Beach Cottage Vintage Finds

Tue 30th, Oct, 2012

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Well here we are again then Beach Cottage friends, near and far, logging in from a newly floored, still a bit messy, but very much cleaner and freshly painted study this morning, on a polka dot desk.  It’s kinda overcast but burning off with the sun streaming through and again this morning we are faced with the growing laundry monster that lives just adjacent to me in the Laundry Room.

But I guess, life is ticking along and all is good despite my role as washer woman to the masses.

Now today I want to talk about vintage collecting.

And in particular a few of my recent linen finds.

The one you see here is a beauty and just what I love to come across…the finest softest fabric, edged by hand and appliqued lovingly with a tulip, in blue, no less.


I love finding these things and for someone who started off in this career as a dabbler, ducking in every now and then to these little shops rammed full of potential discoveries, I feel now that over the years I have become somewhat of a thrifting pro.  Perhaps I should write a book?


And though it has changed recently, in that, the old days of Vinnies and Salvos actually being places where people’s unwanted goods were sold to raise money, whereas nowadays these places seem to have some mis-guided notion that people want them to be some kinda downmarket antique shop (please please refrain from writing ‘an oldie’, ‘antique’ or ‘rare’ on your tickets, just please), I still enjoy it very much.


So along with vintage suitcases, plates, china and a rumble around in the the saucepans hoping, praying and looking for a vintage Le Creuset (please thrifting gods on high please smile on me) I love me a vintage linen find…


I love the gathering of these beauties, they seem to hold a personality of their own and as they make a new life in this tatty old cottage, I often wonder where they were before…who spent hours embroidering them, who flicked them out and laid them on a table for tea, who washed and pressed them and didn’t moan about it Winking smile

I love how too they are so different, each stamped with a uniqueness that today, in the times of mass-produced, is rather precious.

The best thing though, when thrifting these beauties, is both the thrill of the chase and the story that, if you are in luck, often comes with …the one below is not actually a tablecloth, but a food cover.  I am not sure if these are exclusive to a climate like the one I live in now but I certainly did not see any of these in my days in England.

This is a very fine linen, the edges are a slightly heavier weave and the centre panels are a fine almost gauze, each one hand embroidered (and extremely neatly worked, so much so that at first glance it confused me and I thought it might be machined).

This so light and fine that I couldn’t get a photo of it on the table or the ladder, but here weighted down.


When I found this particular specimen to add to the stash, that I don’t have Mr BC, I had sneaked off for a walk on a Saturday morning, to get away from it all and finish with a coffee…as I did my circuit to take in a hill, I came across a Jumble Sale in a local church hall.  I stomped up my walking to a quicker pace, got that done and dusted, grabbed a coffee and headed back to see what I could find.

Nothing much better than an impromptu bit of vintage treasure hunting in life I do believe.

Outside were the usual stalls of plants and clothes and at the toys, some raving lunatic women who looked as if getting a bargain toy for their little one may indeed be their last act…I pushed through to the linens, where I have found, through experience, you get two quite distinct creatures.  The one like me who is looking for something old and vintage and quite calm while wading through the stuff from the 90s.  The other creature will be looking for a bargain, perhaps a Sheridan still in the packet or a 1000 thread count sheet that’s hardly been used.  We size each other up, us linen thrifters, in one quick swift cursory but highly informed glance, ascertain that there is no competition and continue to delve.


Here at this stall I found this one and as I stroked it commented to a lady behind the table on its fine nature.  She informed me of its job and how these food covers were laid over the food on tables at gatherings in the summer to stop the flies, they would be used indoors and out, taken on picnics and to the beach.


The one below is of different ilk altogether, a thick and heavy linen and embroidered with a very much heavier hand…to the back little stitches and slips and not the most delicate of knots, hinting of more stories that I don’t know.



I love it too when these are not perfect.  Of course it’s nice if they are but a little patch here and there, an area that is soft and worn, perhaps a section that someone has darned!  Be still my non-darning heart.




And this one below where some of the work has come undone…



If there is an op-shop, goodwill, charity shop or thrift store that does not have nearly always at least one piece of linen that I want to buy, bring home to this old cottage, look furtively around for any males and then run in and stash, then I have yet to find it.

