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*

Matryoshka, the Russian Dolls

She never claimed to be Mother's favourite again.
She never claimed to be Mother's favourite again.

The Russian dolls (also called Russian Nesting Dolls) are called Matroschka, Matryoshka and матрёшка. As a kid I would see these Russian dolls when we went to the Canadian National Exhibition in downtown Toronto at the end of each Summer. I always wanted one. They were exotic, something from a country I heard so many different stories about. They were also so pretty, some were cute and some were so intricately painted they were things of real beauty.

I asked my Mother to buy me one. She told me to wait and see if I still wanted one next year and then I could buy one myself. This is still excellent advice for anything you want, it sure does cut down on my impulse spending when I am out shopping around. (Not that I always follow that rule, of course).

It took me a few years before I had the money to spend on a Russian doll. I couldn’t get one of those really big ones with endless dolls nested inside. But, I did get one that made me happy. She has five dolls, including the tiny baby in the middle. She is a traditional looking Russian doll cause when I took the time to look and remember the very first Russian dolls I had wanted this one seemed to be the most like the very one I had wished for all that time ago. I think she’s pretty. Of course, I have seen cuter dolls since then. But, I am happy to have the doll that I have.

Flickr groups:

Extras:

Buy a pattern for (very cute) crocheted Matryoshka dolls from Handmade Kitty’s Etsy shop.

Soleil Girl has pretty Russian nesting dolls made out of felt, with embroidered features.

The Russian Crafts site has a page up with lots of information about the history and creation of the traditional Russian Nesting Doll.

Where is Your Christmas Tree Going?

This photo is from SmileyGeekGirl on Flickr.
This photo is from SmileyGeekGirl on Flickr.

One of my favourite Christmas things is the tree, all lit up and decorated. The ornaments are a blend of special treasures I bought over the years, vintage ornaments passed down in my family for a generation or three and the real prizes are those ornaments we made ourselves, mostly from some felt, lace and embroidery thread. When it’s in prime Christmas mode the tree is glorious.

That’s why seeing a Christmas tree discarded somewhere, left to become a weathered mess, is so sad. How could some poor tree be plucked from it’s roots, given a grand celebration and then thrown out – treated with less care than the wrapping paper which was once under it.

Why do people do this to the trees? In these days of living green and caring for the planet, when we recycle and reuse and refurbish… why toss out a whole tree this way?

These are photos you can see of abandoned trees in Flickr groups. Maybe between now and the end of the year you will see an abandoned Christmas tree yourself. If you can drag it somewhere it has a chance to be recycled, I hope you will.

Thank you to Smiley Geek Girl for the photo of the lonely tree.

Teaching Old Stuffed Dogs Tricks

sweet-vintage-stuffed-dog-faceI suppose technically, this vintage sawdust stuffed dog belongs to my stuffed animal collection, but like Tigger, I resist calling him a collectible.

In truth, I often resist calling things “collectibles,” because that tends to make people think of them as part of some set of things, as opposed to the more individual sentimental reasons for owning them… But in this case, I snatched up this old stuffed dog because it reminds me of my dog.

Well, at least a simplistic or childlike rendering of him.

Ween (named after the band; not short for Weiner), is a mutt with ancestorial Aborigonal roots. He does not like to have his photo taken, and we presume to imagine he fears photographs take his soul or pieces of it. As a result, I have very few photos of this dog. Here’s one, taken with a cell phone — before he figured out that it was a camera too.

ween

So now I must content myself with posing the vintage stuffed dog, rather than my always-eager-to-be-prone dog.

old-stuffed-terrier-dog

antique-sawdust-stuffed-dog

But don’t worry, my sweet old stuffed doygie likes to lay prone too. Quite lifelike. Or as lifelike as an old dog can be.

sweet-vintage-sawdust-stuffed-toy-dog-sleeping

If you think I’m somewhat crazy for taking photos of my toy dog, check out The Secret Lives Of Toys at Flickr and you’ll see that I’m not alone. *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

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

The First House I Ever Explored

oldhouse1

oldhousetop

oldhousefront

oldhouse

This is the first house I ever explored. I had my first digital camera from my Mother for my birthday/ Christmas, an early present before she went down to Florida for the winter. It was great. But, I did not know I would need to buy a memory card. I assumed the memory with the camera would give me all the space I needed to photograph the house.

I never did get all the way around to the back of it. Not long after the house was demolished so now I never will get back there for more exploring. But, I did learn to do my best while at the site and not leave anything for another trip. Another trip might not happen.

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!)

Baseball Card Collecting Purity Shattered at Age 6

To me collecting has always been about amassing and organizing, maybe a little displaying, definitely learning, and combining those last too a little bit “I know something you don’t know,” which is by all means a mature enough reason to start this story when the bug first bit, age 6.

My entry into the world of collecting came as it did for many kids, and in the case of my generation most of their fathers too: baseball cards. Oh, they’re so boring today with so many more exciting items having become accessible for collectors, but if you’re a six year old boy and it’s 1979 then there was nothing more accessible to collect than the baseball card.

