Sweet Vintage Linens

Thought you might enjoy a tour through my linen closet!

Every once in a while I need to wash and iron my dresser scarves and table toppers.  Which I did before my girlfriends came from California to visit last week; there’s  nothing like company to get a person going — it’s the best way to get a clean house!

I thought this effort might make some good photos.  I can’t say that ironing is my favorite thing in life to do, but in this case, with these vintage linens, I do love it; the smell of the hot iron blowing steam as it smooths the cotton, lightly fragranced clean laundry . . . I turn on the radio, and listen to Car Talk (90.1 WCAI radio),  and laugh myself silly, and iron, and it’s a nice day.

Really wonderful vintage linens are the hardest thing for me to find when I go antiquing . . . I have to force myself to dig through piles of fabric (refolding as I go!), where 99% of the things in it, I don’t want — in order to find the little wonderful thing at the bottom.  Maybe once a year I will go to antique stores or flea markets and focus just on linens, to keep my collection replenished.

As usual, I am not willing to pay a huge amount of money for these things when I know for a fact that if I am patient I will find them at a price that seems SO good, I am proud all day because I waited.

I love them because each piece is totally unique.  Look at the little rick rack on the edge of the red-trimmed cloth.  Embroidery, lace, applique, all so original and special and hardly being made anymore.

Some of the embroidery is just too wonderful for words.

I love the cat, I love the apples, but most of all, I love the . . .

gnome in the window. And the moon.  And I love the person who made this, whoever she was.  And now, for the bathroom bears . . .

These linens are hanging on a quilt rack — so handy for everything, from quilts, to drying towels in guest rooms, so if you see one, you might want to get it … I found a green one on our last trip through Connecticut for $35.  Oh yes!

This quilt rack sits in our dining room and holds tablecloths and runners.  Hi Girl Kitty!

I love linens so much I even paint them!

They make everything prettier, softer, more civilized, including Joe’s breakfast.

They add a certain romantic charm.

When I find the round, linen coasters, I buy them, then use them as jar toppers for my canned things, jams and applesauce.

Of course you all know what a nut I am for dishtowels.  But if you don’t, just click on DISHTOWELS, and I will be happy to tell you!

This is my dishtowel display unit . . . did I buy this stove just for the handles?  Maybe.

I wrote and watercolored this card to keep in front of me when I write books, to remind me every day what it is I am trying to do.  But it works just as well for decorating the house.  I don’t think I finally figured out the actual meaning of the word “charm” until I was in my early 40’s!  Now I might like to write a book about it!

So, then, after finishing the ironing, I wanted to bleach my vintage potholders because they were starting to look like something the cat dragged in.  I put them in a bowl with warm water, a little laundry soap, and about a quarter cup of liquid bleach and let them sit and soak.

And I washed the towels for the guest bathrooms . . . and took everything outside . . .

Something you know I love to do . . .

Towels dried in the open air get scratchy; I never used to dry them on the line, because I didn’t think I’d like scratchy towels — but one of the houses we stayed in, when we were in England, had line-dried towels, and I loved it!  My new discovery!  Scratchy towels that smell a little like mown grass are wonderful and invigorating, and they even seem more absorbent.

It took about two seconds after I brought the basket in before my shadow was in it!

Such a decorative kitty!

Little touches with vintage fabrics (just like kitties) add charm, originality, history and individuality to your home sweet home.  xoxo

63 Responses to Sweet Vintage Linens

  1. Debbie Allen says:

    Dear Susan – I have been battleing breast cancer (diagnosed June 2011) and ovarian cancer (diagnosed January 2012). It has been rough but things are on the bright side.

    Now I am fighting Neuropathy in every joint in my arms and legs. The pain is extremely bad.

    I saw your Tea Book and couldn’t figure out how to order it. My friends and I were always having tea parties and going to tea houses. We had such a great and fabulous time. Great memories!

    Here is my information if you could let me know how to order this book.

    Love – Debbie Allen
    1879 Margie Lane
    Anaheim. CA. 92802
    [email protected]

    • sbranch says:

      Oh dear, I am so sorry for what you’re having to go through! I’m not sure what Tea Book you are speaking of, I don’t think I have one! Can you tell me something else about it? Or are you just thinking I have one?

