Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Pretty Vintage China

I am back to cleaning out my accumulated "stuff" piles. In this case, my boxes and boxes of vintage floral china. 

I came into housekeeping with a love of pink, Shabby Chic, heavily floral things. Now several years in, I have adopted more of a "vintage farmhouse" style, and I am much less enamored of the floral china I had bought so much of and more into plain white, ironstone, and blue and white tableware.

I am not getting rid of everything; but certainly the bulk of it. The boxes take up so much room and I never look at or use it. It sure is pretty though! 

Sunday, October 28, 2012


A Fall "Halloween" fundraiser is held every year in my historic hometown of Milton, NC. I try to go whenever I can, and always have fun dressing up for the costume "contest". I've been Ellie May Clampett, a "dark vampire countess", and a swashbuckling pirate princess.

This year I indulged my growing fascination with Steampunk style, and went neo-Victorian.

And I spent a total of $25.50 on this whole costume. 

When I decided to create a neo Vicrotian Steampunk costume this year, I first went to the costume boxes I have inherited from mom and keep in storage in my house.

I found this black skirt with a wide ruffle on the bottom, about two sizes too big for me, but with a drawstring waist! When I get it on and cinch up the drawstring, the excess fabric in the back creates a "bustle" effect. Unfortunately I didn't get a photo of that.

I borrowed this ruffle fronted shirt from my pirate princess costume from a few years back.

Skirt and top: FREE. 

Next, I decided I needed something extra so I started on Plan A - and decided to alter a man's black velvet waistcoat I found in the costume box into an "underbust" vest, but soon gave up, as I was running out of time and my sewing skills are limited to the most basic you can imagine.

Plan B -I went on line and decided to buy a corset to wear on the outside of my costume, as many Steampunk fanciers do. Corsets are expensive, and I also decided it was just a bit too "sexy" for a family event. So I scratched the corset plan, and went to plan C.    

Plan C was a corset style wide buckle belt, and I found one for $16 + free shipping on eBay and bought it.

Then I decided I needed a nifty hat. So again, I turned to eBay where I bought, for $7 + free shipping, a basic cheap black top hat. Then I added all the frills and fancies, including ribbon, veiling, and a large button among my craft stash. I purchased a package of feathers at Hobby Lobby for $2.50 and used those as well. I loved how the hat turned out!

I tried in vain to find some Victorian style high heeled boots to buy, but Goodwill failed me and eBay was pretty steep for my costume budget. So I wore lacey tights I had on hand and a pair of black oxford style t-strap heels from my shoe hoard.

The finishing touch was my Great Grandmother's gold watch that I lifted from my Mom's house. She is away in Illinois visiting my oldest brother and his family, so I was able to get it out from the glass display thing she keeps the family's heirloom antique watches in. Mouhahahahaha. I sewed this little black velvet bow pin for it, even though you can see it is meant to be hung from a fob upside down, so the wearer could see it easily.

The watch is engraved with my Great Grandmother's Name: "Nellie F. (Field) Bird".

 Isn't the inside cool looking?

Viola. Steampunkery.

I was a bit bummed, because I forgot my "prop": my vintage Victorian style umbrella with the fancy engraved Mother of Pearl handle that my sister gave me. Oh well.  

I am loving neo Victorian style and have several other outfits in the making; to include my WW1 jodphurs. :)

Anyone else dressing up this "costume season"?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Take Care

One thing that still amazes me when buying vintage inventory for my shop is the items in pristine condition. The ones that look like they were never used, worn, washed, or touched.
How can something make it to be 70 years old and look so perfect?
 I also  find items that are in complete shambles and have seen better days. Sometimes these items just need a good bit of TLC with Biz and a needle and thread and they're almost as good as new.

A few weeks ago I won, at auction, a box lot of purses. I mainly wanted the tooled leather purse on the top, and didn't really care what else was in the lot. When I got my box home and sorted through the purses, I was disappointed that most of them were in tatters and almost worthless. There were five vintage leather Etienne Aigner shoulder bags, and only two were in decent condition. The other three are misshapen from being stuffed willy nilly into the box for goodness knows how long, the linings nearly rotted away by moisture. The other purses were hardly better, and the oldest handbag in the box  from the 40s can't be salvaged at all, it is so far gone.

