Share, source and sigh over all things vintage

Category Archives: Vintage Shopping

We started out this year’s festive season—as you do—with a day-long marathon of vintage chair re-upholstering.  Yes, I had bought a lovely specimen (read:  sagging, dusty number with potential) online to act as the final flourish in a multi-coloured spectacle of seats collected from assorted corners around the house.

Dusty, vintage wooden chair with upholstery (falling off)

Some of you are aware that I have a slight um… chair acquisition problem.  I love ‘em.  Each one has its own little personality, its own unique flair.  They are like perfect snowflakes:  unique and special in all the world.

Why are you rolling your eyes?

However, this is not one of those times when I succumbed to the power that is a snowflake/chair vortex.  My excuse for this one is that I GENUINELY NEEDED IT to go with the newly-acquired kitchen table (handed down via my uncle, aunt and with a small detour via my cousin, but which actually used to be my grandparents where we ate Roast Beef and Leathers for decades – yes, that really is a thing – just stay with me.)  But, when the vintage, internet, snowflake chair arrived home, I remembered that old saying that “objects on the internet are smaller than they first appear” (except, of course, for certain American politician-wannabe’s hair and evil-ness) and realized that the chair was, well, to phrase it in holiday terms:

Slightly elf-sized.

chair stripped of all its upholstery and sanded

I am approximately 11 feet tall in my red-and-white-striped Santa socks, but, seeing as how it was soon to be the season of all things merry and I am also a soft touch when it comes to underdogs and sad, forgotten objects that look unloved and are sure to be the last item on the auction table that no one wants, I immediately fell in love with the chair’s elf-sized proportions and proceeded to pull it up to the table with the rest of its rag-tag companions.

Gingerbread crumbs!  It was, indeed, a vertically-challenged chair but, not wanting to hold that against it just because I happen to have knee caps that start higher than most, I opted to move another um… necessary chair to the kitchen (requiring re-painting and a seat cover re-do) and use the new, toy-making-sized specimen with my also vertically-close-to-gravity dressing table, instead.

The sound of giggling elves would have filled my head were it not for the seat springs of torture and upholstery of doom.  There followed muttering, upholstery tack pulling, fabric ripping, straw removal, more muttering, sanding, priming, painting and other blah, blah, blah that all goes under the un-desirable category in my mind called “prep”.

primed hair

I am not a fan.  Thus, I justifiably consoled myself with holiday libations in the form of truffle hot chocolate, so there!

However, all of this blah, blah, blah was in the name of getting ready for the main event, my favourite part:  the festooning, the fancifying, which was, in this case, the upholstering of the elvish chair into a thing of petite beauty.

chair painted pale green, no upholstery yet

It’s a small chair, I thought.  Positively elvish in proportions.  Even though the swoopy, curly bits of the back looked a wee bit tricky to me, I figured it would take a couple of hours, tops.

Um…yeah.

Practical Man spent a Sunday wielding a staple gun for approximately six hours straight, when he had intended to be spending a Sunday wELding (not wIELding) something fun on to his currently derelict but FREE fishing boat.  I therefore tried to appear innocent and unconnected to the Elvish Chair of Evil and do my penance by untangling the outdoor Christmas lights.

Which, were, of course NOT tangled because Practical Man had put them away and so, yes, they were labelled and wound in very orderly fashions on some kind of thing-a-ma-bobs that probably started life as something else like a bedroom slipper or a supersonic carrot peeler but have lately been wrestled into submission into something that you wind Christmas lights on to keep them labelled and orderly and not only that but they were secured further with twist ties so as to not escape the labelling and orderliness into which they had been placed.

So much for my penance.

I attempted to atone by flinging Christmas lights with festive flair into the bushes in front of our front porch, so if you happen to be driving by, it’s my fault they look like that.  I re-fueled with more truffle hot chocolate and some flirting with the upholsterer to keep his spirits dashing and dancing while he did battle with fabric, fluff and staples.

