Vintage Linens in Every Day Living | i should be mopping the floor

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Vintage Linens in Every Day Living

This post for vintage linens contains affiliate links. I make a small portion when these links are used, at no additional cost to you.

I have an incredible collection of handmade, embroidered, vintage linens left to me by my great aunt. She lovingly stitched designs into each and every one of the pieces. Today, I'm sharing how I have incorporated these vintage linens into our home on a daily basis. I'm also sharing some care tips if you have these kinds of vintage linens, too. 

Vintage Linens
I've talked about my Aunt Margaret before. She was a grandmother-type figure to me. I was a later-in-life child to my parents and all of my actual grandparents passed away before I was born. Aunt Margaret was my maternal grandfather's sister and lived well into her nineties (my late teen years). She did not have children of her own, but my mother was very close to her, so she was always a part of our lives. She remains a special person I think of often. She left me a lot of keepsakes and heirlooms after her passing, including these vintage linens I'm sharing with you today.

Today is also Thrifty Style Team Day. I'm sharing lots of links from some talented friends below, as well.

Vintage Linens in Every Day Living


So many of you sweet readers have gotten me through the past ten months since my mother's unexpected passing. I am whole-heartedly grateful to you for that. I can now talk about her openly and remember her, without her untimely death always overshadowing things. And ironically, it seems through this loss, I've managed to stir up sweet feelings and memories of other family members who went on before her, especially my Aunt Margaret.

Embroidered Linens
This photo sits above my desk on a shelf. I have photos of us later in her life, but this one is just my favorite. This is me pictured with Aunt Margaret. She was the most proper southern woman you'd ever meet. I never saw her not all dolled up...even at her 95th birthday party when her health had started to decline, she didn't have a hair out of place, wore her best jewelry, and donned a lovely party dress. 

Upon her passing, she left me the biggest cedar hope chest I'd ever seen (my brothers joked and called it a coffin...it truly was enormous, and filled to the brim with precious treasures and keepsakes). Since I was headed to college, my mother took care of the contents for me. I never knew this, but she actually emptied the contents into her own smaller hope chest and put the one from Aunt Margaret into storage (it was just so massive and hard to keep in their home). 

While my mom had given me most of the contents out of the box after I married (including the starter plate to my church plate collection pictured here), we both kind of forgot about all of these vintage linens. When we cleaned out my parents' home in November for my dad to sell it, I opened mom's hope chest and there were all of my linens (with a note in mom's handwriting that said..."Kristi's items from Margaret"). It was touching that they were just as she packed them up, over twenty years earlier.

And y'all, my Aunt Margaret could embroider better than anyone I know. I'm now trying to use these gorgeous, handmade vintage linens throughout our home as reminders of her here and there.  

Blue and White Dishes

Blue and White Vintage Placemats and Table Toppers

These gorgeous pieces are kind of incredible. And, the blue and white dishes also belonged to Aunt Margaret. I wish I could ask her if she made the dotted blue and white vintage placemats and coordinating table toppers to match her dishes...don't you think she did? I mean, they go together perfectly. I really think she made these pretties to color coordinate her table. It seems like such an Aunt Margaret thing to do. 

Monogrammed Champagne Bucket
I keep the coordinating table topper square on our console in our living area, since it matches my blue couch. It's the perfect piece to protect the console since I'm always displaying stuff here.

Embroidery Backs
Aunt Margaret's embroidery was so tidy, too. The backs of my own embroidered pieces are kind of a train wreck compared to this (the back of one of her table toppers is pictured above).

Vintage Linen Handkerchiefs

Vintage Linen Handkerchiefs

These sweet handkerchiefs melt my heart. I can't think of anyone more fitting to carry around one of these pretties but Aunt Margaret. Even the chain-stitched yellow border is perfection on these. So sweet. I am trying to figure out a neat way to display these handkerchiefs. I think I'm going to create a sweet valance out of them, but at the moment, I've plum run out of windows.

Incidentally, we found such an abundance of these hand-embroidered vintage linens at my parents' home that I didn't just keep them to myself. I gave each of my nieces and my sister-in-law several pieces, as well, so they could each have their own keepsakes. My favorite was the set of embroidered pillow cases that I gave to my niece, Kayla...they had the prettiest and most colorful daisies on the pillow case borders. I know she'll treasure them for years to come.

Vintage Dresser Scarves

Vintage Dresser Scarves Turned Table Runners

I have this little drop leaf table in our sunroom that my husband and I often have coffee at. I think this dresser scarf on it makes the perfect table runner. It's the perfect size and shape. In fact, I've turned multiple dresser scarves into easy table runners. 

Rose Embroidery
It has such pretty details. The pink roses make my heart go pitter patter. She also attached all of the lace borders on these pieces by hand. 

Vintage Table Runner
I used my new monogrammed champagne bucket in more than one of these photos...I'm slightly obsessed with it. It's from Sasha Nicholas and was my souvenir that I bought on our spring break trip to St. Louis. If you're ever there, be sure to stop by their boutique...it's a dish lover's dream.

