Linen for Everyday use
I just ordered two linen fitted sheets and two king size linen pillow cases from an establishment in New York. Yes, they are expensive but not nearly as expensive as the ones I've ordered from Ireland. I love my linen sheets. It's difficult to explain how they feel to someone who has never slept on them. They are much rougher than high denier count cotton sheets but somehow they feel more right, more comfortable, more like they should be on my bed than any cotton sheets I've ever owned.
Let me tell you how I came to love linen. Linen wrinkles easily so growing up in the time of ironing all your clothes and trying to always look freshly pressed meant linen was not for me. Who wants to look like an unmade bed (my grandmother's words) before you've finished breakfast? Decades and decades pass without me recognizing how wonderful linen is until my husband and I went to Europe to visit our son who was doing a 6 week stint in Italy for his employer. While we were in Rome we stayed in a lovely hotel overlooking the Villa Borghese Park. They had linen sheets on the beds. It was truly amazing. I had never felt anything that was so totally wonderful. The sheets were warm and cool at the same time. They were rough but soft and comforting. I was hooked.
It took me a while to find linen sheets for sale. At that time I couldn't find any linen anything for sale here in the states. I did find Ferguson's Irish Linens in Ireland. Ferguson's sells pretty much anything that can be made out of linen using only a couple of seams - kitchen towels, table cloths, handkerchiefs, bed linens and bolts of cloth. They don't sell fitted sheets however and never heard of a king sized pillow. Hmmmm. Then there was the price. It took me a few weeks to convince myself the cost was worth it. I didn't share the cost with my husband until he had slept on the sheets for a week. By that point he was hooked too.
I ordered flat sheets and got a lot of practice making good hospital corners. My grandmother would be proud. But in addition to the initial expense, linen comes with an organizational cost. Linen is stronger when it's wet than when it's dry so you can wash it in the washing machine without any damage but you have to hang it up to dry. Absolutely never put linen in the dryer! I don't put linen in the dryer even when the washing instructions indicate you can. For my linen blouses that's not a hard thing to deal with. I have a clothes pole in my laundry room so I hang shirts and blouses up when they come out of the washing machine. King size sheets are a bit more problematic. I have two clothes lines outside but the weather needs to be clear. Linen doesn't dry very fast out in the rain - yes, that's experience talking.
So now that I have come to accept the wrinkles here is a short summary of the linen I have. I have sheets and pillow cases and a throw or two made of linen. I have table cloths and napkins and place mats and kitchen towels of linen. I have blouses and dresses and vests and jackets of linen. I also have yarn of linen since I've learned to spin flax - that's the plant fiber that is called linen once it's woven.
I don't iron very much of my linen. The kitchen towels get pulled into shape and left to dry on the counter top and come out pretty much flat and smooth. I don't mind that my clothes are wrinkled to begin with so I only iron them on occasion although they dry hung on hangers so they aren't all that wrinkled anyway. I will iron the napkins when they are damp from being washed because they look so nice that way.
The latest addition to my linen stash is towels. These are totally amazing and completely counter-intuitive. My big bath sheet in linen folds up to look small and flat - the complete opposite of a fluffy cotton bath towel you expect to see. But linen is more absorptive than cotton and dries more quickly. It did take a couple of showers to get used to the feel of my linen towels but I haven't used a cotton one since that first day except when I'm traveling. I even thought about taking my linen towels along with me but I would be devastated if they got left in a hotel room somewhere so they stay safely at home.
So after all that explanation, here's the deal. I love linen. I love spinning it - it's the polar opposite of spinning anything else in the world because the fiber's staple length is in the neighborhood of 36". I love wearing it. I love washing my face with it. I love sleeping on it. Ferguson's has a long history and I respect and appreciate that history. And I enjoy dealing with them, but I love fitted sheets too, hence my recent purchases. And I'm learning to love weaving linen. Linen has no elasticity so getting the tension correct on the loom can sometimes be a challenge but it is so worth the extra work. I'm working on my 5th or 6th run of linen face cloths right now and as soon as I get the kitchen towels woven off my big looms I'm going to try some big linen bath towels. They will be totally wonderful!