Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Secret Passion

It all started about 40 years ago.  I saw some antique table linens in a store and I fell in love with them.

The lace, the embroidery, the linen quality just inflamed me.  I had to have these napkin!  Some of them were very fragile and almost looked like they would fall apart in my hand.  Oddly, they were stronger than they looked and I still have them to this day.

I not only have them, I use them.  And, I hand launder them and wrap them in special paper to keep them safe.

I had a dinner party several weeks ago that included my 20 year old grandson, Cyrus, and his lovely girlfriend, Alex.  Alex commented on how wonderful the table looked and I pointed out the 100 year old napkins to her.

She said "I'm afraid to use them!" and I told her that was nonsense.  As long as you launder them carefully, they should be fine, I assured her.  Further I told her if she should marry Cyrus, I would give her these precious napkins.  Both Alex and Cyrus choked when I made that comment.  Oh well, she's a nice girl.  He could do a lot worse!

My daughter Sheila, Cyrus's Mother, raised a napkin to her red lipsticked lips and patted gently while grinning her evil grin at me.  I considered putting arsenic in her soup, but thought better of it.  She is my only daughter, so I guess I'm obligated to keep her.

Now, I know that none of you think of me as Hannah Homemaker, and in most cases I'm not.  But there is something about these wonderful old linens that just thrills me.  I think I have about 100 napkins at this point and about 10 tablecloths, all of which are very old.

I find romance in thinking these things adorned the table of other people from a bygone era.  I can't help but daydream about what the people talked about while sitting at the dinner table in the old days.  What did they eat?  Did they take care to rid the fabric of stains?  Did some woman wrap a linen tablecloth with lace on it around her nude body and wander out into the field to meet her lover?  (Well, it's an idea, isn't it?  I can think of worse uses for a tablecloth!)

After use, I carefully soak the linens in very hot water and Restoration (a product to clean antique fabrics) leaving them to soak overnight.   I rinse the cloth in white vinegar and hot water using a wooden spoon to swish the material around.  I only launder the linens when it's nice weather and I can dry them on a table in the back yard, keeping them shaded to keep from over-bleaching the material.

I sprinkle them with distilled water and use a little "sizing" before I iron them.  Ironing these 12" X 12" or 13" X 13" squares of cloth is oddly relaxing to me.  I get in a rhythm and spend hours on the task generally while I watch something really fascinating on television (like "Jersey Shore", or "The Real Housewives").  There is something almost hypnotic about the experience.

The 60" by 120" or 130" tablecloths are another story.  Those big pieces of fabric are torture to iron, particularly when I have to iron the linen with a hot iron and the lace with a cool iron.  But I figure it's punishment for my many sins. It's sort of the Pagan's idea of confession and forgiveness.

And, as you all know, I can be a bad, bad girl.

30 comments:

  1. Good grief! This is fascinating Linda, and I salute you for the care you show; I hope someone takes as good care of me when I'm 100. I particularly like drying in the shade. Indigo x

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  2. This is not something I would do, but I do have a love of antiques that transcends rationality. So I can relate. Also, I'd love to have dinner at your house one day. I figure I'd either enjoy the food, or enjoy thinking about what you were going to do with the tablecloth after we'd eaten.

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  3. I have four napkins like those and some doilies and am petrified to use them! As for ironing, you can come over and do mine absolutely anytime!

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  4. I detest ironing as a rule. The linens are the only things I iron without protest. I make Alex iron my blouses. He's good at it too!

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  5. You could do both! How does Saturday look for you?

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  6. It's great to have things around that are older than we are, isn't it. It kind of gives us comfort that we have a way to go yet. Know what I mean?

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  7. You are indeed my sister wife. I adore old linen napkins,tablecloths, women's handkerchiefs, and bedding. There's nothing quite as sensual as the feeling of old linen and lace.

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  8. I also, commend your devotion and care to antique linens. I, too adore vintage linens and own some but I don't use them very often as I am super lazy about wanting to care for them after the use. I have a lace tablecloth handed down from my (now deceased) MIL that I use once in a great while because it is pretty but the after-meal care is something I would not want to do often.


