Nothing quite cheers me up like vintage strawberry print tablecloths. Especially on a cold night, when Spring still seems like it’s forever away. Here are a few of my favorite recent “pickings”.
This classic from the 1950s is full of red cheer!
This one, also from the 50s, has a very romantic quality with its high-handled baskets and Azurite blue.
Of course, you can’t beat hearts and flowers with your strawberries for romance! In such a lovely pink, it would be great for romantic meals, Valentine’s Day, or, as the seller notes, for Spring bridal and baby showers.
This one may have been made as early as the 1940s — and I love the deeper, purple-red tones.
This one mixes in some other fruits, but who can complain with that sunny yellow around?
Grace Snyder’s lively eyes gaze out of her 1903 wedding photograph. There’s an astonishing hat atop her head and a tiny, cat-got-the-cream smile on her lips. She perches just behind her cowboy husband, her clasped hands resting near his left shoulder.
Her story, in many respects, mirrors Nebraska’s history in the late 19thcentury and much of the 20th century.
Born in 1882, reared in a sod house on a Custer County homestead and married to a Sandhills cowboy and rancher, she recounted her pioneer life in the 1963 book “No Time on My Hands,” as told to her daughter, author Nellie Snyder Yost.
Along the way, she became nationally known for her quilting expertise. Two of her quilts were designated as among the 100 best 20th-century quilts by Quilters Newsletter Magazine in 1999. She was named to the National Quilters Hall of Fame in 1980, two years before her death at 100.
Now Grace Snyder is the focal point of an innovative new history curriculum developed jointly by NET Learning Services, the International Quilt Study Center and Museum at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the Nebraska State Historical Society.
Called “Tiny Stitches, Big Life,” the online multimedia project uses Snyder’s quilts and her life experiences to bring pioneer history to life for Nebraska elementary school students. It is the first module of a larger project, “Stories of Nebraska Quilters,” with plans to develop additional material about other Nebraskans who are remembered through their quilts.
See on newsroom.unl.edu
People have asked what the pretty floral fabric item is in this photo of the antique child’s chair:
The long fabric piece which rolls up onto a tube (also wrapped in the fabric) is a part of textile history nearly forgotten. It’s a doily holder! Ladies would roll their doilies, runners, etc. up in this to store them and keep them clean, back at a time when drawer space was at a premium (and also to accommodate wider textile pieces which would only fit in drawers if folded, which would crease them). So it still serves those who collect doilies and other textiles!
I’ll try to add more photos of the piece alone soon.
Usually when’ there’s beer on a man’s clothing, we tend to ignore it — but who can ignore this vintage Pabst Blue Ribbon vest?!
Authentic vintage, from the Golden Threads line by Brill Brothers of Milwaukee, this is an incredibly rare piece of vintage fashion and breweriana. I’ve only seen one other piece like it; that was a sailor-style jacket. Neat; but not as wearable as a vest.
It’s for sale in the Fair Oaks Antiques (We Have Your Collectibles) case at Antiques On Broadway, so if you’re looking for something special to wear to Spring & Summer events, or for a unique Father’s Day gift, check it out!
Like I said, I’m becoming a resident vintage and antiques expert at Listia. Recently I was helping identify an item listed as “Tell Me What This Is” — headlines like that will always pull me in. *wink*
I immediately knew what it was, as I own several of these items myself. It’s a rug making shuttle or a rug shuttle needle. I know because the box on my Betsey Ross Rug Needle tells me so!
I just had to have this one because of it’s ties to women’s history, the fact that it had it’s original box, and the wicked looking nature of the tool itself.
Since then, I’ve been able to identify the other old wooden ones that I’ve ignorantly wound-up with over the years, being in auction box lots of old sewing and things.
I’ve not put any of mine into use yet, but it’s rather simple — the wooden “shuttle” pushes or prods the metal piece which pushes or prods the fabric strips through material backing, such as burlap, etc. It’s rather easy to see the process in these photos of my old wooden 1100 Kirkwood Of Des Moines shuttle.
Rugs including rag rugs made this way are often called “proddy rugs” for this prodding action.
