Category Archives: North Carolina

Metrolina Antiques and Collectibles Show, November 2014

On Halloween I treated myself to a visit to the big flea/show at the Charlotte Metrolina grounds.  This show is always worth a visit, and this time around there was plenty to look at – and to buy.  Above is part of the booth of my favorite seller at Metrolina.  She is always finding great things for me.  It pays to let people know what you are collecting.

Not all treasures are so well organized.  The owners of this booth had cleaned out an old store that was closed in 1965.  There was a lot of stuff, and it was cheap.  Unfortunately much of it was also stained, but that’s why I have collected magic cleaning formulas.

Most of the inventory was from the early to mid 1960s.  I found some really nice things including a harlequin patterned blouse and a matching shorts set from Glen of Michigan.

There was a great deal of underwear and stockings, much of it still in the original boxes.  I could have spent the entire day going through it all, and they did not even have it all out to display.

Another seller had piles and piles of feedsacks.

Sometimes I do get home and wonder why I did not buy a certain thing.  This drink tray fits into that category.  I did love it, but I have one tray already, and having two is getting dangerously close to a collection.

There were some terrific vintage graphic items for sale.  I loved the golfing woman on this poster for Country Club Beverages.

Dee-Light was delightful, as was their poster showing happy picnickers.

This Bruner Woolens box almost came home with me.  The price was reasonable, and the graphics were terrific with the golfing theme.  I already had a similar one from Detmer Woolens, as I gave it a pass.

This print was quite an interesting piece, mainly because of the date it was published.  Entitled Sea Bathing at Ostend (Belgium), it was printed in 1888.

I would have guessed much later, due to the skimpy swimsuit of the lady and due to her bare legs.  I’ve read that bathers in Europe were more likely to bathe bare-legged due to the prevalence of bathing machines (the little changing booth on wheels).

Here’s a basket full of display feet.  I already have some, otherwise…

Not related to the theme here, but these big plastic decorations seem to be coming on strong as a collectible.  I see a problem with storage, though.

Those looking for cowboy boots were in luck.  Many of them were in the original boxes.

And what is a good flea market without cute doggies?  This little one was showing off her new coat.

And this big sweetie was celebrating her fifth birthday by letting everyone pet her.

I’ll show off my finds in the coming weeks.

 

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Cotton Fields

I was on the road yesterday in the North Carolina piedmont which is cotton country.  As I passed by one of the large fields it occurred to me that it was likely that many of you have never seen a cotton field.  So I decided to stop and take a few photos.

Cotton is the second most valuable crop in  North Carolina, behind tobacco.  It is too cold to grow it here in the mountains, but the southern piedmont and the coastal plain are ideal for growing the crop.  It isn’t an easy crop to grow, as weeds and insects can be major problems.  It requires a lot of water and so must often be irrigated.

When the cotton is ripe, the fields are often described as snowy.  Actually, snow in this region does look like a cotton field, as the snow often falls on ground that is not entirely frozen and so patches of the ground show through.

Cotton forms in a pod (boll) which pops open when it is ripe.  What you can’t see are the seeds, which are stuck to the fibers and are hard to remove by hand.

And speaking of snowy, this is what we woke up to this morning.  The snow had been forecast, but somehow I don’t think we really believed it until confronted with three inches of the fluffy white stuff.

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Vintage Sewing – New Look 6838 and Vintage DVF Fabric

For most of my sewing projects I use vintage patterns, but I found this modern pattern, New Look 6838 when I was looking for one with which to make pajama pants.  I also loved the style of the top, which is designed for knits only, and I put cotton jersey on my fabric shopping list.

I knew that I did not need stripes, as I already have quite a few in this style.  Besides, though the drawing of the matching at the sleeves looks nice and tidy in the illustration, I know that would be easier drawn than sewn. So I started thinking about dots.  But then I got distracted cleaning and sorting my existing fabrics.  And in the middle of my “reds” bin, I pulled out this vintage fabric from designer Diane von Furstenberg.

I found the fabric in an antique store in one of the many little towns in the piedmont of North Carolina that for years survived off the making of cotton textiles.  These towns were a source of the best fabrics for a home sewer as well, as the factories often sent remnants and “seconds” to their factory outlet for sale to the public.  I suspect that is what happened with this fabric, as there was a small wrinkle in it that caused a bare spot in the print.

In 1976 Vogue Patterns magazine did a feature on Diane and her printed dresses.  As you can see, the patterns were by Vogue, and the fabrics were made by Cohama.