  2. Joan Lesmeister says:

    Great blog! Love old linens! xo

  3. claudette says:

    Hello, Love aprons! am looking for a 30’s full apron pattern made in strips with bias tape edges. I read on a blog that they had obtained the pattern from you for free. Do you still have it and would you be kind enought to share it with me. Many thanks, Claudette

    • sbranch says:

      Hi Claudette, Go HERE — scroll down to where it says free patterns and then see the photo of 3 girls in aprons, that’s it!

  4. Kimberly says:

    I absolutly love linens. My Grandmother had a hugh collection of handkerchiefs, as well as my Mother had some, with the ones I have collected I have a hugh stash. I also love dishtowels and have taken to embroidering them and give them as gifts. I LOVE doing them!!! Then my next is collecting vintage 50’s printed tablecothes. Of course I quilt too, so love getting my hands on antique ones as well. Thanks for sharing your stashes!!!

  5. Christy says:

    I love these kinds of linens! My mom just gave me a set over Thanksgiving that my Great Aunt had hand stitched for me when I was born! What a happy surprise!

  6. Anita Page says:

    I know you hear this all the time – but I just love you and your art and your attitude. I’m getting ready to start chemo next week and plan to go to your web site often for inspiration and strength. I think like you do and will love “inhale” your beautiful art and the happiness I feel when I am looking at your web site very often. Take care and “keep on keepin’ on”! Anita

    • sbranch says:

      You too Anita. I have a very important and inspiring person in my life that said, “The only way to it is through it.” Plow through girl, and there’s everything on the other side. Time passes! Best to you dear.♥

      • Anita Page says:

        Thank you so much. Again, I just love you and feel so blessed to have discovered your site. All is going pretty well so far with the chemo, and I’m just thankful the doctors have a treatment for my kind of cancer. My motto is “I Love” because I love people so much as well as many other things like tea towels, old dishes, cats, quilts, cooking, my home, nature – beautiful things like you love. And……I love you! I can just feel your sweet spirit through your art and writing and pictures. Thank you for being there and sharing “you” with us. Anita

        • Anita Page says:

          I just looked at your blog again and saw that you called one of your cats your “shadow”. I have a cat “shadow” too. Her name is Pinni Layne, a name I saw in some records about a baby born during World War II in England. (How about that?) Pinni is so sweet and follows me everywhere I go. Every time I turn around, I find her there with me, like she’s just quietly waiting to follow me to my next destination. I heard or read something about someone who said their little dog was a “heartbeat at their feet”. That’s what I think of my little “shadow” as – a little heartbeat at my feet. God really gave us a wonderful blessing when he gave us our little animals! God is great, and I think our pets are just one piece of evidence of how much he truly loves us!! Have a great day and love those cats! Anita

        • sbranch says:

          What a wonderful motto you’ve chosen Anita!

  7. Maggie Bossett says:

    I have just retired and am finding the time to rummage through the collection of old linens that both of my grandmothers handmade. What is the safest possible way to clean them and make them white again? Does sunshine really work? Also, the thin cotton cloth has deteriorated on some of the pieces in some small areas from old stains and the crochet items have small areas of wear and tear. I remember my grandmother telling me how she “stole” a secret pattern from a neighbor by memorizing the details on the arm rests when she visited! Thank you for quietly, softly touching our hearts and our lives with your wonder, appreciation and talent. Blessings.

  8. Susan says:

    Just a tip. You may do this already. Put your embroidered pieces face down on a folded towel to iron. This keeps the stitches from getting smooshed. (Is that a word?)

  9. Sara Dunn says:

    I love vintage linens, now I know how to show them….thanks so much. Love your artwork and everything you do.


    • sbranch says:

      One way is with a quilt rack — I have one in my dining room and hang pretty tablecloths over it.

  10. Kate McLaury says:

    Your shared work is such a joy and inspiration. This is my first “reply” and now I see how it works. You’ll hear more, for sure.
    Your calendar is my first priority with each new year, your address book is a delight, and these essentials at my house are often my choice for gifting to friends.
    thank you, and thank you for sharing so much of your joy and life.
    Kate in Kansas

  11. Mary Anne Walton says:

    This blog has motivated me to locate and rehabilitate a red and white crocheted potholder that belonged to my husband’s grandmother.

    I am watching the mail daily now for your 2014 calendar and soon, your new book!

    Thanks for the inspiration always to be found in your books and on the website!

