Monday, July 14, 2008


“Cool chair,” I remarked to the ladies running the estate sale. I wouldn’t necessarily want to live with it, but I liked its unusual lines.

“It's already sold,” one told me. Then the tallest of the three said, “That chair has a story.”
Our faces arranged themselves into expectant lines.

“When I was four years old,” she went on, “my parents were having a cocktail party. And I was sleepwalking, and I came downstairs in the middle of the party and peed all over that chair.”

We burst into laughter. She had the timing of a master comedian. She let our laughter peak and start to die away, then she added, “They had it reupholstered.”

Which set us off again. I finally thought to ask, “Um, have you told this story to the chair’s new owner?” She allowed that she had not. And probably wouldn’t.

It was a pretty darned good garaging weekend. I got to go out on both Friday and Saturday, found all kinds of stuff, and had people telling me stories. The Tale of the Peed-on Chair was just the beginning.

The estate sale on Friday was near my house. With gas prices what they are I've become aware that I'm spending more on gas now than on goodies, which just seems wrong, wrong, wrong. But hey, every hobby has its expenses, right?

On Saturday I started out along my usual route, listening to the classical music station. A charming piece of music called “The Tick Tock Clock” came on. I was amazed when they said it was by Richard Strauss, who I think of as a composer of difficult, serious music (remember “Also Sprach Zarathustra”, the opening theme from the movie 2001?). Evidently he had his lighter moments. It put me in a mood to be amused, so I thoroughly enjoyed the legend on a truck parked by the first garage sale: “Leading the Concrete Repair Industry since 1977.” Sounds like quite a responsibility. And I laughed out loud when I was leaving a sale and heard the seller remark to her friend, “What I need is for a bunch of little girls to pile out of a car and say mommy, mommy, I want this!” I could just see those little girls clamoring; I hope she got her wish.

At another sale there was a whole table of videos (people are upgrading to DVDs these days) where I bagged The Blob. The other guy looking at the movies kept shaking his head and saying darkly, “That was a really weird movie.” He must not have gone to any thrillers or horror flicks for the last thirty years. Somehow I think I'll be able to manage The Blob without having nightmares afterward.

At another sale I picked up a cute board book to give to a children’s librarian. When I mentioned that to the seller she said, “Then you just take it, and bless you.” It's nice to work with such revered people!

It was getting late in the morning when I found the real prize of the day, both object- and story-wise. There were three or four sales on the same block. I parked in front of the first, at the home of a tall, energetic, talkative middle age guy. “See all those watches? My dad died a couple of months ago, and he went through the Depression, and he was always afraid he’d run out of stuff.” He pointed into the open garage. “See all that toilet paper in there? And all those paper towels?” I bought something from him, then checked out the other sales. When I returned to my car, he was draping some quilts over the row of chairs sitting along the sidewalk. Mmmmm, quilts. I went closer to look at them. “I forgot to put these out earlier,” he said. “My grandmother made them.” One in particular caught my eye. Beautiful, bright colors, all hand stitched. He named a price. I counteroffered and promised a good home. Done. Then he started talking about his grandmother.

Her name, he said, was Anna Steinke Lengemann. Her parents immigrated from Bern, Germany in the bowels of a cattle boat and made their way to St. Louis. Anna was born in 1899, and went to work in a jacket factory when she was ten, where she worked until she was sixty six. For fun, after sewing all day, she made quilts. He said the quilt that I bought was one of several she made for the family between 1957 and 1966, but I think she had either saved the fabric from earlier, or made this quilt earlier than that. The material looks to me more like the thirties/forties.

He asked if I wanted to see another of her quilts, that he had a box he hadn't even opened since they’d moved it to California from St. Louis twelve years ago. He got out a penknife and sliced open the packing tape and we opened the box (on which was written “Dan’s Quilt”), then pulled out a big plastic bag. Inside was not one but three quilts. Two appeared to have been made very late in Anna’s life; in fact one may not have been made by her, since the patchwork was not as good as the others. But the special one she had made for her favorite grandson was gorgeous. He knew nothing about quilts, so I pointed out that it was sized for a twin bed, and that the half-motif was intended to be positioned over the pillow. Grandma Anna had evidently run short on the muslin for the top, so she positioned the lighter color piece she made do with where it would tuck in under the pillow and be less noticeable.

He talked and talked about his grandmother, his mother’s mother. “One time when my parents were dating, my dad went over to their house drunk. He wasn’t a drinker, but he showed up drunk this one time. My grandma hauled off and slugged him, and he always said he’d never been hit so hard. She knocked him on his ass. And he never was drunk around her again.” My favorite part was when he told me how he had been an extremely competitive kid. His brother is seven years older and he was always trying to beat him at any and everything. “One day Grandma took me aside and pointed out the error of my ways. She said Dan, nobody likes a smartass. That was tough stuff for a seven year old, but I've never forgotten it, and it was the best advice I've ever gotten.”

With two days of garaging goodness, I spent a whopping $23.75 and brought home:

Some clothes that I wanted for the fabric. Needed some pink to finish an apron I've been working on, and this jacket has a matching dress that is just the ticket. I'm betting I can find something to do with the ladybug buttons and the painted pockets. The yellow skirt will probably be an apron one of these days too.

A cute owl (have you noticed how popular owls are these days?) and a Land’s End cashmere sweater for a quarter. It fits my husband.
Some books and movies…

…and a bolo tie with a silver heart slide. My husband gets the bolo, and I'll think of something to do with the heart.

Dachshund corn holder, which is winging its way to our friends in Oregon who have dachshunds. I especially like the packaging, which promises that eating corn can be fun. Who would have thought?

More grandmother stitchery—a set of linen placemats and coasters with incredible embroidery and pulled thread work. (This was another guy’s grandmother, not Grandma Anna.)

Food! We use flax meal in our no-knead bread all the time, and the oat bran cereal turns out to be delish.

A quilted cover for a cookbook. I'm resizing it to go on the notebook I use for stray recipes.

And here is my quilt that was made by Grandma Anna. I love it; it's going to have to go up on a wall somewhere. I want to look at it often, and remember that nobody likes a smartass!


  1. Love the stories with the loot!
    People don't realize that almost all quilts have stories, but they are so often forgotten or lost.
    You have a beautiful addition to your collection there!
    ps did you see the burnt circus peanuts??

  2. I love reading your garage sale tales every week! That quilt is fantabulous! I can't believe people ever get rid of gorgeous quilts like that. I have a quilt that my great grandmother made and while I never had the opportunity to meet her it is a prized possession of mine!

  3. How can anyone sell their grandmothers quilt? Lucky you,I never find anything like that.

  4. Are you kidding?? That quilt....OMG girl!!! What a find and a half!! What a treasure. Can you see me drooliing up here in Nor Cal about that? And I was excited about the Nordic Ware bake pan that I got for $ I am truly bummed!!!

    Keep up those cool adventures!

  5. Love your "haul" this weekend, particularly--no surprise!--the quilt! I'm no expert, but it looks like 30s fabrics to me. What a great find!

  6. I can't believe he gave that quilt to you for $15! His grandma must be rolling over in her grave.

  7. Wow is all I can say! What a weekend you had! Great entertainment!!

  8. Beautiful quilt! What a gorgeous treasure!

  9. Oh my, that quilt is amazing!

  10. I was laughing along with you when said that leading the concrete industry is quite a responsibility! I'm guessing you have fun when you sale!

    And that quilt is to die for- and I think its great that you know the story of who made it.


I really love your comments. Thanks for coming along on my thrifty adventures!

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