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A guest at a bed & breakfast in the Bettina Network wrote:
“I just left one of your homes and it was a fantastic experience. I have become a Bettina Loyalist – hey, I coined something new and hope you use it, it can be payback to you for what I just learned during my visit.
I have beautiful linens from my grandmother which I used only once and when I used it, it became hopelessly stained, by a friend who couldn’t eat without dropping food on the tablecloth. Because of that and because I want to keep the linens she left me to pass on to my children I needede to know how to use them without causing damage and how to take care of them.
I’ve read everyplace and every tip. The eye opener was my trip to a Bettina home ,just recently. They had beautiful linens on the table with linen napkins which were exquisitely embroidered by somebody’s grandmother. I was amazed that she was using such linens for us!!!! Someone at the table spilled coffee all over the side of these hand embroidered, very old pieces. I about had a fit. I couldn’t believe that guest was so careless with something he will probably never again experience in his lifetime unless he stays at another Bettina home.
I hung around the kitchen all morning after breakfast because I wanted to know how they were going to handle those stains – and I was too embarrassed to ask.
No one was upset about the coffee spill except me. If these were your usual hotel-type linens which are sent out to a cleaners and bleached, starched and ironed to within an inch of their lives – substantially shortening their life-span I would have thought nothing of it. But these were very elegant hand made linens.
At first, I just hung out in the kitchen, too embarrassed to say I didn’t know how to take care of my grandmother’s linens so I didn’t use them. When she took the linens up the back stairs it was just to much for me to hold back. I went after her to see what she was going to do with the linens. When she saw me following her I had to tell her why and we both laughed – thank goodness!
She put almost a cup of non-chlorine fabric bleach in a plastic pail full of water – the kind of pain you use to scrub floors. She, apparently, only uses this plastic pail for her linens. Then she put the linens in the pail of water – which was luke warm to my hands and let them sit. She does this after every breakfast – so when she does the wash for the day – a couple hours later – the linens get dumped in the washing machine on ‘hand wash’ cycle and cold water and washed. Simple. But then what?
Well, if I didn’t have time or want to do the wash that soon or didn’t have those regular habits and times for doing the wash, then her advice was to just wash the linens whenever I did have time – the next day is not a problem, but she cautioned me not to wait much longer than that. She did say she had a friend who uses her home for bed and breakfast guests who sometimes lets her tablecloths stay in the water and bleach for a couple days because she isn’t that organized to be able to do it just a couple hours after breakfast.
She puts her linens on a hanger in her laundry room to dry because she doesn’t like to use the dryer when it isn’t necessary. That’s unusual!
Once dry, she irons her linens and rolls them on a roller which she gets from rug stores. They have the large rollers which carpets come on and these stores throw them out periodically so she keeps a supply in her basement for new additions to her linen wardrobe. Before she rolls the linens she has old sheets she puts on the roller and then rolls the linens over the sheets. Her linen storage closet is impressive!
It all sounds complicated and time consuming, but I went home and tried it with the stained tablecloth I was grieving over from my grandmother. It was quite dry from the dinner of several weeks ago and very clearly stained – and I thought forever. I should have been listening and watching when I was little to see how my grandmother kept these linens so beautifully – but I wasn’t.
I soaked it, per my host family’s instructions, left it overnight – put it in the washing machine with a couple other things the next day and then into the dryer. (I felt really guilty using the dryer after my stay at that Bettina home, but bad habits are hard to break – especially when convenience is an issue).
When the linens dried and were ironed, I rolled the tablecloth on one roller and the napkins on another – she doesn’t roll her napkins on rollers, this was strictly my own contribution. They came out beautifully. The stains are gone. I used another one of my grandmother’s beautiful handmade linens last night because we had a dinner party with special friends. Eveyrone ooohhed and aaaahed over the table cloth and worried that they would stain it. I was very nonchalant and advised that they should relax and enjoy their meal. If they spilled on the cloth – no problem – I could take care of it easily.
It was a really enjoyable evening. I was relaxed and not hyper about what my dinner guests might do to my grandmother’s table cloth and my husband was amazed because he knew how hyper I had been in the past about using these linens.
After dinner, when we cleared the table, I took the tablecloth and napkins downstairs to the washing area, put them in the plastic pain with the all fabric bleach I bought for the occasion, – after looking long and hard for just the right one – went upstairs and enjoyed the rest of the meal.
Thanks folks! One never knows where the next little bit of enlightenment to help us live an easier and elegant life will come from. This time from your Network and I really appreciate the discovery.
This might sound trivial to all of you who are still using those plastic placemats, but when you decide that way of eating is no longer satisfactory, come back to this lesson and move up in the world:)
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