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About European Linens

   

 

 

 

Blanket Protectors

Blanket protectors were made to help keep blankets (expensive items then) clean and fresh. They were placed over the top of the bed, so that the sleeper touched the protector rather than the blanket. This top also kept the blanket clean and served as a bed adornment, rather like a bedspread. Sometimes it would be placed half on the underside and over the top, almost like a sheet, but not all the way down the bed. You can turn these into a sheet by adding fabric to the length. They also make great curtains or wall hangings. Adding a sleeve at the top or folding over the top part to form a sleeve is easy, sew a straight seam and you have a valance or a curtain !

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Christening Wrap

This wonderful German invention basically functions like a small duvet. The baby is placed inside the wrap and the lower part is brought up over the body and tied on each side. Since the whole piece is double, i.e. you can insert a blanket or thin duvet to keep the baby warm and cozy. The opening for the blanket is either in the middle or on the edge.

This is a typical European design, found more often in Northern than Southern Europe though, especially in colder climates. You can use this for a Christening, but it works well in a baby carriage or stroller as well - so pretty and soft. Makes a great special gift.

 

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Counted Cross Stitch

A design was worked upon plain weave Linen fabric by a means of counting the individual warp and weft threads and placing the stitches in even increments over the diameter according to the pattern. Counted Cross Stitch items can be easily recognized by the distinctive linear patterns the design forms on the reverse of the cloth.

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Damask

Damask from Europe, in particular, older pieces, are of great quality and heavier than we are accustomed to seeing with modern new pieces. Whether it's linen damask, cotton or satin, it is great to use for your more formal entertaining as it highlights your table pieces. You will also love sleeping under the bed linens made of damask! The quality of vintage damask is generally much better than anything you can find new, and the more it is washed, the softer it gets.

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The informal thick absorbent damask used in French homes in the early part of the last century for everyday use is quite heavy and very sturdy. It is extremely strong, and not as silky is the fine linen damask but more rustic and will last forever.

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Doilies

Doilies are small or large (usually round) linen pieces that are used on all kinds of surfaces and can be one of the most creative items in your decorating hands! A doily can be lace, crochet, knit, embroidered and so on.

Don't limit yourself to using a doily on a small table. There are many other options, and it's a great way to stretch your decorating budget, and get creative without having to master the skills to make the doilies yourself.

Here are some ideas:

    • Wrap a doily around a lovely scented soap - tie a ribbon around it - a cute gift
    • Thread a ribbon around the edges of a doily and put some lavender or another scented herb inside. Hang from a ribbon in your closet or place in drawers as a sachet
    • Frame a special doily - or frame several and create a unique art arrangement
    • A large doily or two can easily be turned into an elegant small pillow, or for a larger pillow  sew together or add a backing.
    • Tablecloths can be made really interesting by inserting doilies in the corners and center. It's a great way to recycle a damaged tablecloth and make it fun at the same time.
    • A heavily starched small doily by itself or turned into different shapes and forms can make a great Christmas ornament with just the addition of a ribbon. An assortment of them could make great party favors or last minute gifts.
    • Quilts. Imagine making a quilt, especially a layette quilt out of a stack of doilies ! It would be so shabby chic, unique and thoughtful as a gift or just to decorate your space.

     

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Euro Shams & Pillows

We sell 'Euro' shams, i.e. measuring approximately 30-31 inches square and buttoning on the back (partly sewn flap and then buttons for the opening). We sell the forms in Down and Hypo Allergenic Poly.
 You can also use 2 standard American pillows together, although you won't get the typical European look that way, and it's a bit messier looking. Be aware that the Euro forms commonly sold in stores in the USA are only 26 inches - the larger 30-31-inch ones are much harder to find.

We have a wonderful selection of these Euro shams on our site, please check them out.

If you worry about running out of beds, use them for your living room sofa for a 'shabby' look, or just the shams as a small table cover! The possible uses for these shams are endless. They can be sized down to fit smaller pillows, turned into unusual accents on patio furniture or even used as small duvets for a baby cot with some cotton batting inside.   They work well on outdoor furniture, and patios.  Cotton shams, the everyday simple shams, are sturdy and will last.

