The email sent to the Forest Hills listserv on Monday was a bit unusual. It came from Hunter Buxton, 54, who was searching for linen napkins for her daughter’s wedding.
“As an homage to my mother, who died long ago, I would like to dye the linen napkins I inherited from her for the wedding reception,” she wrote. “I am about 50 napkins short.”
The message ended with a plea for help. “If anyone has old linen napkins they no longer use and would like to sell to me please let me know!”
The tale of the napkins goes back three decades.
Rain storms were blowing through Concord, North Carolina, on Buxton’s wedding day. The groomsmen tried to dry off the 300 chairs in Buxton’s parents’ backyard – just as more bands of rain swept through.
The rain held off for the ceremony as her bridesmaids, in hand-dyed dresses and mismatched shoes with flowers stapled to them, sloshed down the aisle – until the preacher started on the last prayer.
“I said, ‘You need to hurry up that prayer,’ and people ran back into the house,” Buxton recalled with a laugh. “But we ended up dancing in the rain.”
Buxton, who lives in Durham now, said her family didn’t have a lot of money at the time. Finding affordable dresses for her bridesmaids took some work, especially in the days before online shopping. When she finally found the perfect dresses (not too expensive and something that her bridesmaids would be able to wear again for other occasions), there was still a problem.
They were white.
So her mother called the textile school at N.C. State and asked for tips on dyeing the dresses. With the school’s expert advice, she filled her bathtub with color and turned all 10 white dresses purple.
That was great – until the rains came. The purple dye started running off the dresses during the rainy celebration. Buxton could even tell which of the men had gotten especially close to her bridesmaids, “because that guy was purple as well!”
Buxton’s mother, who had to resew all of the dresses because the fragile fabric fell apart, died 23 years ago. But she’s not forgotten.
“I always said my first child would be named after my mother,” said Buxton.
Now Buxton’s first child, Drake, is getting ready for her own wedding day. She’s lived in New York, California, Texas, Hawaii, and Georgia, but will be moving to Raleigh and marrying in Blowing Rock.
Buxton, remembering the love that went into the creation of her bridesmaid’s dresses, wants to pay tribute to her mother’s hard work. She will dye the linen napkins blue and green to remember not just her mother, but everyone who won’t be at the wedding.
Buxton has spent her career working for nonprofits. So like her mother, she took on this project without any dyeing experience. She asked her second daughter, who is a textile and fashion student at N.C. State, for help.
Everyone is hoping for good weather.
Got linen napkins? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo at top: Hunter Buxton with her napkins. She needs 50 more. Photo by Abigail Bromberger – The 9th Street Journal