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All about Aprons

Aprons are often the first garment made by someone learning to sew. They can be simple and tough, or a delicate and attractive fashion accessories.

Aprons can be made of cotton, muslin, linen, or canvas. In select cases, for specific professions, aprons are also made of leather, rubber, or lead!

What is the history of aprons?

History of Aprons – 1

Early Apron History

The history of aprons is a long one, yet there isn’t much written about it.

One of the best ways to see apron history is by looking at centuries of art. The only record of the history of aprons in much earlier times seems to be in paintings. It may not be very accurate but with a little common sense and awareness of clothing history, we can fill in the blanks.

Medieval and Renaissance Aprons

The first aprons appear to be little more than squares or rectangles of linen cloth tied around the workers waist. Fabric was precious because, for the common folk, it was woven at home on narrow looms. Every scrap was used, so there was probably a minimum of cut and sew involved. And there wouldn’t have been a lot of resources… time or money, to spend on decorative aprons.

The earliest pictures of aprons that I’ve found showed peasants or laborers in medeval or renaissance time… both men and women. The wealthy folk that had their portraits painted would not have done any labor that required garment protection.

Plain aprons were the norm until the late 1500s, when elaborately decorated aprons became the style for women. These weren’t work aprons. They were fashionable, status aprons decorated with expensive lace and embroidery.

History of Aprons in the New World

When Europeans began immigrating to the new world, aprons were simple & functional as a reaction to the excesses of fashion. The Pilgrim women wore plain, white long aprons. Later the Quaker women wore long aprons made of colored silk.

In England, women competed to see who could have the most elaborately decorated apron. Wealthy women often left their heirloom aprons to favored family members. The Duchess of Queensbury once wore an apron that was rumored to have cost 200 guineas. (which must have been a LOT of money or the story wouldn’t survive in oral history!)

Up until the American Colonial era, aprons were mostly waist or half aprons. Then full aprons began to find favor, and pinafores or “pinnies” began to be worn. (I’d still like to know what kind of pins were used to hold the bib in place.) As fabric became more available, more cutting and fitting of the garment was done. Aprons began to mimic dress styles.

Source credits for the above content – Acme Aprons.

History of Aprons – 2

Aprons through the Ages

In Europe, during the Middle Ages, aprons were worn by homemakers, working people, tradesmen, and artisans. Distinctive aprons could indicate a man’s trade. English barbers wore checkered aprons. Stonemasons wore white aprons to protect their clothing from the white dust created by their tools on the stone.

Cobblers wore black to protect garments from the black wax used on shoes. Butchers wore blue stripes. Butlers wore green aprons. Blue was commonly worn by weavers, spinners, and gardeners.

Aprons are still worn in Masonic ceremonies and are often part of a working person’s uniform, often featuring a corporate logo emblazoned on the front.

By the 16th century, aprons became a fashion statement and were attractive and embellished with decorations. As a fashion, the wearing of aprons has waxed and waned in popularity over the years.

Native Americans wore aprons for both practical and ceremonial reasons. The early American colonists are often depicted wearing aprons. In the old days, people owned few garments and had to protect and keep them as clean as possible.

Though aprons had long been popular and often included in a picture of a homemaker, the late 1940s saw the apron become the icon of the American housewife as domestic goddess. After the horrors of World War II, people who grew up with the privations of the Great Depression welcomed the simple aspects of home life and family. It must be remembered that during the war, as well as during the Great Depression, families were often uprooted, and members separated, many never to be seen again. A simple, well run home with an intact family seemed like paradise.

The Apron Falls Out of Favor

In the late 1960s, the idealization of housework fell out of favor. Aprons were suddenly viewed as old fashioned garments worn by grandmothers and fuddie-duddies. The very idea of being a housewife seemed dull and ordinary as women reached outside the home for satisfaction and reward.

Aprons remained a staple of the workplace as a means of protecting garments. Aprons were also worn as a kind of work uniform, and of course, by people who worked in the food trades – meat cutters, waitresses, and cooks as well as hairdressers and barbers.

The Revival of the Apron

In recent years, the lowly apron has made a comeback due to several cultural factors.

The increased popularity of cooking and the back to the kitchen movement brought aprons back in a big way. Between cooking shows on the Food Network, and a new appreciation for quality meals made from scratch, the apron is once again used for practical reasons. Full aprons with extra long ties (that go around the back and tie at the front), and aprons made of sturdy fabrics gained popularity.

As the popularity of the apron has increased, the humble garment has often become decorated and made beautiful. Fashionable boutiques like Anthropologie offer handsomely made aprons, created by using several different attractive and often unusual fabrics with whimsical decorations.

Source credits for the above content – Bellatory

What are the types of aprons?

While most of us do not care much about the actual terminologies and types, there are distinct types of aprons. The following are some of the main types of aprons:

  • Pinafore – Originally a “bib” style apron that covered the chest and fastened with pins, hence it’s name. Commonly associated with a ruffled apron in the 1900s that little girls wore. It was also popular in the 1940s.
  • Pinny – British slang for pinafore or apron.
  • Hostess Apron – A 1950s term for a half apron. Usually of a daintier fabric, i. e. organdy, lace, satin, silk, cotton lawn. Also a term for an apron that was make for “show” and not for actually work. Also called a Cocktail Apron or Party Apron.
  • Bib – The top portion of an apron that covers the chest, usually a simple square.
  • Half Apron – An apron that ties around the waist with no bib. Usually gathered or pleated into a waistband.
  • Full Apron – Used to describe an apron that covers the whole front, not a half apron.
  • Princess Apron – A full apron with bib and skirt cut in one with no waist seam. Very popular in the 1920s and 1930s.
  • Smock – More like a dress, than an apron. Can have sleeves. Popular in the 1930s for painting and gardening.
  • Cobbler Apron – An apron that covers the front and the back, usually straight with ties or buttons at the sides. Popular in the late 1950s and 1960s.
  • Chef’s Apron – A traditional apron made in one piece with a straight “skirt” and bib. Goes over the head and ties in back with ties. Also called a Butcher apron.

