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Great Grandma’s Linens


By Denise Holguin
Managing Editor

Where do you find inspiration?  Oftentimes it’s right under my nose—or in this example, in my kitchen drawer!

This flour sack towel was hand stitched by my great grandmother.  My mother gave it to me when I moved into my first home years ago.  The simplicity and the cheerful colors make the towel charming!


While it’s hand stitching, there are similar designs you can machine embroider.  Take a look at what I uncovered on the web.

Sunbonnet Sue Collection from Amazing Designs

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog




ABC (#CK108) from Embroidery Online

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog




Days of the Week Tea Time Birds (Vintage) from Embroidery Library

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog



Little Fisherman Redwork from Bunnycup Embroidery

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog




Need linens?  Check out these resources:

Ultra Premium Flour Sack Towel from Embroider This!

 Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog




100% Cotton Kitchen & Tea Towels from The Sewphisticated Stitcher

Eileen's Machine Embroidery Blog




Here’s your assignment this week:
What vintage goodies from your grandmother, great-grandmother or other special family member do you have tucked away?  It’s time to pull the linens out and use them as inspiration!  For those feeling especially social, take a photo and post to our Facebook page!  (No worries, everyone who just posts a comment on the blog has a chance to win!)One comment will be randomly selected and will win a $25 shopping spree to the Designs in Machine Embroidery website.Designs in Machine Embroidery Shopping Spree



The winner of last week’s assignment answered the following question:
How would you use the Wild Side Alphabet? One random comment will be chosen to receive the Perfect Towel Kit. The Perfect Towel Kit will help you produce flawless monograms on towel sets every time!Eileen's Machine Embroidery BlogThe winner is:  Lynn Harris!  “Shades of brown on oatmeal aida cloth.”
Congratulations, Lynn!






  • Susan Weber

    I don’t have kitchen towels from my Grandmother but I do have some hankies from my mother, grandmother, and great grandmother.

  • Nancy Glisson

    I have some hand embroidered pillow cases from my Grandmother

  • Susan J

    I don’t have any vintage linens from my grandmother. I remember my mother used to keep a drawer of “good” linens to be used at some, special, future date. I don’t know what happened to these as my mother is gone now. I wish I had paid more attention at the time. I would love to have something like this from past generations. I guess I will just have to make sure future generations have something I have made and passed down.

  • Colleen

    many memories came flooding back after seeing your post. I have many dish towels and pillow cases from my grandmothers and great-grandmothers. I know the time that was spent working on them, so they are highly treasured and never used. Unfortunately, they are are also hidden away so they are not ruined.:(

  • Laura Barnes

    I have always loved to look thru my mothers linen closet. When she passed I was the curator of these treasures. I also have my husbands Mother,Aunts and his Grandmothers linens. After reading your blog I need to remind myself with these very creative Women that were in my life.

  • Sue Duisenberg

    I have linens and towels from grandmothers. I have tried line art designs on towels and they are very attractive.

  • Belinda Germain

    I have many crocheted items and hand towels that my grandmother and mother had. Everytime I see the items I think of them. Nice memories.

  • Cathy

    I have a quilt and crocheted pot holders from great grandmother, and hankies from 2 grandmothers. All wonderful memories!

  • Frances Powell

    I have something very unusual. My grandmother would crochet around coat hangers. They do not leave creases in pants and things do not slip off. They are the best hangers ever.

  • Lisha

    I have some tatting done by my great grandmother, crochet doilies and tablecloths done by my grandmother, and quilts – hand pieced and hand quilted by both of them. All are true treasurers!

  • Janet E

    I have many handmade handkerchiefs with crocheted edging and crocheted doilies that my Mom made for me. Treasure all!!!,

  • Brenda

    I have some pillowcases from my husband’s grandmother with ladies with big hats an big skirts on them. I also remember the dresser scarf my grandmother forced me to embroider one summer when I learned to do lazy daisy stitches.

  • Carolyn H

    I have a quilt that my Grandmother made for me. It’s been used so much it is starting to come apart so I had to put it away.

    • Karen W.

      Don’t despair! All is not lost! Perhaps it only needs reinforcing or some weak spots re-patched? If it’s truly a treasure, have it checked by an expert. Otherwise it was MEANT to be used. Patching holes or reinforcing binding, etc adds to the generations that loved & used it. A neighbor found a quilt when her mother passed that was made by her great-grandmother! It was literally in large tatters — barely salvageable, so she cut out the tattered sections & made toss pillows for several siblings, covered w/ sheer fabric to help preserve it.



  • Diane Willey

    I have tableclothes, napkins, quilts, and dishtowels. I love to look at them and enjoy her skills and creativity.

