Yard Sale Treasure

22 May

Last weekend I was walking through town when I saw a sign for a yard sale. Normally I would have kept walking if it were out of my way, but when I saw the address of this particular sale I made a beeline for it. Why? Because it was on the oldest, most historic (i.e. most expensive) street in my little New England town. I was surprised that someone living on that street would need to have a yard sale, but I guess stuff accumulates no matter how well off one is.

To my disappointment, most of the stuff was typical yard sale junk: old CDs, VHS tapes, books, and oddly enough, several pairs of rollerblades. I don’t know what I was expecting: Federal style candelabras, perhaps? But as I turned to leave, I spotted an old quilt. It was serendipity, as I had been planning to make my own quilt. Even though I have never quilted before, I had been inspired at a local quilt show I attended a couple of weeks ago to make my own quilt, using reproduction fabrics. When I saw this quilt at the yard sale, I immediately thought of the time and money I would now save not having to make my own. I asked the woman running the yard sale how much she was asking for the quilt. Her price? A mere 5 bucks! I gave her the cash and immediately walked home with my treasure.

When I got home, I examined the quilt more closely (in another life I was a costume and textile curator for a small museum, so I have some experience with antique quilts, though I’m not specifically a quilt expert). The quilt I bought is completely hand-sewn and hand-quilted, which most likely would make it 19th century (the sewing machine was invented in 1845 though many women continued to sew by hand for many years after). In addition, the fabrics used in it look to date from the 19th century. The colors range from the muted browns and turkey reds popular before synthetic aniline dyes were invented, to more vibrant colors that could be synthetic. The prints range from delicate roller-printed fabrics from the mid-19th century to bold prints showing a Japanese influence that could date from the last quarter of the 19th century.

The red, white and black fabric is chibori, a Japanese form of tie-dying which involves tying fabric around the head of a nail to get that distinctive dot in the center.

The “turkey red” color is usually the first to deteriorate because the cotton thread is dyed before it’s spun into cloth, a process that is hard on the fabric

The backing fabric showing the hand-stitched top quilting

Detail of backing fabric. The tiny sprigs of flowers over a stippled background are typical of 1840s roller-printed cottons.

Getting a quilt for my bed is a major step in redecorating my bedroom. I moved from an apartment to a condo a year and a half ago and my bedroom is still a work in progress. Right now the walls are white, but I’m thinking of painting them an ocean blue. And I’d like to get an antique-looking white metal bed to replace my West Elm headboard. I think quilts look so great on cast iron beds. And then I need a rug, and some curtains…

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6 Responses to “Yard Sale Treasure”

  1. pillowsalamode May 24, 2012 at 7:19 pm #

    Wow . . . what a treasure! It looks beautiful!

  2. astimegoesbuy May 25, 2012 at 1:40 pm #

    I can’t believe you got that amazing quilt for $5!
    It’s so lovely.

    • The Fair Geraldine May 25, 2012 at 1:42 pm #

      Thank you. The weird this is that a woman I work with got a quilt for $5 at a thrift store a couple of weeks ago and I was so envious. At least they’re being found by people who can appreciate them.

      • astimegoesbuy May 25, 2012 at 1:53 pm #

        So true, I’d hate to think that something that was worked so hard on went to someone who didn’t have a clue. $5 just kills me though! A latte costs $3.50!

      • The Fair Geraldine May 25, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

        Good point! It’s true, so much work went into it, and this lady was getting rid of it. It had been her mother-in-law’s, so I guess she had no attachment to it. Instant heirloom for me 🙂

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