The New Linens
With the one exception of the snowy white damask tablecloth, color is now a dominant note in almost every type of linen used in the home
F. L. DE N. SCOTT
THE era of white shelves, piled high with snowy linen, seems to be gone forever. In their place are all the hues of the rainbow reinforced by the newest, smartest tints that dye-makers can conceive.
First, tablecloths and napkins burst into the limelight with all-over color. Linen dealers say that this was caused partly by the new artificial silk-mixture materials, which dye so beautifully and are so much more attractive in colors than in the natural shade, and partly by the increased demand for color.
The change has come upon us very gradually. At first, subtly, there appeared towels with pastel stripes; then, emboldened, they grew into all manner of fancy crisscross stripes always with white as the background. With the fall linens,
color has gone the whole way—whole towels, tablecloths, sheets, dresser scarves, tea towels—in fact, every bit of linen that can be used in the home is being developed in pastel backgrounds with darker or contrasting colors for variety.
It is interesting to trace the causes back of these facts. Before the World War we had depended upon Germany largely for our dyestuffs. Likewise we had imported a large part of our linens from Ireland and from southeastern Europe, those countries lying near the Black Sea, the Adriatic and Mediterranean, where the climate is favorable to flax growing. Cotton was a staple product and very cheap. During the war, with outside supplies cut off, scientists set to work to make the most of home products. Tremendous impetus was given the manufacture of artificial silks, some of which have a primary base of wood pulp, some of glass. Dye-
At first, we used artificial materials with linen, cotton, silk or woollens to make the natural fabric “stretch.” After the war, for a short period, we experimented with materials wholly synthetic, but the result was inferior to the mixture and for this reason.
When wet, artificial materials are very, very delicate, so that the slightest strain causes threads to break and holes to appear, whereas the natural silk, linen or cotton is remarkably tough when wet. Therefore a combination of the two was preferable.
Two other minor considerations appeared.
makers, too, perfected dyeing processes until our chemists put dyes on the market which rivalled the best of the imported grades.
It was very difficult to iron artificial silk without scorching it—a condition which has been overcome in a new brand; and pure
pure artificial silk had a high sheen and a stiffness which compared unfavorably with linen. With the dye-makers looking for something to dye and the dry goods manufacturers looking for something to enhance the appearance of his stock, it is natural that the two should work together to give us the most beautiful tints we had ever had, and the most lustrous, supple and durable household goods that we had ever been able to have at the price we could afford to pay. The dyes in our household linens today will stand boiling and hard usage and even survive the commercial bleaches used in laundries; the texture of these linens is guaranteed to last for years.
' I 'HE one feature in the collection of household linens which remains conventional is the lovely white satin damask tablecloth with exquisitely embroidered monograms—the ideal ceremonial cloth of past generations. It is safe to say that every woman covets such a cloth, and in families where such cloths are handed down from generation to generation their owners give them the place of honor in the linen closet. For formal dinners and banquets, for feast days when members of the clan gather for rejoicing, these cloths are displayed with pride. Indeed, for formal dinners of every description the white linen damask cloth is still the best possible choice. As an alternative, many women are using the new pastel-embroidered or painted cloths. On a creamy
The charming "mixture” cloths are copying these designs, though more often than not in color, that is, all-over color. For informal dining, family meals, luncheons and breakfasts, these clot hs are joyous affairs. They may be used in connection with colored glassware and china, or simply as a background for what-haveyou. Green is the most popular color, as it is a good background for almost anything; peach is next; then rose; yellow which is called “maize” in the expensive varieties; mauve or violet another good background color as it is neutral and will blend well; and lastly, blue. white background various designs are tinted by hand; some of the designs are chosen to harmonize with the pattern on chinaware— Queensware of the Wedgwoods has a counterpart in an exquisite cloth; some are informal paintings of fruit and flowers; some are definitely “period.” One cloth shows a classic urn in the Adam style; one has the Watteau garlands of Marie Antoinette; others are faithful to tradition in the Spanish style, Chippendale,
Tudor and others, which might be mentioned
Pure linen embroidered in white or colors is popular and wears well. Linen makes particularly good table covering as stains can be eradicated with less damage to the goods than many other fabrics. This type of linen in the pastel shades comes in Italian linens so called from the type of embroidery, though some of it is imported from various islands. In some of the newest types, appliqué of other shades of linen makes interesting novelty cloths, bridge cloths, luncheon sets, dresser scarves, for instance. It is emphatically of the informal, and decidedly out of place for dinner. But properly
used, as for breakfast, a small cloth of handkerchief linen in peach, on which is appliquéd a dish of fruit showing mauve grapes, deep red plums, green limes and white cherries, gives an air to a simple meal of fruit and toast and tea. An alternative is soft blue with bouquets of field flowers, daisies, buttercups, clover, leguminosa, with many colored butterflies hovering over.