And of course the best thing about this hobby?  It’s pretty easy on the old pocketbook and beats a $198 napkin ring all the way to the bank

I hope you like my vintage finds, let me know if you have any knowledge on them that I wouldn’t know…I may be good at finding them but that’s as far as it goes

Adios amigos


if you love reading about Barley, then come over to his page here, he blogged today and is enjoying himself getting toasty ;-)



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35 Responses to “Beach Cottage Vintage Finds”

  1. Being a needleworker myself, nothing calls my name louder at an antique or thrift store than vintage linens (or maybe antique samplers!); sadly, it’s not in my budget to buy much more than a napkin or a doily, but you’ve picked up some lovely pieces, Sarah. Thanks for sharing!

    • sarah says:

      thanks Susan, all the pieces here were at good prices, sometimes I have to put them back if they have been priced to highly for me! :-)

  2. Hi sarah…I am one linen/crochet GURU!!~~
    (well in my mind at least)..
    On a trip last year to NZ with eldest son, i had him driving me all around Auckland looking for “THAT” vintage linen find…
    Just when i thought it was futile, we came across an antique market FULL of GORGEOUS vintage linen/lace~~
    AT a ridiculously cheap price (added with the awesome aussie dollar)..
    Suffice to say i was ONE very happy camper returning home with suitcases FULL!!~~

    and this particular son of mine LOVES helping his “old mum” find stuff!!~~

    so i get where you are coming from completely…

    xx andrea & sooty says “Hi” to Barls….

    • sarah says:

      I know you are young lady ;-)

      …not been to New Zealand yet here!

      Barls says hi to sooty…right now he is at my feet in the study, sound asleep x

  3. annie says:

    Oh Sarah! This reminds me of the husband’s granny who was a fierce five foot dynamo from Glasgow who raised five boys in a West Scottish fishing village. She showed me her divine stash of hand embroidered linens that she had made when she was a young girl and some from her mother and grandmother. Years later when she died, I asked what had become of it all and they said that none of the young folk there are interested in that “old stuff”. I could have cried for the waste of such family history but hopefully somebody like you or I found it in a Highland charity shop and bought the lot!

  4. I know what you mean Sarah, about scoring anything Le Creuset. I have been on a quest of this sort for years. So several months ago when my daughter had five spare minutes we popped into our local GW. I did a quick perusal of the cookware isle while my daughter was checking out the small electric appliances, and I bent down to check out the pots and pans. Following close behind, my daughter nonchalantly picked up a never-once-used orange-red teapot and shoved it in my face without speaking a word, but her expression said that she was pretty pleased with herself. I immediately recognized the classic Le Creuset teapot, then I began kicking myself for missing it.
    As a veteran thrifter I was embarrassed, and as an expert shopper I was so jealous that someone else scored the amazing deal first. My daughter is a peach though and lets me use it and stroke it when I come visit her.

    • sarah says:

      ahhh she obviously has good thrifter genes lol!

      I have been looking for old and worn pots and pans for years, they seem the hardest to come by :-)

  5. Alice says:

    Be still my beating heart!!!! What beaut finds Sarah!!! My local Salvo store used to stock such lovely items for an affordable price but since they changed management (as they put it) Those pieces seem to have disappeared and the prices have skyrocketed to the point that it has actually become out of my budget to buy anything plate or linen or clothes related (toys and pictures still a goodish price) :(. I walked into my local vinnies once but the stares I was getting from the ladies behind the counter made me feel so puni that I didn’t manage to do one round of the tiny store… I have avoided it ever since… I have to say my favourites are the food covering ones… They would be handy over at this house. The flies are terrible during summer (we get a great work out swatting them away as we eat our food lol!). <3

    • sarah says:

      Yes I have harped on about it on here for ages how these shops have the most ridiculous prices now….what I want to know is who buys it – surely a lot of the customers who go in there would rather go to the mall and get it cheaper new?? the mind boggles x

  6. Felicity says:

    I love lace linen and the more colour the better. I cleaned out my cupboards with my vintage glass and odds and ends in it last week. My daughter came home from Uni and stated, “that table full of stuff looks just like one you would find at The Smith Family, old junk for sale”. Yes, i suppose it did but I love my old junk. Her friends do to when I put afternoon tea on for them, I don’t hear any complaints about my old junk then.

  7. MDN says:

    Lovely finds, and memory inticing pics and blog! I hadn’t thought of things darned in decades… My grandma was a fervent sewer (of clothes, mostly) and one of the truly original recyclers…when everyone darned their goods to make them last as long as possible (and to save money). Things darned were their symbols of love and pride, don’t ‘cha think…wanting to keep their family members as presentable as possible. Our disposable society today, unfortunately, sometimes can be more of a reflection that it’s priority taking one’s time for other (likely, more social) things instead of using it on tasks such as darning or making lovely linens – which nowadays – except for posts like this – doesn’t appear to hold much value. I never even thought to ask Grandma to teach me how to darn… Am I being unreasonably romantic? How many of us know how to darn these days? Guess it’s just that the times have changed. These sweet linens of yours are another way to “smell the roses”, eh? PS – Interesting and a good idea – food covers! Have never heard of them before…and we went on lots of picnics when I was young! Just flailed our arms about to keep flys at bay! Guess that for in houses, they’re not needed much anymore, either in that we normally have windows closed due to A/C, or if and when windows are open, there always are screens?

