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LINUM meets; Helena Lyth.

Helena Lyth is a well-known face in the blogosphere thanks to Inspiration Galore. That’s where she collects everything from interior design inspiration, crafting tips and hands-on DIY from. This month we’re taking a closer look at washing and care, and so it seemed appropriate to talk to the brilliant Helena.

Hi Helena! Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My background is as an Art Director at several advertising agencies, but when my little side project (the blog, and later, Instagram) that I started during maternity leave turned into another full-time job, I chose to invest in my own company. My tasks now include everything from creating recipes, styling for events and advertising jobs, being a craft inspiration on TV, in magazines and on radio, acting as an interior designer, photographing for clients and my own channels, as well as publishing books with my own material. Niching down doesn’t seem to be my thing, but a lot of what I do revolves around the set table – both the actual setting and decorations, as well as what’s served on the plates.

What are you up to this autumn?

Autumn will be largely filled up with creating, photographing and writing my new book.

Right now we have the Wash & Care theme going on at LINUM, seeing as washing and care has become increasingly important in a time where we have to get away from fast consumption. How do you relate to Wash & Care?

Quality is the Alpha and Omega these days. What’s purchased needs to be used a lot and last a long time, and increase in beauty as a result. That textiles get dirty is a completely natural part of using them (setting beautiful tablecloths and inviting guests to lovely dinners will definitely result in stained tablecloths, so to speak). But, we shouldn’t just be meticulous when buying things, we should be equally meticulous about looking after them at home and ensuring that they’re valued and cared for. Following the washing instructions and perhaps thinking about whether the product really needs a full wash is a pretty good start. A single stain could perhaps be taken care of individually instead of having to start up an entire machine?

Do you have any good tips when it comes to Wash & Care that you’d like to share?

I have many tablecloths, both really old and new ones, and I make sure that even weekday dinners are set nicely and with plenty of textiles. Patterned tablecloths camouflage minor stains, so they’re perfect for during the week; just shake them off out in the fresh air and wash them as needed. For weekends and parties, it’s always monochrome.

On weekdays I have linen napkins in napkin rings marked with the family members’ names, and they get used several times when the “owner” gets their own one. I learned that from my father who spent his summers at a boarding house in the 50s. All the guests received their own linen napkin at the beginning of their stay, with a paper napkin ring with their name on it, and the same napkin got used throughout their entire stay.

I always dry washed tablecloths by hanging them on a washing line and stretching them properly when they’re wet (that way I’ve already made it easier for myself for when ironing later on). I inherited my white linen napkins and care for them ever so tenderly, despite the high level of wear and tear. I wash them gently, then stretch and hang dry them, which gives them a fortified look and feel. Crisp, refreshed and folded: that’s how these linen napkins have been ready for another table setting for almost 60 years now.

You’re a mother yourself. What’s the benefit of teaching the next generation about washing and care?

Learning to wash clothes and textiles early on gives a good knowledge of how everything’s connected. It’s about learning the importance of the choices you can make when choosing detergents and how you handle the items. But also e.g. that a shirt that’s only been used a few times and isn’t dirty should be aired rather than washed. To fold their clothes, to value and care for them.

The utility room, I can see, is a zone children are never in, with machines that certainly look both awkward and a bit odd. What do the symbols mean? What’s the difference between 40° and 60°? Why separate light and dark laundry? Just as children should learn to fry meatballs and cook macaroni, they should learn how to start a washing machine.

LINUM only develops products in natural materials, such as cotton, linen and silk (which often require a little bit more care, but remain beautiful over time). What’s your take on natural materials and how do you decorate with them yourself?

Trends come and go, and I’ve definitely been one to see where the wind takes me, but these days I feel like I’m standing on solid ground. I don’t know whether that might even be a trend in itself, or whether it’s just that I’ve actually found my home, so to speak? Fast consumption feels out of fashion. Well-considered choices are the future, precisely because they last into the future. Choosing quality and materials that only become more beautiful with time and which can be used often and withstand rapid trends are basic requirements these days. There’s always a linen tablecloth inside. A cotton cushion cover that feels nice under your head on the sofa with a good book leaves you feeling good (in several ways).

What do you think we could improve on when it comes to Wash & Care, i.e. simple everyday tips that we can do ourselves?

1) Ask yourself if you really have to wash the item. Is a shake through the window enough for the tablecloth to get its style back? Can the cushion cover be aired overnight and regain its freshness?
2) Spot treat tablecloths, cushions, and garments with a light hand wash if it’s only a single stain.
3) For stains that aren’t too deep, choose a lower temperature in the washing machine.
4) Air dry! Not only good for the life of the product, but also for how they feel. Linen napkins become lovely and refreshed when allowed to hang dry, and a shirt becomes nice and crisp and almost as though it has been ironed if it’s shaken after washing and hung on a hanger to dry. And the sheets – there’s surely nothing nicer than sleeping in sun-dried sheets?
5) Repair! Repairing your textiles and garments is also part of caring for them. If they can’t be repaired, can they be reused? For example, can you make runners or placemats from an old tablecloth?
6) Appreciate your linens. In the past, there were special cupboards just for linen, because table linen was something really luxurious. Often, for example, they were expensive wedding gifts that were taken care of and very highly valued. Make room for your beautiful tablecloths, napkins and cushion covers.

See more of Helena Lyth here: website, Instagram.