“The stripped and shapely
The ghosts of her
The ground is hard,
As hard as stone.
The year is old,
The birds are flown.
And yet the world,
In its distress,
Displays a certain
Loveliness” – John Updike, A Child’s Calendar
Walking through Haf’s Apple Orchard last month was a picnic of smells and color. Some trees seemed to be chosen for allowing dropped apples to remain on the ground. The smell of vinegar rose from these fallen apples and the bees were having a wonderful afternoon.
If you live near Haf’s, remember that apple season is not over in November. They have coolers kept at 35 degrees and all of the wonderful varieties are still for sale at prices less than the grocery stores. The comparison stops there as there is no comparison between taste and freshness-Haf’s is the winner in that category, also. All of the apples are marked by variety and purpose. My freezer is full of pies now. I look forward to baking one on a cold January and February night.
From where I sit in the dark shop late this afternoon, leaves are rattling down the sidewalk like old chicken bones. I’m still in the Autumn mode of enjoying mystery movies curled up in the chair with an old cotton blanket from the 1940s. Just as the movie begins, I take two out of the drier and curl up covered in soft, old cotton.
I finished three Christmas wreaths, two to sell in the shop and one to send my sister for the door of the post office where she is the postmistress. I made it from tiny envelopes stamped with dates ranging from the 1930s to the 1950s and Midwestern place names.
Before I leave you in November, I want to show you the Princess and the Pea bed I began last winter. I have 22 mattresses finished for this antique doll bed marked 1898. Using only ticking and other fabric made between 1930 and 1960, it is a like a small encyclopedia of fabric design.
If you are a local reader, remember that Haf’s sells bags of apples with tiny flaws (like a real apple) for 1.00 a pound! It’s fabulous!
Hidden away in the tiny town of Alden, Illinois, is my favorite antique shop, Sedge Meadow Antiques. I have wanted to write a post about my friend Robert Anderson’s building for some time. Finally, he asked me if I would like to come over and photograph his place to create a small time capsule of his project. This project, this work of art, this creation. It took more than a decade to complete. Though Robert says it still isn’t quite finished. Robert will do something as interesting in the future. But, for now, this building is going on the market.
Most of the antique components of the building were brought in and installed after the electrical, utilities, and plumbing were updated to today’s standard. From city and county, Robert found the architectural elements during a 30 year career as an antique dealer.
The exterior hasn’t changed since the 19th century when the building was, I think, the general store and the interior looks like it is original. That is the art. That is the magic of this place. It is like stepping into another age with all the modern components that make it comfortable and convenient.
Robert’s Apartment Above the Shop
A view into one of the baths illustrates the workmanship that went into creating it with its knock-your-socks-off cabinets. I particularly like the piece of tin from a pie safe hangin in the window. No need for a curtain when the light comes in through all the air vents pierced through the tin.
Dining Room and Living Room
A peek inside one of the three or four bedrooms. People raised large families in the upstairs of these buildings.
Visualize how cozy this room looks in the glow of three oil lamps on the coffee table. I hope I’m there some night when the electricity goes out. One of the things that Robert does so well is meld styles from many decades together in a way that makes them seem at home together. It is the way a house would be if families stayed in the same spot for generations.
The apartment wooden floor came from a tobacco barn. I love the worn part from the chair leg at Robert’s desk. Did you notice the laptop? It is covered with an interesting textile.
Beautiful 19th Century decorative curtain rod knobs kept the drapes from slipping off the poles. Shown in the above three photographs, people who admire the craftsmanship and design that went into making something that was functional is what this love affair with antiques is all about.
An antique velveteen elephant is now more folk art than toy.
And everywhere there are original framed pieces of art.
Now to the back of the building, past the tenant’s downstairs apartment…
Robert’s downstairs back tenant is an artist.
Robert’s friend and ground level tenant has created a magical garden outside her back doors. I knew I would like this woman before I met her after viewing the joie de vivre held within her small garden and hearing the birds sing inside her apartment.
Near the barn, a Victorian planter rests.
Robert’s folk art wooden cats climb the barn wall.
A glimpse into Robert’s shop….
The packing crate walls in one of the rooms are original to the building. Probably put up to keep the building warmer; 100+ years later, we admire them for their cheerful, warm color and make-do attitude.
Customers, who let their gaze linger for a moment, notice that each piece was carefully selected with appreciation for its beauty and craftsmanship.
This cupboard boasts of six spice drawers. Perfection!
Patina, Patina, Patina
A handmade iron exterior lantern holder with pulley to raise and lower now hoists a bird-cage.
This European photograph shows how the bracket was probably used. The lanterns in the photo were probably converted from gas to electric. I think the one in Robert’s shop was lowered and lit by the lamplighter each evening. Robert would know if kerosene or some other fuel was used with this lantern.
