Sunday, 25 December 2011


A good hemp sheet with hand-sewn hems
     I have written a few notes on the differences between the kinds of linen you might find and buy in France.  Hemp sheets are rarer and much sought after and only occasionally to be found in good condition.   This is because the plant was grown by the poorest peasants for their own use for clothing and bed linen and these were used until they fell to bits.  It grew like a weed and used little water and no chemicals in the growing and preparation of the fibre so it was extremely economical.  It was immensely useful on the farms and the boats for fishing lines and nets, for tyeing up crops and weaving sacks, for harnessing animals and carts and every kind of domestic cloth.  The weave is usually a little looser than linen and though it starts off in quite a dark shade of fawn, and is a bit string-like,  it bleaches with washing to a beautiful cream and the cloth gets much softer so that it falls in loose folds.  Hence it is now much used for curtains and for upholstery on furniture.    In certain areas of Brittany they wove the very coarsest cloth which is of blanket weight and is very nubbly with a porage colour and texture.  This is highly prized by many top decorators, and is rare and expensive to find in good condition.  There are also some coarse herringbone 'rugs', very heavy and rustic, which I have been told, were placed under beds (maybe the truckle beds which were stowed during the day under the big beds) to stop the damp rising from the tiled floors.   These look wonderful on stone floors and in really ancient buildings.   Although the weave of the sheets is rather thick and coarse, it is extremely healthy to sleep in as the hollow fibres of the thread wick away moisture from the body, and the friction of a slightly uneven weave is good for warmth and circulation.  Expect to pay over £60 for good hemp sheets and more if they are larger than 6' wide., but there is always the chance of a bargain at a small country Brocante.

A roll of hemp cloth with initial F,  tied with natural linen tape
 I usually have a small stock of  all these sheets, but at present none of the rugs.  I only buy sheets in good condition, but I have a pile of good smaller pieces ready for embroidery, cushion backing and for other small
confections from £15 to £35.  Enquire at  for sizes and prices.

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