Textiles Encyclopedia

Innovations in Aprons

While there have been minor innovations in aprons all along, some innovation stand out. Here’s an apron innovation that makes it a far more useful clothing.

Simple innovation makes super useful apron

This apron with a removable cotton dishtowel offers a major improvement on a product you probably never think about.

Part of the problem is that I didn’t want to wear a giant plastic apron that restricted my movements and made noise every time I breathed. And I didn’t want something so hideous I’d be ashamed to answer the door.

Fortunately, the Zip & Dry apron is functional, stylish, and supercool. It’s a 100-percent cotton apron with a removable absorbent towel at the bottom. The two pieces are attached by a zipper that is beautifully integrated into the overall design of the apron.

Grab the towel to wipe off your hands or dry a glass. When the towel is too dirty to keep using, unzip it and toss it in the wash. You still have an apron to wear while you finish up.

More from this report at CNET

All about Curtains

Curtains are so commonplace, we just take them for granted. But do you know that they have a long and colorful history?

History of Curtains – 1

Curtains have a history almost as long as textiles, but there is much hesitation about where and how to hang them. Really, it’s like everything else in the design world; you factor in form, function and style and take it from there. Once you’ve read this piece, you’ll see that there are no rules that haven’t already been broken! I love natural light, and I am drawn to rooms that are light-filled without any gloomy corners. Yet I know many light-lovers fight a battle with the idea of curtains. I think this is because curtains, in the latter part of 20th century, got a bad rap with architects and some designers. But let’s face it — we don’t need Versailles at the window. Curtains today can be as sleek and modern as your furnishings.

Before central heating and air conditioning, people didn’t always get to choose light over warmth. Curtains of one sort or another have been used to define space and create privacy. The first curtains were made from animal hides that were placed over the doorways and affixed by hooks, but hide, being rather stiff, does not drape well. With advancements in textile production, weaving and dyeing, the evolution of household textiles (primarily items designed for warmth, such as curtains, hangings, blankets and bed hangings) marched right along with developments in clothing. Early textiles were linen and flax, first spun in ancient Egypt, followed by wool and later cotton and silk.

Although little visual documentary evidence exists from the Early and Middle Ages, it would be reasonable to imagine that occupants of early homes, particularly in the relative affluence of castles, used woven textiles to cover doors and windows. These were often tapestries and heavy cloths, anything to keep out the cold, especially if the castle or home was located in England or Northern Europe. If you’ve ever visited a castle, you know that they are often cold, damp places. Most rooms had large fires, but the windows let in drafts even through wooden shutters, so they were draped in heavy fabrics, which in turn excluded light and would have produced dark, smoke-filled rooms. Glass making was perfected in Italy in the 13th century and became a viable option for windows over the following centuries.

During the Renaissance, buildings that could be recognized as forerunners to the modern home evolved, designed with glass-paned windows (albeit small panes of glass) separated by muntins, not the large expanses of glass we see in contemporary architecture today. Leaded casement windows remained in architectural style for centuries, and it is possible to see these reflected in paintings of the period. While glass let in light, it also permitted the voyeuristic stares of neighbors and strangers, and shutters and fabrics were used to conceal and reveal, but “curtain” design as we think of it today was still centuries away.

Although the ancient civilizations of the East in Persia, India and China had long-produced textiles and used them to cover openings and separate rooms, these ideas took many years to translate to European and American homes. Trade with these ancient cultures from the time of the Crusades brought examples of finely woven textiles to Europe, loaded on ships along with spices and other novelties or carried overland along the silk trading routes. Over the centuries, textile production areas in Italy, France, Holland and the UK became well known for silk, linen, cotton and wool inspired by the treasures of the East but adapted for Western tastes.

Two World Wars would profoundly change decorating styles as they shifted social culture. But it was after the Second World War that massive homes were broken up into apartments, and housing subdivisions and new towns were developed. By the 1950s and 1960s, curtains were essential components to most homes and were carefully incorporated into architectural style that sometimes, but not always, reflected interior styles. Many modern homes had simple, plain curtains without elaborate top treatments, similar to the tailored shift dresses of the period and a far cry from the billowy, bedecked and trimmed window fashions of the late 19th century.

Curtains include anything from a wool blanket tacked up over a door to the most elaborate layers of silk and detailed, swagged cornices. In the last decade, greater respect for architectural details has produced a decorative style whereby simple curtain panels — in cotton, linen, silk or any synthetic fabric — adorn each side of the window. Some are functional; others are purely decorative. The higher the curtain is hung, the taller the room will appear. Curtain lining, intended for warmth and light insulation, may be simple or multilayered. They provide a great way to bring color and softness to a space.

For High Quality Organic Cotton Clothing and Organic Home textiles Click here

History of Curtains – 2

The majority of homes across the country have some sort of window dressing. It may be the traditional curtain or blind or even just simple nets. The curtain offers a protection against nosey eyes and provides security that you cannot be seen when relaxing in whatever pass time you choose.

Curtains were originally used to help keep rooms warm. The rooms may have been dark but a heavy curtain will help a room retain a surprising amount of heat. Of course, modern society has central heating systems and double glazing so this is generally no longer relevant.

The first curtains

Curtains have not just been used to cover windows; they have also been used to create private spaces and even to define a space. History shows the first curtains to have been simple designs made from animal hides, these were generally placed over doorways although hide is stiff and did not drape well.

Ancient Egypt

The Egyptians used curtains made of linen and flax; these later became more delicate and flowing as they were made from wool, cotton and even silk. Curtains were a common feature during this period and provided warmth as well as privacy.

