Saturday, September 18, 2010

Adding a Little Value

I love my old linen and lace. Can get excited, just rummaging through boxes of old textiles, wondering what I'm going to find next. I was thinking about this only the other day when I visited an antique centre, not a million miles from here. It's a huge warehouse of a place, with various dealers renting space. Some of them have their goods beautifully arranged, labelled and properly priced, but others seem content to use this simply as storage space, with everything more or less dumped haphazardly in whatever area they are renting - furniture, architectural antiques, textiles. I got quite cross about the textiles in particular, and here's the reason why. People don't know how to treat it with love.
When I buy a box of old linen and lace, I sort through it all, as soon as possible. This preliminary 'sort' will let me know what I want to keep and what I don't. There will be a very few things that are damaged beyond hope of repair. There will be a few more things that may be of use to somebody but not to me. These will be put back into the saleroom at some point or - more often - donated to my local charity shop. The rest - the majority of items -  will be sorted out according to their uses: tablecloths, bedlinen, 'small stuff' such as lace edgings, hankies, doilies and so on. Next comes careful laundering. This is important because the dust harms delicate fibres and I like to get rid of it as soon as possible. Some things will have to be soaked, some washed carefully by hand,  some can go straight into the machine. I never use a boil wash, but I'll launder robust linen tablecloths on a long 60 degree wash, with a proprietory stain remover of some kind. Other items, fragile silk and wool, I will simply store carefully in acid free tissue, away from bright sunlight, with lavender to freshen them up. I have a huge old linen cupboard, which I clear out occasionally. It's amazing how often you can forget what is lurking at the bottom of a shelf - I found two stunning antique mixed lace cloths, carefully folded away, the other day. I had bought them a few years ago and forgotten all about them!
After the laundering and drying - outside in the fresh Scottish air if possible - comes the ironing, with a commercial pressurised steam iron, and - where appropriate - some spray starch. Believe it or not this is my husband's job, and he makes a very good job of it too. It is also at this stage that faults can be checked and noted, although no matter how closely you examine something, there will always be one or two that 'get away' which is why, when I'm selling online, I always offer a refund if a customer is disappointed.
Now all of this certainly 'adds value' - but I honestly don't do it just for that reason. I do it because I, myself, value these lovely pieces of old needlework. I like to think of the people - usually women - who made them, who devoted time and trouble to them. To me, these things are precious, and should be treated as such.
Which leads me back to that antique centre. What was really distressing, for me, was to find - in some areas at least - boxes and bags of rather lovely old textiles, simply abandoned to cold and dust. Linen tablecloths with fine crochet edgings, flung in a heap, with the dust of years still on them.  But with astonishingly high prices all the same - too high, sadly, for something so obviously unappreciated and unloved. If you are going to get into this business, you have to love that you deal in. Otherwise, how can you possibly enjoy selling it to somebody else?


Scottish Nanna said...

Lovely Catherine.I volunteer at A thrift shop here in Australia and you would be shocked at the things people throw out I can not understand why they dont hand all their nice linen to their seems A shame. Hope you have A good week.
Hugs Mary.

Erna said...

Goodmorning Catherine, I can understand your feelings about the linen just in a box.I know an antique shop like that near it.
And I need to tell you I love your writing in the Scottish Review
Hugs from Amsterdam

Catherine Czerkawska said...

Thanks, Erna, and glad you're enjoying the Scottish Review as well. It's a very interesting online publication, I think. It gives you a perspective on Scotland that you don't normally get! And I believe its circulation is increasing.
Mary, you're right - it amazes me what people will throw away! But at least there are a great many people who love old linens!