The aunt of a friend died a while ago. Three decades ago, at least, so definitely a while. Relatives squabbled over whatever she left; think in terms of the scenes at Scrooge’s deathbed. What they didn’t take went into storage. Then into my garage. Now it is in the house, all of it.

This is the last of the fabric, waiting to have the yellowing and mustiness washed out of it. I looked at those boxes and figured, okay, I’m home for weeks. This stuff is in the way of my MPII project. Who knows, there might be something nice in there. Why not get it out of the garage? Now I have an answer.

This is why not. I don’t know what to do with all this. There are tablecloths with matching napkins, old lace, linen sheets, Auntie’s undies, unused bolt ends of fabric with the price tags still affixed — 2 francs per meter. Each item is actually quite nice, but there is so much of it. Every piece needs to have the mildew washed out and most should really be ironed.

I was delighted to pull out the first cotton nightgown. Now I have at least half a dozen and I’m thinking they are a little plain. Maybe some embroidery?

I know silk can be washed, but I’m not feeling that brave right now. Do I even feel brave enough to sew it? Maybe not. France is the land of good seamstresses. Maybe I should hand this to the experts.

After all, I have plenty of work right in front of me.

19 Replies to “Tidying Auntie’s Things”

  1. What a treasure trove! You don’t have to use it all at once, you know! Wash, iron, store with a few sprigs of lavender (or rosemary if you don’t want lavender and old lace) and when the moment comes, you’ll know what to do with them. I wish you inspiration 🙂

    1. That’s how these things get started. I resumed knitting for the first time since Girl Scouts, so, I thought, cool, I have just the pattern for this yarn. A friend does visible mending, so I picked up a book on the subject. Hey, those little cotton cocktail napkins will make perfect patches. Those adorable retro tablecloths don’t even need repurposing. It’s a little daunting to see a dozen or so, sitting there waiting to be ironed, but you’re right, I’ll get over it. Of course if you see me buying tables because they are just the right size for some of the tablecloths, you’ll know I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole. Okay, farther down.

  2. Wow, just think how many Covid-19 masks you could make from all that ancient fabric! Great marketing opportunity! Just kidding of course but you would appreciate the all the twittering and kefluffering about the recent orders making it mandatory in Riverside County to wear a mask when in public and highly recommended, and likely soon to be mandatory, in all the other Socal counties. And because actual masks are in short supply, we now look like a nation of train robbers with bandannas around our faces. I’ve taken to wearing my Stetson to complete the look. Today on the morning TV news (why do I subject myself to this?) they were touting this “incredibly clever idea” of cutting sleeves off tee shirts and then pulling the resultant fabric tube over one’s head as a “social mask”. Ai yai yai.

    1. Sweat-stained armpit up on those t-shirt sleeves? We won’t be doing that. But, yeah, the mask potential did occur to me. I ordered bias tape. Now I have to figure out how to get the little things you pinch down over your nose, though I might be overthinking it there. I figured I’d make a couple and then do a dedicated post. We’re going to be at this for a while. Might as well.

      It’s getting kind of Big Brother over here, with talk of using our cell phones as tracking devices. Masks in public can’t be far off. Please don’t release that t-shirt idea into the wild!

      1. Actually, I thought the same thing–masks. Just made a bunch (plain white cotton from sheets). I wore one to a market and was the only person with a mask. Still, with an immuno-compromised spouse, I’m taking no chances.
        Otherwise, if you can stand it, wait and donate it later. When my mother died, I sorely wanted to donate her huge stash of polyester (so many 1970s projects never accomplished) to a theater costume maker. But I flew in and flew out and my brothers sent the polyester to the dump.

        1. The dump? Hasn’t he heard of charity shops? Aren’t there schools where they can use that stuff? Did he never watch « Money for Nothing? » Did you light into them for their misogynistic attitude, fabric and sewing being women’s work and thus, to them, worthless. I grew up poor, seeing how much was being wasted when it could have been shared. Then I worked in construction, then academia, then IT. It was a rough slog; that one action encapsulates everything that I hated about it.

          Oh. Must change subject. So, yes, masks, delivery of bias tape is promised for Wednesday. Free patterns are everywhere. Those bolt ends are obvious mask exterior candidates. The more worn dish towels can be cut down to go inside. I found a huge stash of this heavy black fabric, almost felt. It looks like it would be lining for blackout curtains. I may try to use it between the two layers, to create something more heavy-duty.

          We did actually sell quite a bit — before I ever started on this — to a woman who sells to costume companies. The plus-size satin corset, the top hat, I forget what all, but there were boxes and boxes of it. I almost kept the top hat.

