Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Linen Closet

Linens contribute to the feeling of softness and comfort in the home. They consist of bath towels, kitchen towels, sheets and pillowcases for beds, and table cloths. They can be stored in a closet, or a drawer. Some home makers find it more convenient to keep the table things in the dining area in a drawer or china cabinet, and the bedding in the room in which it will be used. Most older homes prior to 1900 had special linen closets for these items. Wands made with lavender tied in voile and ribbon, were stored along with the linens, to keep bugs away and to add a fresh scent.

Most families determine what is the best amount of towels and sheets and tablecloths for them, depending on what they use and how often they wash them. Whatever the homemaker likes and whatever makes her life more pleasant, should be the criteria in selecting linens.

Two sets of towels for each family member will usually suffice, as one set may be in the laundry, while the other set is being used. Some families like to chose a towel color for each person. In damp climates, most people agree that towels have to be washed daily, so that will determine how many towels the family needs. Sets include the bath towel, the smaller towel, the hand towel and the wash cloth. The linen closet will hold the towels that will be used when extras are needed.

Two sets of sheets per bed is enough, since one will be stored in the linen closet, or the bedroom closet where it will be used. Some people like a summer set of sheets, made of thin cotton, plus a winter set made of warm cotton flannel. Babies and children's beds will require more changes of linens, which can be stored in their rooms, for convenient changes. One handy way of storing sheets is to fold up the top sheet and bottom sheet and put them inside one of the pillowcases, then stack the filled pillowcases in the linen closet. Sheets are used to provide a barrier between the rougher textures of the blankets, and the body, and to keep the blankets and mattresses clean.

The table cloths also depend on the seasons and the occasions. If they are used every day, it will be good to have several for the kitchen table and several for the dining table. While in past times, table linens had to be boiled and starched, dried on the line and pressed with a hot iron, it is a cinch to use a tablecloth today. Many of the new fibers seem to repel stains and crumbs can be easily brushed away. Table cloths provide a clean and cheerful background for the table settings.

Doilies and runners and various laces, can be included in the linen collection. If these are from a grandmother's estate, they fare better when used than if stored. To wash old stains or rust spots, some people soak them in cold water to which has been added the juice of a fresh lemon. For especially yellowed doilies and cloths, the process is repeated throughout a day and then the water is gently squeezed out, the piece is rolled in a towel, and placed on another towel outside, for the sun to dry. The combination of the lemon juice and sun create a bleaching effect without weaking the fibres.

The use of table cloths makes a softer sound on the table, which is a blessing in our noise-ridden world. (Table cloths should not be used when there are babies or small children who will accidently pull it off the table.) Table cloths and napkins can be easily washed in the machine and dry quickly in the dryer, and these days not many of the ones you buy have to be ironed. They can be easily home made from just about any kind of fabric.

If the house does not have a linen closet, perhaps a chest made of wicker or cedar would work, or, a special shelf or hutch can be used. There does not necessarily have to be a door on the cabinet, since it is better for air to circulate around the linens. There are good tips on caring for today's linens here:

and here for antique linens

Some people who have overcome sleep problems, have thought that the use of natural, non-dyed cloth for sheets and pillowcases, is helpful.

The variety that is available in linens is very appealing. Having spring, summer, fall and winter linens can be a cheerful addition to the home.


Rosie said...

Do you not use duvets and duvet covers in US ? Here in UK I don't know anyone who still uses blankets on beds.Feather and down duvets are best as the hollowfibre ones go flat after a short time and hold the heat of the body unaturally.

Lydia said...

No, we have not quite caught up with the duvet custom yet! A lot of people love their quilts and blankets as they may have been given by someone who made them. Maybe you can explain something about the duvet and how it is used, washed, cared for.

I like the idea of having an open shelf where linens are folded and displayed with a wide ribbon around them. It adds a decoration to the home while in storage.

Anonymous said...