  • Shirley Clark

    I have a couple of table scarves my mama hand embroidered. I just cherish them. A lot of her things got damaged from being packed away in an old, damp house. I also have some pieces of a yo-yo quilt my grandmother made that I use for decoration in my bedroom.

  • Mary Louise Chittenden

    I am the great-grandmother. I have some pieces of crochet that I made the year after I graduated from college and a card table cover I embroidered while in college in the forties. Can you imagine a college girl of today embroidering while in a dorm? My mother also crocheted over wire and wooden hangers, which I cherish.

  • Donna N.

    No one in my family had any special linens so I am making them for the next generation.

  • joyce

    I remember hand embroidering tea towels with similar designs when I was a child. Nice to be able to do it on machine now!

  • Bernadette Webre

    I have lots of vintage family linens – pillow cases, dresser scarves, doilies, quilts etc. and will be making things like pillows, quilt blocks and lingerie bags for family members.

  • Pam

    Handkerchiefs. I made burlap Christmas stockings and used my grandmother’s handkerchiefs as the top with the name embroideried on it.

  • Gail Beam

    I don’t have any embroidered linens from my grandmother, but I do have some from an estate after I was married some 44 years ago. I have always loved hand embroidered, crochet, and knitted items.

  • Barbara McKenzie

    I remember embroidering towels and pillow cases as a child. Now I’d rather digitize the design and then stitch it out……

  • Donna G.

    Grandmother’s tablecloths and napkins – that were brought out only on special occasions. They’re very lovely and we still bring them out on special occasions.

  • Judy G

    I have tea towels and table runner embroidered by my grandmother and my mother. Some crochet work made by my mother. And two bed quilts made by my husband’s Grandmother are hung on walls. In addition, I have the first hand embroidered table runner made by me under my grandmother’s strict supervision (i.e.: if not right, tear it out and begin again)when I was 8. Somehow I managed to grow up to enjoy handwork in spite of the insistence of perfection. While I am sure I cringed under that strict rule then (although I remember the sense of accomplishment far more than being held to exacting standards, so somehow she made it fun) I find that the lesson applied to my life as well as I was never satisfied with a job poorly done (in crafts as well as life goals), even if it meant starting over, and over…

  • Mary Haggenmaker

    I never knew any of my grands, or great-grands. I do have a tablecloth my mother did by hand and I think there was something else but I am not sure. I am a great-grand myself so my descendants will have some items of mine that they can keep for posterity.

  • Terri

    I have linens from my late mother-in-law which include hand embroidery work on huck toweling, pillowcases with hand embroidery and crochet edgings, linen tablecloths with pulled thread embroidery, and crocheted doilies…a very nice treasure trove.

  • Judy

    Well I am really sorry I am away from home at the moment as I would love to post some photos
    I have linen from my maternal grandmother with croched corners on a tablecloth, which I have just replaced
    The linen centre in, crochet milk jug covers which she used to put shells around. I can remember walking the beach with her to find shells with holes in them. I still have a pair of pillow shams with all hand embroidered cut work, and a bag that is hand embroidered and used to hang in the toilet to hold the necessary paper.
    From my maternal grandmother I have a handkerchief sachet with needle turned appliqué. My family were all farmers and most of this work was done by the light of candles or kerosene lamps.
    Sorry this is a bit long but I had a story to tell.

    • Denise Holguin

      Judy thanks for sharing. The imagery is beautiful.


  • Marcia Dumas

    I have a vintage crib cover that my Grandmother (Nana) handstitched for my father when he was a baby. It is a mother duck holding an umbrella in the rain, and a little duckling trailing behind. My mother gave it to me when I was in high school, as my father passed when I was younger. I treasure it and someday plan to copy the design. Now I know I practice that in machine embroidery–thank you for making me remember I have this.

  • Cathy Ford

    I have old bread covers that are a blue and white ticking fabric and I have old aprons that are made of sack cloth. Some of the aprons are child sized and I think they were made by the children when my grandmother was teaching the girls how to sew. Thanks for sharing all the comments and having me remember how my grandmother could do so many wonderful things.

  • Pattie

    I have pillowcases with crocheted edging from my Grandmother.

  • Elaine

    I have some beautiful doilies that my father made one winter. He needed something to do after work. I treasure them.

    • Denise Holguin

      Those are definitely treasures!


  • Laurie W

    I don’t have any towels but I do have a beautiful crouched tablecloth from my grandmother who was partially blind.

