One of my absolute favorite things to look for when I'm out treasure hunting at thrift shops, flea markets, and antique stores is old linens. Let's talk about these 20 unique ideas (and great excuses to snatch them up) to help you repurpose vintage linens for use in your home!
I'm a pretty frequent flyer at my local thrift store for many reasons, if you're curious about some of my favorite items to purchase besides vintage linens I have a post for that!
What Are Vintage Linens?
Because of their delicate and charming characteristics, antique linens are some of the most collectible vintage treasures you will find when you're out thrifting. Also more often than not they will have pretty embroidery as a bonus.
Some common types of vintage linens that you might find may be:
- Vintage Fabric
- Vintage Tablecloths a vintage linen tablecloth or other material
- Vintage Pillowcases
- Bed Linens
- Vintage Handkerchiefs vintage hankies
- Vintage Doilies
- Vintage Coverlet
- Vintage Napkins
- Vintage Dresser Scarf Dresser scarves are similar to a table runner
- Vintage Feedsack Fabrics Not just for farm chicks, feed sacks are farm chic
- Vintage Quilts Nothing is quite as charming as snuggling in old quilts
Creative Ideas to Repurpose Vintage Linens
If I had to give you any more great reasons to purchase vintage linens, add to the list that they are probably the easiest vintage items to repurpose. Because they're basically vintage textiles with literally endless possibilities.
20 Unique Ideas to Use Vintage Linen in Different Ways
All vintage linens had an original purpose, but there are only so many table linens, bed sheets, or linen napkins one household needs. So, what if we looked outside the box and started to use them in new ways?
01 Envelope Pillow Cover
This is one of my favorite recent projects where I repurposed an old tablecloth I purchased from a local garage sale for $5. Garage sales are another great place to find vintage linens for pennies of what a new linen piece would cost.
It had a few stains in the center of the cloth, likely why it was so cheap. Because linen table cloths are typically quite expensive. But as soon as I saw the beautiful embroidery on each corner I knew it needed to come home to me.
It was easy to decide on creating a few envelope pillow covers, which is such a simple sewing project.
02 Customized Shower Curtain
A shower curtain can definitely make a statement in a bathroom. And I would argue that it totally should. The quickest way to add charm to any bathroom space is the shower curtain.
While doing a very small renovation in my guest bath I took to my sewing machine and did a really quick gather stitch. Then sewed them onto a fabric shower curtain liner. I also chose to double the curtain for drama, like drapes. It was a quick and easy DIY project that made a huge impact in the small space I was working in.
The best part is, naturally, those curtains were thrift finds all for $3.
03 Upholstery Fabric
Now to be fair, I didn't use vintage linen in this upholstered chair project. However, I totally could and should have! Sometimes we miss perfect opportunities. I guarantee I will not miss that opportunity again!
Of course, you can't use a small linen piece to cover a whole chair. However, if you had a tablecloth or vintage curtains you could definitely repurpose them to cover a small chair seat.
I also recently re-upholstered this beautiful antique piano stool using drop cloth, but if I had been thinking I would have definitely taken the time to find some vintage linens to use.
- Sew small pieces, like linen napkins together to create a larger piece.
- Sew a single linen napkin in the center of other fabric to create a focal piece.
04 Table Runner
Another great place to use and repurpose vintage linens is on your dining room table. I feel like table runners don't get enough credit for the charm they add to table settings. This could easily be a no-sew project as well if you used liquid stitch!
For this project, I used bleached drop cloth fabric and made short work of a very simple and beautiful table runner. It's basically sewing (or not sewing) a long rectangle. But now I'm imagining if I were to make one (and I will) out of beautiful vintage linen with embroidery, or handmade lace. It would be absolutely stunning!
05 Cafe Curtains
I have not had an excuse yet to make any cafe curtains. But when I finally get my dream home with a big window in my kitchen above my sink you best believe this is on my list.
There is something so feminine and delicate about cafe curtains made from linen. The weave of linen and most vintage fabrics are a bit worn and let the light through in the most romantic way. It's one of the best things about natural materials.
06 Tea Towels
Yes, it's true you can find vintage linen tea towels to repurpose for other uses. But you can also make those simplistic, classic tea towels from vintage linens as well. There really is nothing quite so timeless as an afternoon tea time with your table all set for guests. A few beautiful tea cups, saucers, teaspoons, and vintage linen tea towels.
07 Reusable Bread Bag
This is such a beautiful thoughtful way to repurpose vintage linens. Baking homemade bread is obviously a very popular hobby. Therefore making a reusable bread bag would make an incredible handmade gift for your breadmaking friends or family members! I almost feel like if I were to make some I would then have to bake bread just to fill them. And on the same note, you could also make reusable sandwich bags.
