I've already told you how much I love old French linen, well today I'm really excited because this weekend I've been able to find several unusually beautiful bed sheets to put into my etsy shop.
One of my really great pleasures in life is slipping into bed between freshly pressed linen sheets. Best of all vintage linen. I love the weight of the linen, the soft smooth texture, the way they feel cool in the summer and warm and comforting in winter. I never sleep better than in old French sheets.
Today it is still possible to come across bed linen, over 100 years old, and in perfect condition. If you are lucky it's monogrammed, if you're very lucky you get ladder work, lace or other embroidery too. Sometimes there are slight signs of wear, or even a tiny and perfectly darned hole, to me this just adds to the charm.
Traditionally the most beautiful sheets were embroidered as part of a young girl's trousseau. The wealthier the family, the more ornate the handwork, and the finer the weave of the metis, or cotton and linen mix. There are few places today who produce such fine and long lasting materials.
A fine bed sheet with a deep turn-down was particularly useful after childbirth when the mother "laid in" and received polite and congratulatory guests in her room. Today that same deep turn-down looks wonderful when the sheet is used as a curtain., just flip over the turn back and fix hooks to the fold, and you have a pretty and unique curtain.
When I am lucky enough to find antique sheets that have never been used, I particularly enjoy watching the linen fade from slightly blotchy beige, to a beautiful smooth creamy colour. The first thing to do is to soak the linen sheet or pillow cases or cloth in cold water for 24 hours. After that I wash it once or twice at a lukewarm temperature. The material is softened without damaging the fibre. After this, as the sheet is used and washed it becomes progressively whiter.
The best thing is that when they're not being used on beds, they even look great in the linen cupboard!