We Interrupt Spring Cleaning…

As I have mentioned before, after our daughters grew up and moved out, my husband and I downsized from our typical suburban home, into a cottage that his family had built on their farm.  The cottage was already full of furniture and other useful items that his family members had left here.  My ongoing project is to reduce our total number of possessions, but it is really hard, because we keep coming across more really cool stuff.

This weekend, I planned to do some spring cleaning, but my thoughtful husband forwarded me an email from a local auction house – they were having an estate sale, and it featured “antique linens.”

Usually this term is used very loosely, to mean “we have three stained polyester tablecloths and a Care Bears bedspread,” but I thought I should go look, just to be nice.

It turned out that the deceased’s mother had been an antique dealer, and there were about 25 boxes of actual, vintage linens!  Most of the items had been prepared for sale, so they were cleaned, folded, and tagged with their measurements. There were only about two other interested buyers, so I ended up with 6 good size boxes full.

boxes of vintage linens

My haul.

I have spent today cataloging my finds, and I ended up with over 300 items, at a cost of 14 cents each!  Here are a few of my favorites:

dogwood towels

Handwoven towels. Weft inlay creates a little dogwood design.

crocheted trim

This dresser scarf has very heavy crocheted trim on a fabric that is almost as light as cheese cloth.  That caused the fabric to tear, but the trim is the real treasure.

trim detail

But look at how the crocheted bands interweave with each other. That’s an idea I can use somewhere!

Victorian trim

This fragment was saved for its beautiful pin tucks and lace insertions.

It’s a little sad to see someone’s possessions just thrown into boxes willy-nilly and hauled out for everyone to see.  But I think this antique dealer would be happy to know her treasures went to someone who  appreciates them, and in the event my textiles end up the same way, I would be glad to pass them on to another textile lover.

There weren’t any real show stoppers in the boxes, but I did get a lot of beautiful cotton and linen items in useable condition.  There were a few where the fabric is beyond saving, but the trims are worth keeping.  And the ones that are just “run-of-the-mill,”  I will use in other creations.

I have been to the standard auctions where you sit in a chair and hold up your number to bid.  This auction was much more informal, so I thought I’d explain how it runs in case you are interested in auctions and find yourself at a similar one.

Before bidding you go to the counter to get your bid number.  You can’t bid without one, and you might think, “Good, that will keep me from spending money,” but it will also keep you from snapping up a bargain!

All the items are set up in rows.  You walk around and look at everything to decide what you want.  (I make a mental note of how much I am willing to spend for an item.)

The auctioneer walks to each item and everybody trails along (making it very hard to see).  If it is a big item, like a refrigerator, he auctions that off by itself.

Small items are grouped together – there could be ten paintings together, or ten silk plants, or twenty little bags of costume jewelry.  The  bidding starts, and when it stalls out and the auctioneer knows he is not going to get any more money for that item, he gives the highest bidder her choice.  If she won with a $20 bid, she can take as many of the items as she wants from that category at that per item price.  Let’s say she takes two paintings out of a group of ten – the auctioneer will then let the second place bidder get as many as he wants, at whatever his last bid was, say $15.  If that bidder also takes two, there are six left, and the bidding starts over.  (The highest and second bidder can rejoin at a low bid at that point.  They are not tied to their earlier bids.)

if you bid on a couple of things in a category, the auctioneer starts to remember you and give you a chance to get a bid in.

As the price drops lower, the auctioneer might offer anyone the chance to choose a bag or box for a certain amount – then you just kind of grab, and tell the auctioneer’s notetaker your number and how many you got.  Finally, he might lump the remainder of items all together to get rid of them.  This is how I ended up with so many linens – I got the box I wanted for $12.50, and then as the bidding came down to “take any box for $5,” I just had to help them out.

Your items are marked with your number on a piece of masking tape and placed on a table.  Little tickets with your winning bids are run to the office.  At any time, you can go pay for what you have purchased, and then load your treasures to go home.

And then try to find a spot for them in your house…