It’s all about the Kitchen Linens–a Book Review and True Confession

The book that inspired this post is The Kitchen Linens Book by EllynAnne Geisel:

The Kitchen Linens BookWe each got a copy while shopping at Tuesday Morning–neither of us could resist that dancing tea cup on the cover.  It only seemed natural to do a book review with a linen collection true confession chaser.

EllynAnne Geisel’s goal is to “trigger your memories” about the kitchen linens from your family’s past.  There are also other contributors who tell their families’ stories with pictures and words in a sidebar:

Hot padsMs. Geisel’s interest is in the vintage side of kitchen linens.  She loves the patterns, quality, and memories that they carry.  The book is divided into a brief history of twentieth century linens, and ideas of how and when to use linens.  She also includes descriptions of various weaves, how to safely clean vintage linens, what to do when you can’t get the spot out, and finally, ideas of how to recycle linens that have too many problems.  As if that weren’t enough, she also includes directions on brewing hot tea and a number delicious-sounding recipes.

Maybe the best part of the book are the photos:

Feed Sack Finds             Days of the Week Towels

Time to Party               Coffee linens

For anyone with an interest in kitchen linens, this book has good information, fun stories, and delightful pictures.  Geisel has also written two books on aprons which I need to hunt down.

As a bonus, the book contains a set of Butterick transfers for readers to use to make their own memories:

Iron on kitOn to the second part of the post–True Confession time.  We have both admitted to our readers that we have a problem with dragging home linens–all kinds of them, but mostly hankies, doilies, and kitchen linens.  Our collections are vast; lucky for us they fold up into nice little piles that don’t add to the general clutter.

We have a few days-of-the-week (known as dotw) towel sets:

Linensas well as MANY tea towels!  Heck, we even have the iron-on transfers so we could make more dotw towels:

ays of the week towels     Days of the week towel kit

Now we know where all those Mexican-inspired linens came from: iron-on transfers.  EllynAnne Geisel says in her book,  “At that time [1950s], Mexico represented a very exciting destination.  Acapulco then had the cachet of, say, Havana and the Tropicana nightclub.”  What ’50s housewife didn’t dream of a little excitement and romance?  I have probably judged these types of linens too harshly without considering their context.  The sombrero-clad Mexican in the leftmost set of transfers is industrious and perfect husband material to my mind.  The rightmost set of transfers are the Scottie, made popular by President Roosevelt’s dog, Fala.

One of the recurrent ideas in The Kitchen Linens Book is to mix and match linens:

Mix and Match napkins and TableclothI just reached into my handy basket of napkins, and pulled out these four sets which all kind of match my tablecloth.  I could have thrown yellow damask, or even green striped napkins into the picture.  Geisel’s point is that things don’t have to match perfectly to look attractive.

Here’s a pile of linens that Kathy got during a weekend of gleaning:

Everythings coming up rosesIt’s funny how garage sales work sometimes–you run into the same kinds of things all weekend long.  How could you not succumb to the red, red rose?

This lovely tablecloth was still in its box:

MIBIt’s as crispy and beautiful as the day she got it!  How could you own this and never use it? We simply don’t get the concept of “too good to use!”  I wonder if the owner will be rolling in her grave when Kathy takes this lovely out of its box and spreads it on her table? ( Note, tablecloth has moved on to an under-linen-ed friend.  It now has a good home! )

We both are always on the lookout for cat and dog linens:

Feelin Catty          Embroidered Doggy Dish and Hand Towels

The cat on this runner is just so darn goofy, which translates into irresistible in Second Hand Rose speak.  I have any number of Scottie dog hand towels, but there is the occasional poodle and terrier.

Kathy has a BIG thing for Craftsman linens:

Craftsman linensCraftsman refers to the Arts and Crafts Movement that was a new aesthetic for hand-crafted decoration in homes.  It started in Great Britain during the latter half of the 19th century, and then spread to America.  The furniture, architecture, and yes, even linens of that time are a style that we both appreciate.  Kathy snaps up these linens whenever she sees them, which is more often than you might think.

Although these aren’t technically kitchen linens, we both have doilies in our kitchens and dining rooms.  Here are a couple of lovelies from Kathy’s collection:

Doily madnessHere is a favorite tea towel from my collection:

The Grillmaster   Forties or Fifties Linen Dish Towel

We both have a number of linen kitchen towels; they are pretty easy to come by at garage sales.  I love this ’40s or ’50s towel with the husband “helping” with dinner and cleanup.  This is not a representation of my Beloved Husband: he wouldn’t be caught dead manning the grill and he rarely breaks anything.  Once these towels get washed enough to soften up, they make wonderful towels to dry your dishes.

Geisel’s book also talks about the use of feed and flour sacks for kitchen linens:

Feed sack materialI was at a garage sale recently, and the homeowner said these were feed sacks that she had been saving to make towels.  I bought all four of them for 25¢ each, but I think I’ll make napkins from them instead of towels.  I just loved the pattern, and they will make a fun addition to my dinner table, or a nice gift.

That’s it for this edition of our linens post.  We should get busy and take some pictures of all of our doilies and hankies so the true extent (Beloved Husband says “enormity”) of our collections can be exposed publicly.  If any of you have vintage linens that you love, send us a picture because I’m sure we’ll love them too!

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9 Responses to It’s all about the Kitchen Linens–a Book Review and True Confession

  1. What fun! And . . . I confess . . . I’d love to have one each of ALL these linens! 🙂

  2. Terri Gold says:

    This was a wonderful post. Although my collection of vintage linens, hankies and doilies is probably only a fraction of yours, I identify with the longing for these things and I recognize some of your items. I have rarely even used my stuff. They exist to fill spaces in drawers and to be looked at with admiration. There is something so peaceful and fulfilling about a big stack of neatly folded hankies. Sigh.

    • kathy & deb says:

      It’s a pretty deep-seated fixation with both of us; thank you for letting us know we aren’t the only ones. Linens are small works of art in the pleasure and satisfaction they give us.

  3. I love vintage linens! They will always have a spot in my home and yes, I too, have a well lined’ed house. In fact, I have a 3-tier basket stand that houses a portion of them. The small top basket has napkins, the middle medium basket contains dish clothes, and the lower largest basket has table clothes. We use them everyday… they are well loved. And I agree, it is fun to mix and match. As a true confession, I am a sucker for orphaned damask napkins. I can’t help but bring them home and put them to good use. Thanks for this post!

  4. jensine says:

    how great are these … am of to an antiques market tomorrow … busy cleaning today 😦

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