Tag Archives: Business

Buying Vintage Linens


What is the difference between muslin and combed cotton? 

The sticker says 300 thread count.  I can see my hand through it.  Is the sticker correct? 

These are examples of the questions I get by e-mail, which lead me to believe that there is a lot of misinformation out there regarding the purchase of linens, especially vintage linens.  Let’s see if I can clear up a couple of questions I get most often. 

Muslin pieced
Muslin pieced (Photo credit: lovelihood)

Muslin vs Cotton.  If you have very young children and you are looking to stretch your dollars by buying long-lasting bedding for those rough little dirty feet, stick with muslin.  It’s a little rougher in terms of feel, but a lot tougher and easier to clean than pure cotton.  When your child grows out of their small beds, you can change over to a cotton blend sheets, usually called “percale,” which is softer because the thread count is between 160 to 200.  If you are buying 300 thread count or higher designer sheets for your little ones, I want to come live with you. 

Which leads me to my second question and answer.  Thread count.  Simple put, thread count is the number of threads per square inch of fabric.  Unless you shop with a “Linen Loop,” always on you, (a high-powered magnifying glass for counting threads) how can you tell if that sticker showing a 300 thread count is correct?  First look for a manufacturers tag sewn into the edging..  If none or faded into non-existence, hold the fabric up to the light.  If you can see the weave and the light through the cloth, you have a low thread count on your hands, probably 150 to 200 TPI.   Next, feel it.  The higher the thread count, the softer the fabric. 300 and higher thread count is very soft and not easy to see through. 

I hope this helps for now.  I’ll have more linen buying tips later.

Holding on to an age of quality


(Photo credit: George Eastman House)”][MCCALL'S MAGAZINE, KIDS IN LINEN CLOSET]It makes sense that as owners of a vintage linen and lace shop, we are in love with fine linens. Tight woven linen, some white, some cream, some with hand printed flowers and vines, with vivid red, yellows and green colors in distinctive patterns. Colors just as alive and vibrant today as when they were first produced. You can visualize the artist passing the linen through each color separation, but not always registering the cloth exactly, as would happen if it were in today’s high-speed linen press.

That’s what makes vintage so special; the imperfections afforded a warm hand, versus the cold steel of today’s production methods. Then you have the beautiful Damask linens, each with their subtle but distinctive pattern, that when laid out on a table, along with the matching napkins and fine silver, make dinner with friends a special event.

Oh, did I fail to mention we just picked up a trunk full of vintage linen this weekend? You probably would have guessed it anyway. I have spent my day, literally lying within the folds of history. I have smelled the clean air, the aroma of the slow cooked pot roast and roasted potatoes.  In my mind, I hear the clatter of dishes and dinnerware over the chatter of family- all sitting down to Sunday dinner.

I started thinking, what makes the experience of touching fine linen so special? For that matter, what makes the experience of collecting anything vintage so special? I don’t know the exact answer; it’s different for everyone, but I have my suspicions. The 30’s, 40’s, 50’s are my favorite years and it’s hard to pick any one thing that makes these generations stand out, until you voice all adjectives and realize that you have used “quality” more then once.

The fact that the linens that we hold in our hand are so crisp and wonderfully colored after all these years and hundreds of washings later, are a big part of it. Modern day linens miss this level of quality. Maybe it’s the fact that these were produced when pride and quality of workmanship was in everything. Perhaps that’s what all of us look for when we purchase anything vintage. We are purchasing a chance to get back an era when times were simpler and families were closer and pride in workmanship was paramount. When you pick up a napkin from the 30’s you get the same feeling your grandmother felt and the same feeling your children will feel when they are the recipients of your collection.

Secretly I want to keep every linen napkin I touch; every lace doily I wash, or every tablecloth I fold. I want my daughter to have this quality long after my passing. Then my husband says the magic words that bring me back to why we opened this store. He’ll say, “Do you know that when a customer buys these linens, that their children will probably end up using them in their future?” I pause and think about that and then it strikes me, that this is the guarantee that “quality” gives you. That’s what I live for. By retrieving, preserving and passing on this little bit of cloth, I pass history forward. That makes me smile.

