My Dishtowel Jones: The Danish Modern Beauty

Jones screenshot

It’s no secret I’m addicted to dishtowels. I love ‘em, old and new.

I like to use them.

I like to weave them.

I like to sell them.

I even run contests to honor and glorify them.

I have a new favorite dishtowel—quite possibly the best ever!

It’s damask linen, very high quality. It’s crisp and almost crunchy, the way good linen is when new. And it has that sheen, that shine, that polish that only linen gives us. It’s unused fabric—never washed or put to use, with the original sizing. The woven design looks different on the two sides. One side shows the pattern as light against a darker background and the other side reverses the shades.

The style of the towel is Danish modern and that makes it unusual in itself. While I could show you lots of table linens and towels that evoke styles such as Art Nouveau or Deco, and even more that are mid-century modern and cottage, it’s unusual to find linens that really complement the cool, clear lines and pale colors I associate with the Danish Modern aesthetic.

dan mod towel-dk on lt-5

This towel also makes one thing clear—it’s a bar towel! The woven design is of wine glasses and champagne coupes and brandy snifters and decanters of adult beverages. There they are, all lined up on the “shelves,” waiting for the party to begin.

I have four of these towels. The fabric was sold as yard goods and the original tag was still affixed to the linen—“Dalsjofors hellinne” from Sweden.

gothic petuniaI bought a piece that could be cut up into four towels—the design is laid out in a way that made it easy to see where to cut. I double turned the hems and stitched them on my beloved Singer Featherweight.

And now I admire these towels. I gaze at them in wonder and touch them with affection.

I know I don’t need four of them and I should sell some of them on Etsy, to spread the beauty around a little. The closest I’ve gotten is listing one of them at a pretty high price.

It irritates me a little that the listing has gotten almost no attention! Towels that are FAR inferior (in my opinion!) are getting love but my Danish Modern beauty is so understated and elegant, it goes unnoticed. Do you think that’s why so few of us opt for understated elegance as a look?

But beneath my irritation, I have to admit I feel a little relieved. Like all addicts, I covet all of what I need. I want to keep it close, to revel in it, and I certainly do not want to share it!

They say addiction is wrong but if this feeling is wrong, I don’t want to be right!

Life Lessons from Linens: A Blog Series to Visit!

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Susan Nowell and My Place to Yours

Hey, lovers of “hands at home,” all things vintage, and especially vintage linens! I want to direct you to a fun and interesting blog series that I think you’ll like.

Susan Nowell, the blogger behind My Place to Yours, has been doing a series this month called, “Life Lessons from Linens.” As she says, “This is a series of 31 posts dedicated to life lessons I’ve learned (or been reminded of) while working with vintage linens.” The lessons range from “We learn about Life when we look beyond ourselves” to “Look for the beauty in every season of life” to “’Imperfect’ is okay”.

The most recent post, “Figural Linens Told Me: People Matter,” is one of my favorites and, no, not just because Susan includes some of my cool linens in the post. When she writes, “When I see figural linens, I always wonder *who* the person was–both the person who designed and sewed the piece…and the person depicted in the design,” it makes me think of some of the posts I’ve written about the human touch, the people with the “loving hands at home.”

Check it out if you have the chance—the posts are very readable and include beautiful images of all kinds of vintage linens!

On Edge? Iron!

ironing-2http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/08/19/daily-prompt-activity/

I love to iron. Yes, you heard me right. When my life feels a little jumbled and disordered, crumpled like an old sheet, I iron.

I’m not on edge too often. I have an easy life, mostly free from drama. When I get tense, it’s usually because I feel like I have a lot to do, so the usual methods of relaxation simply don’t work for me. If I try to “relax relax,” I fidget and worry, completely preoccupied with the things I should be doing.

So, I’ve figured out I need to “work relax,” I need to do something that counts as work but is mindless and repetitive and, yes, relaxing.

So, I iron. As I iron, my mind can wander freely. I can sort through all those things I think need to be done, and figure out a plan for accomplishing them. I can plan a blog post. I can gain perspective.

I don’t iron shirts or ruffles or anything fussy. I iron tablecloths and napkins and big expanses of linen. I take big messy messes and, with a few sweeps of my iron and squirts of my spray bottle, turn the messy messes into gleaming, crisp fields of smoothness.

Hey, you meditate your way. I’ll meditate mine. And I’ll wish that all problems were as easy to solve as wrinkled linens!

Vintage Textiles: Looking for Loving Homes

cowboyI love vintage. I especially love vintage textiles–table linens, quilts, blankets, and such. I have loved them for so long and so well that I created quite a problem for myself. I lived in a house that was overwhelmed with textiles. I was the stereotypical “crazy cat lady” of vintage linens. I wanted every embroidered napkin or tablecloth, every crocheted afghan, every hand-stitched quilt to have a good home. And I thought I was the only person who cared enough to provide a good home.

