I was having a discussion the other day with some online friends about interviews. How so many blogs do them but ask the same questions over and over. I'd like to do interviews, too, because I have some great friends who make wonderful products that you might like to hear about. But, I'd like to ask better questions, or tougher questions—something to shake things up a little. I still haven't come up with those questions and I'm open to suggestions. So, what would you like to read about if you could ask anything?
In our discussion one friend challenged me with a list of questions. I was asking in a more general way, but OK, I'll answer them because they're good subjects for discussion. This first one deserves it's own post so I'll save the others for another time.
Do you ever feel bad cutting up vintage linens?
Very simply, no. And here's why. I don't cut up anything that's perfect. In fact, I don't even buy things that are perfect unless I'm buying them for my own use. What you don't see in my finished work are all the flaws in the original materials—the yellow spots that don't wash out, the spattering of rust spots on the pillowcase back, the torn crochet trim, the badly-done embroidery that has to be taken out and redone or repaired, the holes and weak spots.
Here's an example. The hungry puppy pillow I posted a picture of recently was made from a stamped-for-embroidery towel. Just to the left of the puppy motif was a large brown stain that I wasn't sure would wash out. And with stamped embroidery you can't wash it until it's finished because you'll wash away the design. I took a leap of faith, did the embroidery, washed it, and the stain faded but was still there. So, I cut out the center and made it into a pillow. Had the stain come out I probably would have finished it (and sold it) as a finished towel.
This topic is actually very timely because I recently bought an embroidered baby pillowcase on Ebay. And the seller wrote to ask me how I was going to use it—was I going to cut it up or resell it or what? I wrote back to say that it all depended on the condition of the item. If it was perfect I might just copy the embroidery pattern and resell the pillowcase on my site. If it wasn't, then I'd use it in one of my creations. I received it a few days later, and what she neglected to say in the item description was that the hem was cut off. So, short of hemming it again (and there really wasn't enough fabric to do this) or adding a crochet edge (possible, but more trouble than it was worth), I really had no choice but to use it.
Do I sometimes buy things that are right on the line—not perfect, but not bad enough to cut up either? Sure. And they're stored in a box. I take them out once in a while, thinking I'll use them, but once I get the scissors in hand, I can't do it. Here are a couple of examples—
A section of a vintage tablecloth appliqued with fruits. There's a smallish yellow stain near the edge but the applique is so extraordinary that I can't cut it.
And this embroidery from a vintage baby coverlet that has a weak area/ragged hole along the edge. The embroidery is exquisitely-done and I can't cut this one either.
There are really two camps on this subject. Some people are horrified that anyone would cut up something that has both historical value, and that someone spent so much time creating—that it should be used as it was originally intended. The other camp feels that these pieces were created to be used, and that they should be. Let's face it, most people don't use doilies and table runners and lace tablecloths (much too fussy for our modern lives). So you could buy things and tuck them away for special occasions that may or may not come along. Or. you can recycle them into an item that you actually can use—a bag, a pillow, an article of clothing.
So, while I have great respect for the time and skill that went into these linens, and their historical value, I don't have a problem remaking them into something else. I think it's better to use a small good section of a piece than to throw the whole thing out because of a stain. However, I'm not going to cut up something gorgeous just because I need materials to work with. There are plenty of perfectly good slightly-damaged things out there—and they're much cheaper, too.
So, as I mentioned earlier, I'm looking for ideas for questions. But, if you have questions you'd like me to answer, send them along. It's sometimes difficult to come up with subjects to blog about, so really, I don't mind. If it's too personal, I'll let you know :)