>> Sunday, January 13, 2008
The best way is to find one abandoned on the street, thrown out by someone who just doesn't appreciate it. I'm still haunted by the one I found several years ago, kept for a bit, then decided I didn't need anymore. I know now that it was a suitcase from the 30s, and it would be kind of nice to have it now.
But I lucked out (after some fruitless searching yesterday on Queen W), when I went to the St. Lawrence Sunday Market flea market. I have to admit that I'm definitely a night owl, so I usually get down to the market by around noon. But I'm haunted by an old work friend who asked me when I usually go to the market, and was shocked by my answer. He assured me that by noon only detritus was left, and there was no point in going. That's the word I always think of, ringing in my ears: "detritus... detritus... detritusss..."
So the last couple of times I've managed to get there by around 9 or 10. (Still not the recommended 5am but I'm more likely to stay up until 5am then get down to the market by then.) And I have realized that there is actually better stuff the earlier you go. It starts to get crowded by noon and some of the tables do seem to be picked over.
When I went today to look for a vintage suitcase I was lucky because usually you never find what you're looking for. (You do end up with things you didn't even think of, such as the tiny box of gramaphone needles pictures at the top of this post.) But I actually found one seller who had several vintage suitcases and was very friendly and patient as I opened them up and tried to decide which size, which colours, which condition, which lining. I love the one I finally picked, so while I'm no expert here are the features I can suggest that you might want to look for.
1. materials: some are made from cardboard, some leather and some are made from coated wood. Mine is made from coated wood and I like it because it's sturdier than cardboard and it has that charming textured finish typical of the 30s/40s suitcase.
2. condition: I was tempted by one with a crack but decided it would be better to have a sturdy one that definitely won't fall apart. Mine has corners reinforced with little metal plates which will help protect it against damage from knocks.
3. smell: definitely check that it doesn't smell musty, especially as that will probably transfer to anything you put into it.
4. latches/hinges: should work easily and seem secure. Ask if there's a key because that's always nice to have.
6. outer appearance: Some have stripes, some a mock wool plaid kind of pattern, or you can move ahead to the 60s/70s and get a psychedelic floral number. Mine is mustard yellow with a cream border, and it has a nice nubbly texture that looks like fabric. I suspect that suitcases with a label with the name of the manufacturer are more collectable. It's just nice to know where things come from.
7. size/comfort: mine was large enough to be useful but isn't too heavy and has a comfortable handle.
8. price: you decide, I paid $30 which was well worth it to me.While I was at it I found these darning eggs. The little pink one is apparently a "baby" darning egg. Not sure but I guess it's for darning little booties and such, although I don't like to think of some poor baby wearing worn out socks. This is possibly why I've never seen a "baby" darning egg before but since I bought it at the same place with the suitcase and other darner, the seller gave me a big discount and I couldn't resist the charming little thing.