Sharing passion and love
for linen fabric


Cleaning linen the old-fashioned way: Urine, sour milk and elbow grease!

If you thought doing laundry was a chore, we’ve got some fascinating historical facts about how people cared for linen before modern washing machines and Persil made an appearance. met with textile historian and museums officer Emma O’Connor, of Sussex Past, a charity which runs several historic sites in Sussex, England, and learned some pretty eye-opening things about caring for linens the old-school way. Here’s what she told us:

west tower with washing

LB: Thanks so much for agreeing to talk to us about how linen was used in the past. Could you tell us a bit about the different uses and how people cared for their linens?

EO’C: Well, you may know the word ‘line’ comes from the Latin for linen, ‘linum’, due to the threads in the fabric. Our word ‘lining’ also has a historical root in the linens that were worn as undergarments to protect outer layers. In the past, going back to the 16th and 17th Centuries, most working class people wore coarse woollen clothing which would never be washed. Instead they would wear linen underwear because the fabric was washable, durable and more comfortable than the itchy wool they wore on top. This would have been perfunctorily washed.

LB: And what about the wealthier sections of society? Was linen used much by them?

EO’C: The nobility and aristocracy did use linens in their big houses, as well as for cuffs and sleeves which could be detached and washed. The grand, stiff silk dresses would not be washed so using interchangeable linen ruffs and collars meant the worst of the dirt around the places with most wear could be removed. Household linens like tablecloths and bedlinen would only be washed once or twice a year, during the ‘Great Wash’. You would need a huge amount of room to store all the linens until then, as well as many staff to launder the linens, so this was really a big deal. It required money!

LB: How long would a Great Wash take?

EO’C: At least a week. It’s a very lengthy process. There comes a point when it stops being about having clean clothes – the whole process becomes a way of demonstrating wealth and status. The lower classes just didn’t have the time or the fuel to heat large coppers. To wash the household linens they were first soaked in urine (men’s preferably! [there ensued a rather off-topic discussion of the reasons for this, which we don’t need to go into here…]) for a few days, then spots or stains were scrubbed in more urine. The ammonia in the urine acted as a cleaning agent, and it was known as ‘night water’. People would go round collecting it!

LB: And then what?

EO’C: Next the linens were put into a ‘bucking tub’, where they were pounded in lukewarm water. A piece of linen or muslin was stretched over the top of the tub and onto that was put homemade lye (made from fat and ash, and sour milk was added for a brighter colour). Water was poured through this lye over and over again – 8 to 12 times. You can find recipes for lye in books offering women advice on how to keep a good home dating back to the late 16th Century. The linen was then agitated with a washing dolly (a kind of four-legged pogo stick) or board, and then rinsed several times. Finally, it would have been laid outside to dry. Sunlight helped with bleaching them as white as possible. The whiter your linen, the grander you would appear. After several days drying the linens would be ironed, using flat irons heated over a fire and that would need scoring and greasing. Starch was made from potatoes or candle grease.

bleaching ground tenier detail

LB: You can see why so many people were involved! What a huge task. And I thought my piles of daily washing were tedious!

EO’C: Things changed during the 18th Century, when people moved into the towns. There were communal laundries and drying fields, which took some of the work out of it. There was also a growing social pressure on the working classes to be sent o be washing their clothes. We’ve got a photograph of a very poor family of charcoal cutters living in a shack with nothing, and in the photo you can see a pristine white piece of clothing or linen drying on a line.

LB: More work for the women then.

EO’C: They were very clever with their linens too. From the late 18th Century, in line with mass production, you see more heirloom linens being passed on through families. You can see in wills that linens were bequeathed, and by the late 18th early 19th Century working class homes would often have ‘best’ linens that would be used on ‘high days and holidays’. Any linens that began to wear out were cut and re-sewn: sheets were turned ‘top-to-toe’ and stitched down the middle, other linens were cut into rags or retrimmed for different uses. The durability is what makes linen such a popular choice, as well as environmentally friendly.

LB: Where would most of these linens that were being used in Britain come from?

EO’C: Ireland and Europe mostly. Places where the climate was right. Dutch linens were popular as they were seen as very fine and very white – possibly due to the geography of the region providing large, flat drying fields. In the late 18th Century we see the birth of mail order, meaning women could get hold of linens that matched their budgets. - jacob van ruisdael

LB: Thanks so much Emma, this has been so fascinating.


