Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Examining the Linen Closet or "Bed Linen" ~ Odds and Ends Series


"Fourth. Examine the trunk or closet of family linen,
and see what needs to be repaired and renewed."
~ Catharine Beecher & Harriet Stowe, The New Housekeeper's Manual, 1873

Welcome to the sixth installment of our monthly home maintenance series where we are continuing to follow some old fashioned, Victorian Era advice. This step involved examining the linen closet. Our last post discussed the "table linens" and today we will be looking at the "bed linens". We will also be offering some suggestions to make this area of your home pleasant while sharing a bit of nostalgic charm. 


"...listening respectfully to the little lecture, for the best of women will hold forth upon the all absorbing subject of house keeping. "Do you know I like this room most of all in my baby house," added Meg, a minute after, as they went upstairs and she looked into her well-stored linen closet. Beth was there, laying the snowy piles smoothly on the shelves and exulting over the goodly array."
~ Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

The term "linen closet" evokes a sense of romance to me. I think of what my dream one would be! A tall, white and distressed, French carved cabinet with glass doors and crystal knobs. You could see all the contents folded up lovingly through the clear panes. Floral sheets would be lined up inside featuring an array of pastel prints. And like a cottage garden, when you would open the armoir, the scent of lavender would fill the air!


"This little room is the one good housekeepers are especially fond of," she began. "Clean, white linen, polished and beautiful, is a joy to look at and handle, and every woman is proud if she has a quantity, all nicely kept. Let us begin with the shelves, taking them in order, and see what is on each."

The top one held blankets, each pair folded together smoothly and pinned up in a clean, strong piece of white cotton cloth, and labelled. The first label read, "Guest-room blankets," and when they were opened there lay a fresh, soft, fleecy pair, with a lovely border of pale pink, and edges of broad pink ribbon.

The next two or three bundles, you see, are clean, washed blankets, in pairs, laid away till they are needed. All blankets have to be put on the line in the sunshine frequently whether they are washed or not, or they may be eaten by moths...



"Here are a few clean comfortables next, on this second shelf, done up like the blankets. These have to be washed, too, and are more difficult to manage than blankets, because they are so heavy; they have to be aired often to keep them sweet, for the cotton holds odors easily. Then come the white spreads, the heavy Marseilles in one pile, the lighter ones in another, and the single ones and double ones kept separate.

"The sheets and pillow-cases are in these deep drawers. This top one has the double sheets and the best linen ones; notice how they lie in piles, each kind by itself... You must be sure when you have a washing to put away that you do not put the clean things on top of each pile, and then take them off again to use at once; put things on top and take them off the bottom of the pile, so they will all be used in turn."

~ A Little Housekeeping Book by Caroline French Benton, 1906


But alas, I have a confession to make. I do not have a linen closet, just a romantic dream of one. In fact, our old farmhouse doesn't have any such storage at all. My "linen closet" has been reduced to three plastic storage containers (which I must store above a shelf in the bedroom for lack of space while keeping our seasonal blankets in the attic). There is nothing pretty about them. My goal however, is to maintain them with love using my very best beautifying efforts. With this in mind, we affixed some labels which share the contents of each box; king, queen and twin. If you are interested in our "linen box" bedding labels, visit here for the free printable.


For the monthly maintenance of our "bed linens", we began by sorting through our bedding and examining them for any tears or holes that would require mending. Unfortunately, one such place was found.


Next, we aired out our larger blankets and comforters on the clothesline. The sun bleaches and sanitizes so very sweetly. This is a wonderful way to keep your bulky items fresher if they do not fit in your washer and/or you can not afford to take them to the cleaners for a routine washing. Fold them up neatly and stash them away until the weather calls them back into service.


We also re-arranged the sheets and our duvet covers into piles based on sizes (king, queen, twin). Then we placed the last season's bedding at the bottom and kept the new seasonal sheets on top.


For example, the earth tones and flannel sheets are for fall and winter while the soft cotton pastels claim summer and spring. 


