Tips On Identifying 10 Vintage & Antique Chests

In many ways, magazines haven’t changed much — but that just means that a lot of the information in vintage magazines remains as valuable as it once was. Today’s example comes from the November 1957 issue of Good Housekeeping; it’s an article on “How to Recognize 10 Chests.”

The article gives tips on identifying 10 basic styles of antique and vintage bureaus by noting the specific marks in style, finish and ornamentation of each. The 10 basic styles of chests in this article are:

French Provincial chest
Captain’s military chest
French Empire chest
Hepplewhite chest
Chippendale chest
Early American chest
Victorian chest
Louis XV chest or commode
Sheraton chest
Contemporary chest (circa 1950’s, of course!)

(Click the image for a large, readable, scan.)

If you’re interested, I’ve also “digitally clipped” the following from the same issue:

A fun look at The Date Line: Facts & Fancies for the Girl in School, by Jan Landon.

A disappointing look at Jobs for Women in the FBI.

The First Fiesta I Ever Bought

My family moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico from Tulsa, Oklahoma in the mid-1960s. It was a shock on many levels.

We now lived on a street ending at the desert — sand & rocks, not grass & trees!

Had to drink huge glasses of iced tea after first eating surprisingly hot Mexican food!

Also, some people thought us Okies spoke with an accent! 8-D

Part of my vintage Fiesta collection

However, that move turned out to be very good in many respects. New Mexico offered beautiful vistas, friendly people, & delightful architecture. AND, I discovered what would become my lifetime collection: vintage Fiesta dishes.

Fiesta is all about color & circles

One day, a new school friend introduced me to a charming antique mall. Since the holidays were close, I started looking for potential Christmas gifts. Nothing really grabbed my attention until I saw some colorful dishes. They came in a wide range of hues & had concentric circles on most surfaces.

I was particularly drawn to a bright blue & orange salt & pepper set. Well, I figured they weren’t an actual set because of the different colors. But the rounded shapes looked exactly alike. I was looking over the dealer’s packed-with-dishes table more than a few minutes before someone asked if I needed help.

“Yes I do, thanks,” I told the older woman. “Can you tell me anything about this salt & pepper pair?”

“Of course,” she replied right away, “that’s Fiesta.”

Love seeing Fiesta for sale!

I must have looked confused at that answer, so she pointed to more colorful dishes on another table. “Like those plates,” she said.

Wandering over to look at those dishes, I asked another question, “What exactly are ‘fiesta’ dishes? Are they used for Mexican holidays or something?”

“Oh no!” she laughed. “Come here & let me show you,” taking me by the hand to a third table. She picked up a plate that looked like it was the same rich blue as one of the dishes I’d looked at earlier. Then she turned it over to show the script mark underneath.

Fiesta dishes set on tablecloth for lunch

“Ah, now I get it,” I said. “Fiesta is the name of those dishes.” That helpful dealer, whose name I’ve completely forgotten now, pointed out other Fiesta she was selling. But I still liked the colors & shape of the salt & pepper set, so that’s what I bought, intending it as a gift for my mother.

It was after we moved to New Mexico that Mother’s preference for bright colors really became apparent. Maybe it was the rich Southwest design influence? All I know for sure is that she truly liked the cobalt & red (Fiesta for ‘orange’), S&P I gave her. And she later painted all the kitchen cabinets bright orange.

Charming tomato S&P displayed with Fiesta

I inherited that salt & pepper after my mother died. I also have a much older, deep orange-red S&P set — pottery adorably shaped like tomatoes — that she originally got from her mother.

Stacks of Fiesta displayed with vintage platter

Years later, when I finally had my own place, I seriously started collecting Fiesta. (And I mean seriously!) Now, when I move & have to pack up all those boxes of dishes, my father always jokes that I probably have enough Fiesta to serve dinner for 60 people. “No,” I reply, “I’m sure I only have service for 35!”

And it all started with that salt & pepper….

(Speaking of which, I recently moved & have not yet unpacked my boxes of Fiesta. And for some reason, I don’t have any photos of that original S&P, sorry! All photos used here are mine.)

