Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Halting the linen addiction

I've had more than a few questions about where I store all these beautiful secondhand finds. It's true! I can't keep pulling them out like handkerchiefs from a magician's hat!

One of my tricks is using self-limiting containers, like the linen baskets in my armoire.

When the basket is full, I can't buy any more. And when the basket is teeteringly high and in danger of falling over with stuff, I give myself 3 choices:

  • Give away (a kindred spirit, Freecycle, or Goodwill)
  • Sell (Craig's List for most things, Ebay if it has name value)
  • Repurpose (lining a gift basket with an odd napkin, for instance)

I no longer had room (or use) for only two placemats, no matter how sweet the ribbon embroidery. Honestly, the flowers were a little too dear for my guys...

So my mom had the idea of using them in the kitchen play corner, where sweetness is the theme du jour.

Other things to do with worn or odd linens: delegate them as kitchen cloths, line gift baskets, edge a shelf with a lacy border, use as handkerchiefs, fill with herbs for drawer sachets.

Tomorrow I'll show you where we store our toys and how we figure out what stays and what goes.


Anonymous said...

What a wonderful idea! Thanks! :)

Shannon said...

The curtains in my kitchen are tea towels that were "too pretty to use."
The girly corner is precious! I can't wait for tomarrow - I'm always in need of toy storage ideas.

Anonymous said...

I love what you did with those two lovely placemats. I'll bet Elise will enjoy those for a long time.

(WARNING - sewing directions. And they're long!)
Another use for beautifully embroidered linens that need a new life is to use a portion as the center of the pieced bodice to an "heirloom" sundress/jumper for a young girl. This looks best in the classic style where the skirt is gathered to the bodice. (I've used embroidered handkerchiefs, napkins and placemats for this, but anything will do; even part of a dresser scarf if the rest of it is too damaged to use it as it was intended.)I'll try to describe how to do this:

First, pre-shrink all of the fabrics you'll be using - muslin/cotton base, fabrics for piecing, etc. You'll need to figure out how much fabric to purchase, probably by taking the pattern pieces out of the envelope and laying them on the fabric. Using a simple jumper or sundress pattern, use muslin or some basic woven white cotton for your piecing base and cut out the front and back bodice pieces. (The upper back piece may not be technically called "bodice", but that's all I can come up with! Bear with me!) Center the part of the embroidery that you will feature in the middle of each of the muslin bodice pieces, in a diamond or square-turned-on-it's-point position, front and back. Machine stitch the embroidered piece down. Then "frame" the embroidered piece with the fabrics you are piecing with - I like to use two or three color- coordinating cotton prints. Play with this to see what you like. Cut strips of fabric at least 1 1/2 inches wide and long enough to square off with the strip pieced to the center next to it. Use a 1/4 inch seam allowance for this piecework. You can frame one upper edge with a strip of fabric and then the opposing lower , with the other two sides following. First frame your embroidered piece with a band of one fabric, then another. (If you can find a border print that coordinates, buy enough that you can feature a band of the border near the bottom hem of the skirt. (If the border print is small-scale enough that you can successfully use it to "frame" your embroidery, by all means, do so. But use your eye to see if the border would overwhelm both the embroidered centerpiece and the size of the bodice piece you're working with.) After you have a nice framed centerpiece, with the widest points reaching the armhole area, cut out pieces of one of the print fabrics to extend from the centerpiece up to the shoulder seam and then from the frame to the side seam. The goal here is to completely cover the muslin bodice pieces with fabric. Machine baste around the edges of the front and back bodice pieces to secure these pieces.

Now construct the garment as usual. Do read the instructions below for the decorative border piece using a border print, but this piece can be added last, if you won't be sewing it on OVER the finished hem of the dress. (In other words, if you like a deep hem, then don't hem the dress before sewing on the border print. It's harder to work with multiple layers of fabric and you may end up with sewn-in wrinkles if fabric gets caught up in the stitching.)

If you have a border print to work with, cut the border long enough to go around the finished skirt of the dress at about three inches above the finished hem length, adding enough for a seam allowance at the ends of the strip. Also cut it wide enough that you can turn under the raw edges on the long edge of the strip of border print. Simply stitch it to the skirt by stitching through the border piece to the skirt, right along the top and bottom edges of the border piece.

Oh, boy, I hope this makes sense! It's so much easier to show somebody something like this, rather than trying to make words draw a picture!

Truly, if you can make sense of this, these little dresses are lovely works of art. If you are experienced at sewing, you can even design this dress so that it fits through three sizes. Adjustable buttons at the shoulders and button and loop closures at the bodice sides (bias-covered opening beneath bodice sides) and a long cut to the dress make it wearable for a long time.

Please forgive the long longness!



Someone Beautiful said...

Yay! This is great stuff. I'm excited about tomorrow's post too. :)

I really enjoyed seeing this sweet scene! One of my other favorite things about your blogging is the great pictures. You were one of the first blogs I started reading a year and a half ago, and the pictures are what initially got me hooked. :)

Tiffany said...

I have a thought for you about what to do when your linen pile gets sky-high: have a giveaway on your blog! I know I personally would be thrilled to get the chance to win a few gently used treasures, and I bet others would agree! Obviously this suggestion serves my self-interest, so take it with a grain of salt, but you could start an, "It's new to me!" giveaway trend! :-)

Unknown said...

Lovely ideas.
And I can't wait until tomorrow's post!

Adie said...

I give myself self-limiting "rules" too. And vintage linens (when I can find them) are one of my downfalls. I love the photo of the little play kitchen. So cute!

Anonymous said...

You know those beautiful things would make a nice pillow. I have many of them that I make a pillow from by using a scrap of fabric on the back that 'matches' something on the front. I make a pillow envelope for easy of cleaning. (no zippers) I can change out the pillows on the sofa or the beds at will...these do not take up much room...I actually keep them between the mattress and box springs..folded (without pillow inserts of coarse) Roxie

Lisa B. said...

I could never have gotten rid of the one napkin on the cradle. I know, I know, I'm such a hoarder!

I also loved that silk scarf in your previous post.

My problem is, I have all this stuff, and none of it's organized for me to find when the mood strikes.

Getting organized is my new year resolution..... for the second year in a row. I'm going to get it done this year though.

Christian - Modobject@Home said...

When I was a girl my mother would make beautiful "collars" for my sisters and I to wear out of embroidered placemats and fancy linen or cotton fingertip towels. We would wear them over a pretty white blouse and jumper or with simple Sunday dresses to dress them up a bit. She would simply cut a hole in the middle of the towel/placemat as well a cut up the back, add binding, and then some pretty ribbon to tie the two sides together and hold it in place.

Kelly said...

Those are so beautiful! I love how you used them. I've ended up using vintage napkins and doilies and such as wrapping for gifts. The recipients have loved the vintage linens as much as the actual gift!

Anonymous said...

I use my vintage napkins every night with dinner. I hoarded them for a few years and would only pull them out for guests or holidays. But last year I ran out of paper napkins and haven't looked back. Our table looks so lovely and my husband seems to eat more slowly...something about the atmosphere! :)

Anonymous said...

I'd love it if your readers could offer suggestions ... for those of us without little girls who'd wear sundresses ... about vintage linens with a small hole or tear. A tablecloth, for example, with one corner damaged.


Anonymous said...

Depending upon the fabric, we have added items to our dress-up basket. Also, a printed napkin can make a small girl's kerchief.

Amy said...

I love vintage linens too! We have three tablecloths that we rotate and I have a flat basket, like your linen basket, for all of our cloth napkins.

Thanks for sharing your weeding ideas :)

Anonymous said...

sweet little girl corner!

deb meyers