My friend, E, and I drove down on a beautiful early spring day - you know the kind that has that incredible haze of green haloing the tops of trees and the leaves open with their new colour. E called them "leaves the size of mouse's ears".
After a few unexpected detours and wrongs turns, we found our way to our hotel and met M in the lobby. We were excited to begin our visit with a trip to the Vintage Fashion and Textile Show. Here is what their website says about the kinds of things that can be found there:
TAPESTRIES, COSTUMES, QUILTS, HOMESPUN SAMPLERS, SEWING ITEMS, HOOKED RUGS, NEEDLEPOINT, EARLY WALLPAPER, CLOTH ANIMALS, ANTIQUE FANS, DRAPES, BUTTONS, PURSES, SADDLEBAGS, ESTATE JEWELRY, VINTAGE CLOTHING, BOOK OR PAPER RELATED GOODS, PHOTOGRAPHY, MILITARY ITEMS, HATS, SHOES, THEATRICAL BACKDROPS, LACES, LINENS, BROCADES, DOLLS OF ANY KIND, OLD FASHION MAGAZINES, RELATED ADVERTISING, ETC.It was held in a Hotel, where every room on the ground floor was filled with dealers in antique textiles of every imaginable kind!
There were especially rows and rows of antique clothing from the 50's through the 1800's. Well-known fashion designers could be seen poring through the stacks, looking for inspiration:
"The Aisles of the Vintage Fashion and Textile Show may offer a window into the past, but it also can be a look at the sartorial future. It's here that major design houses come to find inspiration for "new" looks which sometimes become the next big trend.The last time I was at Brimfield, I ran into John Malcovitch shopping for antique buttons. I would not be surprised to see Michael Kors or Betsy Johnson turning over the antique petticoats!
This year, I didn't find the many vintage button sellers at the Textile Fair, but did find one person and was able to score these glass pictorial buttons, which will no doubt feature on some summer sweater for the little guy!
You know how when you go antiquing and one thing always seems to be on trend? You find a million of this certain item, but none of the things you're actually looking for? Well, for me, this seemed to be the knitted bathing suit! Almost every stall had it's example of a man's knitted suit. Most of these where from the 20's or 30's, with the early versions sporting a modest tank top.
It was very difficult to take photos at the shows - most stall owners did not allow it. I was able to Kinnear a few, such as the one above of the red and white knitted bathing suit.
And in this photo, you can see just the barest hint of what - to me - was a pretty exciting find:
I wasn't able to get a clear photo of it, but in the center of the picture you can see the navy length of a pair of Amish Wedding Stockings - the same type as were highlighted by Piecework Magazine a few months ago. This pair was dark navy blue, knit from rather heavy worsted, but the tops, which would have been just above the knee, were a brilliant feather-and-fan design in red and white! They were beautifully knitted, about 8 - 10 st per inch, so were very study as you would expect from handspun worsted knitted on small needles.
At this same stall was a home-made wool swift constructed of wire and mounted on an elaborate cast iron footed stand. Some clever person made this swift for the knitter in their life (or themselves)!
One thing I was not able to get any photos of, but that were numerous and outstanding were the antique silk stockings. Each pair was tagged more than $100, so none came home with me, but I did love them! Hand knit on tiny silk needles with 20 sts per inch, these long thigh high stockings from the late 1800s and early 1900s were decorated with panels of knitted lace on the instep, or up the front, and often had elaborate and tiny silk embroidery designs nthe front or the side. The hours of work that went into each pair must have been blinding! Many of these pairs were unused or very lightly used. I wonder if they were mainly old store stock that went out of fashion when the industrial age brought in the fine silk thread that created flesh-coloured diaphanous stockings and these lovely knitted versions - delicate but opaque in white, cream, peach, ice blue, and navy - became less desirable. I can't imagine anyone passing these up, but there they were boxes and boxes and boxes and boxes of them! Oh, how I wanted them!!
What I was able to find was a 1923 Bear Brand Bucilla and Glossilla knitting booklet called Lightweight Sweaters of Novelty Yarns, Volume 43.
In the introduction, the authors state:
"Gayly colored sweaters made of soft, lightweight yarns have assumed a greater importance in the wardrobe of the smartly clad woman, particularly during the Spring and Summer months. For sport wear or for general use, a brightly colored garment of this sort adds just that touch of individuality required to complete one's informal costume."Sporty! A decade before, it was 'not the thing' for a woman to go out without a male escort and sporting was seen as a man's and college boy's activity. In the 20's, fashions were emphasizing women's independence and energy:
The yarns used in this booklet are called "Magicfloss", "Twinkle Yarn", and "the latest artificial silk novelty - Glossilla Krinky-Twist"!
This example, "The Norma" is "an easily made lacy blouse, particularly charming because it is made in the new Twinkle Yarn which combines Worsted and Artsilk in such a way as to produce radiantly lustrous garments." The pattern recommends using "unbreakable" Amber knitting needles - these are the amber-coloured celluloid ones that we often find in the knitting boxes in antique stores - Broken - because amber coloured celluloid breaks down and becomes brittle over time in a way that white celluloid does not.
This example is knitted with Bear Brand Silky Iceland yarn and embroidered with worsted threads on a simple filet crochet inset band.
This second booklet is an incredible silk knitting booklet from 1882 - a gift from my friend M which he had found in a shop the day before. This is from the Nonotuck Silk Co. and is called: How to Use Florence Knitting Silk No. 4.
The introduction reads (in part):
"...knitting is positively a restful and pleasing occupation, requiring but little physical exertion or mental application. For this reason it has become a fashion to carry Florance Knitting Silk to the summer resorts, there to be knit into stockings, while the knitter chats with friends on the hotel veranda. Under such circumstances it will be found that this accomplishment has an additional value in case of a stormy day."Oh - so true!
There are drawings, not photographs, in this 64-page booklet just packed full with patterns - for knitted lace and insets, for lacy stitch patterns that may be used for shawls and coverlets, and for small accessories, like silk mitts and silk purses.
There is also an ad, which cast some light on the manufacture of the long silk embroidered stockings that I saw at the Fair, which described them being "hand knit from Florence Knitting Silk on Hand Frames."
These stockings were them embroidered with silk threads by women on staff and sold as completed "in the best full-fashioned shapes known to the trade."
I so want a pair of these lovely long stockings! Maybe I'll have to make my own.