Personal Effects, April 22

Published 1:41 am Saturday, April 22, 2017


Question: J, What am I going to do with all these fine linens that I got from my mother-in-law’s home when she died? No one wanted them. I’m not kidding I think that there are things that her grand mother did. I have sheets, pillow cases, hand towels, tea cloths and towels, and massive tablecloths with napkins.

Everything is in white or ecru with handmade lace, tatting or crochet. I can’t see my grand children using them. I’m so tempted to just use them. But I don’t live that way. I hate the thought of throwing them away. Thanks and I hope you can help me.

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Answer: Well, what are you waiting for? Use them and be tempted no more. The linens that you have shown me were either handmade and embellished or were bought in nice quality stores in the 1940s and 1950s.

These you can and should use. Make sure that they are not dry rotted. This happens a lot when people store for too long or improperly. If you see a lot of yellowing or brown spots, more than likely, this is permanent and won’t come out without weake anyway. So you might as well use them.

You see, objects should have their purpose fulfilled. Chairs are meant to sit on, plates to be eaten off of and sheets slept on.

OK, in this world, there are some things that are museum quality, and are so fragile or historically important that they should not be used and should be either stored properly in the right condition or sold to someone who will take care of them. You are missing out if you don’t use them.

Nothing beats the cool silkiness of old vintage cotton sheets and pillow cases. You’ll pay big money to find its equivalent in today’s market place.

If you’re really worried about future generations, make a special, small selection of linens for each grandchild. That way they have something of their ancestors handwork. But I wouldn’t get carried away with it.

Go ahead, add a little class to your life. Put out some linen napkins out at your next get together. If someone wipes a greasy mouth on one, toss it in the washer. Linens grow softer with use. Worried about ironing? Then don’t. Dry cleaners are great at pressing for not a lot of money. Consider upcycling. You can see in the magazines that people take large white table cloths and make slip covers, upholster furniture with them or use them in craft projects. What I’m really trying to say is that the market is very soft on the vast majority of formal linens. Most nice quality linens, in this condition, sell for well under $10 for average things. Large table services might fetch more — to the right people.

If you don’t use them, chances are no one else will either. Hope I was able to help you. Thanks for sharing.