For a romantic homemaking touch, my daughter and I sewed up little sachets filled with moth-repellent herbs (I will share details on this another day). The scent was lovely and gave us a glimpse of that linen closet vision. It is always best to make do and smile at the little things you can create, than to make no attempt at all!  


These were tucked in between the sheets with care. I am looking forward to the next bedding update to unleash the herbal aroma. An alternative to sewing sachets is to make up some quick versions with essential oils and fabric scraps (inspiration follows) or try these paper crafted versions.


"Essential oils can be left to infuse the clothes while they are in the drawer or closet. Put a drop on little pieces of natural material or cotton-wool balls and place them between the clothes... To keep moths away... use 2– 3 drops of one of the following oils. These are particularly useful when coats and woolens are stored away during the summer months:

MOTH REPELLENTS



"... then out came the four little work baskets,
and the needles flew as the girls made sheets for Aunt March."
~ Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

Homemaking Hints and History:

In the days of old, women were required to make up their own sheets. As the prices are extremely high in the bedding department, many of us may be considering this notion ourselves! However, you would be surprised at what one could find at thrift stores.

I was able to purchase the king-sized striped sheets (shown above) which are from Pottery Barn for only $2 at a Salvation Army Store. They are simple enough to blend with my floral bedding and the quality alone was certainly worth it. There was nothing wrong with them whatsoever and a wash in soapy, hot water with a splash of lemon essential oil (a wonderful disinfectant) wiped out all traces of its former life.

The floral blue bedding (shown below) is a queen-sized set of Ralph Lauren sheets which I found on another trip. These were purchased for $4. Though they are a bit faded, I think it adds to their cottage charm.

To fashion inexpensive duvet covers, sew two same-sized flat sheets (in coordinating fabrics) together. You can use the duvets to cover old and stained comforters and blankets that are no longer attractive and/or matching your decor. This is a very frugal way to update the look of your bedroom!

Thus this gentle reminder, second-hand stores are an excellent place to scour if you are trying to build up a nice collection of bed linens on a budget.


"That's a housewifely taste which I am glad to see. I had a young friend who set up housekeeping with six sheets..." said Mrs. March, patting the damask tablecloths, with a truly feminine appreciation of their fineness.
~ Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

How do you organize your linen closet? Do you have any tips or frugal ideas in this area that you would like to share with us? Do you have a "truly feminine appreciation of their fineness" like our dear Marmee? Remember, it is not the fancy new sheets that make the difference, but the clean bedding piled on a neatly made bed which creates cozy dreams and peaceful sleeping. Everything makes a difference when mother manages her home with heaps of fresh linen and lots of love.

"The sleep of a labouring man is sweet..."
~ Ecclesiastes 5:12


Here is what we have accomplished thus far in our "Odds and Ends" Monthly Home Maintenance Series (note that some steps were placed together and altered to make for modern day needs):


Are you ready to begin your monthly home maintenance?


43 comments:

  1. Jes, I love the little sachets! The last several sets of bed sheets we've purchased came from a thrift store. If one is careful and check them thoroughly before purchasing one can find some really good quality bed linens at fraction of the cost of retail stores. And as you mentioned it is quite easy to sanitize them after you get them home. Great post!

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    1. Thank you Patsi for taking the time to share today! There is nothing like a good linen find from the thrift store :)

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  2. Wonderful tips! I've not looked at thrift stores for sheets, but I really should. New ones can be so pricey!
    I'm eager to see your post on the moth-repelling sachets.

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    1. Thank you Shannon. The sachets were fun to make!

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  3. A lovely post, Jes. I too have been pleased to purchase quality bed linens second hand and I adore sun and wind dried or aired bedding. Sadly no more of that now for six months! I would love to have a linen closet but have decided to reserve a drawer in each bedroom for that rooms linens...it does encourage the children to be responsible for making up their own beds! I look forwards to your sachet recipe soon. ( I like to use lavendar water when ironing my linens).