While in my original comments at the auction at Listia I focused on the proddies (the strip of fabric in the Listia auction photo “prodded” me into thinking of those *wink*), these are also used to make “punch needle” style rugs too. Punch needle rugs are much like rug hooking, only you punch the thread or fabric through the back of the canvas rather than using the latch hooks most hobby kits have today.
Here’s what the Betsey Ross, ATK Product, box has to say:
Thread as shown, push needle point through canvas and operate handles up and down, keeping the bottom of one of the handles on the canvas at all times and move toward the right. The length of the stitch can be regulated by bending the needle in for short stitches and out for long stitches, always be sure to have the yarn or rag free from tension so the loops will not pull out when the needle point is raised up and down. To get a chenille effect clip the loops with scissors. With a little practice beautiful rugs can be produced with this needle.
Rug shuttles like this may still be made; but I prefer to use older items myself — makes me feel like I’m part of the tradition and closer to the women who crafted this way. I’m no Betsey Ross, either in historic terms or crafting proficiency, but just owning this makes me feel closer to her and generations of women who once had such skills. My hands sweat where another’s once did. Or, rather, mine will once I find the time to sit down and give rug making a try.
I probably need to stop writing about antiques and collectibles to find that time, huh? *wink*
At Bluebird Gardens, Charlotte Ekker Wiggins answers the question, “If I buy a vintage quilt top, and then quilt and finish it, does this reduce its value?”
And I just love how she answers:
If you are asking if a quilt’s appraised value will change; yes, it will. In general, the appraised value of a quilt is determined by the last work that’s been completed…
Some quilts have more value because of who and when they were made, or what designs are used…
Most of us don’t have quilts with that provenance so I suggest those quilt tops and quilt blocks will have more value being finished so they can be enjoyed.
What’s amazing about this is the fact that this post is the exception to an unfortunate rule.
It’s a fact that so many people in the antiques and collectibles area only define the word “value” in the monetary sense — and that’s neither the only definition nor the primary motivating force behind why we keep what we do. While it’s true we should keep in mind that the way we care for, treat, repair, refinish, store, etc. our objects matters, monetary value really only matters when we lose the objects, be it to sell them or to be reimbursed when they are damaged or stolen. For objects we love, for objects we value above their monetary value — those things we really value, having them around us to be enjoyed is what really matters.
Articles like Charlotte’s are important for the tips they present, but valued even more because they recognize the object’s real value.
In most cases, the quilts and textiles we have — be they antique, vintage or new — are valuable because we can see them, use them, enjoy them. So go ahead, finish that vintage quilt top, sew those antique quilt blocks into the quilt you’re making, repair grandma’s handmade quilt. The real value will be in snuggling in it, having it on display, keeping the tradition and the textile alive to pass onto the next generation.
Four collectors of vintage fashions and lingerie share their tips on what to look for when collecting vintage fashions.
The experts are:
Wink of Tiddleywink Vintage, a shop which contains mostly clothing focused on the late ’40s through early ’60s, but also dabbles in the occasional later-era clothing. (She also blogs at Shoes and Pie.)
The conversation is led by Slip of a Girl, a self-described “lingerie nut,” who runs, A Slip Of A Girl, a blog devoted to all things lingerie, especially vintage lingerie.
Slip: Collecting means different things to different people… Not only does everyone have a unique reason for collecting, a different aesthetic, and, therefore, a collection specialized to their own tastes, but when it comes to vintage garments, many of us also wear what we collect — or, in cases of the talented, like Layla, use the pieces as inspiration for our fashion designs.
In fact, many of us do not even call ourselves “collectors” — we’re just vintage fashion lovers!
Layla: What you are looking for in vintage clothing depends on your purpose. If you are a crafter or designer who loves to take inspiration from sewing techniques, vintage pieces are a wealth of knowledge… But if you’re a model, photographer, or vintage lover who wishes to wear these pieces, you’re looking for wearable conditions.
Slip: In any case, you’re going to want to know it’s authentic vintage; so, let’s start there.
Theda: When shopping for vintage lingerie, make sure it is genuinely vintage by following some of these tips:
Fabrics. Rayon satins and silks where mainly used before 1941; after-wards, the use of nylon and nylon blends became very popular.
