Valentine's Day conjures up memories of grade school: blunt-tip scissors, pungent paste and a classroom of children cutting and pasting paper doilies onto construction paper hearts under the watchful eye of our teacher, and proudly depositing those handmade Valentines into brightly festooned shoebox "mailboxes" for each other.
Paper and crocheted doilies have been around since Victorian times. The introduction of mercerized cotton thread made it possible to gussy up napkins with beautiful, intricate embellishments. Even if we aren't from the era that made our own doilies by the dozens, we have all seen them in our mother's or grandmother's homes, protecting furniture and cushioning delicate baked goods.
But don't keep those keepsakes in a box or trunk - break them out and let them have a new life in your home. Here are some ideas on how to collect, care for and repurpose crocheted doilies.
Where can I find vintage doilies?
Start close to home. If you aren't blessed with a treasure trove of doilies that have been passed down through your family, there's good news. They are are plentiful and usually inexpensive to collect. Most antique shops and antique estate sales will have an assortment to choose from. Find doilies that strike your fancy - pure white, ivory or ecru, or the perhaps multi-colored ones, in delicate hues of yellow, pink and lavender, to richer shades of blues and greens.
How can I use vintage doilies in my decor?
Most of us are not likely to doll up our chair arms or side tables with fussy doilies like our grandmothers or great-aunts did. And some of your hand-me-down doilies may have snags, cigarette burns or stains. Here are a few Pinterest ideas for using perfect (and less-than-perfect) doilies in your home - everything from framed wall art to table runners, garlands and whimsical pillows and lamp shades. These scraps of froth can be perfectly repurposed to use and enjoy for years to come - all it takes is a little imagination, and perhaps a little inherited stitching skills.
No sewing skills to speak of? Look for fusible webbing or heat bond tape in any fabric store and follow the manufacturer's directions to use heat from your iron to piece your doilies together or attach them to a fabric backing.
How do I care for doilies?
Doilies are usually more durable than their delicate looks would lead you to believe. If yours are in good shape but have yellowed over time, a long soak in some boiling hot water with oxygen bleach (e.g., Oxi-Clean) or detergent for baby clothes (e.g., Dreft or Woolite) will usually remove the discoloration. You may have to repeat the process a few times. Once the water has cooled, rinse them well, place them in a garment bag and wash them on the delicate cycle to finish cleaning them, then lay flat to dry. You can iron them while barely damp to stiffen them without starch, or tumble them on low (still in the garment bag) if you want them to remain soft and pliable. The best way to care for these heirlooms is to actually use them. Keeping them tucked away in a cedar chest may protect them, but they were meant to be used and enjoyed.
Note: All photos are courtesy of Pinterest. This article was originally shared with our friends at the Busy Bee Trader in their February 2021 issue. We are proud to create articles and advertise in this long-running guide to antiques and boutique stores in the mid-south.
WHO WRITES THIS STUFF?
I'm Terry Lea, owner of Re-Invintage Home, a vintage home goods shop just south of Nashville in Murfreesboro, TN. A lifelong passion for vintage picking led me to open a shop with my picking pal, Sherri in 2017. Come see us!