Life Lessons from Linens: A Blog Series to Visit!

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Susan Nowell and My Place to Yours

Hey, lovers of “hands at home,” all things vintage, and especially vintage linens! I want to direct you to a fun and interesting blog series that I think you’ll like.

Susan Nowell, the blogger behind My Place to Yours, has been doing a series this month called, “Life Lessons from Linens.” As she says, “This is a series of 31 posts dedicated to life lessons I’ve learned (or been reminded of) while working with vintage linens.” The lessons range from “We learn about Life when we look beyond ourselves” to “Look for the beauty in every season of life” to “’Imperfect’ is okay”.

The most recent post, “Figural Linens Told Me: People Matter,” is one of my favorites and, no, not just because Susan includes some of my cool linens in the post. When she writes, “When I see figural linens, I always wonder *who* the person was–both the person who designed and sewed the piece…and the person depicted in the design,” it makes me think of some of the posts I’ve written about the human touch, the people with the “loving hands at home.”

Check it out if you have the chance—the posts are very readable and include beautiful images of all kinds of vintage linens!

Why Vintage? Reason #2

re-use-6A few days ago I began what will be a short series by asking, “Why vintage?” What is it about clothing and home décor and cars of decades past that appeals to people?

The first reason I discussed was the fashion appeal of vintage design. Today I’ll talk about impulse to buy and use vintage because of a sense of ethics.

2) It’s a choice motivated by a sense of ethics

What’s so ethical about vintage? Well, when you start to think about it, quite a lot.

In a world with a lot of huge landfills, full of throwaways and discards, the idea of using what we already have appeals to a lot of people.

One of my favorite blogs is Garbage Finds. The author is spending several months picking through garbage, full-time, in Montreal. He is going through garbage bags, looking for the usable and sellable, and chronicling his use and his sales. It’s fascinating! The author explains the ethical stance on the re-use of used and vintage items much better than I can:

I want to change the way people look at the ‘things’ in their life and get them thinking about how to reduce waste. I hope to raise awareness about the value that even broken possessions may still have and show that there are people out there who can make good use of ‘garbage.’ This increased awareness serves to reduce the amount of waste our society creates, which has many different benefits. Reducing waste is great for the environment. It means we have to mine less, manufacture less, grow less, and put less in landfills.

The blog chronicles his finds, and their value, both in monetary term and in terms of the ways he and others make use of what someone else considered trash. Go look—you’ll be amazed at what he’s found! And it’ll make you wonder about what you’ve thrown away!

Lots of people are recycling, repurposing, upcycling, just not to this extreme. And at least some of that behavior has encouraged a new look at vintage items that are perfectly good (and, in some cases, much better than we can buy now . . .but we’ll get to that later).

You don’t have to open trash bags by the side of the road! I challenge you to go out to a few garage sales. Many of the garage sales you’ll go to will have full sets of dishes–some gorgeous china, some for everyday, all inexpensive. Every sale will have glassware. Pyrex dishes. Silverware. Salad spinners. And that’s just the kitchen stuff.

When you think about it, doing a little home furnishing using vintage finds is the same impulse as adopting a pet from the SPCA, instead of going to a puppy mill. Many people say why not save a life?

I’m one of these people. I’ve said that I don’t choose vintage because it’s fashionable but I do like the idea of using vintage as a way to reduce waste when old stuff will serve me well.

But, don’t get me wrong—I like nice things! I get an enormous kick out of walking around my house and identifying the really nice furniture, and quality house wares, and gorgeous linens that came from garage sales and flea markets. Why would I use paper napkins (and throw them away), when I have dozens of elegant cloth napkins that can be re-used? And look good at the same time!

And, like many others who are into vintage re-use, I “upcycle.” That’s an awkward new verb that means to take something old and turn it into something new, and maybe better. I think it’s a fun challenge to see what I can do with damaged vintage items, rather than throw them away.

The curtains used to be a tablecloth with a BIG hole.

