Thursday, May 30, 2013

Vintage Textile Treasure Hunt - Now is the Time

Now is the Time

Every spring these types of signs appear on nearly every street corner and shopping center bulletin board.

Clearly most people have taken the concept of spring cleaning to heart and have accumulated boxes of unwanted goods.  These items they sell and with the monies they collect people then flock to other sales to purchase bargains to refill their cupboards and closets and garages.  Sort of an endless cycle, I guess.

If, however, you are a collector of vintage textiles, these signs are treasure maps indicating where one might find treasures, indeed. From the “so ugly, it’s actually pretty neat” to lovely linens and handcrafted laces and fabrics, one man’s trash can become your treasure.

In April I wrote about protecting your textile collection with proper cleaning and storage.  Today I wish to discuss Protecting Yourself.  This may sound a bit strange at first but vintage textiles that have lived a long life outside the clean conditions of shops and museums can harbor all sorts of unpleasant problems.

Consider the possible conditions of barn and cellar storage, of storing used and soiled textiles together with whatever else is in that old trunk. A good friend actually found a great quilt beside a dumpster.  But do not let this deter you from your hunt!!!  Just take a few easy precautions and all will be well.
When you bring home your great find, if it is larger than a handkerchief, try to examine your box, trunk or large plastic bag of goodies outside, or at least in the garage.  Please do not empty everything onto your dining room table or bed for sorting. 

Tyvek coverall s suits
Nov., 2011
Jarek Tusznski

This may be overkill.  What you may want to have on hand are plastic gloves (the thin kind worn by the servers in the bakery or deli and can be purchased in a kitchen supply store or a drug store.)  You can use these to examine even the most soiled fabrics and then can be tossed.  If you have any allergic or pulmonary conditions you will want to wear a protective mask that is available in every hardware store or big box store.  Lint fibers are easily airborne and you don’t want to be inhaling them, especially if you are fortunate enough to have many textiles to sort and clean.  Remember, even small textile scraps can be cleaned and used in numerous ways as appliqués or patches for a tote bag, or stripped for a hand made rug or mat.  So after careful airing and cleaning you will have other additions for your collection.  Never add an additional textile to your stored collections until you have carefully examined and possibly cleaned it, one small insect can contaminate your other fabrics.

So gather your local newspaper, your GPS and your wallet and seek out those bargains!!!

And good luck!!!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Wish You Were Here - Embroidered Vintage Postcards

Wish You Were Here

When I travel I usually collect postcards, some of which I actually send to the folks back home, but more often I tend to save these souvenirs.  The photographs and/or artwork are amazing, never is there one of long airport lines or torrential rains or blizzards.  All are happy reminders.

In the last part of the 19thC postcards were standard forms of communication, not necessarily from vacation venues.  The cards were inexpensive (no envelopes and the postage was less than was required for a letter).  Often they were sent as greetings for holidays or just to say “I’m thinking about you”.  These cards are a great source of Victorian art and can be found at nearly every flea market or antique shop.  I especially like the ones that have actually been sent, with postmarks and addresses and short messages.  They let me wonder about the people (both the senders and the receivers) and what they were doing on that Easter morning or what relation they had to each other or whether they had as great a vacation as they indicated.

There is a group of vintage postal cards that are textile related.  These are embroidered cards that were popular in the first decades of the 20thC .  One type of card featured a scene or greeting embroidered on a lightweight voile fabric.  The embroidery was then affixed to the postcard cardboard, usually including a thin paper frame to protect the stitchery.  These cards usually commemorated a holiday such as Christmas or a birthday or anniversary and were kept as touching momentoes.

Another type of embroidered work was professionally stitched directly on the card, usually as an accent, over the artwork.  These were especially popular with servicemen stationed overseas.  Later, due to demand for these souvenirs, many countries created cards as part of a series, demonstrating native crafts, costumes and scenery. What a great bookmark or small bit of art for your already overcrowded desk.


    A series of embroidered cards from Portugal showing regional dress and landmarks from various Portuguese districts

View of the back of the stitched card.