THE vagaries and fancies in the linen world are interesting to note. Whereas a few years ago we had rather “scrappy” looking tables with mats and place doilies of various sizes scattered at intervals over the polished surface of a round table, today we find two long runners with a strip of bare table between, and long rectangular or square table. Round mats and round tables are
table. Round mats are becoming passé, though the people who have them will certainly continue to use them. Reasons given for the change are that oblong squares or long scarves are easier to handle; the little cup or glass mats were easy to lose. The scarves give a nicer look to the table and will therefore permit greater latitude in decorations, while the square tables which the furniture-makers are bringing out lend themselves better to this style. The furniture people say that putting extra leaves into a round table destroys its symmetry, which is not the case with the oblong table, and that women ask for them—which clinches the argument. In any case, linen dealers are selling off round doily sets very cheaply, and women who have round tables and like this style of table arrangement can secure sets in which the workmanship is beautiful and the linen of excellent quality. Incidentally, they are nearly all white, which may be a factor in their unpopularity.
In the embroidered cloths, Italian embroidery is par excellence the leader.
Narrow hems with Italian double hemstitching, the square conventual designs in natural or colors, are typical. Many designs draw inspiration from the fifteenth century when Italian embroidery was first becoming a national industry. Harking from these times, we see a distinct ecclesiastical influence which is but natural, since the earliest embroiderers confined themselves to altar cloths and sacerdotal vestments. In any case, they are beautiful and colorful and are all, without exception, in the primary colors— strong blues and reds and yellows. Some of the modern cloths are combined with the celebrated Italian lace in which color is interwoven with natural colored threads; one is very striking in natural écru with green. It was being shown with Titian ware and green glassware, with green glass candlesticks and bowl of fruit. This set consisted of a scarf and place mats for four, a complete service for six, properly used for luncheon.
The French, who have adapted themselves to the modernistic influence with astonishing ease, are exporting cloths embroidered in the modernistic manner. Usually a contrasting color in a similar texture is appliquéd on the original cloth and the embroidery is on and around that,. Mauve, grey, black on an ivory background, make up a bridge cloth. These cloths are generally noveltiesbridge cloths, between-meals cloths, teatable covers and such like. They are not easy to work in with other things as they are highly modernistic.
Madeira, everyone will tell you, is going out and is being sold off cheaply. This is an opportunity for women who like this work to acquire good linens at very reasonable figures. No reason is given for this, except that the vogue for color makes white look anaemic—that, and our restless demand for novelty.
Lace is very good. In the deep coffee shades we use it everywhere in the dining room. Tuscany is the most in demand. Filet is not so good as it was a few years ago. Buratto work, the product of small handlooms in Italy, is a quaint filet type. The effect is of a darning stitch worked on coarse linen net of natural flax color in designs of the fifteenth century.
Perugia cottons—runners—are being used in the dining room where the peasant tradition prevails. They are quite effective in their reds and blues and greens and oranges. Once used as covers for marriage chests of Italian girls, they are eagerly sought after by tourists and brought home to serve as scarves, runners, backs of chairs in sun rooms, and towels.
Versatile theatrical gauze is being used on tables. Heavily embroidered in yarns in one color or used in layers of two or three in harmonizing colors, they are cheap and durable. For serving large parties, especially those out-of-doors with Japanese lanterns or Hallowe’en fashion
in a barn with lanterns, these are exceptionally good. With pale rose over green, or yellow over mauve, tied together with French knots at intervals and hemmed together, a basis is established for color schemes which favors, ices, cakes and bonbons carry out. Pumpkin yellow and brown are good for harvest celebrations.
