Requirements of a Household - Advantages of Buying Good Linen - Bed Linen - Towels

The term "household " linen is a somewhat comprehensive one, and is not limited to linen pure and simple, but extends to all.

articles, whether of linen or cotton, used for household purposes. Sheets, pillow and bolster cases, counterpanes, toilet covers, tablecloths, serviettes, traycloths, sideboard cloths, towels, etc., all come under this category; even blankets may be included, as they are generally kept in the linen cupboard, and have to be given the same care as the linen.

A good housekeeper always takes great pride in her linen cupboard, not only as regards the quality and quantity of its contents, but also in the order and condition in which the cupboard itself is kept.

When starting housekeeping, the necessary supply of linen is a matter for careful consideration.

Although an adequate supply of household linen is indispensable in every comfortable household, it is a mistake to commence with too much, unless there is very good and dry accommodation for it, as linen that cannot be put into use is apt to lose its colour, and even attract mildew.

Whatever is bought should be good of its kind. It need not necessarily be fine - that will depend upon what can be afforded - but it should be of first-rate quality; and a little extra outlay in the initial expenditure, in order to obtain the right article, will prove a real economy in the long run.

What To Provide

It is difficult to lay down any hard and fast rule as to the number of articles required, but the following table will be some guide to the inexperienced, it being remembered always that these numbers may be added to or deducted from according to individual circumstances :

3 pairs of sheets for each bed, or 5 pairs for two beds of the same size.

2 pairs of sheets for each servant's bed, and 1 pair over.

4 pillow-cases for each pillow.

3 bolster-cases for each bolster.

2 bed-covers for each bed.

3 bath towels for each person.

4 to 6 bedroom towels for each person.

2 or 3 large bath sheets.

3 or 4 fine tablecloths.

3 or 4 coarser tablecloths.

4 to 6 serviettes for each person. 4 to 6 traycloths.

4 to 6 afternoon teacloths.

2 to 4 sideboard cloths.

D'oyleys as required.

4 to 6 roller towels.

1/2 dozen to 1 dozen kitchen towels.

1/2 dozen to 1 dozen dusters.

1/2 dozen to 1 dozen glass-towels.

1/2 dozen coarse kitchen-cloths.

1 under blanket and from 1 to 2 pairs of upper blankets for each bed, with 2 or 3 extra blankets for emergencies. A few yards of house-flannel should also be kept in the linen cupboard, unless old blankets or other worn articles are available. As to the choice and price of the above articles, it is to be strongly recommended that the linen be bought from a good and respectable dealer. For the inexperienced it is a most difficult matter to tell the difference between a good article and an inferior one. The inferior qualities of both linen and cotton are frequently starched and glazed over to give them a fine surface, and it would take an expert to tell that, as soon as washing had removed this dressing, the poorness of the article would show itself.

In the hands of a good dealer, one pays no more, and, provided a reasonable price is given, satisfaction in good wear will be the result.

Bed Linen

Sheets may be either of linen or cotton. Although some years ago linen was considered the only correct material for sheeting, the manufacture of cotton has improved so much within recent years that it has now to a large extent taken the place of linen, and it is only in comparatively few houses that linen sheets are adopted throughout.

Cotton or calico is cheaper, more durable, warmer, and more hygienic than linen, and for ordinary wear it answers the same purpose excellently.

When cotton is chosen for sheeting it ought to be twilled. A fabric closely and evenly woven, and without starch and dressing, should be selected.

Linen sheets are preferred by many, as they are softer, cooler, and certainly more luxurious than cotton ones. One quality of linen also depends upon the fineness and closeness of the texture.

Both linen and cotton may be had either bleached or unbleached, the price varying accordingly.

The unbleached quality is cheaper and, as a rule, more durable, because the chemicals used in the process of bleaching are always more or less injurious to the fabric, unless specially grass-bleached.

There is still another kind of sheeting - namely, the cashmere or woollen sheeting, which has come a good deal into vogue within the last few years. It is used principally for children or for people who suffer from rheumatism.

Sheeting is manufactured in various widths, so that the size of the beds, both as to length and breadth, must be considered when buying it. The sheets should be long enough and wide enough to permit of their being well tucked in all round. The breadth should be from 72 inches wide for a single bed and from 90 inches wide for a double bed. The length will vary from 2 1/2 to 3 yards. If the sheet has to be wrapped round the bolster it should be rather longer.

