Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Shopping local: My beautiful vintage floral art find March 10, 2014

Crewel embroidery floral art, looking up

IT’S SIMPLY A STUNNING piece. Stitched flowers, artfully arranged, springing from a blue vase.

I was beyond tempted to keep the crewel embroidered floral art for myself.

But, instead, I would present it to my eldest who, for her 28th birthday, requested thrift art. She knows my knack for finding great original art at thrift shops, garage sales and elsewhere. I’d been searching for awhile for her gift, to no avail.

So I conceded that, until I found the perfect piece, she’d need to settle for a bouquet of real flowers. Fresh flowers are always welcome and would be a great way for my husband and I to thank our daughter and her husband for inviting us to lunch at their St. Paul apartment.

Remember to shop local as noted in this mat at the entrance to The Nook & Cranny. Edited photo.

Remember to shop small local stores as noted in this entry mat at The Nook & Cranny. Edited photo.

The day before the lunch date, Randy and I stopped downtown Faribault for St. Pete’s Select blue cheese from the Cheese Cave. Our son-in-law loves this locally-made cheese. And while we were on Central Avenue, I would pop into a floral shop for flowers.

Crewel embroidery floral art, front

But, before I even exited the car, I noticed that stunning floral art in the front window of  The Nook & Cranny, a gift shop which features vintage, collectible and handcrafted merchandise.

The Nook & Cranny, 412 Central Avenue, Faribault, Minnesota.

The Nook & Cranny, 412 Central Avenue, Faribault, Minnesota.

I beelined for the store, my husband trailing. When he read the price tag on the artwork, my excitement diminished. It was priced way higher than I expected or wanted to pay. Art, but not exactly thrift art. As is typical of me, I debated whether I should spend that kind of money. I circled the store, fingering other merchandise, my thoughts never far from that floral art in the window.

Crewel embroidery floral art, side view

To make the potential purchase even more enticing, the shopkeeper shared its history. The floral art was created as a wedding gift some 75 years ago by a mother-in-law. Now no one in the family wanted the long ago gift nor two other crewel embroidered pieces, also for sale in The Nook & Cranny.

That history, combined with a comment by my spouse that real flowers would last perhaps a week, made the decision final. Our daughter would have this art forever.

The Nook & Cranny is among numerous one-of-a-kind locally-owned specialty shops in historic downtown Faribault.

The Nook & Cranny is among numerous one-of-a-kind locally-owned specialty shops in historic downtown Faribault.

So I meandered to the back room and, in an atypical move, asked the shopkeeper whether she would consider dropping the price. She did, by 10 percent. That was just enough. I knew, too, if I didn’t buy this vintage art with its wonderful history, I would regret my decision.

This crewel embroidery art, crafted by the same woman who created the floral I purchased, now hangs in the front window of the Nook & Cranny.

This 1970s vintage crewel embroidery art, crafted by the same woman who created the floral I purchased, now hangs in the front window of The Nook & Cranny. I photographed this through the window when the shop was closed, thus the glare on the glass. If you buy this art, tell them I sent you.

Truly, this art was meant to be purchased by me and gifted to my eldest. I am convinced of that. I know she will treasure it. When she saw the art for the first time, her enthusiasm was genuine.

Table setting

Besides that, when we arrived at her and her husband’s apartment for Sunday lunch, a bouquet of fresh flowers already adorned the dining room table.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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34 Responses to “Shopping local: My beautiful vintage floral art find”

  1. treadlemusic Says:

    And the decor was totally SPRING!!!! What a sweet visit and the perfect gift. Dare I say, it was “meant to be”!?! It, truly, is a lovely keepsake stitched with love many years ago and given to one who will appreciate its value on many levels.

  2. Marilyn Says:

    Oh – my heart went pit-a-pat when I saw that gorgeous crewel! It made my day!

  3. Beth Ann Says:

    It is a perfect addition to their home!!! I love the one you photographed through the window—-I am a daisy lover and that one would always be blooming in my house! Great find, Audrey.

  4. Jackie Says:

    What a unique request for a birthday present and a perfect find to fulfill the request. The floral artwork is beautiful Audrey, I’m glad you were able to snatch it up, it was meant to be 🙂

  5. shalilah2002 Says:

    That is a beautiful piece of work. You should be proud that your daughter appreciates such art.

  6. Thread crazy Says:

    Audrey what a neat find…crewel embroidery is so beautiful. I also do needlepoint and many years ago I too did some crewel embroidery so I know how long that type of needle work takes. That’s a gem of a find and I know your daughter will appreciate it.

