Thursday 17 September 2009

Quintessentially England

Yes that sums up this post - quintessentially English. Union Jacks, embroidered tea cloths and mad dogs.

I really shouldn't leave it so long between posts. I've had to upload so many pictures from my camera that I'm really not sure where to start! So I think I'll start with the picture above. This is my latest cushion. 

I'm pleased with the way this one turned out, although it did use rather a lot of lace!
This isn't the only cushion that I've made since my last post. I've been very industrious.
Isn't this embroidery beautiful?

It is by no means the best quality embroidery I've seen, or own, (I'll show you my 'best'embroidered linens one day) but still isn't it beautiful?
I love old embroidered linens. The hours and hours of work involved. Such care and love that originally went into them. I have quite a lot of embroidered linen now and each one is different. Each one almost tells a little story; I look at the quality of the background linen and I'm sure each woman who invested as many hours as these would take, purchase the best quality she could afford. The quality varies greatly from thick crisp linen to floppy crinkly 'crash'. I then look at the quality of the embroidery itself. Some have baggy loose stitching, or over large stitches; was it done by someone just learning or a lady of advanced years who's eyesight might be failing?
I look at how many strands of thread have been used. How many different stitches can I see. The colours chosen. Each embroidery is a signature every bit as much as ink on paper.

Unfortunately 90% of the cloths that find their way to me look like it's been a very long time since anyone looked at them never mind loved or even used them!

The majority of them arrive with stains, or orange rust marks. Quite often the corners are torn or the edging is coming away. Some have patches of wear or bald areas of embroidery and others have just one colour of embroidery thread that has disintegrated (usually green).

Most of them smell stale and fusty and have obviously been stuffed at the back of the least used cupboard for years, forgotten and unloved.


I soak every embroidery overnight before washing it. Then I take great joy in hanging them outside on the washing line where I can see the sun shining through silhouetting the embroidery. I sometimes wonder what my neighbours think when I have a line full of 'old lady linen'! Lol!

I find the best time to inspect the linen for wear and tear, stains and marks, holes and tears is whilst carefully ironing it.

What shall I do with these linens now? The ones that are torn and stained? Should I fold them up and store them in the back of another cupboard for a couple more decades unseen, as the previous owner did?

NO! They are still beautiful even if too worn and marked their original use.
This is when I take another look at them, are there parts of the embroidery that is still sound? Can I 'up-cycle' it and make it into something that can be used every day and loved again? Can I give it a second life?
YES! Of course I can. It takes me a loooong time though as I have to use every inch of embroidery and linen that I possibly can. There can be no waste. These linens are far too precious. I have to use the embroidery the best way I can.

That includes the back of the cushion. I try and make the whole cushion from the same piece of linen. (which can be quite a challenge). I love the neat edging on the cloths and have bags next to my chair where I stash every spare inch of embroidery and edging that I trim off. Nothing can be wasted, it's too precious.
What do you think?
.Would you enjoy seeing this embroidery in its new form sitting on your sofa or bed every day?
Would you cherish it?

Would it make you smile as you caught a glimpse of it as you passed the sofa?

Would you love it?

Does it deserve a second life?

Or should it be in the back of a cupboard?
Sneaky Dog's not allowed anywhere near my pretty cushions but she does like a sun lounger when she's sunbathing!
Whether or not somebody else was already on it!


Anonymous said...

Definately out where they can be seen, the linen, beautiful and very creative.
And the little shop looks so inviting and interesting.....
You so inspire me .......

Karen Peacock said...

Hya Fi, clever girl, a lovely post, lots of pictures of that really pretty shop (thank you) and your Union Jack cushion looks fantastic taking pride of place in the window. I fully agree with you that it is far far better to up-cycle tired and stained old linens that have been neglected and ignored into beautiful and unique pieces ready for new lives in new homes where they get the love and attention they deserve. Keep it up! Karen x PS, have you seen my scarecrow?? She's wicked.

Unknown said...

Your Union Jack pillows are too die for as we in the States would say. I may have to move over there just to justify getting one. Absolutely too cute. I love everything about them

Marigold Jam said...

Love your cushions and the Union Jack one too. That little shop looks so inviting what a pity it is such a long way away from the south west where I live! I would love one of those embroidered cushions and in fact was inspired by you to buy some old tablecloths at a charity shop and am planning to copy your ideas - imitation being the sincerest form of flattery and all that!


Thecraftytrundler said...

LOVE THEM TO PIECES!! What a great idea to make such lovely use of items that wouls be left in a cupboard, or even thrown away!!
I will never refuse a stained or torn tablecloth again!!
Love the UJ cuahion, and would love to go to that wonderful shop!!

Sharon xx

Sarah said...

Beautiful cushions, they definately deserve to be bought back to life rather then neglected!

Twiggy said...

Love the Union Jack cushion, well done you. I like old lady linens too, and think up cycling them is a great idea.
I do a bit of stitching myself and when I see something on sale in a charity shop or wherever for a few pennies, I think of all the time and love that has gone into something :( I saw a tapestry the other day for sale for just a pound, if it's there next week I'm going to liberate it and turn it into something else!
Twiggy x

Kali said...

I have been coveting a Union Jack cushion for yonks, and yours is absolutely scrumptious!

Anne said...

I love the cushions! I'm now wondering if my mum has any old lady linens in her cupboards I could liberate and upcycle! :o)

Serenata said...

The 'new' cushions, definitely deserve to be seen they are beautiful!

karen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
karen said...

oooh hunni that union jack cushion is georgeous are you planning on making any more of them to sell?


Heavenly - have them on display !

Lyn said...

They look lovely and deserve a second chance, the union jack cover is so neat, my sewing leaves a lot to be desired Im afraid!

lynn said...

hello long time no speaky...i have had a blog break but now i'm back and checkin out my fav bloggers and i had to walk past the waterfall with u ..hope u don't mind..can i buy a cushion to go with my bunny..or can i order ..i would like a collection on my rescued cane chair ..and i can sit back and think of england..sigh..luv to u lynnie

Kummitustalon Stella said...

I have to comment on this one, cause your dog looks just like my mut. I love ypur blog also by the way :D

Anonymous said...

I love this post. We inherited a lot of lace and embroidered table cloths when my Gran passed away and I fear, even back then with my love of vintage that quite a bit was damaged or unwanted and went to the charity shop. I can only hope it found a new home where someone cared for it so well.

Very inspiring.

Emma said...

I adore your cushion I've just Added it to my blog and left a link for you :)

zooperson said...

Just reading for the first time your linen blog. I love beautiful handwork as well, and I'm so glad you make pillow covers and bunnies of the material. Better than recyle. Too lovely to be shut up in a cupboard.