In fact, it was so interesting that Emma has agreed to get together another time and make a video showing how these old linen cleaning techniques worked, including making our own lye (though we may draw the line at using urine!). We thought we could wash one linen tea towel the modern way, and one the old-fashioned way, and then compare the results. We will keep you posted with news of our cinematic début!

For more on how to clean your linen, go here or here.

(Images above: Lewes castle in Sussex with linens drying amongst ruins, courtesy of Sussex Past; detail of bleaching grounds from painting via; and painting of Dutch linens drying by Jacob van Ruisdael via




7 Ways to Look After Yourself Over the Holiday Season

This time of year is hectic. All that time spent running around getting things for other people, finding costumes for Nativity plays, baking things, throwing parties and trying to keep the peace within our families. And whilst it is the season for goodwill towards others, it is so important to look after yourself as well. If you are feeling overwhelmed or daunted by all that Christmas and New Year brings, here are 7 ways to make sure you have the energy to keep going, and to stay happy.

1. Cut yourself some slack: Take up a mantra of ‘Good enough’. No-one will mind if the mince pies you bring for the kids’ school party are shop-bought. An old large t-shirt with a dressing gown cord as a belt and a tea-towel headdress is a perfectly acceptable costume for a tiny shepherd. If you don’t have time to write and send cards, just send an email instead – people will love hearing from you, and it’s one less card for them to have to reply to. If money is tight this Christmas, make some homemade presents for friends and family, like this amazing peppermint bark – put it in a jam jar with ribbon and a nice label, and watch your loved ones devour it in seconds. And stash a jar away for yourself for emergencies.

2. Keep things simple: You don’t need elaborate Christmas decorations for the house or your table. Greenery strewn across the mantlepiece and tucked behind pictures looks festive and cheery, and you can forage it for free in nearby hedgerows and parks. Stick to a simple colour scheme for the table, using a plain white linen tablecloth as a backdrop and accessorising with brighter napkins. Use pine cones sprayed with gold paint as place markers, lay ivy and yew tree clippings along the centre of your table and dot with candles in jars. Use Instagram for inspiration, but don’t start comparing yourself to others or worrying that your house looks inferior. Remember, we all edit what we want people to see. Don’t get sucked in. A simple table laid with beautiful linens and some natural trimmings will be just fine. Look at this gorgeously simple table created by Hannah Bullivant of Seeds and Stitches.layingasimplefestivetableseedsandstitchesblog

3. Take time out when you can: If you have a houseful of people over the holidays it can be hard to get a moment’s peace. Find reasons to go out for a walk by yourself, take a long bath while everyone watches a Christmas film, sneak back to your bedroom for ten minutes with a cup of coffee and the newspaper, get up half an hour earlier than the others and get a head start with food preparations without being interrupted.

4. Ask for help: It’s not always easy to ask for help, but people are usually only too glad to assist. If you are hosting a dinner party, ask guests to bring a salad or desert. If you have houseguests delegate some of the cooking to them – who could balk at some gentle peeling whilst listening to the radio or chatting with you in the kitchen? Think of jobs that need doing and allocate them to someone in your household ahead of time, like chopping logs, walking the dog, unpacking the groceries or turning on the oven.

5. Be prepared: It takes a huge amount of brain space to just fulfil the basics of the holiday season, but a bit of forward thinking can ease the load a bit. Stock up on essential groceries so you don’t have any last minute dashes to a petrol station for a tin of baked beans on Boxing Day. Make sure you have plenty of toiletries for guests and your family. Wash towels in advance, or invest in a spare set if you have people staying and want them to feel pampered. Make sure you have plenty of baking soda, table salt, oxygen bleach and laundry detergent so you can deal with any gravy stains or wine spills and rescue your lovely linens before the stains set (find advice on removing stains from linens here).

6.Tidy up in advance: You don’t want to be worrying about having a messy house before the chaos of presents and wrapping paper even begins. Get your kids or family members involved and have a quick spruce up, so if people drop in unannounced you don’t have to sneak off and clean the toilet or wipe grubby finger marks off your mirror. If you go into the holidays with a clean house you will only need to do a little light tidying and clearing to keep things manageable until it’s all over. Invest in some more storage solutions if it helps you stay sane (like this genius bag-cum-play mat). Give away unwanted clothes, toys and books to charity or goodwill shops before the deluge of new things arrive.

