Around the World, With Vintage Linens

As I iron my thoughts wander, all around the world. I think about how my linens have traveled, and I wonder where the next ones will go.

My linens been many more places than I have!

These napkins are on their way to Norway.5 dam dinner naps mums-2

These perfect, exquisite cocktail napkins just went to Abu Dhabi.white delicate cocktail naps-2

I got his flat-out gorgeous set from a woman whose grandfather was a linen importer. So the placemats and napkins made the trip to the U.S. from another country, I can’t guess where, but now they grace a table in Australia.

It never occurred to me, when I started selling vintage linens, that I’d be sending these lovely things around the world, to Japan, to New Zealand, to Italy, to South Korea. Not only are they valued in many lands, they are valued so much that people are willing to pay the often exorbitant shipping costs.

I ask myself why? Why would international buyers want these items?

Maybe it’s because some of the countries are young-ish, like Australia and New Zealand, and have less homegrown vintage than we do.

Maybe it’s because American culture and design, at least from certain periods, has a vibe that folks in other cultures value.

I can make some generalizations—Australians go for understated elegance. Usually all white, high-quality, and expensive linens that bespeak an old-world charm.

Many Asian buyers like the funkier look of American mid-century.

I have my ethnocentric moments, when I think, “Oh, but this belongs here. I don’t want it to go to another land, far from its home.” And then I remind myself that valued items have been traded across the world from time immemorial. If we could have a Silk Road, why not a Linens Road?

And I remind myself that the really important thing is that these pretty things be loved and valued and used, wherever they find a home.

This little, bitty, pretty one, a spoon keeper, is on its way to New Zealand. It will have a loving home where it will, once again, protect treasured spoons and be treasured itself.spoon keeper-5

Goodbye linens! Safe travels! Fare thee well.

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46 thoughts on “Around the World, With Vintage Linens

  1. Ha Kerry…there you have it…the World Wide Web, just bringing people together who simply love beautiful things and in this case your lovely linen for their collection or even better to use and delight everyone using them. So no, my dear, do not go ethnocentric..beauty is to be shared and bring joy. And the beautiful Americanas are also the result of many cultures bringing it ‘together’…what a lovely thought of seeing traveling on…Have a great weekend, Johanna

  2. I always enjoy sending my work to distant places… there are items I have knitted or crocheted in the US, Tasmania, Australia, and all over the UK. Soon, there will be a dragon in New Zealand… if I can just find the perfect yarn!! It must be lovely to know how much the linens you have found are being treasured in their new homes.

  3. So interesting that you would spot patterns in linens taste by country. Most of the Asian cultures definitely prefer brighter colors than we do in the West; some would even describe so much color as gaudy, but I say vive la difference!

    • Vive la difference, indeed! I used to only buy and try to sell linens that I personally loved but now I look for quality, regardless of the “look”–I’ve learned that there’s someone out there to love most anything.

  4. I can so see that laundress inspiring Japanese designers. The stripes on her stockings kill me. And I’m glad someone, somewhere, is giving these lovely items good homes.

    • I used to have a whole collection of those appliqued towels and they were all darling, with crazy details. Now they’re spread all around the world but, yes, in happy homes.

  5. I am always amazed that people in foreign countries are willing to pay those shipping costs. Someone in France bought 6 antique wooden clothespins from me and, in my opinion, the shipping cost was outrageous…but they really wanted those clothespins! And your customers really, really want your beautiful linens. Just chalk it up to good taste!

  6. Re the shipping costs Kerry – for me, living in a land over 4000 km from it’s nearest neighbour and, as you so rightly point out, a new culture – not yet 200 years on from the early settlers and still in process of building it’s own history, postage costs are part of life’s little quirks. I always calculate the item plus shipping to see if the deal is an ‘affordable’ one. Affordable in the sense of is it available here – always, sometimes, never? How unique is the item and how much is this really required/desired……….. We are so blessed to be living in this age of internet and global communication and shopping – and air mail!

    The reality is imported items cost so much more here – there are shipping costs factored in, import duties added on plus taxes. The middle man then puts on his percentage and voila, the customer pays – sometimes exorbitantly! The shipping cost of a few linens may be nothing in comparison. 🙂 However it can also stop us from purchasing beautiful things just because….. and sometimes I think that is a shame as everyone needs to have beauty and quality in their lives!

    Those linens are truly gorgeous – your photography clearly shows the texture of the fabric – I can feel the weight! ❤ ❤ ❤

    • Your perspective on this is so helpful! And I’m am certainly happy when people are willing to pay for the honor of owning these pretty things–I know that if some is paying THAT much, they will treat my things well!

  7. SIGH, they are all SO gorgeous. Good job. Do you use spray starch or is there something better? YES, I DO remember using the stuff that had to be dissolved…gack

    • I don’t use starch at all, unless it’s for something of my own that I’m about ready to use. Since starch is basically, well, starch and a food source, storing starched linens just invites bugs and rodents to chew on the linens to get to the starch. And they can still look gorgeous without starch, right?!

  8. Lovely textiles: but the thought that kept on intruding was….how dreadful to have to spend time ironing items you’d no longer be able to enjoy yourself. You’ll gather I don’t likr ironing either 😉

  9. It struck me that the mid-century linens are very similar to home-grown Japanese graphics in many ways. Once you mentioned it, I could see they had the charm of Anime–so it may be one of those stories of similar artistic threads in cultures!

  10. I especially enjoyed this post. It’s amazing how far the linens are traveling. The all white linens remind me of linens we had in our sideboard when i was a child–but never actually used.

  11. I loved all the linens! And could be heard making little cries of joy as each photo was revealed!
    It is so good to read how valued these linens are by so many. Here in England I have seen vintage linen and lace, together with china drop very dramatically in popularity and therefore price. I am so interested to hear of the sales you achieve and have to admit that I am wondering if I should set up an Etsy shop myself. I know that other bloggers in our little community are also experimenting with creating interest in items for sale. I like the way that you direct people to your shop on Etsy which enables your blog to maintain its integrity. You have given me food for thought! As well as a great deal of pleasure with this post. I was also interested to read that you do not use starch and the reason why. Thank you.

    • I have loved my experience on Etsy and it’s turned out to be a good place to sell linens and other vintage treasures that are small enough and sturdy enough to ship. You can do a lot of research on how to set up a shop, etc., by reading the support documents on the Etsy site. It takes quite a time commitment to get a good stock of items listed and to keep up with it all but, since you’re already very good at taking the photos, that’s one less thing to worry about! If you have specific questions let me know!

  12. The spoon keeper will be a keeper indeed. We are fortunate to have good postal services but I would prefer the bulk of my money to go to the seller/creator/ writer, not the post office eg I hate giving the seller $10 and the post office $20. It doesn’t seem fair. Recently I pulled out of a purchase with a charity shop in Australia. The items I wanted cost $4.00. The shipping was going to be $10.00. I was trying to support the charity not the postal system. My feeling is that the postal services could be doing better. Perhaps a special contract with Etsy whereby all sales under $10 will only cost $2 to ship to anywhere……or a postage guarantee that the cost of shipping will never be more than the sale price of the item.

  13. Pingback: 12.51 ~Holding On | silkannthreades

  14. Those vintage linens are all so beautiful! There was a time, before I started making/selling pet things, that I sold antiques, vintage clothing, and yes linens…but not online. And I have to agree with you I am often amazed that others are willing to pay the high shipping costs to other countries. I too have my pet products in many different countries, and it truly tickles me to know that little dogs and cats are enjoying what I have so carefully made by hand. I ship a little love with each package mailed!! Thanks for sharing your lovely linens.

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