Rescuing Vintage Linens

linens my purchasesWhen antiquing, I keep my eye peeled for vintage linens like the ones I found today at Blue Moon Antiques and Vintage Junktion (both stores in Warner Robins, GA).  I’m always hoping to rescue a treasure from the trash bin.  I look for linen or cotton, and pass up any that have a polyester feel to them.  I want hand embroidery or appliqué, but don’t turn up my nose at some older pieces that were machine made.

Sometimes, if the price is right, I buy a tattered piece for the lace or tatting on the edge.  And, yes, I do buy the occasional doily.  One antique dealer commented to me last week that “doily” was the most creatively spelled word he saw on dealer’s tags.

I know which booths often have nice linens in the antique markets we frequent regularly.  I know those which often have pieces that aren’t marked and have learned to make a fair offer–it’s usually accepted.  I don’t plan to pay top dollar for my treasures because I do intend to eventually cut them up and sew them to something else.  But I often use tablecloths, tea towels, and napkins for their intended purpose first, giving the pieces a personal memory to attach to the art being created later.

Today’s outing found me bringing home some lovely treasures at bargain prices (and a couple that weren’t really bargains, but were just too lovely to leave behind).  I bought dresser scarves, napkins, tea towels, doilies, a couple of linen bridge table cloths, a baby’s dress with delicate blue embroidery, some vintage handkerchiefs, buttons, and ribbon.

linens store displayAs I’m looking and touching and plundering, I’m dreaming.  I’m planning and scheming projects galore!  I love it when a vendor asks, “what are you going to do with these?”  Today I pulled out my phone, shared a few photos of recent pieces, and gave them some ideas to ponder. I could see their wheels turning as well as mine.  After all, they love the vintage cloth, too.  That’s why they have so much on hand.

Photos:

At the top, some of the treasures that came home with me.  Yes, the Longaberger basket was a bargain buy, too.  These double pie baskets make great sewing baskets.

Lower photo:  a booth in one of the stores showing just a small portion of the treasures I viewed today.

Mourning Flight

Mourning FlightThis newly completed piece is one I began earlier this month in a “Second Chances” class with Susan Lenz in Tifton, Ga.  Susan’s work with textiles takes on many forms, but in this class, we worked with grave rubbings and vintage linens to rescue memories and bits of fiber that might otherwise be lost.

When asked why she focuses on “death”, her answer is, “I don’t.  I’m interested in life…how to best spend what time is left. … I focus on leaving a lasting mark…the words, life, and art that remain.”  A link to her website and more details of her work can be found here.

In this class, participants only brought needle and thread and worked with Susan’s materials.  We took a trip to a local cemetery to create our own grave rubbings, but were also given the option of including some rubbings Susan had made in the past.  That is the source of the Mourning Dove in my piece.

detail of Mourning FlightThe dove’s image is on dupioni silk, the background fabric is synthetic. The ruffle is from a cotton pillow sham, the black lace a remnant in the bin of fabrics.  The dove is stitched with hand-guided, free motion quilting on a sewing machine.  All the other stitches and beading are done by hand.  Some beads came from Susan’s bins, others were supplemented from my supplies once the class was done.

label for Mourning FlightThe quilt back is a piece of a tattered silk log cabin quilt I found a few months ago in an antique store.  The label is a linen piece I bought from some other antiquing trip.  I’ve been rescuing such treasures for a long time, but only when I became acquainted with Susan’s work was I daring enough to cut them apart and use them fearlessly.

I wrote a bit about this workshop in an earlier post, here.  A significant portion of class time was spent discussing our motivation for working with textiles, our connection with others, and the legacy we might leave behind with our work.  There was an emphasis on our stream of consciousness writings where we examined our goals and stories waiting to be told.  This piece will constantly remind me of the progress I’ve made and the goals I’ve set forth to continue sharing my stories in cloth.