  7. Deb Says:

    Hello from the frozen tundra of CT (the way I have done greetings since the first snow fall last season, and it looks like more is on the way);

    I was moved by your eloquent words Audrey-and the idea behind them. I am a lover of finding treasures (i.e.-thrift store shopper) too, and especially for gift giving. Your daughter is a lucky girl.

    What you did was a step in the right direction and made my heart sing too-because you are “keepin’ it green,” by re-using an item. You know, .sort of like…recycling.

    Recycling. R-purposing. Up cycling. Re-inventing. Re-using. Re-invisioned (ok, I made that one up); all these great and somewhat trendy words and their ilk are very strange indeed, but the ideas behind them do mean a great deal to people like me, and I believe-you too. But, oh, didn’t you stifle a little laugh when you first heard the term”regifting?,”Com’on people! Savvy treasure hunters like Audrey and I have been re-gifting for years!

    Regifting…hmmm….”What a dilemma!” as someone exclaimed on the Today Show last December. To me, it is just a fancy word someone coined to sort of cover the guilt over being too cheap to either buy or make a present or that the person ran out of time, or just maybe there was a legit. reason for the re-gifting, but to me, it was again, just a cover story to hide some guilt. Oh, I thought this, smugly, as again, I have ALWAYS been a re-gifter-but a re-gifter of older things or forgotten things or re-purposed and re- or up- cycled items too! And I give these things proudly, without hesitation, clearly stating to the recipient that I found for them, a treasure. My regifting has meaning! (being snarky here).

    But, I am slightly smug, not really wanting to be fully smug, is because I have a mom who taught me the value in things at thrift shops and I grew up liking 99% of what she bought for me, or lead me to look at to purchase. Plus, it just made sense to me. Why spend $50.00 on (back in 1980s when I got my first real job) designer jeans, when Salvation Army racks were bursting with gorgeously fabulous cast-offs? Who would know, and who would even care? Salvation Army was my salvation for hip and trendy all the way to polished and corporate looking clothing when I was first hired by an alphabet house insurance company (What else does a starting out English Teacher in the Hartford area do– afford the luxuries in life ? An $8,300 teacher’s salary was just not going to pay the rent, afford a better car than one which lost its engine in Indiana the previous summer and treat me to t more than Peanut butter & Jelly sandwiches?) (I’ll tell you; she sells her fine grasp of grammar, nerdy wordsmanship, conservative image and her soul to the corporate devil I mean angel who hired me at -gasp-triple my starting teacher’s salary…)But slightly smug I am…due to feeling good about not buying something at full cost for people who could most of the time, well afford to purchase the real deal. That’s my deal. I loved the idea of keeping most of what I earned.

    And speaking of thrify ways, here in New England, and along the Gold Coast of CT we have a plethora of consignment shops too. Another word to ease the guilt over the baser term, “thrift.” Which is in itself puzzling to me, this being the home of the ORIGINAL frugal new englander (look up selling nutmegs to a nutmegger). Yet, the word, “Consignment” sounds so much more gentrified than “thrift.” Like when a bunch of us working girls used to say Chez K- for K-Mart, and now I hear people say – Tar zhjay for Target. But at the end of the day, words like re-gifting and consignment are just words that mean some of us are in the know about not spending a fortune when we don’t have to. In the of a thrift shop, there is usually an organization which benefits from the sale, As for consignment shops, of course, the store owner and consignee are the beneficiaries.A consignment shop however, is not like a thrift shop at all–being able to jack up a price to the cosmos (sorry to the late Carl Sagan) for that gum-wrapper “art purse” or that Kook Aid Juice Box tote bag I bought at my farmers market from a vendor for $10.00–which is now going for a whopping $35.00. Holy Saks Fith Avenue!. But I digress.

    Of my own recent re-gifting, I have given– just recently, as a wedding gift — a vintage picnic basket filled with mostly vintage things (another endearing term used to convey charm, when most of the time it only means OLD) (but I’m an English teacher and love words; I can spot those euphemisms a mile away); an embroidered tea cloth -which serendipitous-ly had their last name letter “G” monogram on it, along with darkly sweet amethyst wine glasses, some pretty silver plated spoons, some locally roasted coffee, some other treats from my farmers’ market, a couple of hand made coffee mugs with their names on them, and other treasures from the local area. I topped off the basket with a card filled with a Gift Certificate to Home Depot, and added a maple leaf quilt I made for them too, so that it didn’t appear as if I spend the whole afternoon shopping at Goodwill, not that there’s anything wrong with Goodwill.