Crazy For Vintage Aluminum Cookie Cutters

You’re likely going to think I’m insane with the number of cookie cutter posts I’m about to make — and by that, I mean posts about vintage cookie cutters, not posts that are all the same lol.

(I’ll try to spread the posts out a bit, so it doesn’t look like “the cookie cutter site,” but having taken out so many of my old cookie cutters and photographed them, I’m too excited; like rolled-out cookie dough, I can’t just let them just sit there!)

Only another collector of cookie cutters could understand the need to make so many posts about cookie cutters!

My cookie cutter collection began with my childhood memories of making cookies with my mother and grandmother. The aluminum cookie cutters were common back when grandma purchased them brand new. And they remained relatively common enough so that they were not only readily available at rummage sales and thrift shops, but inexpensive too. So I got in the habit of snatching up baggies of them, no matter if the whole bag was a bunch of duplicates. (Which happens quite a lot, much to my husband’s amusement/annoyance lol)

I began with the vintage aluminum self-handled cookie cutters in that “tin” color, but quickly ended up with the vintage copper colored aluminum cookie cutters too.

Since I began my collecting in Wisconsin where many aluminum manufacturing companies (Mirro, Standard Aluminum Co., etc.) were located, it’s been very easy to get my cookie cutters. Most of the ones shown here are circa 1940s; though many of these cookie cutter designs have been made for decades.

Though for all my vintage aluminum cookie cutter collecting, I do not have as many complete sets as I would like. Even with the common sets. For example, the set of four suits or “bridge set” still eludes me. Everyone saved that heart for Valentine’s Day; but few seemed to have saved the club, spade, and diamond as well.

But “not having yet” is simply the fun that keeps collectors hunting for more. So I can’t say I’m at all disappointed to keep looking!

So now, the question is, Laura, which one of these vintage gingerbread cookie cutters is like the one you remember?

Vintage Gay Fad Florals

A pretty pair of vintage glassware spotted at the thrift store. I believe the sweet pink flowers with unusual black leaves and stems was hand-painted onto clear glass creamer and handled sugar bowl at Fran Taylor’s Gay Fad Studios (located first in Detroit, Michigan, later in Lancaster, Ohio). Neither glass piece was marked, so I don’t know where the glass ‘blanks’ were from.

Had I deeper pockets, I would have bought them and really started a Gay Fad collection. (I have three pieces now; I do love the floral pieces and fruit designs — but there’s a lot to choose from!) Or maybe a pink and black glassware collection. (I have a few random single glasses with pink and black designs.) But you need to be more in the black to really start new collections, even at thrift store prices. *sigh*

Of Rusty Tools & Auction Fools

One of the things I find most interesting about collecting as a hobby in general is the vast differences in object availability and appeal by geographical area.

Having moved from the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, area to Fargo, North Dakota, you might not think (as I did) that there’d be so many differences. But there’s roughly a 100 year age difference as well as cultural differences — and the evidence of this is found in every rummage sale, antique shop, estate sale, flea market, and thrift store.

On Saturday, I found the sort of thing one typically does not find at thrift stores in Milwaukee: a rather large display of what I ignorantly yet affectionately call “rusty junk” at a Fargo city thrift shop.

Hubby, being both male and a former farm kid, can identify this sort of stuff. Not me.

But I am drawn to the sense of mystery of each piece and the artistic appeal of tools Vs. natural consequences (wear from use, nature, etc.). And I know from years of collecting just how popular such pieces are.

At farm auctions here, I’m never really sure if the (mostly) male bidders who gather around the old rusty tools and parts are buying solely for the sake of collecting (either for their own collections or as dealers who serve as middlemen to collectors or interior designers of T.G.I . Friday’s), if they intend to use the tools and parts to repair other collectibles, or if they simply want to use these old rusty tools “because they don’t make ’em like that anymore…” But I do know people want these old used and rusty tools.

And I know how they found their way to the thrift shop to — or at least I have a pretty good guess.

