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How To Collect and Display Vintage Linens

By Rachel

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Last Updated on March 14, 2024 by Rachel Granholm

I want to share how to collect and display vintage linens! They create a simple yet charming backdrop for any space in your home.

Packed with charm, these old textiles are some of the most collectible and fabulous items that you can find at antique stores, thrift stores, and flea markets. Each piece of vintage linen is unique, making them extremely special. These aged textiles add history and a lovely ‘old-soul’ feel to your home. My hope is that you will find inspiration here through how to collect and display vintage linens!

How To Collect and Display Vintage Linens

Did you know that the global market for vintage linens is estimated to reach $2.9 billion by 2026? This may come as no surprise to the avid collector or thrifter, who knows the timeless appeal of these delicate treasures.

Whether it’s a set of hand-embroidered tea towels or a delicate lace tablecloth, vintage linens hold a sense of nostalgia and craftsmanship that can elevate any home decor. But, finding and displaying these coveted pieces requires a bit of knowledge and finesse.

In this article, how to collect and display vintage linens, we’ll delve into the world of textiles and explore the best tips and tricks for collecting and displaying them. From where to find these hidden gems to tips for preserving and showcasing their beauty, get ready to add some vintage charm to your home!

a vintage blue floral hanky displayed in vintage copper

A Guide to Collecting and Displaying Vintage Linens

Vintage linens are one of my weaknesses. When I’m out thrifting or antique shopping and come across a pretty lace table cloth or scalloped edge runner, I cannot leave it behind…no matter how many I have!

There is just something about these old textiles that are so special. I love to spend many minutes digging through piles of linens…it makes me so happy. When I’m digging, I think about things like, “Who made it?”, “Who used them before me?”, “Where did they come from?”, or “What celebrations were held around them?”

It’s amazing, truly, that many vintage linens live for as long as they do. But, that just goes to show you the quality craftsmanship of vintage linens. Let’s dive into it these fabric masterpieces!

vintage eyelet table runner

Where to Find Vintage Linens

First, let’s briefly chat about the best places to find vintage linens.

Truly, I have had the most (amazing) luck sourcing old textiles from thrift stores. I’ve found everything from table runners and table cloths to napkins and an abundance of handkerchiefs.

Another place would be antique shops. In my experience, you will be able to find a copious amount of vintage linens in any antique store you go to. If you are looking for something specific, ask an employee for help on which booth might have it.

Other places to look include:

  • Etsy
  • EBay
  • Facebook Marketplace
  • Estate Sales

vintage hobnail milk glass styled on a shelf

Shop Favorite Linens

How to Identify Vintage Linens

It is easier than you might think to identify vintage linens. The majority of these pieces contain handmade details that just don’t exist in modern textiles.

You will also notice that vintage textiles feature scalloped and lace edges with very few straight lines. Below are some specific characteristics to help you identify vintage linens:

  1. Embroidery-Intricate hand-embroidery is a feature on pillowcases, tablecloths, cloth napkins, and more. Turn the piece over and look for knots on the back made by hand.
  2. Natural Fabrics- Some vintage fabrics from the 1940’s and after are made from synthetics and synthetic blends. Yet, most vintage linens are made out of cotton, linen, and other natural fabrics.
  3. Monograms-Handkerchiefs, tea towels, pillow cases, sheets, and other linens will sometimes contain monogrammed initials. These stylized pieces can be highly collectible.
  4. Handmade Lace- Examine the edge of each piece that contains lace to determine whether or not it was added by hand. Lace making was a popular hobby years ago, so many women added handmade lace borders to their linens. Some pieces, like doilies, are made exclusively out of handmade lace.

pair of yellow floral napkins

Types of Vintage Linens

When out shopping for vintage linens, there are many different kinds you might encounter.

Below are some of the textiles you may see.

Vintage Bed Linens

The bedroom is a wonderful area to display and use vintage linens.

Using these in your bedroom creates a cozy atmosphere, putting you at ease for sleep.

vintage hobnail milk glass candlesticks used for winter decorating

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There are three main pieces of vintage textiles that you can incorporate into a modern day bedroom.