    Still...whenever I am in an antique store, I stop and eeww and ahhh over the antique linens and quilts. They are lovely.

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  9. With that lovely English complexion of yours, you always need to be in the shade Indigo!

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  10. We are indeed sisters from another mother, Cheryl. The only problem I have with acquiring bedding is the change in sizes. The old stuff doesn't come in Queen. I really do love old linens!

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  11. I like stuff older than me! (Just not men. Relax, Dufus. You are younger than me.)

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  12. My mother is also obsessed with napkins and linens. And they are beautiful. Which is why I am always afraid to use them and usually grab paper ones instead!

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  13. I hate ironing and never iron anything.


    Those linen napkins are gorgeous though!

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  14. The Equestrian VagabondApril 25, 2013 at 10:57 AM

    there are worse obsession possessions to have. I remember my mom had a tablecloth and napkins like this... but of course I thought nothing of it and paid no attention at the time. don't know what happened to them. maybe you ended up with them! in which case they are getting excellent care.

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  15. I love this, Linda. I don't have the patience to deal with keeping linens beautiful, but I do use what I have. My mother always used her "good dishes" and such, as what is the point in having it if not to enjoy it. I really understand and live that now. There are worse things than a chipped glass or a stain on furniture!

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  16. I share your love of antique textiles and have some of my grandmother's dishtowels and pillow cases. My sister is the classy one in the family who has all the family dinners for the holidays, so I gave her all the fancy stuff, including all the beautiful vases, dinnerware, etc. I hope your daughter's red lipstick came out of the napkin.

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  17. The lipstick came out just fine, Jeanie. (But I really did want to smack her!) The thing is, neither of my kids are as interested in antique things as I am. I have a collection of sterling flatware from Germany that is just amazing because of its age. It's not the prettiest I've got, but I love it the best because of its age.

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  18. I use my sterling flatware every day too, LM. No reason to have it if you don't enjoy it, and to me that means use it! I've never understood putting things away to be used for "good". If you and your family aren't the most important people to use your nice stuff for, then who is! Know what I mean?

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  19. I love antique linens. See how much alike we are!! I too find it very therapeutic to iron them, something so calming about the entire process.

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  20. The only way I could improve the ironing meditation is if you were here, Darling Nubian, sipping a glass of wine and chatting with me while I ironed. You need to come to see me!

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  21. I read this with a growing sense of panic... did you put these out on the table when Max and I were there? Did I wipe my mouth with one of those? OMG, did MAX?!

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  22. Surely you are joking! The girl with the most beautiful lips in the world graced my table and left her lip imprint on some old napkins! God! I hope so! And if the most kissable little boy who ever lived wiped his lips on those napkins, it would only enhance how special they are to me! Don't be silly, Love.

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  23. My goodness, Linda, I desperately want to come have dinner at your house. I think it would be an experience worth celebrating.

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  24. Having you visit would be cause to break out the expensive champagne and the Waterford flutes and smash the glasses in the fireplace after we swill the stuff! You must get here one day, Ziva! We can both wrap ourselves in linen and lace tablecloths too! In fact, I can't imagine that we wouldn't!

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  25. I applaud you for cherishing the linens. I love them too, but I'm too lazy to take care if them. Glad someone is enjoying them. ;)

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  26. Having rugrats makes you busy, not Lazy! I think having kids around is wonderful, but doesn't leave a lot of time for being a professional launderess!

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  27. I love the fact that you use and treasure and care for the old linens. I'm told my old china would stay stronger if I used it and washed it regularly, but I rarely invite anyone for a meal. Maybe we should just use it every day.

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  28. I use my linens all the time. I also use the sterling flatware and find I don't have to polish off the tarnish when it is used. I do have Waterford chrystal, but only use that when it's a small gathering. (It's hard to smile and say "no worries" when a $150 glass gets broken. ) Use that good china, Nancy! It's for you to enjoy more than for anyone else!

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  29. They are beautiful, and romantic!!!

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