Sunday, 15 December 2013

Arsenic and Old Lace... Without the Arsenic (But With the Cup of Tea) - Part 1

The new year is relentlessly shuffling forward like a small horde of zombies - you know you can run faster, but they don't get tired, they don't sleep, and they don't stop - and they will eventually catch up to you! And so it is with the new year.

I have finally decided on the themes for the two big 2014 challenges I signed up for.

In the early part of the month an email came thru via CQI (my online crazy quilting group) advertising Evening Star Designs was going out of business, and they were having a sale. Naturally I had to have a squiz, and of course the first section I looked for was "silkies", because I love silkies, but haven't been able to get them here in NZ.  So I'm scrolling down looking for "silkies", and lo and behold what should I see there but Mary Barker's flower fairies. I love MB's flower fairies! Quick - check the bank account. Oooo... I can pull together enough to buy 18 little silkies (3 full 1/6 pages). Fantastic! That will be enough to do a full CQ quilt. The silkies arrived yesterday and are so adorable, and Carolyn - the owner - was lovely. Hopefully I will be able to get a few more of the fairy silkies before they closed down.

Well, that's the theme for the CQJP2014 challenge sorted. One down, one to go.

Now, with silkies on the brain, I turned my eye to the Fabric Book challenge. Silkies are, of course, going to be the best option for doing the fabric book with what I have pictured in my mind's eye. Do I want to do fairies? I do love the fairies, but I don't really want to be doing the same theme for both of the challenges. Ah, but I do know where there is a wonderful picture. I have had my eye on it for quite a while, and often stop by to look at it while I am browsing. It is the most gorgeous picture of a Steampunk lady, being used as a background picture for displaying jewellery findings for sale at Sew Victorian Crazy.
Steampunk, like Crazy Quilting, is pretty much perfect in that it brings together so many thing that I love in one place - the weird the whacky and the wonderful, punk themes (anyone who knows me knows I love punk), and futuristic fantasy, all fused with Victoriana, elegance, and lace. Yum! So, back to SVC to stare at the picture some more. Hmmm... Liz does sell silkies... hmmm... I know she like the steampunk theme... hmmm... I wonder...? Can't hurt to ask! Well, I couldn't have asked for better! Liz was wonderful to deal with, and she did up the most beautiful set of 12 Steampunk Ladies silkies as a custom order for me. Huge smile on my face!

Time to consider embellishments. Vintage and antique lace is, of course, the obvious choice for the "Ladies of Steampunk" (thank you Liz for the idea for the title) Fabric Book. But they would also suit the MB's Flower Fairies quilt superbly, those being from the Victorian era as well. However my meagre stash of carefully horded, jealously guarded, vintage and antique lace wasn't going to be enough for even one of the projects. Sigh.
The last few pieces I bought were around 3 years ago, and they were pricy. I have been keeping my eye out, but so little comes available, and when it does, most of the time it is WAY out of my price range. So, onto Trade Me (NZ's version of eBay) to look for vintage laces. Click on "antiques and collectables", then on "textiles and linens". Do a filtered search for "lace".
Now comes the mumbling, grumbling, and yelling at the computer screen, as I troll thru the several thousand listings, most being for "vintage lace, NEW", and "antique lace, NEW". People! If it is new, it is NOT vintage or antique! Crappy, cheap, nylon reproduction lace should NOT be listed as "vintage" or "antique", and certainly should NOT be listed under "antiques and collectables"!  One of my pet peeves is these kinds of listings clogging up the "antiques and collectables" section.
After an hour of yelling obscenities at anonymous traders who would, thankfully, never hear any of them, periodically punctuated with cries of "you want WHAT for that piece of lace!? You have GOT to be kidding!" when I come across a listing for actual vintage lace, I stumble on a quiet, unobtrusive listing for "old lace pieces". Click on it. A short, sweet, simple listing,

"Ex Doll Makers stash of lace....was going to throw away, but would hate to get rid of it if it can be of use to anybody. I don't have time to sort through it all, so shall be embarrassed if it's a pile of rubbish"

This looked promising. Most people want their laces sorted, and want to be able to see exactly what they are bidding on. Not too many are willing to take a risk on an unsorted pile where the can't see what there is, how much of each piece there is, or what condition it is in. And the fact that lister was uncertain whether or not it was any good, would add to potential bidders' trepidation. However, from my perspective, for crazy quilting and fabric books I didn't need long perfect lengths. And everything I could see in the pile was cotton, no nylon. Definitely worth the risk.
Bidding had stopped at $36. A pittance when you see what even small lengths of tatty vintage lace go for these days. Ok, lets tentatively put in a bid - up by $1. Ooo, bugger, the high bidder is using auto-bid, that's what I was afraid of. The question now is - how high have they gone?
Check their feedback page, find the last auction they won, click on that. The last auction they won was for a neatly sorted stash of boring modern new nylon laces about a third the size of this one, and they paid $35 for it. Not good - if they know their laces, they will have bid way higher than I could afford. OK, let's jump to $40, see what happens. The high bid has been equalled - that means that is where they stopped. Plug in $41 and bid. I am in the lead. Now for the agonising wait to see if there is going to be a last minute bidding war - although it wouldn't be much of a war, because I couldn't afford to go much higher, even though it would probably be worth it.
A few days later, half an hour before the auction is due to close, I go online and sit on the auction, refreshing every so often, waiting to see if there are any last minute bids. 20 minutes to go. 10 minutes to go. 5 minutes to go. Still no nibbles. The minutes count down, the seconds count down, closing... Ye gods! I won! Apparently the last bidder didn't know their laces. Whew! Cup of tea time me thinks.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where you will get to see all the lace. There are some real beauties in there.


  1. Dana when you are searching for something and you get a lot of what you don't want tell the search engine "not ....." or "- ....."r whatever the word is and it should exclude all those from your search. Anyway it will be like Christmas when you get the laces and sort through them. You have always been fortunate in finding great bargains. Glad to see the luck is still with you.

    1. Hi Mum. Yes, I do know about search protocols for inclusive and exclusionary searches, but thank you for mentioning it. Unfortunately an exclusionary search doesn't work on these listings for two reason.
      1. When the traders list the items they don't necessarily put the word "new" into the listing. Instead, they simply tick the "this is a new item" box, which then puts a little "new" icon next to the heading. As such, an exclusionary search doesn't filter these listings out.
      2. Many traders will put something like "this lace is not new" (because they are getting annoyed at constantly being asked) or "check my other listings for new and used items" in their listings. Because they have used the word "new" in the listing, an exclusionary search filters these listings out and I miss them (ask me how I know!).

  2. Reading your post is like living through your search for lace and bidding on it! I am so glad you obtained the stash. I began reading on post 3 and have worked my way back. What a fun treasure! I look forward to seeing how you use them in CQJP 2014 and in your fabric book.