But here in the dining room, the champagne bucket makes a great center piece on another one of these dresser scarves that I'm using as a table runner.

Embroidered Blue Birds
Those sweet little birds she embroidered on this one have completely stolen my heart. They are adorable. All of the details on this particular piece are truly stunning. I couldn't decide if it was meant for Valentine's or spring time...so we're just going with both. Again...the handmade lace border is kind of a work of art.

Vintage Tea Towels

I saved my favorite piece for last: the above embroidered tea towel with the couple on it. I love all of the details she added to this one. I haven't figured out a good way to display it, yet. I want it in my kitchen, but I worry my people may accidentally put it into our kitchen towel rotation (or grab it in haste to clean up a spill). I may frame it in a shadow box...still thinking on it. The recipe box (and recipes) belonged to Aunt Margaret, as well. Her husband was the pastry chef at The Manhattan Cafe in San Antonio back in the day. Their recipe collection is an absolute keepsake...their creations were incredible and truly delicious. Ninety percent of the recipes in the box are desserts. Does it get any better than that


Vintage Linens Care Tips

I'm definitely not a professional laundress, but this is what has worked for me to care for my collection of vintage linens. Since these are all family heirlooms, I do tend to baby them quite a bit.
  • First, while I have many of these pieces in place as table runners, if we're sitting down to eat an actual meal, I remove them before food and drinks hit the table. I just keep them out when we're not using the table. 
  • I did ScotchGard the placemats because they are made of a heartier, thicker linen fabric. I have not ScotchGarded the other pieces since they're a lot more delicate. But, to be totally up front, we haven't actually used the placemats at an actual table setting.
  • Many of these vintage linens had some spots on them when I pulled them out of storage (they were all kept in a cedar-lined hope chest).
    • I hand washed them using this Vintage Linen Wash I found on Amazon. The detergent worked well and brightened the pieces and removed most of the spots. But, the detergent is heavily scented (I like scent, so that's fine with me).
    • I do not put these pieces in the dryer. I allow them to air dry and then use an iron on the "silk" setting while the linen is just slightly damp.
  • If your vintage linens smell musty (a few of mine did), I freshen them up with my Caldrea Linen Spray. If you come to this blog a lot, you know I use the Caldrea sprays in my sewing tutorials, too. It's a great alternative to starch and smells wonderful.
  • If you're familiar with the practice of French laundry (I recently did a lot of research on the art of French laundering...it's super fascinating), it's a great practice for vintage linens and such. 
    • The Organized Home has  great overview on the art of French laundry here. Their article is a nod to Danielle Postel-Vinay's book Home Sweet Maison. I've read this book cover to cover and listened to it on Audible four times (I'm not even kidding, y'all...four times). If you're fascinated with how the French set up their homes and such, it's such a great read (or listen). Find it on Amazon here.
  • I store my vintage linens the way my mother did: on empty paper towel rolls (to prevent wrinkles) in a cedar chest. She used the thinnest straight pin to hold them in place. This is probably a fairly antiquated storage method, but these things have lasted well over 50-60 years and are in great shape. So, I'm just sticking with what has worked for my family.

Unfinished Embroidery
One of my favorite finds in my mom's cedar chest was a collection of my aunt's unfinished embroidery pieces (some of them are pictured above). They even had hoops and embroidery thread still with them. I love these so much. My goal is to finish them out one day...I know I don't stitch as well as my aunt did, but I think it would be a lovely way to honor her and her work on these pieces. All of the vintage linens I shared in today's post are just a fraction of the ones I have from Aunt Margaret. I hope to share more with you as I incorporate them into our home.
Thrifty Projects

Thrifty Style Team Projects:

As I mentioned above, today is our monthly Thrifty Style Team day. Be sure to check out all of my friends' fantastic (and of course, thrifty) projects through their links below (this is a new format!):

Vintage Place Mats
If you love vintage linens like I do, I see these pop up all the time in thrift and antique stores. They're such lovely pieces. Do you have any vintage linens of your own?

Free Decorating Ideas



34 comments:

  1. This might be my favorite post of yours of all time for Thrifty Style Team. Choked me up and reminded me of my own memories and linens. I understand how you feel about your Aunt Margaret, I had one only not in name, and we lost a matriarch in October. My own mothers hand embroidered pillow cases are in use, as well as her doilies, but I have to get out those fragile handkerchiefs. Pinned.

