Thursday, February 28, 2013

Harkerware Heaven

I am feeling a little spoiled right now. I just received one of the nicest gifts ever! Diamonds, you ask? Pearls? No, no, no, don't be silly now, you know me better than that. (Not that I would protest a shiny bauble or two...) But truly, this gift is amazing--a whole box of various patterns of china from the Harker Pottery Company!

As is the case with most of my collections, my modest cache of Harker pottery began with a single sentimental piece. My maternal grandmother was a great lover of china, and my mother inherited a number of miscellaneous bowls, plates, salt and pepper shakers and other pieces over the years. One of these pieces was a blue Cameoware mixing bowl by the Harker Pottery Company. For a time during my childhood, it held fruit on our dining room table. After my mother died, I ended up with it. Since it reminds me of both my mother and grandmother, I have always treasured this bowl. The blue color is beautiful, and the cheerful floral pattern is very representative of one of my favorite time periods in American history, the 1930s.

Even so, I didn't set out to start a collection of Harker Cameoware. It just happened. One day, I saw a shallow serving bowl in an antique store and I had to have it. But I stopped there, not adding anything to my collection for years. Harkerware in antique stores can be pricey, and back in those days I wasn't haunting thrifts the way I do now. So I pretty much forgot about the bowl, although I never would have dreamed of getting rid of it.

Then a couple of years ago, I found a Cameoware teapot in a thrift store. It has a teeny chip on the spout, but as I don't actually use it for serving tea, I don't mind. Then I found a sugar bowl. Then a creamer. Then a salt shaker. Then a pepper shaker. And that was it. Enough to display on a shelf and make me very happy. But then something wonderful happened. A friend learned of my love of Harkerware and told me that she had a box in her garage that she had inherited. It is not her style (she is way cooler than me and collects mid-century modern pieces) and she offered it to me. The other day, she brought it over.

And like the title of this post states, I was in Harkerware Heaven! I couldn't believe her generosity. There were these lovely little floral saucers with matching teacups:

And a unique sugar bowl (sadly the lid is cracked but I can fix that):

But that wasn't all! There were several luncheon plates in a similar pattern, in a more turquoisey shade of blue:

And then this teal green Cameoware bowl:

And last, but not least, this AMAZING pitcher. I thought it was my Cameoware pattern, but once I got it home, I learned it is the same color but a slightly different pattern called White Rose Carv-Kraft. I love it so much!

What an amazing collection I have now! Many, many thanks to my friend Lynn for this wonderful and generous gift. I will truly cherish it!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Fun and (Vintage) Games

It wouldn't surprise you if you knew I loved vintage children's games, would it? Of course not. Well, the other day during my marathon thrifting session, I ran across an old bingo game. Two bucks later, it was mine.

It also came with a big pile of plain wooden markers, which do not appear in the above photograph.

I did a quick search on Pinterest for some idea of what I could do with those cool red calling pieces, and although I did like the handcrafted rings people have posted, I am almost certain that I will keep this game as is. I love Bingo! I am envisioning family Bingo nights during long New England winters...

I have a few other vintage games. I have a Casper the Friendly Ghost board game that was in mint condition before I let my kids play with it. I should have known better, but as my husband reminds me, what are they for after all?

Among the other treasures in my basement game closet are a few old Scrabble games. Scrabble is right up there with Bingo among my all-time favorite board games. I recently picked up the 1948 vintage edition with turntable and it is really cool! And I couldn't resist this vintage Spanish edition.

I wonder how many points are there in the Spanish word for thrift?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Before and After: Vintage Jewelry Box

I was happy to see the snow falling yesterday morning, because it meant that I could stay in my pajamas all day and not bother going anywhere. I have small children, though, so staying in bed lounging away the hours is not a possibility. Instead, I took advantage of the time inside to begin serious planning for my daughter's pioneer birthday party and to work on a couple of projects.

Probably because of the aforementioned small children, these days I mostly stick to small DIY projects that can be completed in one day or less. It's also fun to have the instant gratification that comes with a quick transformation. Today's project was one that I have been wanting to do for quite a while--a re-do of a charming but dated (possibly 1970s or 1980s) wooden jewelry box.

