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Vintage crochet, magic beans, water mines and other treasures from Portugal

 
Mother Tree
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As many of you know, I've had a pretty rough time over the last couple of years.  And now I'm starting to recover and am ready to move on.  Literally.  My new partner and I have bought a new farm so we can have a fresh start together and we've just started work clearing the house out.  The seller was born there, and the house was built by his parents.  It's been empty for around ten years but left pretty much untouched.  He was obviously very emotional about the place and was finding it difficult to even contemplate clearing out his mother's belongings, so I told him to just take what he wanted and leave the rest for me to clear.  

It turns out his mother must have loved three things very, very much - flowers, the colour pink, and all things crochet!

Here is the kitchen.  Bright pink, full of plastic flowers, and with a crochet granny square (well, hexagon) hanging up as a pot holder.



And here's the living room. Not pink, but full of lacey crochet work, old plates, cracked plastic vases full of sand and pink plastic flowers, the occasional jar of honey, and endless textiles tucked away in old chests and boxes and bags.



The first treasure I found was a bedspread, made of the same granny-hexagons as the pot-holder in the kitchen.  I made off with this immediately and soon had it soaking in a tub of water and washing soda to remove a decade's worth of dust, and then washed it gently with several rinses and put it to dry.  It's a little shabby chic and needs a bit of repair in places, but I absolutely love it and it's currently adorning my bed and getting used to its new owner.



The next two treasures were a little different - a twenty euro note (which I think I should offer back to the seller...) and a little bundle of cabbage seed.  I've sown half of this, in the off chance it's still viable.  It would be good to get the strain of cabbage, probably perennial galega cabbage, that belongs to the new farm.  The piece of crochet these two treasures are sitting on was far too damaged to be worth trying to salvage, but the very stained table runner at the back was actually intact, so I rescued it and it became my test piece to see how well I could remove old stains.  More about that in a later post.



Here's a table runner that showed up.



And another one...



And a couple more bits and bobs...









And then these.  

Which somehow seemed to sum up everything all at once.  

Pink, crochet flowers, on plastic stems, presumably recycled from old plastic flowers.  

They somehow seemed incredibly symbolic, so I brought them home with me to clean up and get ready to display in my new bedroom, when we finally get to the stage we can move in.



I've taken the crochet flower heads off their plastic stems and put them to soak with a bit of washing soda to see if I can clean them up a bit, or at least get the crap and dust off them.



All the old vases in the house were plastic and split, so I hit the used furniture place in Castelo Branco and came home with a perfect little glass vase for the princely sum of 50 cents.  I've washed the dust and grime off it, and also off the plastic flower stems, and trimmed the stems to a more appropriate size.



One final photo for now.  Right at the bottom of the last old chest of textiles that I cleared was a glass perfume bottle, which still smelled of perfume, and this photo.  I'm guessing I've come face to face with the creator of those pink crochet flowers!



More to follow.
 
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OH COOL!! I'm SO glad you are keeping what you can,and what neat things to keep! I hate when people clean out someone else's home by throwing it all away, to me it's not only wasteful, it's disrespectful. You are keeping the tradition of that home up, and that is a wonderful thing to do! There are houses, which are just a building, and there are homes, you bought a home, and you are keeping it that way.

I love the hexagon blanket!

I wish you all the best in your new start, you deserve it :)
 
Burra Maluca
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The crochet flowers cleaned up well!

I soaked them in a solution of water and washing soda, then rinsed and washed with soap, rinsed again thoroughly and put to dry.



Then put them back on the plastic flower stalks, which I trimmed a bit to make them fit in the vase a bit better.



I think they've come out brilliantly!  

I still have a load of table runners and things to work through.  More to follow.
 
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Very Cool!  
 
pollinator
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Is this close to your old place ? The amount of beautifully constructed stone buildings that sit idle, is amazing. So many have moved to the city, abandoning little villages and farms.

I think it's great that you are keeping some of the home's decor and history.

A new beginning in a new place. The old place is an important part of your past , but probably not the best spot, to begin with a new partner. Congratulations.
 
