News Flash: Peggy’s winners are Grace Koshida, Kay Garrett, and ginnyjc. Ladies, please check your email, and congratulations!
Edith writing from north of Boston, where we’re getting a real taste of pre-Spring.
And I’m thrilled to welcome fellow Kensington author Peggy Ehrhart, who has a new mystery out.
Here’s the blurb: When a professor is poisoned, Pamela Paterson and the members of the Knit and Nibble knitting club must take a crash course in solving his mysterious murder. Pamela has organized a weekend-long knitting bee as part of a conference on fiber arts and crafts at Wendelstaff College. But when pompous Professor Robert Greer-Gordon Critter, the keynote speaker at the conference, crashes the bee, he seems more interested in flirting than knitting. The man’s reputation as a philanderer supersedes his academic reputation. After coffee and cookies are served, the professor suddenly collapses, seemingly poisoned—but how? Everyone had the coffee and cookies. Joined by her bestie Bettina and the Knit and Nibble ladies, Pamela sorts through everything from red socks to red herrings to unravel the means and motives of a killer dead set on teaching the professor a lesson . . .
I can almost hear their voices: Please rescue me and take me home with you!
Like my sleuth, Pamela Paterson, I find it hard to resist tag sales, thrift shops, charity bazaars—any place where cast-off treasures can be found. Estate sales are my latest passion. These sales, usually involving the entire contents of a house after the death of its owner, are now officially a thing, to judge by an article in a recent issue of the New Yorker (7 January 2022).
A website has sprung up—estatesales.net—on which one can search by zip code for estate sales in one’s area. In pre-internet days, a house’s contents would have gone to relatives, an auction house, dealers in used goods, or thrift shops. Now the first step in clearing out a house is often to hire an estate sale company—of which there are many. I’m coming to recognize the major operators in my part of New Jersey, and I’m sure they all recognize me as a regular.
The household goods don’t have to be grand. In fact they can be quite humble—but a house inhabited by the same people for twenty, forty, or sixty years can yield up items that are now quite collectible, like these vintage tablecloths.
Or antique children’s books.
Some sales are elegantly organized, with items displayed on tables and clothes racks and plenty of room to move around and examine the wares. Others take place in the houses of people who were clearly hoarders, and the sale operators simply open the doors and stand back. Showing up after the sale has been going on for a while one is confronted with a scene as if a tornado had blown through, with clothes, shoes, books, pots and pans, and anything else one can imagine intermingled on beds, tables, counters, and the floor.
I sometimes feel like an intruder, glimpsing the private aspects of a person’s life. One time I noticed papers in an open drawer. I pulled them out and discovered a report from a private detective apparently hired to investigate the deceased’s husband.
Usually items aren’t marked with prices, except in cases where the homeowners had accumulated items of genuine value. The shopper simply browses, picking up things and making a pile in an out-of-the-way place. The sale operator names a price for the whole pile and one can bargain if one wishes. I’ve come away with piles of goodies for as little as five or ten dollars. Sometimes they are things I never knew I needed.
But sometimes they are useful—at least if one has an occasion to serve pickles.
The deceased homeowner is most often a woman, the husband having passed on years earlier. And if she lived into her eighties or beyond, she was of a generation for whom sewing and other handicrafts weren’t just a hobby but a necessity. It’s not unusual to find one of those sewing machines that was actually a piece of furniture, taking its place in a sewing room equipped with carefully organized thread in every color, bins of buttons, snaps, hooks and eyes, packets of rickrack and seam binding, lengths of fabric bought but never used.
Even more common is evidence that the homeowner knitted or crocheted. I’ve been fascinated by granny-square afghans ever since, as a child, I admired one that my grandmother made. Hers was the style I’ve always thought of as classic, with the squares crocheted from random colors of yarn, even several colors to a square. This was obviously a frugal way to use up odds and ends of yarn, just like patchwork quilts use up odds and ends of cloth. But each square was edged in black, an effect that gave coherence to the design.
My grandmother’s afghan eventually came to me, and I’ve augmented my granny-square afghan collection with others found at estate sales. Just last week I went to an estate sale in a small, very old, house. The second floor had been emptied of nearly everything—most of the action was happening in the downstairs rooms, where sixty years of bric-a-brac had been laid out on long tables. But I ventured upstairs. A small curtainless room was empty except for a large cardboard box. Spilling out of the box were a few afghans, obviously handmade. One of them was this.
My first thought was Oh, my goodness! But then I reflected that, eccentric as it was, someone had put hours and hours and hours into making it—and what would happen to it if I didn’t take it home?
To see more rescued yarn treasures, click on the Yarn Mania tab at www.PeggyEhrhart.com .