Linens are definitely a focus in my homekeeping. Although I use a fabric backed vinyl tablecloth for utilitarian reasons, I make them from the most cloth-like pattern that I can find. They make an acceptable table setting, and look like cloth in photographs. My table is ten foot long and I need every inch of space for my family. Cloth is used for everything else. One microbiology class many years ago convinced me to use one towel one time. White is the color of choice. These are not for display, but I keep them in "tip-top" shape. I serge the edges when they fray and make a pleasant, decorative applique when they must be patched. Napkins are given the same treatment. They are used with all meals, but some are set aside for entertaining. They are mended when needed. I accept visible mending for every day family use, but not for entertaining. Two sheets sets per bed has worked out very well for me over the years. To cut costs of extra pillow cases, I make three or four from a twin sheet. Sheeting is mended as well, but much much less so than other linens.
I also consider "rags" or "kitchen cloths" part of my linen closet. I have knitted many dish "rags" over the years. Their use does not prevent me from making them decorative as well as practical. In addition, towels that can no longer function in the original state are cut and serged into wash cloth sized "rags" and used in place of paper towels. They are placed in a decorative box behind a cabinet door. They are kept as clean and stain free as possible. I have expanded my definition to include them as they are an important part of my home economics. They are mended and kept in the best shape as possible.
Doilies? I love everything about them and use them in my decorating.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to ask your advice, Lady Lydia.
We have a plastic tablecover on our table-just a large piece of plastic from Joanne Fabrics. I've always hated it. It never looks clean and it's too long-it hangs way over the side of the table.
Recently I've been wondering if I should replace it with tablecloths instead. I do have a few but I keep them under the plastic so they won't get stained and need washing so often.
Do you think it would be better to use tablecloths instead of the plastic? If so, how often should I change them...daily? This would greatly increase my laundry and to be honest I have somewhat of a hard time keeping up with it as is. Plus I would have to buy more tablecloths as we don't have that many. We do use placemats and napkins but still our table gets very messy during meals.
What is your opinion?

Lydia said...

Clear plastic can be purchased by the yard at fabric sections in stores like Wal-Mart, and has different weights.

I like the medium weight because it won't cling to itself and wrinkle up, or slide off the table like the heavier weight.

It can actually be washed in a pan of hot soapy water in the sink, and then laid on a few towels and wiped dry with another towel, and it will look as good as new.

You could also just buy a new piece, if it is stained beyond remedy.

These are great if you are protecting antique table cloths or a quilt, or use your table so often that it requires wiping and cleaning a lot.

I have one on my dining table and find that people are less self-berating when they spill things. Also when a glass or tea cup is knocked over, it doesn't break when the plastic overlay is used.

On the bare table cloth over a wood table, the glassware and the teacups do break if they fall over.

The only disadvantage is when you leave the tablecloths under it for too long. They tend to smell musty without air circulating around them. Changing the cloth often will prevent this.

Some people say that using the clear plastic overlay is "tacky" but I think that is rather snobbish, and not economical. I enjoy having a different colored cloth under it and not worrying about spills and stains. After mealtimes, the table is easily wiped, and can be used for other things, without changing the linens. Children can use their crayons on it, and you can even cut out a pattern without damaging it.

Anonymous said...

< Some people say that using the clear plastic overlay is "tacky" but I think that is rather snobbish, and not economical. >

I guess this is what I was getting at-that it looks "tacky" and maybe I should be using cloth instead.
Thanks for your opinion. If you say it's okay, then is IS okay. :)

Anonymous said...

< Some people say that using the clear plastic overlay is "tacky" but I think that is rather snobbish, and not economical. >

I guess this is what I was really wanting to know-that if it looks "tacky" should I be using cloth instead. But, if you say it's okay to use plastic then it IS okay to use plastic. Thanks for your opinion. :)

Lydia said...

I'm not an expert about it, and not an ettiquette expert, either.I've said throughout this blog and the articles at LAF that it is whatever the homemaker likes and wants, that will be "okay." If it makes her happy, and if she enjoys it, that is how it should be done. It is like the songleader vs. the songbook. The congregation is obligated to sing the way the song leader is leading it, for the sake of harmony, even if the song leader does not quite follow the notes exactly. Just my opinion. I used clear plastic because it made sense to protect my investment of good table cloths, which I had sewn myself. I made curtains to match, and did not want the table cloths to be washed more often than the curtains. The clear plastic kept the table cloths from sliding around on the table. I am not saying I will always use plastic, but that I like it a lot because of the way it keeps the table cloth flat, and clean.

Lydia said...

Find the clear, shiny plastic that is sold on the roll. Have it cut to the size of your table. One and a half yards usually fits a round or square table; two or two and a half fits a table with a leaf in it or an oval/oblong table.

Morgan said...

Thank you so much for this blog. You are an inspiration to us all!

Lydia said...

To the person who wrote about adding hems to towels and repairing them..I like this idea very much. It gives longer life to your investment. Towels wear out to a certain point, then seem to stay the same for awhile except for the hems. The worn towels are much more absorbant.

Anonymous said...

In Germany we also use duvets which are protected by being enveloped in sheet cover. We have more sets than 2 per bed, because all of our linen must be ironed. I let the pile of sheets and table linen stack up and then mangle everything at once - maybe once a month.
I do need to get the sewing machine out more often to mend. It is very satisfying once done.

Anonymous said...