The Middle Ages

There is little documentary evidence from this period of history to support theories of curtain usage in this time.  It is fairly safe to assume that woven textiles would have been used to cover doors and windows in castles and the homes of the more wealthy people.  It is known that tapestries and cloths were hung on the wall to help insulate and retain warmth in a building.  The tapestries draped across the windows would have served to keep the heat from the large fires in the rooms but they would also have made for dark, smoky spaces.  It was only in the 13th century that the process of glass making was perfected; this made it viable to have actual windows!

The Renaissance

With the advent of glass this period has become known as the start of houses as we know them today. Large windows never contained whole sheets of glass but did have many small pieces of glass separated by pieces of wood and were very effective at preventing drafts from entering the rooms. Shutters and fabrics were still draped over the windows but this was now to protect the privacy of those inside.

The Crusades

The interaction of the west with China, India and Persia meant that the west became aware of the finely woven textiles. This period saw their introduction into Europe and the consequent development of fine tapestries in Europe. The ideas were taken from the East but they had a western feel to them.

The 18th and 19th century

In the 1840’s machines were developed that could produce clothing and other materials easily. The machines were far quicker at producing items than any person could be. This was the start of contemporary fashion, as it is now known. Suddenly clothes could be mass produced and even the poorest households could afford them. By the 1850’s these machines were being utilised to produce decorative drapes and these were now being used for privacy in the majority of the houses across the country. Many of the curtains of this period are ornate and elaborate; this is in keeping with the clothing of that period.

The World Wars

With two world wars there was a profound shift in the style of drapes being used. Most houses could no longer afford anything elaborate and the main aim was something which would not allow light out or in. If was only after both the wars had finished that curtains, as they are known today, came into existence. They started to match the architectural style of a building and sometimes even matched the interior style! At this point the predominant curtain was a simple, plain piece of material without any elaborate extras.

History of Curtains – 3

From the evidence of excavations at Olynthus, Pompeii, and Herculaneum, portieres appear to have been used as room dividers in classical antiquity. Mosaics of the Early Christian period (c. 2nd–6th century AD) show curtains suspended from rods spanning arches.

In medieval illuminated manuscripts, curtains are shown knotted or looped up at doorways. Until the end of the Middle Ages, window openings were covered with utilitarian wooden shutters or a heavy cloth. Beds were curtained on all sides and covered with a tester, or canopy. By day, when the beds were used as couches and seats, the curtains were neatly looped up in the form of a bag.

Dutch paintings of the 17th century show simple dwellings in which windows are shaded with half- or full-length curtains, and beds are curtained with plain fabrics, some of them undoubtedly homespun and woven, and probably of wool. In Italy beds, which were placed in alcoves, were furnished with curtains of rich velvet and damask.

In France, during the reign of Louis XIV, much of the ritual and pomp of court society centred around the monarch’s state bedchamber, where the bed furniture included layer upon layer of curtains and valances. During the reign of Louis XV, bed and matching window curtains were designed in a wide variety of fanciful Rococo forms, laden with ribbons, cords, braid, tassels, and bows.

In the early 19th century the Directoire style and the Empire style in France and the Regency style in England drew motifs from ancient works, especially Greek and Egyptian. Growing romanticism led to other new fashions inspired by styles as geographically remote as those of India and the Orient or as remote in time as the Gothic. The tops of single windows were ornamented by carved birds or bunches of grapes that held up the drapery. The bay of several full-length windows was spanned by a stiff valance with separate curtains falling to the floor. Plain, light-coloured silks were preferred, since they could be hung to good effect in swags and loops.

The major 20th-century innovation in curtain fabric was the use of synthetics such as fibreglass (for its insulating qualities) and polyester (for its washability). Mechanical systems for drawing and closing curtains simplified their installation and use.

Types of Curtains

The Victorians loved heavy living room curtains often in several layers – great for keeping out those freezing drafts in their chilly houses. There were several other reasons for this affection for ornate, heavy curtains: they valued their privacy more than they valued any views and wished to exclude the outside world from the cosy domestic space. Also curtains protected precious possessions from sunlight damage. Above all curtains allowed them to show off their wealth and taste through the colour, pattern, texture and surface of the curtain fabric and the design and skill which their curtains required.

Sub curtains, often made of Nottingham lace, were good for catching dirt as they were easier to wash and cheaper to replace than the other heavier layers of curtains. Of the three layers, it was usually only the middle curtains that were opened and closed.

Innovations in Curtains

10 Curtain Innovations Designed to Conserve Energy

Here are ten creative curtain innovations designed to conserve energy:

  • Some Shine Curtains Solar Energy System – Soaks in the solar energy during the daytime, stores it and uses it to replenish gadgets at night.
  • The HEX Curtain – Controls the light and heat inside a building with rotating panels that automatically open or close in response to exterior natural light.
  • SunTiles Solar Curtains – Woven solar plate curtains that collect energy and store heat from the sun.
  • Algae Curtain – Living algae is pumped through the textile to soak up daytime sun and photosynthesizes to produce a bio-fuel that can be used locally.
  • Liteon Eco Leaf – Fabric with solar cells that recharge during the day while blocking sunlight and then emit ambient lights at night.
  • Eclipse Energy-Saving Blackout Curtains – Energy-saving, noise-reducing, blackout curtains that come in traditional to modern chic styles.
  • WAVE Curtain – 3D printed passive solar innovative curtains designed to admit low winter sun and restrict the direct summer sun.
  • Onyx Solar Photovoltaic Curtain Wall – Generates clean and free energy while providing natural illumination with solar control by filtering effect.
  • Soft House Solar Curtains – Innovative curtains made of energy harvesting and light emitting textiles that power solid state lighting and portable work tools such as laptops, digital cameras, etc.
  • Thermalogic Window Curtain Liner – Insulated fabric that controls 100% of natural light to repel heat in the summer and reduce winter drafts.

Source credit for the above content – Edison Nation

26 Curtain Innovations – 26 Creative Curtain Innovations

A really good list from here – eco-friendly to optical illusion curtains to personalized shower curtains here. See more from Trend Hunter .

