How to Use Your Gorgeous Vintage Fabrics in Pillow Projects

How to cut bias strips step 2
The silky robin's egg blue fabric
became an oversized pillow.  

The vintage bird handkerchief
adorns a storebought pillow.

  Vintage handkerchiefs are sewn to
both sides of a smaller pillow.

I am a huge lover of vintage fabric. The quality, texture, prints, patterns, and fibers of textiles from decades past are just so outstanding and enticing. This means that I have to be very, very picky about what I buy. Otherwise I would end up with a whole sewing room full of vintage fabrics.

A few years ago, I was at a flea market in Scranton, Penn., which is run on weekends on the grounds of one of the last operational drive-ins in the country. I stopped at the booth of a woman who had one of the most exquisite selections of vintage fabrics and handkerchiefs, each one prettier than the next. It wasn't much, but every piece was just delightful. Fortunately or not, they only took cash, and I didn't have much.


After much pondering and bargaining, I ended up with a yard of robin's egg blue silky home dec fabric, an even smaller bit of tatttered tropical print barkcloth, and three sweet handkerchiefs printed with roses, birds, and the like.


I hated the idea just letting these works of art sit on a shelf, so I tried to figure out how I could get them out on display, just as works of art should be.


Pillows, of course!


If you think about it, pillows are the perfect canvas for showing off limited edition textiles. They are always on display and can be rearranged, rotated, and moved around as needed.


The robin's egg's blue was easy. I made an oversized pillow that worked on the sofa or floor and trimmed it with a lavish fringe for a Victorian feel.


I puzzled over the handkerchiefs for a bit. I couldn't just stitch them together and stuff them–they were too fragile. Then I recalled that I had two small, inexpensive pillows in a light solid fabric. The handkerchiefs were just slightly larger than the pillows. I sewed one to the front and back of each pillow. With a different print handkerchief on each side, it was like having two pillows.


I did the same with the remaining handkerchief, but used a larger black pillow, which provided a natural frame.


The tatttered barkcloth was the biggest challenge. In the end I cut out a couple of complete flowers and appliqued them to a storebought pillow to give it a vintage edge.


Now if only I could figure out what to do with those four floor-length, floral silk drapery panels that I picked up at a local estate sale . . .


For more great pillow ideas and projects, check out the Stitch: Patchwork Pillows Project eBook


Do you have a brilliant way to showcase your vintage fabrics? Tell us in the comments!


Happy stitching!



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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.

3 thoughts on “How to Use Your Gorgeous Vintage Fabrics in Pillow Projects

  1. I use vintage fabrics to make nelliBOWLs. Curtains, hankies, neckties, flour sacks, etc. in most any condition – I do enough stitching to secure fragile or worn fabric to the interfacing and turn these stashed-away but lovely pieces into something useful. nelliBOWLs are reversible fabric bowls that hold anything dry, or just hang on the wall. I’m an illustrator/muralist so I embellish my bowls with multiple fabrics and layers of stitching. Most meaningful is my custom work, using someone’s inherited fabrics. Examples are on my website:

  2. I love to sew because it takes in my senses. I look over all the choices of beautiful fabric deciding on the colors and patterns, I run my hands over them to feel the softness and textures, I use my imagination to put the fabrics together in my own special way, and I use my mind to carefully sew each piece. And, when I’m done, I have something that is one of a kind. Something that I can be proud of.