Quilting Vintage Linen

I’ve found a solution to a problem that faces a lot of longarmers – how to avoid burning out on the job due to an ever increasing backlog of client quilts to do which negatively effects the amount of time available to piece our own quilts. The answer I’ve found is to use vintage linens as a creative fix.  I can pop on something in between a client quilt and have it finished in a few hours. I  get something pretty that I get to keep and it makes me happy – a good side effect for my customer quilts.

I love old linens of all kinds. Tablecloths, table runners, napkins, doilies, etc.  I’ve been collecting them for as long as I can remember. My friends know about my obsession also, and thanks to them I have a huge stash now.

Here are some things to consider with vintage linens:

  1. Don’t be afraid of a piece of linen just because it is dirty. A lot of those stains or yellowing can be dealt with by a good soaking.  Try soaking it overnight with hot water and oxy clean, or by using one of these recipes, or use some Retro Clean.
  2. Estate auctions are a good place to pick up bulk lots of linens.
  3. Small holes can be camouflaged with dense quilting.
  4. Larger holes or tears may be able to be removed if they are on the outer edge of the piece without compromising the design of the linen. Larger holes may be able to be camouflaged with another doily or cutter linen.  Or, it can be used as cutter linen to camouflage or layer in another project.
  5. They’re a good teaching tool if you offer longarm classes. I can use a small doily as a tool for the student to apply the day’s lessons in a real project that can be completed in a small amount of time.

The problem arises when how to bind a piece that has a crocheted or lace edging.  I’m still figuring out how to treat them effectively when quilting. The first table runner I tackled with a lace edging, I attached a piece of fabric to the outer edge, sewing in the seam of the lace to attach it to the runner. After quilting, I turned the fabric under and sewed it by hand. I found that I still had issues with the fabric and think maybe I should have used bias binding. Or maybe I could use some practice in creating a faced edging. At any rate, I still like how it turned out.

Shown below is a piece I purchased from eBay for $2.50. It had two dark brown stains, one of which you can see in the 1st image on the left below. It actually was not receptive to cleaning and the stain itself disintegrated the fabric. However, that area was quilted heavily and you cannot see easily where that fabric had disintegrated. The image at the bottom left is shown as it was loaded on the longarm. The middle image is a view of the backside as I was turning it under. The right image is the completed piece. I love it!


This made me so happy!  I was even more motivated to do more (and buy more). I did a few small items and gave them away. Then I took time in December to do this last one.  I loaded this one on purple satin and got it done in just a few hours. I call it Purple Passion.

Before layering the linen on top of the purple fabric, I attached a piece of batting to the linen so that there was no visible shadowing of the purple fabric that could be seen from the top. I pinned the linen to the purple fabric and layered it on top of another piece of batting over the backing fabric. This gave two layers of batting to the linen area and one layer to the purple satin fabric. I marked the feather spine with a purple air erasable marker. I love this one even more than the last one!


Here is a pic of some (not all) of my recent additions to my stash of vintage linens. I can’t wait to get time to do another one of these!!


10 responses to “Quilting Vintage Linen

  1. Omg!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you! I bought 2 lots of vintage table runners 4 years ago because I love them so but they look out of place in todays decor. So there they sit in a drawer, never to be used. I thought I could cut them up and piece them into quilt squares but wasn’t too keen on a predominately white quilt. Oh how you have made me so happy with what to do with them so they can be displayed in my home! You are so creative. I am a bit intimidated with figuring out the quilting designs to bring out the right personality of the piece but I hope that will come with practice.

  2. 🙂 I used a piece of 70/30 white batting behind the linen and layered it on top of the purple. I then put a layer of wool behind all of it. I love layering wool, but I usually put it on top. Because I wanted to make sure none of the purple was seen behind the linen, I used a thinner layer of white batting behind it.

    It’s good to know I’m not the only one who can’t resist those old linens!

  3. Many thanks for this new inspiration. I have many wonderful pieces which have been handed down to me from our family. I work with a lot of thread painting work and needed some new ideas. I also share your first name so this special to share during this pandemic time. Thanks again!!!

  4. I have boxes of linens and never knew what to do with them…what an idea!! I don’t quilt as beautifully as you do…but I can try out some new ideas in a smaller span of time…maybe just on my regular machine, not the longarm!! Thanks!! Happy sewing!!

  5. Did I see your work on vintage linens in an issue of MachineQuilting Unlimited? I vaguely remember an issue with this information but I don’t know which issue it was. Anyway, your work is beautiful and I love it!

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