A fabulous 1920s original pastel drawing.
Perhaps someone who worked for the circus in nearby Wisconsin made this for a lucky child.
Everything is art when viewed with the discerning eye.
January, 2016 was a month that had to be wrestled and flung to the ground. When it was good, the snow floated down lazily and soft under a sky the color of a grey kitten. I made pear biscotti and baked bread that I shared with the birds and squirrels. When January is mean, the nights are long, dark, and cold in old houses and buildings across town. The sharp wind rattles the old windows and sneeks in through gaps around doors. There was 1/8th of an inch of ice on the interior side of the steel door and windows. Inside, I wore big sweaters, snow boots and a scarf around my neck. Now, we have stomped on old January and walked over it.
The shop was closed for the whole month. Customers dwindle down to one or two a day when the sidewalks are covered with ice and snow. Some building owners don’t shovel or de-ice their sidewalks because they aren’t here. Even with a #10 shovel, I couldn’t break the sidewalk ice after sprinkling ice melt on it the night before. I held on to the buildings when I walked to the mailbox and took ginger steps. Two shopkeepers slipped on the ice; one broke her leg. One day, I went inside Sweet Angeline’s Gourmet Bakery and Cafe and spend a comfortable hour with my friends, Angie and Jim, with a huge, steaming cup of their fabulous coffee. It is the most welcoming place with pastry worthy of a Parisian boulangerie. Walking home while reading their new menu, that I will post under the glass on the shop desk, I am again amazed that we have such a cosmopolitan cafe in this little town of 2000 people.
Now on to February and I think we are going to have an early spring. The sun is out again and it feels strong. Almost all of the ice is gone from the sidewalks on the north side of the street. We have three new (and interesting) shops in Richmond.
This post is about something fabulous that happened. Last fall, I was walking around the corner of my building, carrying, with my friend, Roger, a huge replica of someone’s farmhouse that I bought at a barn sale. The house was quite big and a man, walking to a restaurant across the street with his wife, stepped up to help carry it. Everyone walked into my building and the house was set down. The man, Ron Warwick and his wife, stayed for a minute to talk and as one topic led to another I mentioned that I wished I had a replica of my grandparents house. It had recently been torn down in Northbrook, Illinois. A developer was building a McMansion on the property as happens everywhere now. Ron said that he would turn the house that we were carrying, into a house as close to my grandparents’ house as was possible. I don’t know what kind of a look I had on my face, but I think it looked like a big question mark. I said, “Why would someone do that for a complete stranger?” I realized later that he is simply a selfless artist who must create, for not only did Ron with the help of his friend, Rich, make me a replica of my grandparents’ house, but built a completely new house, from the ground up.
We sat down only a few times and talked about the house. On Google Earth, we watched as the last remaining images of it disappeared forever. Ron whipped rulers around and did some kind of complicated mathematical and geometrical figures in his head while I tried to remember where the windows belonged. Then he started telling me, from his calculations, where the doors and windows belonged.
Nothing like this ever happened to me before, nor will it, I expect, ever happen again. I told Ron, and it is true, that I like the house as much as I liked my brand new 1972 convertible Mustang on the day that I got it. Every time I look at the house, I get a joyous and magical feeling.
Now, the real house, our grandparents and their children are gone. And just as they had to go on living as they lost their loved ones, our generation must go on, too. It is still hard. But, we were lucky to have all those people once and I was lucky when I came around that corner and, just by chance, met Ron Warwick.
Some nights, after I climb up the 17 stairs to where I sleep, I make a mad dash to get under the feather blanket where it is cozy and warm. And sometimes, in the dark, I stand by the house and angle a flashlight to shine in one of the windows, just as the street lamp did and I can hear Grandma and Grandpa, in the den, singing the songs of their youth, following the lyrics on the television screen as Mitch Miller* smiles and waves his hands in time to the music.
*In the early 1960s, Miller became a household name with his NBC television show Sing Along with Mitch, a community-sing program featuring him and a male chorus: an extension of his highly successful series of Columbia record albums of the same name. In keeping with the show’s title, viewers were presented with lyrics at the bottom of the television screen, and while many insist there was a bouncing ball to keep time, Miller correctly said this was something they remember from movie theater sing-alongs and cartoons.
This apron was a mystery to me. I thought someone made it, but didn’t complete it. There are no neck straps or ties.
Then I saw this pattern and the purpose was clear. It was a style of apron that went with a 1920s dress. The top of the apron was pinned to the dress fabric. I think this is one of the all-time silliest pieces of clothing that were ever designed. Can you imagine pinning and re-pinning an apron to the silk and crêpe dresses of the era?