One old farmer moved to the city, and when he passed away (may he rest in peace), these things either didn’t sell at the estate sale or, because it’s too cold here to have a garage sale, were directly taken in for donation at the thrift shop. Because if these things had been available at a farm auction, they would have sold. And it’s rarely ever too cold for a farm auction here in Faro, North Dakota.

I know, because I’ve been to plenty of them. Even if I can’t identify half the things being sold in front of me.

Can You Catch The Vintage Gingerbread Man Cookie Jar?

Since I already have a topless vintage cookie jar (I use it to hold my vintage rolling pins and store it, along with other vintage kitchen collectibles, above my kitchen cupboards), I couldn’t justify purchasing this cookie jar without a lid when I spotted it Saturday at a thrift store — no matter how the bold blue or the charming old gingerbread cookie man beckoned…

I sure had second thoughts when I saw that the back of this vintage pottery cookie jar had Mrs. Gingerbread Cookie.

But if I bought it, I’d need more old rolling pins or something to put in it… Where would it end?! (I did briefly pick it up, just to look for maker marks; there weren’t any.)

If this cookie jar interests you, contact me and I’ll see if I can catch him — even if he is The Gingerbread Man.

Movie Props: Holiday Inn Jewelry

Mary Ann Cade doesn’t only preserve silent film history, she also collects movie and television props: “It is fun to watch the program and see if you can see the item worn on the show by an actor or actress or see the piece as part of the set decoration. It also makes one pay attention to other things going on during a particular scene instead of just the actors. The fact that a famous person or someone I admire or respect held that piece, touched that piece, is also quite exciting.”

Among her recent acquisitions, glamorous jewelry from one of my favorite films, Holiday Inn (1942). (I’ve always preferred it to White Christmas (1954), which was really just a remake — or at least a cannibalized movie “update” that’s not as good as the original.) Here are the brooch and earrings from the classic film that Cade now owns:

As the collector herself point out, “The neat thing about jewelry or wardrobe is that one can wear it too instead of it sitting on a shelf collecting dust and taking up space.”

Discovering & Cleaning Vintage Plastic Watering Cans

I like to collect vintage items that can still be used. One of the most charming little vintage pieces I have that I use every week (kept near my kitchen sink, next to my vintage squirrel pottery planter turned sink caddy), is this lively red watering can.

This particular plastic watering can is marked “EMSA, W. Germany, ges. gesch.” (ges. gesch. is short for gesetzlich geschützt and means Registered patent/design/trademark in German), on the bottom. From the ESMA logo, I can guesstimate that this watering pot was made after 1971.

I think it’s a melamine resin, also called melamine formaldehyde or just melamine; Melmac is a brand name. (Hubby doesn’t agree, but he’s a baby, and not as familiar with all the types and weights of plastics in my lifetime. lol)

In any case, there’s just something so charming about this old plastic watering can… Maybe it’s just the vibrant red?

But since it’s old and had a life before me, it had some signs of wear. Most troubling were the salt and mineral build-up inside the top and at the spout.

And, if you looked closely at the outside, you’d see white calcifications strewn here and there in the lattice work.

Most of this was (relatively) easily removed with some CLR, assisted, again, by my fingernails on the opening edge, and the good old toothbrush on the lattice work. (As always, do a small test with a Q-Tip on an inconspicuous spot first. And be certain to really rinse it well, so that the water is clean and safe for your houseplants.)

Now that it’s so clean, it makes me look for other vintage watering cans — plastic ones though, not the old metal watering cans that everyone, including Martha, seems to go ga-ga for.

I like the size of the smaller plastic watering cans, made for watering houseplants. I like the idea of rescuing the less valuable, deemed disposable, plastic models. And did I mention I love that cheery red?

But I’ve not found any such watering cans. I missed this beauty:

There’s very little vintage EMSA (sometimes mistakenly read as EMJA). I love a lot of what I find — I don’t even like eggs that much, but I would have loved this mint in box EMSA breakfast set:

But no watering cans. Yet.

I’ve also tried searching for vintage plastic watering cans, with little success. This one (from NettySue) is cute…

But it has such a build up of lime etc., that I fear the plastic will be too etched to really salvage it.

Like all collectors, I continue to search.

