Monday, March 7, 2011

Lessons in Linens: The "Before"

I love an afternoon of junking with nothing in mind but to find fabulous. That afternoon doesn't happen all that often, but it's great therapy when it does.

I was lucky with linens this time, and got a small bundle, one piece at a time, here and there. This creamy chenille spread is in almost perfect condition and is quite old. The little puffs on it are smaller and more numerous than the later "popcorn" bedspreads.

I'm often asked to post about my method for whitening linens. Rule number one is to buy in good condition in the first place. I then do a normal gentle wash with a little whitener like Clorox 2 or Oxyclean. That's often all that is needed. When I launder this piece it will lose its lovely creamy patina.

One of my exciting finds was a pair of tatted pillowcases. Tatting is a different method from crochet. It's done with a shuttle rather than a hook, and is rarer to find. Lace is often referred to as "tatting" as a general term, as I found in the newest Fleamarket Style magazine.

But tatting has it's own consistent look which is less varied than knitting or crochet. Here is a close-up of the inset.

And another close-up of the hem. It's delicacy is most suited for baby clothes and handkerchiefs. Fewer women mastered the technique.

I'm not beyond picking up single pillowslips in white if I find an unusual feature at a bargain price because I also love a mix of linens on a bed. This one was a fun find with an unusual crocheted pattern trim.

But I often find less than perfect pieces that merit an investment in repairs and treatment. Either the problems are minor, or the lace can be salvaged.

All the flaws in this pure linen runner are found on the same corner and may be easy to resolve.

The small stains will likely need a long soak with a whitener to remove. Twenty four hours or more if needed.

A couple of stiches are all that's needed for the trim.

My little bundles accumulate until I have enough time and stock to clean and iron them in batches. I find them cheery to have around just as they are.

Another imperfect sample worthy of investment is this short, quite old curtain panel. Its stains may never be completely removed, but at two dollars it's worth the risk. Even in poor condition it makes a pleasing display peeking out of a drawer or bunched in a basket. Hanging, it's imperfections may be hidden in folds.

A little Holly Sugar sack with a faded motif.

It's always wonderful to find things shop or gift ready, as these snowy hand towels. And in pairs!

My favorite find was this pair of pristine towels with green worked details. Maybe you can spot their individual differences at a glance.

This one is the prototype.

It's mate has details in a lighter thread.

The worker had to switch threads even for the body of the design on the left. Coming up short of the planned material was merely a signal to move on with what was at hand, with a beautiful result. A good lesson for life.

And hem work is different.

 To me this little pair of towels embodies everything I love about old textiles. Art, quality, innovation, economy, skill, practicality, uniqueness, and beauty. Collecting linen is one of the joys of my life.

Thanks for sitting through the lesson!
Ciao! for now!


Join me at Faded Charm
for White Wednesday!

 for Good Life Wednesday



  2. Wonderful post, Jacqueline. I enjoyed seeing your new linens and learned a few things along the way! I love that bedspread, it would do well in a guest room. I really do love had a lucky day!


  3. Excellent post. I am having a bit of a love affair with vintage linens right now! I think they have so much character. Thanks for sharing about the Oxyclean. I'm always slightly afraid of washing anything just never know. Have a wonderful week. ~Ann

  4. The towels are fabulous!! It seems to me to see my grandmother's trousseau. You were lucky you found a little treasure. Have a wonderful week Gilda

  5. I noticed that about calling crochet work 'tatting' in Flea Market Style. Is that a trend or a mistake? At any rate, your new stash of linens are really nice. BTW, do you have a shop in Albq.? I'll be in the area in April, and would love to check it out. I know it must be wonderful if your blog style is any indication. Sally

  6. Thanks for sharing your beautiful finds with us. The towels are fabulous and the drawn-thread work exquisite.

  7. Jacqueline,
    I have been collecting and looking for vintage linens for years, and never really looked at linens that way. Now I love them even more. YOur linens are beautiful!

  8. I love linens too! It doesn't matter that there is a little stain or imperfection, they can be used in some way. My sister gave me a small pile of linens and I'm waiting for a sunny day to hang them on the line once they are washed. Thanks for the informative post today :-) Pamela

  9. Lovely post Jacqueline!
    I love old linens...I enjoyed the photos of these beautiful treasures!
    Thanks for the tips on caring for them.
    I always find it hard to pass up beautiful linens in an antique store.

    Pamela :)

  10. Very lovely and sweet linens. They just seem to say gracious femininity to me. Bess

  11. Love this post and how you have taken us thru each one so lovingly.
    A labour of love for you, I can see that :)

    Jeanne xx

  12. Such lovely linens. I have a thing for vintage linens. They seem to speak to me ;-)

  13. Oh my! Oh my! Oh my!! They are all so lovely!! I love, love, love the chenille spread. In your previous post about the beautiful glass that had no place to be stored---well, I'm that way, not only with glass and dishes, but linens as well. They have taken over my house! But how I love looking at them--and using them. I found a pink, small popcorn, spread the other day for $8! Even though I am really trying not to buy more things, I couldn't resist. It has a small hole in it, but that doesn't bother me. It's just bright and cheerful! I also have a gorgeous lace tablecloth with horrible stains. I have soaked that thing in the tub for days in different solutions, to no avail, but I simply cannot throw it out. It always makes me wonder, what in the heck someone did, to get such nasty, large stains in an exquisite piece!! Loved this post and your lessons!
    Love, Kay

  14. I love all your linens.The pillowcases are gorgeous.


  15. They really are all so pretty. Love the last pair of towels.

  16. Love old linens. Each one is yummy! ~ Sarah

  17. The pillowcases are beautiful. I love using Oxiclean and often soak a bunch of linens in an old enamel tub I have. Tatting is indeed a lost art.