  12. Margaret Solan says:

    Dear Susan,
    I am always amazed at how many things I feel we have in common. I too love linens both vintage and new. And old Volvo240s, and Laura Ashley and am planning a trip to England September 2014 for my husband and my 30th anniversary. Can’t wait for my book to arrive and my 2014 Susan Branch calendar [planning the trip a year in advance is half the fun!].

    It is always a pleasure exploring your website! Now I am inspired to launder and iron some of my favorite linens! Thank you.

    • sbranch says:

      It’s a cold crisp morning here in the New Hampshire mountains (where I’m doing a book signing later today) — I’m wrapped in my green shawl, have a cup of tea, and thinking how nice it would be to smell that hot iron smell of freshly laundered linens! Thanks for that reminder . . . have a wonderful day Margaret!

  13. Eva Baldwin says:

    Hi Susan, first time visit to your page and I too feel like a kindred sprit. I have been to England twice and when I leave I feel like I am leaving some thing behind that I need. Four of us ladies stayed at the perfect thatched cottage, Tythe Barn Cottage in Ebrington. Very small village with a Church and local Pub, the food was very good. Asked by local villagers how we found this tiny little slice of heaven? Internet. I am planning another trip in 2014, Lord willing.
    There is a magazine I just found and ordered called, Cotswold life. I will let you know how it is when I get the first copy. Best of Wishes, God Bless.

  14. Darleen says:

    Hi Susan , Is there a way to get the yellow out of old linens ? Thank you

    • sbranch says:

      It really depends on the fabric, but usually old linens are cotton or linen and I bleach them. That’s what I love about them, they aren’t treated with anything and bleach is possible. If they are fragile, I do it by hand, in a bowl, a few drops in cold water. But if they are sturdy, like some of my old bedspreads, dresser scarves and linen napkins, I wash them in the washer and use a bit more bleach (fill the washer with water first, add soap and bleach and let it mix in, THEN add the linens). I don’t do this with any quilts at all, just in case you might be meaning them.

  15. Lydia Alejandro says:

    Hello Susan,
    I am one of your many adoring fans (sisters in spirit) who also loves
    vintage linens. I am just beginning to collect and appreciate learning all I can
    about caring for them. Many “gracias” for your delightful blog. I enjoy it so
    much. Thank you for the time, effort, and love you put into your blog.

  16. Marie says:

    I love antique linens! I have two wicker baskets full and I’m always falling in love with more every time I go to the antique store. I just bought another piece this week 😀

    • sbranch says:

      My ironing basket is full now…after the holidays, will be spending a couple of hours with ironing board and old movie soon.

  17. truda frekko says:

    HI. I have been looking without success for one or two white or ecru chenille pom pom bedspreads any size. The field is only popcorn or pompoms I don’t know what to call them. Have you any thoughts where I might find some?Thanks so much

  18. Fran says:

    I love going antiqueing and love vintage linens. I have quiet a collection. Where is a good place in your area to find some good vintage linens? I will be coming to Martha’s Vineyard this year. I just want you to know that I love your blog and enjoy getting your newsletter. I am retired and live alone and you bring a breath of fresh air to my day. Hope your day is lovely!!!

    • sbranch says:

      There really isn’t a good spot here for linens on the island. There’s a wonderful place called Sylvia’s in Woodstock, Vermont, I’ve gotten lots of things there.

  19. Shirley Graham says:

    Your linens make me think of my Mother. She loved pretty pillowcases, aprons, etc. and crocheted, tatted, & embroidered (msp?). I still starch and iron my pillowcases (everyone thinks I’m crazy) & love embroidered t-towels. She could cut out a slipcover for the couch without a pattern. I miss her much but think of her as I try to keep house the way she did! Thanks so much for the “Vintage Linens”. Love your blog! Enjoy the snow – I do – but do not like the ice & think I may have had enough snow for a little while! It has certainly been beautiful just like your video. Thanks!

  20. Shirley Graham says:

    Also forgot (how I don’t know) to say my “shadow” is named Gabrille & we call her Gabby which she is. She talks a lot & is waiting for me to go to bed as she can’t go until I do. What would I do without her? So much joy. Thanks again for your calendar – love it too!

  21. Marian says:

    The stove resembles the one in the pictures of your mother’s kitchen when you were a little girl. I love old stoves (and appliances in general), they have so much personality.

