Dahlia Does Design: Repurposing family linens


I had a business making aprons from vintage linens on Etsy for years so here’s a question for Dahlia Woods in her design column:

Dahlia, can you recommend ways to use family linens passed down to younger generations? So many times we inherit tablecloths and bedding from our grandmothers, moms and aunts but they don’t go with the latest décor, current colors or patterns. So, Dahlia, please suggest ways to repurpose a legacy of hand-medowns to use in our homes.

– Renee G.


You are most fortunate to be the keeper of gems from the family heritage.

Before making a quick decision, lay items on a table, check on condition – which includes damage, stains and general condition. There are several ways to remove or lessen rust stains; dilute hydrogen peroxide with water, wash by hand in gentle detergent and always air dry. Another combination is to soak linens in salt, lemon and hot water. When I wash vintage linens I dry on towels, frequently turning the items. Ironing may be necessary – always low heat.

Whatever you create from old linens, remember you are preserving history and creating an unique one of kind design. Here are some suggestions:

  • Decorate with appliqué method on existing pillowcases.
  • Hang drapes in a dining room where you have family occasions, family members will be pleased to see linens repurposed as well as table runners and mismatched cocktail napkins.
  • Create charming kitchen valances
  • Use a portion of a vintage linen to decorate a skirt, shirt, sweater or dress, for a one of kind fashion statement
  • Create an entire dress with vintage material – use an existing dress for your pattern – everyone will ask where you found this original fashion.
  • Give vintage tea towels a new life by tying the top with ribbons to create a cute toddler dress
  • Try vintage linen appliqués on a contemporary cloth dinner napkins for a special decorative element particularly if you have a theme for your dinner party.
  • Create one-of-a-kind vintage pillow covers easily made with Velcro closures.
  • If you have assorted sizes and shapes of vintage linens, you can always cut squares and sew the four corners to create exquisite quilt duvet covers.

Each project can be charming, endearing and best of all useful. Just picture a dinner party table with a variety of antique cocktail napkins, sparkling glasses, mismatched antique china and flickering candles. Your guests will arrive and rave about your enchanting table decor. Bon Apetit!!

Life is short. Be happy!


Send your questions to me at dahliawoods@gmail.com

San Marcos Daily Record

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