Nov 3, 2013

French antique bed sheets

Starting in the 1600s, the central government controlled the textile industry in France. Government agents decided who could produce textiles and what they could produce.
Bed sheets were manufactured in many regions and in varying styles. The most common bed sheet was woven on narrow looms, so in order to make a sheet that was wide enough to cover a two-person bed, these sheets have a hand-stitched center seam that joined two fabric widths.
Many families took their bedding to the local blanchisserie to be laundered.  In order to avoid mix-ups or loss, each person embroidered an identifying mark or initials on the sheets.  Many people simply embroidered tiny red letters or numbers on the hem, but others took the time to embroider monograms.
This 19th century sheet has a red cross-stitch letter "M" for identification. The laundry marks were always in red thread.

This image shows an example of a simple laundry identification mark on the hem (this is actually on a nightgown, but is the same mark that would have been on the bedding.)

Red embroidered French laundry mark

This sheet close-up pictured below shows the center seam, which was always sewn edge-to-edge. This sheet was embroidered for decoration, rather than for simple identification, so it is done in white.