Jan. 10, 2017 – Town of West Bend, WI – When was the last time you cleaned out your linen closet?
Somewhere in your linen closet, as in mine, I’ll bet you have items that were bestowed upon you through inheritance. There is probably at least one thing that you really love, like your great-grandmother’s hand-tatted lace apron or a quilt that has been handed down mother-daughter for generations.
I was innocently putting together Christmas gifts for my hard-working staff last Saturday morning when an interesting thought occurred to me. Now, one of the things I have learned over the years of making soap and running a business is that if it were not for the last minute, nothing would get done. So as I was saying, since our staff Christmas party was on Saturday morning; I was getting gifts ready and thinking about the longevity of linen. You might have thoughts of that sort all the time, but these things come to me at odd times, such as at the last minute…
Among this year’s treasures were beautiful, hand sewn linen towels made by my friend, Franca, who owns Boxwood Linen in Ghent, NY. Franca works with European linens – fine fabrics with weaves that sew and drape beautifully. She is a talented seamstress with an eye for perfection. Aren’t these towels pretty?
As I was looping the woven tapes to tie the towels together, I thought of the simple linen towels in the back of my linen closet that have lasted for more than 100 years.
Since the last time I cleaned out that closet was in the year 20-not-going-to-tell-you, I decided it was time to dig out those linen memories and straighten out that royal mess. The towels in question were in the middle of the stack of vintage linens, in the back corner on the right side of the second shelf behind the rag rugs.
When my grandmother Maria Dielentheis was growing up in Germany, it was the custom for girls to practice their embroidery skills on real-life items for their hope chests.
Grandma called it her “hopeless chest,” but you will note that she was my grandmother.
The towels themselves are of two different linen weaves, and they have beautifully stood the test of time so I should use them, shouldn’t I?
Linen only gets better with work and age. Like us. Right?
Here are Franca’s notes about caring for linen:
Although linen is no ordinary cloth, it’s quite simple to care for. We recommend washing linen at home rather than dry cleaning. Using a professional for “press only” on your larger, more unmanageable pieces is a great idea.
At home we like the way line stays crisp after hanging to dry vs. putting it in the dryer, which leaves it limp. You can soften linen with a spray of water and a hot iron; however, ironing is optional! Smoothing out wet wrinkles with your hands works pretty well if you don’t want to iron.
Pre-soaking in a tub of cool soapy water lifts a lot of stains easily before actually washing. For heavy stains, here’s a foolproof method using biodegradable soaps and stain removers. If you deal with stains BEFORE washing, your linens will always look clean and presentable. After ironing, lay linens flat to dry, then fold & store in a cool, dry place.
- spray ‘Wine Away’ into every single stain
- rub olive oil soap into each greasy stain
- wash your linen with ‘Linen Wash’ as your laundry soap (read care labels for temps).