Spot the Impostor
I thought I’d start this post out with a little pop quiz. Can you tell which towel in this photo is not vintage linen, but in fact modern?
The impostor will be revealed at the end of this post.
Collecting Vintage Linens
In the meantime, I thought I would share a few items from my vintage linen collection.
I have always loved vintage fabrics and linens and have collected them over the years – some from my mother and grandmother, some from vintage fairs or estate sales.
I love finding vintage tablecloths because I actually do use them. But it’s not easy to find old tablecloths without stains or other damage.
This little tablecloth has its condition issues, but I still love it.
And this one is in surprisingly good shape, colors still vivid.
A while back, I inherited a lovely linen collection from my mother-in-law, Betty. Her collection stretches back to the early 1900s and includes pieces with beautiful, intricate handwork.
Keeping Them Fresh
But as is often the case with vintage linens that have been stored in a drawer for years, all of them smelled a bit musty – which explains why I had never seen her use of any of them.
I machine washed the linens in the delicate cycle with a mild soap, ironed them while they were still damp, and hung them to air dry. This didn’t seem to damage any of them, but they still smelled musty.
Then I remembered when we had an almost-new carpet that had suffered water damage and smelled musty. I wanted to throw it away. But my husband, Chris, took the carpet outside, unrolled it in the driveway, sprayed it with hydrogen peroxide, and let it dry. And it smelled like a new carpet.
So, with my heart in my throat, I put the linens in the wash again but this time added a dash of hydrogen peroxide (probably about 1/8 of a cup) with the laundry detergent. I let the detergent and hydrogen peroxide mix with the water stream a bit before adding in the linens.
They survived, and the stink is gone. Since then I have used this trick time and again.
It doesn’t always work so well. It can fade certain colors, and once when I washed some old curtains they completely disintegrated in the machine. So if you try this, beware – there are risks involved.
More Pieces from Betty’s Collection
Betty had so many tea towels, runners, tablecloths, and napkins. This photo is just a small sampling.
I wish I knew the story behind this cocktail towel. It is such a fun depiction of 1940s night life.
And no doubt this quilt was made by someone in her family decades ago, along with the pillow cases.
It is riddled with small tears and patches, but to me that gives it character.
These are just a few of the many doilies I now have.
I am playing with ideas for repurposing some of them.
It’s a shame to keep this collection locked in a drawer. After all, why have these things if we can’t enjoy them? So I am working on ways to integrate this collection into our daily living – without going over the top.
So did you guess the impostor? If you guessed the white towel with green embroidery on the right, good eyes! It’s from Target.
Want a vintage-look tablecloth without the mustiness or stains? Check out these charming reproductions:
Affiliate links used.
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