    I hoped our young nephew and his wife are the young among us who appreciate these carefully culled and curated treasures (don’t get me started on the word curate). But, as of today, we have not heard back from them, and the gift package was sent back in early December. Also, since it was so close to Christmas, I added a few presents,

    I think I made them slippers and gave them a big bag of “gourmet” caramel-vanilla flavored popcorn, from a local kettle corn maker who sells these at indoor winter farmers’ markets. I got the giant bag with a gallon of popcorn for $5.00, what a bargain! The theme of the Christmas present was “Snug at home with your new slippers in your new house, while munching on gourmet popcorn and watching a good old classic movie.” They know Aunt Deb is big into themes. Also included a movie,”Christmas in Connecticut,” even though they live in Vermont. Sort of like, wow, cheap date night with slippers and chewy popcorn.

    Ah well. I know the picnic basket and other items were a gamble, and may be in a closet somewhere. Maybe they’ll use the quilt for a couch throw.

    And at the very least, if it remained unopened, they can always regive my regifted DVD movie.

    With love from the backroad,
    deb from CT

    • Deb, I thoroughly enjoyed your slice of life thrifting stories. You and I are two peas in a pod. (I can hear the English teacher in you sighing.)

      Your gifts to your nephew and his bride were perfect.

      I gifted my daughter, at her bridal shower, with a 1970s vintage poetry book about love (found at a used book sale) and a vintage print that several of the women in my family also own, including me. My one sister screeched, “Hey, Audrey, is that from a garage sale?” before my girl opened her gifts. And that was not said in a kind way, although I am quite proud of my thrifty finds. One-of-a-kind treasures these are, not some mass produced product made overseas that a zillion others own.

      You get the whole reuse and shopping local approach. I appreciate that.

      Our snow is melting. I wish it was the same for you.

  8. Deb Says:

    ooops. just re read all that, rife with typos! I was typing in the almost – getting-dark as I’m soaking up allllll the available daylight I can get, seeing as how this snow’s gonna be here maybe until JUNE. Plus, my husband was teasing me with a freshly made grilled cheese sandwich. I didn’t write this in WORD first, but feel, that oh well. these were my genuine typos in the dark and were better than agonized nit-picking that I usually do to all that I write. Still, sent with more love from the backroad.( tee hee hee) deb

  9. Beautiful:) My one grandma use to do art like this and it was so beautiful. My other grandma was a great at making quilts. Miss learning those arts from the two of them.

  10. I’m glad that you dared to haggle on the price! I’m not good at that. Lovely find – and love the story of its history!

  11. Brenda Says:

    My mother passed away in September and as my sisters and brother and I began to select those items that gave us the most joy to bring to our own homes. It was a very emotional time and all I wanted was my mother back. So my first choice was the embroidered vase of flowers she skillfully made so long ago…. And the exact pattern you showcase in your blog. Thank you so much for posting this. It made me feel closer to her

    • Brenda, please accept my deepest condolences at the loss of your dear mother. It is obvious how much you miss her and loved her and my heart goes out to you.

      That her piece of stitchery brings you comfort and reminds you of your mother is such a wonderful thing.

      My mother is still living. But this fall my siblings and I went through all of her belongings because health forced her from her home. I so wanted a piece of her handiwork, but “lost” in several coin tosses and thus got none of her stitchery.

      But I did get her diaries, the one thing I asked her for. As the writer in the family, it seemed only right that I would get these. I also wanted her typewriter and had requested it, but my request was not honored by the rest of the family. That still makes me sad as my writing career started on a typewriter. But so it goes. I have her words in her handwriting and nothing of her possessions is of more value.

  12. Margaret Geary Says:

    The bouquet crewel is an from an Elsa Williams 1960s kit called Merton. I often see it described as being 100 yeas old and always want to correct the record because I am older than this beautiful pattern!

    • Thank you for this information. I just googled Elsa Williams and you are correct. So the shopkeeper erred in telling me this was created as a wedding gift 75 years ago. Maybe 55 years ago. Still, no matter it’s age the piece is beautiful.

  13. Margaret Says:

    Don’t know whether anyone has mentioned this yet, this floral Crewel was stitched from an Elsa Williams kit called “Merton.” The pattern has only been around since 1966 so the story you were told about 75 years is not accurate. That said, this is wonderfully made.


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