Sunday, March 20, 2011

Collecting and altering embroidered doilies and traycloths

The interest started when I inherited a collection of damask cloths, embroidered serviettes and a 
stunning cross-stitch tablecloth from my Nana. When she grew up her large family didn't particularly care about sitting down to dinner together. Later she learnt to cook and set the table from a landlady.

Some of my earliest memories are dinner at Nana's. The way Nana presented the table, our food and drinks, was always so exciting. There were prawn cocktails in glass dishes suspended over goblets of green liquid. Our glasses were festooned with umbrellas, swinging monkeys and swizell sticks from international hotels and airlines. We drank lemonade from champagne saucers and ginger ale from brandy balloons. 

I still have the swizell sticks, some of the glasses and the cloths. And I love to set the table beautifully 
for dinner parties. I collect and use mismatched cutlery as servers and like one off silver serviette rings.  
Click here for the cheesecake recipe.

I gradually started to buy serviettes to supplement Nana's collection.  I like the luxury of a hand embroidered lined napkin. I never use paper ones. I can't see the appeal when the cloth ones are so easy and cheap to buy. They're durable and pretty.

But lately I have been going a bit mad and actively looking in op shops for pretty serviettes and cloths. 
I am astonished at how cheap and unappreciated they are. 
Someone sat and hand embroidered these dainty little things and now they are virtually thrown away.  These four pretty little cocktail napkins were only 10cents for the lot. 
I had to give them a home. Washed and ironed they are perfectly serviceable. 

One of the serviettes I inherited from Nana was this pretty little stray. I just had the one. 
Until yesterday. I found these four serviettes. The pale and dark pink are reversed but they are otherwise a match! 
When I went to the Finders Keepers market in Sydney last year I noticed a trend to take vintage tray cloths and add extra embroidered images or messages to them. Framed they become a work of art far removed from their original practical purpose. This disturbed me deeply.  Mostly because I wasn't sure we had the right to alter something someone else had made. Typically after becoming more aware of something I started to encounter more and more of these little tray cloths and doilies needing homes. 

Most of us don't have dressing tables any more so we don't need a linen cloth with crocheted edge to sit our perfume bottles on. So this particular type of cloth doesn't really have a purpose. 
If it can give joy in a new way where's the harm? 
Wow, now there's a groovy colour combo.

I've been converted and am on a mission to collect the little lost things and breathe new life into them.  
This little tray cloth is so pretty I have added it to my own collection.

I am keeping this cross-stitch cloth too. It was in an opshop for only $4. The cloths below are destined to be altered in some way and find a new purpose. 

To conclude I have been brave, I have been bold and I have altered my first doily.  This cheerful blue edged doily has a happy island holiday theme so I teamed it with a hopeful quote from Robert Browning: All we have willed or hoped or dreamed of good shall exist

The doily now has a new home with my friend Rachael. 

I'll keep you posted as I alter others and offer them to new homes. 

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