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Bed Sheets and Blankets

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So much has recently been written and printed regarding sheets, pillow-slips and other white clothes for the bed that it may be quite as well to dismiss them with a few words. In the great majority of cases, even those favored housewives who have GOOD HOUSEKEEPING as a guide, are content for the most part with plain, serviceable cotton.


This if neatly made up and kept tidy, contains all the elements of comfort-- and that is the first consideration for the equipment of the bed. Something a little finer, more attractive -- perhaps set off with a bit of embroidery or lace; whatever will be in good taste -- for "best" given so much, and we have the groundwork of common sense and comfort. From this basis, according to the means at hand, the taste and the opportunity for decoration and adornment, we go up the scale of excellence and elegance, to the sumptuous couch which in its wealth of luxuriance seems almost to repel rather than invite thoughts of repose.


But leaving each good wife and mother to furnish her bed linen entirely to suit herself, we come to a field where there is opportunity for plenty of suggestion, and where many an one is glad to profit by the experience of others. Before going on to mention blankets, quilts, comfortables and spreads, it may not be amiss to suggest the desirability of having a full supply for all the beds in the house. Nothing is so vexatious as for a guest to find, on preparing to retire, that the bed is lightly clothed. Of course the thoughtful hostess makes sure on this point before the guest reaches the point of retiring, or on assigning the chamber; but unfortunately it is very easy to overlook or forget so simple a matter.


Naturally most guests are reluctant to ask for more bedding, especially when left alone, with the probability that all others in the house may have gone to bed ; so they either lie and shiver through a considerable portion of the night, or are driven to other expedients for obtaining the essential degree of warmth. There is a happy mean, in the use of bedding, as in almost everything else. While there is certainly such a thing as piling too many clothes upon one, even in cold weather, there is just as certainly the danger of sleeping with too light a covering. There will be no mistake if one's own comfort regulates the quantity.


Let the would-be sleeper feel conscious of having "just clothes enough," and the resulting sleep will be sound and restful -- other conditions being correct. A sense of oppressive weight means that there is too much bedding; just as surely as an instinctive desire to bury one's self in the mattress means that there is too little. An article of bed covering which should receive more attention than has been bestowed upon it, is the blanket. For numerous reasons it ought to be the standard covering. While it gives warmth and a sense of restfulness, it is sufficiently porous to admit some change of air, and so a degree of ventilation which cannot be too earnestly commended from a sanitary standpoint. It is not by any means "the thing" to so confine the body that it must be surrounded, all through the night, by a layer of impure air, growing more impure continually from the action of the system. The kind of warmth thus attained is not that which commends itself to those who would be healthful and robust. For summer use, when the weather is warm, a sufficient covering is given by the top sheet, a single blanket and a light spread. An extra blanket should always be at hand, for use on a cool night, or for the comfort of those people who like "a little more weight over them," even in warm weather. As the nights grow cooler, another pair of blankets should be added and for all ordinary conditions this amount of covering will be found ample, and will give the best results -- adequate warmth, with a satisfactory degree of ventilation. It will be better, from the sanitary point of view, that this much be required from blankets before resorting to the quilted " comfortables," regarding which a few plain considerations may not be amiss.


A "quilt" is a thing of beauty, broadly speaking and on the same basis it is an artistic production. The patient woman has toiled on, without rejoinder for, was it not indispensable to her peace of mind that her "blazing star of Mexico" should blaze more brilliantly than that of her neighbor, whose work was the admiration of the community of favored inspectors or that her "crazy patchwork" should be crazier than that of some one else? And so the quilt is evolved, and is admired and why should it not be so?


Yet after all it must be admitted that it has its defects as an article of bedding. It has warmth, to be sure. But it has that principally because it excludes the fresh air and retains the warm, foul air. It does the latter most effectually; and from this quality it derives its undesirable features. Of course we are considering those which are homemade, and so are commendable in other ways. There is nothing to be purchased at the stores more generally and entirely unsatisfactory than the various sorts of quilts and comfortables. In the first place, they are very seldom large enough for a bed of ordinary size, and whoever sleeps beneath them runs the risk of finding a "shortage" at one end or one side, or both, long before morning. The cotton which they contain is usually of the poorest quality, even when the price paid would indicate that first-class materials had been used. Then its arrangement would indicate that it had actually, been "thrown together" and secured where it fell with here a lump and there an entire absence - enough in the total to have given the proper thickness, perhaps, but no possible method short of an entire rebuilding, to getting an even distribution. Quilts and comfortables are not adapted to the sickbed, on account of the difficulty of thoroughly cleansing or disinfecting them. Sheets, blankets, spreads-- these can be washed and perfectly purified ; but with the comfortable the case is quite different. In the first place, the loose cotton with which it is padded is extremely absorbent, and is naturally adapted to take up and hold the germs of disease. This is a fact which should not be lost sight of in consideration of the desirability of the cotton-filled comforter. Not that it should never be used, though it is a question whether the advantage would not be on the right side, if it were entirely abolished. But its use should be confined to the beds of people in good health, large children or adults ; and it should have frequent thorough airing and full exposure to the sunshine. Thus used, during the coldest of the season, homemade quilts and comfortables have a place of utility.


The list of materials which may be used in the making of these articles is almost endless. The upper portion and the lining should be of contrasting colors, and it is always an advantage if the two sides are so finished that the quilt may be reversible. A light side and a dark, or a brilliant and one with medium shades only, varied to suit the materials obtainable, give the general scheme, which each designer can carry out to her own satisfaction-- perhaps. It may not be inappropriate to suggest a few materials which may be used with good effect. Unbleached table damask makes one of the most desirable; prints and similar goods are naturally the standard, but in the same line may be included nun's veiling, coarse linen, brown hollands, Swiss muslins, ginghams and silesias.


The line between quilts and spreads is an almost imperceptible one. The good old term of coverlet, which strictly applied to the outermost "spread" upon the bed, has almost gone out of use, with the peculiarly woven blue-and-white blanket with which its name was so closely associated a half-century since. Its successor was by natural course of fashion the white Marseilles spread, which has had, and still has, so large a degree of popular favor. But with the development of artistic taste, and the necessity for harmony throughout the appointments of a room, new designs and materials for outer coverings have become a necessity. In consequence, we not only have the hitherto spotlessly white Marseilles masquerading under a number of tints -- blue, pink, yellow, and the like -- but wholly different material has come into service -- with embroidery, lace, fringes and other modifications without number. As to this matter of harmony, it may be said that very few combinations or effects would be marred by dressing the bed entirely in white ; but if this is departed from, the covering should be in harmony with the prevailing tints of the room. The coverlet or counterpane which does service through the day should not as a rule form part of the covering when the bed is occupied, and only be added when the bed is again made up. If used at night, it speedily becomes soiled about the upper portion, and requires frequent laundering. And this brings us to consider one of the important things about the bed and its clothing. A word will cover all that need be said-- tidiness! No matter what degree of plainness may be necessary, or how unpretentious the apartment or the home; neatness may dwell in the midst of poverty, disarming it of half its sting; while in the home of comfort it is the one crowning and indispensable virtue.


Hints For the Bedroom
Be tidy.
Luxury cannot induce sleep.
Comfort is the first consideration.
Use the blanket in preference to the comfortable.
Never omit to have spare bedding in the guest chamber.
Too many bedclothes are even more uncomfortable than not enough.
Elegant fittings make a poor atonement for untidiness and disorder.
A comfortable mattress is more desirable than a brilliant counterpane.
Give the comfortables plenty of sun and air; never use them over sick persons.


- Good Housekeeping 1894

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