    • sarah says:

      I don’t think you are being overly romantic, though for sure I have been accused of being like that! My stash of linens, many very well worn and loved is a testimony to the days when things just were not disposable and I am trying to teach the kiddos that, but really they or I will never know…

      Linen loving is definitely another way to smell the roses and I can’t quite put my finger on it but washing, pressing and then having some afternoon tea on one of these, or popping it in a picnic basket kinda means more than heading down to Freedom and getting one that is on trend and tops last a few years


  8. I love your finds and the lovely way you mix and match. Wonderful.G.x

  9. Rukmini Roy says:

    You ought to come to India. The embroidered ones, we have so many in here from Rajasthan. Its beautiful and knowing the virtual you for over a year now, You’ll love them.
    Ive been in a fix lately- my vintage laces that grandma gave me are tearing away from everywhere. It’s gotten brittle like. Do you know of anything that could save them? I’m asking because you stash a lot of ‘em :) Any solution?

    • sarah says:

      no but I know what you mean, hopefully someone reading this might know?

      I actually have a whole stash of saris that I brought over here from England…sooooo beautiful though I don’t think they are vintage…the town nearest to us had an Indian pop and I would find them in charity shops for a few pounds! I haven’t looked at them for ages, must get them out for Christmas x

  10. Lucy B says:

    Sarah, you are such a girl after my own heart. My nan used to make these beautiful table clothes as a hobby. I’ve dozens of them stashed away around the house. Every time I use them it brings a small lump to my throat as I remember my beautiful nanny who so lovingly made them. You’re so right when you talk about the imperfections, they become the personality and the soul of the piece. She used to crochet a lot too, a hobby I’ve started (ok I know it sounds old for a forty is the new thirty something girl!) but I love the way it weaves together to make something so personal. My daughters love the fact that mum makes stuff that is unique and just for them. You should give it a go! xx

    • sarah says:

      thanks Lucy!

      how funny I have been talking to my friend here about taking up crochet…I have had a couple of attempts in the past but never stuck at it…maybe forty is the new thirty is the answer???

      I love your memories, sadly I don’t have that myself but it’s still good to feel the love in the treasures I find xo

  11. Stacey (harrimar) says:

    Hi Sarah, I have an old orange Le Creuset casserole that was my Mother in Laws. It has lived in the back of the pan cupboard for years and I had very nearly taken it to the charity shop many times in the past something always held me back, probably the cost of them new ; ) Since I found your receipe for Forty Garlic Chicken, its been given a new lease of life and now it sits proudly in the front of the cupboard being used weekly! My hubby always smiles when he sees it, he remembers it sitting on top of the aga through out the winter in England, slowly cooking up something hot and tasty for dinner. So very glad I never got rid of it, what a mistake that would have been. x

    • sarah says:

      oh wow, what a FABULOUS story Stacey, thanks for sharing!

      I would so love to come across something similar, one that has been used and loved with signs of age and stuff…been looking for years and years now but still hoping lol!

      yes I can see how that recipe would rock in that casserole…about to blog another fave recipe of ours soon, probably not quite as nice as that but in high rotation :-)


  12. alison says:

    Hand embroidery is something I have loved and enjoyed since childhood. I was taught a good embroiderer never uses knots, you run the thread back through stitches or through the back of an existing patch of embroidery.

    Now, I really must get that tablecloth out that I bought over a year ago and actually start it.


  13. Karen Sack says:

    Incredible Thrifting Sarah!!!!! Good on you girl. Isn’t amazing how you feel after a thrift like that…lol. Have to agree with yo and the Ladies above that most op-shops/charity shops prices have skyrocketed of late. I don’t now who prices there gear…..often they are asking more than new prices for things makes you wonder doesn’t it considering it it donated. My marketing strategy would be if I ran these shops, drop the pieces and move the goods on. They don’t make them any money whilst they are sitting on the shelves.
    Muat get off this soap box now and retire to bed for my beauty sleep. keep thrifting…………..

