A Labor of Love: Sewing Curtains from Family Linens

When I first moved into my house on Long Island, I wasn’t into sewing curtains, which is very odd for me. I love making curtains. Like paint, they are something that can change the look of a home quickly and inexpensively. But we had renovated a ranch home that was born the same year that I was (1961! A very good year!), and I was into its Frank Lloyd Wright lines and curved walls, and minimalism was the look I aspired to .

This is the chandelier that started it all.

My simple paper shades and bay window.

This heavy silk is perfect for opulent drapes.

I spent hours researching just the blinds that would work with the hanging mid-century-style paper chandelier that I had bought at the Noguchi Museum in Astoria. I settled on simple white rice-paper accordion shades. And since the rest of my furnishings are an eclectic mix of family antiques and Ethan Allen, the shades and chandelier were a subtle nod to my home’s lineage. It all worked, and I was happy.

Fast-forward six years, and in that span, I inherited the most unbelievable faded-salmon silk king-size bedding and curtains. These were custom made with cotton lining-the real couture deal. The dozens of yards of fabrics were mostly in good condition, save a water stain or two and a frayed duvet corner where an errant puppy had done his teething.

There was just enough damage to prevent its use as bedding, and my mind turned to draping my windows in this fantastic fabric. I have a bay window in my living room that would gracefully accommodate vast swathes of curtains.

This fabric has a story. When my mother was younger than I am, she purchased the linens for a princely sum at the time (a sum that would be a fraction of the cost today). She converted the three bedrooms of me and my sisters into one large guest room outfitted with a glorious pink marble bath and gold-toned fixtures. It was the height of opulence to stay there, and although that room has been long dismantled, it lives on vibrantly in my mind, as if I could almost walk back into it and slide between the cool sheets, and languish beneath the heavy silk duvet. I love the idea of preserving this fabric and memory by giving it another use.

For more great bedding projects, including a lovely log cabin silk curtain and delightful linen shade, check out my new book Best of Stitch: Beautiful Bedrooms, in the Sew Daily Shop. Maybe it will inspire you to preserve some textile piece of your own past.

Have you saved family linens or bought them at estate sales, with plans for reuse? What are your plans for them? I would love to know.

Happy stitching!

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For the Home

About Amber

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

5 thoughts on “A Labor of Love: Sewing Curtains from Family Linens

  1. Funny you should ask. I’m of that age where I’m trying to figure out what to do with MY linens, etc. Also, I have several linen tablecloths, napkins, embroidred table scarves, crocheted doilies and on and on. I was going to design a tablecloth with the napkins and some crochet, have considered (and may still) frame some of the crocheted items. I’d like some ideas. Unfortunately, no one in my family is into crafts, so I’ll probably go to the happy hunting grounds and my “goodies” will end up at a yard sale or whatever! If only all my “stuff” could go with me!!! Does that give you any ideas?

  2. I have a stack of linens, pillowcases, doilies, and on and on too! My mom and my aunts would never use this stuff because they were saving it for special occasions. When I received a box of this stuff, my then four year old asked me something “Mom, aren’t we a special casion?” Right then and there I decided we were a special “casion”. I have used most of it to make any random day special. Hand embroidered napkins were used for Sunday breakfast. Pillowcases for sleepovers and car trips. My sister was appalled I used those things for everyday, but there was a side bonus. My girls felt special when I pulled those things out. They both turned a favorite piece into art for a room, dorm, and first apartment. When we used them, they always wanted to hear about the person that made it. They both wanted to learn to sew, craft, and make things that had meaning and a story. My first granddaughter was born three months ago and her first gift was from her aunt. A beautifully embroidered pillowcase, to be used for special “casions”. I am working on a crazy quilt wall hanging made with pieces from the worn linens we used. My daughters are already fighting about who will get it when I die. They don’t know that I am working on one for each of them too.

  3. I’ve been given a beautiful embroidered length of fabric. The embroidery doesn’t lend itself to a garment so this may be the solution. I could also add to the sides and make a duvet cover of something. It’s white, however, really white. These are good ideas.

    And on to another subject. You are always featuring books from Interweave Press in every post. It it seems that the only images I see or you release is the cover image. How about showing images of the projects inside the book? Who decides not to do that, on every book? You want me to spend $20 or $30 but I really don’t know what I’m getting. I won’t do it. I have to wait until I see it in the store to evaluate.