  18. We have been blessed with closets and a bureau full of wonderful vintage linens that belonged to Nana...from the 20's. I found a product called "Vintage Soak" at an antique store that has restored seemingly destroyed linen tablecloths, napkins, placemats, etc. It never fails to amaze me when I pull them out after soaking for several days, rinse them, and let them dry in the sun spread out on our back porch. Such a treat. Thank you for sharing your lovely treasures. Cherry Kay

  19. Hi J,
    Thanks for the lesson! you have the most enviable whites!! I have always been chicken on long soaks but will buck up:-))
    Great score on the tatting, it is super rare to find around here. Back in my 20's I bought a shuttle and TRIED to tat, I am way to tense, it's a beautiful lost art!
    As always you have a great collection of pretties... always a delight to see:-)

  20. Thank you, that was very interesting and useful. The little green and white towels are beautiful.

  21. The old linens are so exquisite! I love looking at them and feeling their softness! thanks for the tips on cleaning them. I'm going to go drag some out right now so I can look at them (and feel them !)

  22. I love all your beautiful linens and loved the tips too.
    The towels with the green were especially pretty -I have never seen that before.
    Take care,

  23. All beautiful pieces.
    Thanks for the cleaning tips. I recently (well, since Aug 2010) acquired several pieces from my MIL home and some of them need some TLC.. will try this out. Question: could Borax be used instead of Oxyclean?


  24. I love old linens and have been around them all my life. I particularly love the monograms, damasks, hucks and the array of stunning hand made lace. Your pillow cases with the tatting are simply lovely and the little piece with the green is very pretty.
    Many thanks for sharing

  25. "I love an afternoon of junking with nothing in mind but to find fabulous. That afternoon doesn't happen all that often, but it's great therapy when it does." I love this sentiment and feel the exact same way. I am always ready to go at the drop of a hat. Loved this post and all your gorgeous finds. I love old pillowcases and beautiful tatting. I have some old monogrammed pillowcases on my bed now. I sometimes have to soak things for several days. It doesn't seem to hurt them at all. Hope you are having a wonderful week. :)

  26. You have a bundle of pillowcase heaven there. So very pretty. I learned so much here today. I will not be so quick to pass a spotted pillowcase now. My husband will be thrilled. lol

  27. I just love old linens and yours are all wonderful! Thanks for sharing them with us. Have a wonderful week!

    The Gilded Cherub

  28. You linens are just heavenly. Thanks for the washing tips. Truly enjoyed seeing your sweet finds.


  29. what a beautiful collection of linens.
    Finding linens out thrifting always makes my heart skip a beat. I love them tatter as can be though. You have patience for sure to soak and fix. :)

  30. OH DID find have the best eye for beautiful linens! Makes me want to go antiquing for some pretties!

  31. Wow, you found some lovely linens! I've actually been trying to hunt down some pillow cases with crochet edges. I'm jealous!

  32. YIkes....we have a lot of the same linens!..I will have to go to my vault (closet!) and get out a few that I recognized and do a blog to compare!..How exciting!.I use the same methods as you and love putting a stubborn stain in the sun. I blosk out the piece except where its stained..and poof it usually comes good in an hour of sun!
    Mu Grandmpther did the tatting for the historic costumes in Albert for years. She was very much in demand!
    It is an amazing craft! My sister has all her shuttles and thread...none of us mastered it but my sister has tried.It is so beautiful and if you look in my post you will see one of many pieces I have framed.

  33. Oh I love the old linen etc. it is just beautiful, reminds me of stuff my grandmother had!

  34. Oh I love old linens too, thank you for sharing your cleaning tips! xoxo

  35. Such beautiful pieces, and lovely photos too! Thank you for your visit, I'm glad to have found your blog.
    Cheers, Andrea

  36. What a fabulous bundle of beauty! I love old linens as well, I always wonder what stories they could tell. Thank you for sharing.

  37. Just beautiful! I have yards of tatting that my great aunt gave to me before she passed. I attached some of it to the fronts of my kitchen shelves, but the rest I keep tucked away.You have inspired me to get it out and look at it with fresh eyes.


  38. I love your form of therapy Jacqueline! Your vintage whites are just lovely!

  39. Enjoyed your post! I am sure I will enjoy the rest of your blog too!

    Thanks for bringing back 'tatting'! Mmy mom at 53+ chose to learn tatting. Seriously regret letting go of b-e-u-t-i-f-u-l-l-y hand embroidered set of 12 napkins (elaborate raised emb) recently while living in Europe.

    I hope I'll be smarter next time.


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