I’ve got a small collection of vintage table linens, some are family items, some I purchased myself.
This one was made by my great aunt in 1950 or earlier.
It’s beautifully bright and colourful, so perfectly embroidered, you can barely tell which is the back and which is the front.
The bright pinks, blues and yellows have been expertly stitched. The scalloped edge has been blanket stitched by hand, the base linen looks and feels silky like cream.
I’ve had it since 1993, the date of a different great aunt’s death and no one else wanted it. Its been in storage in a bag of mine and rarely seen the light of day in 28 years. Prior to that, I don’t ever remember seeing it in use and it was found in a suitcase under the bed, so this beautiful item has not been used and loved for 70 years.
There are stains, and I washed it in my machine on a delicate hand wash cycle, which did not damage the expertly stitched embroidery in any way but also did not remove the stains.
The reason it got washed this week was because there was a plan.
I find these pieces difficult to repurpose because there is not a lot of fabric to make a whole garment and the embroidery is delicate and positioned to suit a tablecloth not clothing.
I had purchased the Brighton bucket hat from sewgirl patterns
This hat has a small and large brim version and is reversible. I had already made a small brim version from a 2nd hand skirt and some vintage Laura Ashley homeware fabric:
It occurred to me that the size and curved shape of the brim pattern piece may fit the curve of embroidery typically sewn into the corner of a vintage tablecloth.
I cut my large brim hat pieces from the vintage tablecloth – fabric and pattern were a match made in heaven.
For the reverse I used a Orla Kiely curtain which had a similar background colour.
As both fabrics were mid weight I only interfaced one of the brim pieces – the instructions suggest more liberal use of interfacing.
What is great about the design of this hat is that the small brim version provides sun protection without being too large, and the large brim version is meant to be turned up so that the alternative fabric shows, and this showcases the flowery embroidery when the alternative fabric is outermost.
I am so pleased with both hats but especially with the large brim version because I have found a way to give the work of my talented ancestor a new life and a new set of viewers, both here online and in real life. A hat doesn’t need washing that often, doesn’t have areas of heavy wear and so should endure. The tablecloth maker died in 1959 so I never got to meet her, I suppose she never would have guessed that the youngest daughter of her husband’s niece would still be appreciating her work more than 60 years later. I am pretty sure none of my own sewing will stand that test of time.