Pillowcases with ornate embroidered flowers and bluebirds. Handkerchiefs purchased as souvenirs on a cross-country trip. Needlepoint tapestries of horses pulling sleighs intricately stitched with yarn. Delicate doilies with symmetrical frills. And where do we even start with the quilts and rugs?
These are the vintage linens and needlework at thrift stores, op shops, estate sales and maybe even in your own linen closet. And while the person who made these items spent hours, what if they don’t really fit into your modern or minimalist home decor? Is there any way to honor the handiwork while still keeping your aesthetics?
In this podcast episode, get acquainted with artists who are refashioning vintage linens into beautiful artwork, furniture and sculptures that fit right in to more modern homes and offices.
You can listen to the original podcast episode from December 2019 in this YouTube video:
Artists Who Creatively Reuse Vintage Linens
Amy’s exploration of vintage linens started in 2015 when she received a box of linens. She then crowd-sourced 600 pieces to incorporate in her exhibit Inheritance.
Rebecca teaches many courses on CreativeBug about repurposing vintage textiles. She also sells stitch samplers through her website DropCloth.
He incorporates vintage linens into his sculptures of fairy-tail creatures, especially as moth wings.
She incorporates vintage linens of all kinds into patchwork upholstery.
These companies specialize in making custom installation art for large public spaces such as hotels or offices. They did an installation in Chicago that looks like flower petals made from recycled hotel linens.
How to Repurpose Vintage Linens
If you don’t want to keep them as-is, first have them appraised by experts to see if they are unusual and might be worth money. For example the American Quilt Society has a list of certified appraisers.
Clean vintage linens with diluted vinegar or Woolite by hand in a sink. Brighten them with Oxi Clean. Dry in sunlight.
If the piece is not finished, see if you can find an artist who can finish it, like the rug I finished at the top of this webpage.
Needlepoint and Embroidery
Frame sections of an embroidery in small round hoops.
Make a hanger cover like Michelle Paganini
Make beeswax wraps
Hang a collection of vintage hankies in square frames or sew them into a quilt