Saturday, October 31, 2009

Merry Hallowe'en

This post is dedicated to my friends Moe and Meg, and my aunt Francie - the three greatest Halloween collectors and enthusiasts I know!  Not much talking today, just pictures.  The one above is the only one I own.  My friend Kenn let me select one postcard from his collection last year as a "thank you" for helping him sell some of them on-line.  What a choice!  I chose the one above from all.  Can't go wrong with a Halloween Black Cat! (And look at that embossing!)  The images below are a combination of some from his collection, some items I sold in the past, and, some photos captured from eBay when I could not afford to buy them but wanted a copy (with apologies to the sellers...)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Thank You For (Your) Recycling!

When I first started selling on Etsy, as I have mentioned in the past, I was literally pulling things out of drawers.  I'd find a box, ship something out and be done with it.  As my shop gained popularity, however, I started worrying a bit more about my "brand."  Were recycled boxes a good representation of "Carmen and Ginger?"  My volume of sales dictates that I buy bulk envelopes, and, have invested in some smaller jewelry boxes to have on-hand.  The majority of my boxed shipping, however, still goes out in found and recycled boxes.  I was oh-so-happy to learn last week that Tuesday is stocking day at my local Stop & Shop!  With an employee's permission, I filled my cart with both groceries AND empty cardboard boxes in that perfect mid-size that is oh-so-hard to find!

Although initially worried about what people would think about boxes arriving with graphics turned inside out and former contents scribbled out in giant magic marker, I should not have been.  Many of the people who buy and sell on Etsy have a healthy appreciation for the value of recycling.  These postcards above from Harvest Moon By Hand are just one great example of turning old boxes into something new, beautiful and functional!

And it is not just the sellers who show their appreciation through creativity, my buyers have shown their appreciation as well!  It is not uncommon for me to send off an item packed up in clearly recycled materials, and, to have the buyer thank me for it specifically.  Just last week I'd sent off a package in an inside-out sugar box.  Here is the note I received from the buyer:

My package from you arrived today- 
just in time to start my thanksgiving project!
Love your "green" shipping too btw.

How "sweet" is that?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Cats, Christmas and Goodwill

Ahhh...the Christmas season is upon us.  A time of year of twinkling lights, dangling ornaments, and festive ribbons.  And in the midst of it all...our adorable, lovable cats.

Wait a he about to a) eat tinsel?, b) bat my vintage ornament across the room? or c) get kitty spittle all over that nice ribbon as he tried to ingest it in a single swallow?  The answer is, any of the three, in an instant...get that cat outta there!  Cats and Christmas go together about as well as a bull in a china shop, at least for any of us that actually care about our Christmas decorations (or our cats!).  At least my guys are lucky enough to have a home.  The brat above was taken in off the streets of Providence as a scrappy teenager, and, his adopted "sister" (shown in the last pic) came from a local shelter.  Some cats, however, are not so lucky.  Some of them are let onto the street and are never adopted back into a home.  They naturally form colonies, and, do everything they can do to get by.  Christmas time for them is not a time of celebration, it is a time of survival.  This is why support for organizations like The Forgotten Cat are so important.

Started by a childhood friend of mine, this organization is extremely small, yet highly dedicated to helping cats in need.  Through their hard work, they have made lives of countless feral cats healthier and more enjoyable.  They have fostered cats, found new adoptive homes, and, by targeted spay and neutering programs, have significantly reduced many feral colonies to smaller, healthier, but non-reproducing groups.  Bravo!

That's me, circled in yellow, and, Michelle, of The Forgotten Cat, circled in red.  Who knew I would be a slacker blogger and she would actually be doing good in the world!

Because I don't have much money of my own right now, I thought a way to offer some support would be through my Etsy shops.  I am therefore donating 10% of all gross profits for all vintage and handmade Christmas items sold through Carmen and Ginger and Hang Out a Shingle from now through the holiday.  I will post the results as they accumulate, so, take a look!  This includes all items, even custom orders, so if you see anything you like as a custom item, send me a convo!
(Donate, or we will eat your tinsel!)

Monday, October 26, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like...1962?

'Tis the season...not for Christmas, but, for people to be saying "Can you believe they already have that Christmas Stuff out in the store?"  and "They are already running Christmas commercials on TV!"  And when I hear those comments, I smile and nod, with my glue gun and glitter-spattered hands behind my back.  See, I am officially in retail now, and, I am "one of those" (i.e.: already selling and promoting my Christmas goodies!). 