The elf chair is nearly finished, but for the part that involves me heating up the not-so-innocent-sounding glue gun (my first clue that I shouldn’t be using a tool with this label) and burning myself repeatedly while attempting to adhere some kind of ribbon-y stuff–whose technical name is bric-a-brac. rick-rack, Cadillac or something–to hide the 6 hours of stapling that Practical Man worked so hard to perfect.

finished chair with pink flowered upholstery

Anyhoo, it’s a magical chair and I think Santa will help with the final touches.

The Mensa puzzle calendar on the desk (not mine–I know you are shocked to learn) says Wednesday, October 15 and now, fresh from a day of Christmas shopping in nearly 13 degree weather in the middle of December in southern Ontario, I am slightly confused about what season it is.

But, the arrival of the first batch of fast-tracked Syrian refugees yesterday to Canada has reminded me:  it’s the time when we invite those we love and also, those less fortunate, to come a little closer.  A time for the elf chairs and all the others to celebrate together at our grandparents’ precious table.

Whatever the language or constructs of each of our faiths or beliefs, it’s the season of hope, of giving, of kindness and peace.

(And lots and lots of cookies, hurray!)

From our house and hearts, we wish you Merry Christmas and a wonderful 2016.

 

Advertisements

Brace yourselves, my darlings.  It’s that time of year, again.

It’s swimsuit season.

I say “brace yourselves” because we women seem to do a mighty fine job of beating ourselves up when it comes to what we’re wearing in the pool or at the beach.

It’s just a pool, people.

Ditto for the beach.

No cause for that sheen of sweat and feeling of desperation in the pit of our stomachs, now is there?

Especially when we could wear this vintage beauty:

blue, crocheted 50s two-piece bathing suit

My kindred spirit friend Anne-Girl sent it to me a while ago.

It came through the real-for-true, old-fashioned mail, the way all vintage things should.

I have to admit, I was slightly taken aback when I opened the package and found a blue, crocheted bathing suit — sized about four decades too small for me–to boot.

But maybe some of you get bathing suits through the mail all the time, because you buy your swimsuits online.

What, what, what?

I can’t fathom it.  You see, I’ve always gone for the tried-and-true way of buying a bathing suit:  the festival that is the fluorescent-lit mall or big box or even boutique store change room.  I am accustomed to the usual view of acres of me, unflatteringly lit with row upon row of fluorescents as I attempt to corral bits in with only the thin sheen of some kind of high-tech fabric.

Not high-tech enough, however, to hold up that which needs holding.

Or squeeze in that which needs squeezing.

Oh sure, we can send people to the International Space Station in suits that let them breathe in zero atmosphere but we can’t manage to conjure up a single swimsuit that will hold bits or squeeze bits the way I’d love them to.

I think I miss corsets.

two ladies wearing 1900s bathing suits

Photo credit: Dorothea and Maryal Knox in the surf at Rye, NY, ca.1900. Courtesy of Schlesinger Library, RIAS, Harvard University and http://www.consumingcultures.net/swimming-history-2

Or what about these pantaloon bathing costumes – weren’t those great?  Let’s ask some Hollywood/Fashion Week style dictator to bring those back. please oh pretty please.  I think I could love a bathing suit that covered me from ankles to earlobes.

I sunburn easily and am always cold.

Anne-girl’s mother obviously loved this blue beauty because she wore it and loved it enough to emigrate to Canada with it, save it for half a century and pass it down to her daughter, who–knowing a wacky vintage-loving woman across the province–passed it down to me.

I love it.  I love the buckles, I love the crochet, I love how the bottoms come up All The Way to the belly button (or higher).

On someone four decades smaller than I, of course.

Yep, love this bathing suit.

Being a woman brought up in the times when we were taught to constantly criticize our bodies, it has occurred to me that I can’t say “I love it” very often about a bathing suit in my possession.  In fact, the last bathing suit I loved was at the age of four.  I inherited a “bikini” from a more sophisticated five year-old friend and gleefully pranced about in it all summer, belly un-corraled.

