Wednesday, 4 March 2015


    I have told elsewhere how I accidentaly became a white linen dealer after I hung up two old French hand-woven sheets as temporary curtains in my daughter's bedroom, and they were such a success that I realised, luckily , that there was a demand for hand-woven creamy linen, both in this country and especially in the USA, playing into the mood for simple minimalism rather than the frilly excess which we had in the previous decade.  Luckily it looked and felt very expensive, and could be successfully dyed in most colours, so it was very adaptable and the French sheets were then very cheap compared to the very expensive and exclusive new linen fabrics produced, mostly in Belgium, for top-notch firms like Pierre Frey.
   I was therefore on a steep and long learning curve to find out what was saleable and what to avoid and thinking about it all now, I thought it might be useful for anyone dealing in white linen to read of my own do's and dont's when buying linen.- not just sheets but all other household linens as well:
Sheets be sure you have the sizes right; French beds are often only 4' wide and sheets are made to match them - check they will fit minimum 4'6"  or wider English beds.  Be sure you are buying linen, not cotton or metis which should be much cheaper    Metis is like our union linen, a mix of cotton and linen.
Avoid sheets which have any serious damage to the embroidered ends. ragged ladderwork cannot be  
 repaired and small holes in embroidery will get larger with washing.  Hold them up to the light to avoid missing repairs and also cloud-like stains caused by bleach.
Pillow cases, check corners are solid and buttonholes in good order - missing buttons are easy to replace.  Fabric must be clean and solid as they take a lot of wear and soon split if too thin.
Hand towels best sellers are those nearly new and with one initial - people often buy them as small presents
I found the best sellers were A, B, C, M.P.S. 
Handkerchiefs  Only buy those with hand rolled hems and a single initial in linen  Difficult to find but
   always popular man's present, also coloured silk 'neckerchiefs' in good order
Tablecloths, check very carefully for small holes and large wine stains as most people now only use damask cloths for parties and they need to be large and perfect.  Extra large Banquet cloths in damask are always in demand for wedding parties - they are worth a lot, and always wanted at short notice!
Table napkins  always very popular but should be in big sets for dinner parties - minimum 8.  Large double
  initials in red or white embroidery are sure sellers to Americans, especially if first class condition and
  hand-rolled hems. Check every one for stains - wine stains can be difficult to shift.
Tea towels (torchons)You can find these on any good linen stall at French fairs.  Only buy unused ones with good stripes - avoid the very stiff ones which are too rigid for glasses and fine china and make sure you only pay good money for linen - the cotton and metis ones are not so good and not so smart..


  1. Welcome back - always good to read your wise words.

  2. So nice to have you back, Elizabeth. I hope you had a good rest in South Africa.