Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Estate Sale Leftovers: The Sublime

Hello! Yesterday I discussed the ridiculous things I selected from the remains of my parents' estate sale, but I also brought back some nicer things too. So today I'll show off the "sublime". 

My mother was fond of vintage linens, cut glass and other household goods that symbolized the graciousness of days gone by. Others must have felt the same, for most of her nicer vintage goods had been sold. I was mostly okay with that, as 1. I don't really have room for a lot of stuff and 2. my decorating style is decidedly more informal. 

Still, when I saw that a few of her mother's teacup/saucer sets were left unsold, I grabbed one. Ever since I could remember, my mother displayed these teacups and saucers in the lovely built-in sideboard in the dining room. 

Here's what I got:

This set is bone china from Duchess, an English company. The pattern name is "Fern Rose". I think it's safe to say that my mother inherited her love of pretty things from her mother. I don't really recall my grandmother, who died when I was quite young, so I'm pleased to have this memento of hers. Not sure how old this set is.

Another teacup/saucer set, but since I don't recall seeing it out on display, I don't know where it came from:

On the bottom of the saucer are the words "Cavalier Eggshell Homer Laughlin  USA". From eBay, I learned that the pattern is called "Persian Garden" (some sellers called it "Peacock Persian Garden" or "Peacock Garden" - both close enough, I guess) and seems to date from the mid 1950's.

Before the estate sale began, I inquired about one particular item that had been in my mother's family for decades. My oldest sister learned that this particular item had been declared as "junk" by the estate sale people and they were going to throw it out! Thanks to my inquiry, it was rescued and I was happy to bring it back with me. 

Here's what was saved from the garbage can:

A vintage wax Baby Jesus doll, about 10 1/2" in length. It rests in a wooden display case with a top and one side of thick glass. 

A close-up of the head:

How on earth could the estate sale people have considered it junk? Just look at that sweet face! Grrr... 

Perhaps they weren't familiar with wax Baby Jesus dolls. I have to admit that I'm not, either. For one thing, this wasn't passed on to my mom directly after her mother's death. Instead, one of her sisters got it. Now, this aunt of mine was a dear lady, but wasn't nearly as history-minded as my mother had been. When the doll fell into disrepair she made some well-meaning but unfortunate "improvements". 

This aunt died in the late 1980's. Apparently none of her children wanted the doll themselves, so they gave it to my mom. For years it sat in the attic of my parents' house. My mom had a sewing room up there for many years, so she was bound to see it frequently.

From time to time she'd talk about getting the doll fixed up. You see, according to my my mom, it originally had real human hair, (blonde in color) and a fancy white dress. But my aunt had said by the time she got the doll, the hair had been chewed up by some critter. So she removed the hair and used some dark brown paint for a new "hairdo". 

Something must had happened to the original dress as well, for when Baby Jesus was given to my mom, it had a plain white garment on. My mom decried that and the paint job; she was clearly disappointed in the fate that had befallen one of her mother's treasures. 

I guess my mom must have noticed my developing craft skills, for she started talking about me helping her fix the doll. Nothing came of this for years, in part because I didn't live near her. But finally came the time when she brought the doll along during a visit. I decided to fix the doll up as best I could and present it back to my mom on her birthday three weeks later. 

I'd only made dolls' hairdos out of yarn, so was unskilled in any kind of fancy wig-making. Instead, I bought a package of doll hair and glued it on, curl by curl, to completely cover the painted hairdo. That was a big improvement right there! 

I'm not skilled in sewing vintage-style doll dresses either, but luckily I had a vintage baby dress on hand, bought years ago at an estate sale. It was a little big for the wax Baby Jesus, but I liked the tucking detail on the yoke, and figured it would be closer to what the doll had originally worn than to the dress my aunt had used. 

My mom was pleased with her birthday "present", which made me feel good! It ended up being her last birthday, so I'm glad she had a nicer version of the doll for a little while.

As for the history of the doll itself? I don't think my mom knew exactly how old it was, only that it had come from her mother's family. Either an order of nuns made it, she thought, or else they taught the craft to local girls attending convent school. Either way, the nuns would have been in either Quebec or Manitoba. It's likely that this sort of doll is European in origin, since on eBay there are similar examples that are thought to be French, German or Italian.

My mom told me that my grandmother displayed the wax Baby Jesus only at Christmastime. The doll obviously had meant a lot to her since she brought it with her when the family moved from Manitoba to Michigan at the beginning of the Depression. My mother would comment that my grandmother often felt sad at Christmas since they'd left so many relatives behind in Manitoba. I hope when she saw her wax Baby Jesus she felt a little better. 

As for me, I feel better that I was able to rescue this heirloom from the trash can!



  1. Very nice post. I'm glad you were able to rescue the Baby Jesus doll. Sad to think how many of these family heirlooms end up in the trash.

  2. I'm so glad I was able to rescue it too! I have no idea why the estate sale people thought it was junk or why none of my aunt's three kids wanted to keep it after she died. I'd like to think that my grandmother is pleased that I saved it and fixed it up a little.