An Innovative Air Curtain with a lot of possibilities

Are you tired of air curtains that are hard to install, difficult to adjust to indoor and outdoor temperatures and that also look dull? With easy installation, stylish design and an intelligent control system, the Frico PA series is the optimal solution.

PA stands for Premium Air curtains. The PA series has been developed to create an optimal air barrier, without compromising comfort, design or energy efficiency. The different sizes cover openings from two to four metres in height. The PA series can be adapted to the situation at the entrance and to customer needs using one of the three control package solutions; Basic, Competent and Advanced. Using different accessories, it is easy to mount PA on the wall, suspended from the ceiling or standing vertically – whatever the conditions at the door opening.

The simple and discrete shape of the PA series makes the air curtain suitable for all types of entrance, regardless of appearance. In order to provide an attractive overall installation, Frico offers a design package that conceals mountings, cables and pipe connections. Customers who require a special colour scheme can easily take off the white front and paint it in any shade.

Innovative technology

The PA series is based on Frico’s Thermozone technology, which means that an optimal air barrier is created using the best relationship between air volume and air speed, with an outlet that is designed so that air leaves the unit in the correct direction with minimal turbulence. The PA series uses this technology to protect the opening, to separate the indoor and outdoor climates efficiently, which results in energy savings and good comfort.

Intelligent control system

The SIRe integrated intelligent control system means that the air curtain can adapt itself to the conditions of the entrance, through a number of functions:

More about this innovative curtain from here – http://www.frico.se/en/our-knowledge/articles/comfort/pa/

Kitchen Towels

So this is an area where we should focus!!!

Pillow Covers

To say life would be hard without pillows would be putting it mildly. Where else would we hide a tooth for the Tooth Fairy? What else would we hit each other with in a harmless fight? Beyond their practical function as a headrest when we sleep and a way to soften hard furniture when we sit, pillows can be a dramatic decorating accent and are among the easiest projects to sew. We have dozens of pillow projects for you to choose from right here at Sew4Home. For this article, we thought we’d pull together everything you need to know before launching into pillow making: a little history, the basic types, and what we recommend stuffing inside. We heartily endorse the huge variety of Fairfield pillow inserts and fillers, and jumped at the chance to have them sponsor this article. We didn’t even have to sleep on it.

 

History

As long as humans have laid down to sleep, we’ve used pillows. Nobody has found a caveman pillow, because soft items don’t last for tens of thousands of years. But we do have pillows that have survived from ancient times, from both China and Egypt.

You can go to a museum and see an unwrapped mummy with his head still resting on his original pillow.

What survives better than soft pillows are the ancient depictions of them. Carvings from Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Americas all show royalty seated on cushions. Below is a re-created Roman sitting room.

Wealthy Greeks slept with their heads and feet resting on ornately embroidered cushions. Ancient Egyptians, who believed the head to be the seat of life, not only spent heavily on lavish pillows for themselves, they also placed them in the tombs of their honored dead. The Chinese thought soft pillows robbed the body of its vitality and therefore made their pillows from wood, leather or even ceramic.

Until the mid-1800s, people slept in a position that was closer to sitting up than lying down. Using a combination of a large bolster pillow and two or three smaller square pillows, the sleeper would prop herself against the bed’s headboard. This was thought to be a healthier position for repose

Today, the pillow continues as the traditional way to transport wedding rings down the aisle, usually in the shaky hands of the bride or groom’s youngest male relative.

Shape and Contents of Pillows

The shape and contents of pillows have varied little over time. The wealthier Greeks rested their heads and feet upon richly embroidered cushions and bolsters. The Egyptians, regarding the head as the seat of life, lavished much attention, detail, and money on pillows for the dead. The Chinese, however, thought that soft pillows robbed the body of vitality, and their pillows were made of wood, leather, and ceramic materials. Some were even filled with herbal remedies to cure disease, turn white hair black, restore lost teeth, and inspire sweet dreams.

For centuries, people slept fairly upright with not only a pair of pillows on the bed but a large, cylindrical bolster as well. These bolsters, sometimes nearly the width of the bed, were stuffed with down or some other type of batting and closed up. They were placed against the headboard and were the foundation for the pillows. Then, a pair of pillows was placed upright against the bolster. The sleeper would prop himself up against these pillows, resulting in a sleeping position that was closer to sitting than reclining. Until about the mid-1800s it was thought this position was better for the body.

Other fancy pillows were found on beds of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Sometimes large, square pillows were placed within a decorative pillow cover and then placed against the pillows actually used for sleeping on a bed. These were often removed from the bed before sleep. Until cotton became easy to obtain around 1840, American women showed their needlework prowess by carefully hand weaving and sewing linen pillow cases and marking them with their initials and the number the case was within a set of pillow cases. As the American textile industry flourished throughout the 1800s, covers for pillows (which housed the stuffing) went from utilitarian linen to the sturdy cotton ticking, still seen on pillows and in fabric stores.

Types of Pillows

With all the different shapes, sizes, fabrics, and embellishments, the varieties of pillows are endless. But you can group them into a few basic types.