And I’d love to hear from anyone else who collects vintage plastic watering cans. It’s nice not to be alone sometimes *wink*

Giving A Ceramic Poodle A Bath (Or How To Clean Vintage Spaghetti Figurines)

When I was a kid, I had a number of vintage spaghetti figurines — mostly poodles. Sadly, I sold most of them at family rummage sales as I got older. So when I spotted this black poodle with the familiar ceramic spaghetti fur for just $2 at a local thrift shop I had to take him home. Even if he is not perfect.

The most obvious problem was a long stripe down his back where someone had likely priced him for sale with masking tape. (Lack of concern for damages to items when pricing them is a huge pet peeve for all collectors.) And his ceramic spaghetti fur was covered in dust and dry ick. In short, Blackie the vintage poodle figure was begging for a bath.

Before I share my tips on cleaning old figurines, please note: Do not wash or submerge any pieces which have been glued or repaired as the water will likely seep in and, if not dissolve the fixative, can crumble away the weakened pottery itself. Do not wash or submerge vintage chalkware pieces or any pieces which do not appear to have been fired.

The best way to remove sticker residue and other goo from pottery, ceramics and even (many) plastics is with liquid soap. Rather any liquid soap, from dish washing detergent to hand soap or even shampoo will do. But you should always do a small test of both the cleaning product and the tools you are using, preferably in a place which won’t show, such as the bottom of the piece.

First I like to rinse the piece. Just to get all the loose stuff off. Then take a finger tip full of liquid soap and apply it directly to the areas affected by the sticky residue.

Rub it in good and then let it sit a few seconds to soften the residue.

When you are ready, hold the figuring securely with one hand. Take care how you hold your piece. You will be tempted to set or lean the piece against the counter top or table; don’t. The pressure you’re applying can leverage a break or stress fracture, or simply risks bumping and sliding across the hard surface causing a chip. (Since I was taking photos while I did this, you’ll see I’m short a hand for holding in the photo; but trust me, I did it!)

Using your thumbnail, gently but firmly, scrape the residue off. (Personally, I find there is no greater tool than your own fingernails; you know exactly how much pressure you are applying and the ease with which the goo is sliding off.)

In cases like this vintage figurine, the sticker residue has aged and set so well that while you do make progress, not all of it will come off right away.

Simply apply more liquid soap with your finger tip, let it sit, and scrape again. You may wish to rinse or wipe the piece with a damp sponge to make sure you’re removing all of the loose bits of residue you’re scraping off.

This may take repeated efforts, but eventually the oils &/or emollients will break down the residue.

Now to clean between the ceramic spaghetti strands. This is best done with a toothbrush (I always keep toothbrushes in my cleaning kits). Wet the toothbrush, apply a bit of the same liquid soap, and gently brush it into the ceramic fur and other crevices of the figurine, creating a lather.

Be especially careful where there are damages, paint that you have not tested, etc. But overall, a light brushing with the mild soap won’t do anything but remove the dirt.

The rinse off and gently blot the piece dry.  Let it sit on a towel to try before placing it back on the shelf, especially if it sits on a wooden or painted surface.

Now Blackie’s clean. But he’s still not perfect. He’s got a number of places where the tips of the spaghetti strands have been broken; the white ceramic spots are obvious to the collector’s trained eye, even if he looks great on the shelf. So I’m leaving him alone. But if your spaghetti figurine is going to remain yours, there’s nothing wrong with taking a permanent marker and placing a dot of color on the bare white ceramic and hiding the flaws.

Appreciating Vintage Glass Punch Bowl Sets

I know some collectors will find this inherently evil, but I like to use my collectibles. In fact, one of my favorite things about the holidays is using my vintage glassware.

One of our family traditions is to stay home with the kids on New Year’s Eve and have a party. A geeky party, filled with nerdy retro boardgames, vintage vinyl playing on the record player, and party food, of course. Most commonly our party snacks consist of cheese, sausage, crackers and whatever holiday cookies we have left over. And then there’s my punch — simple mix of orange juice and white soda — served in my vintage Anchor Hocking punch bowl set.

vintage-holiday-punch-setThis vintage milk glass set, a punch bowl with its misleading red and green proclamation of egg nog and cups falsely declaring individual spiked Tom & Jerry servings, is something special that marks the occasion — and hopefully adds to the memories.