I recently took out my wedding dress and was dismayed when I found faint brown spots down the front of it; like I had spilled a drink on it. I don't recall spilling anything on it during our reception; and it didn't have any marks on it when I stored it away at my Mom's house; but there they were. My Mom asked me if I had had it cleaned after the wedding and of course I had not. She "tisked" at me and said it's always a good idea  to have formals cleaned after every event. Of course, she is right.

 "Back in the day" most people took better care of their items. Clothing was more expensive then, there was less of it, and there was less money to buy it with. So if you were a prudent person, you took care of your clothing and accessories. Careful wearing, washing and storage were part of everyone's daily routine.

Today we have a much more "disposable" mentality. Not much was disposable then; almost everything was re-used or remade into something else. Things were valued more.

Whether your clothing and accessories are vintage or modern, it's a good idea to take care of them. For yourself; because it will last longer; and for the person who may be owning it after you.

(Enjoy this little sneak peek into my inventory room, which is a loft like room above our dining room that we converted into a closet like space where I store my inventory and my vintage home decor stash.)

My vintage shoe inventory. I bought an old record shelf for placing shoes on. 


Have formals cleaned after being worn at an event, whether they look like they need it or not.

Hand wash old and delicate items and line dry. Machine washing causes so much wear and tear on finely made items.

Don't use the clothes dryer for vintage and finely made items. The clothes dryer breaks down shape so badly.

Have coats dry cleaned after every season and properly store them. (See tips on storage below)

Invest in a good leather care kit for leather handbags and shoes/boots. As an equestrian, I have a wide array of items for leather care in my tack room that I use on my vintage leather items. My instructors always told me that good leather saddles and tack will last a lifetime if properly cared for, and the same goes for leather boots, handbags, shoes and belts. Leather will get dry and brittle if not cleaned and oiled. However, if you clean and oil it too often, you can cause it to rot; so be smart and pay attention to when your leather is thirsty.

Leather handbags on top, standing on their feet. The only downfall to this arrangement is that the handles cannot stand up properly. May need to re-think this. Also note belts, coiled to hold shape.

Hats and shoes, stored in boxes.


Don't store or display anything in direct sunlight. Sunlight will cause fading and drying/cracking o materials.

Don't store anything in a moist area, like a basement. Please!

Don't stack handbags on top of each other, especially leather ones.  Leather will get permanent indentations from the hardware of the neighboring bag (this happened to me more than once)

Store hats in hatboxes if at all possible, and use tissue to hold shape if needed.

DO stuff handbags with tissue paper to hold their shape, especially if you're going to be storing them for a long time.

Don't stack shoes on top of each other. Store in boxes if at all possible, and away from direct sunlight

DO invest in plastic totes for storing things like coats and clothing. Fold neatly, using tissue to hold shape if needed, and store in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. And label the box so you know what is in it at a glance.

 Here is an example of a handbag that needs to be stored with filling to hold it's shape. It was a mashed pancake when I dug it out of a yard sale pile.

Here is it with some newspaper in it. Do use caution when using paper to hold the shape of an item; paper compresses over time. Take it out every now and then and give it a good fluffing. 

Above is a "poor storage" victim. This would be an adorable 1940s handbag for someone if it weren't for the fact that it probably got wet, then dried out, cracked open, and then faded, to boot. This was part of the auction lot.

I stuffed newspaper in the toes of these shoes to keep them from collapsing and getting "mashed".

You can also use these nifty do-dads to hold a shoe's shape. I use them in my leather or reptile skin shoes to keep them in perfect shape.

I don't have a whole lot of fur experience; except with mice chewing the collars on some of my coats last winter (I now store them in plastic totes) but with this "stole" style wrap, I drape it on a hanger like this, and remove it every now and then to make sure it doesn't get stuck in one fold or another.