Readers: What’s your favorite rescued treasure, from whatever source? I’ll send three commenters a copy of the new book (US and Canada only)!
Peggy Ehrhart is a former English professor who currently writes the Knit & Nibble mystery series for Kensington. The eighth book in the series, Death of a Knit Wit, has just been released. Her amateur sleuth, Pamela Paterson, is the founder of the Knit & Nibble knitting club, and Peggy herself is a devoted crafter. Visit her at www.PeggyEhrhart.com
Oh, what a great post. Your treasures sound wonderful. I have an old steamer trunk that I found in an apartment basement that was going to be emptied out by management. In other trunks and boxes, I found a stack of Godey’s ladies magazines and some 1890s Old Farmer’s Almanacs.
Those sound fabulous, Ginny
My parents brought back from WV my grandmother’s china set after she had passed away. It was in a rickety cardboard box and not packed very well. It had been in storage for a while. Mom said I could have it if I wanted it. I opened it up and they were so pretty. The pattern is pink roses which is my favorite and there are just a few pieces missing but I love it someday I will pass them down to one of my granddaughters.
My favorite rescued treasure was a set of Homer Laughlin dishes in a strawberry pattern. That’s the company that makes Fiestaware. Since strawberries are my thing, I knew I had to have them. I was able to add serving pieces in a coordinating color of Fiestaware. They make me happy.
love this post. The only treasure I hold dear is my great-grandmother’s silver spoon which she used with her tea.
I have mixing bowls from my Grandmothers..greyish bowls from my Mom’s Mom and those multicolored bowls from my Dad’s Mom..I used the large yellow one to mix and rise bread. I also have the afghan my Grandmother made from those squares. It is in the cedar chest that also came from her.
PEGGY: You have definitely found a lot of fun items. Similar to another commenter, I have my mom’s old steamer trunk. She brought from Japan when she arrived in Canada during the early 1960s. I use it to store out-of-season clothes.
We have not had garage/yard sales since 2020 in Ottawa. Hopeful news: thehug annual Glebe garage sale is tentatively set for late May.
Oh, I love handmade afghans and embroidered doilies! We have a couple vintage stores in town that do those estate sales, and I’ve rescued several items, including some cute cookie jars that look like houses in different shapes and styles. Love your book cover!!
Probably books- nothing rare or expensive, but I’ve discovered some great series/authors from picking up a book at a library sale. I’ve also inherited a lot of kitchen items from my mom, grandma, great-aunt, and great-grandma. From my dad, a guitar. And shoes.
I want that pickle dish! Thanks for joining us with such a delightful post, Peggy, and a generous giveaway.
The only thing I ever managed to learn to crochet was a granny square.
I have the afghan my grandmother made for me when I went off to college. Well, technically my daughter has it; she appropriated it when *she* went off to college. 🙂
Some years back, hubby had to go to a meeting out of town. I went with him after finding out about an auction in that town. One of my happiest finds at an estate auction was at that auction – a Beulah cookie jar in brand new shape including the moo-er in the lid. You know those old little cylinders kids years ago played with that when you turned them over and back up they made animal sounds. Clearly the folks running it didn’t realize what it was since it was just marked “cow”. No one was picking it up to even notice the noise maker in the lid where if you took the lid off to get a cookie it mooed at you. Hubby loves milk and had a deep fondness for the older Elsie the Cow collectibles. Didn’t figure I’d be able to buy it because back then money wasn’t abundant. However, I was greatly surprised and extremely pleased when I was able to get a very expensive antique cookie jar for $5. Then the look on hubby’s face when I showed up to pick him up and showed him my treasure was priceless.
Even now, I’d excited when I see notice of an estate sale or auction even if I’m more prone to be a looker now than a buyer.. After downsizing, moving to a smaller house and getting rid of a lot of “stuff” myself, I’m a bit more particular of what I buy since one there’s no extra room and two I don’t just “stuff” any more. I want it to speak to me, be of a useful purpose or even something I know I can resale and make money on.
LOVE the title of DEATH OF A KNIT WIT and the cover as well. Can’t wait for the opportunity to dive in reading it. Thank you for the chance to win a copy! Shared and hoping to be one of the lucky ones selected.
2clowns at arkansas dot net
I have 2 footstools that I keep my WIPs in one and all my straight knitting needles in the other . A very dear friend made them out of wooden ammo boxes and the designation is still on the inside. He worked on an Air Force base and found the boxes at the base dump.
Congratulations on the new book! I’ve been collecting vintage tablecloths since the mid-nineties. I love them and often give them away to prune my collection.
Welcome to the blog, and congratulations on the new book! I love the idea of rescuing things. For a while I collected salt and pepper shakers. Not to use, but to look at. Like you, the stories of previous owners always made me wonder.
