So, I finally got this blog started after months of thinking about it. Here we go with some background on the origins of McBurney & Black and my love for linens.
Margaret McBurney and Lizzie Black, were my two grandmothers; one was Irish, the other Scottish. Lizzie had the most wonderful sense of style and was an avid embroiderer and collector of interesting linens, jewellery and china. Granny McBurney I sadly never knew, but the family had strong links with the making of Irish Linen in Co Tyrone and Belfast. So, I have a love of textiles and a passion for all things beautiful are well and truly established in my DNA!
So it wasn't difficult to choose the name of the shop I wanted to launch and yesterday it went live on Etsy - you will find it at:
I will be offering a selection of vintage linens from my own collection, and eventually perhaps other lovely vintage pieces, maybe even china and glass.
My grandfather was a tailor in Belfast, producing beautiful garments for both men and ladies from exquisite fabrics, fine wools, Donegal tweeds and Irish Linen.His older siblings worked in the production of linen, first of all near the family home in County Tyrone and later in Belfast, where my great uncle was a linen lapper and my great aunt a linen yarn winder.They were part of the massive industry producing pure Irish Linen cloth in Northern Ireland in the early 1900s; Belfast was even known as Linenopolis.
Irish Linen Damask tablelinens are renowned the world over. The intricate patterns seem to hover on the surface as the light catches them. A crisp white tablecloth with its matching napkins makes for an elegant and classic table setting.
However, in our busy lives today we don’t always entertain in a formal way, but that is no reason not to use these lovely linens. Not all the cloths I collect have survived as well as others. In order to give a new lease of life to damask linens that have seen better days, I have begun to dye them. Suddenly these pieces are transformed; vibrant or subtle colours make the woven designs look brand new again.
The concept of coloured damask is not a new one. I recently came across a wonderful book entitled We Dine on Linen Damask, published in 1926 by the Irish and Scottish Linen Damask Guild Inc. in the USA. The foreword to this delightful publication was written by Emily Post, a highly regarded author on matters of etiquette and society matters at the time. She wrote that ”The dinner of dignity is dependent upon linen damask…..the gleaming smoothness of unbroken white.” However a few paragraphs later she comments: “For the lovers of linen damask by the way, who living in little houses find the formality of an unbroken expanse of whiteness formidable, must not be forgotten colored damask. As a decoration, tinted linen damask is a delightful material.”
A coloured cloth lends itself to a less formal setting, so there is no longer the need to hide the cloth or napkins in the linen cupboard waiting for a formal dinner party. I have even used mine in the garden to make a summer table come alive. A raspberry pink cloth teamed with some paisley design cotton napkins I found in a sale is one of my favourite combinations. So long formal damask and hello to vibrant colour and a mix and match theme.
I search out cloths and napkins that are still in good condition, but may be have seen better days and I love to choose the colours. Deep purple, Chartreuse green, Cerise and Pumpkin are some of my favourite shades. Do have a look on Etsy to see some of the colours I currently have. Here are a few of the ones I have used recently and as you'll see, this photo forms the background to the blog.
Matching sets of napkins are often harder to find, as sets become split over the years, but it can be fun to mix a variety of similar patterns dyed the same colour. Here is a set of dinner napkins in 2 different designs which I have in my shop right now.
I chose Chartreuse to suit the intricate fern and trellis motifs and I think it has really worked.
So there you have it! The first of many postings I hope and I promise not to ramble on at quite such length in future!!