  • Toss/Throw Pillow – The name says it all. These are small, decorator pillows you can toss onto a chair, a couch, a bed – anywhere you need a splash of color and design. They can be any shape and really any size, although if you go much larger than 24″ along one side, you are venturing into the realm of the pillow’s slightly bigger cousin, the cushion. The distinguishing trait is how the seam is finished.
  • Knife edge – Your basic pillow. The side seams taper into nice, sharp corners.
  • Box – If your pillow has depth and dimension, you have a box-edge pillow, which doesn’t always have to be “box shaped” as shown above. Usually the edges are defined with contrasting piping to show off the added dimension.
  • Flange – A flange is fabric that extends out from the side seams, usually at least two inches or more. It softens the look of the pillow, and can also be done in a contrasting fabric.
  • Piped – Also known as welting, this is a covered cord that is sewn into the seam as a decorative detail. It’s like an outline for the pillow. Self-piped means the cord is covered in the exact same fabric as the body of the pillow. Contrasting is just that: a different color, pattern or texture to define the edge.
  • Embellished – This covers any heavily decorated pillow. It can include fancy trims around the edges, such as beading and fringes, or dimensional adornments attached to the front of the pillow, like embroidery, beading, tassels, and/or buttons.
  • Cushion – The next step up in size from the pillow is the cushion. Giant floor pillows, chair pads and meditation rounds are all members of the cushion family. They can take any of the shapes described above, but since they are usually meant to be sat upon, be careful about adding too many embellishments to the top of a cushion. Unless you like to see your guests squirm.
  • Bolster or Roll – Cylindrical, which is a fancy word for tube-shaped, the bolster is a classic pillow type. Bolsters are the manicotti pasta of the pillow world. Adding a bolster shape to any grouping of pillows always adds interest. And, it’s fun to decorate the ends with gathers, tassels, buttons and ties. If you can’t find just the right size bolster pillow form, you can make your own by rolling up quilt batting. Roll it snugly and fit it inside your bolster cover, just as you would a pillow form.
  • Bed Pillow – Our favorite kind. The one our head crashes into at the end of a long, home-décor-sewing day. In this case, you’re often better off simply buying the actual pillow insert, but it’s super fun to make your own pillowcases. They make great, personalized gifts!
  • Body Pillow – A bed pillow on steroids is a body pillow. Lots of people love to hug these while they sleep. They can also be lifesavers for pregnant women when positioned under a growing belly to allow a welcome alternative to flat-on-your-back sleeping. Body pillow forms can be purchased, and you can simply make a giant pillowcase as a cover. Or, you can craft your own body pillow using polyester, wool, cotton or down stuffing, depending on your desired firmness.
  • Another very popular “shaped resting pillow” is the Nursing Pillow.
  • Sham – Usually this word stands for an impostor or false promise. But, in the home décor world… a pillow sham is a lovely decorative covering for a pillow, often with a deep flanged edge. Pillow shams are a quick and easy way to change out the look of your pillows and update a room for a new season, a holiday celebration, or just because you feel like it.

What’s Inside the Pillow Cover?

We tell our kids, “It’s what’s on the inside that counts.” It’s true with people and with pillows. What you stuff inside helps them hold their shape and makes them firm or soft in texture.

A hundred years ago, down feathers were the premium filler for pillows. If you couldn’t afford that, you stuffed your pillows with chicken feathers. And if you were really poor, like Laura Ingalls Wilder, you stuffed your pillowcase with straw.

But fifty years ago, pillow makers got an attractive 4th option: a filler that was fluffy, comfortable, and economical. Sam Young introduced a new kind of space age fiber that revolutionized stuffing. It was called Poly-Fil®.

Pillow Background

People usually have two or three pillows on their bed. Today, pillows are stuffed primarily with materials such as polyester (a synthetic), feathers, down, or a combination of the latter two. The least expensive pillows to manufacture are polyester, although they are the most durable, easily washed, and cause few allergic reactions. The most expensive is the pillow filled with goose down. Feathers are a moderately priced stuffing. Some higher-end pillows may be filled with a combination of goose feathers and down, and that ratio may be varied extensively according to price point (the more down, the more expensive). The pillow filling is distinguished by the tag on the pillow casing, which must be there by law in the event that the consumer may be allergic to the contents.

The traditional filler for pillows was, until recently, down and feather. However, as fabrics changed, so too did yarns. Synthetic polyester filling has replaced natural batts as it is has acceptable loft and shape retention, is relatively inexpensive, may be washed, and few people are allergic to it.

Raw Materials

The batting, or filling, itself is the most important part of the pillow. The most expensive filling is down. This is the light, fluffy undercoating of waterfowl, consisting of clusters of filaments growing from a central quill point. Down has a quill point but no quill shaft and is more resilient as a result. It is three-dimensional and therefore has more loft. Thousands of clusters are found in down that trap warm air to prevent heat loss. Duck down is smaller, more plentiful, and less expensive. It is important to note that not all down is the same. Down is rated by fill power, which is the volume of space in a calibrated cylinder that 1 oz (28 g) measures. The higher the number, the better the fill power.

Feathers are the principal covering of birds. They are flat and two-dimensional with a hard, tubular quill shaft that runs from one end to the other. Because they are flat, they are unable to effectively trap air and warmth. Feathers are strong, but not terribly soft. Duck feathers are the most common type of feather used in American pillows. Many manufacturers combine down and feather to make an affordable, comfortable pillow.

Another type of filling is polyester, a synthetic material. The cheapest polyester used for pillows is a continuous solid filament polyester which has good initial shape but loses loft fairly shortly. A better grade of polyester is called hollofill, which is also a continuous filament fiber but has a hollow core that gives the pillow more loft for a greater period of time than cheaper grade polyester.

The pillow filling determines the fabric chosen for the pillow casing. While the casing is generally cotton or cotton-polyester, the weight and closeness of the weave varies according to filling. The feather and down filling require a more expensive, very dense, tightly woven fabric that will keep the feather shafts from poking the sleeper and keep the fine down from working its way through the cloth. Polyester batts do not require such closely woven fabrics. These fabrics may have a starch placed on them during their manufacture to make them stiffer and more resistant to penetration. The only other material required for pillow manufacture is a sturdy thread for sewing the pillow itself.