I have been making vintage-inspired and vintage-collage wreaths for years now.  I think one of the first I tried was for a family "Yankee Swap" and included a lantern like the one above.  (The above wreath was a gift to my sister and brother-in-law last year.  An "outdoor wreath" with New England weather-friendly adornments.)

This 1960's wreath was a gift for my friend last year.  She was a kid in the 1960's and loved it!

For my other friends who were youngsters at the same time, this 1950's and 1960's themed wreath was a gift two years ago.  He is a Science Fiction writer so I used mostly silver and blue with a space-age theme!

My aunt has more refined taste then some of us, so, this lovely pink and gold glass ornament wreath went to her last Christmas....

...and for the girl who has everything, and wants to look at everything all the time (me!) I made this for myself last year as well.

All four wreaths above were made for and sold at a sale last year.  They included an outdoor wreath with antique ice skates and knitted gloves, a 1950's themed wreath with hard plastic ornaments and all sorts of goodies crowded in there!, a vintage children's themed wreath that was a lot of fun to put together, and this knitting themed wreath above, which really came out great, and, was purchased by a friend of mine who is a lifelong knitter!

If you are lucky enough to be in the Massachusetts area, my friends Christine and Claudia at Salvage Chic have been making and selling incredible handmade wreaths for a few years now.  They are the two who convinced this "archival glue girl" to go hot glue gun.  You really need the hot glue gun to make these work or you'll lose your mind!  These two beauties above by Christine and Claudia respectively are incredibly original, beautiful and of course, retro-fun!  Take a look at their wares at the link above!

At Carmen and Ginger we have been listing several new wreaths in our sister handmade shop Hang Out a Shingle.  Click either of the two above images, or, the opening image of this post to check out some wreaths currently for sale!  We not only offer wreaths, but, a number of vintage barkcloth Christmas stockings as well!

We are adding items weekly - wreaths, stockings and garland! - so check back often.  Also, as always, Carmen and Ginger is chock full of vintage Christmas goodies!  Check out a few below and keep watching, as we are frantically adding more year-long finds each week...

Friday, October 23, 2009

But I'm Always Here Looking At This Stuff...

Earlier this week an old friend of mine wrote to me and asked if I could help her put together a last-minute Halloween Costume for she and her husband who had just been invited to a party.  I was at once flattered, but, also mortified, as she cited all the 1960's and 1970's items in my shop as her reason for thinking of me.

I mean, the stuff in my shop is not costume, right?  It's vintage fashion.  Right?  RIGHT?

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how wrong I was.  I was taking it all a bit too seriously.  I mean, if I expected someone to buy this hat to wear daily, I really did NOT know my audience!

...and someone who posts this montage to sell this book on making leather belts certainly appreciates the contemporary humor of some past styles.  I thought about it a minute and suggested a "Sonny & Cher" theme.  She liked the idea, so I snapped some pics of this outfit I just happened to have and had not yet listed in my shop:

You also happen to have this outfit hanging around somewhere, right?  I assembled some vintage goodies for her husband (A decidedly masculine guy who works in Construction - just getting him to wear something pink will be costume enough!)  and am whipping up some custom matching headbands.  I hope it all comes together for them and that they have a great time.  I love costume wearing, and, am more than mildly jealous I have no Halloween party invite of my own.

I like the Sonny & Cher idea as it uses vintage items, but, is also rooted in cultural history.  They can ham it up, carry microphones, sing songs, or whatever they like to make it clear who they are pretending to be.  Since the Sonny & Cher Show was intentionally campy, it makes it that much more OK to poke some fun at the pair. What I don't understand are these retro inspired "costumes" you see everywhere with names like Boogie Dancin' Babe.  I mean, this is not that far off from something Britney or Christina might wear in concert.  Why is this a costume?  It seems over the past ten or fifteen years that Halloween costumes for women should just be labled "Reason-To-Wear-Something-So-Revealing-I-Could-Never-Get-Away-With-It-Without-Looking-Like-A Sex-Worker-If-It-Were-Not-Halloween" Costume.   I mean, I'm all for sexy, and, I'm all for Halloween.  Maybe, murdered Boogie Dancin' Babe - with an axe coming out of her head would be more clever?