Stop in a pick a piece of this history. Take a look at what American workers did. Some of them (many of them) were your grandmothers and grandfathers, maybe – if you’re older, even your mother and fathers. They did good back then.

Make a plan – then make another.


9:00 PM Thursday and I’m tired. I am just putting the  finishing touches on a colorful border that will go up along the shelf in our store. I am using some odd sized material and scrap lace that doesn’t come up to a yard. It will be neat, trust me. Anyway, just as I am about to finish, “the disruptor” (my husband) turns towards me and says, “Here” and he hands me a printed rectangle and some paper pieces he has cut out and laid on top of the sheet.

“What’s this? I ask. “Are we taking up paper dolls?” ( I get “the look.” Strike 1) “No,” he answers. “This is the floor plan for the layout of the linen store. I told you that I thought we should change the store around to give it a new look, so here’s my idea.”

“These tiny scraps of paper are your idea?” I asked with my usual incredulous look on my face. You would think I would know better. Strike 2

“No,” he said patently, this is the stores floor plan in scale. We are going to shift the pieces around on the paper until it looks the way we want it.

His idea has merit and I know it.  Plan it out on paper before you just jump into something.  He’s right in his thinking but, I hear myself saying, “It’s 9:30 in the evening. I have to be up at 6:00 AM – can this wait until tomorrow?”   I knew the minute the words left my mouth – I was in trouble. The look on his face was similar to the first look he had when I told him I dented the car.  Strike 3.

What I should have said was – “It looks great dear – let’s wait until tomorrow to work on it. Instead, we worked on it that night. Little scale pieces of cabinets and shelves, moved around on the paper until they were just right.  The following morning I woke to find a completely different layout then what we had the night before.  It figures. He always does this.  By midnight, I was convinced he was saying yes only to humor me anyway.

The one thing I learned about all this is that you have to be able to visualize flat plans in three dimensions. I can’t when it comes to floor plans. That was frustrating to both of us, because I can see a dress pattern in three dimensions.  I can see the finished dress or project when it is nothing more than a bolt of cloth, folded readied for cutting.  It has to be  genetics.  I won’t go so far as saying that’s what makes us women, because there are many excellent men fashion designers, just as there are women architects.   The significant trait is the ability to visualize in three dimension, regardless of the gender.

I still couldn’t visualize his plan on paper, but what he had done in anticipation of this, was build it out using our daughters Lego‘s.    Now I could see it.   What a great idea.  Try it the next time you’re trying to figure out a room layout.  Now if they could only make a dress pattern Lego, what a great world this would be.

Until next time, recycle, repurpose and stay green.

Ready to Spring Forward


Pinterest
Pinterest.com Image by stevegarfield via Flickr

I love fall colors.  The rich warm browns, the warm yellows, the burnt oranges.   I say this because I don’t want you to think me callous when I say I am looking forward to spring.   We just put much of our linen on sale for Valentine’s day, and while I know it’s not quite spring yet, it’s the holiday before Easter and that is when we trot out all of our Spring colors.  That got me thinking about spring and the rest is history.  I can hardly wait.

As many of you know, I search for unique ways to repurpose stuff, especially linens.  Well, I found a great site called Pinterest (www.pinterest.com)  You need to sign up to request access to enjoy the benefits offered by this site, but believe me – it’s worth it.  It’s a Treasure Shoppe on the internet, all by itself.  Take time to read how to use the site, than explore.  Be careful however, it’s addictive.  I get so many great ideas there, I don’t want to leave.  In between clicks I do manage to say hello to my husband – once in awhile, then back to the research.

When you are granted full user access, just for giggles, type in “repurpose.”   You’ll be there all night.

Until next time, repurpose, recycle and stay green.