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May 112011

“Today is Monday. Today is Monday. Monday wash day. Is everybody happy? Well, I should say!”

I grew up in the Midwest, the oldest of five children. I loved to help my mother with the laundry. This involved a trip to the cool basement where I would sort lights and darks and begin to learn the fine art of textile care.

In those days, we only used fine quality percale sheeting which was sent out to the local laundry and returned wrapped up with brown paper and string. I would open the package and carefully sort the sheets and cases into small matching piles. The jumbled gigantic heap that had been pushed into that coarse laundry bag was returned in a small package neatly pressed and folded. Miraculous.

My love of laundry certainly must have had something to do with my attraction to the business I am in today. If I have a day where I can sort and wash and dry and iron, I am in heaven! I also realize that few people share my passion. Unfortunately, the craft of laundering has been lost in just a couple of generations due to the introduction of polyester and the home dryer. (I now want to hear everyone BOO).

For those of you who have lovely linens but are fearful of doing them yourself, or you dislike laundry, have I found the place for you! Gerri Young developed her business called Allo Laverie at her home in New York City. She is even kookier than I am when it comes to laundry. She reads ancient laundry manuals from Europe in her spare time!

Let me introduce Gerri:

Allo Laverie is a niche service dedicated to the care and maintenance of fine and heirloom linens. French Hand Laundry is the term most commonly associated with our work.

Founded in 2000, Allo Laverie takes old world techniques in caring for fine linen and updates them with modern knowledge. A graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology, Gerri Young has the required background and understanding of textiles to know design proper methods to clean, restore and maintain textiles both modern and vintage.

For generations French laundresses were prized for not only making items clean, but the care and delicate treatment applied which saved items from harm during the process. Linens were ironed until they were glace (iced), then folded in such way to make them not only fit into a cupboard or drawer, but to show off any pattern such as embroidery or lace trim.

To find out just how all this was done I began to search out and read vintage French laundry manuals from the early 1900’s. Learning about properties of soaps suited what type of water and soil conditions. How to prepare various starches including the famous “clear starch” used on most all linens, but when done properly you cannot tell it’s there. The amazing thing about the process, though it was laborious, linens lasted for ages using these methods. Proof of this lies in the armouries full of vintage linens all over France that are making collectors on both sides of the Atlantic happy.

I wanted Allo Laverie to be more than simply a service that launders linen. Anyone can do that. What we bring is our love and understanding of textiles which shows in the final product. An avid Francophile, I understood the method behind the madness at once. The unmistakable love for beauty and appealing to all senses that is the essence of French life and culture. Just as a meal must appeal to all five senses, the method of French laundry produces a product that does as well. First you see the shimmering linen, then the fresh scent of clean linen mixed with perhaps lavender or another scent, as you touch the smooth fabric there is a slight rustling sound, all of which makes slipping into bed or even just using a napkin a sensuous delight.

It is this affect, which cannot be mass produced, I was after and like to think, by the glowing compliments of customers, have achieved.

I use Gerri myself for difficult to launder items like coarse linen tablecloths. The results of her work are perfection.

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