|A Common Question:
How can you tell what kind of fabric something is made out of? Great question! When I first started working with textiles I was so confused: polyester, cotton, rayon, silk, linen, blends…the more you work with textiles and gather experience, the easier it will be able to distinguish most fabrics from touch and sight…until then, if you have a questionable fabric, perform a burn test. You just need a few threads (warp and weft, in case it’s a blend). But I try to snip a corner or a piece from a seam allowance. It’s just easier to handle.
Once you have your sample, grasp it with a set of tweezers over an empty glass dish or bowl, and light a match to it.
Cotton and Linen – Does not shrink away from the flame, burns quickly and bright, and will continue to burn once removed from the flame. Smells like burning paper. Leaves a small amount of fluffy gray ash. Cotton fibers are short, soft, and dull. Linen is longer, stiffer, and more lustrous.
Silk – Curls away from the flame, burns slowly with some melting, may self extinguish if the flame is removed, smells like burning feathers, and leaves a brittle, round, black, bead that can be easily pulverized.
Wool – Curls away from the flame, burns slowly with some melting, may self extinguish if the flame is removed, smells like burning hair, and leaves a lumpy , brittle ash.
Rayon - Does not shrink away from the flame, burns quickly and bright, and will continue to burn once removed from the flame and leaves a creeping ember. Smells like burning wood. Leaves little or no ash.
Polyester – Fuses and shrinks away from the flame, burns slowly and melts, will stop burning when removed from the flame, produces a chemical odor, and leaves a hard, round, black bead.
Nylon - – Fuses and shrinks away from the flame, burns slowly and melts, will stop burning when removed from the flame, smells like boiling sting beans, and leaves a small, hard, gray bead.
Blends are harder to distinguish; they will have a combination of properties. The best way to figure them out is to test something you know is a particular blend and use that as a comparison.
For more information I recommend the All About Cotton, All About Silk, and All About Wool Books by Julie Parker.
Feature Article: "An Affordable Accessory to Decorate Vintage Style"
The room just needs that finishing touch…something pretty and dainty, warm, maybe add that nostalgic feel…but of course you don’t want to pay a lot. Add a towel! There are towels for the kitchen, the bathroom, the bedroom, and guest room. In all sizes. In all colors, with different needlework. In the past, women stitched on anything that would stay still, and towels were no exception.
Most towels prior to 1950 were linen, with some cotton exceptions. Linen was absorbent, and didn’t leave any fuzz behind on your dishes or glassware.
And just last month while shopping in Cape May I picked up the perfect souvenir for myself, the textile lover…linen 2005 Calendar Towel…a future collectible.
So next time you have a guest staying over, show them your good taste, and set out the fancy linen towels.