7. Breathe: It can be hard to deal with cantankerous relatives or crotchety children at Christmas. To keep yourself from snapping, or if you are feeling stressed and need a quick fix, try this breathing technique: breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts and breathe out for four counts. Repeat until you feel calmer and more able to cope with the situation in hand. If necessary, step outside and take deep inhalations of fresh air.


Hopefully, these tips will help you have a peaceful, enjoyable and stress-free holiday season. If you need any last-minute gift ideas, go here, here and here.

We wish all our readers a wonderful holiday, and a happy New Year. Check in soon for some exciting new posts and collaborations.



Disclosure: We sometimes work with affiliate partners to bring you beautiful products we think you will love as much as we do. We will only work with brands that share our ethos and fit with our aesthetic. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Linenbeauty.


Christmas Gifts for Stylish Kids’ Rooms

Christmas needn’t be a time when your home gets flooded with plastic clutter. Instead, pick gifts that will bring fun, style and beauty to your children’s rooms. We’ve shopped around and come up with an edit of chic gifts that will enhance your child’s bedroom, and that will last. From night lights to wall decals, be imaginative and playful. Just like your kids.


1 Wool throw from LinenMe £49.99, perfect for snuggling up for bedtime stories or hanging out on the sofa;  2 Spruce tree book case $179.99, combines playfulness and functionality for book storage and display;  3 World map wall decal  $99.99, interactive learning that brightens up the walls;  4 Wooden rocket lantern $70, a charming night light that gives a soft glow and looks fab;  5 Teepee $159, for hours of play and great style;  6 Deer graphic framed print $58.99, will look good in kids’ rooms of all ages;  7 Waffle linen towel £24.99, perfect for travel, swimming lessons and taking to the gym, this towel is super absorbent but won’t take up much space


There you go, Christmas gifts for the kids all wrapped up! If you need some ideas for more gifts, go here and here. And if you’re quick you can still take advantage of lots of fab Cyber Monday deals. Use this code for The White Company reductions and this one for Anthropologie for extra-bargainous interior gift shopping.



Disclosure: We sometimes work with affiliate partners to bring you beautiful products we think you will love as much as we do. We will only work with brands that share our ethos and fit with our aesthetic. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Linenbeauty.


More Christmas Gifts Ideas: For her

If you checked out our previous post you’ll know that we are compiling three handy gift guides to help steer you though the madness of Christmas shopping. With Black Friday and Cyber Monday approaching we’ve hunted down some fabulous gifts that will add beauty to your home, and those of your loved ones.

Today our edit focuses on Christmas gifts for the woman in your life. Plus, we’ve got some super-duper discount codes for you to cut the cost of your shopping, as well finding some cracking gifts. I know, we’re nice like that.


Cashmere throw £159.99 (reduced) in silver, for cosy evenings on the sofa; Scented candle in Winter by The White Company £12.50 (discount code here), because we all love some soft lighting and lovely aromas to get us through the darkness of winter; Flamingoes and flowers lampshade $62.51, to bring some brightness and fun to any room; Hexagon mouse mat $18 because it’s yellow and hexagonal, what’s not to love?; Linen waffle bath towels £79.99 for 4, to style-up her bathroom and bring to the gym; Moroccan rose bath oil by REN $48, for luxuriating in a warm bath enveloped in the delicious scent of this beautiful oil; Framed print watercolour burst $149 by West Elm (discount code here), for a really special gift; Monogrammed recipe stand $65, a kitchen essential with a personal touch


Hope that’s given you some inspiration! Don’t forget to come back on Monday for some Christmas gift ideas for the kids that won’t fill your house with plastic clutter. And if you are thinking of decorating your nursery or young child’s room, have a look here for some design ideas.


Disclosure: We sometimes work with affiliate partners to bring you beautiful products we think you will love as much as we do. We will only work with brands that share our ethos and fit with our aesthetic. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Linenbeauty.



Christmas Shopping Made Simple: Gifts for a beautiful home

If the thought of Christmas shopping fills you with horror, we’ve got good news. We have curated a careful selection of gifts that will add beauty (rather than clutter) to your loved ones’ homes. Over three separate posts we will give you ideas for Christmas gifts for him, her and the kids. And the best bit? These products will all have big discounts on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, so you can save precious pennies as well as buying fabulous presents. We will put up promotional codes just before the sales goes live. Who said Christmas shopping was stressful? You can have it all done and dusted by Monday.

