Tuesday, November 07, 2006

You mean Great-great Grandma didn't run down to Wal-Mart for some shelf paper?

Reading Alice James' 1911 book, "Housekeeping for Two," reminds me that there was a time before home keepers had access to modern shelf and drawer linings.

"For kitchen shelves many use newspapers, the edges scalloped; others like the marbled enameled cloth, which comes for the purpose, and is so easily wiped off," she says.

Doesn't the idea of scalloped edges sound appealing? But, I don't think I'd recommend using newspaper today, since have so many other materials available to us. In fact the whole subject of paper in the kitchen gives me shiver. When our children were very young, dh and I bought a house in which the owners had glued left over wallpaper to the shelves and the bottoms of kitchen cabinets. I learned after calling a pest control service in desperation that roaches love wallpaper paste. Apparently, this is not a problem when wallpaper is used as it should be -- on walls. But, it does become an issue if used on flat surfaces in the kitchen. Roaches may be lured to the kitchen by food scents and hang around to indulge in tasty snacks of glue.

According to Alice, some of our great-grandmothers covered their shelves in high style: "But for the dining room closets, some brides will have nothing but hand-embroidered linen, with monogram in the centre of every piece, starched and ironed and glossy. These latter are certainly attractive, and if carefully laundered will last a long while. If not bleached with acids or ruined with lye or other strong cleaning agents, good linen will last unbroken, for fifty years. To be effective, the embroidery should be of a very open pattern and the scallops should be large ones and rather shallow. Pointed edges curl up and, besides, are apt to catch in the hair when one is putting away or taking out the dishes."

Here's a pretty image from Alice, "A substitute for linen is machine-embroidered lawn with edge in large effective pattern. One needs to buy but one set, as they are so easily and quickly laundered. Lace paper is still popular; and if a white strip of it be laid over a green one, the green edge showing an inch or so below the white, the closet shelves present a very pretty picture of daintiness."

Many homemakers of today still make decorative and functional linings for kitchen cabinets and pantries. Also, some trim the edges of wooden pantry or cabinet shelves with lace or other decorative trim.

I have inherited many pretty dresser scarves, doilies, etc. I use some of these to line shelves which don't get a lot of daily use. I have to say, though, that when it comes to my kitchen shelves and drawers, I'm thankful that someone invented durable, easy-to-trim and easy-to-clean shelf linings. Wal-Mart, here I come. :)



Mrs Blythe said...

Oh I would so so love my shelves lined with lace doilies with pretty scalloped edges.

We had a problem with book-lice in our kitchen. They eat the glue on paper products too and also mildew (our house is built over a spring and is prone to be damp). So I avoid all cardboard products and decant into plastic containers; and treat the first sign of damp.

I mop my floors in my socks for that very reason (well I don't use a mop I'm on hands and knees with a cloth, lol).

Elizabeth said...

Ooh, I looked up book lice to see what they are, and you have my sympathy! My current challenge is that I brought home some moth infested rice from the store, and they have taken up residence. So, I'm having to do the same thing -- put everything into glass or sturdy plastic containers and try to keep ahead of the critters. I've had to throw out so much meal and flour. Sigh.

Belle-ah said...

Oh, I didn't know about the glue roach connection! My, oh my!!! I read somewhere that mold eats cardboard so my challenge, of late, is to replace all my cardboard boxes in the basement with plastic (it taking a while as it is a pricey change over!). Victorian Paper Company used to sell the lace paper shelf lining and it was pretty reasonable and would really be a nice treat everytime you opened a cabinet or if you can see through the glass.

BTW, thanks for visiting Southern Somedays, I love visits from and with other "lovers of home souls".

Elizabeth said...

Hi Bell-ah,

Thanks for stopping by here. I enjoyed visiting your blog, today. I'm a fellow grit.

That's interesting about the Victorian paper company. I wonder if they'll ever bring back the lace paper? At any rate, if they carried it, I'm sure some other source of Victoriana has it. I'll have to do some hunting.

Elizabeth said...

That should be grits -- I left off the most important letter S for South!

Girl Raised In The South

Mrs Blythe said...

Oh dear. I've heard of moth infestations, they really like flour don't they? I recently found some of the horrid little book lice in a jar of popcorn of all places, the lid mustn't have been air tight. We don't have it so bad now, but when we first moved into our house there were no fitted kitchen cupboards and the free-standing furniture was full of them. I inspect everything thorougly now.