          In that jumble that you do see, plus what is left to clean, are several tablecloths with matching napkins, tablecloths without napkins, dish towels by the dozen, net curtains, machine lace and cutwork in profusion and more. Apparently masks have become a thing, apparently for some months to come, so I might as well make several for us. Julien mentioned that a relative is a nurse, so I’ll ask him whether he’d like a few for wherever she works. I’ll pick out what I can use right now. I’ll put as much as possible of the rest in moisture-tight plastic bins that I used to move things from California. Then, I don’t know. I’ll find a place to donate the rest.

  3. Ideal time to go through all that stuff…we ‘inherited’ roomfuls of it when we bought the last house in France…super linen, some good curtain fabric and all sorts of other stuff that just could not be chucked out. The notaire who had gone through the place before we eventually managed to buy it obviously had no eye for fabrics…he contented himself with the last owner’s classic Bentley.
    It all found uses, with us or friends…so enjoy your sorting and sifting. From what I have learned from Maxwellthedog Auntie’s drawers could be useful as a facemask.

    1. No, that’s worse than the t-shirt idea! Seriously, this woman took « granny panties » to an extreme. But maybe a great photo op…

  4. I actually used to trade things just like that on EBay … I had a vintage clothing and fabrics (mostly, sometimes other household artefacts) business for some years. I still have two huge boxes containing the treasures I simply couldn’t bring myself to sell on …. tablecloths (with their kindred napkins), lace bits, silks, you name it. My husband eyes it with suspicion every time we are back in France. I look at it longingly …. what treasure you have! I know you will do wonderful things with it. When you have the time …. 😉

    1. Time is good. I actually thought I’d have time to dive into my library, which is finally un-packed and sorted after all these years. Trouble is, it’s hard to read and knit, read and garden, read and iron. I do those things while listening to Audible, but in terms of relaxation, it’s not really the same. I thought I’d meditate during this time of confinement, or take up yoga, but so far, no. Maybe in my old age, I’m developing ADD?

      1. Relaxation is a knotty one, particularly when there is a lurking sense of unease shadowing us. I’m not one for listening to books so I have no choice but to sit down with a book which I love. The trouble is, I tend to zone everything else out and then suffer terrible guilts for all the things I haven’t done whilst inhabiting the world the author has taken me too ….

        1. Unease? About the virus? I know people at risk or who have loved ones who are at risk. They have plenty of reason for unease. The rest of us probably won’t get that sick. To me, we’re taking the recommended precautions as a public service — as we should, but still, nothing to worry about.

          I’m grateful that I’m not stuck in a tiny apartment. I don’t run a restaurant or any other small business that is being financially devastated by the lengthy closures. I’m not working overtime in a hospital or deciding who does or does not get the ventilator. There are some bad places to be right now. I am grateful beyond all measure that I’m not in any of them.

          So buy a book from a local retailer, if they’ll put it outside the door for you. It’s good for the economy. And enjoy.

          1. I have already lost a dear friend to the virus. Same age as my husband, very fit yachtsman and retired to the East coast (England) with his wife last year. It will touch all of us. And I don’t mean physically. I am an ardent supporter of small and local businesses at all times. I am doing what I can to ensure that businesses stay functioning. As for not worrying. Try having all your children in another country. Try living with the fact that one of your daughters is a severe asthmatic. And the 87-year old mother? Probably stronger than any of them but still a natural concern. I share the same fears as the next man and though I am one of the most positive spinners around I will not accept that there is nothing to worry about. That, dear lady, is plain naïveté.

          2. Not at all. You have serious, identifiable things to worry about. You have an actual profound loss to deal with. That’s a whole different thing from what you first presented. From all appearances, it read like like you’d like to enjoy a book but, well, with what’s in the news… Now that you have filled us in, I agree, you have plenty to be concerned about.

            I’m not naive about this at all. I just read that 10,000 people have died from the virus in the US alone. I read every day that the official numbers are low. I, too, have a mother in her 80s and family and friends at risk. If my sister gets this, she will be gone but she needs her job, so she goes to work, every day. If she dies from this, her husband probably won’t be allowed to hold a funeral; it’s for sure that I won’t be able to go.

            The thing is, so much of this is outside our control. I do what I can. I let the rest go. This doesn’t mean that I think nothing bad will happen or is happening. It means that I realize there is nothing I can do about it that I am not already doing.

  5. I am doing almost the exact same thing as you during this confinement period. As soon as the charity organizations can do pick ups again, I will have bags of things to donate and share. (Like you, I can’t throw sonething out if there is a chance it can be used.). Good luck with all your work!

  6. I am doing almost the exact same thing as you during this confinement period. As soon as the charity organizations can do pick ups again, I will have bags of things to donate and share. (Like you, I can’t throw sonething out if there is a chance it can be used.). Good luck with all your work!

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