Pillow Innovations

Pillows have varied little since they were first used. They are now also made with blends of hypo-allergenic fibers so that even people with allergies or extremely sensitive skin are able to enjoy their comfort. In this age of therapeutic remedies, some pillows are reverting back to the Chinese method of including herbs to relieve aliments and give a better nights rest. Orthopedic pillows are also advancing rapidly. They are filled with or surrounded by foam (some even contain gel or water that can be heated or cooled) that is either already formed or forms around the head, to fully support the neck. These pillows help to relieve neck, back, and lumbar pain. Some help to keep the head elevated to relive congested lungs, sinus problems, and puffy eyes. One company even markets a pillow with an undetectable speaker built in that plugs into the headphone outlet in a stereo.

Source Credits – Made How

Cushion Covers

History of Cushion

In American phraseology, the words ‘cushion’ and ‘pillow’ are practically synonymous, but in the remainder of the English speaking world, a pillow is used on a bed for supporting the head and a cushion is used on elsewhere for supporting other parts of the body. A pillow is normally much larger than a cushion these days.

The cushion and pillow were most likely first used by well-off Asian men to lounge on. They would probably be referred to as throw cushions nowadays. However, we are going back so far in history that dyes and fabrics were very expensive, so pillows and cushions were just for the wealthy and the patterns were so intricate that they became pieces of art in themselves.

Needlework became a skilled profession as did weaving. Cushions were substantial sacks or cases filled with feathers, hair, wool, straw or something equivalent. Nowadays they are more likely to be filled with man-made fibres such as polyester. Down is the most expensive filling particularly down from the eider duck.

Due to international trade, the idea of the cushion started moving westward and had arrived in Egypt by the time of the Pharaohs. Cushions have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs. By the Middle Ages, cushions were to be seen in all the royal palaces of Europe. Cushions were still regarded as representing wealth.

The cushions of the royal palaces were large enough to sit in, a bit like modern beanie bags, and even started replacing traditional chairs. In those days, cushions were very substantial sacks manufactured of leather, many of which had needlework designs on them.

Cushions were also used in churches for the wealthy to kneel on when saying their prayers. These special but small cushions were known as carreaux because they were square (from the French).

Nowadays cushions are everyday items because they are much cheaper. Most cushions in the West are 17 inches by 17 inches and the reason for this is the traditional size of a roll or bolt of fabric. A roll of fabric is traditionally 54 inches wide, so it could be cut into three pieces of 18 inches, allowing for seams, this permits the manufacturer to make a 17 inch cushion.

Japanese cushions were much larger and still are, but they have a different role. In the West they are used for support, whereas in the East they are used for sitting on on the floor. In Japanese they are called ‘zabuton’ and measure 20-30 inches square by a few of inches thick, which is less than a quarter of the thickness of traditional Western cushions.

Zen meditators will often sit on another special cushion called a zafu or meditation cushion, which is placed on top of the zabuton. A zafu can be round or square but is small, frequently only 8-10 inches in diameter and 4-8 inches in thickness.

Source Credit – Ezine Articles

Types of Cushion Covers

Cushion Cover Innovations

Napkins

History of Napkins – 1

In ancient Greece, Spartans used lumps of dough to wipe their hands at the dinner table. In Rome, two types of cloth napkins began to surface. The first napkin was called a sudaria, a pocket-sized handkerchief used for blotting the brow.

The first napkin was a lump of dough the Spartans called ‘apomagdalie’, a mixture cut into small pieces and rolled and kneeded at the table, a custom that led to using sliced bread to wipe the hands. In Roman antiquity, napkins known as sudaria and mappae were made in both small and large lengths. The sudarium, Latin for “handkerchief,” was a pocket-size fabric earned to blot the brow during meals taken in the warm Mediterranean climate. The mappa was a larger cloth spread over the edge of the couch as protection from food taken in a reclining position. The fabric was also used to blot the lips. Although each guest supplied his own mappa, on departure mappae were filled with delicacies leftover from the feast, a custom that continues today in restaurant “doggy bags.”

In the early Middle Ages, the napkin disappeared from the table and hands and mouths were wiped on whatever was available, the back of the hand, clothing, or a piece of bread. Later, a few amenities returned and the table was laid with three cloths approximately 4 to 6 feet long by 5 feet wide. The first cloth, called a couch (from French, coucher, meaning “to lie down”) was laid lengthwise before the master’s place. A long towel called a surnappe, meaning “on the cloth,” was laid over the couch; this indicated a place setting for an honored guest. The third cloth was a communal napkin that hung like a swag from the edge of the table. An example can be seen in The Last Supper by Dierik Bouts (1415-1475), which hangs in Saint Peter’s Church, Louvain, Belgium. In the late Middle Ages the communal napkin was reduced to about the size of our average bath towel.

The napkin had gone from a cloth laid on the table to a fabric draped over the left arm of a servant. The maitre d’ hotel, the man in charge of feasts, as a symbol of office and rank, draped a napkin from his left shoulder, and servants of lower rank folded napkins lengthwise over their left arms, a custom that continued into the eighteenth century. Today in the United States, the napkin is placed on the left of the cover. But in Europe, the napkin is often laid to the right of the spoon.

The napkin was a part of the ritual at medieval banquets. The ewerer, the person in charge of ablutions, carried a towel that the lord and his honored guests used to wipe their hands on. The Bayeux tapestry depicts a ewerer kneeling before the high table with a finger bowl and napkin. The panter carried a portpayne, a napkin folded decoratively to carry the bread and knife used by the lord of the manor, a custom that distinguished his space from those of exalted guests. The folded napkin was placed on the left side of the place setting; the open end faced the lord. The spoon was wrapped in another napkin, and a third napkin was laid over the first and second napkins. To demonstrate that the water for ablutions was not poisoned, the marshal or the cup bearer kissed the towel on which the lord wiped his hands and draped the towel over the lord’s left shoulder for use.

By the seventeenth century, the standard napkin was approximately 35 inches wide by 45 inches long, a capacious size that accommodated people who ate with their fingers. Essentially, napkins were approximately one-third the breadth of the tablecloth.

