Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Old Linens, Vintage Furs and a Wee Grouse

We drove home from Great Western Auctions, in Glasgow, at the weekend, with three boxes of old linens and - incidentally, because I was really after the tablecloths - a few truly vintage furs. Now I'd be the first to admit that I'm not keen on real fur. Or at least, I always prefer to see it being worn by its original owner. Mind you, many years ago, when I lived in Finland, I could understand the value of a fur coat and - most certainly - of a fur hat. 45 degrees below is pretty cold. You stick to metal at that temperature. And the huge fur hats that almost everyone wore in winter suddenly seemed completely practical. Since then, though, any fur I've worn has definitely been of the fake variety. However, my box of very old furs turned out to be so beautiful that I'm going to have to sell them on. Because fur is very much 'on trend' this season, and if people do want to wear it, I think it's better that they wear something very old, very beautifully made, recycled - and from a non-threatened species. The box contained a gorgeous mink jacket, an equally gorgeous mink coat - both of them beautifully lined, and stitched with an elegant monogram - a slightly less gorgeous calfskin jacket and an evening stole in what I think is musquash. Furs do tend to arouse irrational feelings, and I often wonder if those who post so vociferously online about them are vegans who never wear leather of any sort. I suspect most of them aren't. But as I say - I don't wear fur either.  So perhaps I'm a hypocrite!
But that isn't my 'wee grouse'.
Here at the Scottish Home, we buy most of our old linens at auction - boxes of old tablecloths and many other items, all crammed together, most of them very grubby with age, with the teastains and fold marks still on them. Then, we sort them, treat them, launder them (sometimes twice!) and iron them. We photograph them and list them online. And when they have been bought, we package them in acid free tissue, sometimes with a little lavender bag, for good measure, and post them in nice white padded envelopes. Most of them can be used straight from the package. Only occasionally, when something is very special, perhaps in its original box, do we sell it as it is.  In short, we aren't just recycling - we are treating these things with the respect they deserve, and rehoming them! 
So what is my wee grouse?
Well, I'm afraid it's with other dealers! I often find myself browsing around antique markets, looking for stock. Sometimes, I'll find stalls with lovely well-cared-for linens and lace. But much more often, there will be boxes and bags of vintage tablecloths, doilies, napkins, bedlinen, etc, all heaped together, often under a table, or spilling out of drawers, and occasionally being trampled on the floor. Somebody has bought them at auction, and now is re-selling. Which is what dealers do. It's what we do! But these people don't really care for the items in question. Well, they care just enough to price them up. So if you check for a price tag, you'll find that it's rather high!  Which may well be the worth of the item. But only, I think, if you have taken the trouble to add a little value, in the shape of some TLC yourself. Maybe it shouldn't irritate me - but it does. I think most of all, it pains me to see these lovely items still being treated as a vague mass of clutter. They deserve better than that. I know, because I handle such things - and appreciate them - every day!

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