Once-in-a-lifetime Estate Sale Shopping Spree

“Almost 20 years ago, they  (the lace portraits shown below) were purchased at an estate sale,  where they were pinned to a sheet of cardboard.  If any interest is expressed, I’ll write a post about that once-in-a-lifetime textile shopping spree.  Occasionally, I still dream about it!” 

This quote is from an earlier post about these antique lace portraits. Readers did ask for the story.  So let me tell you………

This was the most amazing estate sale I had ever seen, or ever will again.  It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime shopping opportunity to acquire beautiful things.

First, a few details about one of my finds at that sale, a set of 6 placemats and napkins with a matching table runner.

Shadow embroidered placemat with surface embroidery and hemstitching.

The shadow embroidery on this luncheon set is absolutely flawless.  Worked in two shades of blue, the stitches are so tiny and so regularly spaced that it’s hard to believe this is handwork.

The surface embroidery is equally remarkable.

The set of six placemats and napkins includes a table runner.  With my Blue Willow china,  it makes a pretty setting for lunch.  For tea, flow blue cups are elegant.  My 7 yo granddaughter Laurel and I enjoy having tea on the breakfast porch with these cups.  Robert, 6, sometimes joins us but prefers a no nonsense Gator mug.

A pair of these cups was purchased at the same time.

So here is the story about how this all came about.  My mother’s friend, Marybelle, had a daughter who did estate sales and auctions in New England.  She didn’t liquidate little Ma & Pa farms or cottages but rather huge estates with names like Rockefeller or DuPont.  Mind you, I don’t know the surnames, but the implication was that they were of this status, rich and/or famous.

Suzanne bought these, then duplicated the technique. It is featured in a Creative Needle article.

The story goes that the 4 or 5 adult children had already stripped the house of  everything that interested them, which apparently was the bulk of the mansion’s  contents.   Then, at the auction, more than $5 million worth of items were sold.  The leftovers were sent to Marybelle, a well-connected Southern lady, who was to offer them to her friends.  Fortunately for me, my mother was one of her friends.

cross stitch and Madeira applique' tea napkins

Having been told by my mother that I had a consuming interest  in lace and fine textiles, Marybelle called and we arranged for me to come see the goods.    With my like minded sewing pal, Suzanne Sawko, I arrived at Marybelle’s lovely, sprawling riverfront home hoping to find some treasures.

Ambling up the walk to the front door, we had to step aside for two ladies, grinning-ear-to-ear and toting armloads of bounty.  It looked as if all the good stuff was already gone.

But as we walked in, we gasped!  The huge dining room table, buffet and sideboard were heavy laden with spectacular table linens, including the luncheon set shown above. Small tables lined the walls with more neat stacks.

Table linens of every imaginable variety were displayed.  Bridge sets,

Suzanne bought this beautifully embroidered linen cloth with 4 matching napkins.

cocktail napkins,  luncheon sets,

Each of these napkins is one of a set of 4-6, with a matching luncheon size table cloth.

tea napkins,

Fil tire, drawnthread work, surface embroidery, cutwork edge--there is so much detail in this tiny napkin.

lunch size napkins,

damask lunch size napkin with monogram

dinner napkins,

needle lace and cutwork

table cloths, bread cloths,

fine linen with fine tatted edge

centerpieces, table runners…..the list goes on and on.  If you can think of any table linens not on this list, you can be assured that they were there.

After we had gawked a while, Marybelle led us into the kitchen which was overflowing with beautiful porcelain, including English flow blue.  The two cups mentioned above went in my stack.

At this point, Suzanne whispered to me that it was a good thing we had come in my minivan, rather than her Buick sedan.  I said a silent prayer of thanks for our dumb good luck.  We needed plenty of space to haul our beauties home.

Then it occurred to us and Marybelle that we had not yet seen any lace.  She led us to the living room where lace and other textiles were displayed on the furniture.  My oh my!

Apparently, the family had a resident seamstress.  Bolts and bolts of spectacular heirloom lace were scattered on sofas and chairs.  Many of the blue banded “Made in France” cards bore notations scrawled in pencil, “5 yds for Mary’s pinafore, May 1944″ and “12 yds for Louise’s dress, July 1945.”   For many years, I kept those cards, but threw them away in a regrettable purging spell.  I wish I could have shown them to you.

When we saw the lace portraits, I knew it would have to be an eeny-meeney-miney-moe decision as to who would get them and I was hoping I would win.  Marybelle intervened to show that there were TWO identical sets!!  Two?  Who has two of such a unique, handmade item?  And why?   So Suzanne and I each have a set.  Mine was featured at the beginning of this post as well as in this blog.   Suzanne’s are shown below.

But these are not the only remarkable duplicates.  We each purchased a linen, banquet size, shrimpy pink tablecloth embroidered with dogwood blossoms.  Organdy of the exactly the same shade  creates a 10″ hem on all four sides.  Twelve napkins came with each set!

This post is already waaaaaay tooooo lonnnnng.  So I’ll conclude by saying this day was one of those memories I have stored away.  When I reach  the age when all my time is spent rocking in my chair, reminiscing, I’ll be smiling when I recall this magical shopping spree with Suzanne.

But there is so much more to show you, like the wedding banquet napkins, an elaborate fil tire’ and drawnthread work towel, quilted heirloom baby bib, bullion crochet baby bonnet, ancient Assissi embroidery.   The list goes on and on.

If you readers express an interest, I’ll share more photos and information in another post.  Otherwise, I’ll move on to those other topics I mentioned some time ago.

 

7 Responses to Once-in-a-lifetime Estate Sale Shopping Spree

  1. Penny Pintuck

    wow… loved this post! Aren’t you the fortuante one! I would have wanted it ALL ~lol~… those pictures are amazing and aren’t you two fortuante that there were two sets!
    Do show more! You can’t have too many antique linens!

  2. I love hearing about this sale and your find of such beautiful linens, I’m not bored at all Janice. And I love seeing the pix also, I love old linens and get them whenever I can find them. I am fortunate that I have some of my MIL’s linens she gave me before she passed away. I treasure them.

  3. Betty, as much as I love any antique or vintage linens, those which have been in the family are most dear. I’m glad you have those special textiles to enjoy and remember your MIL by.

  4. O please share more!! I have enjoyed this so much!

  5. Oh my gosh! Just saw this post. That is like my dream come true to actually find such beautiful linens. And add baby clothes to it and I would be in heaven.

  6. You would have been in heaven, Jeannie, as there were some baby clothes! Not a lot, but a christening gown, two beautiful crocheted bonnets, and an incredible embroidered, quilted bib with a cutwork edge. Suzanne Sawko did an article on it for Creative Needle. I’ll have to borrow it back from her and feature it in a blog.

  7. How wonderful to have the chance to see–and buy, such treasures! I would love to see more pictures and hear every detail!

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