Don't hang knits on wire hangers. In my personal closet, I never hang sweaters and knits at all. I fold them and put them in drawers. Wire hangers can put a permanent bulging corner on the shoulders of knits. The sweaters shown here are inventory and won't be around long; so I hang them on padded hangers.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Autumn Shop Update Part 2

More autumn themed new inventory. Two pieces are weeded out of my personal collection; the dress and the wool sweater. I have had both for years and never have worn them. Well, except I wore the dress for the picture, of course.
I picked up the two Shadowline pieces at the same shop one day last week. Both are in like new condition.

1. 60s wiggle dress
2. Yellow cotton house coat
3. Pale blue full slip
4. Mustard brown wool sweater, 1950s

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Shop Update: Autumn Inspired

A few new items in the shop this weekend and more to come this week. It's amazing how seasonally appropriate the majority of my inventory findings have been of late. Some things I am saving for next Spring, however. Somehow I just can't bring myself to list pretty spring hats, handbags and swimsuits for the folks in the southern hemisphere when I'm going around in sweaters and boots, and scuffing around in fuzzy slippers on cold wood floors.

1. Yellow knit cardigan sweater 1960s
2. Wool 2-piece wool suit, 1960s
3. Victoria's Secret dead stock black lace bralette with the original tag, 80s
4. Balenciaga metallic silver heels, 1960s
5. Leather Jewelry box
6. Suede leather & braided hemp espadrille wedges, Late 60s -1970s

Monday, October 15, 2012

Vintage Laura Ashley Dress

While Gunne Sax and Jessica McClintock enjoy more notariety and certainly more "collectibility" in the vintage universe, I count Laura Ashley right in there with them on my list of "1970s - 1980s ultra romantic & feminine over -the-top girly-girl dresses". 

While Gunne Sax is noted for gauzy, lacy Victorian revival and Renaissance style gowns, and Jessica McClintock for the heavy taffeta, satin and velvet evening wear and ball gowns, Laura Ashely's designs can be easily distinguished by their floral cotton prairie style and 50's styled frocks for both girls and women.

I love the Laura Ashely's story. While she was working and raising two children, she began designing prints for scarves and napkins and the like, and her husband printed them on linen using a machine set up in the attic of their apartment. This was in the late 1950s.
The scarves took off and were being sold in stores, and the business grew, and grew some more, until her designs were being sold world wide and the family moved the business to France.

I have always adored Laura Ashely bedding and linens as well as her delightful fashion designs. I don't very often find Laura Ashely clothing in my inventory buying, as it was an English company, and I suppose not a lot of stores carried their items in the US.

One such item  was this 1980s dress I bought a year or so ago. I had it altered down to fit me, and had the skirt brought up to my natural waist. Then I wore it to a friend's wedding and have not worn it since.

I kind of went though a stage that summer where I was trying to "get into" wearing vintage costumes all the time like some bloggers who I admire that wear full vintage regalia every day of their life. I thought if I made an effort I could "get into" it as well. I figured if I was selling it, I needed to wear it!

But it is just not me. I can't do crinolines and cute vintage dresses every day. I have determined that I am just not going to be able to dress like Betty Draper on a daily basis.It's not "my style".

So while I had a lot of fun wearing the dress, I don't plan on wearing it ever again and it takes up a lot of room and I'd like someone else to enjoy it.

 For buying information, click here.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Plaid Skirts


Skirt: Vintage Laura Ashely. Buy here
Top: Vintage. Buy here
Cardigan: Vintage, my own collection
Leather Belt: Liz Claiborne, my own collection. 
Campus Boots: Vintage, Frye look-alikes. A gift from my husband
Flower Button Necklace: My own design. Buy here

Skirt: Vintage. Buy here
Sweater: Vintage wool Pendleton. Buy here
Circle pin: Vintage. Rolled gold plate and cultured pearls. Buy here
Shoes: My own collection, Madden Girl

This is what happens when you wear shoes and stockings out on the farm in the autumn. Ha!

I had quit taking shop inventory photos outdoors for a long time but I have started doing it again. So much prettier that way I think. 

The nights and mornings are getting chilly. We've had a fire in our wood stove twice already! Tonight I think I am going to toast some marshmellows over a fire in our outdoor fire "cauldron". :)

Have a wonderful Sunday, lovelies!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Last week, on Tuesday, October 9, at 6 pm, a dear friend passed away after ten months in Duke University Hospital, receiving two lung transplants a few months apart.

