There was a time in our no-so-distant past when a table wasn’t considered to be properly set unless it was first covered with a tablecloth. Nowadays, though, tablecloths are more likely to be seen at “good” restaurants or saved for special occasions at home. Speaking for myself, I can only think of a handful of occasions over the course of a year that one of my own tablecloths are called into service. It’s a shame, too, because I have quite a collection of hand-me-down and thrifted cloths relegated to a drawer in the pantry. I can’t bear to part with them, but they just don’t seem to fit into our busy, wipe-clean lifestyle.
According to the 1958 edition of Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Book of Etiquette, a Bride’s trousseau should include no fewer than six tablecloths, plus dozens of cloth napkins and “tray sets“. No wonder there are so many vintage linens to be found! Sally of Sally Rags has discovered a way to give new life to neglected linens like mine. [Be sure to also check out Leah’s interview with Sally Rags from a few months back.]
From her home workshop in Salem, Oregon Sally creates colourful crocheted decor items and accessories from gently-worn linens, like this trivet (above), as well as bowls, coasters and potholders. (I especially like her signature, multi-use “A Round Tuits”.) Good to note – Sally’s shop is chock-full of fabulous items, but it’s not just accessories that she’s putting on the table; Sally happily donates a generous percentage of her sales to her local food bank!
Taking inspiration from both a strong sense of history and the textiles themselves, Marian Smale designs fashions that are simply wonderful. Pieces from her colorful line of skirts and dresses, upcycled from (what else?) vintage fabrics, are what Marian refers to as her “happy creative meanderings”. Pieces, like this swirling circle skirt (below), are as fun and spontaneous as Marian’s process is for creating them.
It was during her early days selling one-off fashions in a church bazaar stall in Australia that Marian began her love affair with old linens and retro fabrics. Her fellow sellers became her favourite sources for the vintage tablecloths and linens that were integral to her unique designs. Although she has since returned to New Zealand, some of Marian’s Australian market discoveries are still making their way into her creations; joined by more-recently purchased thrift store and auction finds. As her stash grows, so does her appreciation for the materials that go into her upcycled garments, such as the skirt pictured below. While it is the stories behind every piece of fabric that spark Marian’s creativity, it is the new life that her pieces take on that inspire her to take her shop to new heights.
Stephanie, aka The Material Girl, has been a self-professed sewing addict for the past 7 years. Her interest in upcycling came from a desire to create one-of-a-kind items for her clients. By using thrift-store clothing to compliment off-the-bolt fabrics, she was able to do just that! Her fabulous line of purses, pillows and accessories makes use of vintage linens, which she buys at estate sales. Stephanie’s designs, like this stocking (below), allow her to work around the holes and stains in the often-damaged finds and the resulting items are both functional and truly unique, not to mention easy-care. Stephanie tells me that she’s currently working on upcycling vintage linens and tablecloths into new designs, such as ornaments, sachets, album and checkbook covers, I’ll definitely be watching for those in her shop!
Finally, it’s not just vintage linens that are being treated to a second-life. Mandy of Richmond, VA has found a way to upcycle disposable plastic tablecloths into fabulously functional purses! The Official Handbag Provider for the 2009 Miss United States Pageant, Mandy gets my thumbs-up for her clever transformation of such an inelegant item. This purse (below), made from a plastic tablecloth that was used at a graduation party, has been graduated to high-fashion status with a little help from Mandy (and her trusty crochet hook). It is just one of many eco-friendly upcycled bags in the Blue Sky Bags collection on Etsy.
For an interesting look at printed tablecloths, from Victorian times up until the 1960s, visit Fabrics.net.