MENDING: How to Care for Vintage Linens & Lace


As we continue our series on caring for vintage linens and lace, it’s time to cover the topic of mending…

 

In the very first post of this series — the one about washing — I told you to set aside any of your linens that needed mending since repairs should always be made prior to washing.  If you missed that post or any of the others on drying, ironing, stain removal, or storage, just click the Vintage Linens tab at the top of this blog to access them.

 

I wish I could tell you that if you master one type of mending, it will suffice for every necessary repair … but I can’t.  As you can see from these very few examples, vintage linens showcase a wide variety of needlework techniques, often incorporating several in one piece.
 

Here are a few current pieces in my stash that need to be repaired.  Some of the repairs are easier than others and I’ll fix — or at least improve/stabilize — the problem.  But others … since I’m no expert seamstress … I’ll simply choose live with. You just have to decide what works for you.
 

The beautiful linen square I showed in THIS tablescape post is an example of one piece I’ve chosen to enjoy “as is.”  Fortunately, the silk embroidery, grid-like inserts, and lace trim are in excellent condition.
 

 
… But before I discovered this beauty in an auction box, someone had already loved it enough to make extensive repairs of the linen fabric.  It could use a few more, but I think I’ll just accept that this pretty piece has allowed me to join its life “in progress.”  I’ll appreciate its beauty … and “beauty marks.”
 

Although, unfortunately, my skills (or lack thereof) keep me from making tutorials for this topic, there are a few tips I can share with you.  Let me first say, though, that if your item is an investment purchase or an heirloom-quality piece you want to “return to perfection,” I strongly recommend you enlist professional stitchery experts to help you.

 

I have not used such professionals, but if I were to do so, I would begin with one of these:

 

Although I cannot personally recommend them, what I’ve read online about their philosophy, services, and reputation lead me to believe that they are two examples of the type of professionals to whom I would entrust my antique and vintage textiles.  You might enjoy watching The Laundry’s restoration video.
 

If function … rather than perfection … is your goal

here are examples of online resources available to help you with some basic repairs.
 
Mending Table Linen
Using a Blind Stitch to Repair a Tear
The Mending of House Linen
Repairing and Caring for Crochet

 

Miscellaneous tips…

  • When hand-stitching repairs in linens, use a small needle.  Large needles leave large holes.
  • For small frays/loose threads or for tiny holes in lace, I sometimes use Fray Check to stop the damage.
  • Use iron-on patches as a last resort — and only if the item 1) does not require repeated washings, and 2) has a problem that must be stabilized.
  • I recently discovered textile bonding powder (Supermend is one example); I plan to try that technique on a couple of items I can’t otherwise repair on my own.
  • Occasionally a cost-effective repair isn’t possible and a choice has to be made between discarding and repurposing  an item.  Whenever possible, I greatly prefer to turn an otherwise unusable piece into something new that can be enjoyed for generations to come.  We’ll briefly cover that … and much more … next time in our final topic … leaving a legacy.

 

Remember …

The best way to care for your vintage linens

is to use them.

Comments

  1. These posts have been incredible!

  2. Hi, I have enjoyed your website very much. I have some handmade beautiful lace doilies and napkins that were handed down to me by my Grandmother They have yellowed as they are over 100 years old. Thank you very much, Anita

  3. HELP!
    I have two antique linen items that have holes.
    One is my grandmother’s table cloth (probably from about 1920)….it actually has a couple of large holes. Advice?
    Secondly, I have a baptismal gown that we know is from 1868 and immigrated from Norway. It has been used now for 6 generations. We will soon want to use it again, but it has some tiny holes and is fraying is some spots.
    I really would like to keep these in the family, particularly the baptismal gown, but am afraid of using them at this time. Again, any advice?

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