Creating a Memory from Heirloom Linens

A while back I wrote about attending an estate sale at a friend’s home. She was going through a long overdue divorce, and they were selling the house and everything in it.

After much musing, I settled on a napkin edged with
appliqué paired with an embroidered organza coaster for side one. 

Since that time she has settled into a small sweet apartment and a happier life, and I wanted to give her something that would commemorate that brave move, but also reflect where she had come from.

When I went to the sale, I was overcome with emotion at the magnitude of her decision and the gorgeous home she was so eager to be rid of. I had no interest in the lovely antiques or beautiful china. Instead, I made a beeline for a bin of vintage linens tucked in the corner of the living room, next to the grand piano. 

These linens went back decades, with monograms that reflected the progression of the generations. They were carefully pressed and preserved, an immaculate reflection of a more refined time.

I decided that I would give these beauties a new life and create something from them that my friend could use in her new home. I scooped up the entire pile and took them back to my studio. They sat there for several months, while I organized my space better and mused on their potential.

Around the holidays, I found a pillow form and placed the linens in different arrangements.  I figured out how I wanted to put them together, but the tidal wave of holiday preparations consumed me and this was one gift that wasn’t ready to be made. It sat on my ironing board for many weeks. I kept musing on the linens I had chosen. This project needed time.

But this week my friend is planning a celebration of her new life and it’s time. Tonight I will take needle to fabric and with each stitch I will celebrate both where my friend has come from and where she is going. 

For more upcycling ideas and other unique projects, check out a subscription to Stitch magazine, where you will discover lots of ways to put your stash to use. Many other Interweave subscriptions are on sale as well.

Do you have any textiles with sentimental value and plans to use them? I would love to know.

Happy stitching!




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Hand Embroidery

About Amber

Amber Eden is the editor of Stitch and She LOVES sewing and editing Stitch and She also loves dance, yoga, iced decaf triple espressos, and her two golden retrievers. She divides her time between Boston and New York.

10 thoughts on “Creating a Memory from Heirloom Linens

  1. I found a box of 100 old hankies when I cleaned out my mother’s apartment. I made 5 quilts out of them. Let me know if you’d like to see and I’ll send you pictures.

  2. I have numerous dish towels with embroidery my mother-in-law did. The dish towels are no longer usable, but the embroidered corners are still viable. I’m going to do a patchwork design to create a table runner. Still working on the design, though. I’ve found the necessary “mulling” time to not really be procrastination.

  3. I have a stash of old embroidered dish towels. The towels are toast, but the embroidery is still good. I want to use the good portion to develop quilt blocks and make a table runner. Right now, I’m in the mulling stage, which is a good procrastination skill.

  4. My girlfriend’s mother passed away quickly after cancer diagnosis. Eventually she had a house and contents sale and I was able to get an assortment of her mother’s linens. I knew I couldn’t use them for anything else but memory quilts for my bf and her two daughters as some pieces were also handcrafted. So far I have made a queen size quilt for one of the girls as a wedding gift.
    I felt honoured to have been able to pass on this woman’s work in an altered form. I have some pictures also but not sure how to post them

  5. I have two pillows, both sewn by my fabulous sewer Mom. One has a panel of Little Boy Blue, in velvet, which was my mother’s mother’s (i.e. my grandmother). My mother inherited this and made it into a pillow for me. I keep it in my sewing room. Another is a piece of embroidery which I did, when I was about 14 yo for my bedroom at the time. It was on a cover sheet. The cover sheet no longer survives, but my mother cut out my embroidery and made that also into a pillow for me. I love it! I also keep that in my sewing room. And as an aside, my mother won an award for embroidery when she was in High School in the early to mid-1940’s. I have her sampler and want to get that framed. I love your story about the linens, and it is very touching that you made pillows for your friend. Good luck to her in her new “life”!

  6. I have an assortment of vintage fabric and lace pieces. My Great Aunt loved to take apart garments, roll up the pieces/scraps and tie into little bundles. It has been a great find.
    I would like to make a patchwork shawl using the lace between small fabric squares. I will then add some beading. Any thoughts on lining or lightweight interfacing type? I want to make it sturdy without adding bulk. But I am concerned about any iron on interfacing.