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Treasure Hunting

Archive for March 2013

Vintage Clothing: Collecting Mary Maxim Sweaters

I have a big vintage armoire in my bedroom. I found it at Roost Antiques on Main Avenue in downtown Spokane and it stayed there a month or more after I purchased it while I cleared a place for it in my small house. But finally, after I figured out where I would put it, the armoire was delivered just as the weather began to turn cold and I immediately filled it with sweaters. On one side are the sweaters I wear each day. On the other side, my collection of  “ranch” sweaters.

I started collecting the bulky handknitted sweaters after moving to Spokane in 1999. To me, they completely captured the outdoorsy ethos of the Northwest.  I work from home and I like to keep the heat turned down, so the sweaters are not only a collection, they have kept me warm and cozy on cold winter days. But I've been drawn to them, and continue to love them, primarily for the vintage look and the idea that they were made by women who took pleasure in the folksy design and the warmth of the finished product. In the last decade I've gathered a variety of sizes, all purchased at flea markets, thrift stores and antique shops across the Northwest from Oregon to British Columbia.

Earlier this month I traveled to Mantitoba to see and photograph the Northern Lights over the small town of Churchill. To reach Churchill I first had to fly into Winnipeg to catch another flight to the small town on the edge of Hudson Bay. I spent most of my day in Winnipeg  exploring the Manitoba Museum where I learned about the Innuit culture and the history of the Hudson Bay Company. There is also an excellent exhibit about the native flora and fauna. But, as I was leaving the building I passed a display of sweaters and recognized one of the patterns in my collection, a sweater that features an evergreen tree and what I always assumed was a moose or elk. Intrigued, I stopped to take a closer look.

The display included a bit of history about the Manitoba Sitton Mills and the Mary Maxim patterns that have been, and still are, so popular. Immediately, I knew I'd found the source of most of the patterns used to make the sweaters I've collected.

Debuting in the 1950s, the Mary Maxim sweater patterns and wool yarns, similar to the heavy knitted sweaters produced by Native Salish on Canada's western coast, were popular with knitters. Soon, the sweaters became iconic, even showing up on celebrities like Bob Hope and British royalty. Evenutally, to meet US demand, the company opened an office in Michigan.

I loved the Manitoba Museum and it was an added treat to learn more about the sweaters I've collected, especially one favorite pair of sweaters—both child and adult-sized— with a flying pheasant theme. I'm looking forward to the (brief) time my grandaughter will think dressing like her grandmother is cool so we can wear them together.

As always, while traveling, I found something useful and informative in the last place I expected. But, then again, that's usually the way treasure hunting goes.

 

Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a journalist and travel columnist whose audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of ‘Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons’ and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com
  

March Treasure Hunting Calendar

Note: Good news! Brian Gallagher, of Junk Nation Review, will be providing a monthly Treasure Hunting calendar of antiques shows and sales around the region. Happy Junkin'!

 


MARCH 2013
Antique and Collectible Show and Sale calendar provided by Junk Nation Review:



Portland Expo Center Antique Show
March 2 - 9:00am - 6:00pm $7 entrance
March 3 - 10:00am - 5:00pm $7 entrance
Portland Expo Center
2060 North Marine Dr. Portland, OR

Custer's 36th Annual Spring Arts & Crafts Show
March 8th - 10am - 8pm $7 entrance good all weekend
March 9th - 10am - 6pm. $7 entrance good all weekend
March 10th - 10am - 4pm $7 entrance good all weekend
Fair and Expo Center
404 North Havana St, Ste 1
Spokane Valley, WA

Tri-Cities Spring Antique Show with a Twist of Vintage
March 8th - 4pm to 8pm $6 entrance
March 9th - 9am to 5pm $6 entrance
TRAC Center
6600 Burden Blvd Pasco, WA

The Vintage Whites Market
March 9th - 10am- 5pm $5 entrance
Utah State Fairgrounds
155 N 1000 W Salt Lake City UT

2nd Saturdayz
March 9th - 9am - 4pm $5 entrance
The Old Post Office
1102 A Street Tacoma, WA
 
Salem Collectors & Flea Market

March 17th - 6:30am - 9:30am $6
March 17th - 9:30am - 2:30am $2
Salem Armory
2320 17th ST NE Salem, OR>

Spring Fling Junk Fest
March 23rd - 5pm - 9pm $10 entrance
March 24th - 9am - 4pm $5 entrance
Portland Airport Embassy Suit
7900 NE 82nd Ave Portland, OR>

Groovy Girlfriends - A VERY Vintage Market
March 25th - 10am -4pm Free entrance
Lake City Community Center
12531 28th Ave NE Seattle, WA

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About this blog

Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes about antiques and collectibles and the love of all things vintage. Millsap's Home Planet column appears each week in the Wednesday "Pinch" supplement, and she is The Spokesman-Review's female automobile reviewer. She is a regular contributor to Spokane Public Radio and her essays can be heard on Public Radio stations across the country. Cheryl-Anne is the author of "Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons."

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