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Friday, February 26, 2010

Antique & Vintage Linen Care Tips

On the subject of caring for antique linens, it seems everyone I ask for advice has a different story. As a result I’ve tired most everything, and below you’ll find my thoughts on what works for me. I’m no linen care expert, so test anything first on a small piece to make sure it doesn’t react with the fabric. At Call Me Cordelia, linens are by far our biggest sellers. Most of the ones I buy are in good condition; but I feel the need to wash them first anyway. I enjoy washing mine by hand in an old tin tub, tucked away in a corner of the garden.
For your own linens, I’d suggest filling a tub with warm water and mild soap. Start out simply washing them by hand and seeing if the spots come out. If not, I like to leave my white linens soaking in the bathtub overnight with some Oxiclean. It really surprised me how easy it became to get the old yellow spots out. Only as a last resort would I use bleach. Never put it on a colored linen, and don’t use too much. The harshness will sometimes deteriorate the fabric, so I always dilute it with water and try to only apply it directly to the stain.
Next I’d rinse my linens several times and make sure all the soap was removed. Then wrap it in a towel to absorb the water and help it dry. Try not to wring them out as this is harmful to the antique threads. I always hang mine on the clothesline to dry. I’ve heard some ladies swear by bleaching them in the sun, and I’ve heard others say it is simply too harsh for linens. Personally, I’d never put them in the dryer, and hanging them in the sun has worked for me. I do try, however, not to place them in direct sun for any longer than is necessary.
I like to iron mine while they are still a little bit damp. If they are dry, then I mist the linens with water. Never use spray starch. This causes them to yellow, and starch also helps break down the fibers. In other words, it will cause them to rot faster. Spray starch also tends to attract bugs.
To store linens properly, use acid free tissue paper. Try to avoid cedar chests as they can stain fabrics. Never iron linens before storing, and never iron creases in linens. Those creases will weaken threads and cause them to deteriorate quickly along the crease. For the same reason, try to avoid folding linens in the same places. To avoid folds altogether, I’ve heard one lady say she rolls her tablecloths, and stores them in acid free tubes. I normally don’t store my linens. They sit out on display at all times, tucked on top of dressers, and under vases. I believe linens were meant to be enjoyed and loved.
I hope this has inspired you to drag out your own grandmother’s linens, and work them into your modern home. If I’ve left out anything, or you have comments on how you care for linens, I’m always open to new ideas. Feel free to leave a comment.

Fresh Ideas for Grandma’s Linens

1. Under a Glass

Use a lace doily under a glass top table. This way it’s always safe from spills! In the photo is my little nightstand with a white tablecloth, and a large pink doily under the glass.
2. Tea Towel Window Treatment

Hang a cafe curtain rod a little under halfway across a kitchen window. Take curtain rings with clips and attach them to two matching tea towels. I saw this done once with two elegant embroidered Victorian tea towels. Let me tell you it sure had ambiance!
3. Hankie Displays

Don’t hide hankies a dresser drawer, instead display them for guests to enjoy. Frame some in a floating frame, available in most frame departments. Use different style floral and polka dotted hankies. Hang them in hallways or above sofas. Also try draping them under perfume bottles on a bedroom vanity. This looks especially nice with the fancy lace edged hankies.
4. Hankie Lampshade

Take a plain white lampshade and add pizazz in just seconds! Drape a vintage hankie over the top. Sheer hankies look even more special when they have a faint floral design. You could also hot glue bead trim around the shade bottom.

Warning: This could pose a fire hazard if used too long with to hot a bulb. So I draped my hankie over a very seldom used lamp.
5. Drapery Tieback

Use a vintage lady’s scarf as a curtain tieback. Choose a floral print to complement the curtain or use a sheer dainty one. In the photo, my bathroom shower curtain is made of regular sheer panels and tied with with a vintage scarf.
6. Dressy Wardrobes

Help you wardrobe dress for the occasion, by draping a scarf over the top. You’ll need the large scarf, almost the size of a long, skinny shawl. Place it across the top and let it hang down the sides. Find one with a fringe for even more elegance. Then stack your hatboxes back on top, and enjoy.
7. Shelf Edging

Don’t have a plain shelf, instead add some ambiance to it! Place a long lace table runner across it. Be sure to let the fancy edging hang off the shelf. Then you have a shelf fit for your beloved treasures. Also try the same idea with crocheted doilies. Simply place them so part of the design hangs over the shelf edge.
8. Sugar Water

