Thursday, February 07, 2013

Where the Market Is

Antiques are like anything else.  There are trends and cycles:

When Gee's Bend Quilts were hung at the Whitney Museum years ago, African American Improvisation quilts were popular.
When the Infinite Variety exhibit hung at the Armory in clients were clamoring for red and white quilts.
Makes me wonder with all the new TV shows featuring Amish life (love Amish Mafia!) if Amish Quilts will be back in fashion.
The point is, if you are going to sell anything, for me it is old quilts and textiles, you have to follow those trends...but even more importantly, where the market goes to shop. 

In a few weeks, I will have a booth set up at the NJ Quiltfest at the Garden State Expo Center in Somerset, NJ.  I've been vending at this show since it started 9 years ago.  I have wonderful customers that look for me at this show.  I know my lace lady, my printed tablecloth lady, my lady who loves cheddar colored get the picture.  I know where my customers will be and what they are looking for, and it winds up being a decent week.    What about the other 51 weeks of the year?

Well, there's the website for Material Pleasures, LLC.  And while smaller items sell very well, larger items are a hard sell.

Recently, I've done some experimenting.   I acquired 5 plastic tubs with fabric from the 1950s and 1960s.  A lot of fabric.  And it is a little too new for me to want to put on the website.  So, I followed my own advice when someone asks me "where do I get rid of this stuff?".  I put it on eBay.

A little history if you can stand it.  I started my business selling on eBay back in Feb 1999.  I did very well there for a number of years, and then wanted to 'grow up', have more independence, and pocket some of those ridiculous fees!  Not to mention, my sell through rate went from 100% to 15%.  I then opened on an online antique mall...and then made the progression to the independent website.   So going back to eBay was a little nostalgic, and I have to admit, I was a little snobby, rolling my eyes...I can't believe I am doing this again.

Boy have things changed over the years!  It was like using eBay for the first time!

I am still really cheap on fees, so I only listed 50 items...eBay gives you 50 free auction style listings every month!  And after I used that up, they gave me a free week of Fixed Priced listings.  Like a drug pusher, eBay gives you those samples for free...and then once you're hooked...BAM!  But, I was pleasantly surprised last month with an 80% sell through rate!  Whoa!  What happened?
Is it the fabric?  The cheap $4.99 starting bid on every item?  Is this where the market is?  I think it was a little bit of everything.

Well, I still had 20% left over...what do I do with this left over 1950s decorator weight cotton fabric?  One of my eBay buyers told me she loved the smaller pieces because she was making handbags and totes out of them.  Eureka!  Etsy!  That's where the crafters shop!

I opened a store on Etsy.  The first day, I sold 2 fabrics, the next day another 2!  That was easy.  Etsy is a wonderful community.  A nice place to shop, and to sell.  I'll list some more items there later this month. 

Where else I am trying to find markets?  I have the Fan Page on Facebook, and I just added an Online Store to that, so we will have to measure how that does.  But generally I am trying to post more on social networks.  And here I am after over another year of blog silence attempting to share my lessons learned.

This month I listed more fabric on eBay  as well as some fun odds and ends, and lots of aprons!  Again, starting most items at $4.99. 

Keeping with the Apron Theme, I also have discounted all aprons by 25% on the website  Remember, free shipping on under a pound or $100 order!

The Etsy Shop has more 1950s fabrics, really fun stuff and very low prices.

And finally, don't forget to Like Us on Facebook!


Saturday, November 26, 2011

What's in a word: Vintage?

I am referring to textiles.  It really bothers me to listen to a someone talk about selling vintage clothing from the, not the 1880s...the 1980s.  Is an off the shoulder Flash Dance shirt really vintage?

Because a standard has not been established in the antique textile business, it is very important to make sure you understand what you are buying before you buy it.  Maybe you like those Flash Dance shirts, but someone looking for "vintage" probably doesn't. 

Everyone pretty much agrees that "antique" is at least 100 years old.  So when I refer to a textile as an antique, you can be sure I am dating the piece for 1910 or prior.  So is everything else just "vintage"?  Most of the sellers on eBay would like to think so.  They use "vintage" more as a buzzword than an appropriate adjective. 

I have been in the antique textile business since 1999, and was collecting prior to that.  For me, a "vintage" textile should be from the 1920s-1950s.  The textiles from the 1960s and 1970s, I consider "retro".  And anything from the 1980s to present is "contemporary".