As I was ironing the apron, the handle broke on the plastic squeeze bottle I use for misting.
I went down to the shop and brought up a 1935 Coke bottle with an old aluminum “sprinkler” top and finished the job. It worked well. As I was ironing, I was thinking, “I wonder why no one uses sprinklers anymore.” And then I remembered…maybe it is because everyone else would have poured the water into the, I don’t know, steam iron, perhaps? Sometimes, I scare myself.
I still think that headboard lights from the 1920s through the 1950s can not be improved upon. This is mine, above. Just reach up and pull the chain. It is so convenient. Just as one’s eyes begin to flutter toward sleep, the light can be turned off without having to re-awake.
My cat, I call her Kaiser because I thought she was a boy, doesn’t care if the light is on or off.
Going through things to price for the shop today, I added three 1920s powder puffs to a box to be carried downstairs.
A glass-domed handmade molded paper image of the Sacred Heart. Some people think these were made by nuns, but I don’t know if that is true. Perhaps the ones embroidered in real gold thread were made by nuns, but I’d bet not. The prayer is in French. I suspect that these are actually souvenirs from Lourdes and other shrines and cathedrals with the earliest examples boasting the more elaborate embroidery and later examples, like this one, were made from molded and gilded paper around 1900.
A vintage bridge tablecloth and a lovely handmade quilt made from the clothing of many eras. A true American quilt, its fabric ranges from the printed calicos of the 1870s to feedsack cotton of the 1930s. Quilts sell for next to nothing now as many people don’t seem to treasure them. I’ll show you something I treasure…
These are illustrations by Cecil Aldin from the book, A Dog Day, written by Walter Emmanuel in 1902. The impish hero tells the story of one day in his life, in his own voice. He gets into a lot of trouble. His quirky terrier personality is so charming that he never seems to get punished for his mischievous behavior. He lives in a reality of his own making.
This book usually sells for 40.00 or 50.00 to those who love Cecil Aldin, but mine is without value. The reason it is valueless is the reason I love it. You see, at one time, maybe in 1919 or 1940 or even in 1960…
Have you ever wondered how vintage clothing dealers present such perfect examples of 100 year old clothing? I’ll share a wonderful stain remover recipe with you.
One Cup of Cascade Dishwashing Powder and Two Cups of BIZ to Five Gallons of Hot Water. Soak a minimum of three days.
If the textile is strong (like a 1940s tablecloth with no holes) wash in the washing machine. Delicate things without holes are washed using the Delicate Cycle. If there are holes or the fabric is very old like the clothing I’ve been working on and shown below, always wash by hand.
You must test before soaking to see if the color is colorfast. Antique reds are notorious for bleeding on to whatever they are next to when wet.
This dress must have been purchased for a graduation or other special occasion. I love the kick pleat at the bottom with the lace insert.
How to Remove Old Stains from White Fabric
These beautiful dresses with the handmade lace had stains remaining on the bodice after the stain remover soak. It rarely happens that a stain doesn’t come out and I didn’t want to give up on these dresses. I thought a tiny drop of bleach on the stain might work, but it might damage the thread. I put a mixture of half water and half bleach in an eye dropper, immersed the dress in water with the stain area showing and dropped a drip of the bleach mixture on the stain. I thought, being in the water, the bleach would dispense immediately. And, it worked perfectly with the stain removed and handmade lace undamaged. Successful endeavor!
This is a lady’s morning coat or, as we would call it, a bathrobe. All the lace is handmade. There are 40 crocheted buttons.
Does anyone know how to do the Toodle?
Four 1920s Beaded Blouses
I also bought the four 1920’s Flapper Blouses with glass beads and that fabulous silk embroidery shown above. These silks are not colorfast and could only be rinsed in cold water – quickly. Because the silk was not colorfast, those with perspiration stains from dancing the Charleston, the Black Bottom and the Toodle were often ruined. They can be redyed now with a special silk dye that covers all the thread evenly. The dye costs between 2.50 – 5.00 a bottle.
When wondering what I could do with several cartons of canning jars, I decided to make up some homemade clothing soap for the shop. It cleans well and is economical. It has sold well.
Homemade Laundry Soap
One Bar of Fels Naptha Soap, grated or pulverized in a blender or food processor, One Cup of Borax and One Cup of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda. Use Two Tablespoons per Load. I think it does a good job of cleaning and I’ll never go back to commercial laundry soap. A lot of people like the smell and keep the lid off the jar. The washed clothes will have no scent except clean.
Everyone is asking me how my flowers are growing so well on the north side at the entrance to my shop. I’ve had so many people ask to buy this cart or the flowers this summer. The answer to the exuberant blooming is…2 Tablespoons of Miracle Grow in the water every two weeks.
