Thursday, November 11, 2010

caring for vintage

now for the real thursday post: caring for vintage. today's topic: table linens.

if you're like me, you probably have a stack of vintage tablecloths somewhere. they're not all in perfect condition, some have holes, some have stains, but they are all awesome. the real question is how to keep them looking awesome.

now, i am by no means an expert on the subject, but i have had some training from my mother (as i was growing up), and there are some very good resources online. this is just a simple overview of how to care for table linens, but i am providing links so you can do more in-depth research if you want to.

the most important thing about taking care of your vintage tablecloths is learning to live with their past. you need to accept the fact that some stains will not come out. just because a tablecloth is stained, doesn't mean it's ruined. in a way, those stains tell the story of the linens.

the good news is, most stains will come out. it may take a little work, but even old stains can usually be lightened, if not removed altogether.

cleaning stains

for old stains:

squeeze the juice of two lemons into a dish. place the stained part of your tablecloth on top of a dry towel; spoon the juice onto the stain; cover with 1 tsp of salt and gently rub it in. let it sit half an hour, then rinse with vinegar, followed by warm water. (via good housekeeping)

for fresh stains:

if you can afford it, there is a great wash especially for vintage linens called, simply, linen wash. as soon as possible, pre-treat the stain with the linen wash, then follow the directions on the bottle to wash the tablecloth.

if you can't spend $30 on detergent for linens (like myself), there are several solutions for treating fresh stains.

if your tablecloth is relatively sturdy (most of mine are heavy cotton), presoak using oxy clean (it actually works really well) or biz and hot water. if your tap water isn't hot enough, heat water on the stove. it should be hot, but not boiling. soak your tablecloth or napkins in this mixture overnight. then machine wash using cold water on the delicate setting. it's best to wash vintage linens by themselves- don't overload the washing machine or they won't get clean.

if you're loathe to use chemical detergents, vinegar also works pretty well. soak the piece in vinegar for 2 hours, then rinse until the vinegar smell is gone.

drying vintage linens

sun drying:

if possible avoid using the dryer to dry vintage linens. if you're lucky enough to live somewhere sunny, it's best to dry dry linens in the sun. after washing your linens, fold them in between a towel and gently squeeze the water out. never ring vintage linens- it causes too much stress to the old fibers. then lay the linens on out on the grass. leave them out for several hours until they are dry. the bonus to sun drying is that the sun will also help bleach any stains that may have been left behind.

if, like me, you live somewhere where it rains most of the year, you have a couple of options.


if you use a dryer for vintage linens, make sure all stains have been removed first. if not, re-treat the stain before drying. only use the air dry setting and make sure to remove the linens before they are completely dry. after you take them out of the dryer, lay them flat (on towels on the bed is a good option) until they are completely dry.

air dry:

this option will take a while, especially if you live in a humid climate. after pressing the water out of the folded tablecloth, lay it out flat on a dry towel (or two). the floor is the best place for this option since the towel will become damp.

storing/displaying linens

there are several good ways to store and display vintage tablecloths, depending upon what kind of space you have available.


if you have some closet space or other hanging space available (i like this idea from the tparty blog, using a towel rack to both store and display tablecloths), this is a safe and space saving way to store vintage linens. em over at em's heart recommends folding a piece of acid free paper over the hanger, placing the tablecloth on top, then layering another piece of acid free paper on top to protect from dust. she even sells the paper on her website.


folding is a great way to show off your vintage table linen collection. mine are displayed in a large stack on a shelf in the kitchen (sorry i don't have photos, i forgot to take them when the sun was out!). there are so many different ways you can fold your linens and even more ways to display them once they are folded. i think this stack of tablecloths on a cake stand, from the red thread blog is a cute idea.

there are a few things to keep in mind when storing vintage linens this way. first-don't iron them before storing them, if they need to be ironed do it just before using them (or spray them with some distilled water after placing them on the table and they will hang out nicely). second- be mindful of where you keep them. a stack of tablecloths on a shelf near the stove may look cute, but grease, steam and cooking odors can ruin them! it's best to keep any vintage linens in a cool, dry place. if you keep them in the kitchen (like i do), just make sure they are as far away from the stove and sink (or dishwasher) as possible.

it's also a good idea to fold some acid free paper in with your linens, especially if you don't use your linens frequently. additionally, never store vintage linens in direct contact with wood or painted surfaces. if your shelf is wood, or you store them in a cupboard, kitchen queen, or pie safe, place a sheet of acid free paper down before stacking the linens up.

other things to keep in mind

always use distilled water in your iron when pressing vintage linens. this will prevent rust stains.

never machine wash vintage linens with hot water. the hot water can loosen rust and other minerals built up in your pipes and stain the linens.

don't starch your vintage linens. starch eventually breaks down and can yellow, as well as damage the structure of, the fibers.

if you iron your linens, iron them flat, without creases. ironing a crease can wear down the fibers in just that spot, which will become more noticeable in the future.

