Friday, January 24, 2014

Antique European Textiles


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!

22 comments :

Laurie Blaswich said...

Hi Catherine,
What lovely style you have, I've been following your blog for a few years now! However, my blogging goes on and off. Depending on my schedule.

I am a textile tile designer and heart anything monogrammed! What a lovely post and stunning images!

Thank you for taking the time to share.

Fondly,
Laurie

the growers daughter said...

I often wish I could sit and have tea, and just watch these women as they worked. Every time I reread through my classics like Austen, I find myself so intruiged by the concept of employment for women. Practising the art of sketching, the pianoforte, embroidery and other things in one's free time... It's something we've lost. Actually there are so many beautiful parts of that time that I wish we're still in practise today...

Your linens are beautiful, and will make a lovely duvet cover.

Elizabeth@ Pine Cones and Acorns said...

Beautiful linen and even more beautiful monograms. Thanks for sharing

Dianne said...

Beautiful gift! Lucky little girl.
xo

Michele @ The Nest at Finch Rest said...

Fabulous post! Heading over to that trunk now to drool and dream.

Have a wonderful weekend. Stay warm!

Yuko Jones said...

I love all about this, Catherine! Those antique linens are breathtakingly beautiful with their carefully hand stitched monograms. I also enjoyed reading the history of monogramming. It is so fascinating that linen cupboards once were a status symbol! Thank you and Wendy for sharing such a beautiful piece of history with us. Have a wonderful weekend. ox

Curtains in My Tree said...

Yours is the pretties in her shop i think because of the large monogrammed letters on your sheet.

They are beautiful to see and I am sure to hold

White Ironstone Cottage said...

Love the monogram sheet just gorgeous
I have the book too it is inspiring
xo
Pam

Bonnie said...

I collect old textiles and was excited to see your post. There is such beauty in the coarse and simple weavings of the middle class. It shows the pride and love the had for their homes. Nesting is not class sensitive.

Jodee said...

These textiles have the certain charm of old times, beautiful.

Jen said...

So pretty. I have some of my great grandmother's embroidery work that I display in hoops. Such a nice connection to the past.
We're in the midst of buying a 114 year old farm house... I am so inspired by the aesthetic you and your husband imparted into your last home. Can't wait to start renovating. Thanks for the inspiration!

Debbie said...

My own grandmother, born in 1894 and of Pennsylvania Dutch descent in Texas, never sat down without her "handwork." She embroidered tablecloths, pillowcases, sheets, and crocheted lace edges. I suppose hers was the last generation to do that. How much life has changed in two generations!

Sunny said...

Oh, no more little baby hands. That's a little hand, but not a baby hand any more. I always enjoy when you blog and look forward to sneak peeks at the twins.

Inger-Anne said...


Hi,
I'v been following your blog for a while and I love your style. Here are two Norwegian blogs that i think you will like
http://ljo-s.blogspot.no/
http://husetilunden.blogspot.no/

Andrea said...

My mother and I recently went through boxes of antique linens from her family in Hungary. We've been trying to decide what to do with them! I like the idea of incorporating them into a duvet cover, thanks for the inspiration!

Lee said...

I love this post so much. The linens are so beautiful Catherine, I'm already on the sight trying to narrow down all the items I want to buy. Yikes!
Lisa
Leeshideaway

Elizabeth Ann said...

Beautiful linens! I'm not sure if you want to press them but if you do - lay it right side down on a double layer of a big fluffy towel and lightly steam it. Will make it even more beautiful...
I always look forward to your post....

An Urban Cottage said...

That monogram is really beautiful! I can't tell you how many things I've purchased from Wendy for different projects and once I get them, I can't bring myself to cut them. They're all packed away. I've been looking recently for a linen sheet to turn into curtain panels for the kitchen and I'm afraid, once again, I won't be able to cut it. Wendy is a doll and always a joy to do business with.

Lee said...

Can I have a linen maid?
Hee hee. I'm so serious.
Lisa
Leeshideaway.blogspot.com

designchic said...

There is nothing quite like the beauty of antique linens and monograms...gorgeous!! Sounds like a wonderful book ~

Eddie Ross said...

Gorgeous linens. Love the monograms! Beautiful! E + J

Anonymous said...

So beautiful. I love the history. I still think of the twins as babies...

Take good care,
Em

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