I am not sure how it happened. It all started in Missouri almost forty years ago . . . going to auctions and finding beautiful linens . . . looking for linens that were not polyester . . . finding vintage linens so soft, so detailed . . . handmade by women who cared about the little things in life. It is not that they were not busy – wash dishes, wash clothing, make dinner without machines. Taking tatting thread and a hook and weaving lace trim for a hand towel; taking a needle and embroidering a name. Small details. Setting a table with a tablecloth or setting the table for lunch in the field or at the table with a luncheon cloth made with colorful mid-century prints. Those were different times and days. . .
I would cringe at the idea of paper napkins or even paper towels at the table. Not because of any reasons other than, my admiration for the women that took the time to set a table, iron linen and even sew and embellish table linens and bed linens; and my preference for soft linen around a child’s shoulders at dinner time or in my hand. This apron was found in a trunk that was filled with the presents presented to a teacher over many years in our small rural community. The fabric is elegant, much like the cotton used for shirt making when shirts were made by shirt makers!
My preference for linen napkins is to use them without ironing – they are so soft and luxurious! Vintage fabric is durable if cared for properly. In my opinion, it is best to wash but not starch especially when stored; lightly starch for use if you choose; never store unless washed since the tiniest bit of an edible will attract nasty little critters (bugs/mice). If storing for a long time, it is best to wrap them. Recently, I found a few old nightgowns but one of them was covered with dust from an attic. I very carefully hand-washed the gown. The fabric was so deteriorated that it shredded in my hand. So sad. The lace used however is stable and so beautiful – it is perfect for a project! Just as they did so long ago, we have now adopted the habit of recycling, reusing and up cycling these fragments of the past . . . not only as patchwork quilts but in so many ways.
I carried my new finds home. For many years, there were boxes of linens and no one seemed to want them not even my children! The collection soon outgrew the linen closet, chests of drawers and the dining room. Now, I have the pleasure of passing my finds on! And now, my children, older and wiser, appreciate my collection! Thankfully, many collectors now realize their value especially as those days become a more distant past.
Hopefully, they will once again be well loved and passed on . . .