I bought these two jewelry boxes within the last two years, hoping to update them for my daughters:

I wanted to freshen them up, but keep their charm. Because I was unsure of my plan, I decided to try my hand at the smaller one first. It has a bright yellow interior, with one removable drawer. I thought the yellow would go nicely with some leftover homemade light grey chalk paint that I had used to repaint a small footstool recently. Alas, although I had stored my paint in a tightly closed jar, it had dried up considerably. I was able to add a bit of water to get just enough paint to coat the jewelry box, but lesson learned--I will never mix up too much homemade chalk paint at one time expecting to use the rest on a later project.

I gave the box two good coats of paint, drying in between coats (chalk paint, at least homemade chalk paint, dries in just minutes). Then I used a fine grit sandpaper to very lightly distress the piece. I had painted the bronzey knobs on the drawers, but didn't really like them painted so much, so I sanded them down, too. I was thrilled to find that the sandpaper took the faux bronze off the knobs, and they ended up being a beautiful aged silver, which goes perfectly with the grey tone of the paint. The final step was to give it a coat of Minwax Finishing Paste Wax in Natural.

Here is the finished piece, hanging out with some of my favorite costume jewelry:

I love the way it turned out and can't wait to get to work on the second and larger jewelry box. I am thinking about trying a darker hue the second time around, and possibly adding some embellishments. What do you think--did I successfully update this sweet little box?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Vintage Fisher Price Haul

In my last post, I mentioned my personal thrift wish list and how there are a few things on this list that will never fall out of favor. Well, my favor anyway. I have been told I have quirky taste, but that's quite all right. I embrace my quirkiness.

But back to the topic at hand. Probably at the very top of my list are vintage Fisher Price toys. And although I love all of the old F-P toys, like the Popper and the pull toys, my absolute favorites are the Little People. (It goes without saying I am not talking about those fat stubby remakes--I'm all about the original, people.)

You almost never see the vintage stuff in thrift stores. And when you do, it is usually grubby and scuffed up seemingly beyond hope. I often buy it anyway, and after some quality time with a Magic Eraser, it cleans up well enough for my kids to play with. But once in awhile you strike gold. I will never forget the time I found two mint-condition 1960s pieces--the ferris wheel and the carousel--for 75 cents each at a church rummage sale. They have wind up parts that play music and they work perfectly...I was pinching myself all day after that find.

What I found yesterday wasn't quite that amazing, but since I've been in a Little People drought, I was thrilled nonetheless.

On my first run by the toy aisle, I spotted this:

I had this when I was a child, and in fact, I still own mine. It came with a camper top and a rowboat that sat on top of the camper. I have the camper top, but am missing the boat. I keep looking for it, but have been told that missing parts like that are rare.  While I'd love to encounter the boat someday while I am out and about, I am still very excited to have found this truck. It is in very good condition, all the decals are securely fastened, and there is no grime to speak of.

Finding the truck made me very happy, but after quickly going through the rest of the toy department, I moved on to other areas of the store. Thank goodness I was with two of my children, because they kept insisting on going back to the toys. If they hadn't, I would have missed this:

Oh my goodness, this is cute! I don't think I'd ever seen this piece before. Again, the decals are all perfectly intact, although this one has some ink doodles scribbled on the bottom of the piece. I will have a go with my Magic Eraser and see what happens!

On my final trip through the toys, I found this:

If he hadn't been in such pristine condition, I think I would have left him but then I would have regretted it. I am glad he came home with us. Even my husband was nostalgic when I showed this find to him! Who in our generation did not have this toy?

When I got to the cash register, the lady in front of me spied these goodies in my cart and was so jealous I almost gave her the dog. But then she said something about them "being worth a fortune" (not exactly true--they are collectible and all but I wouldn't go that far) and I figured she would just sell them on Ebay or the like. Whereas I will clean them, pamper them, love them, display them, and let my children build their own happy memories with them. What more could an old toy want?

Friday, February 15, 2013

All Wrapped Up: Vintage Gifts and Wrapping Paper

I usually don't venture out on a thrift mission with any particular goal in mind, but of course I have an imaginary wish list that lives in my head. What is on my list changes as my taste evolves and new needs arise, but there are a few things that will always put a smile on my face when I spot them out in Secondhandland.