Aaaaand breathe.

In the first of our three Christmas gifts posts, here’s a selection of fine presents for the man in your life.


Stylish turntable $79.99; lusciously soft stonewashed linen duvet set £119.99; cool domino set $34.99; handy reading light for owlish book lovers $35.61; sleek geometric copper wire basket for the woodchopper in your life $58.99; luxe pure badger shaving brush and stand $221.90;  slick ceramic storage jars with spoon, perfect for a foodie $34.99; manly yet simple apron (no comedy graphics in sight) £29.99; super-cool cork wine bottle holder £68.28; this is a really special guest book in pure leather, with a bespoke embossed monogram to record all his visitors £65.73

Don’t forget to check in again on Thursday for more Christmas gift ideas – this time it’s treats for the women you love!

If you need some ideas for styling your festive table, check out this post, and click here for tips on keeping your table linens in great condition.


Disclosure: We sometimes work with affiliate partners to bring you beautiful products we think you will love as much as we do. We will only work with brands that share our ethos and fit with our aesthetic. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Linenbeauty.


Inspiration and Advice on Decorating a Nursery

Decorating the nursery is one of the loveliest tasks when preparing for the birth of a child, but it can also feel overwhelming. Do we go for pink or blue? What furniture will we need? How do we make it cosy without being cluttered? We’ll help you address all these questions, as well as give you some useful tips on creating the perfect space for your baby to grow into.

Here’s what you need to consider when decorating a nursery:


You want to create a calm, yet playful space. Stick to a tranquil base palette and add splashes of colour with accessories and wall art. Avoid cluttering up the room with unnecessary furniture. When your baby is tiny you will need a crib or cot, a place to change diapers and store clothes, plus a comfy chair or sofa for nursing or soothing during the night. That’s it. If you’ve got the space, this neat little sofa is a beauty. Work the design of the room around the cot or bed, or sofa if you have one, as this will be the main focal point. When your child gets older you can add a small desk, but try to keep the space as clear as possible. Even when there are toys strewn around, a clutter-free room will still look stylish and help you feel on top of things. If your space is small, keep things simple and use prints and pops of colour rather than cramming the room with stuff. This is a great example of a vibrant, small nursery space that looks fab.smallspace-desiretoinspire

Space to grow into

Those newborn weeks will pass in a flurry, so plan ahead when designing your nursery. Make sure the room is flexible enough to meet the needs of your child as they grow. This means avoiding too much gender-specific colour or babyish furnishings – instead, opt for animal pictures and wall decals that can be easily switched up when your child gets older. These birdhouse decals are adorable and great if you are renting your home or want something that can be easily changed.

Colour and pattern

If you don’t know the gender of your baby, or are keen to avoid baby pinks and powder blues, keep wall colours neutral and add interest with pattern and colour in other parts of the room. Dots, stripes, monochrome, lettering and stars are all perfect ways to bring life to a nursery without dominating the room. We love these triangle decals for a bit of monochrome fun. Don’t be afraid of the dark: charcoal colours are huge this season, and a deep blue looks amazing with a lighter wall as contrast. This image shows how a darker colour can work beautifully and create great contrast. Other big current colour trends are blush tones, copper and greys.


Eco-friendly and non-toxic

It’s important that your nursery not only looks amazing but that it helps your child stay healthy too. Choose low volatile organic compound paints, or environmentally-friendly ones, to reduce paint fumes. These products come in gorgeous colours so you don’t have to compromise on style and finish. Try Farrow and Ball or Annie Sloan for sumptuous, non-toxic paints in fabulous colours. The same applies to toys and furnishings – choose wooden toys where possible, and use natural fabrics like linens, sheepskins and wool throws to add softness and texture. This pic shows how you can use rugs to add warmth to a room.



Feed the imagination

When your baby is very young a simple mobile hung above the cot will bring great pleasure. You can make your own using feathers, shells and cut up pieces of coloured paper, or buy one like this lovely wool/felt mobile (a perfect gift, no?). As they get older kids love imaginative play so keep things fun with a den or tepee, some simple dress-up clothes in a box, a pile of wooden bricks and some cooking pots and play food. These can be stored in baskets on shelves or under the bed, and if kept separately make tidying up not just easy but a chore your child can get involved with.etsy-woolfelt

Any other ideas to share about great ways to decorate beautiful, practical and inspiring nurseries? Leave us a comment below.