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European Pillowcases - Non-Standard Shams

European vintage pillowcases or over-sized shams are most often white and linen or a cotton/linen mix. They are larger than the cases made in the US. For this reason they make a great decorative statement on a bed as the large pillow in the back (oversize pillows for these shams are readily available in home decorating and bed / bath stores).   They are also often used as small duvets or for upholstery.

They also make a great backdrop or mix with more colorful embroidered vintage American shams, or redwork shams for instance. Of course they are also wonderful in and of themselves since they are so well-made and often adorned with embroidery, lace and monograms. They are most often of excellent quality and high thread-count and will last for a long time.

Standard European cases have a partly sewn-over flap on the back with the opening secured with buttons. Vintage buttons are usually fabric or thread-covered.

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Filet Lace

Filet lace is embroidered on a base grid. The pattern is embroidered over the grid, with a knotted framework. This lovely raised effect contributes to the decorative and collectible appeal of the pieces. The finer and the more intricate the work, the more valuable it is. Larger pieces are especially collectible and quite rare when in great condition.

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French Sheets

French sheets are usually Queen-size or better and come in various qualities, from cotton to the purest and finest linen lawn. Each item description details the type and grade of the fabric. The embroidery is always exquisite, and the more a sheet is adorned, the more luxurious and aristocratic it was considered to be.

Ancient Egyptians deemed linen "the cloth of the gods" and Emperor Charlemagne concurred decreeing that every Belgian household grow flax. So, for 13 centuries the craftspeople of the Flanders region in Belgium have "spun straw into gold" and with it the beautiful European Vintage sheets we find now.


 

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German Aprons

Vintage aprons were a staple in Germany. They, of course, were used often in the household, especially when receiving guests, rather like hostess aprons. You might have also seen (in life or in pictures) waitresses in coffee and beer houses with their immaculate starched aprons, tied with an impeccable bow at the back (we can never get bows to look that nice!). Another popular use was worn over a dirndl.

Embroidered aprons were often used for laundry days. They typically have a front pocket for holding clothespins, and are embroidered with symbols of laundry and with sayings such as 'clear weather' or 'laundry'. They make great decorative pieces for a laundry room.

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German Duvets

German duvet covers are typically smaller than American comforter covers. The duvet sit on top of the bed, and does not go over the side.  As the duvet inside is fluffy and puffed up, it sits on the bed like a cloud and you feel like you are sleeping under one too!

The closest inserts in size found in the USA are a Full Size Feather Duvet or Poly Loft Bed Topper.  Those work very well with vintage German duvets and can readily be found in most bedding stores.


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German Lace

Germany is better known for embroidery and crochet and the lace is not as famous as some of the other countries' production, which is a mixed blessing. Of course it means the prices are lower, even for handmade pieces, but it also means it is not appreciated to the extent it should be, nor is it well known and understood.

Germany had several well-known lace-making centers and these were active until the very recent past. This makes it a difficult task to identify machine and hand made lace since the price is not usually a way to tell them apart. Handmade lace was not more expensive in many cases, so it was purchased quite easily and was not as big an investment as with other countries hand tatted laces. With handmade German pieces it is often difficult to determine prices but with research, and with due diligence we believe we come up with fair and proper prices.

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German Linen Towels

German linen is known, and quite rightly so, for its superb quality. Linen was widely produced in Northern Europe; linen items are still quite reasonable and readily available. These superb towels, typical of those used by German housewives in the early 20th century, were always part of a girl's trousseau.

Often adorned with a monogram, there are different types of linen towels, some plain and some fancy. They are of high quality and you have to feel them to appreciate their wonderful softness and resilience. These towels are great for use in the kitchen, but they are also nice for powder rooms (especially the damask ones) and for making small pillows or cafe curtains for example. They are very strong and will only get softer and silkier with use and washing.

