Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Melancholic notions

I go to house sales on occasion. I look for vintage stuff mostly, things that the dealers don't have a use for - craft notions. I go as a form of therapy too. To try to see what perhaps awaits me on the other side of my crafting compulsions - too many unfinished projects that turn into vintgage unfinished objects and could end up one day in a house sale after I'm gone.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to one such sale. Up in what looked like a spare room were so many craft projects. There was lace crochet, knitted hand towels, and lots of quilting scraps. I looked at all the unfinished projects that the deceased never got to finish and I imagined what her reasons were: failing eyesight, failing health, failing interest, failing family... There was an entire plastic garbage bag filled with 70+ year old quilting squares that were all hand sewn! I dragged the bag from the austere bedroom that didn't reflect at all this person's brilliance with all things beautiful. I hauled it down the stairs to the lady handling the sales. She peered into the bag and looked up at me and instantly it seemed, she decided right then and there what she hadn't decided when she went through the house pricing everything - she could not to sell the scraps afterall.

"OMAGOD, aren't these vintage?" She asked another liquidator.
"I dunno, don't sell 'em if they are." Said another women in charge of jewelry.
"I'll take $10 a square." She blurted to me.

I knew that they were worth a whole lot more than that, in sentimental value that is. The grown children who evidently didn't have any sentimentality in their bodies (there were also vintage picture albums of relatives, there was one vacation album of a family touring Berlin - before the war- that I couldn't resist buying for $2.00). There I was with a garbage bag filled with someone's mother's or grandmother's life's work of domestic artistry. These are the ironies of life I find hard to escape. Are home crafts art? Or, are they examples of domestic drudgeries that women tried to elevate to art only to gleefully leave it all behind when they passed on?

I didn't buy the bag of scraps. I took with me though the photo album of prewar Berlin and a box of rusted pins and needles, dusty old needlepoint wool and these -

A strange assortment of ivory notions - crochet hook, needles and stitch markers. I became even more melancholic thinking about poaching...


Patricia said...

What a witch! Love the ivory notions. They must be very old.

Lynn said...

I've done an estate sale before and I kwym. Some people just dont want that stuff cluttering their homes. I know first hand since I ended up with all the craft stuff from my family. Trust me I'm not complaining, but I can see how if there isnt at least one crafty person in the family, it would just all be sold or worse yet, thrown out.

Mary Anne said...

Think it as rescuing these goodies from possibly ending up in the landfill.

Kirsten said...

It is very melancholy, I do struggle at estate sales for the same reason. The photo album you got sounds really wonderful.

When I was in college, in Western New York State in the early 80's, there was a farm where all of the barns were crammed with wonderful finds. I don't think the owner even considered himself an antique dealer. I managed to find 3 or 4 vintage quilts, which I gave to my mom, who is a quilter. I think I paid about $20 a piece for them.