Linen damask designs from Victorian and Edwardian times often feature wonderful fronds of ferns, woven in sinuous borders or decorating medallions in centre of banqueting cloths. Here are just a couple of examples of fern napkins and cloths which have made their way into the Revived Damask collection here at McBurney and Black.
I was intrigued as to how this plant In particular seemed to appear so often on some of the finest pieces. So I began to do some research.......
As you would expect fashion trends and crazes are nothing new. But it would appear that back in the mid 1800s a craze took hold of Victorian England which was to last for over 50 years and which had huge influence in the world not only of botany, but also the decor...
I visited Castle Ward in Co Down last weekend, a beautiful property owned by the National Trust and was particularly interested to see the laundry. I've written before about how much I love to wash and iron linen, but after seeing the equipment used in days past, I am very glad I am doing laundry in the 21st century!
Huge stone sinks each with a washboard and scrubbing brush at the start of the process, and then huge mangles. Not a spin dryer in sight!!
With all the physical effort of scrubbing and mangle turning, the poor laundry maids must have been exhausted. However, they still had the task of ironing ahead of them. No steam generator irons for these girls, but rather heavy cast iron smoothing irons which were heated on a cent...
I often come across examples of advertising for Irish Linen from years past. It is interesting to see how the properties of the cloth were presented and how Irish Linen as a "brand" was promoted.
Some are really very amusing when looked at from today's standpoint.
This one in particular made me smile. Depicted are the survivors of a shipwreck who have spread out a square of canvas from the sail as a tablecloth and underneath are the words....."The habits of civilisation rise above disaster. The first natural requisite of any meal is a fair white cloth."
It goes on to say that true Irish Linen is one of the 'indispensables' of life. So whatever disaster befalls you, standards must not be allowed to slip!! This is an advertisemen...
Well I thought it was time that I introduced you to the 2 wonderful ladies who were the inspiration for my shop name. I was recently sorting through old family photos, a lovely thing to do on a damp and grey January afternoon and I found a couple of snaps I hadn't seen before.
Here is Granny McBurney with the most wonderful hairdo ever! How long did it take her to do that each morning I ask myself. The child on her lap with the pretty frilled petticoat is my Dad aged about 9 months! And how handsome is my Grandfather?! Dad had helpfully noted on the back of the picture that this was taken early in 1911, a typical studio portrait of the time, with everyone looking splendid in their Sunday best.
I recently bought a lovely set of Irish Linen Double Damask linens, a tablecloth and 6 napkins in the traditional Chrysanthemum pattern. Still in its box, and dating from the 1970s I think, I opened the package to find inside the most delightful leaflet entitled "Irish Linen washes without worry".
Here is it and it was full of great hints and tips, but also made me smile as it harked back to different times. Some of the descriptions are just charming, such as:
"You can wash Irish Linen any way you like - by hand or in the washing machine, with plain soap and water or your favourite washing preparation."
"Irish Linen is simple to iron - and so rewarding too".
Now I happen to agree with that, I love nothing better than iron...