I get the best emails from my readers! Susan Terkel sent me story along with some great photos. She certainly let your imagination and creativity go wild when she found uses for her vintage treasures.
It happened a few years ago when I was staring at my stash of vintage textiles, buttons, ribbons and looking at the screen door I had just purchased that had once been on a historic home in Shaker Heights, Ohio. Voila! First, I realized that entering the car from the garage had always been, well, slightly boring and not at all Feng Shui and so I installed the vintage gold and green screen door on the door to my kitchen. Then I wallpapered the metal door to resemble a patchwork quilt.
Next came the window treatment in the dining room. Using mostly vintage ribbons – silks and velvets and some polyester and rayon ribbons – and vintage stamens that had once been manufactured for hat makers – and some vintage rhinestone, metal and plastic buttons, I got some books on flower making and proceeded to sew dozens – and dozens – of ribbon flowers. Yes, I got hooked on making flowers (and sold some and gave many others away as gifts or spontaneous gestures of goodwill). The more flowers I added, the more the window took on a special character.
Emboldened with my dining room window, I proceeded to make valences in the kitchen using vintage quilts that had tears in places and therefore damaged enough to be referred to as “cutting quilts,” meaning it won’t devalue the quilt or dishonor the quilter to cut it up into something different. Again, I embellished this valence with vintage buttons, this time using only rhinestone buttons.
By this time, my house was beginning to look more like the home of an artist (accurate) than the daughter of a decorator (true, too). What could I do with the vintage lace, especially the lace butterflies I cannot resist, the tiny vintage needlepoint I impulsively had to purchase (isn’t that the excitement and the justification of shopping vintage – you won’t get a second chance on what you see so impulse can be justified and enjoyed). I had just learned how to sew crazy quilts, having collected them for over a decade, and so I made one of my best projects – a crazy quilt valence for my parent’s bedroom.
Not everything is that vintage. Some is just collectible-cool, like my husband’s old Levi’s – no designer jeans for this guy. I took two pairs; cut them up, flattened them out, sewed them together, drew a few decorative curves, added the bias-tartan plaid hem from a skirt I had assembled, added a few vintage rhinestone buttons (okay, by now you can tell what I cannot resist – rhinestone buttons and old lace and yes, there are worse addictions but no, I don’t have any, except for Ben and Jerry’s coffee heath bar crunch icecream and I’m over that one by now). This six-foot wide valence is actually my favorite creation – humble but creative, cheerful and cheap. Yes, you can spend a fortune hunting down rare antiques. But you can also spend a delightful winter afternoon making a rare delight out of stuff no one really wanted or appreciated anymore. Or hire someone else who loves to do that sort of thing.