Now, a word about table linens. Our mothers and grandmothers took pride in having beautiful table linens for holiday dinners--woven damask, cotton lace, embroidered panels, cutwork and pulled thread, fine hemstitching. At one time every young lady learned some of these handwork skills. As a new bride I was given a set of Irish linen damask that my father in law had brought back after WWII--it was uncut and unhemmed. I dutifully cut apart the table cloth and 12 napkins and hemmed them all, and we used them at Christmas and Thanksgiving for years. And then, thankfully, (no more laundering, ironing or sending out to the laundry) I gave them to my son. But I also have the set intended for my sister-in-law (who never got around to hemming or using hers).
So I understand why people decide to sell traditional linens and why there's a limited market for such items, and I scoop them up while my sister is evaluating yard sale merchandise for prospective eBay listings. My heart hurts, though, when I see these beauties out on a lawn or in a garage for two or three dollars. They carry memories--well, sometimes stains and memories. While I appreciate the bargain, I wish there were a way to honor the tradition and the memory. Maybe I have become the way.
We dyed with indigo (blue) bois d'arc (yellow), madder (reddish brown, orange), and Mexican cochineal bugs (rose red, purple). You can overdye one color with another to get interesting combinations, or put one end of the cloth in one vat and the other in a contrasting vat--that's how the yellow and dark red textile was dyed. The color migrates in the wet cloth. Protein-based textiles like silk and wool dye more readily than cellulose-based like cotton and linen; the large greenish piece on the right is silk canvas dyed with bois d'arc and indigo.
It's all in the washer and dryer now. A couple of pieces are still sitting in dye out back, just to see if they'll take a deeper color. One never knows how it will come out, which is part of the fun. Ironing tomorrow.