Peas and Carrots hand embroidered cocktail napkins
After all the pre Christmas, post Christmas and general celebrate-we're-on-Summer-holiday drinks I've been knocking back over the past month and a half, I've decided to give my liver a break and not drink alcohol for the next month, at least. The irony that I've decided that now is the perfect time to post about Cocktail napkins is not lost on me.
As long term blog readers will know, I have a love of embroidery. I also have a love of setting a nice table. So when the two collide, I'm in - Table Linen is my Achilles Heel.
Marghab "Irises" margandy placemat and napkin in white on white
A company called Marghab produced probably the highest quality of hand embroidered table linen in the world. Sadly, they went out of business in 1980, but they were in operation from 1933 until that time, so that means there are pieces available on the vintage market, although it is now quite collectable and prices are high (although not when compared to new products from the likes of D Porthault etc). Here in Australia Marghab was sold by David Jones and Georges department stores, and overseas it was sold in various high end retailers throughout the US such as Neimen Marcus and Marshall Fields and some specialty stores in Europe.
A close up of the fine embroidery, all of which was hand done.
It all originated in Madeira, an island of Portugal, where the women were highly skilled embroiderers, and the quality of the embroidery exceptional as a result. Marghab used fine quality lawn, and a product they worked with a mill in Switzerland to produce themselves, a sort of organdy fabric that was much harder wearing, despite its delicate appearance, that they called "Margandie". It's fairly transparent and a little stiff, and is used more often in the placemat sets, such as the Irises ones above. Embroiderers were paid by the stitch.
my cocktail napkins in different coloured backgrounds. I have two of the geranium sets, one in white and one in linen.
After purchasing a couple of sets of cocktail napkins on eBay for drinks or afternoon tea, my Mother in Law said she'd never seen them in this format before - she seems to think that the Cocktail napkins were not sold in Australia. She recalls Marghab being a popular choice for a wedding gift, with the guest hand towels, tray sets (placemat and two napkins for your morning breakfast tray), tablecloths placemats and matching napkins being reliably well received gifts back in the late 60's, early 70's. My Mother in Law also remembered them as being fairly expensive, however for the quality of the hand embroidery, well, I think they were likely a bargain when compared to the machine made linens that are very expensive today.
Pimms cup sitting on Sailboats
So, what is a Cocktail napkin? I hear some of my Australian readers asking...
These are very familiar to American readers, but for some reason have never really been embraced here. They are a sort of cross between a coaster and a napkin, a small rectangular format cloth napkin that can be wrapped around a drink, or to sit a drink on top of, or to wipe fingers on after eating hors d'oeuvre. I have been using mine for afternoon tea when serving cake or sandwiches, as well as evening drinks, and with so many different patterns on offer.. it's easy to theme and get a little carried away.
Geraniums are a perfect match for cabbage ware
Somehow, I seem to now have a small collection. Madeira linens in general are very good quality, so even if you're not keen on the Marghab patterns that are available, you'll find that other very high quality hand embroidered napkins and linens by other companies may have something that catches your eye in the vintage market.
So, I'm now enjoying my mineral water on one of the Fish napkins, but will return to full cocktail mode in another month's time. So, chin chin and bottoms up!
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