08 Dresser Scarves
Not unlike a table runner, but a miniature version. If you love all things Victorian, Cottage, or Grandmillennial this will be right up your alley. Dresser scarves are a little less granny than doilies but have the same feeling.
I just recently decided to take some vintage sheets and repurpose them in a fun way for my Beatrix Potter Squirrel Nutkin theme for Thanksgiving. Paired with this lovely cotton eyelet lace from another thrifted bed sheet. I quickly sewed two dresser scarves and a tablecloth from one single vintage sheet.
09 Pillow Cases
Sewing a few quick pillowcases out of vintage linens would be spectacular. I personally love customized linens of any sort. Something about owning a one-of-a-kind piece that just makes me feel cozy. Whether you use them for throw pillows or for pillows on your bed they're one of the easiest ways to repurpose vintage linen.
10 Bed Skirt
This is another thoughtful item that I think is seen as old-fashioned. Bed skirts do God's work in homes because they hide our dirty little secrets. Especially in children's rooms. There is simply nothing more charming or classic than a beautiful vintage linen bed skirt draped to the floor to add a detail of vintage glamour.
11 Vintage Inspired Pinafore Apron
Crossback aprons are such a lovely version of an apron. What I love about this style especially is you don't have to tie them and they don't cut your movement off. This keeps your ability to move free-flowing. Comfort, feminity, and ultimate efficiency of movement. I'll be right back I need to go make one...
12 Decorative Bunting
Fabric buntings are such a fun and beautiful decoration for literally any special occasion. Also, another great project you can do as a no-sew project as well. Because liquid stitch is a miracle. My personal favorite style of fabric bunting is when you do them as a scallop.
13 Linen Nightgown
You actually don't need to stop at a nightgown either if you're adept at sewing. Repurpose vintage linens as a bra, lingerie, corset, shorts, vest, or top. In fact, depending on the amount of vintage fabric you have you could sew any number of things for a beautiful one-of-a-kind wardrobe fit just for you.
Nothing says I love you like a handmade toy for a child. I personally have always loved to make gifts by hand, though I wasn't always so skilled at it. However, over time my children challenged me to sew them a few stuffed animals that were dearly loved.
Some other great ideas would be barbie bed linens, doll linens, doll clothes, teddy bears or other stuffed animals, or a rag doll. All you really need is a pattern to get started.
15 Fabric Gift Wrap
I love it when you can find a way to repurpose vintage linens in more than one way. What I mean is, you can wrap a gift with a vintage scarf, tea towel, or napkin, and then the person also has that fabric to use itself.
Simple and old-fashioned, are two of my favorite words and they both describe most quilts. Quilts are magical in that they're cool in the summer and warm in the winter. I fill my home with vintage quilts and they're one of my favorite things. Therefore it only makes sense to repurpose vintage linens by cutting them into 1 or 2-inch squares and creating a truly fantastic quilt.
17 Small Repurpose Projects
Take larger pieces of fabric and make several smaller thoughtful pieces like a Handkerchief, Napkins, Kitchen Towels, etc. If you had a whole tablecloth worth of fabric you could make quite a few of any of those.
18 Custom Pet Bed
In this house, we have a few solidly spoiled cats (4 to be precise). And though we haven't had great success with getting cats to sleep where we want them, the idea is lovely. Bonus, this would be a quick project as it's basically just creating a large fluffy pillow!
19 Wall Art
This may be one of my most favorite ideas on the list because I have an affinity for wall art. I can't seem to help myself from collecting more and more of it, even with limited wall space. If you can find several vintage frames you could take pieces of old embroidered linens, lace, crochet parts, or even beautifully woven linen and create a gallery wall.
20 Custom Lamp Shade
If you haven't seen and followed the Ace of Shades you are missing out. She has mastered the art of creating gorgeous unique custom lamp shades. Of course, she makes it look so easy, but you don't even need to do it this fancy. You can use old fabric to create a pleated lampshade look so easily following Miss Mustard Seed's Tutorial.
Linen is best described as a fabric or textile that is made from fine fibers of the flax plant. The fibers are extracted, then spun into yarn, and then woven into fabric. It is a durable, breathable, and soft fabric.
Linen has a weave that is quite discernable once you know what to look for. Also, look for hand-stitching, stitches that are small and not uniform. It is most well known for its "linen" creamy color since it is made from fibers derived from the flax plant. Vintage linen also tends to have embroidery.
Thank you so much for stopping by! I hope I have given you some inspiration, ideas for creativity, and maybe a push to start creating your own wonderland one piece or project at a time.
Don't forget to come back for more great projects like these DIY Projects and many more!
Hi, I'm Julie! Mother to five beautiful kids, Homeschool Educator, Writer, Handicraft & DIY Enthusiast, Photographer, Thrifter, and Furniture Restorer. Follow along for fun DIY projects creating a handmade home on a budget! Read more about me here→