When my dear friend Kate recommended an online source for antique French textiles, I found myself lost in a sea of never-ending awe and beauty. This was my first real peek into textiles such as these and my immediate feeling was, how could I never have known of such things?
Wendy from The Textile Trunk is the most gracious caretaker of these historic threads. Her passion and love shine through in her endless knowledge and enthusiasm. I fell in love myself just reading her descriptions. But I did not truly comprehend her words until I held these threads in my own hands, when I purchased a 1900's French monogrammed sheet.
It's so much heavier than I imagined with its dense weave of cotton and linen.
But heavier than the material itself, is the weight of its presence.
The monogrammed letters adorning the sheets had been hand-stitched by mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers. What beautiful imagery they invoke of these women, needle-in-hand, their thoughts, their art form. And such simplistic beauty so delicately woven into the common fabric of life.
Do you think these women could have imagined that over one hundred years later an American woman would hold their threaded beauty? Or that it would be a gift a mother would give to her daughter in two thousand fourteen?
This heirloom textile will be made into a duvet cover for my daughter's bed when she is a little bit older. I absolutely love that these century-old threads will help keep her warm, holding her in their wonderful and inspiring beauty.
I asked Wendy about the history of monogramming and this is what she told me:
During the 19th century, it became de rigueur for middle class families to have every item of the trousseau monogrammed , in imitation of the aristocratic crests. A Trousseau was the collection of linens that a woman would bring with her to a marriage. Monnogramming the items in a trousseau was an art in itself , with special techniques and ruses for each piece. The style of monogram chosen often reflects the prevailing fashions of the entire epoch….quite easy to distinguish. The monograms letters were often of the bride and groom, however these rules were not set in stone and some lunch napkins only were monogrammed with the woman’s initials. Creative license!
There were linen maids in the 19th century and nuns were often used also for the washing, monogramming, folding and stacking of linen. Often people employed linen maids, however washing the family linens was also something that the woman of the household would do. The sheets being washed sometimes in public laundry areas and hung to dry in the sun ( hence, the holder the sheet tended to become sun bleached with time from the many hangings! ) Linen cupboards were a status symbol and the doors of the cupboards were sometimes left open ( accidentally) so show the many many stacks of fine linen a family owned! ( so I’ve been told! ) ….
A wonderful book to recommend on linens is : The Book of Fine Linen, Francioise de Bonneville ~ so much wonderful information!