Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Starched Linens and Hope Chests

I had nine ladies – female cousins (on my daddy’s side) and my sister – for lunch and a reunion of sorts Saturday. It represented the first time we’ve all “just us” been together.

Outside in the gazebo. Of course, Kris was in the picture; he's never more than a step away from me!
It also was the first time I’ve set a formal table in a while, as at our house we usually keep it simple and eat in the kitchen.

However, when it’s just “girls,” it seems a good time to eat in the dining room, especially since I can seat more people there.

So out came the Irish Linen tablecloth, napkins and the silver. The centerpiece was an arrangement of beautiful white hydrangeas provided by my sister Edith. (Why didn’t I take a picture of the table??)

Of course, using table linens presents the problem of having to do them up afterwards. Wash, starch, sun dry and iron. Yesterday found me mixing up old-fashioned starch on the stove. (How long has it been since I’ve done that?) Dunking and wringing out by hand large tablecloths and finding a place for them to dry; no wonder my neck hurts today!

That done, the most difficult task was still before me – sprinkling down and ironing. I really don’t mind ironing flat objects, but it’s the size of a tablecloth that presents the challenge.

Beautiful pattern

Beautiful weave
I love linen fabric; there’s nothing like it, in my opinion. I used lavender water for sprinkling down and the smell was heavenly as the steam rose.

While I had the starch mixed, I thought I might as well locate the doilies and crochet pieces I've used over the years and never done up. There are quite a few, as you can see here:
Starched linens...

and more linens....
I have many drawers filled with similar handmade things -- embroidered and crocheted; counted-thread; cutwork; shadow stitch -- some terms not even familiar to the current generation. Most were made by mother, a few by me, some by grandmothers,aunts and mother-in-law. And a few I bought at thrift stores.

What will become of all our handmade things? It seems the younger generation has no appreciation for such. Go to any thrift store and you can find beautiful handmade doilies for a few dollars!

In years gone by, girls kept a Hope Chest, into which they placed beautiful things they hoped to use when they married and started keeping house. China, silver, crystal, linens. Girls don't keep hope chests any more.  We live in a Solo cup culture.

I received my Hope Chest as a gift from my parents when I was in high school. I use it now to store quilts handmade by mother. It's been relegated to a small room in the basement for years, but I recently decided it could serve as a sofa table (of sorts) in the living room.

Guess who AGAIN made his way into the picture?

Another view
One of my cousins brought this gift, a serving tray full of Golden Retrievers. Wasn't that nice?

Goldens Galore
Another gave me a book, and one brought a jar of strawberry jam she made.

Got to run now. More starched pieces need ironing!!

And by the way, I'm wondering now how to dispose of that pan of starch. It shouldn't be poured down the drain, as it can clog pipes. I suppose I'll take it out to the field and dump it.


  1. What a great post...what a great time and how beautiful it was. Why don't we slow down and keep the beautiful traditions going. It was a wonderful event! Thanks again sis!

    1. We will keep them going! We must! I really enjoyed it too, even though I was pretty tired by the same it was finished. Thanks for your contributions to make the day successful!

  2. Yes, pop it under the hedgerow where it can do no harm.
    What a busy but lovely time you all had together, lots of memories were shared I should imagine.
    Perhaps in time the beautiful needlework from the past will come back into favour again, things do tend to go around in circles.

    1. I hope you are right, Rosemary. I only hope all the beautiful things haven't been trashed before that happens!

  3. Oh, I love old linens too, Sanda, but it is a very long time since I made real starch. Reading through, I could just imagine the scent of both the lavender water and the starch, and love the linen hanging on the line in the sun. A beautiful tradition. I rarely use my collection these days, but can't bear to part with my special pieces. Have one beautifully starched embroidered cloth from my mother which I think is Queen of my closet. What a great days with the girls!

    1. I am not so sure the boiled starch worked any better than the liquid you can buy in a bottle. Oh well, its done; bought back old memories of my mother making up the boiled kind and starching all the little dresses we wore as children. How she ever had time to get it all done amazes me. Those dresses had about 3 yards of fabric in those gathered skirts!

  4. As an only child envy you all those relatives what a fun day you must have had.
    Your linens remind me of Monday wash days when the housekeeper hand washed the weeks bed/table linen by hand,when part dry quickly had to iron them (no steam irons back then) it took the whole day to complete!!

    1. Ah, the good smells that must have filled the house on those Monday wash days. Air dried sheets are the best. I used to have an outdoor clothes line but now there's a rose running along it. I miss the smell of sheets dried in the sunshine.

  5. What a nice visit it must have been. I love the smell of starched linen being ironed and the extra splash of lavender would just make it better. I too have quite a collection of hand stitched things. I hope they do come into favor again as Rosemary suggested.


    1. Darla, I have seen some of your beautiful pieces on your blog. I know it's now in fashion to use them these days, but every once in a while, I just have to get some of mine out to use. I so admire those beautiful pieces hand-stitched with so much care by our ancestors.

  6. Such a lovely post Sanda.
    You brought back memories, of when we used to starch. I have not done that in many a year.
    It did remind me of a good friend of mine in S.A, who helps a lady who has an antique shop. she also sells linens and such.. and my friend every so often helps here wash , starch and iron them.. the lady has given her a couple of lovely tea tray clothes.
    I miss the days of setting a table for a lovely lunch or dinner.
    I still use my doilies..
    You really have been working hard.
    Lovely photo of you and your cousins.
    The retriever tray is so sweet.
    I love your petit point foot stool.. gorgeous.
    Enjoy your weekend.
    love to see the doilies and tray cloths when all ready!!!!
    val xxx

    1. I stitched the needlepoint stool top in the 1970s; did quite a bit of needlepoint and bargello back then. Thank you for your kind comments. The doilies are now ironed and perhaps I'll make photos before I store them away again.

  7. You arranged a wonderful get- together for your female relatives. So much cleaning, arranging before and after.
    I have no inherited nothing. Partly deliberately.
    I admire the way you take care of your´s.
    My favorite pictures are the one with You ( looking great ) in the middle and then - the GR tray!
    I bet your dogs were allowed to this party!!

    1. I have taken a rest this week from all the chores of last. Now that the spider webs are gone from the corners I'll try to do a better maintenance job of keeping it that way. I run hot and cold with keeping things. Some I can't part with, other things I let go without a thought. That tray makes me happy just looking at it. Yes, it was a dog-friendly party. All my cousins love their dogs!


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