We must have lived in a golden bubble during our time in France. I found the most amazing bargains on items that are soon to find a home in our ‘new’ 1950 house in Australia.
I had learned about metis by doing a bit of research after seeing vintage bed linens on sale for stunningly low prices in some rural communities in France. And when you use the phrase bed linen, that refers to the time when sheets and pillow cases were actually made of long wearing linen. In many cases the linen sheets in a household were passed down from one generation to another because the fabric was so dense and sturdy that it practically never wore out. It might have had a mend or two after 30-50 years, but it was still intact. And nowadays, interior designers just love to re-purpose metis and vintage linen into drapes or upholstery because the pieces are always huge size-wise compared to today’s bedding.
Linen is warm in the winter and cool in the summer because it’s a natural fibre and it breathes just as pure cotton does. Metis is a 35% cotton and 65% linen blend and is equally valued by people who appreciate fine bed linens. Just try checking the prices nowadays on Ebay for vintage metis or linen sheets from France!
On several occasions, I found packages of linen or metis sheets that were listed in estate sales and they were — wait for it — pre-World War II pieces that still had the original ribbons around them. The pieces of fabric were simply huge and all they needed was a long (long!) soak in several consecutive containers of gently soapy water to remove the yellowing of age and bring them back to a pale cream hue.
The seller of one batch, the owner of an estate sale company, said she had opened up a massive linen press in a large country house and found stacks and stacks of never used bed linens that had been purchased and stockpiled before the war began. What a treasure horde that was!
Just before we departed from our lovely hometown of St. Girons, we visited a depot vente (a vast second hand goods dealer in a former mill) and trolled through table after table of bedding sheets that were crisp white 100% linen. Mark and I filled our arms with the best of them and I purchased them for a fragment of what they sell for in boutiques or online.
More than 2 large boxes of these vintage linens came back with us from France to grace our new home and remind us of a place that seared its beauty into our hearts. I’ll make sure to take pictures once they are unpacked and in place on one of the beds.
©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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