 

STOCKING
LENGTH
SHORT MEDIUM LONG XL OPERA
8 1/2 28 1/2 29 31 33
9 29 30 1/2 32 33
9 1/2 29 1/2 31 33 35 37
10 30 32 34 36 38
10 1/2 31 32 1/2 34 1/2 36 1/2 39
11 33 35 37 39
11 1/2 33 1/2 35 1/2 37 1/2 40
12 40
13 40

Collecting: It’s Not Just For The Materialistic Among Us

auctionpaintingPeople who don’t collect often wonder why a person collects things. They neither understand the things, nor how it becomes an addition. For those that just don’t understand, here’s a primer; for those who do get it, feel free to sing in the choir by leaving the preacher some comments. *wink*

Collecting is not always about the things; it is what they represent.

Sometimes you hunt for things, specific things that you know exist. Sometimes, they are things you want back. Perhaps things from your childhood. A favorite toy can bring back simpler days, remind you of the bonds with your siblings. Or maybe you search for replacements for items that broke. Floral cups just like the ones Grandma had. Picking them up, taking them home, you are suddenly flooded with warm memories of hot cocoa with Grandma.

Sometimes you search for things you never had, but know are out there, and need them to complete. Pieces to a set of china you wish to complete, or a volume in a series of books, or the missing piece in a game — some collectibles ‘complete you’ in that way.

auctionfigurinesOther times, it’s the thrill of the hunt, the pleasure derived from the moment of “Aa-ha!” which completes you. In a world where survival is no longer based on hunting & providing by use of wits & skill, these exercises in collecting play with that primitive need to ferret & produce. Like a giant rack of antlers, items hunted for & brought home are symbols of our success.

But there is also a great charm in the serendipity of collecting.

Sometimes you run into things you didn’t even know existed, and you wonder how you lived without them. Such delights lie in dark corners of garage sales, in the bottoms of boxes not explored at auctions. Suddenly, you are face to face with this thing & you realize you must have it. This old recording you have not yet heard, this porcelain piece depicting some creature you cannot identify, suddenly they make life worth living.

Perhaps they are the comic relief you need to get through your day, or an example of what made a person in the past make it through their day. The humor transcends time. The knowledge that others have survived their times too brings a comfort as real as cocoa with Grandma.

Sometimes you run into things and you wonder how anyone could live without them.

Sometimes you run into things and you wonder how anyone could part with them. Family photographs, diaries, a much loved doll… You adopt them because they are worthy of a home. And it’s obvious they are not getting the respect, let alone the love, that a treasure deserves. You rescue them because no one else seems to want to. They may not be your family heirlooms, but they at least deserve to have a family.

auctiongenpic0Some of us buy the treasures of others as a form of insurance: One day, sadly, all these items, near & dear to us, may end up for sale *gasp* by family members who don’t value them; maybe we can pay it forward and someone will rescue our beloved mementos.

This collector hopes there are many out there that will come to rescue & adopt my treasures — each with the sense of delight of a real collector who understands these objects are not just materialistic things.

I Wish I Had My Grandmother’s Aprons

bib-apron-candy-canesMany people think of aprons as charming relics from our past, or as evidence of enforced domesticity; but the truth is, aprons have a practical role in modern lives too.

Grandma always said you should be proud of your work around the house; you should be proud to take care of your home and family, and dress to show that pride. While grandma was a lady who liked to dress up, she wasn’t the June Cleaver type who wore pearls while scrubbing out the oven or baking cookies (even at holiday time). But she still believed in being properly & attractively dressed for housework.

One of the staples grandma recommended, naturally, was the apron; and she taught me a lot about them.

1960-dress-up-aprons-page-1Sure, they can be absolutely adorable and therefore bring a smile to your face, but they are incredibly practical. Even the frilly aprons, traditionally called hostess aprons were practical; worn for show, they still offered a place for the hostess to wipe her hands while serving guests. Heck, making aprons even had the advantages of teaching and improving sewing skills. But aprons are more than practical and/or fun.

As my grandmother taught me, aprons are worn with pride to show pride. You should care enough about your clothes to want to protect them, yes; but you should also care enough about yourself to feel good, clean & pretty in a good, clean & pretty apron.

So change your apron often, wash it often, and once it’s served it’s usefulness — including as an attractive garment — stop wearing it.

As for vintage aprons, feel free to wear them — but treat them well. Many vintage handmade aprons are like works of art (at least for those who wouldn’t know how to even sew the pocket on). Avoid washing them in wash machines, or, if you must, at least on the gentle cycle; and let them hang to air dry.

While my grandma taught me a lot about aprons and the values they held, I don’t own any of her aprons… When I buy and hold vintage aprons, I like feeling that connection to my grandma and all the other women who worked to make the aprons, make the meals, make the memories — collecting them makes me feel tied to all their apron strings.

Christmas Trees Have Never Been My Favorite Things

merry-christmas-unhappy-children-circa-1910This antique photo of a Christmas tree surrounded by little boys who seem less than thrilled suits me because Christmas trees have never been my favorite things. Primarily because it was our family custom for my father to get the itch to go Christmas tree shopping on the coldest, nastiest day of the year — and my mother, ever-interested in presenting a united parental front, agreed.

