Upcycling Vintage Linens on Clothing


 Blogger: Chelsey Petrishen


Using Vintage Linens to Make a One Of a Kind Garment 

Have you ever wanted to repurpose vintage linens to create a one of a kind garment? 

I have always loved anything vintage, and have a bit of weakness for things that are embroidered or embellished. Over the years, I have learned to appreciate the time that goes into sewing handmade clothing and linens for the household. There are so many beautiful and timeless linens that can be found in thrift stores, the marketplace, estate sales or passed down from family members, and for me it is truly special to turn them into a one of a kind piece that can be loved once again.  


One thing to keep in mind is that anything that is vintage will most likely come with some imperfections, due to the age and use of the piece. That’s okay. Part of the charm  is that the vintage linen does have age, and a story to tell. I try to look for things without holes or that are not heavily stained, but if it’s beautiful and catches your eye, you can often use parts of it that are not damaged, and turn it into something beautiful. 

I have made three dresses to show you different ways to repurpose your linens, but the possibilities are endless. There are so many ways you can incorporate the special details into your garments.  You can use something large, such as a tablecloth, to make an entire dress or something as small as a handkerchief or doily to accent a bodice or pockets.  Other items you could upcycle would be table scarves, pillowcases, sheets, and curtains.  

Now comes the fun part, choosing your pattern. Decide what part of the linen you want to use and how it will fit on a pattern.  

Using Vintage Handkerchiefs 


Vintage handkerchiefs come in so many fun colors and patterns, some are embroidered or crocheted and have unique edges.  I was excited when I found this delicate embroidered hankie and knew I wanted to make something with it.


I chose the Eden pattern because I wanted something with a simple bodice and pockets to showcase the sweet little hankie.

After deciding how you want the piece to be positioned and what pattern you will use, lay the  pattern pieces over the handkerchief.  If the pattern piece requires cutting on the fold, fold the handkerchief in half and line up the edges  and design so that it will be centered on the bodice.  Take into account the seam allowance and decide how much space you want between the handkerchief and the skirt or if you want to catch the handkerchief in the seam.  Do this for every pattern piece you will be adding it to.


After cutting the handkerchief, place it on your main bodice piece and pin or clip well. For delicate pieces or lace, use a basting spray to prevent it from sliding around. Top stitch or zigzag the handkerchief onto the main bodice piece, and then continue with the pattern instructions. 


I modified the Eden pockets because I wanted the placement of the handkerchief to be in a V to match the bodice.  I chose a pink Vintage gingham for the skirt so that the sweet little pockets would pop. 


Using Vintage Tablecloths


Upcycling tablecloths might be my favorite, because there is enough fabric to make an entire dress, maybe two or three, depending on what sizes you are making.  

I found this cross-stitched and embroidered  tablecloth on the marketplace and fell in love. I looked over several patterns. I wanted to be able to show both rows of flowers on the skirt so I decided on Brunswick

First, lay out the pattern pieces and decide what parts of the design you want to showcase on the dress.


This tablecloth had beautiful lace trim and I wanted to use this for the skirt and flutters.  I took a 1/2 inch off the skirt pattern piece and from the length in the cutting chart, and the flutter piece to account for the seam allowance.  Then I continued with the Brunswick pattern instructions to finish the dress. 


Using Vintage Pillowcases


Vintage pillowcases can be found in a variety of prints and some of them are beautifully embroidered with lace trim around the opening.  Embroidered pillowcases are perfect for adding a special touch to a garment. 

I chose to use the Ravello pattern for my pillowcase. I thought the contrast panel and pockets would be perfect to show off the gorgeous, embroidered flowers and lace trim.  


First, I carefully removed the lace from the bottom of the pillowcase with a seam ripper so that the lace could be repurposed on the dress as a trim.



Then I placed the pattern piece on top of the pillowcase and decided how to position the flowers on the bodice.  I found a matching pair of pillowcases so I was able to use the flowers to make pockets as well. After deciding on the placement, I simply folded the pillowcase in half, and cut out the bodice and pockets using the pattern pieces. Pillowcases are often made from a nice soft cotton woven fabric or cotton blend so they work well for both the main bodice piece and the lining.  If you are using lace trim it is recommended to use a zig zag stitch or a long top stitch to hold the lace in place.   

I finished the dress by following the Ravello pattern instructions.

Here are some tips on caring for your repurposed vintage items. 

  • When caring for delicate garments, it is best to hand wash or use a delicate wash cycle. Turn your garment inside out. You may also want to use a garment bag for extra protection in the washing machine. 
  • Powdered detergents can be harsh on delicate fabrics.  It is best to use an unscented, gentle detergent.  Baby shampoo is great for hand washing. 
  • Lay flat to dry or hang dry. 
  • Use a cool iron or place a cloth over any lace, embellishments or embroidery when ironing.  
We are so excited to see all of the beautiful one of a kind pieces you make using vintage linens.  The possibilities are endless.  

More Posts