This year, I didn’t pull out the clover that always seems to spring out of the potted soil. I think the clover is a cute addition.
My sister sent me this picture last night to show me how she used old galvanized janitorial buckets on wheels as planters . I think that is a great idea for a home with a rustic, farm, cottage or country setting. Both of my sisters can think outside of the box.
Here is one of Margaret’s design ideas. This is a stone baptismal bowl next to her front door. She walks out to her garden and picks flower heads to place in the water. Now why didn’t we think of that?
I still have many more vintage dresses to mend and wash. I was telling myself that I won’t buy anymore vintage clothing for sometime to come. Then, Saturday morning arrived, and as I opened the doors to the shop, I met a lovely couple who came in with armloads of vintage clothing. The clothing was custom-made for a famous (if you traveled in those circles and I wish I did!) Connecticut American folk art antique dealer, you know, the kind that deals in 100,000.00 increments? The clothing was swathed in garment bags and is pristine. Oh, my gosh, you wouldn’t believe the beautiful clothing! I’ll be selling vintage clothing on eBay and Etsy this fall. I hope their sale will pay the heating bill.
I had fun researching the life of the folk art dealer. She was the model for the cover of the June 28, 1947 cover of the Saturday Evening Post. The painting shows the young antique dealer looking from the porch of her original shop in Connecticut at a brand new car while the older owners of the new car are looking in the window of the antique shop.
Living above my shop is all pros and no cons. I don’t have to drive to work and I can bake oatmeal raisin cookies and offer them while still warm to people who come in on a winter day.
The downtown buildings in Richmond were built between the 1850’s and 1920. Some of the old buildings in town have loading ramps and even freight elevators, but this building was a bank. My kitchen was probably an office. The building isn’t conductive to bringing in furniture and there is no storage on the ground floor. I carry cartons and cartons and cartons upstairs or to the basement and I work on furniture in the kitchen or in the shop on the days when the shop is closed.
While living in a bank might sound like fun to the adventurous, the building was never meant to be a home. I love it though and I think of it as home – though it took awhile, I’ll admit.
Some things spend time upstairs until I can use them in the shop.
Until I got used to them, mannequins would scare me in the dark.
Things I love:
I think light is the most important feature in a room. I’ve never met a vintage paper lampshade that didn’t come home with me.
If I find a piece of furniture where a mouse has gnawed a hole at the bottom, I’m in love. I always think that it must have taken them such a very long time.
Traveling was so exciting during the Edwardian age. These suitcases were used by a someone who would be been traveling for a short period of time. I like to think about where they have been. Where they taken on a train ride out to the country to visit relatives back on the farm or taken on a honeymoon?
This reminds me of my long-ago Cocker Spaniel, Dickens. The caption reads Needlepoint but it is actually worked-wool done in a very fine hand.
Sometimes, little dolls stay on the shelf upstairs for a long time. But, they always end up being sold. The little indigo and saffron miniature doll quilt belonged to a little girl during the Civil War era.
Tiny bisque dolls were manufactured in Germany and, later, Japan. Some people call them penny dolls. Some of these represent newspaper comic characters, popular in the 1930’s.
Silk thread embroidery on natural flax linen is hard to find. This round tablecloth has lovely hanging crochet work. I was lucky enough to find a box of needlework like this, all made by the same woman. All but three were sold on eBay. I think people may not have realized what these are when I put them in the shop. I wouldn’t have know until I learned how to tell handmade lace from factory-made. Telling whether something was sewn by a skilled needlewoman or a new sewer is easy. Learning about antiques is just like learning about art. It is just a matter of learning to see.
I like anything that has to do with traveling.
And anything to do with art.
The Christmas music box with the bottle brush trees and the fireplace that lights up didn’t sell and is back upstairs on a dresser. I don’t know if I will subject it to another trip downstairs. Its little feelings are hurt.
Moss grows on the north side of the alley pavement behind my building and I brought some in last week in anticipation of missing everything green in January. I filled plant saucer pots with soil, pressed the moss inside and had fun displaying vintage cow creamers in their own little fields. On retrospect, it is easier and safer to buy dry green moss rather than use living moss. Living moss needs a lot of misting and watering to stay green, a recipe for disaster on a lovely wooden top. In this case, the lovely top is mahogany on a small buffet I brought back to life this week.
The top only needed a few coats of varnish. The base was sanded, primed and painted with Benjamin Moore Satin paint in Camel Back. The buffet measures 4 feet wide and is 18 inches deep; adding two shelves and two drawers to small dining rooms. It is enough storage for liquor bottles, linens and those serving pieces that are kept for festive gatherings. A felt-lined removable wooden flatware tray is original inside the top drawer for the ease of setting the table. The top has plenty of room to hold serving dishes or to use as a bar.