The thrift gods were extraordinarily kind to me today as I scored several things that rank high on my perennial thrift wish list. There was so much goodness that I will have to break the finds into two (or more!) posts. Tonight, I'll highlight the stash of vintage wrapping paper I found, as well as a small present for a friend which will of course be presented in some of that paper.

I have a friend who loves vintage linens and handcrafts as much as I do, and when I spotted this precious little piece, I knew it must be hers. Not only will she appreciate the sweetness of the needlework, but if ever there was a little home filled with love, it is hers.

At first I thought I'd have to wash the piece and change out the frame, but when I brought it home and examined it closely, I don't want to change a thing. I'm afraid washing would remove the beautiful patina of age, and although the frame has some slight damage along the bottom, I feel that placing this piece in a brand new frame would cheapen it. At some point, maybe we'll find a perfect old frame worthy of this darling piece of needlework, but until that day, I think she'll like it just as is. And don't worry, I plan to scrub off the remnants of the price tag before I wrap it with vintage love!

Now, the only question is what vintage paper to use? I ran across a couple of bags of old paper at a thrift today and scooped them up immediately. Most of it appears to be from the 1980's, which doesn't excite me too much, but there were some super cute goodies tucked in the bags. Still, I like having scraps for the kids to create with, so none of it will go to waste.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Copycat DIY Cakestand

I have a little project to share today, inspired by a number of crafty DIY blogs--I am sure you will have seen this trick before. I'd been seeing these cake plates done with glass candlesticks and china plates, and while I admired the creativity, I was not moved to make my own. Then I saw some that were more my style and inspiration struck. Awhile ago, I thrifted a plain Jane wooden candle holder, took it home, and had my way with it. In other words, I spray-painted it heirloom white.

But I never loved it. And I knew it was probably headed out the door someday soon in order to make way for something that I did love. And then, a couple of weeks ago, I found this pretty plate:

I was planning to hang it on my dining room wall with some other miscellaneous china, so I didn't mind that it was well-loved, or as my husband might term it, completely cracked in several places. But when I brought it home, it didn't seem to work magic with the rest of my collection so there it sat, all forlorn, just waiting for a new purpose. And that's when I saw the other spin on homemade cake plates. A bit of glue later, my two pieces became one, and now I adore my new pedestal cake stand! I have a bit of a thing for cake stands and use them all the time, so this piece will be both pretty and functional in my home.

I really do have my own creativity, I promise you. It's just too easy to find inspiration these days, what with Pinterest (which I finally joined, after avoiding it for years--look for me!) and so many amazing blogs, books, and magazines out there. And I do love putting my own spin on things that other crafty people have come up with, so I rarely truly copy others' designs exactly. But nonetheless, I am hankering to do something all my own... and I'm working on it. I'll get to it right after I finish a few more copycat projects from Pinterest. After all, I have a lot of catching up to do.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Buying and Caring for Vintage Books

I was happy to hear from some of you that you appreciated my recent post about shopping and caring for vintage textiles. I am fortunate to have some very knowledgeable and generous friends, so today I am thrilled to present you with another helpful resource. Beth Lander, Director of Library Services at Manor College in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, and a dear friend and former colleague, has written a guest post on what to look for when purchasing vintage books, and more importantly, what to do with them once you bring them home. Many thanks to Beth for taking the time to give us some very valuable tips! 

I have been an archivist/librarian for a very, very long time.  I have dealt with donors who, with great pride and fanfare, bring in boxes of books that have been stored in attics, basements and barns, and it shows.  Rats nests (yes, they do make them!), birds’ nests, poop, mold, dead critters, smoke and soot – you name it, and you’ll find books damaged by them.

But what if you love to stroll through used book shops or vintage shops, and can’t resist a gorgeous book?  Perhaps a vintage 1930’s edition of Pride and Prejudice to grace your coffee table? How can you be sure that what you’re buying won’t come home with unwanted guests?

