Thursday, July 14, 2011

Vintage Table Linens...or...send me to Betty Ford - I admit, I'm addicted.

My Mom came to visit me this past week and oh my goodness, did we get ourselves into Trouble. And yes, it deserves a capital T. For starters, I found a new addiction: handmade, gloriously whimsical, and completely unnecessary vintage table linens. But, I'm ahead of myself.

My Mom (my best friend) has thrown off the anchors, and is starting out on a new endeavor - which you'll hear about directly from her in her new blog, soon to be created. This new endeavor has brought her into the world of vintage textiles and when she found out that one of the best East Coast vintage textile shows was to occur in Sturbridge, MA, we schemed a week together.

The vintage textile show was this past Monday, the day before the start of the infamous summer Brimfield "Antique" Shows (more soon on that!). Sturbridge is about an hour east of the Pioneer Valley, so we planned an early departure so that we could arrive at the start of the show. After a drive through the small towns that make up most of Western and Central Massachusetts, we arrived at the Host Hotel in Sturbridge where on the front door was a prominent "No photographing or sketching permitted" sign. Apparently, devious types had been visiting, sketching and photographing, and then creating reproductions to be sold to unsuspecting consumers at top dollar. Too bad for the bloggers of the world.

We paid our $10 dollars and passed through the door, sans cameras. In the first booth we wandered into, we found the most amazing placemat and napkin sets, likely from the 1940s and 50s. I found a set that I immediately fell in love with, but thought - "No, we shouldn't buy the first things we see." So we proceeded to meander through the booths. Vintage clothing racks lined each booth, Bakelite jewelry abounded, vintage buttons, lace, fabric and hats took over any available space. Honestly, it was a bit overwhelming. The vintage clothing was difficult to see because so many pieces were crammed on each rack. The '50s cocktail dresses looked a little sad with their crinoline squished up against cotton day dresses from the '30s- '40s. (Hint to vendors - organize your merchandise by era.)

Despite the sheer volume of stuff (some great, some okay, and some JUNK), it was so much fun to look and admire. We spent hours going through the booths, but at lunch we both decided that we should focus on the things we really wanted. I kept coming back to the fact that I had NEVER forgotten some pink elephant cocktail napkins that had been used during the wedding shower weekend for a dear friend of mine. I thought, "Well...hell. Here I am at a vintage textile show. Maybe I can find some neat cocktail napkins." I also kept coming back to the amazing placemat and napkin set that we had seen at 8:00 AM in the first booth. Over sandwiches, we decided on a plan: 1) Go to that first booth and see what hasn't sold. 2) Go back to the one place we saw an assortment of cocktail napkins.

Upon return, we found that the two sets we had fallen in love with were still there. Hooray! And so, we made some purchases. Perhaps my Mom will blog about her purchase, so I'll give you a peak at the one she so generously made for me (thanks, Mom!):

Love the sailboats! Can you see the cloud detail in the upper left corner? The edges are amazing too. 

Here's some detail of the sailboats - complete with little people to man the sails! Apparently the pink color of the sails is desirable in vintage linens.

Here you can see the fish detail and the gorgeous edge stitching.

Can't you just see these used for a summer lunch? Why aren't things made like this anymore!? The extra special part of this story is that the seller of these linens bought them at an estate sale in Pennsylvania and she discovered that the previous owner lived in the same area I grew up in! She was a baroness. With exquisite taste.

After we made these fun purchases, we made a beeline for the vintage cocktail napkin ladies and spent about 30 minutes devouring their collection (and book on the subject!) My Mom and I couldn't resist buying 3 sets - one of which we will share by sending back and forth whenever either of us needs to host a baby shower (each cocktail napkin was appliqued with a pink elephant balancing a pink/blue/white ball!). The other 2 sets have started my collection. And yes, I have a marine problem:

The shape of each napkin is perfect for folding and handing to a guest with their custom cocktail - mojito anyone?

The detail of these fish is so impressive - check out that tiny delicate stitching.

And because I love navy. And I wanted to keep with my marine problem: fish. Each was handmade in Portugal.

The result of this vintage shopping spree? Parties at my house are going to go swimmingly. Hah.