Collecting Depression Era Table Linens

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I’ll be in Florida all this week, but I’ll leave you with a look at the vintage and Depression era linens my friend Roberta has been collecting for years.  She finds them at thrift shops, but you can also find lots of examples on Ebay and Etsy, too.

The linens from this era have a cheerful, even whimsical, quality to them, and even though they are much simpler and more homespun than the fancy needlework from the Victorian era, they have lots of charm.

These were practical linens, made during tough economic times; the fabrics were for the most part durable everyday types, meant to be used, and the stitchery was simple.  But I can just imagine the hard working women taking the time, probably in the evenings, to stitch the colorful patterns and designs, determined to bring a little beauty and elegance into what must have been pretty dreary work keeping a family going during the Depression.

The needlework was basic—cross stitch and simple embroidery stiches, and many of the patterns were pre-printed on the fabrics.  These linens represent the last gasp of hand needlework that was so much a part of women’s lives for eons.

Think of all these creative hard working women when you set your spring tables this season!


    Leave a Reply

  • Reply
    March 2, 2014 at 8:47 pm

    I would love to see a few pictures of the backs of these items. Did the have a back piece to hide the wrong side of the work? Did they put as much thought into the back as the front and make as little mess as possible, or are some of the designs double sided?

  • Reply
    Daisy Rogers
    May 6, 2013 at 6:25 am

    I just love all of those table linens as they are so cute and looks very pretty on table to make your dining modern and classic.

  • Reply
    Something Different Linen
    April 30, 2013 at 7:08 am

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  • Reply
    Aiken Albert
    April 18, 2013 at 6:59 am

    Lovely post. Nice designer linens. Thank you for sharing them here. Check out the wide array of latest table linen table linen available on the online stores.

  • Reply
    April 3, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    Wow, great blog.Really looking forward to read more. Really Cool.

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  • Reply
    shannon weber
    March 30, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    we’re switching lives this week; you’re in florida and i’m home! 🙂 I hope you have a great time. I love this post; you know, my grandparents are in florida, as well as my great aunt (who turned 91 while we were there). They grew up making so many things like this, and have been meticulous in saving them to pass along. I cherish things like this, and it makes me much more aware of all the ways are lives are so much more “disposable” now in terms of buying cheap/throwing things out. I’ve tried to get better at that in my own life; lots of things these linens can teach us, i think.

  • Reply
    March 28, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    What a lovely post…I have quite a few that my grandmothers made and it’s nice to think about how this must have been done in their time of relation from all the hard work of the day. I’m going to look at my stack with new eyes after reading this…and use one for my Easter table.

  • Reply
    Lea Ann
    March 28, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    Love this post. I have a shelf full of these that I inherited from my mother in law. I really should use them more as props in my blog. I think they’re fabulous.

  • Reply
    Kitchen Belleicious
    March 27, 2013 at 3:33 am

    those are all absolutely adorable! I love that you gave this to us this week as its so appropriate for spring and easter

  • Reply
    Paula Montenegro
    March 26, 2013 at 9:57 pm

    Old embroidered linens are such a treasure, no matter the era. These are beautiful Sue! I have some vintage napkins from my great grandmother and they´re wonderful.

  • Reply
    The Café Sucré Farine
    March 26, 2013 at 10:18 am

    What an amazing collection! If only these linens could speak, what stories they could tell! Have a wonderful visit Sue! Enjoy all of that Florida sunshine.

  • Reply
    Alison Burtt
    March 26, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    I’ve had a few of the Asian-inspired ones in my Etsy store and I’m working on a set of napkins in the same style now (a pre-printed pattern). I actually assumed they were from the 1940s or 1950s, post-war. Good to know that they’re earlier than that. Thanks!

  • Reply
    From Beyond My Kitchen Window
    March 25, 2013 at 10:43 pm

    I have a small collection handed down from my mom’s aunt. Nothing on the scale of your friend though. Beautiful collection!

  • Reply
    Averie @ Averie Cooks
    March 25, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    This looks like my grandmother’s linen drawer, circa 1986 when I was growing up – most of which she had had since 1956! I love this post and vintage linens are such a treasured item. Have fun in Fla!

  • Reply
    Mary Younkin
    March 25, 2013 at 2:58 pm

    I love all of these linens. I have some of my grandmother’s and a collection that her neighbor made me a few years ago. My favorites are the ones that my aunt made when she was younger than I am now.