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Vintage Linens – What you Need to Know

Vintage linens feature beautiful and meticulous handmade details that just can’t be duplicated with modern linens. We love to help our clients sell their linens at estate sales across Puget Sound. So whether you’re a beginner or old pro, let’s learn more about the fascinating world of vintage linens.

How to Spot Vintage

Vintage linens feature handmade details that can’t be found in modern linen. With vintage, you’ll find beautiful and delicate embroidery found on items like handkerchiefs, pillowcases, or tablecloths. Along the same lines, these pieces will be hand sewn, so you shouldn’t expect perfection (although many are pretty close).

When it comes to the material, you will find that most vintage linens are usually made of either cotton or linen.

What Are Vintage Linens

Vintage linens include everything from pillowcases to tablecloths. Let’s talk about the items that make up the world of vintage linens.

  1. Pillowcases: Homemakers from the 1800 – the 1900s took great pride in their ability to embroider items and this can be found on many vintage pillowcases, especially along the edging.

  2. Coverlets and bedspreads: Vintage coverlets and bedspreads can be hand or machine-made. Handmade lace bedspreads are a great find.

  3. Quilts: Antique quilts a work of art, and when found in good condition, can be a great find. Like coverlets or bedspreads, these can be machine or hand-sewn, but the most unique and treasured are those sewn by hand.

  4. Antique tablecloths: Table linens are usually found in far better condition than bed linens. Simply because homemakers would save these linens for special occasions. When looking for a vintage tablecloth, you’ll find a range of beautiful pieces in a range of shapes and sizes. Many will include unique touches like hand embroidery, handmade lace, and monograms.

  5. Vintage napkins: Good quality vintage napkins are harder to find, especially if you’re looking for a matching set. Embroidery and monograms are popular with these as well,

  6. Vintage tea towels: The term "tea towel" refers to a towel that spun from linen and was used in kitchens throughout the decades for drying delicate items such as glass and china. They aren’t thick absorbent towels and are made from 100% linen or as a cotton-linen blend. They come in

  7. Handkerchiefs: Handkerchiefs carry a great deal of sentimental value, but you can garner your own attachment to those found at an estate sale or flea market. Be on the lookout for elegant lace along the border, or a simple square with a beautiful pattern.

Before you buy any of these, be sure to carefully inspect them for stains or damage. You might be able to remove certain stains, but the damage is harder to fix.

Storage and Care

Sorry, no washing machine. Vintage linens require special care. If you have a piece with a stain, soak it in a mild soap overnight, or even for a few days. You can also set the linens directly in the sun to naturally bleach out any stains.

Once dry and ironed, experts recommend you roll the linens around a tube covered with cotton. You can deter pests, like moths, by placing lavender sachets in the cabinets or drawers. You can also store your linens in acid-free tissue, which can be found at local craft stores. And never store your linens in plastic bags as this encourages mold growth.

How to Repurpose

Repurposing vintage linens is a great way to make a sentimental item more functional. Some good ways to repurpose your vintage lines are:

  1. Frame it! Take a damaged or torn piece of fabric and place it in a glass frame and display it proudly.

  2. Something New: Take an old handkerchief or pillowcase, and have it made into a keepsake for a new bride or new baby. A small pillow or quilt is a great way to pass down history.

Vintage lines are a great discovery especially when they can be used and enjoyed. So, whether you’re looking to redesign your tablespace, or are looking for a quilt for your guest room, we hope you’ll come to check out our upcoming estate sales. You never know what you might find!


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