The curtains used to be a tablecloth with a BIG hole.

A cedar sachet, made with scraps of old dish towels.

A cedar sachet, made with scraps of old dish towels.

Not to waste a bit of a great towel, I covered buttons with more scraps!

Not to waste a bit of a great towel, I covered buttons with more scraps!

Now, of course, right at this moment in time, it’s fashionable to recycle and upcycle and go green, so the lines get blurred between my reasons 1 and 2. In our next installment, we’ll talk about how people also save money AND get great quality by buying vintage.

In the meantime, ask yourself—are there ways you can (or already do) achieve the look you want while maintaining a commitment to wasting less and recycling more?

Why Vintage? Reason #1

vintage fashion-2When I mention to people that I sell vintage linens and house wares, they usually respond in one of two ways. They look at me blankly because it has simply never occurred to them to buy something that wasn’t brand new or they get it immediately and say, “Oh, and vintage is really ‘in’ right now, right?”

It does seem that vintage is really popular right now. I honestly think that, to some extent, there’s always an interest in some sort of vintage but currently a vintage look, or a variety of vintage options, seem to appeal to a LOT of people.

And, I’ve been thinking about why. Why vintage? What is it about clothing and home décor and cars of decades past that appeals to people? When we have an endless supply of new, clean, cheap goods available, why would some of us be drawn to the pre-owned, used, and recycled?

So far, I have identified 5 reasons why people are drawn to vintage:

It’s a choice motivated by a sense of fashion

It’s a choice motivated by a sense of ethics

It’s a choice motivated by a sense of finances and quality

It’s a choice motivated by a sense of nostalgia and sentiment

It’s a choice motivated by a sense of individuality

All five of these may motivate some of you, while others may incorporate vintage into your lives for just a few of these.

I’ll explore my 5 theories over the coming couple of weeks. Who knows, I may even come up with more as I go!

1) It’s a choice motivated by a sense of fashion

This is the one that I understand the least because anyone who knows me will agree that fashionable, I ain’t. If I can’t get it at LL Bean, I don’t need it.

But according to the magazines and blogs I read, fashion motivates a lot of people! Vintage is cool and, because it can come in so many looks, there seems to be something for almost anyone. Do a search in your WordPress Reader for the word “vintage” or go to Pinterest and search on “vintage fashion” to get a sense of how prevalent the interest is and the extent to which people go to create their vintage look.

Vintage-themed weddings seem especially fashionable right now and the vintage look can extend from the formal wear of the participants to the props. I’ve had people contact me, because I sell vintage linens, and ask for 100 blue and yellow vintage napkins for their wedding! It’s the sort of request I’d love to be able to fill but sellers of vintage can’t order their finds in bulk. We find napkins in sets of 4 or 6, if we’re lucky, and almost never see duplicate sets. I’ve often wondered what a bride would DO with all those lovely linen napkins once the wedding was over . . .

Some of the eras that seem to be most popular in vintage fashion group around the mid-20th century. The looks of the ‘40s and ‘50s tend to be chic and fairly conservative but then we hit the 1960s and can choose among bohemian hippie style or Carnaby Street mod or Andy Warhol-inspired Pop Art. Of course, movies and television add to the appeal. As a result, right now, anyone selling anything from the 1960s on Etsy or eBay seems to be using the phrase “Mad Men” in their listings!

Just an example from today!

Just an example from today!

And, of course, fashion isn’t just what we wear on our backs. Decorating a home with a vintage vibe seems to have a continuous appeal, it’s only a question of which vintage era is “in” right now. The cottage chic look seems to be fading now with more interest given to the clean lines of Danish modern or the kitschy look of the 1950s. I know I can always sell vintage dishtowels with a pink and aqua color way! And Downton Abbey is offering viewers a new old look to emulate.

What’s your sense of fashion, in dressing and decorating? Is it at all motivated by a vintage look of a particular era? Which era “speaks” to you most?

pink and aqua towel