Hi and welcome! Enjoyed reading your story! I have some vintage dishes from my great-grandmother that I cherish. I also have a couple quilts from my grandmother that she made when I was young.
Thanks so much for the chance! Adore the book cover!!
How have I missed your series all these years? Peggy! I must remedy that. I loved your Maxx Maxwell series.
My most treasured find – oh so easy. I came of age in the 1960 when everything was colorful. A few years ago, in a barn sale, I found a papier mache coin bank. It’s painted fuchsia with an orange stemmed white leaved yellowish orange daisy traveling to the top. I scooped it up for $0.50! It reminded me of one I had back in the day. I love it.
I love knitting and thrifting, so your post really speaks to me! The latest find is always a favorite, like the Limoges unicorn plate I found in a thrift store yesterday, but an all time favorite is a box of beautiful etched wine glasses for $5.00 at a rural yard sale. Your book sounds wonderful!
I used to spend a lot of time in used bookstores, and I’ve found some treasures in there for sure.
I have a few family treasures, one is a one is my maternal grandmother’s jewelry box with a few pieces of jewelry and mementos. The other is a quilt piece that my paternal grandmother was making.when she passed away. I had it framed and it’s hanging in my guest bedroom.
I have many treasures from my Grandparents on both sides among things that we have collected, and I love them all even when not looking at them. I wish I could display them all. I also have many projects started and not finished–like an afghan I started in the 1980s. The colors are no longer what I like, and it is a huge, so I really just need to edge it and do something with it. But my favorite rescued item is a vintage iron ice cream parlor table with a wood top and chair with arms. They were both about $20 together. She had several other of the ice cream chairs without arms and while I was thinking about them, some other person snapped them up as they were $5 each. They did not match and the only reason I hesitated is that we have about 4-6 in the basement that my husband’s aunt paid 25 cents for when a restaurant went out of business in Galesburg, Illinois back in the day. I hope the man that got them is enjoying them.
I am in love with that cover and the Title!!!! Great post too. I am actually downsizing so I try not to hold onto anything. Love the duck though😎
my favourite rescued treasure is my mother’s old teddy bear, stuffed with hay. I may have it restored but am reluctant to let a stranger touch it.
I have a teddy bear that is 70 years old. It is in remarkably good condition but the felt on the palms of his hands and the bottoms of his feet has come unstitched and is falling apart. After a lot of research, I have sent him to the Secaucus Doll and Teddy Bear Hospital. He is there now. I’m supposed to get him back in about a month. The place isn’t cheap, but if the teddy bear means a lot to you, I would check them out.
I love your post Peggy! And the comments. One of my cherished family treasures was a vintage glider from the
1950s. I loved to swing on it as a kid. Alas, it did not hold up as well as the memories did and had to be recycled.
But I’ve put vintage gliders in books I’ve written…that way I’m always remembering.
My favorite rescued treasure would not be politically correct nowadays but I love it and it is a part of History it’s an old mammy cookie jar. I love it it has the patina where a little bit of the color has been worn off but some of it’s still there and it just looks like something that would be so inviting for little kids too come into Grandma’s kitchen and reach in and get a cookie and I love it. Congratulations on your book and I would love to read one of them. I haven’t read any of your books yet so you’d be a new author to me. I hope maybe I might luckily be one of them to win one. Thank you for the opportunity.
I found a cabinet at a garage sale. It’s an old solid wood one. Two drawers and doors on the bottom. I absolutely love it.
My favorite rescued treasure is a coin from the Cayman Islands. It was used by somebody who obviously didn’t know it was was from the Cayman Islands and if they did, they didn’t care and use the coin as regular money from the United States. When I found this coin, I rescued it buy buying it in exchange for US dollars. I treasure this coin very much so much so I keep in a safe place. I never dreamed I would make such a find but I love it that I did.
I have some antiques from my grandparent’s house in West Virginia. I have my grandmother’s foot pedal sewing machine, hand wash board, and the doll my Mom had as a child. Thank you for sharing. God bless you.
I have my grandmother’s foot pedal sewing machine, a hand wash board, old irons as well as a table cloth that my grandmother had cross stitched. Thank you for sharing. God bless you.
I will try this a third time. I have my grandmother’s hand pedaled sewing machine, an old wash board and some old irons. Thank you for sharing. I also have a table cloth that my grandmother cross stitched. God bless you.
My favorite rescued treasure is my grandfather’s pea coat.
Sorry, folks – Peggy wasn’t able to get in and reply yesterday, and we haven’t found a solution!
My favorite rescued item is a rolling pin. It works well reminding me of rolling out sugar cookie dough for cut-out cookies.
The shoe rack I rescued at the senior center which allows me to corral my shoes on top of the washer when I’m not using it.
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