My belly hasn’t been un-corraled in quite some time.  On account of, I don’t have any core strength, as evidenced by the fact that I recently started doing core exercises (again) and didn’t notice their effect in the slightest during my regular waking hours until I went to bed and Practical Man informed me in the morning that I had groaned each and every time I rolled over in the night.

It turns out, I roll over a lot.  And, apparently, if you exercise your core, it hurts to roll over.  But, then, hopefully, after a few months of midnight groaning, your rolly bits don’t roll over your waist band quite as much as they used to.

At least, they better not.

Well, unless you count the times while I’m in the change room, trying to corral all the bits of my (apparently un-used) core, hold up that which needs holding and squeeze in that which needs squeezing, with only thin pieces of man-made fabric at my disposal.

Which, I don’t.

Anyway, run away from the fluorescent humiliation that is the bathing suit change room.

Run away, I say!

And, stop skulking behind that beach towel.

Wear your suit proudly because you’re already a bathing beauty.

Just like this one.

blue crocheted two-piece 50s bathing suit

Copyright Christine Fader, 2015.  Did you enjoy this post from A Vintage Life?    Share on Facebook       Tweet

 


There was a message on our voicemail the other day.

“Good morning,” said a little voice.

Then, “How are you?”

It was a very polite little voice.

It’s strawberry season in south-eastern Ontario and my fairy godson, age 2 and 3/4, was calling to invite me out for the picking.

Or, as he knows it:  the eating.

strawberries, up close

I like strawberry picking, except for the bending and standing up (which makes me feel faint-ish) and the turning-my-head and picking (which makes me feel spinny-ish) and of course, there is The Nature to contend with.

But, how could I resist an invitation from someone who calls me “Auntie Kiss”?

Oh sure, my name is “Chris” and you might think this is his 2 and 3/4 year-old way of pronouncing my name, but even when he’s 14 and possibly slightly stinky and drama-tudinal, I like to think this will be my fairy godmother name forever.

Auntie Kiss.

(As in:  one who gives kisses and loves to receive them.)

Tra-la-la.

Is there a better name for a fairy godmother than that?   I think not.

So, after the lovely invitation, I met Fairy Godson, his Kitemama and baby Fairy Godsister at the patch.

It was soggy and muddy from all the recent rain, so we wore our rubber boots (one of us had new and very exciting firefighter rubber boots!) and squelched around in the mud in the parking lot.

Squelch, squelch, squelch.

You know how The Nature can get sometimes.   Verrrrry squelchy.

Then, we waited for the tractor to come and pick us up to take us out to the part of the patch we were picking.

tractor pulling a wagon full of people

It was a “big, DEEN TAK-TOR with a bucket!” and someone wearing new firefighter rubber boots was pretty excited.  We hopped on the wagon with our empty baskets and the giant, DEEN TAK-TOR tires squelched around the muddy trail to our patch of the strawberry fields.

Squelch, squelch, squelch.

Little boy, facing away from camera, squatting in strawberry plants

Then, we squatted in the field and searched for bright, red pockets of sunshine to put in our baskets.

Fairy Godson had two baskets because he knew to look for the “really red ones”.  He also knew how to deftly remove the stems, fling them into the plants, and pop the “really red ones” in his mouth.

Fairy godson tasting a berry

Squelch, squelch, squelch.

As you do.

Kitemama and I got going with the bending and standing up (which makes me feel faint-ish) and the turning-our-heads and picking (which makes me feel spinny-ish) and of course, The Nature had made everything sort of soggy but I was having a great time picking berries and squelching in the mud.

Fairy Godson guarded the berries for me, polite child that he is and soon, the DEEN TAK-TOR came to pick us up for the ride back.

Fairy godson with two buckets

Squelch, squelch, squelch went the TAK-TOR through the mud.