Registered Number (RN). Starting in 1959 and still currently in use. If your garment has no RN number, it most likely is made before 1959.
Care of garment labels. In 1971, the FTC required that textile manufacturers list the garment care instructions on labels. The labels must have washing, drying, bleaching, ironing, and/or dry cleaning instructions. If your garment has care instructions it is most likely created after 1971.
Placement of the label. Most labels will be on the side seam. During the 80’s, they started placing the labels on the inside of the neckline.
Union label. Union labels are often datable by union history. Among the many different unions, ILGWU, the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, was one of the most prevalent and powerful, and the first major union to have mostly women members. Here’s an excellent guide to union labels, with photos of the labels.
Layla: Look for labels. When there’s a label, a label tells you where and very often when a piece is from. Be careful of fraudulent vintage with labels that look too new — unless it’s new old stock, but even then if its “designer” be careful.
However, if you are in the Midwest don’t be surprised by the prevalence of designer labels! Often times these pieces stay hidden in thrift shops and second hand stores in the Midwest, whereas on the west and east coasts these stores are a lot more picked through and finding these pieces at reasonable prices is rare.
Study. If you’re willing to spend the money regardless of the era, that’s fine. But if you’re going to be embarrassed when you show off your “bombshell vintage 40s/50s” swimsuit to your gal pals and one whispers to you that it’s actually more likely from the late ’60s, you have only yourself (and a mistaken or unscrupulous vendor) to blame.
Read. While this can fall under the category of Study, it can be a lot more fun! I have a large stash of vintage magazines that I love to reference, for the period photography, the articles, and the ads. You can learn not only what fashions were in style precisely when, but also how to set your hair, what nail polish colors were popular, and amusing dating tips! Which Hollywood star was dating who? How can you use up leftover luncheon loaf? How can you wash your gloves to get them sparkling white? Some tips are still relevant, and some are just fun to look at from a modern perspective.
Slip: Let’s talk about some of the flaws to look for…
Layla: Look for New Old Stock (NOS). These are pieces that for some reason were not sold, or hid in the back of a store or closet, and are in unused and unworn condition.
Slip: These often have paper sales tags still attached. But if there are no tags, if the item is not in the original sales package, what flaws should you be looking for? Which ones can be fixed?
Layla: I’d say that if you are buying for inspiration then the flaws are part of the detail; they show you how a piece has worn and how durable certain details are in the wear and tear of life. (Good to know when figuring out what will wear &/or age well.)
If you are buying to wear, show, exhibit then know that rips in fabric or lace are not easily repaired without revealing the patchwork.
If it were denim or tweed you could use iron on interfacing to keep the tear from opening more and, in some cases, this can completely hide behind the fabric (like the time I accidentally merrowed a hole in my finished term garment at the Fashion Institute of Technology… horror, then solution!) But this technique would not work on a sheer or lightweight fabric as well because the interfacing could be seen.
Lace can be hand stitched into place, but thread color, lighting, and quality of stitching could stand out — so the success of this technique depends on your ability to find a matching color, stitch properly so that it blends in, and the integrity of the remaining fabric you are reapplying the lace to.
If the fabric is shredded and fibers worn away too much the thread will not hold for long, and it will really not be suitable for wearing.
Popped seams can be mended from the inside pretty easily, but again if you are looking to “blend” the fix with the original piece you’ll need to have the proper machinery and thread; but these would be the easiest to fix barring major fabric ripping around the affected area.
Slip: This is why so many vintage fashion collectors also collect vintage sewing notions, thread, bits of lace etc. *wink* What else should we be looking for?
Layla: This is a good time to mention that when buying online you can never know things such as smell, flaws, discoloration, even odors such as smoke from the seller’s home. Make sure to look at seller’s ratings, the price, and ask for additional information or images if you are not sure.
Slip: And what things should we be looking for and asking about?
Silk and cotton are natural fibers and so they are more susceptible to absorbing our natural odors; you would be surprised how much you sweat while you sleep! That sweat and shedding of skin cells accumulates heavily in these two natural fibers, so worn items are very difficult to recover to like new condition.
