March 12, 2013

July 23, 2008 A sense of history

Filed under: General,◦Country Living,◦Vintage — sharon @ 3:18 pm

Perhaps my favorite thing about the business we’re in is the discovery of beautiful things that are new to me, and the things I learn from them. I’m not Pennsylvania “Dutch” (German), but I’ve lived in Dutch Country almost 50 years, and collected antiques for nearly as long. Still, every once in a while something comes along that’s really special, really beautiful, and sends me on a journey of learning more about the rich cultural history of the area.

Perhaps my favorite thing about the business we’re in is the discovery of beautiful things that are new to me, and the things I learn from them. I’m not Pennsylvania “Dutch” (German), but I’ve lived in Dutch Country almost 50 years, and collected antiques for nearly as long. Still, every once in a while something comes along that’s really special, really beautiful, and sends me on a journey of learning more about the rich cultural history of the area.

The special item of the week is an early Pennsylvania German show towel:

Rudy show towel

I love the quality of the homespun linen towel itself as well as the precision and beauty of the needlework in traditional designs in three colors of linen thread. But there are things about this particular towel that I hadn’t seen before in others. So I was intrigued, and had to investigate

Barbara Rudy AND Carl Rudy

Most PA German show towels, or more properly, door panels – because they were made to hang from pegs on the kitchen door – were made by Mennonite girls in southeastern Pennsylvania. They come from a German tradition, but the earliest known dated one is from 1784, with the majority dating from 1820-1850. While some young girls were in fancy schools learning their needlework (from which arise the sampler tradition), the Mennonites, some Schwenkfelders and a few others among the PA Germans were busy preparing fancy linens for their eventual marriage.

Door panels were stitched by girls as young as eleven, and by young women in their twenties. Only a few are known to have been made after marriage. Apparently, mine is one such, as it includes the names of both husband and wife, Barbara and Carl Rudy. The Rudys were Mennonites from Lancaster County. Between Carl’s first and last name is the date 1806.


So it’s a relatively early example as well. There are whole books of information on the subject of door panels, the best of which is This Is the Way I Pass My Time by Ellen Gehret and others, published by the Pennsylvania German Society. Apparently the images – eight pointed star, tulip, birds, a heart, and other flowers are quite typical. And certainly there are many more elaborate examples, many in museums or important collections. But this is the one that exited me into another great learning experience.

PA German motifs

The towel is currently being offered in my eBay store. (Much of the fun of loving something is in the sharing!)

July 16, 2008 Steamin’

Filed under: General,◦Books,◦Country Living,◦Family,◦Food — sharon @ 2:41 pm

The hot summer weather is here in full force, with the humidity rising daily. Tough weather for humans, but some of our inhabitants just love it – the tomato and pepper plants. Though it’s early in the season, the tomato harvest is beginning, with sweet orange Sungold cherry tomatoes, Cherokee Purples and more. We stopped at the field today to see the calm before the tomato storm.

Tomatoes in the hills

HeirloomTim’s book was released yesterday, the cover picture is a reminder of what’s to come. It shows quart boxes of mixed smaller tomatoes, each with its different color and flavor. I’ll be blogging more about heirloom tomatoes as the summer rolls on, showing and talking about my favorites and their special qualities. Today, Tim’s at the Union Square Greenmarket, and tonight he’ll be at a dinner at Jarnac, a New York French restaurant, where they’re celebrating the release of the book with a dinner and reading. Mollie Chen of CondeNast Traveler blogs about it today in Concierge.

So, hopefully tomorrow or the next day I’ll be able to publish my review of Heirloom – in the meantime, I can tell you that it’s a delightul read.

July 15, 2008 Updating Hankies

Filed under: ◦,◦Vintage — sharon @ 2:36 pm


Because there are so many items on our website, and so many departments, it’s a perennial struggle to keep up with updating and adding new stock. We’re always taking pictures and organizing inventory, readying new items to replace ones that we’ve sold. As with any store, some departments are busier than others; some items demand more detail and description. The truth is, this is an insane business – all that trouble, and we have only one of each item (in many cases), so when it’s sold we do it all over again.

As a result of all these factors, some departments are updated almost daily, others less frequently. Today we added several aprons, two feedsacks, three fabrics and an upholstery fabric. Sometimes we’ll add just one new item in a department; sometimes a whole batch. This week we’re also updating the hankies (again!). We’re adding lots of beautiful floral hankies, as well as some fine Madeira and lace. I think today there’ll be at least a dozen hankies added, and more later in the week.