I never did finish my sorting job because I laid out the fabric piece and realized I had just enough of it to make the boat-necked top. I spent the rest of the afternoon sewing, and before long my new top was finished.  As the pattern envelope promises, it was easy.  There were only three pieces, the front, the back and the sleeves.  The back has a center seam, which I like because it makes for a smoother fit.

The neck was to be finished simply by turning under the seam allowance and topstitching, but I made a little facing using the selvage of the fabric.  I just could not see “wasting” that Diane von Furstenberg signature.

And here is the finished product.  It is perfect for the early fall weather we are having.

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North Carolina – Variety Vacationland

Here in the North Carolina mountains we are sort of between tourist seasons.  The summer season is over and it is another month until the fall leaf season gets crazy.  So while things are quiet around here, I thought I’d share a bit of vintage NC, from a booklet the state published.  There’s no date anywhere, but there is a note from Governor Gregg Cherry, who served from 1945 to 1949.  (Side note:  In Gastonia, Cherry’s hometown, it was said that sober he was the best lawyer in town, and drunk he was the second best.)

For those of you unfamiliar with my state, North Carolina starts at the Atlantic Ocean and ends at the crest of the Appalachians (app uh lach uns).  It’s a long, very diverse state.  People tend to confuse it with South Carolina, which is an entirely different place. It’s Charlotte, North Carolina, and Charleston, South Carolina.

I live in the mountains.  For long weekends I like to go to the coast, and in doing so pass on the highway people from the coast going to the mountains.  It’s a good system as it keeps the state even.  According to this brochure, there are also places to visit in the middle of the state, such as looking at the Old Well on the UNC Chapel Hill campus and riding to the hounds at Sedgefield. Somehow I think I’ll stick with the beach.

Mount Le Conte is along the crest of the Appalachians, right on the Tennessee line.  I’ve hiked that trail, and I can tell you that I did not do it in  a dress as the hiker above did.  This is very wild country, though in the summer there is a steady stream of people going up to spend the night at the Le Conte Lodge.

There’s another silly hiker wearing a dress.  I don’t know the location of this trail, but it looks a bit dangerous to me, and I’m used to mountain trails!  The dude ranch is probably the Cataloochee Ranch, which is still in operation.  It’s a beautiful place.

Cherokee is just west of me, near the entrance to the Great Smokies.  No, the Cherokee did not wear feathered headdresses, but a guy has to make a living.  Even today there are Cherokee “chiefs” set up along the side of the road waiting to be the tourist’s next photo op.

As you can see, Dry Falls are not really dry.  The name comes from the fact that one can walk behind the falls without getting wet, well, at least not much.

This is the Blowing Rock, which is near Boone.  There are all kinds of “legends” about the rock, most of which involve lovelorn Indians.

Lake Junaluska is just down the road from me, and it is a lovely little lake.  It is the site of the Methodist Assembly which was started in 1913.  The old camp style auditorium still stands, as do two old hotels from the era.

Now this is interesting.  Neel’s Creek, which is near Mount Mitchell, really was open for fishing only to women.  There were creeks nearby where husbands and boyfriends could fish, but men were not allowed at Neel’s Creek.  In the mid 1940s it was so popular that there was talk of making another trout stream women only.

I was just joking earlier about the middle of North Carolina being just a place to pass through.  The golfing is world class, and there are plenty of historic sites.

Pivers Island looks like a nice place in the late 1940s.  Today the little island is almost covered by a NOAA facility and the Duke University Marine Lab.  Behind the two women you get a glimpse of Beaufort, which is a fishing and sailing center, and a nice little historic town.

Happy sailing!

 

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Mitchell Company Rayon Piece Goods, 1949

When I was a kid in the 1960s, going to Spindale meant going to the numerous fabric mill outlets to buy bargain fabrics.  It was the heyday of North Carolina textiles, and Spindale was right in the center of the action.

From the name, you could guess that Spindale got its start as a spinning and textile center.  It was not a town at all until the 1920s when the company town around the textile mill incorporated.  By the mid century there were several large textile and sewing factories in and around Spindale.  Stonecutter, which was a vertical operation, which involved both spinning and weaving, Spindale Mills, and the factory that made Bon Worth clothing were all located in Spindale.

I could not find a reference to a Mitchell factory, so I’m guessing that the Mitchell Company was one of the many sellers of textiles in the area.  From what I can tell, it was in business until fairly recently, though I could not find a reference to its closing in the local newspaper.  But it probably happened after 1998, when the bottom fell out of Spindale industry.  That was the year Bon Worth moved their operation to Mexico.  From there it was like dominoes falling.

But in 1949 business was thriving, as textile companies switched from war production to making consumer goods for the new and fast growing families of America.

Click to enlarge

Inside this sales brochure are samples of the various rayons offered by Mitchell. Especially handy are the different samples along with the name of the colors.