Due to space in our home, I have the linens in drawers in each room.---When it comes to bathroom lines, I was being over run by them. So, I did a few things to simplify my linens on wash day. One of the things that I have done is made all the towel sets all white.(the ones that the family uses daily) That way it will make it easier for me instead of washing dark towel and light towel sets, I could just throw them all in and not have to seperate and then reorganize the towels that go to each bathroom according to their color. However, I didn't want my bathroom decor to be all white, so the exception is the towels that we have hung in the bathroom for guest to use and for our family to wipe their hands off on.(The bathroom decor towels as we call them) These towel match our bathroom colors and on these the towels have been machine embroidered with the word "Guest" on them. It is a wonderful little touch in the bathrooms and I hope that it is a simple way to show that my guest are welcome and thought of in every room. (chuckle) ---I like the idea of adding hems to towels that need a little repair, too. I have been just tossing those to the garage pileto be used for washing the car.

Anonymous said...

The clear plastic over a lovely tablecloth is a good idea. I don't have expensive linens, but, I use a table cloth almost everyday. And they need to be changed everyday, due to the fact that we do not have a formal dining room, and heavy use, by family with five children. Even just to save the less expensive table cloths from being washed so often, a plastic clear sheet, just might me a good idea for this family.
And duvets appear to be a very practical bed cover. This is something to look into!

Anonymous said...

Some folks in the U.S. do use duvets. We just call them "comforters." Mostly, I cling to blankets in the summertime because the comforter is hot, heavy, and a bear to wash if anything spills on it. Blankets, though, are easy to wash and dry.

I've designed a quilt-like cover for it, out of scraps I have from around the house. I intend to use grommits and ribbons to lace up the side. I just have to cut it out, piece it, and sew it. It will look very nice on the guest bed (too small for the master bed), and it may just serve as an heirloom.

Mrs. Bartlett

Mimi said...

I have seen a lot of duvet covers for sale in stores and catalogs in the U.S. So, someone's using them! Oddly, I've never paid that much attention to the duvets, themselves, but that's probably because I personally have always used breadspreads, quilts, or comforters. I could be wrong about this, but I always thought the duvet was meant to slip inside of a cover, while the comforter is already decorative and is meant to be used as is.

I agree that comforters can be heavy in the summer and hard to wash. But, it's easy to make a bed with a comforter on it and a bedskirt and have it look neat. So, there are pluses and minuses. Maybe, the answer is to have comforters for cooler weather and something lighter for warmer weather.


Jenny said...

I love beautiful linen. Our home is 75 years old so we do have a linen cupboard but it is quite small. One of our bathrooms was originally a box room so I suppose they stored some linen in there as well.
I tend to use all cotton tablecloths and napkins. I often only get one use out of them but I have enough for each day of the week. I use quilted placemats for breakfast. At lunchtime on the weekends when everyone is here I use a smaller luncheon cloth. I'm not sure why they are smaller but that's what my mum always used unless it was a formal lunch. For a while I had a colour theme for each day of the week but that has fallen by the wayside recently.
My Grannie spent most of her spare time as an old lady crocheting doileys, I have a few of them but many of them just disappeared when she died. They were given away I suppose.

Anonymous said...

Whoops, looks like I left out a sentence. Pardon me! *grin*

"We have a down comforter" should be inserted between the first paragraph and the second...

Mrs. Bartlett

Anonymous said...

I LOVE linen!!!
Thank you for the inspiring blog!

Mrs. Melody said...

What a wonderful idea to store the spare sheets in the pillowcase. I have never heard that tip before.

This blog is a wonderful inspiration to me.

Be blessed

Anonymous said...

My mother is 100 years old now, so you will understand that everything we had in our Harlem, New York City apartment was antique. Most of the older people I knew had homes full of antiques but I guess to them it was just their 'stuff'. Of course, as a child I didn't recognize that antiques were valueable as well as beautiful. Something I wished my mother had done was to teach me about antiques, etc. I was a fool... I lost and just 'messed up' a lot of her and my grandmother's things by taking them for granted. Anyway, now I regret and even sometimes cry about things because I realize the beauty and history that has been lost.

My mother had the most beautiful linen, table cloths, towels, etc. I remember as a little girl about 8 or 9 she gave me a wonderful responsibility on Thursday evenings. My mother would give me a ticket and wait at the corner of our street while I walked up the hill to the Chinese Laundry. I would hand the ticket to the man behind the counter and he would give me a beautifully wrapped package. When we returned home my mother and I would put away the crisp white linens, table cloths, etc. away in the closet. (She would then save the wrapping paper and string.) The next day (preparation day for Sabbath) I would help her clean the apartment,change the beds and put on the clean linen. The sheets felt and smelled clean (not perfumy). Friday evening sleep was the best sleep.

I saw on Oprah, some time ago, she was talking about Egyptian cotton and how to buy sheets, etc. I'm very interested now in learning more about where to get reasonably priced good linen. Lady Lydia, and other ladies,any help would be appreciated.