There was a little sprinkling of rain from The Nature but, we didn’t mind as we were already soggy and our new firefighter rubber boots were muddy anyway, and with a belly full of strawberries (at least one of us), we got off the tractor and lined up to pay.

baskets of strawberries at the till

 

And then, I had my annual, mild heart attack at the price of 8 scant litres of fresh, local strawberries.   But, I also remembered about the bucolic, vintage pleasures of the tractor ride and how good the “really red ones” taste and how many were in the belly of a small helper–and no doubt, countless other helpers across the field–and I opened my wallet and handed over the money.

Tra-la-la.

After a stint driving the play structure TAK-TOR at the entrance, we carried our treasures to the car.

Bye, Bye Kitemama and baby Fairy Godsister.

Bye, Bye Fairy Godson.

Bye, Bye, Auntie Kiss.

Squelch, squelch, squelch.

Not the mud, that time.

My heart.

Fairy godson, carrying baskets full of berries

 

Copyright Christine Fader, 2015.  Did you enjoy this post from A Vintage Life?    Share on Facebook       Tweet


As I’ve said before, not everyone appreciates a vintage life.

Case in point:  Practical Man has been known to shake his head at something I’ve purchased while muttering, “I threw one of those out in 1978” under his breath.

It seems to happen quite frequently during yard/garage sale season.  Lots and lots of head shaking and muttering.

But, I ask you:

Who will bring the ugly ducklings of the world home to be loved and cherished, if not I?

daisy pattern on the Lawnware lamp - up close

Oooh, look at the pretty patterns!

Especially when they’re vintage Lawnware for RVs (whatever that is) and only $1.

This particular vintage Lawnware for RVs needed a plug, but Practical Man is so very handy that a mere plug was no impediment to the purchase.

More muttering.

inside the lamp

A look up into the “gubbins” of the lamp, as my dad would say. Isn’t saying “gubbins” fun?

When I lived in England decades ago, I once wired a plug on to my newly-purchased curling iron after arriving home and remembering (when I went to use said curling iron and had only some metal wire sticking out the end of the cord) that small appliances didn’t come with plugs.  That way, they could sell them all over Europe and everyone could put their respective plug on or electrocute themselves trying because they couldn’t remember how to do it since it was O level Physics the last time they had tried and there was a really cute teenager distracting them from Ms. Russell’s fascinating lessons on plugs and besides that was so long ago because O level Physics hasn’t existed in a generation.

Anyway.

I haven’t wired a plug since then, but I will assume that Practical Man did it correctly.

Possibly, while muttering.

Even I have to admit, this is kind of an ugly duckling.  But, it has a style about its ugly duckling-ness, don’t you think?

The lamp in its entirety

Especially once the wasp nest inside and 40 years of gummified dust was cleaned off.

It will work perfectly for a romantic evening under the stars (or Ugliest Lamp in the World)  celebration as we hang out on our $1 for the pair, vintage, metal, scald-your-legs lawn chairs (totally impractical but I l-o-v-e them anyway).

red vintage lawn chairs (2)

Mutter, mutter.

Or, it will look fetching and appropriately “Lawnware for RV-ish” in our ugly duckling, vintage Boler trailer.

The lamp lit, with all its multi-coloured lights glowing

Ooooooh Aaaaaaah!

It’s like the Lite Brite of lamps!

Who wouldn’t like that?

Practical Man seems to be raising his hand.

And muttering.

Tra-la-la.

Copyright Christine Fader, 2015.  Did you enjoy this post from A Vintage Life?    Share on Facebook       Tweet


We’re having enchiladas for supper tonight.

They use up our leftover tortillas, grilled chicken, tomato sauce, veggies and such, so they are fairly regular fare for us.  While enchiladas are certainly not fancy, we do eat them in the dining room and pretend we’re grown-ups, tra-la-la.

Tonight though, is no regular supper.

