Thursday, December 11, 2008

I'm Dreaming of off-white Christmas!

Just as much as I love reds and browns at Christmas (or anytime of year for that matter), there is something about the subtlety and softness of shades of white and naturals that give my home a sense of peace and serenity amidst the holiday hustle and bustle. The look above was used as a display at a show but ended up in my master bedroom. Homespun tow grainbags are among my favorites for creating this look and the socks (both wool and cotton) add a nice simple contrast in form to the linear look of the bags. The linen child's dress completes the vignette.
The lowly tow grain bag is one of my favorite utilitarian textiles. It was used in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries as a way to bring grain home from the mill. In a time when the production of cloth was an arduous task, all cloth was considered valuable. A farmer would often mark his bag with his name by stencil, or bag stamp. Some farmers would use a decorative symbol such as an eagle, or a horse, or sheep as a very distinctive identifying mark on his bag. These bags and carved wooden bag stamps are highly prized and much sought after today. The farmer would then drop the bag at the mill on his way to town and pick it up on his return, and the miller would know exactly whose bag it was he just filled.
In addition to looking great on a peg rack, they also make great bolster pillow covers. I just can't get enough of them. Like all remnants of Pennsylvania homespun culture they are becoming harder and harder to find.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Christmas in the Heartland!

I just got back from doing the Heartland Show in Richmond, Indiana. This wonderful country show is known primarily for its summer edition when it fills all of the buildings at the Wayne County Fairgrounds. The November show is still pretty much a well kept secret as the attendance is not near the numbers for the summer, and the vendors utilize only one building. That having been said, it is just as nice a show to do and attend as the summer version. There is much country to see and much of it is very affordable.

I always look forward to seeing customers who I only see at that show, many of whom I've met through my website. I enjoy visiting with them whether or not they make a purchase. There are a few dealers, as well, that I see only when I do that show. We've come to look forward to seeing one another, catching up on our life stories and, often, purchasing some treasure from a booth or two. (And did I purchase several cloth treasures this trip! As a matter of fact, I've purchased quite a few these past few weeks just raring to go on the website on the next update.)

While the show looked fabulous, there were mixed outcomes for the dealers with quite a few not doing any business at all. I didn't do as well as I normally do there, but was surprised that I did better than expected in this terrible recession that our country is going through right now.
As you can see, I "decked my halls" in reds! That's the beauty of decorating with textiles: you can add two red petticoats or a combination of socks and petticoats, dresses, shawls, etc to a pegrack or doorpeg and..voila! you've decorated a room for Christmas without much effort. You can lay a red blanket at the bottom of a bed, or a pair of red socks on a hearth and, once again, the spirit of Christmas has entered the house. One year I even had enough red and white striped children's stockings to do an entire 8 foot tree. What a sight that was.
Many of these items will be offered in my next update of my website, The Cat Lady Antiques, in the beginning of December. If you would like to be added to my mailing list, just click on the link to my site and email me. Or if you have any questions about them now, just ask.
It really is beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Some rare and beautiful early Pennsylvania homespun linen.....

Whenever I do a show, I always bring lots of early Pennsylvania textiles - especially homespun linen. I am always asked if I have any "onionskin" (copperas) and natural in a larger check. I do indeed, and always sell those pieces instantly but I always wonder why people are so obsessed with that particular color scheme for they are (actually) missing out on the rarer colored pieces for their collections such as the ones pictured here. Consider the top piece: true indigo, bittersweet and natural......what a fabulous and breathtaking runner this is! And the color combination is not very easy to
find. The second piece is a sweet chocolate and natural check cut long ago from a bed tick and made into a tablecloth. This piece was found on the oldest farmstead in Bethlehem Township, PA. The third is actually the prize and the earliest: a bittersweet (or copperas) and natural striped bed case from Northampton County, PA. When looms became more sophisticated, stripes were abandoned as checks provided more variety and color for decorating the bed.
I acknowledge that there is a color-scheme that people tend to use in early homes and the onionskin (copperas) pieces fit that decor so well. But I also advise collectors not to overlook truly rare pieces that will enhance one's collection. Adding just a slight bit of color, or a different pattern may actually give one's collection a reinvigorated look as well as make each piece in the pile look a little less like "just a pile" of monochromatic textiles that all start to blend together in the eye of the (untrained) beholder. Don't get me wrong. I absolutely adore that look. I just wanted to call your attention to the fact that there is more in the world of brown homespun linen than just "onionskin" (copperas) to collect and enhance your collection. These pieces are vital to a truly well-rounded collection of Pennsylvania homespun culture.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

It's Blanket Season.......