Burra Maluca
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I just have too many memories in this place, and somehow the way that it's all gradually falling into shape, with fruit trees just starting to bear and all the things I dreamed of becoming real just makes it harder.  Plus it's almost impossible for my new partner to feel as though it's really his.  The best thing all round, including for my son, who had also got himself a bit bogged down in the memories, is a fresh start somewhere new.

My new partner has always wanted his own place to do up exactly as he wants, and the bottom floor of the new place is an incredibly blank slate.  It's just been used as a shed, without even a floor, so he's busy trying to mesh his long-held dream of under-floor heating with mine of having a rocket mass heater. So the boys are about to start chiseling the dirt floor out to start making both our dreams come true.  Plus there's a lovely old stone barn for my son to convert into his own dream-shed.  

We'll still be in the Castelo Branco region, but a bit further north, on the foothills of the mountains.  Because I've always been a mountain girl at heart...
 
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Burra Maluca wrote:
My new partner has always wanted his own place to do up exactly as he wants, and the bottom floor of the new place is an incredibly blank slate.  It's just been used as a shed, without even a floor, so he's busy trying to mesh his long-held dream of under-floor heating with mine of having a rocket mass heater. So the boys are about to start chiseling the dirt floor out to start making both our dreams come true.  Plus there's a lovely old stone barn for my son to convert into his own dream-shed. .



Sounds like ours. The whole downstairs was barn so our long held dream of underfloor heating it is. We have a large barn which will be Roy's garage workshop (the Garage), his carpentry shop (the Man Cave ), and a rest room with bathroom. The house Bodega will be my canning/food preservation/utility area. We will be able to spend whole days without speaking to each other. Hmmmmmmm. After 34 years together it will be nice to get together in the evening and discuss our days again like we did when we both worked.  Our new matress comes today - MY FIRST PROPER BED FOR 7 YEARS!
 
Burra Maluca
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I started work clearing out downstairs today, which in traditional rural Portuguese style was basically the shed.

And I think I hit the mother lode....

A whole bag of beans!



They are all different colours, saved all mixed up, in two bags, one inside the other.  I'm pretty certain these were saved from plants grown here.  And with this many there's a much better chance that some will grow.



There are definitely worm holes in some, and a fair bit of dust, but there are a lot of them intact so I'm very hopeful.  And I just love the mix of colours...





 
Mandy Launchbury-Rainey
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Brilliant find. You could germinate indoors, and if you don't  have a heated invernadero, just use your UFH!
 
Burra Maluca
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Mandy Launchbury-Rainey wrote:Brilliant find. You could germinate indoors, and if you don't  have a heated invernadero, just use your UFH!



I'm seriously hoping that we'll find a way to safely and effectively get the rocket powered under-floor heating figured out before long.

In the meantime, I want to report on the badly stained crochet table runner that I wanted to test a few stain removing techniques with.

I still had some oxiclean around in the back of a cupboard that had been sitting there since I emigrated 15 years ago. As the stains were so bad, I decided to take a risk on whether or not it would damage the fabric and soaked the table runner in a solution of oxiclean overnight.  The stain faded considerably and there didn't appear to be any damage, so I changed the solution and tried again.  It seemed to me that every time changed the solution and left it for 12 hours, a bit more of the stain would disappear.  After about five changes, the last bit of stain seemed pretty determined to stay, but there was still no apparent damage to the structure of the fabric.  So I washed it with washing soda, which lifted it a bit more to the point that I thought I'd probably be quite happy to use it myself, then lay it on top of my solar cooker to dry in the sun and hope that the sunlight would bleach out the last bit of stain.



And this was the result - no visible staining left, and no apparent damage to the table runner!



All it really needs now to make it perfect is an iron, which is a thing I not only never use but also do not possess and haven't done for many, many years.

But there, lurking in a corner in the new place, might be the very thing I'm looking for - another treasure!



It still has old coals inside!



There's even an ironing board in there.  Now, should I try to restore the iron?  Or leave that for a while...
 
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I want to know what is in that glass jar and those earthen jugs you showed in the other thread! So many mysteries!



Living in a 20 year old manufactured home, that was built on land that has only ever been forested/logged, I am really envious of all the history in your home! Now you just need a secret passage or nook!
 
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Although it's definitely a bonus for you, It's sad to see old crocheted things left behind by family. That sort of stuff should be part of family heirlooms, handed down to kids.

