Vintage knife and fork on linen napkin. Bone-handled knife and tarnished silver fork.
1880,  Around the Home,  Browse By Era,  Browse by Subject,  Household Helps,  Victorian

Bridal Gift Ideas For Housekeeping

Bed and Table Linen for Young Housekeepers.

I notice a call in GOOD HOUSEKEEPING, from St. Louis, for information concerning Bed and Table Linen, and such other articles of the kind needful for the “going to housekeeping ” of the young couple. Those of us who recall the hours spent in making preparations for that event, anticipated perhaps for months, and associated with the remembrance of knitting parties and afternoon-tea drinkings, where all who were bidden come to aid the bride-elect, {not as nowadays at five o’clock to take a cup of tea, chat a few moments with their fashionable friends and leave for other scenes of the like), and come right after an early dinner, with needle and thimble.

The sewing was hand-sewing of the finest kind, and now what I have in my possession requires the use of my best glasses to find the stitches. In those days we knit our stockings of the finest cotton or silk, and the Vineyard girls thought themselves not in readiness for matrimony until they had a pillow-case full of them. The amount of linen prepared in that day was all that could be provided from the means of the family, and from the time that could be given for its completion. I have now in daily use, bed and table linen from my grandmother’s and mother’s stock, with many years of wear still remaining in it.

For the actual needs of the young couple I think an allowance of six sheets to a bed sufficient. Six of these might be linen, six a fine cotton, and the remaining, provided three rooms are to be furnished, a heavier quality cotton. This will give eighteen sheets for the three beds, and will admit of using either linen or cotton; and at any time, as circumstances require, the supply can be increased, as it is not often that the young housekeeper has sufficient room for storing.

Now that sheetings are made in various widths and only the hemming needed at each end, I prefer a hem broader for the top of the sheet than the bottom ; and if one is willing to take the trouble the linen ones are much handsomer hemstitched at the top hem, or even more elaborately finished with some of the beautiful drawn-work so much in present use. In that case the ends of the bolster and pillow-cases should be finished in accordance. Although much labor is saved by the sewing machine, the work is not to my mind as much to be desired as fine hand-sewing, for either bed or table linen. Three bolster-cases and six pillow-cases will be ample to accompany each set of sheets. For the marking, I consider a single embroidered letter sufficient unless the full initials of the bride are preferred.

A pair of blankets should be provided for each bed, and of good quality, for it is not economy to purchase inferior articles for either bed or table linen. Better have less at the beginning and have it of the best, for if well cared for it will last for years. Puffs should be made of a thin cotton sheeting, lightly filled with a cotton wadding which comes by the yard and can be laid on and tacked at intervals sufficiently close to hold it in place. When covered with the cotton and button-holed all around coarsely with colored silk or wool and knotted at intervals of an eighth of a yard, they make very comfortable and pretty covers for the mattress before the sheet is laid on.

For bed-spreads, nothing is better than Marseilles spreads, and if heavier bedding is needed for servants’ use, comfortables can be purchased. If the new housekeeper has been so fortunate as to have any of her friends make for her silk quilts, she will find them very useful, even if they are somewhat out of style just now, as well as the pillow-shams upon which so much time may have been spent.

Then for towels for each room, I should suggest at least two dozen, one dozen fine ones and the other dozen medium. Most persons prefer a heavy, rough towel, so it is well to make a varied selection, especially for a bath-room. A very satisfactory towel for a bath-room is one knit of No. 8 Dexter cotton. A box will knit two towels. You cast on twenty-one stitches on large, wooden needles. Knit plain, back and forth, until you have about three inches. Then slip the first stitch, thread over and narrow; thread over and narrow, until you reach the end of the needle. Then knit plain six times, repeat, thread over and narrow; knit plain four times, then thread over and narrow, then plain twice, then thread over and narrow, which makes a border. Knit the rest plain, always slipping the first stitch from the needle, until the towel is of sufficient length, when you make another border like the first and finish off. It can have a fringe knotted in at the ends, and makes a very useful towel.

There are so many dainty things for the adornment of modern tables, that come to my notice when I visit my friends on the main-land, from the exquisitely embroidered pieces for the center of the table, the napkins for the tea-pot and cups, for the carver, for the roast potatoes and for corn, for the bread and cake-plates, to the dainty doylies for the finger-bowls, that one becomes bewildered, hardly knowing what to choose. One can keep house with a few table-cloths but it is not possible to keep it properly with a stingy amount of dish-towels, bread-towels, kitchen towels, dishcloths, or anything needed for the keeping in order of one’s closets or the cleaning of floors or windows. One’s taste and purse must decide for all the details of their table linen.

For table linen, one has so much to choose from that directions can hardly be given, only suggestions made. Tablecloths should be selected with napkins to match, but by all means purchasing one good set, rather than two inferior ones. I would have one very handsome table-cloth, with large dinner napkins to match; one breakfast cloth, with napkins to match, which of course will be a smaller size; one lunch-cloth, which can be colored, if preferred, with napkins to match; and to these can be added four other table-cloths and two dozen napkins, and two heavy table-cloths for kitchen use, which can be bought by the yard.

For kitchen towels, a half-dozen roller-towels are needed, and a dozen ordinary hand-towels of coarse Huck-a-buck will be needed, but I should not advise putting all into the kitchen at once, for they will all be likely to be soiled at once.

For the china-closet the dish-mops are most convenient, especially if the young housekeeper prefers to care for her own glass and silver and the pretty china that no doubt has formed a large part of her wedding gifts. Then she will use a soft glass-towel, of which she will need two dozen in stock. For plates and nice china dishes, there is a heavier twilled toweling that absorbs the water, but if she uses a rack to drain dishes upon it will be much better every way.

There is a strong, open-worked material comes for dishcloths that is very useful, wears well and is easily kept clean, besides being soft for the dishes. Crash makes good cloths for the cooking utensils, and the wire dish-cloth, for cleaning of pans in which food has been cooked, is to me indispensable. Then a dozen crash towels, or better still a piece of crash made into towels, will be in order.

For dust-cloths, I like those made of scrim-hemmed or cross-stitched coarsely with colored cotton, and often washed. They should be kept in every room in a bag made for the purpose, of a piece of linen or any material one chooses.

For the dining-table there should be a cover made of Canton flannel which comes on purpose and upon which the linen table-cloth is placed. It makes the cloth lie smoother, prevents noise with the placing of the dishes, at all times a most annoying thing, and also prevents the heat of the dishes injuring the polish of the table.