  • Kendra M

    I received 7 hand embroidered kitchen towels from a friend of my Grandmother (very similar to yours) when I got married 25 yrs ago for each day of the week… stitched in spanish. We were military and moved 22 times and through the years, sadly, they disappeared. I have one left and cherish it. I think you have inspired me to recreate them and add them to our wedding section of our store. Thanks!!

  • Ruth Thompson

    I have a set of pillowcases that my grandma embroidered with red flowers. I also have some tea towels that my gran made when she taught home economics.

  • Valerie Gwara

    I’ve got hankies that my grandfather bought in France during WWI.

    • Denise Holguin

      Wow, what an amazing piece of history!


  • Jan

    Since I began with hand embroidery before moving onto machine embroidery, I’ve always treasured the hand embroidered items. I still have wall hangings I’ve done 40 years ago, not to mention the towels and smaller items. Just love it – one of a kind items.

  • Brenda Melahn

    I have tons of linen table clothes and napkins from my husband’s great grandmother, grandmother, and mother. I want so badly to use them, but not for their intended purpose. I just can’t bring myself to cut into them. As to embroidery, these women did some (holiday primarily) and I use them as intended for the holidays.

  • Gwynn McKenzie

    I have Dresden Plate potholder and embroidered pillow cases from my paternal Grandmother. My maternal Grandmother embroidered stacks of chair covers, table covers and vanity covers. I don’t think she liked to dust! My Great Aunt Eliza made me a dresser and night table embroidered linens which my daughter has appropriated. My prized possessions are the two dresses and jumper my grandmother hand made for my Dad from her wedding dress and Grandpa’s wedding shirt. Why conserve for future generations? I have decided to use and enjoy them now! My two daughters and two grandsons (one to each daughter) wore the dresses for their baptisms.

  • Charlotte Silber

    I have hand crocheted doilies and hand crocheted table cloths. These are from side of the family and my husband’s.Some are very very old. Can’t use some of them, too fragile. One year I took some of the doiles and put them on quilts I made for my four daughters.

  • JudiC

    My Mother-inLaw, Dorothy, passed away last month & luckily I have a few crocheted lavender doilies & a set of linen coasters with crochet edges from her. I have wanted to embroider on the coasters but they are so old & fragile I have not yet. I also have our wedding tablecloth from 20 years ago that we had all our guests sign & she hand embroidered each signature, I think I will go put that on my table right now.

    • Denise Holguin

      Sorry for your loss.

      The tablecloth with all the guest signatures is a wonderful idea!


  • Patty Fiske

    Sorry to say I have nothing but memories. In some families there is no sharing.

  • Mary Alice

    I was lucky enough to receive so many things from my grandmother – tablecloths, dish towels, quilts, hankies, aprons, doilies. My Mother-in-Law passed away in February and I inherited her entire sewing room and I treasure everything. I will complete her unfinished projects and pass them down to my grandchildren.

  • Pat S. Black

    Dresser scarves with bold hand embroidery.

  • maria elena blecha

    I guess my answer did not get to you , so I will try again, I remember learning to embroidery on kitchen towels, I do have some that my mom made, also some baby clothes that she embroidery for my children also a dress that she brought from Cuba, white linen with navy blue applique flowers and embroidery, I would love to duplicate that dress for me I will try to take a pic of it tonight and post it!! Memories are great, I love everything and anything old

    • Denise Holguin

      How fun! Would love to see a photo. Blue and white is a favorite color combination of mine!


  • Lynn

    I have a colorful embroidered cloth that my Baba who was Russian used to cover her Easter basket of food to be blest at her church.

  • Ann Wright

    I have many from my grandmothers , aunts and my mom,I will look tomorrow and take pictures and post them. thank you,

  • Ann Wright

    I ordered this magazine and I have never received it or a bill. can someone help me. Thank you,

  • Kristal

    I have a quilt from my great-grandmother that I cherish.

  • Chandrasekaran

    Hi good collection of Linens. It has very unique and fresh designs in it.

  • Melanie Simington

    I don’t have any towels from my Grandma, but do have aprons. She wore an apron most of the day, as did I when I visited. 🙂 Now I only wear an apron during the holidays when I bake cookies with my family. It’s a tradition we all wear one — my granddaughter and I have matching ones.

    Thank you for bringing back so many great memories.

    • Denise Holguin

      I gave an apron to my friend for her children years ago and I’m always touched when they pull it out to use it. There’s something special about homemade.


  • Mary Ann Genre

    Those linens make a cute bodice on a little girls sundress.
    A great idea for the summer.

  • Jeannette

    I have a hand embroidered tray cloth made by my mother for her *glory box* before she she was married .

