LEAVING A LEGACY: How to Care for Vintage Linens & Lace

We’ve made it to the final topic in the series … Leaving a legacy.  If you missed any of the previous topics (washing, drying, ironing, stain removal, storage, and mending), just click on the How to: Vintage Linens tab at the top of this blog to read them.

leg·a·cy  noun

1. Money or property bequeathed to another by will
2. Something handed down from an ancestor or a predecessor or from the past 

When it comes to linens, there are many different kinds of legacies.
Some families have trunks full
… while others have only a few special pieces.

Some families pass along their legacy at special occasions such as weddings or the birth of a new baby …

Others pass it on through monograms …

… or coats of arms.

If you love old linens but have inherited none, you can prepare to leave your own legacy … and you can do it without spending a fortune. These little hairpin lace doilies are the first two items I ever purchased for myself.  It was 20+ years ago at an estate sale.  Total:  $3  The cost would still be about the same today.

Some of the very best prices on old linens are found at auctions.  Now that I’ve shown you through this series just how easy it is to launder and care for them, you shouldn’t hesitate to start — or add to — your collection!


Occasionally you’ll come across linens that have laundry marks.  Some are a barely-legible series of numbers.  Others … Oh, my.  It may not have begun life as your legacy, but it’s yours to enjoy then pass on now!

Source for “Oh, my”

But, as is often the case, what if the linens you inherited came with lots of wonderful memories … but an equal amount of holes?  Never fear!  Surely everyone’s legacy — in linens or Life — comes with some trouble spots.  Doesn’t it? There are many ways to recycle once-lovely linens and get them back into circulation.  Napkins and runners are easy candidates for pillows.  Hankies and cocktail napkins make sweet little pouches.  And tablecloths transformed into clothing or curtains give new life to family treasures. Even if all you can do is salvage a small piece of lace or embroidery to make a bookmark, you’re still passing Grandma’s artistry to the next generation.
Click HERE to read the story of this dress.

But one question remains … How do you want to pass on your legacy?  Obviously, if you’ve made it to the end of this series on caring for vintage linens and lace, you’re going to do your part to pass along items that are in good condition.  And you’ll almost certainly pass along the memories (either family stories or your own I found this piece in an auction box… stories).  But if your family is like mine, it doesn’t take many generations before the stories begin to run together, and the memories become uncertain.  In some ways, I suppose that really doesn’t matter.  But there’s a part of me that really wants to know the history … the provenance … whenever possible.

For that reason (and also for insurance purposes), I suggest you take inventory of your collectionI’ll admit that through the years I’ve spent more time collecting than taking inventory, but … as I downsize, I’m preparing to take my own advice.  Your inventory may be as simple as a photograph of each item in your collection with the details written on the back … or as detailed as a spreadsheet with pictures.  Choose an inventory method that makes the most sense for your personality as well as the size of your collection.

Whatever your choice, it’s good to include as much information as possible about each item:

  • Item # (good idea when you have an extensive collection)
  • Item (tablecloth, Grandma’s hankie, etc.)
  • Description (color, fabric, embroidery, crochet, ID marks, country of origin, etc.)
  • Provenance (history/previous owners of item)
  • Condition
  • # pieces (especially important for sets of napkins, placemats, etc.)
  • Purchase date
  • Purchase price
  • Vendor (where you bought the item)
  • Insured value
  • Current value
  • Location (where item is located/stored)
  • Additional notes

No matter what size of collection we have … or what its value … the most important legacy we can pass along is the gift of ourselves.  Will my family and friends remember that I acted with grace and hospitality when we gathered around a beautifully clothed table?  Will they know that the stains they left behind were much less important to me than their well-being?  Will they remember freshly-laundered bed linens welcoming them at the end of a pleasant day in my home?  If all they have left of me is a hankie, will they remember that I dried their tears and loved them through both happy times and sad?  I pray they will.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series and will find it to be useful in the future.  Feel free to ask questions if you have them.  I can always update the posts with new information!

Remember … the best way to care for your vintage linens is to use them!

I’ll be joining
Blue Monday at Smiling Sally
Meet Me Monday at You Are Talking Too Much
Make the Scene Monday at Alderberry Hill
Masterpiece Monday at Boogieboard Cottage
Mop It Up Monday at I Should Be Mopping The Floor


  1. Thanks for sharing your beautiful linens with touches of blues.

    I look forward to reading your comment on my blog.

    Happy Blue Monday, Susan.

  2. These linen pieces are so beautiful! And so many wonderful ideas for recycling the sadder ones!

  3. Thanks for the tips!

    My BLUE
    Your comment is always a delight to read.

  4. You have a beautiful collection. Thanks for the tips.

    My Blue Monday.