The acceptance of the fork in the eighteenth century by all classes of society brought neatness to dining and reduced the size of the napkin to approximately 30 inches by 36 inches. Today, the napkin is made in a variety of sizes to meet every entertainment need: large for multicourse meals, medium for simple menus, small for afternoon tea and cocktails.

Around 1740, the tablecloth was made with matching napkins. According to Savary des Bruslons, “Twelve napkins, a large tablecloth and a small one, comprise what is called these days a ‘table service.'”

Source Credit: Food Reference

History and Protocols of Napkins – 2

For over six hundred years, the European culture of using table napkins has, in fact, been an evolutionary process. What is now a custom, taken for granted, is actually a tradition rich in ceremony, etiquette and history.

The first documentation for cleaning ones soiled fingers is attributed to the Spartans, in ancient Greece, who used apomagdlies – small pieces of dough rolled and kneaded between the hands.

Altar tablecloths and large towel rolls hung on a wall for communal use were the predecessors to the napkin. Ancestor to the first cloth napkins, as credited to the Romans, was the Sudarium. A small cloth, similar to a handkerchief, used to wipe ones brow. Mappas, made of fine silks and linens with embroideries of gold and weaves of color, were brought by each guest to the hosts table, for which leftovers were placed in for the journey home.

As flags begin races today, the Romans tossed a mappa into an arena as a signal for the games to begin.

Touailles, towel size communal cloths, folded lengthwise, date to the Middle Ages to indicate a servant’s rank at Court. Draped over the left shoulder indicated a high rank, as today’s Maitre’D, verses over the left arm for a lower rank, as today’s waiter. A Surnappe or long towel was at the guest of honors place, while an ewerer carried a communal napkin the size of a bath towel for the other guests.

Charles VII, 1422 Coronation in Reims, France records the gift and use of napkins. Reims, renowned for its fabrics, wove the linens to tell a story. A sign of wealth and position, from the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century, flax was the most used fiber.

The Italians preferred finer cloths and developed Damask. During the Renaissance, Damask told stories of Court society. “To spin a tale” derives from storied Damask. It was the Italians who introduced the fork to England thus precipitating their use of napkins as well.

The English diaper of cotton or linen fabric woven with small, repetitious, diamond shape patterns varied in size according to the events for which they were used.

A folded, decorative napkin called a portpayne held the bread and knife used by the lord of the Manor. It was always folded to the left of the plate with the open end facing the lord, an example for today’s etiquette.

Linen was considered more valuable than furniture to the settlers of the early American Colonies. Records indicate that John Payne, in 1677, owned one dozen napkins and in 1698, George Washington’s great grandfather inventoried 10 old Virginia cloth napkins. George Washington was accustomed to dining in the English traditions, including his love for teatime.

It is noted that for a brief time, in the late 1770s, napkins disappeared allowing diners to use the edge of the tablecloth to wipe their mouths. This, however, did not last with fashionable hostesses and the napkin fast reappeared. After all, the term civility was introduced, in 1530 Amsterdam, in Erasmus book De Civilitale Morum Puerilium and it stated that napkins were not for wiping ones teeth or nose but to press against the lips with the tips of ones fingers.

It is interesting to note that as the rules of etiquette became more structured, napkins became smaller.

The multiple explanations of linen fabrications, embellishments, stitching, sizes and etiquette are a book onto itself.

Pre Revolution French linens were always white Damask, matching the napkins to the cloth. The ritual of white for table wares stems from the sacred meal only, followed by the monastic meal and then the secular. On formal occasions at Court, gold embroidery added embellishment to the linens. To this day, the custom of gold embroidery on white matching cloths holds true at dinners of State at the White House and official receptions worldwide.

Throughout history, the colors of threads and embellishments to linens reflected the time and position of those who commissioned them. To use gold, red or yellow indicated the head of a Royal house.

In turn, silk thread monograms were used only by Royalty and nobility. Only the King’s monogram could be embroidered, all others were stamped. By the nineteenth century, to imitate the aristocracy embroidered monograms came into fashion for all who could afford them.

Monograms were placed on linens, silver and crystal in lieu of a coat of arms. It is customary for a monogram to appear on a folded napkin in one of three places: The center of a square, the bottom tip of a triangle or the lower right corner of a rectangle or square.

Napkin rings were used to identify an individual’s napkin. After each meal the same fabric napkin would be replaced in the ring until used again. Today, napkin rings are a decorative accessory.

Types of Napkins and Napkin Folds

Napkins are never scented. A truly formal table has only one correct placement for a napkin, to the left side of the place setting. The napkin should be folded with the closed edge to the left and the open edge to the right. There are no exceptions. This rule applies for rectangular, triangular, and square shape folds. Note: while once customary at less formal affairs to allow a fancy folded napkin to be placed in the center of the place setting, as protocols have evolved it is now acceptable to place a napkin in the center of a place setting at formal affairs

Contrary to recent “experts” advise, there is never a proper moment for one to place their napkin on a chair. The proper protocol when excusing oneself from the table, whether during or after a dining experience, is to gently place the napkin to the left side of your place setting. This rule is not negotiable for the simple reason if one’s napkin were soiled it could damage ones clothing or the seat covering, damage that may be either costly to repair or irreplaceable. While the risk for soiling a cloth also exists, the cloth can be laundered with relative ease.

Upon completion of a dining experience, a napkin folded with a crease and placed to the left side of your place setting indicates to your host or hostess that you wish to be invited back.

A Brief History of Napkin Folding

There is no doubt that the development of napkin folding has been greatly influenced by Origami, the ancient Japanese art of paper folding. I would go as far as saying that it is an extension of this noble art, after all it does give the same pleasure and satisfaction to the creator.

Napkin Rings

We must not overlook the Napkin Ring although it has no bearing to the Art of Napkin Folding but it has played a considerable part in table enhancement.