avoid using bleach if at all possible. if you must use bleach, rinse your piece (in the washer) twice, using 1/2 cup of vinegar in the 1st rinse cycle to neutralize the bleach.

i hope these tips on caring for vintage table linens has been helpful! if we all take care of our cool vintage table cloths, maybe our kids will be able to enjoy them too.

sommer designs has some great ideas on repurposing vintage tablecloths

diyv wednesday (on a thursday)

this was supposed to go up yesterday, but between work and preparing things for the shops i got a bit distracted and didn't get it done! so, time travel back with me to wednesday for the first installment of do it yourself vintage (aka diyv)...

in this weeks living vintage, i promised i would show you how to make the light cover/lamp shade hanging in our recently redecorated bedroom. well i'm not one to go back on my word, so follow me through the process of making your very own lamp shade!

as i mentioned in the living vintage post, we just had a bare bulb fixture in our bedroom, which looked horrible and didn't do any favors for the ambient light in the room. on a limited budget, i knew that whatever i chose to fix this issue had to be diy, and ideally made with things i already had.

after accessing my materials situation, i had a few things i knew i wanted to incorporate: vintage maps and some old wire mesh.

but how to turn these into a lamp shade? i've created various things with quilting hoops before, so i figured there must be a way to create a lamp shade using a larger sized quilting hoop or two.

i started looking online for inspiration and noticed this tutorial on 'the keylor family' blog. i like the clean lines of drum style shades and having seen similar tutorials on instructables, i figured this would be a simple enough project to tackle. and thus this project got it's legs.

so let's get started!

materials needed:

two quilting hoops in a size that suits your needs. i chose the 23 inch hoops. 
you can find quilting hoops at most any craft store. 

a length of wire mesh slightly longer than the circumference of your hoops. wire mesh is available in several different gauges and finishes. you could also use chicken wire for a more country look. 
find wire mesh at most hardware stores. 

for the lining of the shade you can choose from a variety of materials. 

i used an old paper map, but you could use fabric, feed sacks, other types of paper, 
even a laminated photo collage. 

whatever you choose, make sure you have a long enough piece to match the circumference of the quilting hoops. 

hanging the shade may depend upon the type of fixture you're covering up. since my fixture was just a bare bulb, i chose a simple method (which i'll cover at the end). for this you'll need

4 eye hooks

4 s hooks

4 steel safety pin fasteners

all of these are available at any hardware store. 

now for the assembly:

first make sure your wire mesh and paper or fabric are cut to the proper size. 

in order to cut the wire mesh you'll need work gloves and a sturdy pair of wire cutters. this is a tedious task, but it goes pretty quickly. 

cut the wire a square or two at a time, cutting as close to the corner as possible so there are no sharp edges sticking up. 

now that your materials are the right size, take the quilting hoops apart. for this project you will only need the inside hoop. save the outer hoops for another project. 

begin to form the shade. take your map (or whatever material you are using) and line it up with the edge of one of the hoops. use scotch tape to affix the map to the hoop. do this every few inches along the edge of the hoop. if you're using fabric you may want to use a staple gun to attach it to the hoop.

once you've completed the top hoop, repeat with the bottom hoop. when you've finished you should have the shell of a lamp shade. 

now take your wire mesh and very carefully wrap it around the shell of the shade. be careful not to puncture the paper with the wire edges. 

my original idea was to use both parts of the quilting hoop and sandwich the wire mesh between the two hoops. the wire mesh i had was too thick to do this, so in order to attach the wire to the shell of the shade, i simply measured the mesh so it would be a few inches longer than the height of my shade, and then folded the excess around the bottom hoop. you can see it at the bottom in this photo:

you're almost done! if you have any wrinkles in the paper (like mine does in the photo above), gently straighten them out by pulling on the top hoop until the wrinkle is gone. 

now you're ready to hang your shade. begin by measuring to find a halfway point of the circle. once you've found it, attach a safety pin fastener to the top square of the wire mesh on each side. repeat so that you have four evenly spaced fasteners, one in each quarter of the circle. 

next, using the shade as your guide, mark the four spots on the ceiling where you will hang the shade from. screw in the eye screws in those spots. attach the s hooks to the eye screws. using the rounded ends of the safety pin fasteners, attach the shade to the s hooks.  

you could choose to cover the bottom of the shade as well. the tutorial i mentioned earlier has great instructions on how to do that. i decided to leave mine open. since you would be able to see the light bulbs, i picked out some wonderful reproduction tungsten filament bulbs from rejuvenation

tah-dah! your very own handmade lamp shade! 

this project is really only limited by your imagination. if you try it for yourself i would love to see! drop me a line with some photos and i'll be glad to share your project here!  

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

finds to fancy

university of wyoming campus today
(photo by my friend robert perea)
i was happy to see that my wyoming hometown had it's first major snow today. i miss the first snow, the way the whole town looks fresh when blanketed in sparkling white. while seattle rarely gets snow, the temperatures have been dropping and my thoughts have turned to ways to stay cozy this winter.