Here are some great ideas of what you can do with these towels, other than use them as kitchen tea towels:

  • Use as a runner (especially one of the ones with the design on both ends)
  • Place on a table as an oversize luxurious placemat
  • Use 6 towels with lace to create a beautiful tablecloth.
  • Use as guest towels
  • Wrap one around a small gift, for a very special touch
  • Use as cafe curtains
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    German Sheets

    In Germany, sheets used to be made to be buttoned onto the heavy duvets (different from the fluffy ones found today in Germany). This helped keep the duvet clean and avoided having to wash it often since it was a heavy and difficult job. Those old duvets were made of wool, and heavy fabrics and washing them was a major enterprise. The sheets therefore often have buttonholes along the sides that would match up to the buttons on the duvet.

    Of course the sheets can be used alone and are gorgeous just like that. The 'new' sets, (the unused ones), do not have the buttonholes, since a housewife would add them to suit her own duvets and button choice.

    Sheets in Germany are nearly always single size (for a twin-size bed) since each person has their own sheet - no more tug of war in the night! One very creative customer also said she was going to sew two single sheets together to make a large sheet for a Queen-size or even king-size bed - what a fabulous idea!

    Unless otherwise specified, German sheets are white, with a thread count of minimum 300c and pure cotton.

    If you are not sure of the size you need to have, please measure the bed, and add enough for tucking the sheet in, that will give you an idea of what to look for.

     

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    Lace Knitting

    Lace knitting or art knitting is not that well known in this country, although those who do know it and appreciate it are avid collectors. These pieces are made by hand by experts and look wonderful, especially on a dark background or on glass.

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    Lapkins

    Lapkins are French, large napkins meant to go on your lap as the name implies. Using one is a civilized way to make sure you do not spill some delicious sauce on your lap. Fancy table linens usually included these as sets in French households.

    Most often damask, usually linen damask, is commonly embroidered with a fancy monogram in the center. Lapkins are a wonderful way to adorn your holiday table and make perfect lobster bibs because of their size.
    Most lapkins will be at least 27 inches wide and can go up to 36-37 inches wide.

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    Laundry Basket Covers

    Laundry basket covers are one of the hottest collectibles of the moment. Usually embroidered in blue or red, and with the words 'Frische Wasche' (clean laundry) or simply "Wasche' (laundry), they would be placed on the basket of clean linens. The basket would then be carried home, to or from the washing place, or to the ironing place, with the family linens hidden from prying eyes.

    Today one of these makes a wonderful decoration for a laundry room, and brightens any wall. It's an easy way to add instant charm to a utilitarian space.


     

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    Linen Sheets

    Ancient Egyptians deemed linen 'the cloth of the gods'. Emperor Charlemagne concurred, decreeing that every Belgian household grow flax, hence the beautiful vintage linen items we find in Europe today.

    This linen was also produced in France and Germany, and was more abundant than cotton. Hence, bedding and night clothing were often made of linen, a luxury to our modern ways. If you have ever tried sleeping under linen you will know what a wonderful feeling it is. The fabric breathes, and it's light, yet warm enough. Linen is also strong (mummies were wrapped in linen). Linen lasts through time with little or no damage.

    We are fortunate enough to have a great treasure trove of wonderful old Vintage sheets. Each one is unique. Some are linen lawn, some are linen, while others are a linen and cotton mix called métis in France. Don't miss out on these wonderful beauties, embroidered by young ladies for their trousseau with monogram, drawnwork and wonderful embroidered adornments.

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    Mangle Cloth

    A special linen cloth that was used to help iron items in a mangle machine (an ironing machine), and this would ensure small items stayed smooth and did not get tangled in the rollers. Mangle cloths are pure linen since that fiber can withstand the highest temperature. Today a mangle cloth makes a great country living style banquet tablecloth with a Continental flair!

     

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    mangle cloth chair

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    Over-towels

    Over-towels as they are called in Germany, were a common sight in houses in Germany and Holland up to about the 1950s. They were used to decorate a kitchen and to hide everyday, unadorned kitchen towels. They were draped over the rods with the top part folded over (it is usually decorated as well). They are heavily embroidered and decorated with various types of scenes, or with abundant floral decorations. Their aim was to make plain, utilitarian kitchens more decorative. Often you will see them with a Dutch-themed motif, with a saying, or figural scenes.