Consider the lowly blanket........Not quite as impressive in terms of complexity of design or weave as a coverlet, but nonetheless important in the history of early bedding.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Amish & Mennonite Cloth Animals (mostly)

Don't you just love this collection of quirky and whimsical early cloth animals? All but the cat on the left on the top shelf and the dog on wheels are either Amish or Mennonite made. Most of these are late 19th or early 20th century and were found in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. It's become extremely difficult to find good early animals, as most that we are see are mid to late 20th century.
These gentle and beloved creatures were made by mothers for their children for special occasions. We find them as varied in construction and detail as the fabrics they are made out of. Some are rather primitive, while others reflect the skill of the seamstresses that crafted them. We find them in all sorts of condition. I tend to like things that are near pristine, but the much-loved and tired horse, as well as the dog with the blown leg sitting next to him on the top shelf could not be passed by. They are reflections of the affections of their owners, passed through time for us to see and feel. By the way, the dog's blown leg reveals its fabulous indigo calico stuffing....... Treasure spilling forth from the simple plaything of a child!
There was an excellent exhibit a few years back at the Lancaster Quilt & Textile Museum called Gentle Companions: A Collection of Amish & Mennonite Stuffed Animals. It was curated by Anne Lewis and Stella Rubin. I had the privilege to be a part of the research by being used as a consultant/resource. It was a fabulous exhibit which helped to further elevate them to the status of legitimate folk art by allowing people to view them in a different and more scholarly way. I wish that there would have been a catalogue published, or it would have gone on to another museum, but it did not.
Most of the animals above have been sold save one or two. I collect them, and offer some for sale. I make it a point to offer and collect only the early ones as they are the most elusive. I am forever on the hunt, and feel like a child when such a prize is found.
They are a stellar example of the work of the humble needlewoman, who found time in her busy day to sit and craft a whimsical being...a creation that was borne out of her imagination and the rag bag.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Some of the things I'd like to talk about

As I mentioned previously, I'd like to be talking about the things that I both collect and sell, that tug at my heartstrings as well as my desire for knowledge of the past. Early Cloth dolls and animals are among my great loves. Cloth dolls are an adventure into the whimsical nature of their makers. Choosing them is purely a subjective matter- either they immediately win you, or they don't. I have had the privilege to own many in my lifetime, and am ever on the hunt for the next one. Criteria for choice is limitless. Facial features: inked, water-colored, hand-stitched, applied or none at all. Clothing: original or redressed. Body construction: homespun linen, cotton, striped ticking, calico...whatever mom had. They are as varied and original as snowflakes with no two ever being exactly alike. What matters most when collecting them is that you love them.

Over time I will post photos of various and sundry examples from my collection as well as those that I have sold. They are like old friends that one can never forget!

I'm trying to do several posting here tonight as a way to give you a sense of my ideas for this forum. I hope you will enjoy it.

The Thing About Early Textiles.......

The thing about early textiles is that they provide us (those of us who love them)with a visceral link to the past. Whenever I lay my hand on cloth or sampler, cloth poppet or animal I feel as if I've connected with the maker via an impulse a century or more old that has been sent by the maker straight to my head, heart and soul. It can sometimes make the hair stand up straight on the back of my neck and make my heart jump. I can sometimes sense the depth of the maker's joy or sorrow, fatigue or energy and try to imagine what life must have been like for her all those years ago when life was much harder and sometimes the only creative outlet a woman had was her needlework. By needlework I am referring to "the toil of the needle", not that done for refinement and pleasure but that borne out of necessity - like the need for a new dress for a child, or a new pin cushion, or a new doll for a present when there was little money to buy one. I am not trying to connote a negative meaning with my use of the phrase, just trying to distinguish the type of needlework I so love as opposed to the more refined needlework of women who occupied a much higher station in life than the farmer's wife, the seamstress, the less coddled woman of her day.
It is to her and her work that I would like to devote this blog. To learn more about both the maker and the object. I hope to use this forum to explore that which I do know and that which do not, but hope to learn. Knowledge is power!