I received this question in a comment on the very recent post about organizing my hope chest projects: How do you know how many sets of the various things are needed? What are the sets you normally make (kitchen towels/washrags, bedroom linens, others?) and what does each set normally consist of?
This is a really great question and I recognize that it deserves a reply which does justice to the desire for information and won't be buried in a comment. You may have noticed that in all the years I have had the blog I have tried to avoid the "recommended" numbers aspect of a hope chest list. I will just here offer a list that works for me and hope that it might be useful as a starting point.
Decisions about what to put in Miss Abigail's hope chest are based on the following:
- what Abigail wants to prepare
- what I have needed and use on a regular basis
- what I think Abigail will need as she makes a home away from this one
- what we can realistically afford to prepare ahead
- what I would like to create and give to Abigail as a gift
Let's use the kitchen set as an example. First, I am a traditional homemaker and make almost every meal from scratch. I love to cook and you can probably imagine that I spend time as well cleaning up after all the cooking and eating. You may be surprised to learn that I have never had an automatic dishwasher and do not use an automatic clothes dryer either. (That is another story, right?) All our dishes get washed by hand and the linens get dried on the clothesline. I understand that I need to own more kitchen linens and rags than most people.
Secondly, I have taught Abigail to cook and she is a great cook, but a little messy in her methods. I have confidence that she will get more efficient, but I suspect she will always create a bit of a kitchen mess. After thinking about what Abigail might need in a kitchen set, I made a list of kitchen linens that I felt would fill that need.
Finally, I love kitchen linens! It is that simple. So Abigail will have more kitchen linens than she realistically needs, just because I love them and want to give them to her. I almost always wear aprons, I love drying dishes with a clean, crisp dishtowel and I hate using dirty or damp towels. I love picking up a pretty towel to wipe my hands and noticing how quickly the water is absorbed into the fibers, and I hate, hate, hate to have a towel that doesn't do the job well. I know! You too? Decisions are always based on what we like or don't care about.
Kitchen Linens Set: (2 sets recommended)
7 dish cloths (for washing dishes - a clean one each day in the week)
7 dish towels (for hand drying dishes - a clean one each day)
7 hand towels (for drying hands - a clean one each day)
1 set of hot pads (to match the set or kitchen color)
1 apron (to match the set or kitchen color)
The number of household linens Miss Abigail will need is determined by how often she will do laundry and that will be different as she passes through stages in her life. We have no way of knowing her laundry situation ahead of time, but we can assume that she will likely begin by using a laundromat, when she has a chance to get there. I think a minimum of two sets of kitchen linens would be required in this situation. Current housekeeping literature often recommends, in setting up a new household, one dozen towels and cloths, 2 sets of hot pads and 2 aprons.
1-2 tablecloths (to match everyday dishes)
1 set of place mats (to match everyday dishes)
1 tablecloths (for special occasion or holiday)
1 table runner (decorative)
Setting an attractive table is important. I know you can place your dishes on a bare table. We do that often when a meal is very simple or rushed, but there is no question that even an informal meal merits some thought and care in presentation and sociability. Table linens simply make a meal more pleasant and sociable. The dollar stores have inexpensive place mats. It isn't hard to plan for setting a nice table. Abigail has enjoyed setting a pretty table and I expect that she will always feel that way. We have not done much with table linens yet because we were waiting for her to choose dishes. That purchase has now been made and the gift given, so we can move forward with table linens. I don't have a very specific list, but I do have some projects planned. These projects are all based on what I think will be fun to make or use.
3 sets bath towels (2 towels, 2 hand towels, 2 wash cloths = 6 total of each type)
1 dozen extra face cloths
guest hand towels
The number of bath linens required is based on the availability of laundry facilities and how often you require a clean towel. That varies from person to person, depending on the custom in your home. Miss Abigail likes longer hair and so requires two towels when she bathes. She is particular about washing her face and needs a TON of facecloths! My husband will use the same face cloth to shave for at least two days before wanting a change. I can't guide you in this decision, you have to make your own prediction of need, based on your preference. The reason I have planned for only three sets of towels is based on experience. Towels are a popular wedding gift. I anticipate that Abigail will receive at least a couple more sets as gifts when she marries. Three sets in the hope chest will get her started as a single woman.
Bed Linens: (minimum)
2 sets sheets (queen size)
1 set sheets (full size)
1 set sheets (twin size)
The number of sheet sets to plan for isn't hard. I started with two sets and it worked well - one on the bed and one in the wash or in the linen cupboard. I have happy memories of a trip from Idaho to Salt Lake City to purchase some final items for my hope chest. I remember standing in Z.C.M.I ( a very nice department store) with my mom teaching me about how to choose bed sheets. In those days, the choice of size was easy. Every couple I knew slept in a double bed, so I chose full size sheets. Nowadays, experience shows that most young couples try for a queen size bed. Since that has been the case with each of our sons who have married, we are planning for queen sized bed sheets. The set of full-size sheets is a back up and to use on a guest bed (even an inexpensive air mattress.) The twin set is for her first apartment. I think extra pillowcases are a must. I often like a clean one before I'm ready to launder the whole set. Plus, I use more than one pillow, so I need extra. I'm just projecting my need onto Abigail and she may end up with more pillowcases than required. You need, at the very least, one blanket or quilt per bed and this obviously depends on your climate. Abigail's grandmother has already gifted her with one quilt for the hope chest and I know the special "wedding quilt" is on reserve. I also plan to make a quilt or two, hopefully. Crib sheets are on our list because these will be a "gift from grandma" to my future grandchildren. I like to embroider on them to make them just a little bit special.
2 lap quilts for watching movies at home (Abigail is always wrapped up in a small quilt)
There are some other categories of items we have planned for the hope chest. In general, you can see a working list of our categories on the sidebar. Scroll down a bit - past the blog labels.
Coincidentally, Kiyoko Ball just wrote about this topic in a funny opinion piece at her blog called Taffeta Dreams. I think she created a great list of items that could be in the hope chest and she made me laugh. Don't miss what she has to say about it. Also I will share again this post from Jill Wright who wrote a very nice article about what to include in a hope chest.