    Over-towels can often be recycled as a small curtain because the over-flap creates an instant built-in valance; a nice added touch. Some of them have a pocket at the back, ready for a rod to be inserted. If there is no pocket, adding one is a simple job, either drape the towel over a rod and pin it or sew it in place - quick and simple instant décor!

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    Pillow Shams (embroidered small shams)

    These darling pillow shams were used for the living room though you can use them anywhere. Just pop in a pillow and voila, instant charm! They make a nice alternative to a pricier needlepoint one and have a unique charm of their own. We always have a nice selection of these, both with floral designs and the figural ones with sayings from poems or lyrics from songs that were popular at the time, usually the 1940's or 50's. The songs themselves can be found easily online.

    Often the ones with text are taken from poems or songs popular at the time they were made. Usually around the 1940s, 1950s. The songs themselves are often easy to find online.

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    Plauen / Chemical Lace

    Lace is often named by its place of origin. In Germany the most important textile weaving and lace-making center since the sixteenth century was Saxony (an independent kingdom until 1813). From this lace-making center comes the world famous 'Plauener Spitze', named after the city of Plauen in Saxony.

    The first embroidery machine was established in Plauen in 1881. In 1900, the lace produced in Plauen was awarded the 'Grand Prix' at the First World Expo in Paris, France.

    The "Plauener Spitze" is a world famous chemical lace which copies with great accuracy some needle laces like the Brussels point de gaze, or Point de France, a French version of Point de Venise.

    The name Chemical Lace, originally called 'machine embroidered guipure', but soon abbreviated to 'guipure,' derives from the use of chemicals to remove the backing.

    In the manufacture of this chemical lace each design is individually made for each piece. The basic material is a manmade ground fabric onto which the design is traced.
    The design is then stitched with raised outlines, mostly in heavy embroidery, with the tiny fillings done with a buttonhole-like stitching. Sometimes picoted brides are used in the manner of Point de Venise' needle lace. The ground fabric is then removed or burned out by chemicals.

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    Punchwork

    The term punchwork refers to the fact that the design was actually 'punched' out upon the cloth with a small awl like tool; then the edges of the 'punch were bound with overcast stitches ~ when the 'punches' were close together the resulting effect was that of a mosaic like grid. Obviously a huge investment of time went into such pieces.

    One further note, we often see pieces of punchwork listed as drawnwork ~ in drawnwork the threads are actually drawn or pulled out of the warp or weft of the fabric, thus the designs are all linear.

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    Rollen, Rolle Fein, Rolltuch - etc.

    Rollen is a synonym for items that were put through a mangle or 'mangling', the way in which they used to "iron" the big linen pieces.
    The large machines or mangles were used to iron large pieces such as heavy linen sheets.

    Not every home had a mangle, so after wash day the laundry was sorted by size, put in large baskets covered with one of those wonderful 'Linens' or 'Laundry' covers we offer, and separated by type within the basket as well. The housewife (or help) would go to a special service to put the laundry through the mangle. Once smooth, the linens were rolled up rather than folded (better for the pieces) and brought home, ready to be used or stored.

    This piece was used to wrap the sorted linens. If not too large, it would have been used for smaller flat pieces, like napkins or tea towels.

    The words 'roll glatt' basically mean 'ironed smooth'

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    Sampler

    Schoolgirls in Germany, indeed in most of Europe, were required to complete several samplers to learn the techniques they would need to decorate their homes and sew their linens.

    Most of these old samplers are done in red, although you can find them in other colors and some are quite colorful or have text on them. These would be worked on in school or at home and were graded like other assignments. Up until a few years ago, it was still a requirement.

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    Transition Duvet

    This duvet acted as a transition style form the button on version to the ones we see today.  Here the duvet is inserted into a diamond-shaped opening and the pattern of the usually elaborate fabric could be seen through the diamond. Later the duvet cover would become the large envelope style ones we know today.

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    Monograms in Europe

    Most European linens will have 2 letter monograms, rather than the 1 or more modern 3 letter ones commonly seen in the USA.  The initials can be the wife's, or the wife and her husband, or just the husband.  It can be first name, last name, or a combination.  There is no hard and fast rule.  The most common would be the wife's first name and her husband's last name (and second most often, husband's first name).

     

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