24 January 2013


"Three of anything is a collection" a friend once told me. If that is the case then I am a collector.  No getting around it.

It's odd the things we collect. Odder still not to realize you collect them until you start taking inventory.  Ah! I guess I do collect hats, as I glance at  innumerable floral band boxes stacked prettily in my bedroom. (In fact, 'collect' is something of an understatement since I could easily outfit the entire BBC costume department for their next Edwardian drama.)  

So yes, I am surrounded by numerous 'collections.' Indeed, more than any one person should admit to owning or have to curate. And yet being the custodian (or as I sometimes think, the "DUSTodian") of all these items is a joy in itself, thanks to the pleasure they bring in function, whimsy and beauty.

Books are the primary culprit, although not for show (despite how truly lovely many of them are) but for reading, holding, savoring, and re-reading. I need only walk to one of more than a dozen book cases, turn my head and read the spines to immediately enjoy them again, remembering favorite passages or the place I purchased or first read them.

And then there are the dishes, ranging from complete place settings for eight to some with only enough for two; a variety of transferware cups and saucers for the tea parties that take place in the parlor by the fire in winter, on the verandah in late Spring, or in the garden in Summer; a small collection of "blue and white" chinoiserie dishes and bowls that are scattered here and there on surfaces throughout the house; and several flowered creamers grouped on the guest room dresser, as well as those that are routinely pressed into service on the breakfast, dinner or tea table.

I am also a fool for glassware, and the corner china cabinet is filled to overflowing with flea market finds, gifts from friends, or family stemware handed down over the years, allowing opportunities for everything from diminutive cordials to brandy snifters so large they hold enough water for the birth of a nation.   

And no knitter is without his or her stash, Mine is squirreled away in bureau drawers, baskets, blanket chests and—when Christmas is near—in haphazard piles on parlor chairs. (Although despite this bounty, I can barely walk past a yarn shop without being sucked through the front door into what becomes a vortex of fiber temptation.  I generally limit myself to the sale bin, allowing only the merest fondling of yarns that are too costly.)

The baskets I have collected over time—too many to countare used for holding everything from dishtowels, the aforementioned yarn, hearth supplies, aprons, recipes, candles, old toys, blankets, and magazines. And there is the handled NEIGHBORLY basket kept in the back hallway so my neighbor and I can ferry food gifts, books or whimsical odds-bods back and forth the road to one another. 

Where to begin with linens?  There are table linens I've purchased myself—new ones as well as vintage pieces picked up at flea markets and thrift shops—and linens handed down from a variety of grandmothers and great aunts with names like Harriet, Bessie, Eilleen, and Edith. I cannot eat a meal or even drink a cup of tea without a cloth serviette at hand, so this collection is well-used and well-loved and is joined in a lavender scented linen closet by many pillowcases... all with a similar heritage.  Mercifully, my favorite house chore happens to be ironing, so that works out well.  

Tins of any size are always a temptation, be they genuinely old or merely vintage reproductions, and depending on their size they may find themselves filled with biscuits, cookie cutters, crackers, incense sticks, baking supplies, candies, hairpins, handkerchiefs, old wine labels, pen nibs, the usual tea, coffee, or cocoa, and even my grandmother's old metal hair curlers.

As for Ephemera, I have difficulty passing it up when I see it, and tucked here and there are old placards, hand-lettered ball invitations, vintage labels and gift-tags, menu cards or old advertiser's fans.

For someone who has so little to put inside a purse, I have a remarkable penchant for collecting them. There are the new ones (invariably gifts) as well as the vintage used ones (invariably thrift-store finds), and they range from old book-bags to small clutches that belonged to my mother to a $3 Kate Spade leopard print to a doctor's satchel to a denim one with sequins and another covered entirely in purple satin roses. (The dresses have yet to be found that can serve as a proper canvas for those last two purses but I live in hope.)

The combined monetary value of all of these lovingly collected items cannot be more than a few hundred dollars, by virtue of their "previously gently used" pedigree or having been gifts from family and friends, or purchased new so long ago their ticket price would seem laughable.  But their sentimenal value cannot be estimated, and to me they are "priceless".  And, yes, a little dusty now and then.  So aren't we all.

Carry on. 



  1. Very clever and amusing today! I love "dustodian", fondling of yarns, and "so little to put inside of a purse." Lordy we have so much in common! I like leather satchels, but don't collect purses. And I finally can pass up dishes, but not transferware or ironstone. Ooops! I have four lovely vintage children's hats so I don't think I really collect them. But who knows??? Hope you're doing well up north!

  2. I have enjoyed so much reading about your collections and the sentiment behind them. They are more than just decorative objects to you, which is a nice thing.