Part of the fun is selecting the best items to list; exciting and vibrant ones that complement our existing collection and add to it. Here are some of the coming hanky selections:

LiliesRoses on green

Pink roseWoodland flowers

Some Madeira embroidered hankies:

Madeira E monogram
Madeira Roses

And fine white lace hankies:

Lace detailLace detail

Another thing that makes it all fun is seeing the huge variety of stock I’ve bought over the years – some of which I’d forgotten – and just how much wonderful stuff there is. More to come!

July 11, 2008 Roadside Jewels

Filed under: ◦Country Living,◦Family,◦Food — sharon @ 2:32 pm

This spring and early summer have given us strange weather; lots of rain, then really hot and dry. Now we’re settling in to what looks like a regular summer around here: mostly warm and humid, with two or three days a week that threaten thunderstorms. The difference between a wet year and a drought year depends on whether those storms actually materialize.

So far this season we’ve enjoyed some strawberries, then red raspberries from the garden, but this time each year there’s a treat that we can’t cultivate; we’re just lucky enough to be surrounded by wild wineberries!
We call them the jewels of the roadside; indeed they gleam brighter than any other berry we know. You can see them along the highway before they ripen, on long thorny stalks are little clusters of what look like buds, but are actually berries that grow inside a husk or outer covering. Before long the outer shell curls back and within a couple of days the berries are gleaming bright red.
Wineberry busher

The berries themselves are seedier than most, sometimes a bit smaller, but they have a flavor not quite like any other berry: sweet but tart, a bright, somewhat sharp tang. The season is short – so when the time arrives we have to make a couple of trips to our favorite roadside turnouts and gather what we can. Nothing’s better on vanilla ice cream or with plain yogurt!

There are hazards to picking wineberries; besides the traffic on the busy roads. We’ve spotted a huge growth of them on a steep hillside above a blind curve with no shoulder – each year we pine for those, but have to let them pass. More there than ever this year, but there’s just no way to safely pick them.
And wherever wineberries grow, there are other plants that are their typical companions. The most common of these constitutes another hazard – poison ivy!
Poison ivy

I know there are some people out there who don’t seem to be affected by the dreaded Toxicodendron radicans, but we are; and if you are you know how miserable and itchy a rash even a slight touch of those shiny leaves can produce on exposed skin. And even if you wear boots, long pants, long sleeved shirt and gloves, don’t touch that clothing afterwards until it’s thoroughly washed. Think the wineberries aren’t worth the risk? Well, maybe not, but never fear. There’s another roadside jewel to help us out!

Jewelweed, or Touch-me-not is a wild species of the impatiens. You’ll notice a similarity in the soft texture of the leaves and the succulent stems, though the flowers themselves are quite different, pendulous little yellow or orange pitchers, inviting the bees to pollinate. The touch-me-not name comes from the seed pods, which when mature spring open at the slightest touch, casting the seeds about the area. But those succulent stems are the valuable part, to us. Simply crush a bit of jewelweed in your hands and rub the juices over your skin and Voila! Immunity to poison ivy!

Now I’m not sure this works for everyone, so you may want to try your own experiments to be sure, but when we have gone in search of wineberries, finding them on a hillside covered with poison ivy, we have simply waded right in, even in shorts and sandals, after the jewelweed treatment. Yes, we washed well with lye soap afterward, just in case, but no rash or itching! And it works after exposure as well, if applied soon enough. So when I inadvertently touch poison ivy while weeding or mowing, a quick trip to the stand of jewelweed has always kept me from suffering the discomfort and blistering that would have been inevitable.

When my son Tim takes his produce to the New York City greenmarket at Union Square, the chefs and other regulars descend upon many of his unusual and delicious items. Several times, when we’ve been able to pick enough, he’s brought along a couple dozen half-pints of wineberries. They disappear in a flash!

July 10, 2008 Fun finds

Filed under: ◦Vintage — sharon @ 2:28 pm

One of the things I like best about the vintage fabric/linens business is when I find things that are unusual. And when they are both unusual and of superior quality, that’s the most fun of all.
Here’s a close-up of the embroidery work on a pair of vintage pillowcases I just found.
French knots
The flowers are all done in tightly-packed French knots…, more stitches than you could possibly count. What a wonderful contoured effect is created with the gradually shaded colors of these flowers.
And speaking of French, another superior find from this week is this lingerie!
Callot Soeurs lingerie
The finest 1920’s era lingerie I’ve ever seen; the more I examined it, the more I was amazed. Every stitch is done by hand, the lace is exquisite, the silk smooth and supple. There are embroidered monograms on some of the pieces.
Callot Soeurs label
And one piece has a label, which sent me on a journey of discovery. No wonder I was impressed; apparently all of high society of the time were as well. And it seems that now virtually every piece by the sisters Callot is in a museum somewhere!

