Monday, April 15, 2019

More than a Mend

Judy and I both got excited when we looked at a vintage coat at a sale last Friday. “Look,” she said, “I wonder if someone replaced this lining.”

The coat was a rosy brown wool crepe, very heavy, with raglan sleeves and a pleat in back to give it swing.

The lining did indeed have an indefinable homemade quality to it, though very nicely done, with piping all around. Possibly it was the fabric, a print instead of the usual color-toned heavy satin. I figured this coat must have been such a favorite that the original lining needed replacing.

Since my word for this year is “Mend” I just had to look at the price tag. Four dollars! So I  just had to try it on – and it fit. I have more than one winter coat, but there’s room in my hall closet for another. 

Home with me it came.

When I got home I noticed that the lining was unattached to the coat itself at the hem of the pleat in back. The inside of a garment tells its story, so I peeled back the lining to look at the seams. And quickly realized they were homemade. A commercially made coat as nice as this would most likely have seams with the edges finished in some way. I don’t know, it's hard to describe, but you know it when you see it, and when you don’t.

I kept pulling more of the coat to the wrong side, confirming my guess. I worked my way up to the shoulder pads, which look like something I could have constructed myself. Some woman made this coat; it did not come from a factory. It would have been a huge project and taken enormous skill. She made bound buttonholes (something I've never mastered, or even wanted to - you have to SLASH the fabric before you insert the binding!). 

The buttons are secured on the back with small anchor buttons. The back pleat hangs perfectly. 

Thread belt loops, diagonal pocket flaps.

The top-stitching…I looked more closely. The top-stitching was all done by HAND. Through heavy wool.

Just an old coat, hanging in the hall closet at an otherwise uninteresting estate sale. Unregarded by the dozens of people foraging through the house. Mute testimony to the endeavors of an anonymous, creative woman. She went to a fabric store, and found a pattern she loved, then shopped for just the right fabric. It was more expensive than she’d counted on, so she chose a less expensive lining fabric. Then days or weeks completing all the steps of makery – cutting, pinning, basting, trying on. Adjusting, getting everything just right before sitting down at her old Singer and stitching the seams. Assembling the many pieces: the two sides of the back, inserting the pleat, then the two fronts, with facings and those buttonholes. Each sleeve to be eased into the armhole, buttoned tabs with hand top-stitching to insert into the seams.

 And then repeat it all for the lining, and insert that, outlined with white piping.

I wonder where she wore it, the first time? I hope someone noticed her new coat, and complimented her on it.

I know I probably won't wear this coat often, but I will wear it with admiration. Four dollars for artistry; the least I can do is notice and honor the artist. But I do have one regret.

There was another coat in that closet, also marked $4. And I barely glanced at it.

I wonder if she made that one too?

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Stormy Weather

The weather had it in for me on Friday.

I have no idea why. I certainly haven’t done anything to it! I try not to complain (too much) when the lovely sunshine goes away and it rains some more. And rains. And RAINS!

But Friday the weather was just being a tease. My friend Toni came along with me to check out the 5 or 6 sales that looked reasonable and not too far away. We started off in sunshine. Reached the first sale, opened the car door – and it began to pour. Hustle inside, to find a moving sale where everything was massively overpriced. I'm talking pottery at gallery prices. Adding insult to injury, one room was full of very, um, fragrant (I want to say smelly, but some people like this stuff!) candles and so-called air fresheners. I could hardly breath. Back through the rain to the car.

Off to sale number two. Sun came out. Reached the sale, got out of car – rain poured. (I swear I'm not making this up.) This was an estate sale for a lady whose taste in decor was very frilly. Nothing was priced, and instead of candle smells we got musty-house-that-hasn’t-had-fresh-air-in-years. Back through the rain to the car.

And the whole morning was like that. Every single time we got out of the car, the shining sun disappeared and it rained. It was uncanny. I did finally find a couple of things to bring home though (whew!). Toni slightly raised an eyebrow when I was looking through some kitchen linens (she’s seen my supply) but that did not deter me from these two lovelies.

Both brand new, and fifty cents each. And how appropriate to find towels. I could dry my hair a bit between rain storms!

Our last stop was the most high-end of the morning, so I was surprised to find something I wanted. But how could I resist this upcycled tea kettle bird?

He weighs a ton, must be filled with cement or something. And those big feet keep him well balanced. I won’t have to worry about this guy blowing away.

And as waterlogged as I am from being rained on so many times, I won’t blow away either!

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