Janice Marble of Pieces of History Antique Linens and Lace Answers Linen Questions. Over this and the next comming months Janice Marble of Pieces of History Antique Linens and Lace will answer our most FAQs in a series of articles.
News-Antique.com - Nov 30,-0001 - We at Pieces of History Antique Linens and Lace get many excellent questions related to linens and laces. Over the upcoming months I would like to use this forum to answer some of them. This month's question is 2 fold:
1. Why do antique sheets and pillowcases come in so many sizes?
2. How do I know what size sheet or pillow case to buy?
Today, our beds and mattresses are manufactured in standard sizes, those sizes being Twin or Single, Full or Double, Queen, King and California King. Mattress sizes for these are as follows (measurements in inches):
Twin; 39 x 75
Full; 54 x 75
Queen; 60 x 80
King: 78 x 80
California King; 72 x 84
Linens are also made in standard sizes so its easy to go into the store and buy the size that corresponds to your bed size. Pillowcases are the same; you buy the cases according to what size pillows you have, which are also standardized.
In the Victorian era to about the 1920's (and later for Europe), beds, mattresses and pillows were made to order. Even earlier, in America's colonial and homesteading days and up to the advent of mechanization, everything was hand made usually at home for one's own use for whatever size was needed. Homes were SMALL and so were the beds; the linens were hand woven using flax (or occasionally cotton) grown right on the farm which was hand harvested, hand processed and then woven by the lady of the house who was also busy with all the other chores required for day to day living. She may or may not have had help; given this, she made fabric only as large as necessary to do the job, which is why early American linens are generally small, 50 to 74 inches wide and 75 to 90 inches long typically. There also was no distinction between top and bottom sheets. Pillowcases were also hand made to fit the pillows at hand and they were often narrower than those we use today though longer; sometimes one pillow was used to span the width of the bed. Wealthy homes were larger and had more people around to help so the beds were larger as were the linens. With more free time they were also often woven more finely; if the lady didn't weave, she bought them or had them shipped from Europe. All the linens were EXPENSIVE either in one's time, or by trade or purchase. They were numbered for easy reference in wills and to keep track of if laundered by a laundress or in a community pot with other's linens.
Linens From England, Ireland, Scotland, France and Italy were generally larger both in width and length. The wealthy often had huge beds as status symbols and the linens were correspondingly large to match. These linens were often monogrammed and enhanced with beautifully skilled embroidery done by the ladies of the house since embroidery was considered a genteel art fit