I was amazed at how many of them were advertised as being washable, as 1940s rayon is notorious for shrinking and having color bleed.

I found several references to Mitchell Company on the internet, with an address and telephone number.  I called the number and was informed that it was no longer in service.

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Mint Museum Uptown

We can’t all be lucky enough to live in or near a large cultural center like New York City or London, but in most areas there are plenty of smaller museums and historical sites that are well worth seeking out.  The Mint Museum in Charlotte, is a two and a half hours drive for me, but it is well worth the effort and gas money, especially when combined with a bit of shopping.  It’s rarely crowded, never any line, and there are plenty of treasures to discover.

I’m a bit ashamed that I’d never visited the Mint’s uptown Charlotte location, especially since I was so pleasantly surprised by the exhibitions.   The facility houses the Mint’s craft and design collection, but it also has a great exhibition of American art.  As icing on this artistic cake, there are a few items of clothing from the Mint’s costume collection also on view.

The photo above shows a Charles Frederick Worth evening cape, made of silk velvet, point de Venise lace, glass beads, metallic sequins, and silk tulle.  M. Worth did not do “less is more.”  I love how the creator of the exhibit resisted the urge to add any additional items to this display.  I’ve had concerns about over-accessorizating in some of the Mint costume exhibitions.

This early Twentieth century bathing suit is labeled “Water Sprite.”  It’s perfectly accessorized with the black stockings and bathing shoes, which I love.

In the same vein a summer painting by artist William James Glackens is shown.  Good Harbor Beach, 1919.

This 1920s “Orientalist” evening frock is labeled “Pascaud, Paris”

The Mint also has a good collection of the works of Romare Bearden, who was born in Charlotte.  This work is Girl in the Garden, 1979.

The contemporary craft collection is also very interesting.  This bowl is actually made of wood which is painted.  The artist is Binh Pho, the work, Realm of a Dream, 2007.

This work is stitchery on paper.  The artist is Anila Rubiku, the work, Mastering Freedom, 2006

This installation by Hildur Bjarnadittir took up an entire wall.  The squares are crocheted wool which were dyed using plant material.

What makes Urban Color Palatte interesting is that Bjarnadittir gathered the plants from along roadsides and vacant lots in Charlotte.  Even though the dye stuffs were basiclly what we consider to be waste plants, or weeds,  the results produced a wide range of color and character.  The same concept might also be applied to humans.

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Filed under Museums, North Carolina, Road Trip

Lily Mills of Shelby, North Carolina

We tend to think of the textile industry as makers of fabrics, but there really is a huge range of products that can be classified as textiles.  My state, North Carolina, has long been a grower of cotton, and much of the industry here involved the production of cotton products.  Much fabric was made, especially in the big denim mills like Cone, and also jersey knits were an important product.  Equally important were products like towels, socks, stockings, and bedding.  But one of the largest components of the industry was the spinning of yarns.

Lily Mills was located in Shelby, on the edge of cotton country in the piedmont of North Carolina.  It was founded in 1903 as the Lily Mill and Power Company by John Schenck.  It was one mill of a growing industry in the area, and by the 1940s, there were twenty spinning mills in the Shelby area, some of which were also making products that were then marketed by Lily Mills.

The range of products made by Lily is pretty amazing, everything from regular sewing thread to yarns for handweaving to heavy rug yarns.  To help promote their yarns they also published instruction booklets and marketed small looms for the home weaver.

Probably one of the most interesting things about Lily Mills was their relationship with the Penland School Of Crafts.  Penland, located near Spruce Pine, North Carolina, continues to be a highly regarded school for craftspersons.  In the late 1940s Lily Mills helped finance the Lily Loom House at Penland.  Weavers who attend classes today still work in the Lily Loom House.  In return, weaving instructors at Penland wrote booklets for Lily Mills, such as Practical Weaving Suggestions.

By the looks of the variety of booklets on eBay and Etsy, Lily Mills must have published booklets for every yarn they made.  There is an astounding amount of material.  And though I’ve never seen an example, I’ve read that during the 1940s they also marketed sewing patterns.

I found these sample cards a few weeks ago while traveling through the area.  I was struck at how fresh the colors remain.

There was no date on either card, but I’m guessing that the code at the bottom of them dates them to 1961 and 1962.

And while it has nothing to do with textiles, the Lily Mills has an important connection to the development of bluegrass music.  In the early 1940s banjo player Earl Scruggs worked at Lilly Mills and stayed with a fellow musician.  The area around Shelby was evidently a hive of three-fingered banjo pickers.  The style Scruggs developed became the standard for the bluegrass banjo.

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