I have a bona fide textile mystery, and maybe you, or someone you know, can help me solve it.
In my many years as a vintage fabriholic (modern fabric, too), I have found many stitched treasures in thrift shops. But nothing compares to this one. And, in fact, this one didn't even happen to me, directly. My Arizona cousin Nina found it in a thrift shop (for $2), and she sent it to me for my birthday last month.
The more I look at it, the curiouser I get, and I think you will, too. It's about 12.5" x 24" single layer, with raw edges. The backing is a coarse red linen, almost burlap. Here's the overview.
and an eggplant in his left. No, I'm not kidding:
If that's not an eggplant, then I don't know what.
At the center left, there's a floating appliqued blue linen shape that looks like it was meant to be a dress for another, buxom figure.
The outfits are appliqued with a dense, remarkably even blanket stitch. The skin is executed in a chain stitch. These stitches look big on your screen, but they're actually tiny.
Pretty darn cool, no? This stitcher had talent.
Down along the right side, there's what is probably a date, chainstitched in Roman Numerals.
It reads 9-7-38. Was that the birth date of the giftee, or the birthday at which this textile was to be presented? Or the date of an eggplant-themed golf tournament? Or something else entirely?
Because the mystery is about to deepen. Down the left edge, there's a large beige silk rectangle:
At the top of the rectangle, there's a purse or treasure chest, executed in incredibly tiny stitches, with a single elongated diamond shaped rhinestone sewn in it. It's a very old-fashioned rhinestone, not shiny at all, with a black metal backing and tines.
Below that, there's a sort of cross of dark and light purple and rose. I can't even guess at what this was supposed to be. Crossbow? Esoteric Masonic symbol? Weirdly dissected eggplant with pink smoking pipe hidden inside?
Below that, there's something that looks like a mug with an unfinished brown handle, and a sign or a teabag hanging down from it. And now it gets really good:
The hanging sign says: USSR!!!
USSR?!? Are you KIDDING me? Could this be, like, a SPY textile? Is there a secret message? Will the FBI be knocking on my door soon? Should I run from my house like Alan Arkin, screaming "Egermancy! Everybody to get from street!"? (Thanks, Howard.)
As if to acknowledge the ignition of my burning questions, two inches below the cup, there's this:
A purse with a question mark, hanging from a tree. Is this like Whittaker Chambers' microfilm pumpkin patch? Except it's an eggplant patch?
Don't laugh: There's more agriculture coming. To the right of the question mark suitcase, the word "if" is executed in purple cursive. After the 'f' comes something that is almost but not quite a dollar sign (brown borders with white stripes); and the black cord looks like a hose, with a gold nozzle, spewing out silvery blue bugle beads.