Parer back of the card would have been affixed over the stitching

Hopefully there will still be a demand for these contemporary, inexpensive arty cards despite email and tweets.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Bedtime Story Textiles: Little Red Riding Hood

Little Red Riding Hood

“Hey, there, Lil’ Red Riding Hood
You sure are looking good
You’re everything a big, bad wolf could want”

Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, 1966

The story we know as Little Red Riding Hood is a very old one. The first printed version in the 1600’s is credited to a French author, Charles Perroult. The early versions ended badly as both Red and her grandmother were eaten by the wolf.
 More familiar is the Grimm Brothers version in the mid 1800’s with both Grandma and Red escaping the wolf with the help from a hunter who had luckily wandered by.

Many have offered various metaphors as to the meaning of the story.  Let’s just leave it at “talking to a stranger while walking through the woods to Grandma’s isn’t too bright.”

Textiles designed for children became very popular in the 20thC, especially in the 1950’s.  Motifs with cowboys and Indians, space ships and cars were to be found on fabrics, which were made into pajamas, costumes and interior décor textiles for children’s rooms. For young children there were familiar nursery rhyme and story book characters.  Embroidery patterns were designed for quilts and baby blankets.

embroidered quilt block

A search through your favorite antique shop or thrift store just might reveal a real treasure to add to any child’s bedroom.

Child's dresser scarf
fabric - c.1953 by Geo. Shamyer & Co.

Friday, May 10, 2013

May baskets and Flowers - Crochet novelties

 May Baskets and Flowers - Crochet Novelties

The history of giving May Baskets goes back times of celebrating the coming of spring.  Baskets were hand made paper cones filled with small flowers such as lily-of-the-valley or violets and given to adults and children, neighbors and loved ones.  Today I share with you some crochet baskets perfect for May Day giving.

During the mid-20thC crochet-work took a turn from the practical to the imaginative.  Homemakers delighted in inviting guests for luncheons and evening card games.  As there were few home décor stores and outlets available from which to purchase accessories that declared good taste, women turned to their needle - crafts to create novelty items, that today, we look at with a smile.  Frilly aprons were a must, as were potholders, tea and egg cozies, glass jackets, animals and flowers, baskets and bowls.  These all were displayed upon the dozens of doilies and mats that already adorned every tabletop and coffee table.  Today you can find, at a very reasonable price, many of these novelties.  Most were crochet, using the latest in yarns in pastels and variegated, rainbow hues, metallic threads and even rattan.  Something for every taste!  Frequently, the finished crochet work was stiffened, using a starch solution, so that the basket or bowl was somewhat functional

Small crochet baskets filled with small paper flowers

A bouquet of crochet carnations 

Friday, May 3, 2013

All That Glitters

All That Glitters

Remember that game ”Twenty Questions” that always began with the question animal, vegetable or mineral?  We sometimes forget that textile fibers are not only of animal or vegetable origin, but may be in the mineral category.  The use of metals in fabric can be traced far into history.  Metallic threads indicated wealth and status and required expert craftsmen to embellish clothing for royalty and religious clergy.

The use of metal as fiber elements was accomplished in two ways.  Incredibly thin sheets of gold, silver and copper were wrapped around cores of linen, silk or cotton threads.  If the metallic thread was too brittle to be used for embroider they were couched on the surface of the textile.  Sometimes the couching threads were visible and added to the overall glittery effect, which is referred to as “or nue”.  Very fine metallic thread was often used in Chinese and Ottoman embroideries.  With the spread of the Ottoman Empire, the use of metals was introduced into Europe and could be found in medieval textiles, some of which could weigh in excess of 40 pounds. Called “drap d’or”, golden fabrics flourished until the late 1700’s.

Oriental pillow cover with gold thread embroidery

Victorian table cover with metallic embroidery

These metal weavings were created by Evan Riter.
Riter received a Masters of  Fine Ats in fiber, textile, and weaving arts from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, MI.

The second method of creating metallic fabrics from true metals is weaving strips of thin metal (with a wire warp) or using metal wire with fiber such as linen.  Because the wire warp is particularly strong a variety of materials such as plastic, paper in addition to the wire weft can be used.  Through electrolysis, many colors can be produced. Titanium, for example, can be made into blue, brown, pink and green hues.  One advantage of using metal elements is that the resultant fabrics can be manipulated and shaped after weaving.

Arline Fisch
Collar, machine knit copper wire
wuth silver accents

Arline Fisch is a Professor Emerita of Art  
at San Diego State University and was
named a "Living Treasure of  California"
in the field of American Crafts

Many of the textiles produce for the tourist market  
have elaborate metallic embellishments.

Victorian mat with metal thread embroidered trim

Modern mats with machine made metallic trim