Saturday, 16 March 2013

Sorry, Not For Sale!

I thought I'd share with you some of my best finds. These are the really special things that I decide to keep, so sorry to vintage lace lovers out there.
I recently learned that both of my adult daughters share my love of vintage lace doilies and other linen, so these are the heirloom items I will pass on to them one day. Funny that I never realised that I'd passed on my interest. It took my eldest daughter's prospective mother-in-law to fill me in on that.

Here is a very special piece which I have had for years. The person who gave it to me told me that it came from Government House in Melbourne. It would be 19th century work.
19th Century Silk Doiley
This gorgeous doiley is extremely fine work made of silk. I think it is handmade bobbin lace. It's pale beige.
It has sat on a sideboard or an occasional table at Government House and seen a succession of Kings, Queens and Princes entertained in right regal style. Definitely Governors, probably Prime Ministers and Premiers. If only these items could talk, they would tell some interesting tales... on second thoughts, they would probably be terrible gossips.

In January I visited a lot of op shops in country Victoria and New South Wales and found a few treasures. I won't call them bargains, because I paid through the nose for them. But they were so beautiful I couldn't resist.
This is a superb large doiley in Irish crochet, where the little flowers are three dimensional. It is hand done in extremely fine ecru cotton. I bought this and the collection about to be described at the Vinnies (St Vincent de Paul) shop in Benalla, in rural central Victoria. It looks as though they have all come from the one source.


I would guess that these doilies once belonged in one of the stately historic homes in this area.


When I found this pile of handmade antique tatted doilies, (in the same Vinnies store) I had to have all of them. Many of these were stained, and quite a few were a very dark ecru, actually tan.
I can barely see the threads, so I can't imagine anyone actually sitting and making these by hand with the little tatting shuttle. If you don't know what tatting is, it's done with a tiny shuttle of cotton, which you pass in and out, like a complicated and permanent cat's cradle (that doesn't pull undone). The result is a series of tiny knots around a central thread, with loops for decoration. Many years ago, (when I had leisure time, before I had babies) I learned to tat. I couldn't be bothered keeping it up, such a lot of knots and joins, and if you make a mistake, you can't pull it undone, you have to cut it off and rejoin a new piece and start that bit all over again. And you have to try to darn in about 700 ends! I suppose it's because I've done it that I can appreciate the workmanship in these doilies.
I bought 10 medium sized and four matching small doilies. I'll keep some and divide the rest between my girls.
When I bought these doilies, as I said before, some of them were an unusually dark brown for linen. I recently read in an old magazine, some tips for cleaning lace, where they recommend soaking the stained article in cold tea. I think this must be what happened to these doilies. I could see that they had marks, and I think the laundress had tried to disguise them by recolouring the linen. However, I popped them in the laundry soaker overnight, and they come out a lovely pale ecru, with no sign of marks. Isn't Napi-san wonderful?
With this pile of Vinnies doilies, I also bought two of these lovely lace pieces. I don't know how they were made. Please comment and tell me if you think you know. These had also had the tea-soak treatment, but are now restored. They look to me to be similar to guipure lace. I am imagining the stately home they all lived in, and whether or not it still exists, or whether it has been bull-dozed to make room for a new sub-division.

                                                                                 And this sweet little bobbin lace piece.
Back home again, you don't have to drive hundreds of kilometres to find treasures. Last week I found this fabulous piece in the Salvos store in Hastings. I'd say it's 1920s work, or earlier. Australiana was extremely popular then, as I've mentioned in a previous post.
 I'll bet the lady who worked this devised the pattern herself. Otherwise, it's the kind of pattern that may have been published in the Weekly Times newspaper. I was sad to find that the Weekly Times no longer has a craft and pattern page.

I just love the little wrens, and the beautiful way the wattle has been worked, with little bobbles for the flowers. This piece now lives on top of the piano that no-one plays anymore.
I'm amused by the way that op shops sell doilies. They sell by size rather than quality, so you can often get an exquisite handmade lace piece for $1.00, yet they charge $5.00 for a large machine made, mass produced piece. But I'm not complaining!
So, these are the kinds of pieces I keep. My drawer is getting quite full, so I am putting together an inheritance pile for my girls. And I guess, I may have to sell some of it.