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I don’t know about you, but I love linen!  I love vintage table linens, bed linens and drapery linens. 
And so this post is about  linens bestowed on us by my late mother in law.  I LOVE this picture of her as she is writing.  I loved getting letters from her and at the very end of her letters, she always wrote:
ta mère qui vous aime beaucoup et je vous embrasse trés trés fort mes enfants.  Meaning:  your mother who loves you very much and big hugs my children.
I still have all her cards and letters.

Maman in 1970 when she was 48 years old

I will also share examples of linen today and how I use them in couture window fashions.
I was inspired to do this post  last weekend as a result from reading one of the blogs I follow by Libby Wilkie.  She shared a video about the making of linen from the Linen and Hemp Community and for the next 15 minutes, I was totally enthralled!  The music is really cool and it is French with English subtitles!
PLEASE go to her post HERE and read it as she gives excellent background information about linen that I won’t be giving you.  Why repeat the same thing twice, right?  And then watch the VIDEO.   You won’t be disappointed!   
 But as you all know if you are regular readers of my blog, while doing research for it, I ended up writing about leek and potato soup instead!  
 These tiny seeds are the beginning of something really great.    From the fibers and seeds this plant produces, we are able to eat and clothe ourselves.
  Better known as the flax plant.

flax seeds. Photo courtesy of herbcompanion.com

 Look at the beauty of these flowers!  Did you know they are only open one day their whole entire life?  They close up at the end of the day forever.
If you only had one day to show off your beauty wouldn’t you want it to be as spectacular as these?

flax flowers or fleur bleue. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

When Maman (French for mom)  passed away and we were going through all the armoires, we found 3 sets of these sheets in their original state.  She had bought a set for each of her 3 children around 50 years ago. 

vintage set of Metis linen sheets with original stickers and red ribbon wrapping

 They are Métis linen, a type of linen produced in Normandy, France along with retting and further production in Belgium.  The video tells the story from planting and harvesting to spinning the actual fibers and weaving them into linen.

Metis Fleur Bleue label

Isn’t the embroidery just gorgeous at the header of the sheet?  This embroidery was done by machine.  The sizing is metric but still, these are not small sheets and are heavy.

closeup of the tag describing size and machine embroidery

 I remember the years of going to France and sleeping in the beds all having these linen sheets on them.  There is nothing quite like the feel of these sheets.  Over the course of time with many washings and hanging them out on the line to dry, they turn white from the sun.  I must admit I thought my husband was nuts and that he didn’t know what he was talking about because how could these sheets in their natural color turn to white?  I didn’t believe him until I found these originals in the armoire.
And then in my research last weekend, I found this website from Au Trousseau.  They sell vintage sheets like this and have a page on the care and cleaning of them HERE  because these are not your average poly/blend type of sheet to maintain.  So glad I found this site.  I learned that I have not  been caring for my sheets properly!  Like everything else, I throw them in the dryer at low heat, but, NO NO NO!  I really should be hanging them out to dry.  So guess what dear hubby will be doing for me when Spring comes?
AND, if I were like Maman, I would be ironing them too!  I remember her bringing them in just before they were dry and ironing them.  Never understood the chemistry of it, but after reading the above link, the AHA moment came!  They should still be damp when you iron them so the creases come out.  Hmmmmm……I might have to work really hard on that one.  But, I do have those memories of getting into the bed and remembering the feel of those sheets.
Notice the difference in color.  Look how white the sheet has actually become over all these years compared to the original. 

one of the sheets we use today compared to the new sheet showing how linen whitens over the years

 This was one of two remaining shams that we brought back but even then, you can see how it is ripped at the side where the embroidery meets the flange.  Years and years of use.  Now it is purely decorative on my bed.

back detail of the one square embroidered sham remaining

Another neat picture of Maman when she was younger.

Maman at the water's edge

This is a table runner we found that she would use for the Dining Room table.  Note the hand embroidery detail.  It only came out on special occasions.

embroidered linen table runner

 One of a dozen or so linen jacquard napkins with a matching loooooong oblong tablecloth so that when the table was fully extended, it was dressed elegantly.  I feel guilty wiping my mouth with these but I know that’s what they are for!

linen jacquard napkin

This is one of a dozen or so cotton jacquard napkins.  I love these!  They are such a great weight and feel so good, easily fan folded and inserted in a glass. 

cotton jacquard napkin

This is a square tablecloth handmade and embroidered by my husband’s paternal grandmother.  The details are incredible with a scalloped embroidered edge all around.
It’s the corners that are breathtaking.  I couldn’t imagine having the patience to do something like this.

corner of linen tablecloth made by my husband's paternal grandmother. Each corner is just like this with a scalloped edging in between.