Use a simple sugar water recipe to harden doilies. Try draping them over jello molds with fancy shapes. Sugar water small snowflake shaped doilies a hang on a christmas tree. Try sugaring large round doilies and using them under dinning room table centerpieces. Or place the doily around a bowl, and let them harden in bowl shape.
9. Doily Pillows

Make a pillow out of a large doily. Sew two square pieces of cotton together, and stuff; or start with a pre-made pillow form and cover in fabric. Then sew a fancy doily on the front, or cut a pillow size square from a large doily and cover the entire front.
10. Hankie Pillow

Sew two large hankies together around a pre-made pillow form. You got an instant vintage treasure! You could always add beaded trim or fringe. These cute small pillows are wonderful for piling on daybed, or place one in a small vanity chair.

Sugar Startch Water

Years ago ladies, starched their doilies to make them stiff and hold various shapes. Now it has almost become a lost art. I’ve had someone recently ask about a sugar water recipe and so here it is:
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup water
Place sugar and water in a pot. Cook over high heat; but don’t let it boil. Keep stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool.
Dampen the doily, or item to be stiffened, and wring out excess water. Then dip it into sugar mixture. Wring out the excess, and shape the doily into your desired shape.
Try using this recipe and placing doilies over bowls, vases, and other interesting shapes. This idea works not only on crocheted doilies; but other linens as well. In the winter time, try sugaring small white doilies to use as snowflakes. Or use any doilies found at flea markets or even in your own attic. With this recipe, you can let your creativity run wild.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Confessions of an English Lit fan…

Confessions of an English Lit fan…
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of large fortune must be in want of a wife. Or so Jane Austen said. But is he really? Or what if, like the brooding Mr. Rochester, he is secretly married already? Maybe I’ve just read to many novels. I close my eyes deep in thought…
Tonight it is late, and the wind is howling around the bedroom window as my fingers tap across the key board. Slowly I glide back in time as I imagine the Microsoft Word program and lap top have turned into a piece of paper and feather quill. On a night like this anything is liable to happen. The wind continues to howl forcefully. It makes the Wuthering sound, for which Wuthering Heights was named. A hard driving rain is pounding on my window. Thick clouds have blackened out the twinkling stars. As I push back the lace curtain and peer into the night, I half expect to see Mr. Rochester ride past, with the ever faithful Pilot on his heels. However, I know that this can not happen. But what was that gliding through the rain, under the large old oak tree? The room becomes damp and filled with a chilly air. It smells vaugly of a damp old house. The lights flicker off and only one faint candle is left burning on my ancient wooden desk. I dip my feather quill into the ink again, and continue with my writing. The wind has not let up blowing around the house. I pull my wool shawl closer around me. Voices drift through the open door and towards me. “You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you…” That voice can only belong to one person. Then of course as I knew it must happen, I hear Miss Elizabeth Bennett decline Mr. Darcy’s declaration. The other room is full of voices and footsteps. As I look next to my paper, I notice a copy of Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens. I lay my writing aside and thumb through the musty old book. Alas, like the Bronte Sisters I feel the urge to continue on with my writing. The rain has not let up, indeed my dear reader, it has only gotten worse. I once again dip my feather into the ink well. It makes a faint scratching sound as it glides over the paper. I can not fathom bringing characters like Heathcliff and Jane Eyre to life using only this simple feather. How strange it seems after a modern pen. Deep in thought I, gaze out into the rain. Maybe at any moment, a carriage shall glide past with Miss Fanny Price inside. I draw a deep breath of damp air, and hear footsteps echo in the stone hall. As if a page has fallen out of Vanity Fair, I see Becky Sharp and Amelia hurry past. No doubt, up to whatever mischief has come into Miss Becky’s head now. I turn my attention back to window and the rain streaming down it, just like Jane Eyre’s wedding gown streamed out behind her as she ran from the chapel, back to Thornfield Hall. My pen stops writing, lost in my own muse, I simply sit here.
The phone rings. I look up and the house no longer has stone walls but instead painted sheet rock. As I reach for my cell phone, I notice the laptop is still here and my feather is gone. I push back the lace curtain. Indeed it is still raining; but there is no hero riding gallantly past. Instead, only leaves and brush blow across the dark yard. As I answer the phone, the spell is broken and once again I sit staring into my document in word. None of this really happened, you know. On rainy nights, when the mist sweeps across the garden and the wind begins to howl I always imagine such strange things. However, as I see the pages of Wives and Daughters blow about in wind, I can’t help but wonder. Maybe it could have happened, or maybe my over active imagination shall indeed send the men in white coats after me. Who knows?