They just don't make hankerchief-weight linen like they used to! And each hanky seems like such a small thing; you see them at vintage shops for a dollar a piece sometimes. So I bring it home, and soon I have a collection. (Do click to see the details!)
A GALLERY OF HANDKERCHIEFS
Fine linens could easily be another gazingus pin for me. I don't actually use table clothes or cloth napkins (honestly, it's easier to wipe spills off wood than to launder fabric every time you drop something off your fork, so I'm not sure what table linens are for!), but when I see them at vintage shops, I crave them! The craving is especially strong if the cloth is cool, smooth linen, or hand-embroidered, or damask. I usually talk myself out of it because I don't have room in my room for a tablecloth collection, but I weaken if they're very cheap, or free, or being thrown out.
The funny thing about gazingus pins is how emotional our attachments to them are. Once we've got enough of a collection that we're ready to pare it down, we usually won't consign our babies to the thrift shop! No, we look for someone else to adopt them. I know, because several people have given me their gazingus pins when they realized I'd appreciate them. Example: my friend gave me what the Dreamstress would call a romance of gloves!
In this picture, these gloves are more soiled and sad than romantic, alas. But they do tell a story. The lady who wore them originally had some money to buy good stuff, since they are complex, beautifully constructed things. Many of them are hand-sewn with perfectly spaced, tiny stab-stitches. She also had a variety of occasions to wear them, since they come in several lengths, colors, and styles. They span the decades, too, from "hand-made in France" ones from the fifties, stamped with their sizes inside, to synthetic knit ones, machine sewn, with elastic ruching, of a more recent vintage. But the second part of their story is where they were handed down to children to play with, and got, some of them, so badly stained that they are entirely lost to use as garments.
I started by sorting them by level of soilage. The cleanest ones got washed first. Luckily they were all my size (7.5), so I put them on and worked on them with Fels Naptha soap. Then I soaked them for a while, rinsed. The medium-soiled ones came next, in the same water to start with. A long soak, more suds and rubbing, rinsed. The worst-soiled one were last, in a few changes of water, and they were badly enough stained that I even tried bleaching. Unfortunately, some were past rescue. One particularly gorgeous pair of elbow-length gloves with embroidery looked like it have been used for gardening--stained and worn! Oh, children...
So what makes something a gazingus pin for me? Usually it's the workmanship that appeals. "Women's work" is always undervalued, but particularly in the case of needle arts. A doiley may take days to crochet or tat, but sell for under a dollar. Everyone has a grandmother or aunt who made those things, so they don't seem special. And it's always being made in "spare time" or as a hobby, so it can't be valuable, right? But once we try to learn the skill, we know what it's worth, and we think what a shame it is to see it sell for nothing. People who cross-stitch sigh to see completed cross stitch pictures at the Salvation Army, since they know a labor of many months or years might be bought just for the frame, and the needlework inside thrown out. I knew a woman once who "adopted" handmade quilts from thrift stores, because she couldn't bear to see them treated as junk; her house was filled with lovely old quilts, displayed on country-style furniture. Well, at least she had room for her gazingus pins!
In my case, I want to save the stuff I know or have tried: embroidery, whitework, needlelace, hand-sewing. Vintage gloves fit right in, being dainty, hand-sewn, storied... And I do wear them, if they fit and are in good condition. A pair of neat gloves really adds to a nice outfit. Here I am at a wedding, wearing little white gloves with rhinestones on them:
WHATEVER IS LOVELY...
Though Robin and Dominguez may see gazingus pins as a weakness to be addressed, when I examine the reasons behind my gazingus pins, I see instead values being recognized. This post is my celebration of several things which I believe are lovely and noteworthy, exemplified in old gloves and hankies.
First, I praise the discipline and hard-work that went into learning how to make such delicate yet hardy things. These things were meant for daily use and regular washing, yet so much work went into making them beautiful... work that few could replicate today. And there are so many of them (in thrift stores and attics and closets) that we know a lot of women were dedicating themselves to the craft of making the little things in life beautiful.
And that's another thing to celebrate. Most of life is made of "ordinary" things, so when we elevate the ordinary, we elevate life. That's good and lovely. And since we know that life and creativity are gifts of God the living Creator, these small acts of making things and celebrating life can even be a form of worship, as long as it's the God of life we worship and not the things.
Certainly, some people always want nice things for selfish or unworthy reasons, but I am choosing to look at what is worthy and good, and I see great loveliness in the tiny pieces of art that people used to carry in their purses and pockets. Care for the little things is something to emulate.
She looks for wool and flax And works with her hands in delight....
She stretches out her hands to the distaff, And her hands grasp the spindle.
She is not afraid of the snow for her household, For all her household are clothed with scarlet.
She makes coverings for herself; Her clothing is fine linen and purple....
Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.
Give her the product of her hands, And let her works praise her in the gates.
Proverbs 31:13, 19, 21-22, 30-31.
Quilting, dressmaking, and history plied with the needle...
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