For more ideas on home decoration hit here and here.

(Images via:,, and

Disclosure: We sometimes work with affiliate partners to bring you beautiful products we think you will love as much as we do. We will only work with brands that share our ethos and fit with our aesthetic. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Linenbeauty.



The Words You Need to Know When Choosing Linen

Browsing for linen and baffled by words like ‘huckaback’ and ‘thread count’? Don’t know your stonewash from your garment wash? Never fear, Linenbeauty is here to set you straight and guide you through the sometimes complicated business of buying linen products. Here are some of the key terms you might come across, and what you need to know to make the right choice.

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What the Hygge?: How to make cozy like the Danes

With six new books out this winter covering the topic of ‘hygge’, it’s no wonder everyone is talking about it. But do we really know what this Danish word means, and how do we do it? Here’s where we come in. We thought we’d give you a quick explanation of hygge, and some simple ideas for how to bring it into your home, whether you live in Scandinavia or Seattle.

The word ‘hygge’ doesn’t have a literal translation, which is why it has proven tricky to explain to non-Scandi folk. It’s best characterised by feelings and mood rather than a direct object: think coziness, warmth, contentment and you’ll be pretty close. Hygge is something that we can all attain, regardless of wealth or background. It embraces the simple, gentle things in life and encourages us to notice with full intent the things we are surrounded with. It is about finding pleasure in the presence of soothing things, about connection with others, belonging and ritual.

The reason the Danes are so good at hygge is because they have looooong dark winters to endure, and this is a way of bringing light and comfort into the harshest of months. It has been associated with winter for this reason, but you can ‘hygger’ at any time of day or year. It’s a life-enhancing, happiness-spreading thing, which is why we wanted to give you some hygge-bringing hints. Because we all need a little contentment and gentleness as the holidays approach, right?

Make fire

Our elemental connection with fire goes back thousands of years, and it still plays a vital part in creating heat and light. An open fire or wood burner creates an immediate focal point for a room and radiates warmth and comforting crackles. This is an essential aspect of hygge, and if you can’t make a fire at home try to have one outdoors. Bring blankets and marshmallows to toast.

wood burner fire

Layer up

The hygge look is all about layers of natural fabrics. Create a contrast in textures with a linen cushion against a snuggly cashmere throw, wear chunky woollen bed socks and a flannel gown, dress your bed in soft linen sheets and drape with a thick blanket, put a sheepskin rug on a hard wood floor. Invest in a top quality pullover that you can wear with anything all through winter (like this rather fabulous number from Toast).


Light, light, light

Candles are a vital part of any hygge toolkit, creating a gentle glow and calming flickery shadows. Dot them around your home, bringing light to dark corners, set a thick pillar candle on the table and eat pancakes for breakfast around its light, take a long bath surrounded by tea lights and scented candles. Lighting a candle is such a quick and easy way of adding some joy to your home, don’t wait for a special occasion. Invest in some decent ones, preferably chemical-free, to ensure they burn well and for plenty of time.


Slow down

Winter is a time for hibernating, slowing down and stocking up on energy depleted by the darkness and cold. Make space for some quiet time, whether a family walk or cup of steaming coffee on the stoop. Notice the sounds around you, be in Nature whenever you can, take up a craft like knitting, savour happy moments. Before you fall asleep, take a moment to be grateful for any good things that happened during the day.



Hygge is essentially a communal feeling to be shared with friends and family. Invite friends over for a casual kitchen supper, drink mulled wine wrapped in blankets with your beloved, make hot toddies for your children and drink together in front of the fire (just heat some milk with a pinch of cinnamon and ginger, add a dollop of maple syrup, then froth with this genius stove top frother), or watch a film with a friend curled up on the sofa with hot water bottles. Offer guests food or drink and let them make themselves at home. Encourage children to share their toys and spaces with others.

Hygge is not about money or status, and requires minimal input. But you get massive returns. Go get your hygge on!


(Images via:,, )


Disclosure: We work with affiliate partners to bring you products we think you will love. We will only collaborate with brands that match our ethos and aesthetic, and that will bring beauty and usefulness to your home.

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