(click the links to see the source)

hot, freshly percolated coffee anywhere you go? sounds cozy to me!

or perhaps an afternoon cup o' tea?

i've been preparing soup more often- maybe some new recipes?

mmm...a cozy fire to curl up by? such a lovely dream for an apartment dweller like me!

love the colors in this cozy wool throw

what a cute way to keep baby warm!

i can just imagine bundling up in this wonderful coat!

i think i had a little snow suit like this when i was a baby

such rich, autumnal colors in this warm scarf

a good scarf for a man in your life- especially great colors for the holidays

this shade of yellow is my favorite right now- and that fur? love it!

every man needs a warm, stylish hat, no?

and don't forget about the kiddos!

these boots look perfect for seattle- not too warm, plenty waterproof.  and sooo stylish!

and a good choice for the men folk. duck boots have such a classic appeal.

all this coziness has me craving a hot cocoa and some time under a blanket! stay warm today everyone!

Monday, November 8, 2010

living vintage

this week i hope to introduce you to several new weekly features. today i offer up 'living vintage'. each monday i plan to share ideas, both from my own home, and the homes of others, that will hopefully inspire you to incorporate vintage into many aspects of your everyday life. i hope you will enjoy reading it as much i enjoy putting it together! and now for today's 'living vintage'...

our tiny bedroom-before
i am the first to admit that i pretty much hate our current apartment. like many old buildings, it has so many issues that will probably never be addressed by our landlord. from improperly laid flooring that bubbles up, to poorly patched drywall everywhere, this place can drive me crazy! the room i have had the worst relationship with since we moved in is our bedroom. first off, as you can see above- it's tiny. we only have room for our queen sized bed and two little bedside tables squeezed in on each side. secondly, the walls have apparently been patched countless times, each patch looking worse and worse. we have a popcorn ceiling, a bad paint job, random bits of trim that don't go all the way around, and a bare lightbulb for a ceiling fixture. all in all, it's the room i have the most hatred for and because of this, i hadn't tried very hard to decorate it- it seemed as though the flaws were so great that no amount of decorating would help!

recently though, i had a change of heart and decided to put a little effort into redecorating this room. there were a few ground rules: no painting (not worth it since the walls are in such bad shape), no expensive purchases (no new curtains, bedding, light fixtures, etc), and try only use items we already had. with these rules in mind, i schemed, dreamed, and finally tackled the project! and here it is- our bedroom, before and after...

from the doorway of our bedroom- before... 

and after

from the other side of the room- before...

and after

a collection of vintage frames that i started 9 years ago in wyoming- before...

and after! 
in my quest to use only items i already had, i decided to keep using the frames above the bed, but gussied them up with some fun spray paint colors and other little embellishments. 

closet door and bare wall by my side of the bed- before...

and after

this photo, taken at a coffee roastery i worked at, was hanging in the gallery of our wedding photographers studio. when she closed her studio she gifted it to us. it's so huge, but since this wall was so bare, i thought it would make a fun statement piece, hanging all by itself. 

when we moved in there was just an empty socket in the bedroom. i didn't want to rewire a fixture, so i had been using this old darkroom light cover as a shade. it's a cool piece, but looked terrible used this way. note our lovely popcorn ceiling! 

our new light cover, handmade from a vintage map, wire mesh, and an embroidery hoop. i love the colors with the light shining through. keep an eye out for the how-to later this week!

to increase the overhead light, i installed a converter to make a single light socket into a double. 
since the light bulbs would be visible from below, i picked out some great carbon filament light bulbs from rejuvenation. you can find them on their website

to add a little interest to this gilded frame i strung several shades of turquoise embroidery thread in a zig zag pattern. 

i made this bunting for a party i threw in the summer. the colors matched our bedroom so well that i decided to use it in this huge frame i found at a parking lot sale in my wyoming hometown. 

i hadn't put up any photos of the husby and i since we moved into this apartment over a year ago. i thought this frame made a nice backdrop for a few of our fun couple-y photos. they're clipped to more embroidery thread with teeny-tiny clothes pins. 

my mom originally found this lamp at an estate sale when i was in junior high. she was kind enough to let me use it and then when i moved out she gave it to me. it served as the original inspiration for the color palate in the bedroom. this is bill's bedside table- in spite of how much i love vintage clocks, he hates the ticking sound, thus the digital clock.  

a fun tufted pillow my friend abbi gave to me a few years ago. i love the faded color with the little spots of bright turquoise peeking out from the folds!

another turquoise lamp. i found this one at a tiny little yard sale in capitol hill. i'm not sure why the glaze is patchy like that (it's only like that in two of the 4 panels), but i've recently decided that i like it! i found the vintage big ben moonbeam clock at an estate sale in yakima, washington. the table was a craigslist find when bill and i were first married. it was already this color and matched everything else perfectly! 

well, i hope you enjoyed the first round of 'living vintage'. if you want a room or project in your house to be featured here, leave a comment and i'll be in touch! 

happy monday everyone!