Women's exchanges sell fine handwork

For over a hundred years, New Yorkers and those who visit the city have enjoyed yet another source of fine handmade goods. The New York Exchange for Women's Work has, for several generations, been a traditional shopping place for those looking for unusual and hard-to-find gifts.

This shop accepts products from consignors of all ages, not just the eldersly. Craftsmen must, however, fill out a form which indicates their financial need.

Here, too, a selection committee meets weekly to judge the quality and salability of new items. Consignors over the years have come from almost every state, including Hawaii, and the work of both men and women is accepted. Those whose work is sold at the Women's Exchange receive two-thirds of the selling price of what they produce.

The New York shop was for years a familiar landmark at 541 Madison Avenue, where it combined restaurant and retail shop facilities. Earlier this year the restaurant was permanently closed and the shop was relocated at 660 Madison Avenue. It continues to offer a treasure trove of toys, clothes, toss pillows, quilts, and other handcrafted items. Home-cooked foods are no longer offered, although such nonperishables as jams, jellies, and syrups are.

Mrs. Verdie Doerfler, general manager, finds the best sellers are the hand- smoked baby gowns which retail from $23 up, smocked children's dresses, and exquisite lingerie for women. "any kind of fine sewing has a market here and is greatly appreciated by our customers," she says. Many people come, too, she says, for furtrimmed velvet slippers, velvet-covered clothes hangers, eye shades , colorful crocheted afghans, cotton quilts, and fabric-covered picture frames, decorative boxes, and trays.

The New York Exchange for Women's Work, how in its 101st year, is one of 43 women's exchanges in 23 states. The exchanges are linked by a federation, but each is independent, has its own charter, and sets its own rules. All have the common purpose of helping women help themselves.

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