A hint I learnt from my Mum: when ironing fine crochet work or lace, place a slightly damp, white cloth over it and iron on that. It prevents catching it with the point of the iron, scorching, and the steam created helps flatten it out.

When washing wool blankets and crocheted throws, we always use a small amount of eucalyptus oil - it softens the wool, gives it a very slight perfume, and apparently kills dust mites.

Those 'flowers' came up really good - looks like old fashioned double Carnations.

If your new partner is named 'Jack', you may be in for a surprise with those beans!
 
Burra Maluca
Mother Tree
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Nicole Alderman wrote:I want to know what is in that glass jar and those earthen jugs you showed in the other thread! So many mysteries!



I haven't investigated the glass jar thing yet, but my son has and he says it seems to be full of alcohol.  Probably aguardente distilled from wine made from the grapes which grow on the property.

They're just about ripe now, but I don't think wine-making is going to happen this year.  They're very good with cheese for an on-the-go sort of lunch while we're there though.  Here's one of the vines growing outside the old stone shed, which might have been the original house before this new-fangled brick one was built and is destined to be my son's.



And a close-up of the ripe grapes.  They were quite delicious...



Those big earthern jugs are olive storage jars.  




That big one has a piece of cork on top to keep the contents clean.  I took the lid off and stuck my phone camera in the top in the hope I could get a picture to see what was in it.  It seems to be pretty well empty apart from some dark liquid at the bottom which smells strongly of vinegar.



I repeated the procedure for the other one, which appears to contain an old hat...



I am really envious of all the history in your home! Now you just need a secret passage or nook!



No secret passages as far as we can tell, but there are three water mines, which we're busy learning all about and will in due course no doubt have a thread of their own.

Here's the main one.  The passage is around 6ft tall and it's possible to walk in there.  Not sure how far back this one goes, but the little one on the top terrace (did I mention the terraces?) is only half as tall, but supposedly goes 100 metres into the hillside.


 
Burra Maluca
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F Agricola wrote:Although it's definitely a bonus for you, It's sad to see old crocheted things left behind by family. That sort of stuff should be part of family heirlooms, handed down to kids.



There was just one son, who is quite devoted to the place.  His parents built the house and he was born and raised there, but left to move to the city to work.  He has one daughter but she has no interest in the place.  I think it was breaking the seller's heart to part with the place and, knowing how painful it is to clear out the personal belongings of a loved one (I'm doing it now with all my husband's stuff in my current farm, and it tears me apart) I told him to just take what he wanted and I'd clear the rest.  Judging by what was left behind, I'd say he just couldn't face touching anything apart from obviously personal documents that were in plain sight.  There was even a twenty euro note left tucked under something on the dresser which he'd missed.  My intention is to clean the place up, get rid of all the unwanted stuff, then when it's been renovated and I've rescued as many bits and pieces as I can I'll invite him to visit and offer a lot of the crochet stuff back to him along with a few other choice bits and pieces, and that photo and bank note.

A hint I learnt from my Mum: when ironing fine crochet work or lace, place a slightly damp, white cloth over it and iron on that. It prevents catching it with the point of the iron, scorching, and the steam created helps flatten it out.

When washing wool blankets and crocheted throws, we always use a small amount of eucalyptus oil - it softens the wool, gives it a very slight perfume, and apparently kills dust mites.



Thanks for that - I'll bear it in mind.  The finer points of housekeeping are total mystery to me...

Those 'flowers' came up really good - looks like old fashioned double Carnations.



I believe they are carnations, which are a very symbolic flower to the Portuguese.  The local Castelo Branco embroidery features stylised carnations, and of course the near bloodless revolution that took place here in the 1970s was known as the Carnation Revolution.




If your new partner is named 'Jack', you may be in for a surprise with those beans!



Nope, he's Austin.

The Portuguese equivalent of Jack, however, would be João.

Here's a photo of Austin, wearing his favourite t-shirt, me, my new neighbour João who owns the terraces above the new house but below my top terrace, and the seller, who is also João.  



So I'm expecting great things of those beans!


 
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This thread is the best thing about my week. I love that you are documenting your discoveries!!! And so awesome that these things and the memory of the old lady of the house live on.

Burra Maluca wrote:I still had some oxiclean around in the back of a cupboard that had been sitting there since I emigrated 15 years ago.