Dry cleaning can help but also jeopardizes the integrity of the garment, as natural fibers deteriorate quickly when these methods of cleaning are employed. (If you do need to clean something take it to a cleaner you trust and who uses “green” cleaning methods, these tend to be less harsh and stringent on the fibers.)
Slip: You don’t have to watch Mad Men to know that people used to do a lot of smoking in the past; so look items over for cigarette burns and holes. Oh, the number of vintage chiffon gowns and peignoirs which have been ruined by pinkie-tip sized holes with charred edges! Look carefully in the voluminous folds and use your fingers to feel for blemishes.
If there’s a flaw or two, and this is for your own personal use, I recommend using appliques &/or dying the garment to disguise them. If you are intending to resell vintage or invest in the garment, do not do this; pass on the item. If you are a crafty person who likes to save such things and sell them, clearly state how the vintage garment has been upcycled.
Layla: Vintage furs are generally quite valuable; people would rather buy vintage fur than new fur (my personal feelings on this are quite mixed).
If you do decide to buy a vintage fur piece, peel back the fur to see the condition of the skin beneath. This is really important because real fur dries, and when it is compromised it will deteriorate quickly and begin to shed.
Another issue is mold and smell, but this you should avoid in all purchases — it’s more work than it is worth.
Slip: Now for the matter of fit…
Wink: Size. This seems obvious, but I became a reseller in part because I had a closet full of beautiful vintage that was too big, and that I realized I’d never “get around” to having taken in!
(Secret: I still have at least two dresses that I will make fit, one way or another. Someday.)
If you are looking to wear bias pieces the fit cannot be altered easily; this is very difficult to do without creating puckering and killing a garments original drape and beauty. I would actually highly discourage trying to alter a piece on the bias.
I would also discourage fitting any shapewear, girdle, brassiere, or corset pieces — again the seaming can be complicated and the surface detail can be distorted when taking seams in. Unless you are a seamstress and are not concerned about the original integrity of the piece, then I’d say leave it be.
Slip: Any parting thoughts?
Theda: Vintage lingerie is something that is desired by many women today. Today’s lingerie can’t hold a candle to the soft and subtle materials of the eras gone by. Try to find soft nylon satins and rayon in your local store — they aren’t there!
Wink: Look for flattering cuts. “Just because it zips, doesn’t mean it fits.” Know your figure, and know what works for you. Women have come in all shapes and sizes for all time, and you can find “your” best look within any era. Really!
Layla: Trust your instinct, buy what you think is beautiful! In giving these pieces a second life you will be bringing back a little piece of history!
Slip: I couldn’t agree more!
Thanks to all for participating!
This post is © Slip of a Girl.
Image Credits (in order of appearance):
Vintage blue and white swimsuit by Robby Len Swimfashions, circa 1960’s, from TiddleyWink Vintage.
I’ve seen and sold a number of items from Saalfield Publishing Co., Akron, Ohio, before, but I’ve never seen anything like this uncut oil cloth with cats printed on it dated 1913.
The entire sheet of oilcloth measures 36 and 1/2 inches by 24 and 1/4 inches. It has three cats which are to be stuffed with cotton. Two are sitting (the largest is 17 inches tall, the other 9 and 1/4 inches tall), and the third is laying down (measuring 9 inches long). The largest one sits on the oval piece (a cardboard insert is to be added to stabilize it).
I love-love–love the tiny pink kitty paws!
Complete instructions for making the family of kitties are printed on the fabric. The question is, would you even dare to cut it?
The charming antique oilcloth (available for sale at and images via kouleegirl) opens a whole new possibility for me in collecting Saalfield things — something I’ve not seriously collected yet. Yet.
Things like this get me excited! So I plan to spend some more time studying the collection at Kent University, where they have a nice Saalfield Publishing Company collection (1899 – 1976).
The collection includes artwork, oversize galleys, printing plates, etc., catalogs, and publications from 1899 – 1976. Or you can view lists of the collection’s holdings by series (linen books, paper dolls, activity books, etc.).
Sadly, Kent does not have any images from the Saalfield Collection online; but fans can check the university’s FAQ on the collection for more information.
This 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!)
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.
I 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.
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!