The usage of a napkin ring or a serviette holder started in Europe during the Napoleonic period. Mostly used by bourgeoisie’s family as a mean to identify who each napkin belonged to. The practical use of the napkin ring soon spread throughout the western world and it is still widely used today and well integrated as part of the table setting — a good alternative to napkin folding.

There is nothing retro about Napkin Folding, like Origami it is a creative art form.

Napkins today are mundane and practical, made from paper or cheap factory cloth and folded, if at all, hastily into a rectangle. In the past, napkins weren’t just for wiping hands or protecting clothing — they were works of art.

Charlotte Birnbaum, who along with folding artist Joan Sallas co-created a history of napkin art in the book The Beauty of the Fold, says the change from “folded cloth to folded art” occurred in 16th century Florence, Italy. It had become fashionable for the wealthy to wear voluminous clothing and ballooned sleeves.

That bigger and more extravagant thinking soon spread to table linens, too. Napkins became bigger and bigger and, instead of putting a big pile of cloth like a bed sheet on the plate in front of guests, Birnbaum says, “they started to fold it.”

Starched linens were pleated into large table centerpieces known as “triumphs.” They depicted real or mythical animals, natural elements such as trees and architectural shapes that resembled castles or fountains. In addition to being a display of wealth, there was meaning hidden inside the folds.

Soon these detailed napkin sculptures spread throughout European courts, explains Birnbaum. They became status symbols, and the depth of their artistry became an ongoing competition among hosts. Butlers were sent to Rome and Florence to learn the latest techniques.

The era of the grand folded napkin came to an end during the 18th century. “The folded napkins started as an aristocratic phenomenon and finished with the guillotining of aristocrats during the French Revolution,” Sallas explains. However, a more modest variation survives in the form of individual napkins.

Source Credit: NPR

The History and Techniques of Napkin Folding

It is quite astonishing to read about the golden age of European napkin folding, when “Nuremberg was the home of an entire school devoted to the art,” butlers had shelves of “how-to” manuals to stay up-to-date with the rapid pace of fold innovation, and Samuel Pepys paid an expert 40 shillings to teach his wife the craft.

The napkins, frequently perfumed with rose water, were not only used to protect clothing and to wipe one’s mouth: the eye-catching folded fabric was often designed to accommodate other decorative and utilitarian elements of the table, like place cards, menus, and toothpicks. Or to present eggs, sweets, or bread rolls in an elegant and playful manner. Sometimes beautiful songbirds were hidden in the napkins to charm the guests as they, twittering and fluttering their little wings, made their delightful escape.

At grand banquets such as coronation celebrations, the importance was not so much on taste and appetite as on ingenuity and display; the meal was not intended to feed so much as delight the senses and impress the guest with the host’s wealth and status.

Sallas, a Catalan artist who came to Germany to work as a cartoonist, fell into napkin-folding after a contract to illustrate three yoyo-trick books gave him the idea to pitch one on how to fold. Despite the fact that the resulting book was a commercial disaster, he tells Birnbaum that he “had so much fun that I decided to change my profession, and, since 2000, I’ve been a professional folding artist.”

Sallas trained himself by re-reading obscure treatises and reverse-engineering the napkin sculptures he found in historical banquet descriptions, and dreams of opening a folding museum “somewhere in Europe.”

However, his folding is not simply a revival of lost traditions: Sallas tells Birnbaum that the art of the fold is currently “undergoing huge developments,” as an understanding of the possibilities of the form can be used to “build an airbag or satellites, research DNA, discover new medications, question Euclidean mathematics, reproduce philosophical thought.” His own ambitions include developing “the erotic and even pornographic side of the art of folding,” complete with a “dance of the seven folded napkins.”

In a era when folding software allows almost anyone to prototype new designs almost instantaneously (leading to what origami enthusiasts called the Bug Wars of the 1990s, when folders competed to create paper models of ever more complex species), this slim and beautifully designed book is a wonderful reminder of a lost European tradition of napkin folding, and its origins in gastronomy.

Source Credit: Edible Geography

Popular Napkin Folds

We agree that in today’s event world, it is evident that the clean lined, modern style is the current trend as mentioned above. Here by the beautiful ocean in Florida, we’re mostly seeing two styles of napkin folds. One is the pocket fold, and you can see below a photo by Cat Pennenga of this popular fold being used at the Manatee Garden Club this past Saturday night.  The clever bride tucked her gorgeous wedding menu into the pocket for an extra special touch.

The other style is the folding of a napkin similar to how you would a dish towel and draping it over the side of the table to the seat of the chair and securing it with a bread and butter plate or charger. We actually don’t even know if there is a name for this style of napkin fold.  Please enlighten us if you happen to have heard of its name!  It’s also a handy style when you’re outside and don’t want the wind to blow your napkins off the table and onto the ground.  See below a photo of this napkin look at Selby Botanical Gardens.

Some of the most popular napkin folds in the US include the following, and there are lots of examples of these folds you can find such as in event planning books, wedding magazines and on the internet:

  • Bishop’s Hat
  • Candle
  • Diagonal pocket
  • Dress Shirt
  • Envelope
  • Fan
  • Fleur-de-lis
  • Iris
  • Lotus
  • Rose

As you can see, napkin folds are all so stunning that we can’t decide which napkin fold is our very favorite design. We find that sometimes the event theme can easily dictate the perfect fold, and often your own personal style is the best way to guide your tabletop plan.  You might even find that a napkin ring is the perfect accessory to the napkin. Often at weddings, we even see ribbons tied around napkins for a soft, romantic feel. See a photo below of a funky table setting with delightfully mismatched napkins rings around classic hemstich napkins.

Enjoy all of your event planning ahead of you and start thinking more about one of the smallest details that many in the hospitality industry say has one of the biggest impacts at every function – Napkins Folds! We Love Napkins Folds!

Looking for Innovative and Creative Home Textiles ? Send us a note to hello@hosho.in We look forward to working with you.

Source Credit: Linens by the Sea

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