    • sbranch says:

      You have a good eye, it’s the same brand and year of my Mom’s stove. Had to have it to make my house feel like home.

  22. Laura Thomas says:

    All the designs and colors of the Linens are amazing and should be appreciated which reflects the personality of the owner.

  23. Roseann Copeland says:

    I am going upstairs to pull out some stored quilts and display them. Thanks for your beautiful inspiration! I love your blog!

  24. Sweet Sue says:

    Just loved taking a gander at your vintage linens this morning! I especially like the embroidered ones. My grandmother used to stich roses on the borders of pillow cases with lacey tatting on the edges. It was my job to carefully wash them, sprinkle them with water and wrap them up in plastic and then iron them. This was before “steam irons”. So beautiful on the beds. We also had handmade that were quilted and so lovely with our fine china and crystal. Yes, this blog certainly brought back fond memories….may just purchase a few of your handtowels when I go on your shopping site to “birthday shop”!
    Blessings to you this fine day!

  25. Gayla Gosselin says:

    Oh Susan I adore you and all your lovelies ! My Pastor’s wife is from England. The past few years she has bought me your calendar and I just adore it. It hangs in my craft room! I have a love for linens and crocheted tablecloths, doilies as well! I just went thrift the other day at a great spot in Vt, possible a place you might sneak away to visit?! Lots of comfort goodies make me think of you, I also just received your new book and can’t wait to sit, sip of tea and get to know you! God Bless, Gayla

  26. Linda Fauvell says:

    Dear Susan, Your books, and now your website bring me so much joy! I was first given your book, “A Fine Romance” by my sister-in-law; it was love at first read. The peace and happiness that wells up inside me when I begin reading one of your books,(I have them all), is amazing. Thank you for bringing such warmth to so many lives! Sincerely, Linda

  27. helena pennell says:

    dearest Susan, you and I have been friends for quite some time and I’m pretty sure you were never aware of it! Your beautiful drawings and writing have captivated me for we both have pretty much the interests and tastes in decorating and collecting. My ‘collecting’ is becoming a tad obsessive, but I don’t care. I’m in love with linens and furniture that needs me to repair it to its past glory. I have both of my beloved grammas precious tatted pieces and crocheted tablecloths and so many more momentos. My life would be so empty without these pleasures and it feels so wonderful to find someone who cares as I do about preserving and enjoying these tokens of our past. best wishes to you, dear friend.

  28. Mary Levasseur says:

    Dear Susan,

    Just finished your book A Fine Romance and it was captivating and most wonderfully written. I have always loved to read about England,and yearned to be able to go there and visit the
    English countryside, not so much London, and quaint villages, homes and cottage gardens.
    You surely brought it alive in your book. Now I want to go even more and of course on the
    QM-2. I love tea parties and have had a few myself. Those who have come were just delighted and enjoyed every minute. Would have loved to been able get your Tea Little Book
    and yes you must write another one. Anyway love Martha’s Vineyard and been there to visit
    a couple of times in the past when we lived in CT. Looking to read another one of your books in the very near future, I am definitely a new fan of yours! Blessings to you and Joe

  29. Kathleen H. Williams says:

    I was just spending a quite afternoon with you on your blog and entered the Sweet Vintage Linens …. it made me remember a white table cloth that I used many years ago on my table for Thanksgiving. I had all the guest sign it (in pencil) and later I embroidered all the signatures and sweet messages left behind (in white thread). Some of those friends and family members have long passed but when I use this tablecloth they still share a special place our table. Stitched with love and remembered in our hearts.

    • sbranch says:

      I rescued a tablecloth very much like that at an antique store, signatures and dates embroidered over the years, I still treasure it even though I don’t know the people. I like their family-ness on my picnic table.

  30. Jeanie Driver says:

    Hello. I have a large antique embroidered tablecloth (96″ x 64″). It was handmade in Asia in 1935. I had it professionally cleaned and when it was returned it no longer lays flat. The embroidery is so puckered it is virtually unusable. It there anything I can do to fix it?
    Regards, Jeanie Driver

    • sbranch says:

      That’s a very good question; I would Google “fixing puckered embroidery” because I don’t know what I would do if that happened, other than re-embroidering it, and that doesn’t sound like a good idea at all!

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