The opportunity to be “stuck” inside today during a snowstorm presented itself. Though I considered spending the day eating bonbons on the couch, as I and all the women I know would normally do, instead I headed to the basement to tackle eons of grime and mess. That was only a slight exaggeration because it looks like eons of grime and mess. My biggest thought was that there is hardly anything that is not improved by scrubbing with some soap, water and “elbow grease”. A little vacuuming and a lot of scrubbing works wonders.
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After Christmas dinner the white antique placemats and napkins were mistakenly put into the dryer and they reduced to about 2/3 the original size. Are these ruined or might you know of a way I can re-size them? They are white without any lace or other trims to interfere with the sizing…just a single narrow row of open stitch trim around the border.
I have two ideas but they may or may not work to your satisfaction. This is what I would try in the order that I would do them.
This first idea you have probably tried… re-wet them and stretch them as you iron with the very hottest iron possible. Or, send out to a commercial laundry where they can iron them on a mangle roller iron.
Treat each item as a piece of watercolor paper in the way watercolorists do to stretch and retain shape. You must first purchase the kind of board they use. (I do not remember the word but it was something from the hardware store that we bought when I took a watercolor class in college. Now, they sell watercolor boards but you need something strong, absorbent, lightweight clean and cheap! that will not lose its shape.)
Dampen the items and gently stretch it to a larger size on the board, pinning each corner and along the sides to hold it in place. As it dries, it gets stretched.
not all things can be brought back to what they once were. If you can’t bear to see them in this condition, recycle them into dust cloths.
On a jaunt through the State of Virginia in March, 2012, I came across many exhibitions that I thought were pertinent to the care, use and history of old textiles.
Note of interest:
“A wash house (laundry) was vital to a large household. Clothing, as well as bed and table linens had to be washed at least once a week. Physically demanding, laundering involved soaking, soaping, rubbing, washing and boiling the linens,; then draining, rinsing, bluing, re-rinsing, starching, wringing, drying and finally, ironing.”
The Williamsburg Museum (please visit, you will love it)
The sign about whitework
Note of interest: “In an era when laundry was done by hand and textiles had to be ironed without the benefit of electricity, snowy white accessories were signs of gentility and status.” The next photo is of the apron on display. England, c. 1760-1780.
it is embroidered with chain stitches and areas of drawnwork.
The sign about the handkerchief quilt
Mount Vernon Display of a Napkin that belonged to George Washington. The dark areas are holes and wear.
Note the explanation of the embroidered laundry mark which “…allowed Martha Washington to avoid wearing out individual napkins by rotating their use.”
My project to try to find a photo of as many Marghab designs is ongoing.
the link to the list:
Lace is a world unto itself. It gets wider and deeper the more you explore. I am not an expert, just a lace enthusiast in training. Today’s musings were on Flanders lace.
another new year, another chance to catch up, get organized and accomplish all the things on my “To Do” list!
so many possibilities remain when the year is fresh and bright.
Warm wishes to all for a very happy new year.
so, instead of planting anything new… (no, not laundering linens today, I am taking long weekends in the summer!) … I have been making plant markers for my specimen hosta border.
Hosta names are fabulous! Besides “August Moon” and “Blue Angel,” “Jimmy Crack Corn” is one of my favorite hosta varieties as well as one of my favorite hosta names. There are approx. 7,500 hosta varieties and the “collector” in me wants to have one (or more) of each!
gotta love summer!
Here in New England trees are leafing and we are finally opening windows. The heady smell of lilacs is strong. Interspersed with glorious sunshine, we also have some drizzly days: my favorite kind of day to bury myself in my linen closet. If there are days that you, too, are swept indoors, consider them a chance to dabble in your linen cupboard!
Take time to refold, reshuffle or just touch your linens. One of the nicest things you can do is to attach a note onto your most cherished heirlooms. Include your name and the year you are writing the note, how you acquired it and any lore that you know. This will be so helpful in the future!
