The art of combining two or more letters together into one beautiful symbol or monogram is centuries old. Once upon a time, only royalty or nobility could afford linen adorned with their own initials. Household linens were painstakingly embroidered with white satin stitches and great finesse, each piece finely executed by hand.
These days, antique monogrammed linens are collected for their artistic beauty, and collectors don’t mind whose initials are emblazoned on them. Antique one-of-a-kind pieces with monograms have storied pasts and are one way to express your own personal style at home.
Antique linens with hand-embroidered monograms took months of patient and devoted stitching. Household textiles comprised a large part of a family’s wealth, carefully preserved and handed down from generation to generation.
Throughout history, every bride took great pains in providing her trousseau. The French word trousseau stems from the verb trousser, which means to “wrap up as in a package.” The package of linens that a young bride took with her as she left her home, the size of which was commensurate with the wealth of her family, consisted of linens embroidered with the monogram of the bride and future groom.
From early adolescence, the bride-to-be spent many years sewing and embroidering her household monogrammed linens. Often linens were only embroidered with the bride’s initials at first, but always leaving a space for her future groom’s initials, until his identity went from dreamy mystery to known.
Stitched with expert workmanship, each delicate satin stitch was carefully done. These linens embroidered with monograms of the future bride and groom were a true labor of love. Esteemed for their beauty and function, antique monogrammed linens bridge the past and the future. And there is a certain romance to weaving your own stories into their provenance.
Truly exceptional antique monogrammed linens are getting more difficult to source. As the old chateaus and family homes are being sold, fewer heirloom-quality linens are coming on the market. Buy the best antique monogrammed linens you can find for your collection.
Monogrammed linens are not just for the bed or table. You can repurpose large antique monogrammed sheets as upholstery or drapes. Use them everywhere—these treasures were meant to be seen, and pull on your heartstrings.
How to cherish linens forever
- Put them to use. Monogrammed linens were meant for daily use, for the lifetime of a husband and wife, and then they were passed on. Most have been used over 100 years. These linens still have plenty of years left to make your home beautiful.
- A gentle soaking with a product especially made for antique linens is usually all you need to get out spots. You can carefully rub a combination of lemon juice, white vinegar and salt on a stain and lay the piece in the sun for a few hours. Avoid bleach, as it’s too harsh on the natural fibers.
- Line dry. Skip the dryer, which removes lint from antique linens and makes the fabric less smooth. Hang your linens outdoors to dry; they will be fresh and smell wonderful.
Iron if needed. Time your ironing so that your pieces are still damp. This makes it easier to press out wrinkles. Use a spray bottle of water to spray each piece; then roll it up in a little bundle. Place the monograms right-side down over a terrycloth towel on your ironing board, so as not to flatten the embroidery, and press. Iron the linens completely dry.
- Gently fold each piece and store it in your linen closet. Add some lavender sachets for fragrance. Drape heavy hand-embroidered tablecloths or sheets over a padded hanger, and place them in a clothing closet. Never press on folds, as this weakens the fibers.
- Mix and match antique shams with different monograms together with a contemporary duvet on your bed, or a different napkin at each place setting. There are no rules!
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