Thursday, February 16, 2012

French Metis Linen - "Linge de metis"

The French seem to have the inate ability to blend beauty and utility creating wonderful everyday items like the monogrammed metis linen sheet above.

What is metis linen? Metis means "mix" which is exactly what metis linen is - usually a mix of 35% cotton and 65% linen (although other fiber combinations were also woven such as 30/70 or 70/30.) "Linen Union" is France's industrial designation for metis, designating pure linen in the warp or woof and cotton in the woof or warp.

Metis linen is the "work horse" of French bedding. It is a heavy duty fabric designed to be washed repeatedly and stand up to the rough washing techniques of long ago. Appearing in France in the early 1900's, metis linen was introduced as a less expensive bedding material than pure linen and quickly became a welcomed wedding gift or part of a young girl's dowry. Metis linen has been handed down through generations and can still be found today.

When I purchased the vintage, monogrammed French metis linen sheet above, I was told by the vendor that these sheets were typical "convent" sheets. Often the Nuns would buy the metis fabric and sew two fabric panels together creating the hand-sewn middle seam shown in the photograph above.

If you are a lover of French linens and have the opportunity to travel to France, the best selection can be found on the stands of the many linen dealers who come to the Isle-sur-la-sorgue Brocante Market on the weekends. I was thrilled when I saw all of the beautiful monogrammed linens meticulously folded and tied into little bundles with bright French ribbon. 

One little helpful hint for the linen lover shopping the French Brocantes - take the time to have the vendor open the bundles and show you or allow you to see all of the items in their entirety. Some of the linens are yellowed by the sun as they sit on the tables in the vendor's booth and this discoloration may or may not wash out. Also, if reselling, obvious stains or discoloration, especially around the monogrammed initials, decrease the value.

Although I find metis linen too stiff for use as sheets, I do think they are perfect for bed coverlets, slip covers and pillows. If you are lucky enough to find a metis sheet with your initials, I'd grab it up! The beautifully hand-monogrammed metis linen sheet above just happens to have the first initials of my husband and I!

Have a pleasant Thursday.

Au revoir, Mitty

1 comment:

  1. Hi Mitty. Great post! I'm a big fan of French Metis, and I think that absolute finest is Fleur Bleue. I use it to make my custom monogrammed pillows. The stiffness depends upon the weight, and the selvedge bears a number that gives a hint as to the suppleness. It is fabulous to sew upon.