LOL, been there and done that in so many ways! The things we think will be important/hang on to.....
 
Burra Maluca
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Tereza Okava wrote:This thread is the best thing about my week. I love that you are documenting your discoveries!!!  



Oh well if you're enjoying it that much, I'd better rummage through the photos and show you a few more bits and bobs...

This is a close up of one of the old plates that were on the dresser.  




It has a crack right the way across it, but I'm going to clean it up and use it as a fruit bowl until it falls apart, and then attempt to glue it back a bit more permanently.  It might not last forever, but I intend to enjoy it for as long as I can.  

This one is going to be a fruit bowl for the living room I think.  It's a bit cracked too (aren't we all...) but not as badly as the other one.



This one, on the other hand, is a bit too far gone and I should probably allow it to rest in peace.



I found a little cloth bag of black beans, but I think these are too far gone, too.



And now to the kitchen!

This is one of the for-sale shots from the estate agent, because I didn't take any 'before' shots of my own.  Bad Burra...



There are loads of old, worn out treasures in here. And a ton of plastic leaves and flowers up on the wall. I got rid of the flowers, but I'm keeping the leaves to decorate my new bedroom. And there was a leafy fruity thing up there, too.  Which when I took it down turned out to be ceramic, not plastic.  Not only that, it's a very traditional design related to the 'cabbage leaf' pottery that I already collect. It was coated in grease and gunge, so I took it home to clean up so I could photograph it to show you.  I put it in a bowl of water with some washing soda to soak, and this happened...



All the orange and red paint, which had been added after the piece was fired, fell off, so the beautiful orange and the tomato and watermelon and most of the apple and now bereft of colour.  Austin seems to think he's up to painting them again though, if we can find some suitable paint.

This is the little gas stove that was in the kitchen.  Most old kitchens have one of these in.  You can just make out some of the pretty orange and reds of the still-painted fruit plate thingie which is on top of the stove, mostly hidden by a tea towel.



The gas stoves are a fairly modern addition to the traditional fireplace where traditional cooking techniques are used.



The only water supply to the house is a gravity fed pipe from the water mine to the floor-level sink beside the fireplace. I do love the colour scheme, though I'll probably change it as it isn't exactly 'me'.



There were a couple of new-fangled plastic cheese molds lurking in the cupboards.



And also, tucked away in various places, some Vim, some teeny tiny shotgun cartridges, and a nice big jar of honey!  And yes, it's still edible...



And lastly, for now at least, the key to the old shed.  Which somehow feels very, very precious and beautiful.  I think that might hang up there forever...

 
Tereza Okava
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My aunt has one of these enormous glass fruit bowls that is at least a hundred years old, I love it for what it is but she told me it was like that, painted on the outside, and when she washed it without knowing she was distraught!

Do you have a use for the old/broken crockery in the garden? I have a path where I put the broken things, since I hate to just throw things out and it's nicer for me than buying gravel that has no character.

I also want to know about the kitchen sink-- was water put in a basin and then hefted somewhere to wash? Or is this more of a barn/shed setup than a kitchen setup?
(thank you for posting more pix!!! what a nice break from ripping out jasmine vines in the garden.....)
 
Pearl Sutton
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Burra: COOL!! Keep showing us! That really broken plate would, in my world, be set into the ground, about like it is in that pic, just standing there being pretty in the flowers.
And I have never heard of a water mine, what are they?
If I could have anything I wanted out of there so far, it would be that stove. :D
 
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What an amazing, fabulous bit of history you've bought, Burra!! I'm awed, with each photo...
 
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Hello All, Hello Burra Maluca

About the Carnation Revolution, you can hear some revolution songs in here:

https://permies.com/t/107728/art/Music-Portuguese

All Good for All
 
Burra Maluca
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I hauled out the best 'treasure chest' to put in the shed with all the treasures in so that the rest of the stuff upstairs can be hauled out and disposed of ready for renovations.



These two aren't treasures, but they are both relics from my childhood.  Every under-the-sink cupboard I ever knew as a child had one of these two in....



Most of the old blankets were either only usable for dog blankets, or too manky and disgusting even to want to clean up for the dog.  

These two however were in a chest and seem well worth preserving.