July 8, 2008 A little about the header (more about us)

At the top of this page, we show part of a quilt found here in Pennsylvania Dutch country. There is nowhere else that you’ll find such an abundance of gorgeous antique and vintage quilts. This one is an appliqued peony pattern, made somewhere around 1860 in Lancaster County.

Seriously, there are so many quilts in this area as to be overwhelming. Each auction, each estate settled turns up a few, tumbling from blanket chests. Some are well used and loved, but many were “chust for nice”, and were put away and hardly ever seen. This local phenomenon extends beyond quilts to all sorts of material goods; the Pennsylvania (Germans) Dutch were notoriously thrifty.

The local traits also include a high value on good craftsmanship and a love of bright color – both of which add to the exuberant abundance of lovely quilts here in stuff country USA.

Because there are so many, because we love most, if not all of them for their own special qualities, and because we don’t have unlimited space; we participate in what some of our online friends call “catch-and-release.” We buy the ones we can’t resist, enjoy them for a while, then pass them on to others who enjoy them as much as we do. That has a lot to do with the reasons behind our website. There’s so much, we are so weak; we struggle beneath a superfluity of quilts.

July 7, 2008 Summer weekend

Filed under: ◦Books,◦Country Living,◦Family — sharon @ 2:06 pm

Back to working on our site today after the long holiday weekend. No travel for us; we hunker down and enjoy the comforts of home. Which this year included our first sweet corn from our field, a little earlier than usual.

Let me explain a little. We don’t have either the time or the energy to plant our own corn, nor all the other wondrous things that grow here on our hill. I am lucky to have a gifted son Tim. who makes his living farming our fields growing exceptional organic produce, much of which ends up gracing the tables of New York City’s best restaurants. He offers his exceptional variety of heirloom tomatoes, peppers and other fine and unusual produce at the Union Square greenmarket under the name Eckerton Hill Farm. We are more than overjoyed to make practical use of his surplus (or whatever we can talk him out of.)

Tim’s produce is a labor of love and a work of art. He’s the only “farmer” I know who starts sweet corn seedlings early in his greenhouse, then transplants them by hand into the field to achieve an earlier yield. His love and art are amply rewarded by the quality of the veggies; MSNBC two years ago called his tomatoes the best in the country. And he’s the only Princeton-educated farmer I know.

HeirloomNow, you don’t need that ivy-league diploma to drive a tractor, but that’s not Tim’s only skill. He’s also a very good writer whose book, Heirloom: Notes From an Accidental Tomato Farmer is being released next week. I’ll be posting an impartial review of it soon; in the meantime, you can pre-order it from Amazon by clicking on the ad in the right column.

Out here in the hills

Filed under: General,◦Country Living,◦Vintage — sharon @ 2:03 pm

One of the reasons we’ve waited so long to do a blog is that we are old fashioned. We live in rural Berks County, PA, and have only been able to get a high speed connection in the last two months. It’s hard enough keeping a website updated on dial-up, without trying to do a blog, too!
I’ve lived here since 1969 in a house that was built as a summer home in 1905, on a beautiful property with wooded hillsides, an orchard, meadow and farm fields. The house is in Adirondack style with lots of arts and crafts touches: heavy oak doors, slate mantle, open beam ceilings and hammered metal lamp fixtures. The landscaping was originally done by a professional from Germany, waaay back in the 20’s or so, and is now quite overgrown – giving it the air of a forgotten hide-away.
My favorite building on the property is the gazebo – 32 feet across with a stone foundation/basement, flagstone patio and hillside view.The gazebo

Bill and I spend almost all of our time here, because there’s no place we’d rather be.

Second post

Filed under: General — sharon @ 2:00 pm

Here I am, learning as I go! The blog has already changed, one of my favorite antique quilts is the new header and I’ve edited out some extraneous content. I’ll have to read more blogs myself, to see what elements I like best.

March 11, 2013

Got a lot to learn!

Filed under: General — sharon @ 10:32 pm

I guess we have a blog – but until I know how to do it, the blog will be kinda ugly, and lacking in content :-) !