My favorite notes have read something like this: Pillowcase embroidered by Jane Smith, age 12 in 1910. She was my great grandmother. Signed Jane J. Smith, 2007. Massachusetts.
Coverlet given to me from Mother. It is 100 years old in 1960. (signed: Jane J Cobb, Trenton, NJ)
or (I am paraphrasing from memory)
This shawl was made by Jane Smith from wool she sheared from her own sheep, then spun and wove by hand. She lived in XXX around 1828-1865. It came to me from Great Aunt Nell for my birthday in 1914.
you get the idea! even if you have no idea of the year it was made, try to record everything you do know, or have been told, about it. You will be especially glad later on that you took the time to do this.
If possible, use 100% cotton fiber paper and attach with a very skinny pin taking care not to pierce the middle. Attach at a seam or loop a pice of cotton string through a buttonhole or other opening. Do not attach a safety pin through lace; it invariably will tear the lace.
Most of all… enjoy!
There are lots of ways of collecting vintage things and going about collecting.
1. to acquire and hoard them (this is ok; it protects them for future generations)
2. to display them in a “no touching” way
3. to use them (and to be prepared to sometimes use them up)
4. a combination of the above.
You can also control your acquisitions by depth of focus. Only lace? Only one type of lace? Or, even only lace from a certain part of the world. Or, take monograms, for instance! You could choose to collect monograms. Or perhaps only hand embroidered monograms. (But that leaves out many superb monograms that have been fashioned from lace instead of by sewing.) Or perhaps collect only monograms with certain letters, maybe letters you like the shapes of or, possibly, only letters that form your own monogram. Or your family’s or your cat’s!
There are also more specialized collections: some repair, reuse and recycle into other things such as crafts projects, making quilts or human or doll clothing. In an even more rarefied strata, some people put together a specific collection as a gift to posterity, hoping to find a museum (or even a grandchild) who will curate it.
Let me guide you toward the type of quality and price to pursue…. if you think you could not bear to use a $75 guest towel, then perhaps a $12 one would be a better choice. Or, you can collect tiny scraps of lace to hold on to and learn from and then, later, when you know the techniques that grab you, you can go on to buy a collar or cuffs or a lappet. Consider napkins to use, sheets to sleep in, old undies and nightgowns to wear! Or, even easier… a nice little stack of fabulous hankies or doilies… they often have many of the techniques at an affordable price and they are easier to store because they are small.
Most people will advise you to not buy items that are damaged because it is the perfect and rare ones that hold value. I believe that a damaged, but affordable, item can be a wonderful way to learn what really good techniques are so that you can familiarize yourself with them and spot them later. A scrap of 18th century toile may be tiny but affordable. An 18th century coverlet made from that toile will be priced out of reach.
Ask yourself honestly what you think you want to do with the things you are acquiring and let that be your first buying guide. Although I grant that most people who stumble on the world of antique linens do not have a plan in mind and just want that pretty thing that so attracts them. If you nodded yes to that idea, then sadly, you will probably be hooked and it won’t matter what you want to do with them. They’ll just pile up and up and up and you will be ankle deep in linens. And, then knee deep. And then, there is no going back.
The year 2009 is an economic challenge for everyone. With so much uncertainty in the economic world, it’s hard to justify the purchase of anything nonessential!
This may not be the time to amass oodles of things to your linen closet. Or, to add to your collections… unless you are offered something superb that fits your area of interest to a tee. It’s really a perfect time to go through your linen closet to reassess, refold and rearrange the heirlooms that you are preserving.
If you have something that you are saving for a special occasion, bring it out now and put it on display! It’s time to brighten your heart by appreciating all of the things that you love. (This includes people and places as well as “things!”) Your special treasure may be too fine, too fragile or too grand to actually use but you can drape it over a door or fasten it on a wall or over a bannister where it can be seen and appreciated for its workmanship, color and age!
Let’s call this the time for living rather than acquiring! If not now… when!?