Thursday, February 9, 2012
Use Vintage Linen
Once upon a time, every household had a cedar chest or dresser drawer full of fine linen and cotton tablecloths, dinner and luncheon and cocktail napkins, bed sheets, pillowcases, placemats and dresser scarves. These items were made from natural fibers and hand decorated with embroidery, lace and cut-work, often by the hand of the Lady of the household. Never would plate be set to table without a cloth or placemat set to protect the furniture and enhance the china. Whether it be Cocktails, Luncheon or Dinner when food and drink was not served without being accompanied by an appropriate linen napkin. There were no disposable paper towels or non-descript paper napkins to be used and thrown away. Thus along with the refinement and elegance of using vintage linen in one’s daily life, there is an ecological sanctity that goes along with it.
Once upon a time, the cotton plant and the flax plant, which produces linen, were grown naturally, with one cutting a year to produce the strongest fibers possible; today, these plants are force fed with 'instant' plant foods which produce many cuttings a year but weaker and shorter fibers. Thus vintage fabrics are more lustrous and higher quality. Vintage Linens are very durable and softer with age. These vintage linens can be washed gently in hot water, ironed and starched and used over and over again. Less waste, more luxury and vintage linens purvey a nostalgic, romantic quality that cannot be had in modern household linens.
Now “Once Upon a Time” can be used in your home.
Vintage linens are Natural, organic, ecological and economical on top of being just beautiful. Paper towels account for a great deal of refuse in landfills but vintage guest towels and dish towels are soft, absorbent and sanitary if managed properly. For instance in my father’s home the guest towels in the bathroom are meant for drying one’s hands after washing. A thick pile of clean guest towels are stacked neatly on the toilet tank. One guest towel is hung from the towel rack to the right of the wash basin and below that is a pretty wicker hamper. After washing one’s hands and one uses the towel on the rack to dry, then drops the used towel in the hamper. After this, one takes a fresh towel from the pile and drapes it over the towel rack. Once or twice a week my father washes the guest towels in hot water and mild detergent containing bleach (‘no vigorous agitation’ is the key to prevent shrinkage of the fabric). After drying, he irons and lightly starches the towels and replaces them to the pile in the bathroom. The guest towels are of great variety and no three are alike. He has collected them over several years from antique shops. These guest towels display hand embroidery and colorful designs from the 1890’s through the 1960’s. In the kitchen there is a similar system in place for dish cloths, and napkins. Recalling that the natural fibers of these vintage linens make them very durable it is not crazy to use a large vintage linen dinner napkin that has lost its mates to clean the countertop and wipe up a spill. (That soak in hot water and mild detergent with bleach will solve any food stains.)