So there, in the frozen Christmas tree lot, wind freeze-drying our eyeballs, or feet and hands so cold we nearly prayed they’d get frostbite so they’d actually go numb, my sister and I stood, agreeing with any tree selected to hurry this thing up.

Only it never did.

My parents took their time looking over every tree in the lot. They called it “being selective.” But my sister and I begged to differ (and to go home) as our family’s other Christmas tree tradition was to bring home a tree with severe scoliosis — and a bad side dad would have to hide in the living room corner.

Once our tree was selected it was time to get it home, into the house, and set up. Parental bickering was involved, of course, as mom questioned dad’s desire to break all her holiday knick knacks and he in return wondered why she didn’t understand his simple directions of how to hold the tree while he sawed off branches and fit the trunk into the tree stand.

Then real fun was supposed to begin. But let me tell you, dripping noses and frozen fingers prohibit you from enjoying decorating the tree.

It’s no wonder I wished Christmas trees arrived by Santa’s sleigh too.

antique-photo-children-horse-sled-with-christmas-treeWhen I hit my 20’s, I actually had a beautiful tree selecting experience. My then-boyfriend took me out on the family property — complete with horse in tow — to cut down our own very own little Christmas tree for our apartment.

I giggled with joy over such a charming and comparatively discomfort-free holiday tree selection. On the way back to the car, holding hands with my boyfriend who led the horse, tree trailing behind him, a gentle snow fell to complete the Normal Rockwell imagery and my insides warmed with the romance of it all.

Too bad that relationship ended with more pain and tears than the cumulative hours spent Christmas tree shopping with my folks did.

Since then, I’ve had children. And a divorce. Then a new marriage — with a new daughter. All situations which affect Christmas trees and my affection for them.

Marriages bring debates over conflicting traditions, such as Real Trees Vs. Artificial Ones, just where the tree should be placed, when and how to trim the tree — including whether or not tinsel can be used.

Children bring ornaments. By the truckload. Each child has multiple Baby’s First Year ornaments, packed in layers of tissues with of all the ornaments they’ve made through the years.

My husband, ever the packrat, has all his old childhood ornaments, set aside and saved for him all these years by his loving mother.

presents-on-christmas-tree-dated-1896Which means every year my Christmas tree looks more like the cliched family art gallery refrigerator than the holiday tree of my dreams.

Among the complications of a blended family like ours at holiday time, are the sheer number of ornaments. Since we both were single parents for a number of years, we each had more than enough ornaments for one tree — and now they’re combined. The only preferential treatment my fancy themed ornaments get is to remain safely tucked into their boxes, saved for that future One Day.

You know, that one day when my children are older and I give them the boxes of their ornaments I livingly saved for them… Then I can have a fancy designer styled tree.

Only thing is, I’ll probably miss my cluttered Christmas tree, that literal mess of memories, and the stories each ornament had.

No, Christmas trees have never been my favorite things; but they do contain memories and they are decorated in stories.

Vintage Christmas photos via The Antique Christmas Lights Museum.

With Silver Bells On: A Favorite Christmas Memory

silver-bells-coverA story from my mom, of No Egrets Antiques:

Christmas at our house was always wonderful! It was not that we got everything we wanted – kids always have expectations way beyond reality. But everything seemed bright and shiny. My mom had Christmas music on the radio (the one with the little, round red light in front), and later on the “new hi-fi system.” And she sang or hummed from Thanksgiving to New Years.

For as long as I can remember, her favorite was “Silver Bells.” My brother’s first year in the Army was when Elvis was really at his peak. His song “I’ll be Home for Christmas” was played over and over again. My brother had been told he would not be able to get leave and had told my mom several times. But she never, ever gave up believing. Her boy, her first born, would make it home. Sometimes we would tease her but she just took it in stride. “Just wait and see,” she’d say. But when it was the day before Christmas Eve, and still no sign of Mike, she began to lose a bit of her faith.

vintage-soldier-home-for-christmasWe were at a corner bar/restaurant, having a fish fry. My sister was standing outside, watching the snow come down. All of a sudden she tore back into the restaurant and said, “Mom, a soldier just got out of a car!” She told her to calm down, but she got up from the table and went to see for herself. So we all went to the front door. As long as I live, I’ll never forget how my brother picked her up in his arms and swung her around! There were beers and tears all around for in a small community, everyone knew everyone. His leave was short and it was so hard to see him go again, but her wish came true and we all rejoiced!

I think it was then that I learned that the best gifts do not necessarily come in colorful wrapping paper, nor need to be expensive. This gift, as they say in commercials now, was priceless! And one for my memory book!

Photo credits: Silver Bells image, via Silver Bells bongocast; soldier home for holidays via Dr. X’s Free Associations.

Christmas Decorations: Why We Make Him Carry All Those Boxes From The Attic

snapdragon-antiques-holiday-decorationsUnpacking delicate vintage glass ornaments, untangling glowing orbs of flickering light, placing winter village scenes just so, divided camps of garland vs tinsel, and don’t forget the tradition of tree topper placement. Some believe less is more (those weird freaks!), and others (like me!) believe holiday is the time of year to go all out. But no matter what our design style, we all deck those halls.

