Vintage linens get a new life when they are recycled for new uses.

Creative Ideas Using Vintage Linens

by Traci LaRussa

Vintage linens commonly include tablecloths, napkins and tea towels and are highly praised for their exceptional quality. They were created most frequently with natural fibers woven from cotton and the flax plant. Linen actually refers to the soft yet resilient textile created with the fibers from this plant. These timeworn treasures were often intricately embroidered and have long-lasting durability, making them ideal to re-purpose while maintaining a connection to your family's past.

For the Home

Vintage napkins and tea towels can easily be recycled into pillows, lampshades and placemats. By artfully layering mismatched linens in bold floral patterns or by using a subtle all-white palette you can create a valance or curtain exuding the charm of a country cottage. Alter a favorite piece into a hostess apron by sewing a ribbon on one side for a sash. Or simply preserve the practical use of linens by converting old tablecloths into less formal utility aprons.

Make a Fashion Statement

Use easy patterns to quickly turn tablecloths and sheets into “sustainable style” by creating summer dresses, totes and scarves. Pillowcases embellished with scalloped edges can quickly be transformed into expensive-looking dresses for girls without the cost. Intricately stitched borders make inventive button covers, cuff bracelets and headbands.

It’s a Party

Cut triangles from linens and sew to a sturdy ribbon or cord to create a party banner. Add flair by sewing contrasting patches or letters on each triangle. And for your next outdoor soiree, welcome guests by providing appealing glass covers to keep pesky bugs at bay. Simply add weight to a handkerchief or small napkin by sewing eye-catching beads or pearls to each corner. Make larger versions to cover pitchers and bowls.

Wrap It Up

To create a cone basket, cut out a wide triangle from both linen and heavy stock paper. Stitch the linen directly onto the paper and roll the wide-edge until you form a cone. Stitch ends together to secure. Add adornments and a ribbon for a handle. Wrap a gift in a handkerchief and tie with a ribbon to place in the cone. For a stunning presentation, place a gift on a piece of old linen, gather the ends and bind together with a vintage brooch.

Memorable Keepsakes

Cherished keepsakes become an expression of love when you turn grandma’s old linens into rag dolls and stuffed animals for your children and pincushions for yourself or a family member. Begin a storytelling showcase by adding a prized piece to a shadow box coupled with old photographs and family recipes.

Other Nifty and Thrifty Ideas

Make fabric flowers to use as adornments for clothing and home accessories. Handkerchiefs can be made into sachets for freshening drawers and closets. For a modest table favor, just wrap linen around a pear and tie with twine. Add a fabric tag with your guest’s name. Tear long strips of linen to create fabric ribbon to use on gift packages or to wrap around chairs at celebrations.

About the Author

Traci LaRussa is based in Florida and has been writing professionally since 2002. She currently consults with clients in need of expertise in home staging, interior decorating and organization. LaRussa is also an artist who has painted miniature works as well as large scale murals.

Photo Credits

  • Thomas Northcut/Stockbyte/Getty Images