For, if I squint a little, I can see that the glasses are crystal goblets, from the 1920s.  Just the kind of heirlooms that are magically filled after each course.  I can imagine that our enchiladas are sitting on delicate china and that I am wearing satin gloves that cover my aristocratic elbows.  I blink and there is Carson, the butler, standing over by the drinks cabinet.

old radio turned bar cabinet

Practical Man converted an old radio into this bar cart, many years ago. I am pretty sure that the crystal goblets dance to Irving Berlin, when we’re not around.

Of course, Carson is glaring at our choice of food and lack of footmen.  In fact, I can already hear his remonstration about how we are not “keeping up Standards” with those “foreign”, tex-mex morsels and laissez-faire attitude towards our cutlery.

Worry not, darling Carson:

At least I have my purse.

purple crushed velvet with red and green flowers

Here’s a first peek at its velvet lusciousness

If you have ever seen the television show, Downton Abbey, you’ll know that it is terribly important for a lady to dress for–and carry one’s purse–when she goes down for dinner.  Never mind that the lady has heard the dressing gong ages ago and is still wearing yoga pants and a hoodie instead of Downton-dinner-appropriate jewels and tiara:

At least she has her purse.

I mean, I do.

And a very Downton-esque specimen it is.

purse open with long chain visible

It has this lovely, stowable long chain strap, in case we go dancing, after the enchiladas

Practical Man (who reminds me a little bit of Carson, sometimes, but more often of Bates) found it at a local thrift shop.   Like Bates, Practical Man is full of honour and penitence (and the resignation and shoulders to be able to pull off the requisite suit of that era).  Case in point, Practical Man not only spots treasures like this purse among the fray, but actually shows it to me, instead of burying it deeper on the thrift store shelf in the hopes that I will never find it.

He’s the Bates to my Anna, really.

Sniffle.

Anyway, this lovely, beaded bag was CDN$6.50  and looks as if it has never graced the dinner of an enchilada eater (no tomato sauce stains) or an aristocrat (no diamonds inside).  I’m not sure if it’s truly vintage or merely a reproduction, but I love it all the same.

Sure, I’m still wearing yoga pants and a hoodie.

downton-inspired purse, sitting on a dresser

But, with this flapper-inspired beauty beside me, our enchiladas have never looked so good.


The Camptown Ladies sing this song,
doo da, doo da,
The Camptown racetrack’s five miles long,
Oh, de doo dah day.
– Stephen Foster (1826-1864)

I have been humming this very vintage song lately.  Not because I’ve ever been to the camptown races (or even know what they are, if I’m honest).

I have a rather frilly and can-can-esque vision of the “camptown ladies” from the song in my head (probably wrong and sexist to boot but I’m a little afraid to google “camptown ladies”) and I had no idea that the song’s writer was walking around (and probably humming some annoying song from his village mistral), well before Canada’s confederation.

I can’t help but be impressed.  200 years is some serious longevity for a song that isn’t, y’know, required singing like the national anthem or 99 Bottles of Beer On the Wall.

I wonder if, in 200 years, people will be walking around humming one of Taylor Swift’s extremely catchy/annoying songs.

Ack!  Just a second while I (groan) shake it off, shake it off.

Or as we’ll sing it in the year 2214:  Shake It Off 99 Bottles of Beer On The Wall while We Stand on Guard For Thee.

Anyway, back to the camptown races because yep, that song is annoying me almost as much as Taylor’s is these days,  and I believe it all started with the doo da-s.

Yep, it’s all their fault.

On account of the fact that I have recently become the proud owner of four of them.

Doo dahs, that is.

Two amber ones:

amber depression glass curtain tiebacks

And two purple ones:

purple depression glass curtain tiebacks

I can’t decide which colour is my favourite.  The purple ones remind me of the beautiful glass we have found while beachcombing in St. Andrews, New Brunswick.  Apparently the process used to make glass back in the day meant the clearness (insert technical glass-making term here) wasn’t stable and over time, glass would turn a lovely purple hue.

I love beautiful mistakes, don’t you?

