Saturday, 19 January 2013

Sheet En-Lightment

Buyers of beautiful embroidered French sheets are often annoyed by two things: the sizes, and the quality of the weave!
First, you must remember that most old French beds are only 4' wide, and therefore the sheets (old pre-war ones) are often no more than 6'6 wide. Secondly, they did not tuck the sheets in under the mattress and that is why some have the retour (side returns)also embroidered to match the top border. This hung down below the mattress and above the valance and was considered a sign of quality and good needlework. Even the master bedroom would have a pair of the smaller beds (usually a matching pair) and only grand households had massive double beds which would have special extra large and fine sheets woven for them
The other trap is to buy Metis sheets (often brand new in their original wrapping); there is nothing wrong with them but they are not pure linen. They can date from before WWI and are always mechanically woven in fine even weave. Metis means a mixture or union and pre-war WWII metis is 2/3rd linen and 1/3 cotton, whereas later metis is the exact reverse, and a less good buy! The French do not value metis much but are quite prepared to sell it at pure linen prices, and you do not need to pay that much! It is very often a rather attractive pale dun-coloured weave that looks very like linen, but if you stroke it or put it next to your cheek, you can feel the soft 'bloom' of cotton and it is much warmer than cool linen. It sometimes has drawn thread work and big bold initials in the centre, either off-white or bright red, and if you look at the selvedge you can sometimes find the trade mark of Fleur Bleue or Gerardmer who were top weavers in the Vosges. Personally I like it for its colour, for making up covers, valances, chair covers etc., and it tailors extremely well, besides being very easy to wash and iron.

1 comment:

  1. Hello, I love your blog. You are so knowledgable and an equally good writer. I am wondering if you have any idea how to soften these metis sheets? They are stiff as canvas! Thank you.