Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Linen for sewing and flax for spinning

Window coverings, pillows, table runners... give me an excuse for adding another textile to my immediate surroundings and I am a happy girl.  I was especially happy on the weekend to spot this gorgeous tea toweling in a long bolt, on eBay:

Okay, if I'm honest, I was both happy and conflicted.  I have three windows to cover in the kitchen and from the start of this process I have been picturing them with white cafe curtains.  More recently, the cafe curtains came more closely into focus and I realized I want an old linen fabric for them, something that's been washed and worn, something that looks soft and has a beautiful drape.

This stripey fabric is most definitely not a soft, supple white.  It's a never-used linen/cotton blend and will take many washes to get to the tactile state I'm after.  It is totally wrong for my mental image of the kitchen.

BUT... The photograph of it at The Textile Trunk was so very compelling:

It's also the exact colours of the bowls in my ever-growing vintage Pyrex collection, per this small sample:

And it's striped and we all know how much I love stripes.

Woven stripes, no less, so they'll be visible from the outside too in a charming way.

Also it has no holes or stains.

And furthermore it is EXACTLY the right width for the windows I am covering; I can do as little as stitching a hem at the bottom and a channel at the top before I hang them up.

I figure you can get white cafe curtain fabric anywhere, but this fabric is going to look like I went to some trouble.  It's not like there's not a crazy amount of white in the house already, either.  I don't actually need more white.

Finally, there is the small consideration that Pete loved it and recommended I buy all of the 13 yards that were available.  (I didn't do that, but I did buy 8 so I can have a table runner for the dining room, too.)

After succumbing to the stripey fabric I also bought two French vintage red-striped linen tea towels, and a very very large vintage French linen sheet large enough to cut in two and cover my most massive window, though of course if I do that I'd have to line it for its safety.

Because my days are not complete unless I'm overthinking something, I then went down the rabbit hole of researching French Linen and emerged with visions of women spinning or at least weaving their own flax into narrow linen fabrics for use in their homes.

And of course, now I'm writing in my head a kind of backstory for the house to justify all the different fabrics and furniture I'm bringing together in it.  Because it's totally normal to imagine an entire history for your house and the way you live in it, right?  As though you know the lives of everybody who ever preceded you there, and retain many of their former possessions?

I did say I overthink.

The perfect way to tie it all together, since the house was originally built in 1942 to accommodate the family of a worker at the Canada Wire factory aiding in the war effort, is to imagine that the parents in said family were both veterans of WWI - she perhaps having been a nurse and he a soldier, both stationed in France with a little time in England as well - and making use of textiles from the two countries as they created their own home together.  This also nicely justifies the French-style bed we bought for our room.

And if you think I'm being ridiculous, sit down, because it's worse now.  As I thought about those French women weaving their own tea toweling I read that linen is not attractive to moths or carpet beetles.


I had carpet beetles over the winter, did I mention this?  They ate several holes in some of my wool socks before I realized what was going on.  So even though I would love to knit and weave some pillow fabric for the house, I haven't gone far with the idea because I could so easily get carpet beetles again, or moths, and I love working with wool which is super attractive to them.

But if I use flax...

Not to mention how cool it would be to experience what women were working with centuries ago...

Basically, the only reason I haven't ordered some flax roving from Etsy is because we might have a postal strike next week. But you know I'm going to be hunting some up in a three dimensional shop very soon.  I have to do something to fill in the time between now and the fabric's arrival, which could be a while because Wendy is kindly holding on to it for me until the strike threat has passed.

Does your home have a story - manufactured or otherwise?


Su said...

Buy the rest of the tea towel fabric, now, quick before someone else gets it! It is lovely and I can see lots of other uses for it.

Mary Keenan said...

ARg Su, don't tempt me! I agonized for thirty minutes with my mouse hovering over the quantity box, calculating and recalculating and trying to figure out what to do... and now I'm checking and yep, the rest is still in the shop, waiting. It's just SO easy to click on the button at eBay and then end up storing excess fabric for years afterward, said Mary from experience. Not to mention: I have to save some fabric budget to reupholster a chair and ottoman and sofa. And yet. aiiieeee you can actually see me still agonizing can't you.

Laurinda said...

What an amazing show of self restraint! I'd buy it all, especially if my hubby said I should :-D I've always loved tea towel fabric, & those colors are perfect for matching vintage kitchenware. Maybe I should rethink my kitchen curtains...

Mary Keenan said...

It's more 'fear of debt' than self restraint - Pete isn't quite so closely involved in the budget for the renovation as I am, heh. But Laurinda, you should totally look at this fabric for your curtains if you have those colours in your kitchen things! There are still 5 yards left, and if you search on 'Vintage French unused Metis towel fabric' the listing should pop right up with the photos in my post. The seller is loodylady (and she is awesome, what a curator of antique fabric... it's a pleasure just to browse her shop.)

Laurinda said...

I just looked at the listing, & holy smokes, $42 a yard?! No wonder restraint was so easy! I think I'm pretty happy with my current curtain material... 😉

Mary Keenan said...

Exactly! I mean, in a complete build like ours, the $30,000 bills for major work that nobody will ever see helps take the edge off $300 for something that everybody will see and love, but there was no way I could imagine spending $500 (plus currency exchange and shipping and duty fees) because I still need to sneak in other important fabrics. I think finding out that the only fabric we really love for our bedroom is $221/yard helped too ;^) Still not sure what to do about that pickle, other than keep hunting discount sites and fabric sales.