Monday, December 5, 2011

Inspiration Mondays: The Old Stuff is the Good Stuff

Yesterday morning, I opened my Twitter feed and found this post from @ilovetypography:
To anyone who suggests that digital is more permanent: try opening some files on an old floppy disc; then open a 500-year-old book.
People who know me well know that I am a lover of all things traditional and old-fashioned. "Vintage" is the trendy word for it right now. Old stuff. Stuff from before.

Yeah, I know... there are plenty of really good new things out there: smartphones (which I don't have), computers (of which we have plenty in our home), running water (a necessity for me), central heating (this is Canada, for heaven's sake)...

But I love learning about the past... Sense and Sensibility directed by Ang Lee is one of my favourite movies. And I don't just love Edwardian times. I love visiting historical parks. I enjoy rummaging through antique and second-hand shops. I once volunteered to do some research in the microfiche of old newspapers and was delighted to spend hours reading each and every word.

And yet, I'm not a historian. I don't know the dates of wars or all of the most meaningful events of the Western world. I can barely remember what I did last week.

It is not surprising, then, that I have recently become interested in the world of vintage goods. I think it started when I started looking for spindles, and discovered that there are some that have been recovered from old Industrial Age buildings and so forth. Since then, I've spent countless hours scouring Etsy looking at lots of delightful stuff from ye olde tymes. That's how I found this wonderful fedora hat from The Dapper Apple. I'd been looking for one for a while, and this one even fits my gigantic melon of a head.

I've also become increasingly obsessed with teacups and cafe au lait bowls. I could easily spend a small fortune shipping them from across the pond (but that fortune does not exist, sadly). A recent trip to the local charity shop brought me this little sweetie: a Noritake cup from Japan. My apologies for the blurry photo, but the kettle was boiling and I wanted to have a cuppa with it.

I'm not only interested in the genuine articles, but in vintage-themed items as well. Here is a poster from the world-famous Aaron Wood (i.e. justonescarf on Ravelry, where he is known by practically everyone). It's called The Social Media Propaganda Poster, created in the style of propaganda posters from the WWI era. His Etsy shop is full of fantastic offerings of a similar style.

During our trip in September to several US National Parks, I picked up these postcards, which are also of a similar style. They make me think of the old school screen printing techniques when you had a limited number of swipes on the screen to get the message across. I'm hoping I'll figure out a way to display these things sometime. Any ideas are welcome!

And... the pièce de résistance: this beautiful train case from the 1960s that I purchased from Merker Ferker that arrived in the mail on Thursday. I'd been thinking about purchasing one for a long time, but old ones in good condition are tough to find. As soon as I saw this beauty, I knew I had to have it. It is in splendid shape, and boy, is this thing solid! It's true when they say they just don't make things like this any more. When I compare it to the luggage I bought a couple of years ago, I know for sure that this case will outlive those pieces.

So, what's the attraction? Why not buy things brand new, for much cheaper and with much less trouble? Why not go for the slick modern style, all chrome, covered in apples or androids and shiny cases?

Well, I do buy those things sometimes. It's just that some things are worth the trouble.

I think it's because I like the idea of things having a story. That a hat has been around the world. Or a cup has been used to serve tea to a lover. Or that a necklace was worn to a ball, a poster has inspired people to action, or a postcard caused someone to dream of another world. I feel humbled to have a piece of that history in my hands, and that it will have my history as well. I feel like I've added my own little smudge to something that will endure. Even Aaron's Propaganda Posters give you a little thrill from a time when nations banded together behind a common cause.

That's a pretty neat feeling.

And you can't deny that it's a perfect way to recycle. Instead of purchasing something brand-new that has been cranked out from a factory, you can give life to something that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill. And you can see for yourself the enduring value of good craftsmanship.

This is probably why I love to knit and crochet so much. These hobbies make me part of history, a person living a little piece of the past in every stitch. In my own mind, I feel like I've joined myself to my fellow human beings, grasping one hand onto the past and the other hand forward with my own yarn innovations. A human scaffold...

This is the part where Elton John sings, "The circle of liiiiiiiiife..."

It's worth asking, though: What do you do with these things? Are they just gathering dust on a shelf somewhere?

Well, the hat has been worn a few times, and I plan to wear it when the weather gets better. I've had three cups of tea in the cup since I brought it home last week. The poster has been the envy of all my fellow social media geeks. The postcards are either going to go to friends or will be framed and hung on a wall.

And the train case?

Well, what else would I use it for?


  1. Love those postcards! Thanks for the shout out! :D

  2. *fangirl squeal* He's here! He's here! :)

  3. Isn't envy one of the seven deadly sins? I am not feeling envy over your beautiful yarn display, only proper admiration. Nope not one bit of envy. I am admiring the heck out of that display though.

  4. I will use it for travel, I'm sure... but I'd hate to root all those skeins out just now. I'll let them settle in and get comfy for a while. :)