So yes, the purple ones are wonderful.  On the other hand, the amber doo da-s are like owning a piece of tree sap that has turned into something mystical and fairy-like and gorgeous.  As a result, both pairs have been given pride of place in our living and dining area.

amber curtain tieback holding beige curtains

Note to self: get curtains befitting amber gorgeousness

I looked these flowery beauties up online and they were frequently described as “antique, Victorian depression glass”.

I’m not quite sure how something can be of the Victorian and depression eras simultaneously.

Sounds a bit like time travel to me.

But, despite their muddled pedigree and annoying accompanying campfire races ditty, I really do love the doo da-s.  They used to sit on my friend, Mother Nature’s window sill, catching the light and sparkling it around on the beamed ceiling at her house.  Before that, they were at Mother Nature’s oldest sister’s house, having been rescued from a yard sale, auction or some other upcycling venue.

One lovely day, Mother Nature asked me if I wanted the doo da-s for my very own.

She said she wanted to give them to me because I would “do something with the doo da-s”.

Do something with the doo da-s.  Haha.

See how I almost wrote an annoying song there?

Anyhoo, we brought the doo da-s home and Practical Man got out the measuring tape so they would end up equal distances from the floor, once installed.

Boring measuring and blah blah blah but, with happy results.

purple curtain tiebacks holding back red, toile curtains

Yep, this is more like it. Love the purple and red combination.

They make me smile (and hum an annoying little tune).

Yes ma’am, I think to myself, those are some mighty fine doo da-s.

Doo da, doo da!

Sorry.

Shake it off.   Shake it off.

 

Copyright Christine Fader, 2014.  Did you enjoy this post from A Vintage Life?    Share on Facebook       Tweet         You might also like my book.

 


When I was 5 or 6, I decided to run away.

I can’t recall what unspeakable childhood injustice led to the moment when I flounced into my room and started packing my suitcase, but I do remember the dilemma:

how to fit everything in?

The little blue suitcase that I kept my doll’s clothes in wasn’t nearly big enough to hold the non-negotiable running away necessities such as:

  • a flashlight to guard against bogey man,
  • books and books and books to read while “on the road”,
  • clean underpants (in case I was in an accident),
  • penny bank (a plaster, brown-and-white pig approximately the size of my entire torso),
  • and red-and-white checkered umbrella and raincoat ensemble (one can never be too stylish while running away),

let alone my TREASURES.

Red cowboy hat:

red cowboy hat and rubber boots on swing

There’s me in my red cowboy hat (and rubber boots, of course).

Thumbelina doll:

Thumbelina doll

Really quite small but somehow, trying to squish it in the suitcase, it seemed so very, very big.

Mickey mouse record player:

Mickey mouse record player

This played REAL records!

and my Elizabeth doll:

Elizabeth doll by Fisher Price

Elizabeth (and her companion, Audrey) were much-loved Christmas presents to my sister and me from Santa

 

I should have known right then and there, that I was never going to be a footloose and fancy-free kind of gal.

Too.  Much.  Stuff.

My new vintage suitcase evokes a 1974, running away kind of vibe too.

briefcase_fabric

As in, Practical Man wants to run away when he sees the loud pattern.

I think he might have some kind of rare retinal disorder.

I love him anyway.

This suitcase is approximately the same size as my old running away version.

vintage suitcase with wild flowers all over it

LOVE the vintage fabric!

The inside is pristine, as if someone 5 or 6 years old couldn’t quite fit all her treasures in there either.  As a result, it probably rested, only occasionally disturbed by a fleeting fancy of running away, until it was returned to under the bed.

I think it wants to be my new briefcase.  It is not only (obviously) fabulous looking but eminently useful with both interior and exterior pockets and a handy umbrella slot.  I can’t wait to take it out into the world and around the university, full of fun stationery supplies, snacks, a sunhat, music, assorted Sharpie markers, and life’s essentials:  books and books and more books.

top of suitcase with umbrella slot

Who wouldn’t want a briefcase like this?

Some things never change.