At the very bottom of the treasure chest were a pile of bed sheets.  I'm not sure if they're linen or cotton - anyone know how I can tell them apart?

I pulled two of them out for closer analysis.  

If I'm not much mistaken, this is hand made crochet/lace and hand embroidery.



Here's a close up of one of the embroideries.



And the same but from the back.



The second sheet was just as stunning.



And now I'm in a bit of a quandary.

Do I keep them and use them?  Offer them to a museum?  Or clean them up and offer them back to the seller?

They seem far too precious to risk doing the wrong thing with, and there are more in that chest I haven't investigated yet...
 
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Hi Burra,
You are very lucky to have those sheets. The way to tell the difference between cotton and linen is to slide you hand inside the folds of the fabric. The linen will feel cool, the cotton will not. Those do look hand crocheted, that is a very popular form of lace in Portugal. We saw it on all the altar cloths in cathedrals throughout Portugal. In that pristine condition, I would guess the previous owner didn't use them much. There's a tradition in Italy of girls embroidering 'First Night Sheets' for their wedding night. Don't know if the same tradition existed in Portugal but maybe....... They were so treasured by the bride that they were usually put away in safe keeping. There's a good chance they might be hand loomed too. Check the selvage edges and if they're not as perfect as a machine made sheet then you've got yourself a real treasure. Its my guess that you'll appreciate them more than the son who left them in the trunk.
 
Burra Maluca
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You are very lucky to have those sheets. The way to tell the difference between cotton and linen is to slide you hand inside the folds of the fabric. The linen will feel cool, the cotton will not.  



I tried that, and they felt cool.  So I suspect they are in fact linen!  The fabric also appears to have a few 'slubs', which I think is a characteristic of linen?



There's a tradition in Italy of girls embroidering 'First Night Sheets' for their wedding night. Don't know if the same tradition existed in Portugal but maybe....... They were so treasured by the bride that they were usually put away in safe keeping.  



In my region of Castelo Branco that is most certainly the case, BUT the style of embroidery is very, very different.  I talk about it a bit in this thread - Visiting Saudade - life in a Portuguese village house  The tradition, as far as I can tell, was for young girls to grow their own flax, then prepare linen and weave it first into smaller samplers, then into full sized bedspreads.  They would also raise silkworms on mulberry trees (possibly planted for them when they were born) and produce their own silks to embroider them.  

This is a fairly typical local sampler which I bought in an antique shop.  It's not the super high quality you find for sale in the souvenir shops, made by professionals, just a typical local example of 'the real thing', which is always based on a tree-of-life design.  



And this is an example of a finished Castelo Branco bedspread.



But the sheets I found in the treasure chest were nothing like these.  Maybe they weren't First Night sheets, or maybe the tradition didn't extend quite this far North.  Or maybe the lady of the house came from a little further away?  

There's a good chance they might be hand loomed too. Check the selvage edges and if they're not as perfect as a machine made sheet then you've got yourself a real treasure. Its my guess that you'll appreciate them more than the son who left them in the trunk.



I'm no judge of such things.  The selvedge is visible in the top photo of this post.  Thoughts?

 
Carla Burke
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That doesn't look like a machined selvedge, to me....
 
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That looks like a finished (hemmed) edge to me. If you can check the side(s) of a piece of fabric that isn't hemmed, look for an edge like the one in my pic. Its even but not perfect, and may have slight puckers or bumps. I'm a beginning weaver and I can only now appreciate the level of skill that it takes to produce a 'clean' selvage edge. I had the good fortune to 'inheret' some old linens when my partner sold his mother's home in Slovakia. We had no room in our suitcases (they weigh a ton - another clue that its linen and not cotton) so I convinced him to mail home 2 boxes of linen sheets and tablecloths. He REALLY thought I'd lost it. Now that we sleep in them, he thinks mailing them wasn't such a bad idea.  The pictures are of one hand loomed sheet that is amazing to my unskilled hands.
Your pics and story of visiting your friend's home with her beautiful embroidery is very touching. Her work is really wonderful! I hope the other pieces in the trunk are just as lovely.
HandloomLinenSelvage1.jpg
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HandloomLinenSelvage2.jpg
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Burra Maluca wrote:... I repeated the procedure for the other one, which appears to contain an old hat...