I know many dealers will disagree.  Using this language may actually put them from the Vintage Clothing business to the Contemporary Clothing business...doesn't roll off the tongue as easy, does it?  And I guess as long as dealers are explaining their date criteria to their customer up front, I will have to place my tongue in my cheek and hope for an industry standard before I become vintage. 

This is Vintage!!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Quilt Front Before Wash

All American Quilt Wash Success Story

I don't advocate washing antique quilts. When someone asks me how to wash their heirloom, I pass on some very good advice that was given to me..."Go lay down on the couch with your feet up, until the feeling passes". There are many things you can do to freshen an antique quilt, and you can read about that on my website here

I sell a product called the All American Quilt Wash by Engleside Products. It claims to be safe on antique quilts, but when I sell it, I recommend it only for new quilts. I stress not to wet wash a quilt that was made before 1940, and then only after it's strength and color fastness can be determined, and then only washed by hand. A dear friend consigned a quilt to me last week. An adorable circa 1930s child's quilt. But, no saleable in its condition. There were dark spots, fold discolorations, and dust smudges along all the scalloped edges. With her gracious permission, I washed it, with the All American Quilt Wash. I filled my washer with cold water and added 8 scoops of the Quilt Wash, submerged the quilt, and let it soak overnight, occasionally hand agitating gently. I bypassed the machine wash and went straight to rinse and onto spin. I let the quilt dry in the sun all day on the grass and it came out fantastic! Nice and bright white, all the fold discolorations were gone, and the dark stains on the front are now hardly visible.

I still do not advocate wet washing an antique quilt, I am not going to wash every quilt in my collection because of this small success. If you need help in determining how to care for you quilt, I recommend you consult a professional. I can probably refer you to one in your area if you ask!

1930s Child's Applique Quilt

Quilt Front After Wash

Quilt Back Before Wash

Quilt Back After Wash

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

1890 Crazy Quilt

1890 Crazy Quilt Posted by Hello

Newly Acquired Crazy Quilt

Did you know when I first starting quilting I could not stand Crazy Quilts. They are an acquired taste...totally not the normal quilt. After all, many were created with fabrics other than cottons which is what most traditional quilters construct their quilts from. They are rarely even quilted! How can it be called a quilt!

It was not until I endeavored to make one, did I truly appreciate what does into these fantastic pieces. You do not only need to have basic quilting and sewing skills. If you want to create a piece that will oooh and ahhh, you will need to master embroidery stitches, hand painting, applique, and more. You need to be able to be free with your design.

My first piece I made using a Crazy Quilt technique was actually a vest. It won third place in the apparel class in a local quilt show. My second piece was a miniature Crazy Quilt which I donated to the guild that I belong to, for their Quilt Show Mini Raffle. I would like to add, my wonderful friend, Betty, won my quilt, so I know it will be cherished and loved, and I can visit it anytime I'd like to. I am working on another vest in a different color scheme. As Crazy as Crazy Quilting can be...I stay within a certain criteria: block size, number of fabrics/pieces, and the colors involved are limited.

Might I add, my first real antique quilt purchase was a Crazy Quilt. A stunning one in excellent condition, and with provenance. I still have that quilt and cherish it. I go to it for inspiration, sometimes talking to the quilter when no one is watching.

I just added another Crazy Quilt to my collection. It is dated 1889-1890. In very good condition for it's age...I hope I look this good at 115 years old! Only 7 fabrics are showing wear. What is so amazing about this quilt is the amount of hand painting. Many floral motifs, some, crossing over fabric seams to other fabrics. I have never seen so much hand painting, and well done painting, in a quilt before. She even has some dimensional appliqued pansies, and she inked the veins in petals! It is a beauty.

I'll be smiling for the rest of the week because of this quilt. Unfortunately, I do not know who the quiltmaker is on this piece. It really is so important to label our quilts appropriately. Wouldn't you want the person you give a smile to a hundred years from now to know WHO you were, not just what you made?

My best,
Material Pleasures

Monday, June 20, 2005

Antique Redwork Quilt, circa 1920s, possibly earlier. Measures 87"x75". There are 42 hand embroidered redwork blocks that measure about 7.5" square.
Posted by Hello

Antique purse , circa 1915-1920s. Ornate metal frame with a blue glass cabuchon clasp. 12" book link chain. Crocheted or knitted in blue thread and blue carnival glass beads. Silk blue lining is original and has a tear in it. The purse and frame are in excellent condition with no losses. It measures 7.5"x8.5".