My friend's name was William Stephen (Steve) Keel. He was 67 years old.

My parents had been friends with Steve and his wife Nancy since before I was born; and their 7 kids are my age or there abouts. Their family and my family, and many other families in the community, lived near each other, grew together, ate together, learned together, played together, sang together, suffered together, and existed side by side for my whole life, and continue to do so.

In recent years I began working for their family, caring for their adult daughter with a mental handicap. So my life became even more closely entwined with theirs. Their children got married, had kids, life happened. And I was close at hand to witness it.

Some years ago, Steve was diagnosed with IPF - pulmonary fibrosis. For whatever reason, his lungs were slowly beginning to fail him.

I have watched over the past four years or so, as with each passing season, it seemed to worsen and become a heavier and heavier burden... until last fall, when when he was told if he did not get a lung transplant, he would die very soon. I was there the day they returned from a visit to the doctor with this grim prognosis. He needed to get on a transplant list, and sooner rather than later. Usually the transplant process takes several months of physical therapy and waiting "in line" behind other folks also needing transplants.

And yet, being people of great faith and trust in Almighty God and his healing powers, they and the family, along with the whole Christian Community stood and believed in great faith that he would be approved for the transplant and ultimately, healed of this horrible disease.

The reality of the situation truly hit home for me personally when we were called in to the home about a year ago, and Steve told my husband what his burial wishes were. He wanted to be buried on a hillside in the woods behind their house, in a plain brown box. He laid out all the specifics for my husband, so that in the event of his death, his wife would not need to make these arrangements. He knew that Kevin had the tools, the know how, and the leadership to take this task upon him if the time came.

In November, a few weeks before Thanksgiving, he was approved for transplant, and put on the top of the transplant waiting list at Duke. He moved to a friend's home in Durham to be a quick few minutes from the Hospital when the word came that lungs were available.

He never returned home.

At the time of his moving to be loser to the hospital, my life really changed a lot. I not only took care of the daughter, now I was sitting at their home with Nancy's 96 year old mother with dementia. There is a staff of about five of us who took shifts around the clock, staying in the home and caring for the invalids there, and undertook the running of the household. Cooking, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, phone calls, anything and everything, we did. Around the clock.

We got the news that a lung was available on January 31, 2011. It was a match. He received the lung transplant and all went well. He even recovered well from the operation and it seemed like the healing was well on it's way and he would be able to come home.

Then there were setbacks. Problems, issues. It became evident that the second lung would need to be removed, right away. Once again, he had to wait for another lung, while his life was in the balance. A prayer vigil was held when it seemed like all was lost, and the very next day, a lung was flown in and the second surgery performed.

But he never recovered from the second transplant. He spent months in the ICU, connected to a ventilator via a trac in his neck. He was unable to eat, or drink. He was on a feeding tube. He became skeletal, as he lost weight and muscle.
I went to visit Steve around this time; in the ICU. He was frail, and weak. Thin, and aged. But his eyes were still bright, and his countenance was hopeful. His voice was weak as he told me the doctors had told him in 30 days he should be out of ICU and maybe after that, able to come home. 

He recovered somewhat and was released for two weeks, and they stayed in Durham to be close to the hospital in case anything went wrong.
After two weeks, he was back in the hospital, and only went downhill after that.  

Being in the home all these months, practically living there, I got the daily updates; the emails, the calls from Nancy on a daily basis with the medical updates on Steve. I knew how she was feeling; how she was coping  - or not coping. I witnessed her sorrow, her fear, her despair, as well as her faith in God and strength to endure this incredibly hard time. I, and my co workers, were deeply involved with the whole process, and emotionally invested in the whole ordeal.

There had been many close calls with death, many times when I thought it was going to be the end of Steve, and always it seemed he found the strength from somewhere to pull it together and live another day.

I got a call on Monday last week from Nancy that the Doctors had told them that the Vent was prolonging his inevitable death and not preserving his life; and the decision was made to remove him from the vent and let him go to be with the Lord. The family were all on their way. The time was set for Tuesday at 3 pm. Not many people knew what was going on.