I know that using such glassware has it’s risks. Every glassware does, and vintage pieces would be even more difficult to replace. But I treat the vintage glass set well.

I carefully wash and dry each piece by hand — caressing it clean, anticipating the fun of using it. I carefully fill the punch bowl and serve the punch into each vintage milk glass cup, and as I place them into hands that eagerly await them I, like all mothers, remind even those with large strong man-hands to be careful with our special old friends. When all is done, I caress clean each piece in the vintage holiday punch bowl set again, slowly saying thank you and goodbye… Then I place the set carefully up above the kitchen cabinets, where it awaits next year’s use.

The set is visible above the cabinets — should someone want to crane their necks to look — but I find that’s not enough adoration and attention for such cool vintage pieces.

Plus, my vintage punch bowl set is much more likely to find a home after my passing if each of the kids have memories of its use. In that way, using vintage glassware actually increases the odds of its survival. *wink*

Cookie Cutters

cookiecuttersI used to have cookie cutters that belonged to my Grandmother. I remember a gingerbread man. It was aluminum, a dull silver colour. The shape was filled in, not like the modern ones that are open on top. The old gingerbread man was wearing a pointy hat. That’s about all I can really, clearly remember about him any more.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen that cookie cutter. Too much moving, too many boxes lost or damaged. Lost due to things like the water heater bursting and flooding the basement. Mice nibbling at boxes which were then thrown out as useless. Or, boxes just being forgotten in some corner of one basement or another. It’s sad to lose things that way. It bothers me more than any other way of losing things. As if the things lost that way were never important enough to remember.

But, I have the hope that my lost things will be found someday and become someone’s great find, treasured all over again, though they won’t know the history. They won’t know that cookie cutter once belonged to my Grandmother. They won’t know my Grandmother, my Mother, my brother and sisters and I made gingerbread people many times with that old cookie cutter in the kitchen of the house I remember best from my growing up days. I wish I could tell whoever finds that cookie cutter the history behind it. Tell them about how my Grandmother was once nicknamed Pepper and how she liked to plant potatoes in the garden to aggravate my Grandfather. I’d like to tell them about how she fought breast cancer for years until she had to show/ teach us all how to die quietly, with pride and courage. I miss her. I really wish we had that cookie cutter still. There is some hope it will turn up in a box not opened during years of moving from place to place. More likely it is gone, to be found by someone who will wonder about that cookie cutter and other things that may be in the box they find in some corner of the basement of the house they move into.

It would be nice to tell them about that cookie cutter. To let them know it’s not just another old cookie cutter. But, it doesn’t work that way with lost treasures. The story becomes a secret known only to those who lost it. Those who find it can only wonder or imagine what the history behind it might be. Maybe, when they imagine the story they will get some of it right. That would be nice.

I have other new cookie cutters. A small collection of them. This Christmas I tried making gingerbread men again. I made the batter from a recipe online. But, when I tried to cut out the cookies the batter was too runny and sticky. It could not hold the shape. So no gingerbread men again this year. I will find a better recipe next year. Ideally, I’d like to get matching cookie cutters for gingerbread men and women and another for a gingerbread house cookie shape. Those would be the pinnacle of my collection.

Note: The aluminum gingerbread man in this article, from HubPages: Collecting Vintage Cookie Cutters, looks like my Grandmother’s old one. It might be the very same kind that she had. Also, we had a Christmas tree and that bunny from this collection too. Ours was badly dented in the middle though.

Resources:

The Cookie Cutter Collector’s Club – Based in the US. The 2010 convention will be in California, in June.

Cookie Cutter Search – From the Cookie Cutter Collector’s Club.

There are cookie cutter collectors displaying their cookie cutters in photos on Flickr: Cookie Cutters.

After you look at that group, see how the cookies were decorated on Flickr: Cookie Cutter Cookies.

Brand Name Cooking – Has posted a good article about collecting cookie cutters.

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

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

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!)

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

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 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.