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    1. That is a great idea! We need to be creative with what we have! :)

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  4. I must say, you have some beautiful linens! I love floral sheets but they seem to be so hard to find these days, whether at the department store or thrift shop. Modern, geometric prints are much more common - but they are not to my taste. Whenever I do find a floral sheet at the thrift shop, I scoop it up! Just this week, I am making curtains for my daughter's bedroom with a large sheet I bought a while back.

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    1. I love repurposing the sheets also! They come in handy for some many homemaking projects and can turn a room into a pretty place very frugally :)

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  5. Oh how sweet. The linens look so soft and beautiful! I am sure they smell amazing! Thanks for sharing this sweet post.

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment Lynn! Have a lovely week! :)

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  6. Linens, my weakness. A silly little thing, but there are the regular sheet sets, but for my extra pillow, I use a vintage pillow case often with embroidery &/or lace edging. It's something just for my whimsey.
    (PS have you read 'A Well Kept Home'? a lovely book along these lines and thank you, I will now be looking for 'A Little Housekeeping Book.':)

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    1. Oh no, I have not heard of "A Well Kept Home" but I will have to check out that book! Thank you! Linens are also a weakness of mine :) And those odd-ball cases do make the loveliest finishing touches I think!

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  7. What a lovely post, and such pretty linens. It brought to mind some vintage pieces my mother in law had given me, all with a history of course. Embroidered dresser scarves, crochet edged pillow cases and lovely doilies. I haven't a linen closet per say, but do have my kitchy cabinet, and I have lovlingly placed a few of these dainty beauties in there for display as you have pictured on your blog,and they look lovely. I had for so long tucked them away for "safekeeping". Thank you for the post and inspiration.

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    1. Hi Faith, I can't think of lovelier decorations that vintage linens! :) Thank you for sharing!

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  8. What a lovely trip back in the past I've just done thanks to you, my precious JES !
    I didn't know that Rosemary was useful to keep moths away, the ancient knowledge is always so valuable, thank you for sharing all this ... oh, i was forgetting to write that your fabrics are truly amazing, I'm still feeling enchanted by them !!!
    With dear, oh so much dear love and gratitude I wish you a lovely remainder of the week
    Dany

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    1. Thank you Dany. I also enjoy the ancient knowledge! :)

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  9. I admire all your floral sheets and have one of the same sets, or nearly the same, as you do, in the first photo on the top of the pile. Do you have a good source for floral sheets? I searched a long time to find my one set. The book you are quoting looks useful.

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    1. Hi there! I found many of these on clearance at Target and Mervyn's (when it existed) as they are the lower line of the Rachel Ashwell linens. Ebay is a great source and so are the thrift stores! :)

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  10. I love this post Jes. I've always had a penchant for beautiful linens, and pinks are my favourite. So this is like a feast for the eyes for me. I love your practical advice and don't have a linen closet either, so will be using the idea of your storage bins...how could I now have thought of that myself? Wonderful images. Thankyou. Mimi xxx

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    1. Thank you Mimi! I must say that pink steal the show for me too! :)

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    2. Ah, a kindred spirit...lol! Jes, I hope you don't mind but I've shared this post on a favourite savings forum of mine, so if you start getting traffic from a site with the initials SS, you'll know why. It always mystifies me when I get streams of traffic from unknowns. I'd rather let you know, so there's no mystery :) Mimi xxx

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    3. Ah, thank you Mimi! I appreciate it :)

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  11. I like to scour thrift stores for vintage sheets and pillowcases. I have quite a stack, and only purchase the (mostly) unfaded linens. Pillowcases seem to fare better than sheets, still, I have a nice collection. A few weeks ago, I found 2 unopened packages of vintage twin sheets... awesome! Can you believe it, they were prints from the 1970's, still in the package. Fun!

