Sunday 7 July 2013

A double double dozen double damask dinner napkins

So, this morning I watered the tubs and vegetables and went to church.  One of the hymns, which I hadn't practised in advance, had the wrong tune in the book.  In two books.  The other two books didn't have the hymn at all.  So I warned Sue, who was taking the service, and kept browsing through the metrical index.  I finally found it, but didn't have a chance to play it through, of course.  "I know what you were doing through the sermon..." she said later.  I got through it of course, one of those 'right hand tune, left hand random chords' occasions.

I've caught up on the washing!  Of course, that happy state of affairs lasts a single day, until one undresses in the evening, but all the same...  I'd put on a nice dress, but changed into shorts and a t-shirt later - I know, darlings, none of you has ever seen me in shorts and nor will you, unless possibly on a beach.  I'm far too old, nothing sadder than a 1661.

In the afternoon, I wanted to watch the tennis, so couldn't possibly be idle all that time - what, me?  Idle?  Well... (I'm far too fond of the ellipse, I know) anyway, I was resolved to do the ironing.

Here we are - the 'before' picture -
I ironed solidly for five hours.
 This is what 111 napkins looks like.  The ones on the right are the linen ones.  I forget how many, over four dozen.
Most of the clothes are mine, I keep up with ironing Russell's shirts.  I even ironed 14 (sorry, I counted nearly everything in the end, but I had been ironing for FIVE HOURS) handkerchiefs and noticed one that was particularly pretty.  So was the next, and it had embroidered initials, CF.  When I checked, so had the previous one.
Miss Fitt was the old lady I've told you about before, who lived to be 102 and a half.  She was an expert needlewoman, even her pocket hankies were exquisite.  I'm rather happy to think that I'm still using them, at least 50 years after they were made: she was born in 1882 so they could be Victorian, but she continued to do needlework until she was in her seventies.

The final four tablecloths defeated me.  Have I mentioned that I ironed for FIVE HOURS?  I've re-rinsed them and will part-dry them again, so that I can iron them damp tomorrow or Tuesday.  By the way, a tip on ironing napkins that have dried - dampen every other one and make a stack - the damp will work through them all and each one, as you get down to it, will be part-ironed already.

And wasn't it a great match?  Really fine tennis, very exciting.


Roses said...


I had to read your post twice. My mind slightly blown by your ironing statistics.

I am rather taken with the lovely hankies. Gorgeous.

At least you had good tennis to keep you company through it all!


Z said...

All my fault for leaving the hard-to-iron ones so long. The ones on the left need little ironing, so I've been using them. All airing on the Aga now, next I need to turn out the chest I keep table linen in, so that I can put everything away without it creasing again.

What a perfect little housekeeper, hey ;/

janerowena said...

The hankies are very pretty, I always meant to make my grandmother's into a bedspread one day but forgot and gave away all of the ones she gave me to an aunt of Paul's who actually still uses fabric hankies. She appreciated them more than I did, it is nice to think of them being used. If you would like some more napkins to add to your collection I believe I may have kept some though! I used to spend a whole day after a dinner party ironing, and cleaning silverware and rinsing glass thoroughly. I can scarcely believe it now.

Compostwoman said...

I was doing exactly the same while watching the tennis! Even down to the linen napkins and 5 tablecloths ( the huge ones I posted about a month or so back on Fb?)

I didn't do as much as you, but it felt like it!

Anonymous said...

Ironing is next to window cleaning the most hated housework here: I find it really outstanding that you can do this for hours, count the things through - and even remember the numbers! Incredible!

ElizT said...

I hope you don't mind,Z,but your Ben came into my dream last night [I didn't feed him or anything]and very kindly took me somewhere nice and safe.
It wasn't where I actually wanted to go, nice gesture all the same. Perhaps he thought I was blind.

Blue Witch said...

Paper ones are compostable after use... so probably more environmentally friendly and definitely less work.

Mr BW loves ironing. I haven't done any ironing since 1993 (other than textile projects, and dyed fabric, which are not really ironing as they are fun).

Er, sorry.

Z said...

Jane, I know, the amount of work we used to do that, somehow, we seem to manage without now - and yet we're busier than ever. How come?