I give SAVERS a lot of credit for what they've done with Halloween.  Many people still trek to Thrift shops in search of Halloween costumes.  (It's so dang crowded at all of them this week - and all the good stuff is gone!)  SAVERS has embraced this audience and run with it!  They now seasonally stock discounted Halloween costumes and accessories making them a one-stop shopping destination for all your bargain Halloween needs.  They even have sections of their web-site highlighting not only pre-fab costumes they stock, but, costume ideas for using vintage clothing.  I find this to be very clever on their part.  Of course, the guy above probably made it harder for me to find good "Sonny" accessories at SAVERS this week, but, I like a challenge.

So, I'll take a deep breath and TOTALLY deal with the fact that this killer pink Mad Men suit was purchased as a Jackie O Halloween Costume.  I mean, I went as Jackie-O in vintage a few years back...there is NOTHING wrong with that.  And...those killer vintage heels, black bag and vintage jersey outfit that was needed for a costume, no problem!  And those sexy long black gloves sold for a costume -  breathe - I'm totally fine with that.  Really.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

How To Clean Vintage Linens (C&G Style)

I love the look of vintage linens hanging on the line!  So classic!  Plus, it usually means that all the hard parts are done.  Cleaning vintage linens can be a challenge, but, if it works, it can also be a great reward.  Sometimes you work for hours on something and the darn stains still won't budge.  Sometimes you take a risk on something you are fairly certain is hopeless, and, suddenly, the dinge all washes away!

A week or so ago I posted this pic of a box in my Where Do You FIND That stuff? post.  I told you it needed work and did it ever!  I decided to use it as the poster child for this post, so, I documented each step of how I dealt with the box.

There were some great vintage tablecloths in there but boy were they a mess!  All fantastic patterns, however, and, almost no holes or other fabric damage, so, an attempt at cleaning seemed worthwhile.

I always start off with some sort of stain remover.  I honestly cannot say which I have found to work the best.  For a long time I swore by the Oxi-Clean; then, someone said "Greased Lightning cleans ANYTHING" so I tried that, then, Spray 'n' Wash started running adds for it's new "Max" product and friends raved about that so I tried that as well.  Whatever product you think is best is what you should use.  Start with one of these.  Spray the heck out of any stains you see and let it sit according to the bottle label instructions before starting the next step.  Set in stains are tough but every so often one of these lifts something nicely from the get go.

You hear a lot of vintage linens sellers talking about "holding to the light" as opposed to "on the table."  This is because vintage linens, when held to the light, reveal the worst of their stains.  This is therefore a good technique to use not only when purchasing linens, but, as you start to clean them.  Holding them to the light will often reveal stains you would not see if they were simply laid out flat.  This will enable you to attack all areas with your stain remover from the beginning!

Many of the techniques I am about to share are NOT my own by any means!  They are a result of experimentation  (both successes and failures!) and the incredibly helpful and comprehensive posts at the following two sites:
1. Tipnut: Vintage Linens - 
Soaking & Cleaning Recipes

2. Vintage Indie: Cleaning Vintage Linens
Part One and Part Two 

Both of these sites did a LOT of homework that was very helpful to me.  I wish to give credit where credit is due! Be sure to read and bookmark both of these posts as I do not cover all the details and options here that they cover there.
First step was to soak in a mixture of cold water and vinegar.  I have found that this technique works very well with age stains (i.e.: the yellowing you might find on vintage crocheted work like this.) It also works very well as a first step for removing bad cigarette staining.   (Often when I soak cigarette stained cotton drapes in the vinegar, the water looks like brewed coffee in minutes!)  The photos above show the effectiveness on these old food-stained tablecloths and aprons.  The vinegar is not as effective on these, but, as a first step, I usually still try it.  Ideally, you want the water after the items are removed to be nice and dark!  All that darkness is removed stain.  At least this started to pull out some of the yellowness from the items.

Always watch and learn!  This time, the vinegar bath caused this blue apron to leave imprints on my white sink!  Luckily, there was no transfer of the blue to other fabric items, and, the sink cleaned up in the next step.  You should always watch what is happening closely, however, and, as you would with any laundry, be mindful of items you decide to wash together.  Testing first is always a good idea.  There are some items I would never combine and others I might.  Vintage printed tablecloths are usually OK, but, anything older than the 1940's or 1950's I would be less likely to "group" as the colors may be less color-fast and more unpredictable once immersed.

