Sunday, March 3, 2013

Mysteries in Thread

Went to an estate sale this morning a few blocks from home. Actually, went twice. The first time I arrived, about 40 minutes after they started, there were still 30 or more people standing in line waiting to enter. So I checked out a couple of church rummage sales and went back when things were a bit saner. I may have missed some good items, but given the way things were priced I doubt I missed anything I would actually have bought. For example, you know my weakness for vintage linens and needlework, and I loved this


but not five bucks worth. Not when I’ve purchased most of my collection at closer to the twenty-five cent price point.  I chatted with another lady who also confessed to having something of a collection, and she was just as skeptical of the prices as I was. But it’s always interesting to look through a houseful of stuff, and I meandered happily through the various rooms. When I ventured down the basement stairs I met the same lady heading up. “There’s an old embroidered pillow around the corner in that other room,” she said, “with a better price, but it needs some fixing.” I promised to take a look, and did, but saying it needed work was an understatement. And delicate old pillows are doomed in a household with a young rambunctious dog.

Back upstairs I looked through the kitchen, then headed toward the dining room. There was a breakfast nook by the kitchen with pots and plates and mugs on the table…and laying on the corner of the table was one bundle of cloth taped up and marked $2. It was completely out of place; someone must have been carrying it around and changed her mind and abandoned the bundle on that table. I picked it up and saw embroidery, and that there were several pieces. Without taking the bundle apart (which is frowned on at these sales) I couldn’t tell for sure what there was, but the grab-bag aspect appealed to me and I could live with the two buck price. And even more important, there was no longer a line to pay up.

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Back home I ripped the tape off my bundle to see what I had. I was expecting tea towels, probably from the Fifties. But that’s not what was in my grab bag. Grab bundle. Whatever. Luckily I was in no hurry, since my bundle contained several needles and pins as well as cloth!


The first piece I opened had embroidered strawberries. Turned out to be a table runner with most of the embroidery completed.

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There are some leaves only partly embroidered that are tinted,


which from what I’ve been reading was a popular technique used from the early 1900s to the 1950s. I love the shading on these leaves, and wonder if the others that have been completely embroidered had the same tinting. Mystery number one! This is a piece I can definitely finish, but I’ll have to decide whether to complete the tinted leaves like the others or leave them outlined.

Next up in my bundle was…some white cotton and flannel scraps. What? Just some scrappy remnants.

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I’m wondering if the estate-sale people put them in the middle of the bundle to make it plumper and more enticing. Another mystery. I would guess that perhaps it was a guy who bundled these up, or at least someone who didn’t know that showing the embroidery would be what’s enticing! And I think I can use these scraps to try out that rug making needle thingie I got at the last estate sale.

Waste not, want not…

Another table runner followed the scraps. The embroidery is complete – and nicely done – but the hems have not been stitched.

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I love the alternating colors of French knots.


No long runs of threads on the back for this stitcher!


Then I found a matching “3 piece buffet set” that’s been partly stitched. I have to admit I have no idea exactly what a buffet set was intended to do. If anyone knows, please tell me!

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Should be pretty easy to finish these pieces, since the next thing I found was the thread!


All wrapped up in a white paper napkin, complete with needles stuck in there and there. Just think, years ago there was a woman (probably a woman!) who was working on her embroidery. She needed to keep her supplies together so she grabbed a paper napkin (maybe she was sitting at her kitchen table to stitch) and folded it around her threads. Then something happened to keep her from finishing her project, and ages pass, and another woman buys a bundle at a sale and finds her stash of threads still wrapped in their paper home.

At least I know I can boil them if I need to.


I reached the last piece, which I could see has violets stitched on it. I unfolded it and beheld…

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I think this one is fairly old, perhaps from the Twenties. Again we have the combination of tinting and stitching. The thing that interests me with this piece is that the stitching on the text that’s been completed isn’t nearly as adept as the flowers and leaves.

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Leading me to believe that two different people worked on it. Perhaps grandma was teaching a youngster to stitch and let her work on this piece? Or maybe she picked up this piece after years of ignoring it (I’m betting those UFOs – unfinished objects! – didn’t originate with my generation), and her eyesight had dimmed or her hands were not as steady as they had been earlier.

So that’s my bundle of thread mysteries. But perhaps the biggest mystery I encountered during the morning was at one of the church rummage sales…a poor, benighted bar of soap that had been ‘decorated’ with a frill of nylon net, glued on sequins, and a halo of beads on long pins.


Why would anyone do this to a perfectly innocent bar of soap? I leave that mystery in your hands!



  1. I'd say you got a nice bundle for your $2. My great aunt Ruth was very crafty and she made these soaps too. I thinkthey were just extra soaps to be set out for guests in case you ran out. But who would want to take out all the pins?

    1. Yeah, can you imagine finding that your guest has undone something you crafted? What nerve that would take!

  2. What a treasure hunt you went on! I haven't been to an estate sale lately where prices were within my reach, mostly antique store prices. I'm glad you found things you love even though it felt "picked over" - that's rare indeed!

  3. I love your embroidery finds. If I can remember to look, I think I may have picked up a set of pillowcases some time back that I will send you to add to your collection. Email me your address please. I meant to keep it, but I didn't. I also went to my first yard sale of the season Friday, but I literally only had 15 minutes. I found a great riding toy for my grandson. I would have loved to have gone back (I was keeping the grandkids.) but I had to visit my mom Saturday.

    1. 15 minutes at a garage sale...that would be like speed dating with a REALLY cute guy!

  4. My Baba used to make those soap fish! I can remember them now, sitting in her lavender and lime tiled bathroom!....I think it was Cameo soap, and they had kits that came with the netting, sequins, beads and pins to transform your soap into a swimmer!
    The text on that "sampler" is intriguing....have you ever seen anything like it before? What is the significance of a blood stone? looks sort of witchy!

    1. was supposed to be a FISH??! Never would have guessed. What I want is a lavender and lime tiled bathroom!

      I've never seen anything like that text. And it's pretty big too.

    2. and there was a lavender pedistal sink, bathtub and toilet....It made quite an impression on a little girl!

  5. Canngil- It seems to be like a horoscope. Google tells me "The mineral heliotrope, also known as bloodstone, is a form of chalcedony." It's a dark green stone with red inclusions and it's the traditional birthstone for March. "According to the legend about the origin of bloodstone, it was first formed when drops of Christ's blood fell and stained some jasper at the foot of the cross." I learned something new today. :)

    1. I figured it was something to do with a horoscope. It's hard to see but it says 'Venus' at the top. An interesting piece!

    2. very just seemed so nontraditional for a horoscope....

  6. The March verse is from 1870 published by Tiffany and Co. Although the embroidery has changed the ending of the verse (probably the mention of graves was too morbid for the stitcher).

    1. Oh, that is too cool! Can't believe you found that. What (mostly) gloomy fates awaited those born in nearly every month. I wonder if this sold a lot of birthstones for Tiffany & Co.?


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

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