Classic Vintage Modern Homemakers’ Helpers

Damask Towels for Kitchen and Bath

Damask Towels for Kitchen and Bath

Sometimes “New” is not always “Improved”. Gone are the days of shopping at W.T. Grants, the local five and dime stores that carried everything you needed for your home. Notions departments, Domestics or Linen departments were well stocked with a vast assortment to choose from and all at very affordable prices. Linens were made in mills right here in the USA. Housewives in the 1950’s had a ritual of changing curtains, linens, dresser scarves, doilies with the seasons. They had so many choices of colors, fabrics and styles. Now we have the big stores, the Walmarts, Targets ect., who have pared down our choices of items to purchase , stocking only what they perceive as a fast turnover, items made overseas and cheaply made. Below are some examples of items that have never gone out of style or usefulness. Items that help us “Go Green” with little effort, that give a big value for the money and if you know where to look can be easy to find.
1. Linen, damask or cotton hand towels. Trimmed with lace, tatting, embroidered, monogrammed, plain , woven or stamped with an all over design. These versatile towels can be for the kitchen or the bath. These vintage kitchen towels dry dishes faster, are lintfree for glasses, dry fast, can be bleached and make a pretty decorating statement and wear well. Collecting colorful souvenir towels, many are made out Irish linen, the best wearing fabric makes drying dishes a trip down Memory Lane remembering favorite trips and places. 1950’s bright coloful florals make any kitchen cheerful.
Towels for the bath with pretty embroidery, lace trims, appliques, add color and decorating excitement to the bath. Fingertip towels for your guest bath is a special touch, they dry fast, you can display several, each guest can feel like they are using a towel just for them, not one the whole family has used for a week. Fabric instead of paper, a green alternative.
2. Hankies, yes those delicate little squares of fabric. They come in all colors, embellished like little works of art. Cotton, linen whatever your favorite. Monogrammed, decorated with flowers, crocheted or tatted edges, enbroidered, the styles are endless. Forget the kleenexs crumbling and shredding in your purse or pockets, collecting lint so you can’t remember if it is clean or used. One pretty hanky can be quickly retrieved when a sneeze is coming on or a tear starts to fall. It can be washed and used over and over again. I even put one in my jeans pocket, they are small and dainty and just have a corner peeking out over the top of the pocket, making a little fashion statement. It’s a perfect little gift to give someone for an occassion like a wedding or a “just because” thinking of you little gift. Beautiful white or ivory trimmed with lace hankies just what every brides needs and teary eyed guests too. In my bookshop I suggest a pretty hanky with every sappy romance novel bought. Or with a book , tucked inside like a book marker. A hankie can be mailed inside a greeting card as a little token gift. Start carrying one with you and you will be going green and enjoying one of these little pieces of textile art and never go back to messy wasteful tissues again.
3. Aprons. So practical and so much fun. I know we are not wearing pearls and high heels around the house like June Cleaver in the 1950’s show. We are working girls, rushing home from work trying to get dinner on the table and family activities taken care of. Aprons had a very practical use, protecting one’s clothes while in the kitchen. What throughly modern gal has downtime after work to change out of her work attire and into casual before preparing dinner? Many have to rush out the door after dinner with kid’s activities, social meetings ect and need to stay properly attired to go out again. Grab a handy apron and start your frying pans. Aprons were a daily attire for past generations, they were washable, had 2 pockets for all kinds of stuff, came in handy for a quick dusting, wiping when unexpected guests arrived, gathering eggs or produce from the garden, there were so many handy uses for them. Bet they always had a hanky in one of those pockets for wiping a teary eyed child’s face. There were sturdy ones for everyday, Sunday dinner fancy ones and holiday themed ones. Usually made with leftover pieces of fabric trimmed with whatever embellishments that were in the sewing basket or purchased at the five and dime. In our busy lives these little works of textile art can save a beautiful designer outfit from a splash of spagetti sauce any day. My cousins and I even had an apron themed family reunion, each gal was given an apron that reflected her personality when she arrived, we called ourselves the Apron Sisterhood. No one took theirs off till the end of the party, they just felt so comfortable wearing and they certainly did their job protecting our clothes and keeping cellphones and stuff in the pockets. We have great photos and memories and a souvenir apron to keep.
4. Dresser Scarves and Doilies. What an assortment the previous generations had to choose from at the linen department. All types of fabrics, trims, embellishments, whatever your decorating style there was one for you. Try to find a dresser scarf now in Walmart or Target. No way. thrifty housewives would buy plain linen and then iron on a transfer pattern and the embroider the design or do cross-stitching to make it their own creation. I remember the magazine called “Workbasket” ( we sell lots of this vintage handcraft magazine in our shop now) would come every month and have a pull-out iron on transfer for you to use. In this economy where many purchases of new furniture are being put-off , redecorating being done on a limited budget, what better way to protect your furniture, cover up a well worn dresser top or just change your color fabric accessories is to use dresser scarves or doilies. Before you slide that brass lamp across the beautiful finish of your furniture consider protecting it with one of these cloths, whether plain linen, embroidered, lace or colorful floral it does double duty decorating and protecting. Washable, inexpensive and so practical. Pretty lace doilies look great under a glass top. The glass protects the furniture top from sweating glasses of water, nailpolish anything that mars the finish or could spill.

Okay we brought to everyone mind these great little inventions from the past, things that we grew up with and took for granted. Now that we are “Big Girls” with homes of our own, we realize that Mom had some great ideas, why did we not follow her example? She was saving and Going Green with these 4 handy items long before it was fashionable. Okay you see now the usefulness of them but where do you find them? The big stores aren’t going to have them, certainly not a selection of any of them or the durable fabrics, the pretty details and best of all, made in the USA. Well here is the fun part. Visit your nearest antique and collectibles shop, find a dealer who specializes in vintage linens. They are not expensive, easy to find and fun to collect. One of my shops is just filled with linens from yesterday, I stock racks full of dresser scarves, tablecloths, shelves full of towels, baskets with hundreds of doilies. I am a “Linen Lady”. Completely hooked and in love wih the handwork of my mother’s and grandmother’s generations. I rescue, wash, iron , stitch and put up for adoption these little works of textile art. Damaged pieces are redesigned, maybe cut up made into new things, trims saved, pretty pieces framed as wall art but never ever thrown away till all uses are exhausted. Even worn-out old linen has a new life as the softest gentlest dustcloths ever. Handcrafted items are a direct link to the person whose hands toiled for hours creating these pieces made with love for her special family. Maybe you will want to try your hand at creating your future family heirlooms. What granddaughter wouldn’t love having her Gram’s apron?

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