From our managing editor, Jami Boys.
You may not know it, but Jami, from An Oregon Cottage, has been writing on here for a year now. She handles all of our regular features like our weekly notebook, the giveaways, freebies, and round-up posts that you see on our site. She has become my right arm and I would be lost without her. Jami has a diverse background in frugal homemaking, manages her own blog, manages this blog, and is my new managing editor. How is she managing it all? I have no idea! But, I am so excited she has agreed to share her expertise on frugal homemaking with us!
I love vintage linens, especially linens that women have used their time and talents on to create works of art using embroidery, drawn-thread techniques, applique, crochet edgings and other needlework crafts. Since cruising thrift stores is a major pastime of mine, I have amassed quite a collection because I have a hard time leaving such treasures in a heap on a table.
However, I’m not a purist and I recognize that since we don’t use doilies, table runners and other small linen items in our homes anymore, I need to find other ways to be able to use and appreciate these little pieces of art once again. In the past I have made cafe curtains from old tea towels, pillows and tote bags from tablecloths and attached small embroidery pieces to the tops of ready-made pillows. Reusing these special pieces is also a way to use worn or stained linens that still have useable areas.
Since one of my other favorite hobbies is knitting, today I’m sharing how I transformed two vintage linens – a table runner and a pillowcase – into rolled knitting needle holders to organize and carry both my straight and circular needles. And the best part? It’s super easy and uses only straight line sewing!
(same for all types of linens)
Vintage linens – table runners and pillowcases for this example worked best because they were long enough for 13″ straight knitting needles (if making a needle holder for crochet hooks, tea towels would be long enough).
Coordinating ribbon – a 32″ piece of ribbon for tying in a bow. A grograin ribbon where both sides are the same is best.
Fabric marker – either vanishing or eraser style
Straight pins, sewing machine & coordinating thread
How To Make A Needle Holder From a Vintage Table Runner:
1. Fold linen piece with wrong sides together, using the needles you want it to hold as your measuring guide. Leave a top flap for folding over either over the needles or the other way, depending on if you want to see the tops of your needles (this example has the flap cover the needle tops, the next goes the other way leaving them visible). Pin edges where they meet.
2. Fold ribbon piece in half and insert folded edge 1/4″ into pinned edge; pin in place.
3. Set your machine to a longer stitch length (3.0) which makes a cleaner stitch for decorative sewing and doesn’t bunch as much as smaller stitches can.
4. Sew a straight line right along the edge of your linen. My embroidered runner had a crochet edge, so I sewed right where the crochet started.
5. As you come to the ribbon pinned to the edge, make sure it is straight and sew right over it, catching it in the edge.
6. Use a fabric marker to mark where the needle pockets will go.
7. Start at the bottom of the folded pocket and make marks at intervals for the individual needle pockets. For the 13″ bamboo straight needles I used here I made 1-1/4″ pockets which held sizes 13 to 5. You can make the pockets all different sizes as well for a custom needle holder (see below).
8. Use the marker and a ruler to make marks evenly up the inside pocket at about 3-4″ intervals – just enough that you can follow with the sewing machine.
9. Starting at the bottom of the large pocket, sew from the first mark straight up to the top of the pocket, using the marks as a guide. Bar-tack at the beginning and end to lock in stitches (sew back and forth one time before starting and ending the seam). Repeat to make remaining individual needle pockets.
Add your needles to the pockets. I like to organize them from largest to smallest.
Fold the flap over the needles, roll up keeping the embroidery visible, and tie with the ribbon. That’s it! Pretty easy, huh?
I also made a needle holder from a pillowcase that had embroidery and a scalloped crochet edging. The benefit of using a pillowcase is that it comes out thicker, liked a lined fabric.
How To Make A Needle Holder From a Vintage Pillowcase:
1. Follow the same steps outlined above, but make sure that your pillow decoration will fold over the way you want – either covering the tops of the needles or leaving them visible. You can see above that I left mine visible as I usually have the sizes marked on the needle tops and being able to see them will make them easier to find. If you plan on traveling with them and think they may fall out, cover them with the top flap.
2. Sew right along the edge of the case to make the seams for the large pocket before marking for your needle sizes. I made this case to hold some smaller 9″ bamboo needles and some circular needles.
3. When making custom sizes like this, it’s best to start measuring from each edge the sizes you want and work towards the center, so the last center pocket can be a larger or smaller size. In my example, the two outside circular needle pockets on each side (4 total) were 2-1/2″, the next three pockets on each side were 1/14″ and the center pocket is 2″ which ended up being perfect for the size 15″ needles.
You can make holders for all your needles – double pointed, circular, crochet hooks, or any others that you use. And wouldn’t these make a sweet gift for the crafters in your life? I know they would appreciate not only having their needles organized, but also the beauty of the original handiwork.
Not a knitter? If you have paintbrushes to organize, you can make holders this same way for them, as this example from Jeannie Oliver showed on Instagram.