Decorate with Vintage Textiles
The fabrics of our (and our ancestors') lives, vintage textiles make a comeback as art, seat covers, rugs, and more. Check out these 16 room designs to find ways to creatively weave heirloom blankets, 1950s tea towels, heirloom quilts, recycled feed sacks, and other old-timey materials into your decor.
Everything In This Slideshow
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Evidence of the Hand
Handmade quilts and embroidered pillowcases bring collected charm to bedrooms great and small. Here, a bright red quilt doubles as a tapestry behind a primitive bedstead dressed in vintage linens and an embroidered pillow.
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It's a downright shame that the most beautiful quilts oftentimes sit protected and unappreciated in linen closets, when they could be out in the open where they can be seen and appreciated. These homeowners draped an heirloom star quilt across a table set beneath framed maps (which share the quilt's hues) to create a focal-point vignette that spills over with color and pattern.
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A bolt of grandma's 1960s fabric became the starting point for an interesting interplay of striped, solid, and geometric textiles. Used to create drapery panels, the fabric inspired the bedroom's blue, yellow, and white color scheme. Strategic mixing of large-, medium-, and small-scale textile patterns ensures that the room remains peaceful instead of appearing too busy.
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Put your school pride on display by turning a letter sweater -- or any old sweater with a newly applied letter -- into a seat cover. Simply wrap the sweater around the chair's seat, tucking the sweater's neck edges in at the top and stapling the wrapped-around sections to the back of the seat.
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Head to your grandma's sewing room or flea market vendors specializing in vintage textiles to look for fabric and quilt remnants and needlework pieces that you can reuse to create pillows or frame as artwork. Stitched from sections of well-worn crazy quilts, these accent pillows captivate the eye and complement the stitchery displayed on the bedspread and the samplers showcased on the wall.
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Color Me Comfortable
Vintage blankets produced by Hudson Bay and Pendleton companies strike a chord with anyone who loves bold colors and patterns that evoke a sense of place. These homeowners updated a wicker chair with an old camp blanket; they used pieces cut from the blanket to upholster the seat and create a wraparound pillow that cushions the back.
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Stitch old souvenir pennants to the top of a coverlet, blanket, or bedspread to stylishly present a record of past journeys or to forecast travels yet to come. This bedspread works with vintage-looking curtain fabrics, log furnishings, and a totem-pole lamp to create a theme that is part Western cabin, part 1950s kitsch.
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Easy Does It
Vintage textiles worth showing off, 1940s and 1950s tea towels and tablecloths boast ultra-fun motifs in catchy colors. Use the textiles to create window valances, accent pillows, wall hangings, or chair seats. Here's how to get a similar look. Remove the seat from the chair frame by unscrewing the screws that hold it in place. Wrap the seat with a towel or tablecloth remnant. Make sure the fabric's best side is facing upward before stapling the wrapped fabric to the bottom of the seat. Cut away the excess fabric, and rescrew the seat to the chair. Seats not removable? Top them with cushions crafted from vintage linens.
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Vintage fashions -- whether it's a dress from your childhood, your own kid's first pair of overalls, or just a cool-looking piece from an antiques store -- rise to artwork status when placed in display frames and prominently exhibited. Framed baby clothes make playful additions to nurseries and kids' rooms, while more primitive apparel works in country and early-American designs.
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Lengths of fabric harvested from frayed or raggedy quilts supply the makings for one-of-a-kind pillowcases and shams. Though these two shams were pieced together from different quilts, they became an almost-matched pair thanks to the plaid fabric ruffles finishing their edges.
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In the Bag
Heavy canvas and tightly woven linen sacks that once held feed, seed, or pantry staples bring period textures, patterns, and panache to interiors. Stuff a feed sack with fiberfill and slip-stitch the opening closed to create a pillow in a jiffy. Or create a cover for a pillow form by using the printed section of one feed sack as the cover's front and a plainer feed sack or length of neutral fabric as the back.
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Tightly woven textiles easily take on new purpose when wielded by creative hands. This homeowner warmed up a modern breakfast room by layering a pair of Brazilian blankets as an arresting area rug that unites the wooden dining table and acrylic ghost chairs. Play it safe: Whenever you set blankets or area rugs on bare floors, place them atop nonslip rug pads to ensure the rugs don't become tripping hazards.
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Want to get bang for your decorating buck? Buy drapery panels stitched from vintage fabrics -- each panel will supply you with at least a couple yards of material that you can rework as you please. This homeowner used flower-powered curtain fabric to inexpensively upholster a bed's headboard and footboard.
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A Fine Tribute
The year was 1904, and it was very good year for Americans: the World's Fair and the Olympics were held in St. Louis, and the first New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square occurred. The century-old hooked rug displayed above this mantel may have commemorated any or none of these events; no matter, the hand-worked rug becomes an artistic statement that beautifully suits the room's patriotic theme.
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Modern techniques take vintage textiles to new heights -- or lows, as in the case of this inventively composed area rug. Shapes cut from old Persian and Chinese Art Deco rugs were stitched together and then overdyed in indigo to give the puzzled-together carpet a cohesive appearance.
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Scarves as Art
Vintage scarves boasting bold graphics and look-at-me colors deserve a place in the spotlight. This trio of silken scarves, most likely from the 1960s or '70s, creates a flashy grouping when displayed in custom frames. Combine scarves with similar sizes, shapes, and colors to mount an agelessly appealing exhibit.