Pity the poor length of fabric.
So full of potential, so mistreated and so neglected.
This cloth would’ve come from a bolt of yard goods, a long piece of off-white damask linen, with bright gold stripes along the edges. The woven pattern is of pansies.
Someone came to the dry goods store, probably 50-60 years ago, and said, “Cut me 3 yards. I’ll make an elegant tablecloth for special occasions.”
But that never happened.
The fabric was left folded, folded just the way it came from the store. It got packed away, in a deep dark trunk, and the trunk got put away in a deep dark cellar, where it was damp and there were bugs.
And it sat. It gathered stains of all sizes and shapes, water stains, dirty trunk stains, stains of unmentionable acts of insects.
It sat until the lady who had purchased it died at the age of 95.
It sat as the lady’s children went through the house and opened the closets and planned the estate sale.
It sat while hundreds of people came through the sale, buying the bits and pieces of the lady’s life. But no one opened the trunk in that corner of the basement.
I went to the sale. I bought armloads of pretty linens . . . but I never went into the basement. I asked the lady’s son if there were more linens I should be looking at and he said he didn’t think so.
I left, and still the fabric sat.
Later that day, I went back. I just knewthat a woman with a fine house like that, decorated the way it was, had more vintage table linens than I had seen.
I walked in. The sale was winding down.
The son said, “Oh, good! You came back! There’s something I want to show you.”
The basement. The trunk still unopened after two days.
The fabric. And other linens, including huge damask “lapkins” with the lady’s monogram.
I brought the fabric home. It was filthy but unhemmed so I couldn’t wash it yet.
I put it on the clothesline to get the smell out and then I hemmed it.
I soaked it, in steaming hot water, with one of my go-to solutions, for hours.
The wash water turned the color of strong tea but many of the stains were stubborn.
So I soaked it again, with my other magic solution and steaming hot water. Many more hours.
I used a spot stain remover. I put the tablecloth outside in the bright sun and sprayed it with water to keep it damp, to let the sun work its magic.
The stains faded but never fully went away.
I have grown cocky over the years about my ability to remove stains from old fabrics. I boast about my prowess. I wrote about it here.
But this tablecloth has made a fool of me—those last stains refuse to budge!
And still, it’s a lovely cloth and the small spots that remain really do little to take away from its charm.
Finally, after something like 60 years, this fabric is released from its dark prison of inactivity, and ready to do the job for which it was intended.
Pity it no more.