The next step is the Borax soak.  As described carefully in the Vintage Indie link above, use the hottest water that is safe for the fabric you are working with, and, be sure to dissolve it all before adding the fabric.  You can also add this directly to the wash and I often do that after the soaking step for extra effectiveness.  You can see above that this same group (I pulled out that blue apron to finish that one its own) released another layer of "ick" by passing through this step...  At this point you need to decide if you want to repeat any of the above steps.  For handwash items, at this point, I wash and rinse very carefully before air-drying.  For items that can withstand a regular or delicate wash in the machine, (I put these tablecloths in that category) it's time to machine wash with detergent, and, maybe a little more Borax dissolved in before adding the linens.  In either case, always be sure to completely rinse all vinegar, soaps, bleaches, boosters, and anything else used!  What often causes linens to weaken and/or discolor is soap not properly removed from the fibers. 

Some experts tell you to hang in the sun, some say to never hang your vintage linens in the sun.  My yard and line only gets sun for a few hours so I usually hang them in the sun at this step.  ONLY at this "first washing" when I am trying to allow the sun to also help fade any stains that may be present.  Do not continue to hang your vintage printed linens in the sun every time you wash them or they will fade.  Also, do not put them into the dryer.  The best drying method for continued use is to air-dry in the shade.  If you must dry in the sun, turn them so that the reverse side is facing the sun and take them out as soon as most of the moisture is removed.  If you must dry in a dryer, dry on a low-heat setting until most but not all of the dampness is removed.  Then, drape over a railing or across a couple of chairs until the rest of the water evaporates.  This will keep your patterns from fading over time.

This nasty stain on this great mid-century abstracted pattern cloth was holding fast so I went to my last resort.  Again, some people will advocate a mild bleach solution while others cringe at the idea.  I only turn to bleach in extreme cases (and, will add a tablespoon to the Borax soak above on occasion if the fabric has little color and/or I think it can take it.)  I keep a very mild solution of bleach and water in this spray bottle.  If there are stains like those above that are on a white area, and, just will not respond to anything else, I will give them a spritz of the mild bleach while hanging in the sun.  I blot around the edges of the stain as I spritz to try and make sure that the bleach does not bleed into any colored/patterned areas.  I also do this while the fabric is still damp so that the bleached area will blend more softly into the surrounding areas and not create a hard edge.

This can sometimes create the opposite effect when held to the light.  (i.e.: you will see brighter spots as opposed to stain spots).  You need to make a decision about what you think works the best.  You may make one decision if you are keeping the piece for yourself and another if you are planning to resell it or give it as a gift.  For reselling, I am always upfront about condition and measures taken.  It is not fair to go through all of these processes and sell something to someone "with minor stains" as if they may be able to get them out.  You need to let people know if they are in the best shape they are likely  to get!  I think the bleach above was worth it, don't you?  This cloth has a great pattern, and, the stains are now mostly invisible "on the table."  I will sell this at a lesser cost than a cloth in better condition, but, someone will be happy to own this!

In fact, I think the efforts were worth it on all of these, don't you?  One final word of caution: never leave these items unattended for long.  Keep them moving and constantly check for colorfastness even if you already checked!  When using these techniques on embroidered vintage linens such as these, wash them alone, use cool water and keep them moving at all times.  Rinse thoroughly and do not allow them to lie across themselves or touch other pieces.  The colored threads can start to bleed at any time and often "release" even after you may have checked for fastness.  Reds are the biggest culprits, so wash with great care!

If you are now Jonesing for a vintage cloth for yourself, there are many great options available on Etsy.  Here are a few to get your heart pumping:

This design, from The Collector's Closet is awesome!

Fantastic Mexican Motif from Uncle Bunk's Trunk!

If you liked that mid-century Yule Log from my own collection
I posted the other day, look!  Stacieenv has got one for you!

Don't feel like going through all this work?  Who can blame you!
My friend Claudia at 23 Burton Avenue has this oilcloth just-wipe-me-down beauty!

If harder-to-mind Mid-century is in your budget
(always a good investment!) Call Me Jasper has not only
this lovely, but several others to drool over...

Of course, we try to always keep a few in-stock at
Carmen and Ginger so stop by and check us out!
We are adding new Christmas themed cloths each week
for the next month or two so stop back soon!




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