Looking back, as with most memories of childhood, it was very pure. To be quite honest if you took my computer away and I wanted to take up baseball card collecting today I wouldn’t know where to go to get started. But I remember where I got them back then, often it was the five and dime, sometimes the grocery store, but what sticks out most as I write this, perhaps because it seems so unusual to me now, was the ice cream man. For some strange reason I can recall like yesterday peeling open a wax pack and pulling out a Mickey Rivers card, maybe because Mick the Quick was the only beloved Yankee I got, who knows.

Dad's deeply dented checklist
Dad's deeply dented checklist

My 1979 Topps baseball cards were interactive. I can recall keeping my cards sorted by team and laying them out in front of the television when a game was on. I’d place the 9 fielders in the appropriate positions and one by one bring the opposing batters forward as they came to the plate on TV. And sure I’d advance the batter base to base when appropriate as well. This led to my Yankees being the most beat-up of the entire bunch, but guess what, we didn’t care about condition then.

The cards were educational too, of that I have no doubt. I learned long division once I figured out dividing hits by at bats yielded a players batting average. That led to a fascination with math which filled the hours by my inventing my own stats for my own baseball career which probably often wound down when I was over the hill in baseball years by, oh, right about now.

Eventually I had amassed enough cards to presume I had the full set of 726. I took to sorting them and pulling the doubles out for trade later. I actually remember sitting on the back porch with Dad one day as he did most of the work putting everything in order and actually using the checklists for their designed purpose–marking each empty box with a sharpened pencil. I can also remember how red his face turned when I became distracted and knocked the table over, but the less said about that the better.

Now I didn’t buy my cards for the gum, but don’t think that that slab of pink didn’t offer some small inducement. I’ll even confess to growing nostalgic many years later and popping a 15 year old piece of gum in my mouth–the corners were sharp and it tasted like pure sugar. It didn’t last very long. About all that had held up was the familiar sweet aroma.

Finally I can recall the day the purity was drained from my newly found hobby. My buddies and I used to flip and match cards, winner taking the amassed stack, and while a small form of gambling that was all right, it was still pure. No, the day everything changed was the day one of us picked up one of the earlier editions of Beckett’s annual price guides.

I still remember the trade and since my guy eventually made it to the Hall of Fame I still hold that I won the deal on talent. If I didn’t know now what the price guide told us back then I’d still do the trade and I’d be right every time.

Rollie's still got that 'stache
Rollie's still got that 'stache

I was going to get a Rollie Fingers card, who besides being the top fireman of the day with World Championships in Oakland behind him and already us kids whispering in reverence, “He’s a Famer,” also had/has one of the best mustaches ever and it was captured firmly on cardboard for all time to the owner of this particular baseball card. This was quite an inducement, especially at a time before any us could grow our own mustaches.

The price was Bump Wills. Why did my friend want a Bump Wills card? I’m not even sure if I’d heard of Bump’s father, the much more successful ex-Dodger Maury Wills, at the time, but if I had I’m sure I used it as evidence. There was nothing unusual about this card. His stats read mediocre. The rookie card craze of the mid-80’s had yet to hit, but even so this was Wills’ second card anyway. My friend peered into the Beckett book, his brother leaning over his side snickering in a way that as I recall it makes me want to find them right now and play some cards.

Why? Now there’s no time limit on a deal, but still after several minutes of deliberation we were obviously reaching the critical juncture. Finally my friend and possessor of the Fingers card asked the fateful question: “Deal?” A deep breath on my part before responding, “Deal.” And so it was done.

Immediate laughter, and I apologize for all of the detail, but you’re not yet familiar with Bump Wills’ significance in the world of late 1970’s baseball cards you’re about to discover just why this was so traumatic, so very horrible, that I still believe I can recall every single detail on the 30th anniversary of the harrowing event, unembellished, of course.

“What is it?” I asked, knowing I’d had to have, in some way, goofed. They showed me the Guide.

The Bumper with his proper team
The Bumper with his proper team

The 1979 Topps cards had a pretty full photo of the ballplayer taking up most of the card’s space with a banner running along the bottom edge of the card spelling out the player’s team. Bump Wills was a Texas Ranger and my card said “Rangers” just as it should have across bottom. But this was the corrected version of an error card which in all other ways was the same as my card but read “Blue Jays” across the team banner, pre-supposing a rumored trade which never did occur if I recall the story correctly.

But the error card was only worth about a dime, which was fine, Rollie Fingers booked about a quarter. My memory is a little foggy here, but I believe the corrected version, the rarity which I had just dealt off, booked three whole dollars! Now in 1979 there wasn’t much booking for 3 bucks, at least not a lot of what we had, we were dealing in the cents column most of the time.

I’d been had! I’d dealt the prize of my budding collection without even knowing it!

From that day forward no deal was completed without consulting “the Book.” No more were deals based on wants, needs or even likes. Trades were balanced except on the rare occasion somebody would overpay for a card they needed for a set, or to complete a team set, or just a random hero Yankee–very rare times. Those deals still retained some of what made collecting so much fun, but the almighty dollar, or more accurately an otherwise unknown third party’s stated value, became the rule of the day across our childhood.

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.