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    1. Awww...thank you so much, Bliss. That is so kind of you. Aunt Margarets are the special ones. So sorry for your recent loss of yours. Really appreciate your sweet comment, my friend. xoxo

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  2. Wow Kristi! This is truly a special post. We are a little teary-eyed thinking of our mom/granny who also passed, way before her time. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful treasures and keepsakes. Items like these are definitely not made as well today - nor do they last as long. We have each been unpacking stored boxes...hopefully we will come across some handmade linens like yours. Much love, Vicki and Jenn

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    1. Thank you so much, Vicki and Jenn. That is such a sweet comment. Yes, losing moms and grannies before their time can be so tough. Hoping you find some similar treasures in your unpacking endeavors. So happy you both stopped by today. xoxo

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  3. This article simply stole my heart. I have wished many times that I still had some of the embroidery pieces I, as well as special people in my life have done. I shared, but failed to request a return if they wanted to discard them. Hopefully you may be able to incorporate these beauties with those precious recipes into a very special book one day! Keep me on your list!

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. A special book is such a neat idea...it would be so much easier to enjoy these pieces that way! Plus it would protect them. Really appreciate you stopping by today. xoxo

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  4. Your Aunt's handiwork is absolutely amazing! What lovely memories and your post stirred up so many wonderful memories in me, and I thank you for that. Thank you also for the vintage linen care tips. I had so many vintage linens, and I hate to say this, but I was in a bit of a depression and donated almost all of them to the thrift store. I did keep a few and I hope to get them out soon and use them. Thank you for the heartfelt story-it truly made me smile. Hugs, mb

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    1. Awww...thank you so much, Mary Beth! Yes, vintage linens do seem to make their way to thrift stores a lot...but it's nice to hold on to them, if you can. Appreciate you so much for the kind words, my friend. xoxo

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  5. I have a decorative hook l put into the top cabinet next to the sink...no one has touched my decorative pieces since l have started displaying them there

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    1. That's a great idea, Janina! Thank you so much for stopping by. xoxo

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  6. Thanks for sharing your tips and tricks. Along with a piece of your history and heart, this is simply beautiful in every way. As always.

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    1. I really appreciate that, sweet Meegan. You always leave the kindest comments, my friend. xoxo

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  7. These embroidery print outs remind of my Grandma Sally she taught me how to embroider and sew such fond memories of her, and I have passed that down to my only daughter. I have decided to make her a few things using these lovely patterns thank you so much.

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    1. Awww...love that. I bet Grandma Sally would LOVE that and what a wonderful thing to do for your daughter. Thank you so much for stopping by today. xoxo

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  8. This is a great post. Brought back so many memories. I used to love hand embroidery as a young child. I can clearly hear my mother say "make sure the back looks as good as the front".
    *Smiles*

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    1. Ha! Yes, that is SO true. Wishing I could relearn the way the did embroidery back in those days. Thank you so much for stopping by. xoxo

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  9. Such a special and inspiring contribution to our Thrifty Style Team! I really enjoyed reading all of the history behind all of the pieces, especially because I'm "the keeper of the old stuff" for my family and I definitely have a few vintage linens in my collection that I should be using more often. And you know I loved all the blue and white! :) Thanks so much for sharing all this with us today!

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    1. Awww...thank you so much, Courtenay. I love a fellow "keeper of the old stuff"...treasure keepers we are! The blue and white definitely makes me think of your pretty posts you share. Love that we have that in common. So happy you stopped by. xoxo

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  10. Kristi the vintage linens all look beautiful! Your home is so pretty!

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    1. Thank you so much, Susan. I really appreciate that.

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  11. Thank you for sharing your story and your linens. I have way more dresser scarves than dressers.

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    1. Thank you so much, Cyndye. Yes, we are dresser scarves aplenty over here, too! ;)

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  12. Fabulous tips Kristi! And I am in AWE of those blue and white embroidered pieces! What treasures for you to have in your home!!

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    1. Thank you so much, Cindy! I really love those, too...they're my fave. xoxo

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  13. How special to have items that are meaningful and help comfort and cherish loving memories for you. I love how generations in the past were so put together. they would'nt think to wear tee shirts and yoga pants to the grocery store!

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    1. These do bring back beautiful memories for sure, Laura! Thank you so much for stopping by! <3

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  14. I;m a BIG fan of vintage linens!!! This is beautiful and love the tips

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    1. They are so special and fun! <3 Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your kind words!

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  15. Beautiful. I too enjoy the linens from my grandmother and great grandmother. Great tips on how ti display. Would love for you to share some of the recipes from your uncle. Thanks for your lovely post.

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    1. Thank you so much for stopping by! These are so special to me, and it was wonderful to be able to share with you all! <3

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  16. I so enjoyed reading about your beloved Aunt Margaret and seeing her handwork! My grandmother made lots of those embroidered pillow cases. Sadly, I do not have any of her pieces but I do have a quilt that she made. I do buy up some that I see when I attend an auction that is located near us. Thanks for sharing your tips for caring for these treasures.

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    1. Thank you so much, Jane! I love that you still have a quilt from your grandmother. I know how special that must be!

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  17. Really enjoyed reading this. Just finished a blog post that I will be posting soon about vintage embroidery that I collected for a while.

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    1. That sounds wonderful, Beth! I can't wait to read it! Thank you bunches for stopping by! <3

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