In our May Blue & White box we chose to include an antique napkin as our brocante piece. We sourced a huge selection of antique and vintage napkins, all white, some on damask linen, some made of pure linen and some a beautiful cotton-linen mix.
These napkins are anwhere from sixty to one hundred years old, and besides the beauty of the embroidery, or the fine fabric, the things that surprises the most is simply their size.
Antique napkins can measure up to 32 inches square. That’s big! Really only a good idea in the days when houses had staff to handle the laundry because they need washing and ironing after each use.
The good news for today is that they can be hot machine washed, and preferably hung out to dry. Linens always prefer to dry on a line rather than in a dryer, which can weaken the fabric.
Embroidering the monograms is sadly a lost art today. They were either embroidered over an ink outline which then washed out, or for the very big monograms, they could be embroidered over a pre-made letter which gave instant bulk. These old letters are sometimes to be found at brocantes, they are called ‘plumetis‘.
We hope you are enjoying using your antique napkin, either as an accessory on your cocktail bar, or as a small tablecloth. It is also pretty laid in the centre of a big table, and layered over a plain white cloth.