Posted by Hello

Depression Era Vintage Quilt, Circa 1930s. Measures 80"x80". Alternating solid lavender squares and white squares with a pretty hand appliqued flower. Each flower has petals in a feedsack print in a variety of pastel colors, solid green leaves, and embroidered and appliqued with black buttonhole stitches and a running stitch for the leaf veins.

Posted by Hello

Catching Up

Material Pleasures is still here! I admit, I need to be more attentive of the blog, it is now on the priority list.

It's been an exciting few months for Material Pleasures.
We have vended at an antique show and a quilt show. I must admit, the quilt shows are my favorites. 95% of the people who walk through the door are interested in quilts, the other 5% are there to hold someone's bags.

Material Pleasures also received a mention in Patricia Cumming's new book "Straight Talk About Quilt Care". The book is only available through her website This books answers many questions concerning your new and antique textiles: caring, display, cleaning, and more. It is useful to quilters, collectors, curators, or just someone looking to preserve Grandma's Heirlooms.

Our two products that we care for textile care are in the book, Restoration and the All American Quilt Wash which can be viewed here:

The books also includes pictures of several quilts that we carry.

On a personal note, school is almost out and it will be my duty not to turn the kiddies into couch potatoes. We have planned swim lessons, gymnastics classes, a math camp, 2 vacations, some small days trips, and for my youngest starting Kindergarten in the fall...Kindergarten Prep.

We have one antique show scheduled in August at the Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton, NJ in August. More scheduled in the fall. You can see our calendar at We would love to meet you!

Friday, March 18, 2005

Where did the month of March go?

Let's see, there was a quilt show the beginning of March, a wonderful show, beautiful quilts.
I taught a class in crazy quilting last weekend to my guild, The Courthouse Quilters. But my machine got temperamental with me, the bobbin went all wacky (haven't we all been there?), so now it is in the shop. It's a Janome Memory Craft 4000. I love this machine. Before my husband bought me this machine, I was sewing on my mother's old Nelco from the 1970s. It had a hard time going up a layer of seams or foundation piecing or machine quilting. So when I brought this home, I thought I was in Heaven. I still love this machine. Shortly after, he purchase a Janome Jem for me for Mother's Day, something I can drag around to classes and stuff. Then, about three years ago, I stumbled upon a Janome 8000 with a Koala cabinet for $600. A real steal. Dear hubby came through again for me and they came home with me. I had it serviced and played around some. I had hoped to use it more but with the two small girls and a budding antique textile business, there wasn't time.
So I am selling can see the details here:

I have my eye on the Janome 10001 now. With the little one going into 'all day' Kindergarten in the Fall, I might have some spare time on my hands...
While I am on the subject of machines, I have been on a Featherweight kick. My husband bought me a real nice one for Christmas. Now I am searching for a white one at a reasonable price. Boy, I bet he wishes I asked for jewelry instead!

Quilters Newsletter Magazine performed a study a few years ago surveying the purchasing habits of quilts...the average quilter has 2 sewing machines...I guess they didn't come to my house!!

I have started adding newer inventory to the website...patterns that are vintage inspired. I have 2 Redwork Books with patterns based on actual antique quilts, an Apron Pattern that uses a Vintage Printed Tablecloth, and an Elegant Wedding Bag Pattern with Cross Stitch Embroidery. You can see them here:

Have a great day!
Material Pleasures

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

March Newsletter Posted on Material Pleasures

Been a busy day...Girls had a snow day off from school. We did some stenciling and crafts.

I was able to work on the website today as well...the March Newsletter is now posted, you can view it at:

The March Monthly Special is 40% all Buttons.

I am getting ready to set up at a Quilt Show this weekend. If you are in the area, stop by and say "Hi!". I am in Booth 218, "Material Pleasures".

March 3-6: The Quilt Fest of New Jersey, in Somerset, NJ at the Garden State Exposition Center. Exit 10 off I-287. The Quilt Fest will feature a Merchants Mall offering the best in fabrics, notions, sewing machines, wearable art, embroidery and everything for the quilter and home sewer! There will be exhibitions, workshops, lectures and more! Admission is $12 and includes re entry for all days. Contact me for more information or visit

I love the flexibility selling online has for me, as a stay home mom. But I love these shows because I love people, I love talking to people, and sharing my linens and quilts with those of you who really appreciate them. Can you tell I don't get out much?