For the longest time, I collected table linens, even though I didn't really even have a dining room. Growing up, we always ate in the dining room, had the table set with silver and linens and were expected to participate in the conversation. I think that my love of linens stems from using them all of the time. My mother had linens that came from her mother and had been embroidered with monograms. She had wonderful white damask and old lace tablecloths that she brought out to use at dinner parties.
In my travels around flea markets, thrift shops and antique stores, I would be able to pick up linen (and I mean real linen, not some ghastly poly-blend thing) for less than a dollar each. These were the wonderful soft well-used linens, cherished by other generations. Because most were only used for special occasions, they were in good condition, and if there was a spot, I usually bought enough, or had enough that looked similar, that I could use them for dinners.
Pathetically enough, one of the things I liked doing most was ironing the linens. What would start as mass of wrinkles and lumps, would eventually smooth out into a beautiful piece. I loved finding the patterns in the damask which revealed themselves upon ironing. I sold all of my linens or gave them to my sister when I moved to the UK, but I have started buying them, just a few at a time.
My best buy was something that I originally thought was a natural linen tablecloth, with some embroidery and cutwork. I paid the $3.00 that the person asked and when I unfolded it, I found that it was actually a linen sheet! It's just gorgeous! If you look, you can find brand new linens in thrift stores or on Ebay. They will be your children's heirlooms!