Tuesday, 3 pm came, and oh how I felt a heavy weight of sadness and sorrow for the family as I knew what was going on at that time.  It was my day off and yet my heart and mind were right there. I went to a business meeting with Kevin and my Dad, and at 7 PM, my co worker and friend Cara texted me to say that he had passed away.

I felt an immediate relief for him - he was free from the unimaginable pain and suffering; but such a heavy grief for his family who had just lost their Husband and Father so soon, it seemed.

The funeral was held at the home and many people were in attendance. It was the most deeply spiritual celebration of life service I have ever attended.

As the gathering sang the hymn "Fairest Lord Jesus", a butterfly fluttered over the heads of everyone there, sitting in a circle in chairs on the lawn. I watched as the butterfly flew all around, and then soared higher and higher into the air above the trees until I could no longer see it.

The graveside service was extremely emotional. I have only ever been to one other graveside service before.

Steve was buried in the Jewish tradition, with friends and family helping to shovel in the dirt. With each family member who stepped up and shoveled in earth, my tears flowed heavier. My friend John Howell stepped up to shovel in some dirt as he began singing a hymn, and before he was finished, broke down into mournful sobs as friends Jerry and Ruffin enclosed him in their arms in comfort.

Antion, who had lived with them for ten months, and who I had become good friends with during that time, stepped up to shovel in his portion, and after the first one, couldn't stop - sobbing, he shoveled in ten or twelve more shovels full. As each friend stepped up, the shoveling in of the dirt was like a last and final offering.

Through the whole experience of the past year, I have been struck by the great love and deep connection our families have for one another. (The families in our Christian Church community here locally.)
I can go months - sometimes a year or so! - without seeing some of these friends, and when you meet up again, it is as if no time has passed at all. There is no catching up or getting to know one another all over again; you simply pick up where you left off. That is how steady and unified we are as a community and as the Body of Christ. Perfect? Heck no.  But it is the unconditional love for one another that covers the "imperfections". I thank God that I am privileged to be a part of such an awesome group of people. These friends are Brothers and Sisters in Christ, and we are one big family. And this past week we lost a important and dearly loved member of our family; he will be so greatly missed. The loss is painful and deep. But I rejoice that he is with The Father and is no longer suffering with a diseased and broken body.

I will see you again, Mr. Keel. And we will have so much to talk about.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Auction Junque

Hubbs and I hit an estate auction this past Saturday. I quickly scoped out the items and zeroed in on what I wanted; namely, a box of vintage purses, a old farm kitchen scale, a set of 4 white jadeite nesting mixing bowls, an antique lowboy dresser with the mirror attached that was simply adorable, and a box lot that included a really great old industrial style colander. Kevin set his heart on a hay bale conveyor out back at the barn.

Here is the thing about some auctions: sometimes you have to buy a whole "section" or "lot" of things to get the one item you really want. There is no picky-chooesy. You take the lot with your desired item, junk and all.

I lost the farm scale when it went into retail price range and I knew I could get one in better condition for the price they were bidding to.
I also lost on the jadeite when it went into the stratosphere. People go ape-doodoo over glassware; it's unbelievable some of the prices they were getting on the stuff. 
I lost the lowboy dresser and mirror when one of the deceased's family members outbid  me past my limit. I let it go, because obviously, it meant a lot more to that family member  than it did to me; I was just going to paint it and turn it.
At the last second I decided to go for the metal bed frame, because Kevin pointed out that it would be pretty painted. I won it for $2.50. 

I got my purses, my colander, and Kevin got his hay bale conveyor for a absurdly cheap price.

But we also got all this junk.

There were some goodies in among the box lots; like the milk glass, some silver spoons, etc. etc. But much of it went straight to the donation boxes. The pine wall shelf was a $2.50 last minute bid, which will be painted and distressed.
I wanted the box lot of purses just for the tooled leather purse on top with "Virginia" stamped on it. Because I live in Virginia, and I find it quaint and kitschy - and I love that. 

Here is my coveted old colander. I don't know why but I am just enthralled with it. Industrial, rustic fantastic-ness:

Altogether, with the items not pictured here, and Kevin's farm item, we paid less than $60.00.

Auctions rock.