From the Permanent Collection: The KerryCan Tablecloth

IMG_6786I got into the vintage linens biz on Etsy because my collection of vintage linens had grown to massive, ridiculous, and embarrassing proportions. Beautiful tablecloths, napkins, runners, pillowcases, (etc. etc., to the nth power!), boxed up and stored, never seeing the light of day or being appreciated.

So, I decided to find good homes for them and have done so for almost 600 pieces, at last count!

But, as you might expect, I keep a few special pieces for myself—some lovely, some quirky, some with sentimental meaning.

One item that has entered, and will remain in, my permanent collection is this appliquéd tablecloth of a 1940s housewife, engaged in her daily tasks.

When I started to develop an on-line presence, on Etsy, Facebook, and here on my blog, I needed an avatar. I’ve never been much of one for posting many photographs of myself on-line and I was in a rush to get my little Etsy shop open so I just decided to use a picture I had taken for one of the tablecloths I intended to sell.

IMG_6805It was, I’ve decided, a most fortuitous decision. Over the years, I’ve come to feel like the woman on the tablecloth is like a little portrait of me, done in faded cotton and thread.

I love the details in this hand-sewn appliqué—the hairdo, the big apron bow, the seams up the back of the stockings! I don’t have that hair, my apron is sturdy canvas with lots of smears of chocolate, and I avoid nylons at all costs, let alone ones with seams up the back.

And yet, I feel great affection and affinity for this woman. She’s busy, she’s industrious, she’s always into something. She keeps a cleaner house than I do but, like me, she spends a lot of time in the kitchen.

She turns her loving hands to home.

If you look at her closely, you’ll see she’s come a bit undone, she’s wrinkled, and faded. Hey, it happens to all of us at some point! But she still stays presentable and engaged in her world.

She was for sale for a while but, thankfully, no one saw her for the lovely star she is. I came to my senses and returned her to the pile of my special linens. She keeps me company in the kitchen and at craft sales.

IMG_4037I love the thought of the person who sewed her and the layers of handiwork. The maker worked long and hard to make a tablecloth—a practical, working item—and decorated it with designs of a woman working. And now it’s come to represent a bit of work I do.

That’s a lot of loving hands at home!

41 thoughts on “From the Permanent Collection: The KerryCan Tablecloth

  1. You and she belong together. I understand completely your links with her. My own logo is a photo of a corsage I made when I found one of those cloth doll faces at a vintage fair. I love the way her eyes look to the side…..I think I look at life sideways! She is now fading and ragged but like me has much to give still. Lovely post Kerry! X

  2. That’s a great story. I wonder if the image of the working lady was copied from a pattern. Have you seen her image on other vintage items?

    • I have not seen her anywhere else but my guess is that she must’ve been from a pattern. I had another appliqued tablecloth that was very similar, with a butler serving a big turkey. There were numerous applique and embroidery patterns sold when people actually spent a lot of time at these activities.

    • I don’t know but I’m guessing late 1940s or early ’50s. I can’t even say exactly why I think that but the look, and the aging of the cloth, seems to me to fit those eras best.

  3. fate stepped in and you saved her – wonderful story and beautiful work. I’m old enough to remember stockings with seams! I never did housework in them or high heels, heaven forbid!

    • I can remember seeing stockings with seams but I came of age in the pantyhose era. And I’ve never been a high heels kind of gal under the best of circumstances!

  4. What lovely applique work. The lady is so busy, so vintage, so YOU! I had been intrigued by your avatar, now I know the story and I love it! Whoever stitched her imbued her with life and personality and you can feel how happy she is in her tasks. I must confess that I AM huge fan of aprons as all the women in my family wore them. They were always pretty and I associate them with being busy cooking, preserving and homemaking…..perfect !
    Lovely post Kerry.

    • Thanks, Karen! I like how calm and satisfied the woman looks–it inspires me to be like her! I agree that the person who made her brought her to life–I wish I knew her full story. Maybe you should consider a post on the aprons you’ve known and loved?

      • I have been thinking about that and I think it is a really good idea. What I loved was that my Grandma made aprons from her cotton 50’s dresses, so the fabrics stayed around a while, which is great because I loved them! She also cut worn patches from sheets and rejoined them with a seam and then when they were really too old for purpose, she made dusters! She taught me how to turn a collar and darn. I associate my apron wearing relatives with thrift and housekeeping skills and economies which I respect.

  5. I know I’m always delighted to see that sweet little face on a box of delicious chocolates, that’s for sure!

  6. She’s lovely. A great choice for an avatar. I am now trying to get my head round your once massive vintage linen collection. It’s nice to have a piece that celebrates housework and realises that it is also an art.

  7. It is odd how things happen. I am glad that she didn’t sell as it would be wrong for you to be separated. Thanks for sharing the story of your avatar, I shall look at it differently from now on!

  8. She’s adorable, I’m glad you kept her and she became your identity. I’m so impressed with what you have been able to sell. I love old linens and it makes me so happy to hear others do to!

    • There are tons of people who love them–it’s just a matter of finding the right person to appreciate each item. And it makes me so happy to know they’re being used and loved, instead of simply hoarded at my house!

  9. What a fab post! I don’t think I’ve ever seen appliquéed linens over here. I love how she is all dressed up, doing chores around the house.

    • I used to have a huge collection of appliqued people on tablecloths and tea towels–it was sort of the focus of a lot of my collection. I’ve sold most of them (to good homes!) and only regret letting a few go.

  10. It’s awesome to see the lady behind your avatar in real life! It’s a really lovely tablecloth, I love the big bow on the back of her apron! I actually saw some embroidered table runners in a charity shop the other day, and thought of you xx

    • My mother is always buying old linens, which she has no interest in, because they make her think of me. She passes them along and I sell them–she actually has a petty good eye!

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