Rectangular hooked rug with pink, purple, blue and orange flowers in a traditional design

Vintage Linens and Needlework Creative Reuse

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 Meissner

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 Ringquist

Rebecca teaches many courses on CreativeBug about repurposing vintage textiles. She also sells stitch samplers through her website DropCloth.

Mister Finch

He incorporates vintage linens into his sculptures of fairy-tail creatures, especially as moth wings.

Kelly Swallow

She incorporates vintage linens of all kinds into patchwork upholstery.

Kalisher and Anew Work

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.


Make a produce bag by putting a shoelace through the edges of a large round doily and tying it in a knot.

Make a doily bouquet inspired by Anne-Gabrielle from the blog BlueLuenn

Frame doilies in a recycled wooden window frame

Make a doily luminary or a doily wreath like Amanda Formaro

Needlepoint and Embroidery

Frame sections of an embroidery in small round hoops.

Make linen pouches

Sew smaller vintage linens together to make a larger privacy curtain

Make a collar for a beautiful wedding dress

Make a hanger cover like Michelle Paganini

Vintage Handkerchiefs

Make beeswax wraps

Give them to people who make clothing for vintage Barbies like Sylvia Bittner from HankieChic

Hang a collection of vintage hankies in square frames or sew them into a quilt

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