YOU WILL KNOW THAT FRENCH WOMEN WERE VERY KEEN ON HAVING ALL THEIR LINENS MARKED WITH THE INITIALS OF THEIR MARRIED NAME - IT WAS AN IMPORTANT PART OF THE DOWRY, AND REFLECTED SOME OF THE PRIDE THEY FELT IN HAVING BEAUTIFUL SHEETS AND FINE UNDERWEAR WHICH THEY HAD COLLECTED OVER THE YEARS.
I went to a rather good fair at Fayence, in Provence behind Nice, and found an old friend selling lots of linen. He rather diffidently opened a large metal box and showed me an amazing collection of different patterned alphabets in copper, all unused, and arranged in little cardboard boxes. He explained that they had come from a linen factory where the bridal trousseaux and dowries were woven and that the templates, with powder tamped with a stiff little brush, were for marking the initials of the bride, ready for embroidery. They were all complete and unused and varied from very small, for hankies and underwear, to very large, about 6" high and with elaborate swirls and decorations, meant for sheets. I think there were 12 or more sets, in every possible combination and in many sizes, using all 27 letters of the alphabet. I took them to fairs and they were a great success and people found many uses for them, decorating their craft work and so on. After about a year, one of my friends suddenly decided to buy all the big ones and she started a wonderful bespoke business - she placed the double initials, well spaced out, and pushed acrylic paint through, like a stencil, and she used white paint on a blue linen ground, and blue on a white linen sheet. The resulting fabrics thus had the personal initials of the clients who hung them as curtains and bed drapes and found many other uses for these exclusive designs. It was such a simple idea (though it did demand patience and skill to get the spacing right) and I thought she deserved her rich reward for a very original invention. As Polly Lyster had the business of dyeing the hemp and linen, it was a rather good example of co-operation by T4T members working together. We all made a reasonable profit for our work and the customers had something quite original and exclusive.