The fact that I had two houses to fill didn’t help matters. For years we had a “real” house and a summer house, both with lots of storage space. When we moved into the summer house full-time a few years ago, I was forced to face my linen-hoarding tendencies. I found boxes and boxes (really!) of linens that I had completely forgotten I had. I had wanted those things to have a good home but what kind of home was I giving them, packing them away and forgetting them?

And, so, I have become the Humane Society of vintage textiles, the SPCA of linens and quilts. I started my Etsy shop, KerryCan (www.etsy.com/shop/KerryCan), to find good homes for my collection of vintage textiles. And I have found that many, MANY people love them as much as I do!

Here are some of my favorite items that have recently found “forever homes.” The dish towel at the top of the page was one of a set of three “day of the week” towels, featuring the cowgirl trying to get her chores done, with the “help” of a flirtatious cowboy

A beautiful hand-crocheted afghan, in fall colors.

A beautiful hand-crocheted afghan, in fall colors.

A pair of linen pillow cases; the drawnwork was done by hand, by a woman preparing for her marriage, in 1910.

A pair of linen pillow cases; the drawnwork was done by hand, by a woman preparing for her marriage, in 1910.

A hand-crocheted tablecloth, with a beautiful star motif.

A hand-crocheted tablecloth, with a beautiful star motif.

Another spectacular afghan, in black and brights.

Another spectacular afghan, in black and brights.

Aren’t they wonderful?! I miss all of these beautiful things! Sometimes I wish I had kept them but then I remind myself of the pleasure others are getting from them . . . and I look around and take stock of all the other special stuff I’ve kept for myself!

Do you find it easy to accumulate things and hard to let go?

Loving Hands and Embroidered Monograms

mono napkinI’ve heard it said that the sweetest sound to a person’s ears is the sound of their own name. The popularity of monogramming certainly supports this! Humans have added their initials to coins, clothing, china, and all sorts of personal objects for thousands of years.

On that topic, I simply love vintage monogrammed linens. The idea of a woman carefully stitching her initials onto a tablecloth or set of napkins, to prepare for an upcoming wedding, really appeals to me. Women readers, remember when you were a teenager and had a crush on a boy? You probably doodled on your notebook and tried out your first name with his last–what would it sound like when you were married and took his name? I imagine our foremothers stitching their soon-to-be-wed initials into beautiful fabric with the same anticipation!

The monograms we see on vintage linens offer a staggering array of styles—understated elegance, over-the-top complexity, single initials, full names spelled out. The history of monogramming is long and combines art and practicality. Royalty used monogramming, of course, as a symbol of authority and power, but everyday folk used initials stitched on fabric, in part, to identify their belongings when laundry was a communal activity or, later, when laundry was sent out to be cleaned. The monograms made sure you got your own sheets and towels back!

The artistic aspect of this was probably inevitable because blank towels and napkins were a perfect canvas on which women could first practice their stitching and then, later, really strut their stuff. Some of the later 19th and early 20th century monogrammed linens are spectacular examples of craftsmanship! It’s kind of fun to think of embroidery as a competitive sport, with each young woman trying to out-do others in this stitched expression of taste and refinement.

The stitchers were helped along in their work by metal stencils—they weren’t creating those elaborate designs freehand! You can find these vintage stencils, made of copper and brass, in tons of different combinations of letters, on Etsy and eBay, so you can try your hand at monogramming, if you have that kind of skill and patience!

from linensbysabine.etsy.com

from linensbysabine.etsy.com

And, of course, you can purchase vintage monogrammed linens in a variety of places. The Internet has made searching out the right combination of letters a lot easier! In selling such linens, I’ve found that single-letter monograms sell very promptly, while it’s more difficult to find buyers for items with double or triple monograms.

But I have a solution. If all else fails, I keep them! For me, I simply don’t care if the initials are my initials or not. They are so lovely and so representative of the principle of “loving hands” making beautiful, hopeful items to show affection—who cares if the initials are someone else’s? And sometimes I make up ancestors to fit the initials—surely, someone in my murky past has the initials “MST” and “LV”!

In the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, The Pirates of Penzance, the Major-General lives on an estate he purchased, with a chapel and grave yard, and he has “adopted” those buried therein. As he says, “I don’t know whose ancestors they were, but I know whose ancestors they are now.” When I look at my vintage linens, with the alphabet soup of monograms, that’s exactly my attitude: I don’t know whose great-grandmother did that stitching but I’d be proud to call her my great-grandmother now!

For a more detailed, really interesting overview of monogramming, you should check out this article: http://belovedlinens.net/monograms/white-monograms-1-1.html

And if you’re interested in adding monogrammed linens to your collection, you can visit my Etsy shop at www.etsy.com/shop/KerryCan or type “vintage linens monogram” into the Etsy search bar and see hundreds of offerings from the sellers there!