I have to say I nodded in recognition when Kirstie Allsopp, in her first series of Homemade Home, got all breathless and excited in the linen section of an antiques shop. She likened it to drug addiction and I have to agree; there is something so addictive about unearthing a beautiful piece of linen edged in hand made lace.
What’s also utterly addictive is getting a bit of a steal- Kirstie also professes to enjoy a bargain but her idea of a ‘bargain’ price on a tablecloth or quilt is, um, not mine! Luckily I don’t shop in London antiques markets but charity shops and as I’ve written before, my local ones are quite impressive. I saw a double sized square patchwork quilt, much loved and all hand sewn, for £5 last weekend. Of course, it was gone when I went back today, but I did get two cotton pillowcases, in perfect condition, hand embroidered with hand tatted lace borders, for 20p each:
I also managed to pick up two cast iron enamelled pots, in very retro donkey brown, for £3. Le Creuset, no less- a new one will set you back upwards of £65.
The most I have parted with was £6 for this lacey tablecloth, a couple of Christmases ago.
I rather quickly decided it was too good to be anywhere near gravy and it now adorns my sewing table. You have to be wary of ‘too good’ though- these things have so often never seen the light of day for being too good and it’s a bit sad really.
I also bought some appliquéd Christmas napkins and an enigmatic pointy-edged thing I later found out was for a bread basket. It has the sweetest little red circles on it.
Napkins are particularly good value- they aren’t cheap new and the quality of the linens and cottons is nowhere near as good as the vintage ones, often so old as to be organic, grown so long ago. I am amassing quite a collection of napkins!
My grandmother has gone down the more Kirstie Allsopp route and bought me a few exquisite tablecloths from an arts and antique centre in Perthshire. These have never been used and I am particularly fond of the undyed ones.
It’s also pretty educative from an embroiderer’s point of view (geek alert)- the designs and execution on some of the pieces are so inspirational. I love the movement created in this tea tray cloth embroidery:
And the tiny flowers on this minuscule little piece are so detailed:
It’s so sad that these skills are being lost. I don’t even know what the technique on this piece is called- the appliquéd pieces are stiffly stuffed so they are in relief. It’s a hand towel, amazingly. What a lot of effort for a hand towel!
We may not use napkins very often, or line our tea trays, or cover our tea cosies, but the linens don’t need to be used for their original purpose. I have always thought a lacey, holey tablecloth would make a lovely Roman blind for a room where it is privacy, not light, you wish to guard; one of those windows in Victorian bathroom doors, for example.
It’s not to everyone’s taste, the old Granny Chic vibe; but hey, I don’t mind at all; all the more for me to rifle through in the Red Cross shop…