Someone Else’s Stuff
August 20, 2009
There was an estate sale going on down the street from my house this past weekend and while we already have plenty of stuff, Mr. Karen and I gave into the temptation to go see what was drawing so many people inâ€”when I’d first seen all the cars parked down the block I thought someone was having a really big party. I’d never been to an estate sale held in the home of the people whose estate it wasâ€”it was a little strange; I’m not sure if I would have been more or less comfortable if we’d known the people better. It was interesting to see the layout of the house itselfâ€”from the street it looks similar to our house, but inside it’s quite different.
We got there not too long before the closing time shown on the sign out front (on what I thought was the last day of the sale, but evidently not, since I saw the sign out and more people going in yesterday when I was working from home), but there was still a lot of stuff left: furniture and small appliances and books and record albums (and cassette tapes and even some 8-tracks) and linens and tools and dishes and knick knacks and on and on. I of course was drawn to the crafty stuff. I considered a tote bag full of yarn with a pattern for crocheted slippers stuck in on top but decided to leave it there and instead picked up a cigar box of thread nearby, most of it on great old wooden spools. I know I’ll use thread. In the basement I found a small cardboard suitcase labeled “sewing stuff” and initially passed on it but by the time we’d toured the rest of the rooms I decided it needed to come home with me as well.
While one of the women running the sale was totaling up our purchases, she and I were chatting and it came out that I’m a quilter. She asked if I’d seen the quilt in the basement. I hadn’t, so I went back down to look. It was balled up on a chair that was partly pushed under a table; no wonder I’d missed it. It had obviously been well used (and possibly abused, judging by the stains) and was not fit for display in that state, but I just couldn’t leave it there. Someone had made an effort to piece it and gone on to do a lot of hand embroidery on the edges of the patches (though not all of themâ€”the UnFinished Object is a grand tradition among quilters); I couldn’t bear the thought of it just getting thrown out by someone who didn’t recognize the work that had gone into it. At least if I took it, it’d have a chance to survive in some form. Because I’d convinced her I’d give it a good home, the woman sold it to me for two dollars.
Because it had been in the basement and who knows where else, the quilt was rather musty, so I put it out in the backyard (in the shade) for the rest of the day to air out. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it yet. The top might be a lost causeâ€”several of the fabrics are badly deteriorated and ripped and wornâ€”but the back is made from sturdier stuff. I’m guessing the blocks were cut from men’s pants based on the color, pattern, and weight of the fabrics. I want to find some places I can take snips from to do burn tests to see if I can figure out the fiber content before I try washing out the dirt and stains. If I can get it reasonably clean, I’m leaning toward using the back as the front of a new quilt. Perhaps a better idea will occur to me later, though. I still need to go through the “sewing stuff” box; there might be some inspiration in there.