The One That Got Away: Love on a Dishtowel

A hardworking, conscientious girl. A boy with a massive crush. The sweet story of young love. How do you capture that in a few stitches?

It can be done—just look at these funny towels!

A great many vintage items pass through my hands, as I poke around garage sales and thrift shops and as others scavenge for me, as well.

I can’t keep everything, of course, so I sell a lot of what I find and keep only what I consider to be really special.

But sometimes I don’t realize a thing is special until it’s gone. Absence, it seems, really can make the heart grow fonder.

Such is the case with these adorable towels.

My mother picked these up for me, at a bargain price, from a white elephant sale—one look told her they were not to be left behind.

These three towels were probably originally part of a set of 6 or 7 “day of the week” towels, each depicting a housekeeping chore assigned to a different day of the week.

Towels like these were popular in the 1940 and ‘50s and many iron-on patterns were sold, so a person could make her own set according to her tastes.

Of all the many sets I’ve seen, this is one of my very favorites.

I love these towels for the craftsmanship and the details that are included—just look at the boy’s tiny spurs and bandana and the fringe on the girl’s split skirt!IMG_2652

But I love them even more for the narrative contained in them, the story between the boy and girl that we’re invited to participate in. It’s that age-old story of puppy love!

Some people might look at these towels and say they simply reinforce negative, outdated gender stereotypes—a boy bringing a girl his mending and ironing, while he dawdles around, getting in the way.

All I can see, though, is the sweetness. He fills his 10-gallon hat with mending and she throws her hand to her head and says, “Oh! The things I do for you!”IMG_2645

He takes a broom and offers to help with the cleaning, but it’s only a ruse to stand by and moon over the object of his affections. And she, playing hard to get, turns her back and pretends she doesn’t know the turmoil he’s experiencing.IMG_2654

She tries to iron and he shows off for her, trying to impress her with his skills with a lariat. You can almost hear her saying, “Get away, I have work to do!,” while she secretly loves every moment.IMG_2666

It’s all here—drama, emotion, whimsy, the human story. And it’s an ongoing story, developing over the days, as their clothes change in every setting.

I also can’t help but wonder, when I think of these towels, about the loving hands that did the careful stitching. Was the maker a young woman, stitching a romantic story and hoping it would materialize in her life? Was she a new wife, feathering her nest and honoring the thrill of a recent courtship? Or was the maker a care-worn housewife, reliving the sweet memories of what she felt when she first met her husband?

For this little cowgirl and cowboy, the moment never passes, the bloom never leaves the flower of first love.

I hope the new owner of these towels loves them and the story they tell!

The One That Got Away: A Pansy-Strewn Tablecloth

IMG_7422One of the best things about selling vintage linens is that I love what I sell and get to scout for beautiful items to pass along to others.

One of the worst things about selling vintage linens is that I love what I sell and, in passing them along to others, I sometimes really regret letting something go.

Such is the case with this wonderful tablecloth. IMG_7406Never mind that I have no room to keep it, it doesn’t fit my décor or lifestyle, or that it would be better appreciated by someone else—I still wish it had stayed mine.

I am not a pink and purple kind of gal. I rarely, if ever, would have a reason to use a cloth like this and don’t have a table it would fit on. It only made sense to sell it.

It sold with a couple of days of listing and the new owner was eager to get it.

But the minute I got notification of the sale, I experienced the worst seller’s remorse.

Part of the reason was the quality. The embroidery was stunning and done so perfectly. My grandmother always said that the mark of expert embroidery was that it looked nearly as good on the back as it did on the front.

The front of the tablecloth is shown on the left; the back is on the right.

The front of the tablecloth is shown on the left; the back is on the right.

Additionally, the linen was heavy and dense, with a beautiful sheen, and the hem was finished with delicate hemstitching, a detail that adds such elegance.

The other reason I’m sad to have let the cloth go is that I had learned a bit of its story from the woman who sold it to me. I rarely get any provenance for the vintage linens I buy so that’s always special—the cloth had been made as a gift for the owner’s mother. It was made in Scotland and brought to the United States in the early 1950s, when the woman emigrated.

And the pièce de résistance is that a man created the beautiful embroidery!

It makes me inordinately happy when I hear of a man excelling at work that is stereotypically “women’s work” or, for that matter, a woman doing work we associate with men. I love the idea that a person gets so much pleasure and satisfaction from an activity that they persist even though others may think them odd.

I know men, including my husband, who love working in textiles—they ask why should women have all the fun?!

In addition to the quality of the tablecloth and the detail that it was made by manly hands at home, the fact that a man made this lovely piece for a woman, who brought it with her to America, also allowed me to indulge in a little speculation. He must’ve cared for her very much—making this tablecloth was not a done on a whim! Did he love her? Did she not love him? Why did she leave Scotland? Did they stay in touch?

Sigh.

Knowing a tiny bit of the history of this tablecloth captured my imagination. The fact that I’ll never know the rest of the story is fine by me—the story in my head might be better than the truth.

The tablecloth has gone to its new home. I wrapped it carefully in tissue paper and put it in an envelope. I told the new owner what I knew about the history. I wanted to lecture her about using it carefully and cherishing it, but I exercised self-restraint.

It’s hers now.

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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!