1) Pillowcases- Throughout the early 1900’s, embroidering pillowcases was a popular hobby, so you can find some really special pieces. Look for handmade lace detailing, intricate embroidery with flowers and other pretty patterns, and high quality cotton fabric.

2) Coverlets and Bedspreads– Choosing a vintage coverlet for your bed is a beautiful choice, especially one that is aimed at a specific era. It creates a space that is unique to only you.

3) Quilts– Antique and vintage quilts are so special. If you can find one in really good condition snatch it up because they are hard to find! Many of these quilts were stitched by hand, making the quality of them particularly remarkable.

vintage holiday decor with vintage linens

Vintage Table Linens

Vintage linens are showstoppers on a table. These pieces were often well taken care of, since the first owners probably only used them for special occasions.

1) Tablecloths– These vintage pieces are found in all shapes and sizes to fit various tables. You will also come across table runners which may be a more economic option if you are on a budget. Either way, these precious linens contain unique touches including monograms, embroidery, and handmade lace.

2) Cloth NapkinsVintage napkins are extra fun to search for, especially at thrift stores where you have a better chance of finding them in pairs. They are made of high quality cotton fabric and contain pretty embroidery.

3) Tea Towels– These delightful pieces have so much charm and come in many different styles and patterns. You can look for embroidered patterns, simple prints, or homespun linen towels.

a thrifted table linen with embroidered flowers

Other Vintage Linens

Other varieties of linens include vintage handkerchiefs, doilies, and dresser scarves. The latter two were popular with women during the 1900’s and used to adorn upholstered furniture and the tops of wooden furniture.

large artificial Tulips in a milk glass banana stand

Value of Vintage Linens

Old linens and textiles can range from under $5 to over $100. You can expect to pay $1.00 for vintage napkins at the thrift store whereas a handmade coverlet for a queen bed can cost upwards of $250 at an antique store.

Factors that dictate the value include condition, quality, size, age, and usefulness. Old linens can be a super affordable option if you are looking to infuse more charm and character into your home. They are endlessly fun to look for!

vintage linens used on a shelf with milk glass

How to Decorate with and Re-Purpose Vintage Linens

As with any collectible, there are many ways you can incorporate vintage linens into your home.

Below are some unique ideas to try:

  1. Repurpose an old tablecloth by turning it into pillowcases.
  2. Use a vintage napkin as pretty accent over an end table or bedside table.
  3. Add coziness to a wooden dresser by draping a vintage table runner over the top of it.
  4. Create a gallery wall by framing various sizes, shapes, and colors of vintage napkins and doilies.
  5. Reuse old linens by turning them into window treatments, like turning an old lace pillowcase into a cafe curtain, for example.
  6. An old quilt or coverlet can hang on a wall as a beautiful piece of wall art.window linen repurposed from a pillow case

Closing Tidbits on How to Collect and Display Vintage Linens

Vintage linens are able to create a cozy, cohesive home. You can use them in any room in your house and can fit any design style and color scheme.

I hope you have found encouragement here today on how to collect and display vintage linens. These linens urge you to step outside the box and beckon you into a by-gone era.

Rich in history, these old textiles have had a long journey and now get to be a part of yours, in whichever way you choose to use them.

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Let me know in the comments below what types of linens you love to hunt for. I love hearing from you!

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a vintage book styled with milk glass and a vintage linen

If you are new here, I’m Rachel, the writer and content creator here at The Antiqued Journey. I’m so happy to have you! I encourage you to stop by the ‘about me’ page to get to know me a little more.

Here on the blog, you will find loads of inspiration for decorating with vintage and antique decor, simple DIY crafts and many thrifting adventures. If that interests you, I invite you to sign up for my e-mail. You will receive a free digital download as a thank you!

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Rachel from The Antiqued Journey blog

Hey! I’m Rachel!

I’m so glad you are here! Old things are my jam. Antique malls and thrift stores are my happy places.

Here on the blog I love to share my excitement, knowledge, and ideas about all things antique, vintage, and thrifted. Let’s journey together!

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