  14. I have inherited from my mum tons of those old embroidered tablecloths, tray cloths and doilies. I never use them, but have lovingly stored them. I saw a fantastic thing the other day that I am going to do. You just join all the small doilies and tray cloths with a few stitches and make a table runner. I NEED to make one like this for my formal 12 seater dining table. It doesn’t permanently change them and makes something fairly sensational with a modern twist. I have also just found my MIL’s stash of embroidered handkerchiefs, she has just entered a nursing home and hubby and I are sorting things out at the house. I showed them to him and he said what on earth do we do with them? I am thinking something a bit the same and making a runner or whole tablecloth, but they certainly won’t be going anywhere near a vinnies! There is a whole box of them, with many of the cards still attached. It was the done thing to give a precious hanky as a thankyou gift or for whatever small acknowledgment was needed (they are fine Irish linen and date back nearly 70 years!) waht do you think? I haven’t even looked in her linen press yet!
    I prefer my Staub to my Le Cru, I find that the food releases so much more easily and they are heavier and sturdier. I have a really big one (much bigger than Le cru) at the ready on my stovetop all the time. Peter’s of Kensington do great deals quite regularly on Staub. If I ever find an LC at a clearing sale I will nab it for you!

    • sarah says:

      wow that Irish linen will be worth a bit!

      yes I have done something similar with a doilie runner, I must blog it one day, though it is only a small coffee table sized one…looks great!

      oh yes please if you ever see one I would love an old worn one :-) x

  15. Tricia Rose says:

    The embroideries with knots in them are likely more ‘works of aunt’ than works of art, but I always wonder about the history. I don’t buy any now because I always want to mend them…

  16. Heather says:

    I agree with Alice on the very real problem with Vinnies and Lifeline, in particular. For a long time now I have been bemoaning the lack of ‘real’ treasures to be found in these shops. Following the devastating floods last year and the year before, here in Queensland, I was dismayed to see that the very organizations who should’ve be digging deep and helping those in need, were in fact charging those families for furniture, etc. For those of us who wanted to contribute, by way of furniture and so on, it was alarming to know that our hand-outs were being passed on at a price. I find it incredibly annoying these days to walk into thrift shops, only to be ripped off, as I see it. I sometimes have to laugh loud when I see the elevated price tags on stuff that only a couple of years ago no-one would’ve paid a dollar for! There is no such thing as a bargain anymore, imho. I get what Alice meant when she said that the volunteer assistants make her feel puny. It’s pretty much the same with me, except I often think they’re checking me over, weighing up whether I’m a wealthy customer, or perhaps even a trader looking for a bargain. I can’t tell you how many thrift shops I have walked out of empty-handed! There used to be a time when I visited these shops for the thrill of the find, and for the satisfaction of knowing that I’d bagged a bargain, but in today’s market, Vinnies, Salvos and Lifeline have over-capitalized on the current trends and must-haves, and have seized the opportunity to make a fast buck out of it for themselves. I don’t deny the charities for striking gold themselves, but to up the prices to pass on to Joe Blow public, is something that I personally find quite disturbing. I’d say that they’ve become ‘trend followers’ themselves, and oftentimes I have remarked to my daughter or husband or friends that they definitely have someone in the ‘know’ working for them, someone who advises them of what’s currently ‘in’, and someone who’s turning trash into cash! I can’t speak for everyone out there, but for myself, I mourn the loss of a trusty old friend who reliably and unselfishly strived to help those in need – before putting profits first.

    Here in Queensland, where our population figures are lower than some other States, it’s getting harder and harder to find a bargain anywhere. The smaller population means that the charity shops have more control over demand and supply, and it’s a rare day that someone gets a good deal. I was up in Toowoomba recently, checking out Lifeline up there, and was staggered to discover that they have a well-structured, cunning strategy in place: each of its shops ‘specializes’ in what they carry. For example, one stocks only furniture, another stocks bric-a-brac, another stocks vintage clothing….wow, it blew me away! It’s become a very profitable and well-thought out system up there, and the bric-a-brac shop I visited had hugely inflated price tags on everything, including a medium-sized Pyrex mixing bowl that I had my eyes on until I discovered that they wanted $65 for it! There was nothing noteworthy under $50 in that shop. So, commiserations to all my fellow bloggers out there. My advice would be to trawl through the lesser known charity shops to bag that bargain! Happy hunting! ;-)

  17. Heather says:

    Phew…and after all that I forgot to mention how much I love your blog, Sarah! :) Visiting it uplifts my spirit and gives me hope. Thanks for a job very well done. mwah Hx