Using Heirlooms

I love vintage things. Sometimes I love what people call, “That old junk?” Often I can turn it into something cool or by putting it in the right setting, it becomes artistic, a neat antique, a salvaged piece. I love these things so much more than new things. My 7 year old son knows me really well. He sees something old sitting by the side of the road and says, “Wait, Mom might like that!” Or lately it’s become, “Wait, I might like that!” I love that he likes to salvage old things too, though I don’t always love the things he wants to salvage. Rusty car parts, a rearview mirror. I try to keep the house clear of clutter and he’s bringing home more things. I guess he’s been taught well! I do love that he can laugh with me when we say, “That’s not junk, that’s vintage!”

Some of the vintage things I have are most certainly not junk. My Grandma, Ardis Hillman Wheeler, gave me a beautiful jewelry box filled with some of her special things. Indeed, I have several heirlooms from my Grandma. I have a china doll that had been hers when she was a little girl. It was her birthday present to me when I was five and I cherished it. I have a beautiful handmade dress, not sure from when exactly, but made sometime between the 1930’s and the 1950’s. My dad came across it when packing up her home and it fit me perfectly. He also gave me her tin full of buttons and sewing notions. My aunt has given me several of my grandma’s vintage hats throughout the years too. Knowing how much I like to sew and do crafts, my mom gave me a little sewing basket from her great aunt, Margaret Campbell, and it was full of vintage lace, buttons, and little embroidered things.

When I was beginning to restore the dollhouse, I thought it would be fun to use some of the special things from my family, from the women in particular, as that’s what I have and the things are so beautiful. Plus, using these things gives me a tangible way to see and feel that we are connected. Our hands have touched these things, theirs long ago, mine now. I wonder what they were thinking and feeling? I can imagine a movie, the plot centered around generations of women in one family, the opening scenes of one woman with an heirloom or a handed down object. We see her life and then it circles back in time and then further back, revealing the women’s stories with the heirloom as the centerpiece. It would then return to the first woman and we would finally understand how she became who she is, even if she never will. It would probably be a foreign film, French or Italian I’m sure. I know I am connected to the women in my family in so many unseen ways, I can feel it. They are a part of me, I know them, even if I’ve never met them. The bedroom, the place where I dream, imagine, and reminisce, was the perfect place to display these precious items.

I most likely would never wear these broaches, at least not often enough for how beautiful they are. They make very fitting framed art for my dollhouse and now I can enjoy looking at them. They deserved more honor than staying tucked away in a jewelry box.

Before I repaired the trim on the windows, I glued on rectangles from various pieces of plastic I could find, the tops of lettuce containers, the bottom of a clear, plastic, to-go box, the package from my son’s toy. They were nice, sturdy bits of plastic and made great window panes. I then painted and attached the trim for the windows and had tiny trim that I cut and used to divide the window into several panes. It looked more colonial that way, though all the photos I had seen had even more panes, but I decided I didn’t need to go that far. Dividing the window into six panes was work enough. I couldn’t imagine dividing it into sixteen panes! I had also received decorative trim from a freecycler, and used this pretty piece as the bottom of the window frame.

With the windows looking beautiful, they needed proper curtains. I sewed curtains from the same fabric as the bedspread and sewed my great-great aunt’s vintage lace on for an added touch of femininity. When I had made the canopy for the bed, the raw edges of the wood were showing through the tulle. I added a strip of another lace around the frame to conceal the wood.

edited pillow 2Finally, I opened up my grandmother’s button box and found a beautiful gold button. I used it to add an embellishment to one of the throw pillows on the bed. I had two green ribbons, one sheer that had been around my bridal bouquet and a darker shade that had been in Great-Great Aunt Margaret’s sewing basket. The two ribbons and the button created a pillow I wished I had on my bed.

Thanks to my grandma and my great-great aunt and all the other women in my family that have influenced who I am by the things they’ve passed down, seen and unseen!

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