The voice of Kiri te Kanawa soars through our home. A favorite and much loved CD … Chants d’Auvergne (songs of the Auvergne). I’m ironing napkins, gorgeous banquet sized antique linen damask napkins. The final memory filled task of Saturday’s dinner party, a memorable evening with friends and family.
No ordinary napkins these, but heavy, large 24″ by 24″ drifts of shimmering white. I treasure hunt for vintage linen. Finding them in thrift shops and garage sales. Buying single orphans. Incomplete sets. Monogrammed napkin embroidered with the initials of others.
At the end of the evening the napkins soak in cold water over night. If there is a recalcitrant stain I add a little powdered bleach. I wash them in more cool water, gentle cycle, mild soap. I hang them to dry.
I spray them with L’Occitane’s lavender-scented Linen Water. It’s lovely to see the beautiful damask patterns come to life under the heat of the iron. I fold the napkin in half and press a sharp crease, then fold and iron again. My Mother, who was a beautiful ironer would not approve of this. It wears the linen away. But, I like the sharp, crisp crease. I do the same with my linen tablecloths (it’s the French style).
The napkins, still damp and immaculately ironed, air dry on the laundry rack. I tie each set with with coloured ribbons and carefully tuck them away to wait patiently for the next dinner party.
This simple act of calmly and quietly ironing, and storing them in an orderly fashion is the zen and art of ironing linen napkins.