...



Everything you find there looks so interesting, even that old hat in the jar! Of course most of all I like the crochet work, because I do textile handcrafts too. Thank you for the photos of the crochet flowers. now I know how to make my own flowers.
 
Mandy Launchbury-Rainey
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I am very envious of all you have found there. I must be the only expat on the Peninsula who didn't find at least a few goodies. We are using the Rastro in Lugo for furniture though. Got a lovely castaña wardrobe for our new bedroom. Do you have any rastros near you?
 
Burra Maluca
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Mandy Launchbury-Rainey wrote:I am very envious of all you have found there. I must be the only expat on the Peninsula who didn't find at least a few goodies. We are using the Rastro in Lugo for furniture though. Got a lovely castaña wardrobe for our new bedroom. Do you have any rastros near you?



Not really, and they tend to be called 'Feira da Ladra' here.  Not sure if that translates as 'flea market' or 'thieves market'...  There are more now than there used to be though as more expats move in.

There is also a place on the industrial estate in Castelo Branco called Good Stuff run by a Dutch man who brings in second hand furniture and assorted junk from Holland and sells it at rather good prices.  He sells a ton of kitchen stuff very cheaply, I think as a means to bribe skinflints like me into the shop to hunt for bargains in the hope that they'll eventually be tempted by some of the furniture.

I'm going to gather some photos together of some plates and bowls and the rest of the linens from that treasure chest. Back soon...
 
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Here are some of the potentially usable plates and bowls that I've rescued. Some are ceramic, some enamel, and some melamine.

I was pleased to find that blue one with a horse on it, but I'd also love to know more about the design.  

Anyone recognise it?  Does it have a name?  And a story to tell?



I gathered up the rest of the linen from the treasure chest and put it in the car.  Then Austin triumphantly arrived clutching an old plastic bag of beans.  I think I'm training him!

These ones are in by far the best condition of any of the beans we've found so far, and seem to be all the same variety.  I'm guessing red beans, feijao vermelho.



Here's the heap of linens that need investigating.  I'm no expert, so please feel free to offer any ideas or opinions you may have.



First off the heap is an item of clothing.  A nightie, maybe?  Or a petticoat?



Closer-up view to show the embroidery.



And details of the edging and the buttons joining the front and back pieces of fabric at the top of the straps.



This sheet has a similar edging to the nightie.



A bit closer up.



I messed with the exposure a bit to try to bring the detail out.



Close up.



More to follow - this post is getting a bit unwieldy...
 
Burra Maluca
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This seems to be a small, open ended pillowcase embroidered to match the sheet.



There is a matching pair, and also a long, plain bolster pillowcase.

I suspect, but I'm not sure, that the pair of open ended fancy pillowcases must have been slipped over the bolster cover?



Close up of the edging, the button and some of the seams.



The top edge of this sheet has been edged in pink lacey crochet.



Close up of the corner.



Another pair of pillowcases.  These have button fastenings on each end.



Another close up.



And I think this is my favourite.



Closer.



And closer still...



And finally, here's a photo I took for shot 21 of the 'make 30 photos' challenge, this one with the theme 'vintage.'

This is all stuff I rescued from the new place, including the old linen sheet being used as a backdrop. I can't quite bring myself to clean the iron up as it just oozes character with all those cobwebs and that dust, not to mention the old coals inside.

I think what really gets me is that the iron is almost certainly the one that was originally used to put the finishing touches on the linens in the photo.

 
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I just love all the filet crochet, embroidery, & cutwork pieces you've found!! That shift looks like it was probably a nightie, but could just as easily have been a slip.

The pottery you're finding is so beautiful, varied and interesting, too! Thank you for keeping us posted!

And, Austin and his beans are a great find, lol.
 
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The rastros here are run by the church for addicts who come and renovate where necessary and one doesn't buy, one donates an amount in return for a piece of furniture or whatever. They have a bathroom with washing and shaving facilities and a little kitchen and rest area for the workers. The people there are lovely.
 
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I have visions of you floating around your garden in a lovely linen nightgown, picking roses and looking like the front of a box of chocolates. Aaawwwwww!
 
He repaced his skull with glass. So you can see his brain. Kinda like this tiny ad:
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