Collecting vintage linens is like discovering rare treasures. When you look at the delicate needlework, the eye-catching designs, and when you feel the texture of the fabric each piece is so elegantly taken from, it is reminiscent of cherished memories. As an admirer of these stylishly designed linens, let’s share some of the background and history of these elegant fabrics.
If you have found vintage linens stored away and passed down from your grandparents, or your grandparent’s grandparents, you are the lucky owner of some highly sought-after cloth and visions into the past. Did your grandmother, or you aunt perhaps, leave to you a piece of their lives embroidered on a pillowcase or pillow cover? These are possessions to be held close to your heart.
This fabric was commonly used for its durability. As one of the strongest vegetable fibers out there, it has more strength than cotton fabric. It is what many of the tablecloths and napkins were made from. The fabric is smooth in texture and relatively lint-free. The fabric is a white or tan color and easy to dye without fading much. The more you wash it, the softer and smoother it becomes. It is very absorbent and conducts heat which often keeps the garments cool. One problem with linen is that it does tend to break down in creases and folds for a period of time thus tends to break the threads causing a permanent crease in the fabric.
This fabric is a linen, cotton, silk, or wool that has a reversible pattern woven into it. Damask was first known to be produced in the countries of China, India, and Persia. Originally Damask was made from silk however, there have been a number of other fabrics used over time and Damask has been more characteristic of the type of weave it uses. Damask has a very heavy use of thread to make the dense weave. Thus, it is more expensive in cost. Patterns found in Damask tend to appear to have a geometric type of theme.
The years of World War II left many homemakers desolate and faced with only war rations for their families. They were once again required to use whatever was available to them to complete the daily tasks. They commonly used hand crafted accessories in the kitchen, including aprons, in a valiant effort to support the war.After the war, fabrics such as rayon and polyester were discovered and introduced quickly to homemakers. These fabulous fabric choices gave the homemaker a much wider variety of colors and designs to choose from, and ultimately required very little, if any, ironing to look sharp and new. This made aprons a popular item once again causing them to be popularly provided as souvenirs for thousands of travelers to purchase and bring back home to family and friends.
Velvet is an old fabric that has been produced for thousands of years. To produce the material velvet, cut threads are very evenly distributed throughout, thus creating a short, dense pile of threads, offering a soft and luxurious feel to the touch. Velvet can be produced from an assortment of fibers, although ideally silk is chosen. Velvet is woven on a loom and this method of production leads to the quality of the finished product. It is believed that velvet-weaving originated in Kashmir, around the 14th Century.
Silk is a natural filament, similar in appearance to lengths of thread, and gives a soft and shimmering appearance to the materials produced with it. The prism-like make of the silk cloth actually allows light to refract off it at various angles, thus the glistening effect. The best type of silk comes from cocoons of mulberry silkworm larvae. These gentle fibers enhance the beauty and feel of clothing, sheets, pillowcases, and handkerchiefs.
Lace is an open fabric that has patterns with open holes that is either handmade or made by machine. By removing threads from other fabrics, the holes are created. Lace is believed to have originated around either the late 15th or early 16th Century. When a thread is braided, twisted, or looped, it is called True Lace. The crocheted lace is another form of lace that is created from using very fine thin threads and using them to do delicate stitching. Doilies make a good example of this.
Designs And Patterns
Vintage linen accessories were most often decorated with the thread work of tatting, cut work, and embroidery. Drawn work produced a spectacular design on many fine pieces. Edging with lace sets the entire design apart from any other. Appliques were used from time to time as well. There were also the techniques of Battenburg and Needlepoint Lace. Cut work is a technique whereby designs and patterns are cut into a piece of cloth and then united with the workings of needle lace or embroidery to complete the creation. Cut work is a cousin to Drawn Thread work. Drawn Thread work utilizes the method of needlework known as warp and weft (drawing threads over and under) to fill in the desired pattern. Vintage linens not only bring us back into time long past, but they speak to us by those who left them behind. We learn about the culture of our country as well as the lifestyles and history of days gone by. Vintage linens are exquisite reminders of the past and they help bring us closer to what daily life was like for Americans in that era of history.