  • Karen

    I have bath towel sets, pillow cases, doilies, hankies, dresser scarfs, chair sets and a tablecloth and napkins and 1 quilt. Most are from my grandmother. The quilt is from my aunt along with tatting she did.I have afghans from grandmother, mother-inlaw and aunt.

  • mOm

    I am blessed to have so many of my mother’s favorite linens, table covers and dresser scarves, (yes, dresser scarves, that is what they called them 🙂 I use them during the different seasons and love them all. Treasures they are. My mother did not do needlework, but other family members who I had never had the chance to meet because they passed when I was young. Aunt Minnie is the family member they say I take after for her love of needlework and sewing…Thank you Aunt Minnie!!!

  • Laura G

    I have an unfinished quilt top and several doilies that were made by Grandmothers. I like the idea of using the doilies as a trim on Christmas stockings! Thanks for that idea! I think it would be cute to make a stuffed teddy bear from the quilt top. I am happy to have used the train of my wedding gown to make a smocked christening dress that both of my grand daughters wear able to use. The dress turned out great! I was also able to use the lining of the wedding dress for a full length slip that was also cute.

  • Debbie Smith

    I have some kitchen potholders that my Great Aunt Eva would have done the embroidery by hand. Plus, I have a pink apron that was my mother’s that I treasure b/c I can remember her wearing it.

    I love to do hand embroidery b/c it is so portable and I can do it in the car when we are going somewhere. I have done several pillowcases that I treasure and have given as gifts. My husband is a man that doesn’t compliment unless it really makes him take notice. I was picking out pillowcases to put on the bed and he commented how much he like them. I had to pause and process what he had said. Since that time, I have done the hand embroidery on the Dresden dolls which look beautiful on my blue rocker. Then, I bought a few of the CD’s from different companies that can imitate this timely craft. I hope I can start one of these projects this summer.

    • Denise Holguin

      Thank you for sharing your stories!


  • Berenice

    None of the women in our family embroidered, they crocheted. It seems odd that women from both sides of the Atlantic and of our continent would have had such great skills with the crochet hook, and I cannot hold a stitch to save my life! My German great grandmother immigrated here in 1902 and left beautiful runners, dresser scarves and doilies. She died before I was born, but I have several of her pieces as she was very prolific with the hook. My Native American great grandmother lived into her very late 90’s and sent us a pair of crocheted booties every year for Christmas until she passed. I still have the last pair she sent over 40 years ago. The booties were amazing, they always lasted until the day before the box from Arizona arrived. She made her own wool from their sheep and it was smooth and silky. I miss her very much!

    • Denise Holguin

      Wow, what treasures and beautiful memories!

      Thank you for sharing.


  • Paule-Marie

    I have some dresser scarves and Noni’s treadle sewing machine which was her mother’s before she had it. I also have the crocheted tablecloth she made and the crocheted ‘afghan’ she made me when I went away to collage (it more like a bedspread – she crocheted all summer and kept having to go buy more yarn – it reached the floor and had enough length to tuck under my pillow on a twin extra long bed – it fits my king size bed)

  • Karen Trombley

    I have my father’s “summer quilt” that was stitched by his Aunt Bun, of Scottie dogs. It needs a few repairs, but we believe she was learning how to appliqué. This was made in the early thirties, as my father remembered before he passed away that he remembers it around the time he was four. He was born in 1931.

    My sister has all the linens, but I have my dad’s quilt. I plan on one recreating this quilt as it has given me a love of Scottie dogs.

  • Shumidog

    Even though most of my aunts at one time worked at the Coats and Clark factory in Central Falls, RI which made cotton embroidery thread none embroidered. Knitting and crochet were their forte and I have a number of items including doilies and bureau scarves.

  • June Codding

    I have red work quilt squares and alphabet squares made by my paternal grandmother before she passed away in 1930. I have made them into quilts. These were designs that were published in the newspapers way back then. My other grandparents were Dutch and grandmother and grandfather knew to knit and crochet. The men had to knit their socks to wear in the wooden shoes. They both taught me how to knit and crochet. I have potholders, doilies and a handbag they made. All of them are treasured! I am 81 and still involved in these crafts, plus using my sergers, embroidery machines for family , including 11 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren and various needy groups. Also love to smock.

    • Denise Holguin

      What a great story and what beautiful treasures you have!

      If you have the time send some photos. Here’s my email address:
      [email protected]

      Thank you,

  • Debe

    I have a few pairs of pillowcases my late Aunt made, they are beautiful, & I need to make more as I need them & don’t want to use those. My most treasured possession is a hand-embroidered quilt made for my great Aunt who was a missionary in Columbia, by her church here in Canada.

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