Sunday, February 21, 2016

A Tale of Two (Or More) Dishes

When I was young, my family ate off of Blue Willow dishes. My grandmother gave my parents the set not long after they were married in 1948.

They weren't fine china, but they were good, sturdy dishes made to serve folks their daily bread.

Over the years, some pieces were cracked, 

some chips appeared,

and a few plates and cups were broken, but for the most part, they survived very well.

Somewhere along the line, we switched to these wheat dishes. I think they came in laundry detergent, but I'm not sure about that.

Finally, Mom went with Correlle, white with a gold border design.

But what I remember most are the Blue Willow. Maybe I liked them so much because I can remember seeing them used on TV, in westerns like Bonanza and my favorite show, Daniel Boone. A history buff from the beginning, I played pioneer and dreamed of living in a log cabin and wearing long dresses. The log cabin and long dresses were hard to come by in the 1960s, but the Blue Willow dishes greeted me at every meal. When I got my first apartment after graduating from college and landing a job, Mom helped me round up second-hand furniture, bedding, and kitchen wares. And she gave me the Blue Willow dishes, much to my delight. When Robin and I got married three years later, I added some newer pieces, made by Churchill, to complete a service for six. We've been using them for thirty years now.

In 2010 we remodeled our kitchen. We went from natural oak cabinets and a beige counter top...

 to plantation white cabinets and a dark green counter top.

 The new kitchen is lovely and I like it a lot, but it does not go with the Blue Willow dishes! The colors simply aren't a good fit.

Consequently, I've spent the last five years looking for new dishes. All the patterns I considered were either way too modern for my taste, way too fancy for everyday use, or way too expensive for my wallet. I like Fiesta Ware, and even borrowed a few plates and bowls from my sister to try it out. Although I liked the small bowls, the dinner plates were awfully heavy, meaning the serving bowls and platters would be heavier still, especially when full of food. So, I purchased a few little bowls, and I do enjoy these bright, happy colors in my kitchen. But Fiesta Ware was not the right fit.

Next, I tried dishes by Pioneer Woman, of Food Network fame. Ree Drummond is her real name, and she launched her own line of kitchen everything last fall. I thought her dishes were the answer to my dilemma, but alas, they didn't work either. The color was OK, but not great.

The plates and bowls are deep, which is good for eating, but not so good for stacking.

I wasn't particularly pleased with the quality, either. One plate has already chipped, and another is scratched (and we don't even have a dishwasher!). In the end, the price was great, but the dishes weren't.

I was beginning to think I'd never find the right dishes. As sometimes happens though, when I least expected to, I found them! Well, three pieces, anyway. The local SPCA chapter runs a second-hand store to raise funds and I like to stop in from time to time to see what treasures might be had. Last week when I walked in, there they were: the dishes I'd been looking for. There was a dinner plate, a square salad plate, and a fruit bowl, displayed on a wooden dish drainer and just waiting for me to arrive.

 The pattern is Strawberry Fair, by Johnson Brothers.

The white is not bright white; I'd call it plantation white because it matches my cabinets. The red is that antique shade that looks both ordinary enough for every day and elegant enough to be special.

I thought it would be easy enough to find and purchase a new set of these lovely dishes. Wrong. The website LoveToKnow says this:

Johnson Brothers also manufactured a pattern called Strawberry Fair. It is a red transferware pattern with the bulk of the motif arranged in a wide band around the edge. The rim on the plates is scalloped.Many of the bowls and cups have a small, matching motif inside. The bowl rims are decorated with a rope design, strawberries and daisies. This is one of the more unique of the strawberry china patterns. It was manufactured from 1959 to 1973.

Leave it to me to fall in love with a discontinued and apparently very collectible pattern! A little poking around on eBay and Etsy revealed that these dishes aren't plentiful, nor are they cheap. But now that I've used the three pieces for a few days, I don't think anything else will do.

I found eight dinner plates in this Etsy shop and decided to go for it and order them. They arrived in two boxes and oh my, the packing!! This photo was taken after I got the plates unpacked, which was quite a job and took me well over half an hour.