Adorning the Bathroom
TT IS in the bathroom that the most unrestrained use of color has taken place. The newest towels are pastel in background with stripes and checks and plaids. A very pretty combination is being shown in peach and turquoise, one pair of towels having the background and hems of peach, with turquoise trim, the other pair reversing the combination. We see a good bit of white ships sailing blue seas and white swans floating on blue lakes, but all white is passing into the discard. The old crochet inserts in towels are passé in this colorful age, colored stripes supplying all the trimming.
Bathroom linens come in ensembles now, consisting of two bath towels, two face towels of fine huck, one bath cloth, one large sheet which can be used as bath dressing-gown or shower curtain, and slippers of crash towelling.
Designas for bathroom linens are almost entirely of marine inspiration. Ducks and aquatic birds, ships, land formations like capes and peninsulas, even grotesque maritime monsters with elongated necks are all being shown.
People who love color are developing their bathrooms in black or white or neutral violet, or sometimes with a green background in order to use all colors of accessories; but the old blue and white or green and white bathroom is a thing of the past. With color-fast peach, maize, rose, orchid, Cobalt and even red, we hate to limit ourselves to one color and to make it impossible to use a particularly lovely combination which we cannot resist buying. But as we cannot change our walls and plumbing fixtures every day, we change our linens for variety.
The newest thing in curtains and shower bath curtains is now being made in our wholesale manufacturing plants and will be on the retail counter by spring. This is waterproofed gingham in Scotch plaid with the most popular clan tartans represented. Vying with dolphins and whales and sea gulls are the tartans of the hardy Highlanders. No doubt these plaids will be repeated in the bath towels as well.
The bedroom is having a checkered career with colored sheets and some having block designs like checkers in contrasting squares. We are all fairly well used to colored bed linens now, and very little new is being offered. Crêpe de Chine sheets are about the last word in luxurious sleeping, but the average housewife would rather have something that she can really wash and dry out in the garden. The crispness of the cool, clean cotton sheet is unrivalled even by linen, which has a feeling of clamminess and dampness in wet weather. No artificial silk is used in sheets—but who knows? Linen, linen mixtures and mercerized cottons make up the better-class sheets.
We often see the name “mercerized” on goods, but few of us know what that really means. By the mercerizing process cotton goods are soaked in an alkali bath which makes the threads swell and gives them a lustrous finish. This bath, a warm caustic solution, is followed by an acid bath to neutralize the alkali and prevent deterioration. The treatment causes the fibres to become cylindrical, which gives them a sheen. Mercerized cotton somewhat resembles linen.
In bedspreads we have almost unlimited choice. One of the prettiest, warmest yet lightest in weight are the Murray Bay coverlets and blankets made in Quebec. Miles and miles along the highway in the Murray Bay district you can see these coverlets hanging on lines. Tourists covet them for their beauty and durability. They are made every bit by hand; every single operation is done by hand. Designs are usually peculiar to one family, designs which have gone with brides in their hope chests to new homes to be perpetuated in coming generations. On the colored ones design is in white wool; usually the coverlets are colored. The colors are somewhat unusual, being a little different from the ordinary commercial dyes. One illustrated is the tree and star pattern in white against a green background.
Another spread in which the handicraft worker excels is the candlewick tufted spread. The first of these, made in backwoods districts, were of unbleached cotton with tufts in colors; later ones are in pastel chambray with white tufts and white raw silk knotted fringe.
Wool comforters or puffs are being shown for winter use in all colors and greater popularity is being prophesied. They may push the traditional blanket out of its place, as they are light and warm and pretty with their satin coverings. They wear and wash well.
Lace is popular, the all-over Normandy laces. Some—these are very expensive— are made from the marriage aprons, kerchiefs and caps of Breton peasant girls over an ivory slip. Excellent copies are available, however.
Ninon and triple voile make up very well and come in lovely shades. Any woman who can sew can make beautiful spreads with small hemstitched ruffles of this material. Cottons are better than formerly for spreads and for ensembles of spread, bolster cover, scarves or dressing table mats. Fine French lawn with scalloped edges is the favored style.