Recently, I packed up some of my handmade creations – rag dolls, knitted scarves, applique pieces, needle books, pillows and other odds and ends – and trotted off to the Elks Club in Bangor to be a vendor at a craft fair, flea market, yard sale event.
It was, by far, less of a hassle than I thought it would be. Everything I wanted to offer for sale fit into one big plastic container. Everything was tagged with the selling price. I remembered to bring a large sheet to use as a table cover. I packed both kinds of bags so I could say, “Paper or plastic?” I went to the bank and got quarters, nickels, dimes and 20 $1 bills, which I dumped into a tin with a hinged lid, along with a calculator, a pencil and some scratch paper. I packed a lunch, including a bottle of water. I dressed in layers in case it was too hot or too cold. I brought along one of those nylon chairs that fold up like an umbrella in case the chair that came with the table I rented for $25 was too hard to sit on for six hours.
I arrived at the appointed place at 8:30 a.m., the last vendor to set up. But that turned out to be a blessing because someone else had canceled and that table near the front of the hall was assigned to me. The fetching and carrying was the worst part, but really not so bad, because parking at the Elks Club is set up in such a way that getting to the building’s entrance isn’t much of a walk.
I set up my wares quickly, got acquainted with my neighbors to the left and right of me and waited for customers who trickled in throughout the day. They bought enough of my stuff to make the day worthwhile.
But by noontime, I hankered to browse the other tables where vendors were selling a variety of items, including handmade beaded jewelry, quilted items, antique jewelry, photography prints and handmade wooden toys. Also, my eye kept wandering to the line of tables along two walls where Elks members offered for sale lots of donated items for the grand sum of 25 cents each. Proceeds benefited programs for children who have cancer.
The first thing I spotted on one of these tables was a set of hand-embroidered doilies, done in black cross stitch on linen. Where had they come from? What woman had sat by the window or near a lamp to embroider those designs in the 1940s? Had she listened to the radio as she worked, hearing news of the war in Europe, or enjoyed the sounds of Benny Goodman’s band belting out the latest swing tune?
I also spotted a bag of candlewicking materials, complete with skeins of cotton, instructions and an unfinished piece done in a pineapple design. Candlewicking was revived in the 1970s when many of the needle arts popular in Colonial days enjoyed a resurgence of interest. Why had she left the piece unfinished? Did she decide that her lately acquired belief in the new age of feminism demanded that she lay aside needle and thread to run for public office or go to law school?
A large box of odds and ends of fabric and a pile of old patterns beckoned to me, too, remnants of some thrifty and creative woman’s life, a woman who had clothed herself and her children, who had made her home beautiful according to the dictates of Simplicity and McCall’s patterns.
I wanted to take it all home, but alas, I was there to sell stuff. I talked myself out of adding more to my already bulging junk room.
I was both pleased and dismayed to see a buyer snap up a vintage, portable Singer sewing machine – pleased because it was going to a new home, dismayed because I hadn’t seen it first – I would have bought it for a young friend who wants an old machine like that.
I saw lots of other stuff that got my mind thinking in terms of “what could I do with this” – like the rust-colored linen tablecloth with the drawn-thread eyelets. I was glad to see it sell – but not before I had contemplated turning it into a dress or a pair of pants.
I don’t think I’m cut out to be a vendor at craft fairs or flea markets. I’d much rather shop – whether or not I actually buy anything.
. Do you have the “stick-to-it-ivity” to create a Halloween costume out of duct tape? If so, visit www.ducktapeclub.com for more information.
. A reader e-mailed that “The Ultimate Sashiko Sourcebook” by Susan Briscoe gives a list of suppliers of fabric and other items for the craft. She also recommends the Web site www.quilted-dragon.com.
. “Generations,” an embroidery exhibit by Carolyn Ulrich, is on display 9 a.m.-noon Monday through Thursday, and 9-11:30 a.m. Sunday, through mid-November, at the Trinitarian Congregational Parish Church in Castine. Ulrich, her mother, grandmother, aunt and mother-in-law stitched the pieces in the exhibit.
Call Ardeana Hamlin at 990-8153, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.