We decorate our homes in the right fashion & in the established order as dictated to us by tradition.

And by “tradition” I mean the stuff that mothers and wives say.

We women get away with all of this for many reasons. After all, it’s usually the women who rule the roost, so it’s we who decorate the roost. We choose between real & artificial trees. We direct the placement of the tree – based on the ability of it to be best seen by those inside & outside of the home, with a dose of practicality to household traffic pattern. We tend to be the ones with the largest collection of ornaments, ceramic villages, and other family historical objects & know the importance & lore of each object as well.

Women tend to be the keepers of family history. The story keepers. We remember whose ornament is whose, the when & why, and we need to balance the old memories of our ancestors with the newer stories of our own families. Not only do we remember the stories, but we also, and this is perhaps the most important part of it all, we share those stories.

vintage-elvesAnd in order to share those stories, we know that there must be proper placement. For how else can we bring up the funny stories of ice skating gone bad, if the winter pond scene isn’t displayed? How can we discuss the history of Uncle Marvin’s elf collection, if the elves are not displayed properly? Without seeing great grandma’s tree skirt, no one can mention how lovely it is, and then we might forget to tell the story of her first Christmas in America.

The physical placement of objects & ornaments is directly tied to our oral traditions.

So it seems only natural that at the holidays, a time of family & tradition, that women give all the dictation on the decoration. This goes here, that goes there, use the angel – not the star, just a little more to the left please. More lights, less lights, all white lights.

If you don’t want the oral tradition to include the tale of the year there was no presentation of Marvin’s elves (a story to be repeated each & every year), you’ll just carry & tote, move & remove, then, yes, then get out of the way & let her do her holiday thing.

Now please bring down those other 8 boxes marked ‘Holiday’ from the attic, honey – we must begin to set up the Winter Wonderland on the console table behind the couch (which will now have to be moved to better appreciate the view of the tree). Everything must be just so.

And some folks already began in October, so we are late.

Images via Snapdragon Antiques.

When Things Are More Than Just Objects

One of the things we try to do here is move past simply describing the objects of our (or any collector’s) affections and try to show the passions behind (or instilled within) the objects themselves. You may have thought that our blogging was all about the justification for our quirky pursuits, but that’s not so. Well, not always

One of the number one reasons for collecting is a passion for history — be it our own personal history, a sense of nostalgia for people and places just at our memory’s edge, significant world history, or some other stop along that continuum. When we collect, we do not merely posses objects and clutch them to our chests, we cultivate collections to capture moments in time, to understand people, places, moments… To understand our collective and personal selves.

Recently, in New York Magazine, Amanda Fortini wrote a piece on a series of photographs of celebrities in their homes. In it she reassures us that our adoration and curiosity of celebrities isn’t just some silly voyeuristic exercise. She wrote:

If these images reveal much about the time in which they were taken — the white shag rug of the sixties, the pro-choice poster of the seventies — they reveal more about the celebrities captured therein.

Even gawking at these celebrities is worth something, for they were the icons of their day representing something larger than just themselves; they represent a culture, a time. Many are still considered icons and so they continue to tell us something of who we are even now.

In that same article, she summed things up well with this:

“Only because history is fetishized in physical objects can one understand it,” Susan Sontag wrote. In one sense, these images are themselves fetishized objects; they are fascinating curiosities. But the physical objects they capture are also historical artifacts, a way of making history concrete.

Ultimately the objects we preserve tell us of human events and motivations, even if what we collect and conserve is not fully appreciated by others.

Viewed this way, our collections are really private museums.

Which leads me to this announcement by the USC-Huntington Early Modern Studies Institute.

In May, 2007, the institute is hosting a major international conference called “Collecting across Cultures in the Early Modern World” which will examine aspects of collecting as “a global and transcultural phenomenon.” In preparation they have posted a call for papers on the following subjects:

– The formation and organization of collections: trajectories, networks, circulation, exchange

– The motivations and uses of collections: science, art, religion, curiosity, commerce, empire

– The interpretation, contextualization, and reinvention of early modern collections

– The transference of techniques, artistic styles, ideas, and beliefs through the circulation of objects

– The role of geography in the production, circulation, and interpretation of collections

– The usefulness of theories of center and periphery, diffussionism, transculturation, metissage, etc. in the understanding of collections

– Relationships between objects, texts, and images

While these all seem rather lofty and ambitious (not to mention specifically focused on a period of antiquity ca. 1450 to ca. 1850), these questions are relevant to nearly every collector.

Don’t let the big words fool you, these are applicable to your collection. I plan on proving this here, and I encourage all you collectors to do the same. Post your stories here, write about it at your own blog, or maybe even submit a paper to USC for the conference. You are the curator of your own museum; you know why it exists, what affects how you build it, and what it means.

Stop right now, and look at your collection; besides ‘dust me,’ what is it telling you?

And what would it tell all of us if we could see it?