My Dishtowel Jones: The Danish Modern Beauty

Jones screenshot

It’s no secret I’m addicted to dishtowels. I love ‘em, old and new.

I like to use them.

I like to weave them.

I like to sell them.

I even run contests to honor and glorify them.

I have a new favorite dishtowel—quite possibly the best ever!

It’s damask linen, very high quality. It’s crisp and almost crunchy, the way good linen is when new. And it has that sheen, that shine, that polish that only linen gives us. It’s unused fabric—never washed or put to use, with the original sizing. The woven design looks different on the two sides. One side shows the pattern as light against a darker background and the other side reverses the shades.

The style of the towel is Danish modern and that makes it unusual in itself. While I could show you lots of table linens and towels that evoke styles such as Art Nouveau or Deco, and even more that are mid-century modern and cottage, it’s unusual to find linens that really complement the cool, clear lines and pale colors I associate with the Danish Modern aesthetic.

dan mod towel-dk on lt-5

This towel also makes one thing clear—it’s a bar towel! The woven design is of wine glasses and champagne coupes and brandy snifters and decanters of adult beverages. There they are, all lined up on the “shelves,” waiting for the party to begin.

I have four of these towels. The fabric was sold as yard goods and the original tag was still affixed to the linen—“Dalsjofors hellinne” from Sweden.

gothic petuniaI bought a piece that could be cut up into four towels—the design is laid out in a way that made it easy to see where to cut. I double turned the hems and stitched them on my beloved Singer Featherweight.

And now I admire these towels. I gaze at them in wonder and touch them with affection.

I know I don’t need four of them and I should sell some of them on Etsy, to spread the beauty around a little. The closest I’ve gotten is listing one of them at a pretty high price.

It irritates me a little that the listing has gotten almost no attention! Towels that are FAR inferior (in my opinion!) are getting love but my Danish Modern beauty is so understated and elegant, it goes unnoticed. Do you think that’s why so few of us opt for understated elegance as a look?

But beneath my irritation, I have to admit I feel a little relieved. Like all addicts, I covet all of what I need. I want to keep it close, to revel in it, and I certainly do not want to share it!

They say addiction is wrong but if this feeling is wrong, I don’t want to be right!

The One That Got Away: Dansk Paella Pan

IMG_0911In two and a half years of selling vintage treasures on Etsy, the online marketplace, I’ve found loving homes for a lot of cool stuff. Mostly I sell things that I like a lot but that don’t fit my very relaxed lifestyle or that I simply don’t have room for.

Every once in a while, though, I regret parting with one of my beauties.

One such regret is this fabulous Danish Modern paella pan.

IMG_0919These pans were made by Dansk in the 1950s and ‘60s; the line is called Kobenstyle. The exterior color was a rich, deep yellow enamel–the color of French’s mustard. The interior was glossy, bright white with a thin black hint of metal showing around the edge.

I found the pan at a garage sale and I could see it was special. Even though my usual taste does not run to Danish Modern, the pan was priced very reasonably and in perfect condition, so I bought it with the intention of selling it.

After I took photos of it and listed it on Etsy, I put it out on my coffee table, just as a place to keep it until it sold.

And I got used to seeing it there. It was sunny, and sleek, and made me think of a perfect fried egg.

In the couple of months I owned the pan, sometimes I’d fill it with fruit but mostly I thought it looked great empty.

But it was rarely empty.

Why?

Because it was the perfect size and shape for a cat.

IMG_0657And when a cat wasn’t sitting in it, it made the most amazing cat toy. The concave interior shape of the pan made it just right for containing a ping pong ball.

A cat could (and did) bat the ping pong ball around the slick interior and it would sail around that perfect groove, making the most fascinating zhoop-zhoop sound. Once in awhile the ball would go flying out, and bounce around the room, providing more fun.

But then, just when we got really attached to it, someone bought the pan. I heard the special “cha-ching” that the Etsy app makes on my phone and checked to see what had sold.

Oh, no! My pretty bowl. My cat’s favorite toy and spot to nap.

There was nothing to do but package it up and mail it off to its new lucky owner.

I found a ceramic bowl I had sitting around, to put on the table. It’s sort of the same shape but has never caught on, with the cat or with me. It’s pedestrian and has none of the verve of the Kobenstyle bowl and it doesn’t make a ping pong ball sing either.

So, now I have one more thing to look for when I go garage saling. Maybe someday, I’ll find another yellow Dansk paella pan, to replace the one that got away. The cat hopes so!

 

 

 

 

Why Vintage? Reason #3

dansk bowlA week or so ago, I began what is 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; the second was a sense of ethics and commitment to re-use.

Today I’ll talk about impulse to buy and use vintage because of issues of cost and quality.

3) It’s a choice motivated by a sense of cost and quality

Anyone who’s on the vintage bandwagon will want to regale you with the great deals they have gotten! My mother has been known to usher people around her adorable lakefront cottage, pointing out pretty much every piece of furniture and décor, and naming the price she paid at garage sales! Don’t judge—I bet you’ve done it yourself!