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    1. Wow, what a fun find! Thank you for sharing Joy! :)

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  12. Hi Jes, I love this article! and I love your taste in linens ;) I got so inspired after reading this, I got up and took a look at my linen closet. I love how you've binned yours with pretty labels. I grabbed my pretty $5 king size duvet I thrifted and put it outside on the line to freshen for the afternoon. Then (after a few swigs of my DH's cappuccino) , I rearranged the entire contents of our linen closet. It had been bothering me for some time with throw blankets just stuffed in the upper cabinets, where I can't reach. So, I took everything out, sorted it by category (duvet, comforter, mattress pad, heating pads, electric blanket, dust Ruffles, etc.), put some in plastic storage bags you get from the cleaners when they do your comforters, some in plastic bins and put everything back in proper groups....where I can reach and see everything. Then, I put a few drops of peppermint EO on cotton pads and stuck them in strategic places to (hopefully) keep it smelling fresh in there. Thank you so much for the inspiration and ideas.

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    1. Mary, that makes my day! Thank you for sharing this!

      P.S. A $5 king sized duvet is such a great find!!!

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  13. I really enjoyed this post Jes! I've been thinking about how to organize the linen closet. I have a tall narrow closet and the towels are in there too. But I do have room for totes on the bottom, so that is a good idea. Your sheets are lovely and you are right; if we look we can find some good deals without spending a lot of money. The sachets are a lovely touch as well. Thank you!

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to share Diane! I am glad you like the sachets :)

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  14. Beautiful Linens :)

    I do envy closet space...as you stated, old farmhouses do not seem to have them.
    We are using more "cabinets" for such things.

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    1. Ah, the beauty of cabinets! We are maxed out on space in those places too but are getting by with some creativity! :) Thank you for stopping by Sandra!

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  15. Dear JES, What a lovely post as usual. Your articles have been such a blessing to me as a young homemaker. Linens happen to be my weakness as well ;) One tip that I have found useful is that you can always cut larger sheets down to size when purchasing from thrift stores. For example, I recently bought a king size sheet set to use to make full size sheets and a pillowcase. The leftover scraps can be used for a lovely craft project. -- Kelsey

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    1. Another great idea!!! Thank you for sharing Kelsey! Extra fabric for fun projects is always appreciated! :)

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  16. What a wonderful thing to get your linen closet organized, aired, and smelling wonderful! I love your selection of linens, so lovely! You always have the best ideas on organizing in a pretty way!

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  17. Thank you for this post. Truly inspiring! I think your "linen closet" is smart and tidy. Certainly keeps out the mice, which is what I have trouble with.

    Blessings,
    Leslie

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  18. Lovely post and photos! My post about linens is here! http://thismomgrowsup.blogspot.com/2012/01/organizing-and-laundering-your-linens.html

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    1. Look forward to visiting Virginia :)

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    2. I'll be by to visit you, too Virginia!

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  19. I love all of your floral fabrics. Great tips for organizing the linens. I need to do something. I think I'm down to one fitted sheet and only one set that still matches.

    Stopping by from the Homestead Blog Hop.

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  20. What a fascinating blog. Thanks for sharing youur thoughts, readings and ideas. I will put you on my "must read" list.

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    1. Thank you Liz! Nice to "meet" you! :)

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  21. Oh sweet. The linens look so soft and beautiful! I am sure they smell amazing! Thanks for sharing this sweet post.Bed ​L​inen

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  22. Hi Jes,
    I think I accidentally deleted my comment rather than publishing it. If not, please just delete one.

    Just an idea— you could hot glue eyelet lace around the edges of your tote lids to make your linen totes look pretty.

    I loved the quote, "It is always best to make do and smile at the little things you can create, than to make no attempt at all!"

    May I use it in one of Thrifty Week posts on my blog, http://harvestlanecottage.com?

    Will you write me at lauraofharvestlane@gmail.com and let me know if that is okay with you?

    Thank you for inspiring me so much to be a better homemaker and to do with what I've got!

    Be blessed and have a gorgeously wonderful Holy Week!

    Laura

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    1. Thank you for the sweetest comment Laura and of course you may use the quote! :) I love the idea of lace around the tote!!! That will now be put on my to-do-list!! :)

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