She hand embroidered an “N” for the family name:  Le Nair 
This tablecloth tells me it has been used and adored because of the stains on it and I too use it lovingly from time to time. 

hand embroidered "N" in center of tablecloth

 Look at the seam where the pieces of linen were sewn together.  This is a work of art done as only the women of Brittany would do.

closeup of hand sewn seam on tablecloth

 Another neat photo of Maman when she was younger.  She had a head of black beautiful hair and that front curl from the 40’s.

Maman and a friend at the bridge in Pont Aven, France. She's on the left and very stylish!

 Here are the wool tablecloth and napkins she used for her restaurant.  We use them today.

lightweight wool tablecloth and napkins from Maman's restaurant

 Here are 3 different towels we brought back.  These are the best linen towels as they leave no dust on the dishes.  That is my one peeve and I refuse to dry my dishes with a towel as I hate the little fuzzies that come off.
BUT, not with these towels.  AND, not that I dry my dishes either.  I hate doing the dishes so what doesn’t go in the dishwasher definitely air drys.
The towel on the far right was never used when we found them (a good dozen) in the armoire.  When we had everything shipped over, I washed all the linens because the house stood empty for a year and the smell needed to be washed out.  I wish now that I would’ve saved one towel and not washed it to compare.  But it was only washed once.  Notice the difference between the other two.

3 linen dish towels in different states of use. Left is most used, center is sometimes used and right is original condition minus 1 washing.

Now, remember that I said we found brand new towels in the armoire?  I love Maman because this was the condition of the towels in her kitchen!  She wore them out! 

Maman's tattered linen dish towel

These linens are from O Eco Textiles and are organic.  They have such a beautiful collection of linens to choose from whether it be lightweight sheer linen to the heavier upholstery weight.
I have had this line for 4 years now and have been dying to use them but still haven’t had the right client asking for organics.
O Eco Textiles organic linen samples
 This is a line of washable linen from JF Fabrics and is very lightweight and soft handed. 

JF Fabrics sample book with colorways of washed linen

This is an example of how I used the washable linen.  It was a little too sheer because a certain amount of privacy was needed at night so I chose to line it with a light filtering lining so light could come through during the day.  This is a back slat roman shade with a separate self valance.  The shade is 115 ” wide and is motorized so the valance is hiding the wiring that was needed.  A Lutron Sivoia QED motor was used and it was integrated into the computerized home operating system so that with a push of a button, my client is able to lower or raise her shade, and quietly at that!

JF Fabrics washed linen motorized roman shade

 This is Thibaut’s Laundered Linen.  I love the different colorways it comes in.  It is lightweight and nice to work with, yet being linen, requires a certain amount of kid gloves to prevent as much wrinkling as possible.

Thibaut Laundered Linen sample hanger

 This is a project in which we used a Ralph Lauren printed linen for the panels and box pleated valance, and used the Thibaut as the contrast inset pleats and the 1″ cording at the top of the valance.  The Ralph Lauren linen was heavier in weight and a bigger weave so the contrast between it and the tighter woven Thibaut was nice.

Ralph Lauren linen panels and box pleated valance with Thibaut Laundered Linen pleat insets

 This is a pair of linen panels I made for the IWCE several years ago.  There is a floating lace panel over it attached at the smocked header only.  This is a heavier weight linen and it wrinkled!  Even steaming it did not get all the wrinkles out but that is the beauty of linen, is it not?

Emotions in Wood display at the IWCE featuring linen panels with a sheer overlay. Design by Deb Barrett and fabricated by me.

 One last photo of Maman at her restaurant holding a pair of Brittany slippers and French faience on the table.  We have that faience now on our sideboard.
French faience and Henriot Quimper will be the subject of a future post as we were blessed with her many pieces.

Mom at her restaurant


And so my dear readers, as Maman would say to us in her letters, I am saying to you:  je vous embrasse trés trés fort.

 Je vous remercie pour lire ma blog:  I thank you for reading my blog!