After I got the bundles out of the Styrofoam packing peanuts, there was cardboard and bubble wrap to deal with.

Each plate was wrapped in not one,

not two,

but three layers of bubble wrap!

There was lots of tape involved as well.

When I finally finished, I had this beautiful stack of dinner plates,

and this big stack of bubble wrap! (I added the pill box to give you a point of reference.)

Because one of the dinner plates had a tiny chip, the Etsy shop owner threw in a bread and butter plate as a bonus. How nice!

So, I'm good for dinner plates, and I have one each of the bread and butter, square salad, and fruit bowl. I guess I'll be haunting antique shops and searching eBay, and Etsy for good deals on the many other pieces I need.  It will take a while, but I'll appreciate them all the more for the wait. It's just like that old saying: "Good things come to those who wait."  And how sweet it is when the good things finally show up.


  1. Love this story!!! And the dinner ware!

    1. Thanks, Terri. They are pretty dishes, aren't they? Eating off of them is such a treat.

  2. Ooh Nancy...these are so lovely! I have lwys had a thing for the blue willow dishes too...I still have mine although they aren't the blue willow pattern...they are Courier & Ives design. We also had those wheat patterned dishes that came in to soap too! I want to thank you for your prayers for Aaron...your comment on my post today blessed my heart and I want to thank you! I wish your email was attached to your comments...and if you don't mind sometime, I wonder if you would share it with me??

    1. Sure! My email is From reading your posts and seeing your photos, I'm thinking we are a lot alike. :)

  3. I am a dyed in the wool blue willow fan but there is room in my heart for red transferware too. Love the story of the dishes of your life. I co-host a party on Thursday's Vintage Charm and your post would be a perfect fit. Please join us any time after 8:00am EST this Thursday at Hope to see you there.

    1. I like the way you put in my heart for....more than one favorite! I'll try to remember to link up with your party. Sounds fun! Thanks for visiting This Sweet Life.

    2. Thank you for sharing you story of the dishes in your life at Vintage Charm. Hope you visit again real soon. sb

  4. wonderful you were able to find the plates and they all arrived safely, they are beautiful, nothing like the dishes made years ago, good luck finding the rest

    1. Thanks! I'm finding a lot of listings on eBay, so I think I'm off to a good start. Thanks for stopping by This Sweet Life!

  5. Oh oh oh...found you on Stephanie's blog and what a delightful post. I LOVE dishes. I LOVE Johnson Brothers and I LOVE transferware. I am familiar with this pattern...very nice. I think its a great pattern for you.Enjoy!

    1. I never thought of myself as a "dish person", but perhaps I'm becoming one. I'll have to keep that under control, though, as my cabinets will only hold so much. Thanks for stopping by This Sweet Life, and thanks especially for becoming a follower. Welcome! I hope you find blessings here. :)

  6. I remember the blue willow and wheat dishes from my childhood! Love your final choice - what a pretty pattern! It will be fun searching for and collecting them. I love your new kitchen:) Karen

  7. These are beautiful dishes! I love the red pattern. I bought some really nice-sized cereal bowls in a red & white pattern once from the thrift store. They have little houses in the centre and are quite pretty. Much later I saw an entire set of the same dishes with dinner plates, bread & butter plates and cups & saucers. They were being sold as an entire set ($$$) so of course I didn't buy them. I regret that now. Best of luck with picking up enough pieces to complete your set. I hope you still hang onto the willow dishes though ... so full of family memories!

  8. Hi sweet Nancy! It was such a joy to see you at the party this last week. I hope you are doing well, dear friend.

    The dishes you shared are simply lovely and what a joy to have them. Thanks for joining Roses of Inspiration. Hugs!

  9. the Strawberry plates are so aristocratic. They show breeze of summer in the beautiful garden. :)

  10. A friend of mine owns the Strawberry Fair dishes, too. I believe she said she bought them when she was 17. I think they are gorgeous. Thanks so much for sharing.


Thanks so much for stopping by! I appreciate your time and hope you found a blessing at This Sweet Life!