Sheets Of Linen Or Cotton

Sheets should be hemmed top and bottom; and it is well to have the top hem made wider than the bottom one, to prevent the sheet being turned upside down; for the same reason the top hem is sometimes hemstitched. Sheets can also be bought ready-made.

In price, cotton sheeting will vary from 1s. 8d. to 3s. per yard, according to quality and width, and linen sheeting from 2s. 6d. to 6s. or 7s. per yard, according to width and quality.

Ready-made cotton sheets will vary in price from 7s. 6d. to 16s. per pair, and linen sheets from 15s. to 2, and even more, per pair. Hem-stitched or embroidered sheets will, of course, cost a few shillings more in proportion.

Pillow and bolster cases may be of either cotton or linen, although linen pillowcases are frequently used with cotton sheets, as they are cooler for the head, and are found by many to be more conducive to sleep. These must, of course, be made or bought to fit the pillows for which they are destined, and, as pillows vary considerably in size, careful measurement should be taken before purchasing them. If the case is too tight, the softness of the pillow is at once destroyed. The pillow-cases may, if wished, be of a finer quality of material than the sheets, and they are sometimes trimmed with a plain frill of cambric or some hand-made trimming or embroidery. The fastening may be either by means of buttons or tapes ; the former method is perhaps to be preferred, as there is not so much chance of the pillow gaping.

The same applies to bolster-cases, but these look better drawn in at the ends with tapes.

Pillow-cases And Shams

Besides the pillow-cases, it is very usual to have pillow-shams, or ornamental covers for the pillows, to be laid over them during the day and removed at night. These are generally hand-embroidered with a monogram or some fancy design, and either frilled or trimmed with lace. They help to make a bed look pretty, and when carefully folded and laid aside at night they keep clean for a long time. For the same decorative purpose " sheet-shams " are used in some households. A strip of linen the width of the sheet and about a yard deep is hemstitched and embroidered and slipped in and turned over the top of the ordinary sheet for day use. These fancy additions to the household linen add to the dainty appearance of the bedroom, but where economy has to be considered they add also to the cost of the washing bill.

Linen pillow-cases will vary in price from 1s. 6d. to 2s. 6d. each, and bolster-cases from 2s. 6d. to 3s. or 4s. each.

Cotton pillow-cases will vary in price from 1s. to is. 6d. each, and bolster-cases from 1s. 6d. to 2s. each.

All bedding, mattresses, pillows, and bolsters should be covered with an underslip to keep the ticking clean. For the pillows and bolsters a piece of old sheeting does very well, but for the mattresses some strong unbleached calico is recommended.


For bedroom purposes linen towelling is superior to cotton, as it absorbs moisture more readily. Cotton towels become very limp and worthless after they have been washed two or three times.

For ordinary use linen huckaback is excellent; it should be rather loose in texture, as it will wear better and become softer each time it is washed.

This huckaback, either plain or fancy, may be bought by the yard, and 14 yards at least should be allowed for making twelve towels ; and it will be an advantage to have a little more, in order to make the towels longer.

The huckaback towels also may be bought ready made, either with fringes, which should always be overcast before use, with a hemstitched border, or with a damask border simply hemmed. The price will vary from 1s. to 2s. each.

For those who like soft towels, fine diaper is to be preferred, and should always be used for an infant. These also are to be had in a variety of patterns and with fancy borders. They are rather more expensive than huckaback towels.

For bath purposes Turkish towels are generally liked, and these should be bought ready made. They may be had either white or brown, and either soft or very rough. The latter are called friction towels. Bath towels should be of a good size and quality, as inferior ones very soon wear out and tear to pieces. The cost will be from 1s. to 2s. 6d. each. Very large bath towels or bath sheets cost more, from 5s. to 1os. each.

Kitchen Towels

For kitchen purposes strong unbleached linen towelling should be bought, or what is called " dowlas." Fourteen yards, at from 8d. to 1s. per yard, will be required to make twelve towels.

For glass and china cloths a finer make will be required, a mixture of linen and " union" generally being sold for the purpose. They may be had either plain, checked, or with the word " glass " or " china " woven in the border, and will cost from 4d. to 6d. each.

Dusters will cost from 4d. to 6d. each to buy, but very often various odd pieces of material can be used for this purpose. In fact, in an established household it ought not to be necessary to buy dusters. Any cotton material that is soft and not fluffy does very well. Dusters must always be hemmed.

To be continued.