In the days when I ironed regularly, Compostwoman, I always did it in front of the tv. Napkins and cloths were ideal for the tennis as one could just gawp at the rallies and iron without looking.

I don't very often, Mago, normally I only iron if I have to, but it had built up to a silly amount.

Eliz, he's a very kind dog but I hope he didn't leave long gold hairs all over your clothes.

I don't think I'm going to agree with you there, BW. When you take into account the manufacture, including bleach or dye, and transport of paper ones, I don't think they're environmentally friendly compared to washed and reused ones. All but the topmost ones on the left, which I bought in Rajasthan about 8 years ago, are decades old and it's not as if they use up a load in the washing machine, I just put in a few with a load of other stuff. I only iron the linen ones, usually, it was just while I had the iron out anyway that I did the lot.

Blue Witch said...

I suspect paper v cloth is one of those hand v dishwasher debates Z.

Initial cotton/linen production is hugely resource-unfriendly, as is washing (manufacture of washing machine, detergent, water, electricity, post-life disposal of washing machine), ironing (almost the same provisos) etc etc. Paper serviettes are often made from post-consumer waste paper (ie recycled). And don't forget the methane produced by the humans while ironing!!!

But, linen napkins are nice to use, and I was hugely impressed by their appearance at the Blog Party :)

Z said...

Using an existing napkin though? - the resources used in their manufacture were long ago, at least 20 years and, in the case of the linen ones, over 50. Even the three dozen we used over the weekend didn't make up half a load and I didn't put the washing machine on specially.

I can't argue in favour of using the tablecloths on ecological grounds, because they did make up a full load and need a lot of ironing, but the borrowed tables did need cloths and I had them and it's a compliment to guests to use the best you have.

(we're not arguing, in case anyone wonders, the friendliest of debates!)

Unknown said...

Added the perfect touch to a lovely meal - having linen napkins.
Ours here at home are also very old family ones, and just starting to fray at the corners. Surely something that can be used and reused for fifty years or so MUST be better for the environment?

Z said...

If anyone who's wondering why they didn't get one is reading this - so many were waiting to be ironed that I couldn't give a linen napkin to all, sorry!

Good to have something that you can comfortably know will see you out, isn't it, Mike? After all, I'm frayed at the edges too. And when a few of them do go into holes, they're put into use as polishing cloths and so on, so not thrown away even then.

As for the environment, it's the same with many things - do you carry on using an old, inefficient model or replace it with a new one that used massive resources to make, but is much more eco-friendly in use? - and the manufacture of which provides employment (not necessarily in this country, which is yet another debate). I don't know, but tend to keep things until they wear out because it seems wasteful to do otherwise.

janerowena said...

I think so too, but I wouldn't buy any new ones. I even have one set that I use just for picnics, which seems very posh but they are heavy linen and don't blow away. Every year I seem to give away another set, though. I think I am down to 6 tablecloths and 30ish napkins, which is pretty good considering how many I used to own. I looked at your pretty lace tablecloths and felt very guilty, as I remembered that I had left one in a past house as a door curtain, and another as a vast draped lace curtain to give some privacy to a stairway window. I hope their subsequent owners treated them well.

Pat said...

Seriously though Zoe - don't you use a steam iron. I wear a lot of linen and couldn't cope without.

Zig said...

I have never ironed a single thing since I've lived here! If I never iron a man's shirt again it will be too soon.
However I am so IMPRESSED with FIVE hours of ironing and think you should be awarded something for your sheer perseverance in climbing the face of Mount Napkin - 111 must be the Etna of ironing.

Z said...

I don't use tablecloths very often in fact, I like bare wood. But I do have some nice ones, nearly all inherited from my mother.

Needs descaling, Pat - though I normally use distilled water, evidently this hasn't always been the case. In any case, I still find that ironing damp gets the best results.

Never again,Zig, it was only the tennis that kept me going. I iron very little normally, only do what's absolutely necessary, usually just before putting the garment on.

luckyzmom said...

I iron and iron and iron. I enjoy it even though my right arm will be screaming loudly before I'm finished. I too have a steam iron and still dampen and keep a spray bottle of water, sizing and a couple of starches (a 'professional' aerosol for dress shirts and a medium mix I make from liquid starch). There are several TV programs that don't require constant watching, which is good for ironing.