The most important thing to remember about books is that they are made out of materials that are, for the most part, hygroscopic, meaning that the materials will shrink and expand when exposed to moisture.  Books are like sponges, and your job will be to control how much exposure your collection will bear.  Materials used in book binding are also mostly organic, which means that your books are naturally tasty treats for a variety of bugs and creatures.

Curb your buying impulses until you’ve given the book a good look.  Rely on your nose, your eyes and your sense of touch. Books in good condition should not be dank smelling.  When touched, they should not leave sticky, slimy, colored, or webby residues on your hands, all of which are signs of potentially active mold.  Leather bindings, when touched, should not deposit a red powdery substance on your hands (or worse yet, your clothes!) – that red powder is called “red rot,” and is a sign that the binding has begun to degrade.  Lastly, the text block, the paper that makes up all the pages of the book, should have no holes.  Holes are the evidence of bookworms and other unwanted guests.

If you simply can’t resist a book, and you discover a problem, or if your current collection suffers from damage, you can try to address those problems at home.  Here are some techniques you can try:

·      Mold residue on a dry book.  DO NOT TRY TO CLEAN AN ACTIVE GROWTH OF MOLD.    Active mold (soft and fuzzy!) requires professional assistance.  If the book is suffering from mold residue, first isolate the book from the rest of your collection.  If you have a vacuum with a HEPA filter, remove any attachments, and cover the nozzle with two or three knee-hi’s secured with a rubber band.  DO NOT use a vacuum without a HEPA filter.  Doing so will just spread the residue throughout your home.  Vacuum on the lowest setting possible to remove as much of the powdery residue as possible.  Once you are finished vacuuming, immediately dispose of the vacuum bag.  DO NOT reuse that bag!  You may also use a very soft, wide brush, like one used for watercolors, to gently brush away residue.  Please do this outside in order to prevent contamination.
·       Preventing mold on wet books.  Keep in mind that mold will grow in temperatures above 700  and in relative humidity above 60% for more than 48 hours.  If you can treat a wet book in that 48 hour window, do so.  Take the wet books, and stand them up next to one another, very loosely, with spines alternating against fore-edges (the part of the cover you use to open and close the book).  You can use bookends loosely positioned to prevent the books from toppling over.  Drop the temperature of the space you are using as much as you possibly can to deter mold growth.  Use dehumidifiers and air conditioners if available.  Use fans to circulate air, but don’t point the fans directly at the books.  Doing so will cause the books to dry too quickly, resulting in warped bindings.  The books will be dry when they are warm to the touch.  Once the books are dry, place each one flat, and lay a heavy object on top of each one in order to flatten paper and bindings.  Please remember than some warping may remain.  If a book with glossy pages, such as those used in art books, gets wet, you MUST interleave each page of the book with absorbent, white paper while the book is still wet.  As the absorbent paper becomes wet, remove it, and replace with a dry sheet.  Continue to do this until the pages are almost entirely dry, then stand the book up as indicated above, and complete the drying process.  If you do not interleave, the pages will stick irreversibly together.
·      Freezing wet books.  While there are sources that recommend the use of your home freezer for the temporary storage of water damaged books until help is at hand, I personally hesitate to do so.  First, the freezers used by conservators are not designed for food storage – they are set at a lower relative humidity and temperature than those designed for home use.  And secondly, if you want the freezing to be effective, you cannot open the freezer door once the books have been stored – and are you going to toss the ice cream in favor of the books?  But if you are desperate, then by all means toss the Haagen Daz and the leftovers, and store your precious ones until treatment is at hand.  Wrap each book individually in freezer paper to prevent books from sticking to one another.  Store multiple books spine down in a waterproof container.  Store individual books spine down in a freezer bag. 
·      Insect infestations.  If you are in a shop, and pick up a book in which lurks a living, breathing bug, leave the shop.  If you are a tidy housekeeper, living in a home with central heat and air conditioning, then the likelihood of a major infestation of bugs is small.  Regular dusting of book collections, limiting exposure of books to changes in temperate and humidity, and keeping food out of the gutters of books will help prevent bug problems.  However, if you experience a significant infestation, call your exterminator, and seek the help of a professional conservator.

To find a conservator, go to the Resource Center of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works.