It isn’t simply the low cost of the finds that is so appealing, though. You can get inexpensive stuff at the dollar store, too. The key is that vintage can be cheap and excellent while the new stuff at bargain stores, and even some better stores, will be cheap and, well, cheap.

You’ve heard your parents and grandparents lament that, “they just don’t make [fill in the blank] like they used to!” And the truth is that, in many, many cases, they don’t.

Let’s consider two sorts of places you can buy vintage and what you might find. There are lots of others—I’m just using these as examples.

Online

The Internet has completely changed the world of shopping for and collecting vintage items. There was a time when, if we wanted to buy cool vintage clothes or housewares or tools, we had to be committed to slogging through every garage sale, flea market, and thrift shop we came across, just hoping. Now we can simply do a search, as broad or narrow as we like, and find our passion quickly.

Finding that special item is manageable now but is it low cost? You can certainly spend a LOT of money on eBay or Etsy. And your purchases may not be the great bargains they could be if you found them at garage sales, as we’ll see soon.  But the cost and quality can still beat, by a mile, what you’d find on brand-new products.

I used eBay and Etsy as my primary points of reference but there are lots of places to buy online, including Craigslist, of course.

In a fairly quick computer search, I found vintage, but unused, pure linen tablecloths for as little $10. On Etsy, I found a set, again unused, with a vintage Irish linen tablecloth and four napkins for as little as $26. A brand new Irish linen set, in a similar size, from a purveyor of new Irish linens could cost upwards of $200.

Similarly, I found tablecloths in sturdy cotton or cotton/linen blends, with cool mid-century designs, for as little as $15. The least expensive brand new tablecloth and napkins set I could find on the J.C. Penney website was $25, for a plain one-color cloth made of polyester!

J.C. Penney doesn’t sell any wool blankets. A new wool blanket, for a queen-size bed costs $190 on the L.L. Bean website. A new Pendleton blanket, the most basic model, costs $180. Similar-sized Pendleton blankets can be found on Etsy, in what is asserted to be excellent condition, for as little as $30.

Do you like to cook and love that Danish modern look? Dansk has revived the Kobenstyle pans and is selling the new casserole pan for $130. I recently sold a vintage one, in perfect condition, for half that (this is the photo at the top of the post).

Like Le Creuset? You could buy a brand new Le Creuset lasagne pan for $130. Right now, on Etsy, you can get a vintage pan, with no issues, for $36. The new 3.5 quart Dutch ovens are selling for $230. Recent auctions on eBay, for a 4.5 quart vintage Dutch oven, have finished with winning bids as low as $20.

I could go on and on. But, really, do I need to?

Garage sales and flea markets

For those with patience and a zest for treasure-hunting, there are huge bargains to be found at flea markets and garage sales. This kind of shopping is not for everyone, of course, but for those of us who love vintage, the “thrill of the hunt” gets us out the door early on the weekends.

If you’re looking for one specific item, you would get frustrated in these venues. But, if you’re getting ready to set up housekeeping in a new place or just love the process of poking around, the great deals can be amazing. And, again, the quality of the vintage items you find will almost always be greater than buying new. Let’s look at a few of my finds:

coffee tableThe coffee table, above, is a classic style, huge, heavy, and made of solid wood. It did not need any refinishing and cost $20.

blue tool boxThis is an old wooden tool box, with a tray that lifts out. It cost $15 and I use the tray for jewelry storage. I love the blue paint!

quilt & chairThe chair in this photo cost $8, but it needed a new seat. It’s a very nice example of Windsor styling—see how slender the back pieces are? The quilt is from the 1930s or‘40s, all hand stitched, in great condition, and cost $3. It’s one of my favorite garage sale items ever.

deck chairI got three of these redwood deck chairs for $1; yes, that’s 33 cents each! I love the vintage style and how sturdy they are.

At Target, they sell set of 3 Pyrex mixing bowls for about $14. I buy mine at garage sales for no more than $1 each. Cast iron skillets? A couple of bucks. Coffee makers? A couple of bucks. My favorite iron (and I know irons!!)? A dollar.

And don’t even get me started about vintage linens! I regularly find hand-crocheted afghans, tablecloths with stunning embroidery, napkins monogrammed by hand for a hope chest, all for a fraction of what they are worth. How do you even put a price on the kind of handwork and soul that went into making such things?

I could go on and on. But, really, do I need to?

I’m not trying to talk you all into become garage sale sleuths and flea market mavens. Rather, I’m trying to provide some insight about what makes the sleuths and mavens tick. And to let you know that you can get the same quality, for very good prices, on venues like eBay and Etsy. You might even find something you like among my treasures!

It isn’t just the bargain—I could find bargains at T.J. Maxx or Kohl’s but you couldn’t pay me enough to go into either one. I hate traditional shopping. It isn’t just the quality—it’s easy to find quality, if money is no object. It’s the combination of finding something fabulous, and old, for a pittance, getting that jolt of knowing you got something you needed (even if you hadn’t known you needed it!) for next to nothing or much less than it’s worth.

How about you? Can you relate? What’s your best coup, in terms of scoring both cost and quality in the vintage world? I’d love to hear your stories!