Thursday, January 28, 2010

Follow me Through the Treasure Trove

Living in an old house has its drafty, cold, 18th century drawbacks, but is amazing and surprising for an old history head like myself. Come on and follow me delving into an old chest where I knew I would find some hidden gems beads, which I wanted to use for more bead balls. (A little warning - this is a loooongish post.)

Hot on the trails of the beads I turned to this old Chinese, lacquered cardboard box. (After being battered around by my children it has finally got pride of place in our newly renovated drawing room, the before and after of which you can see here.)

There are plenty of old chests in this house, filled with treasures that I love looking through. This one houses... a lot of tissue paper, it seems. But wait, let's delve deeper.

Oh, look, here is a bit of black, embroidered lace. Do you notice the green, fingernail-shaped sequins? Well, they are actually not sequins at all. A friend of mine who happens to be an expert on 19th century costumes told me this amazing fact: The green embellishments are actually the wings of a beetle which were used back then for decoration!!! Check the date on the newspaper - 1939! I'd say that was when the items were packed into the box. They must be way older than that... I know from taking out the paper that the exact date is 19th of March 1939. Little did they know that a few months later a war would start that ravaged the world for nearly six years...

Ok, deeper we dig and we find... a nice fabric covered box. Don't you love the font of "Walpole's"? Very late-1920s... And that gives us a hint about the finds in this box. They are actually peeking out under the tissue paper on the left...

Wait, let me open the lid...

We are getting closer. Something pearly, beady, some silk scraps. What is it?

Let me show you properly. This is a headdress, made of artificial beads, strung on thin metal wire and decorated with some blue bows. As a matter of fact this is a bridesmaid's headdress. I know this because I remember seeing a newspaper clipping showing the 1929 (?) wedding of a family ancestor. The three bridesmaids all wore a headdress like this. 
Unfortunately they have not all stood the test of time. One of the three has actually pretty much fallen apart - ehm, the headdresses, that is, not the bridesmaids... The wire has rusted and broken away, the beads have slipped off. I found them spread all over the green box and the big box, too. But I felt I could gather those beads and re-use them and therefore not destroy the other two headdresses which were still almost intact.

So let's carefully cover and pack everything again, now that we have had a little look at the past... Didn't they have style back then? Here is a glimpse of (slightly later) 1930s style - "the suit collection at Bradley's". Ooooh, fancy, classic, costume style. Look at the jaunty little bow and the funky hat. I can imagine myself kitted out in my tweedy suit, alighting lady-like the London-Edinburgh express, off to meet my other charitable-lady-friends in a Mayfair tea room for cream teas... "Lady Imogen, I have heard, is now living with her lover - 25 years younger than she..." "No???" "I saw them the other day. Of course they cannot attend society together." "Indeed not!" "Will poor Augusta come out this year and be presented to the king? Surely with such connections the pitiable daughter of a society pariah cannot mingle with polite society." "No, that will not do! I have already told my Prudence to sever all ties of connection to her..."
Ooops, getting a bit carried away there. Right, now - with the vintage beads I made five bead balls. It only took me the duration of Ocean's Twelve to make them. (George Clooney certainly makes the fiddliest of tasks do-able...) There were roughly two sizes of beads. I made three larger and two small ones. This time I didn't worry about attaching hoops to them, because I had thought up an easy way of displaying them - just slide them on existing necklaces. (For link to instructions and hints for making the bead balls, go here.) So here is a modern version with all five threaded on a steel cable-type of necklace

For a slightly classier look, I threaded a small bead ball on my white gold cable necklace and left two real pearls on. 

Today I am wearing one small bead ball on a simple, black leather band which suits my casual look.

What do you think? I love being connected to the past through re-using finds like this. Somehow I believe that whoever's headdress this was will not mind me turning it into something new... I hope you enjoyed my little trip into the past - sorry about my lecturing, that's the history teacher in me...  


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Patti said...

what a wonderful adventure you took us on!! Absolutely LOVE the bead balls and I am going over to that site to find the directions...thanks!

Leigh of Bloggeritaville said...


What an exciting post. I LOVEd digging in there with you! So fun!. I love what you have done with the pearls. I love the comination of them together.Great work!

Thanks for linking up to Thrifty Thursday!


Tales from Bloggertiaville

Keetha Broyles said...

OK now, that necklace with the five bead balls on it is TO DIE FOR. I LOVE it.

But you mean now I gotta learn how to MAKE A PROJECT?????


Mimi said...

Simply beautiful!

The Yorgason's said...

Love the lace. Oh my goodness that is amazing!

Shawna said...

So, this 18th century house you are living in, has been in your family? And where did all the chests come from filled with the wonderful and beautiful treasures to find. What would I give to find something like that hidden in the back closets of my parents house. wow. I'm simply...amazed.