How to Decorate Your Vintage Wedding With Doilies

Updated on September 12, 2019
DIYweddingplanner profile image

I love sharing wedding ideas to help people on their special day.

A Bit of Lace

I used to sit beside my grandmother, watching her time-worn, gnarled fingers as they darted back and forth, her small silver shuttle in hand as she twisted and twirled what I thought resembled kite string, wound in a beautiful geometrically pleasing ball. Long lines of intricate lace would emerge, some scalloped, some straight with beautiful designs. And sometimes that string began spinning itself into an amazing circle of lace, occasionally with raised sections of flowers or fruit, sometimes in white or ivory, other times in different colors depending, on what color thread neighbors and friends had given my grandmother as barter for eggs or a chicken. I always thought my grandmother's creations were beautiful, but never really appreciated the true beauty of the art of tatting, crocheting string into gorgeous lace and doilies, until I was much older. Now, I'm even more pleased that doilies have experienced a huge resurgence in popularity and have emerged as a coveted piece of wedding décor for brides planning a rustic or vintage-themed wedding.

Doily by my amazing grandmother
Doily by my amazing grandmother

The History of Doilies

How the first doily was made or where they originated is very unclear. Some say they originated in the 17th century with a draper named Doily who sold a beautiful lace fabric that resembled today's doily. Others say they date back even earlier to the 15th century. Several beautiful old pieces are being displayed in museums today as genuine works of art and they truly are, especially considering the first doily artisans had no patterns and made all those complex designs up in their heads as they worked. Regardless of where they came from, they were very much a part of Victorian ladies' handwork in front of "company." Tatting and lace making was acceptable handwork in front of visitors, with menial work such as darning and mending relegated to evenings with the family or to servants.

With so many brides embracing the concept of vintage and rustic weddings and their desire to reuse family heirlooms and items found in antique stores and thrift shops, it's only natural that doilies would become popular. Beautiful and versatile, they are now being used in amazing and creative ways to decorate at weddings ranging from rustic to upscale.

Doilies for Favor Decoration


Hunting for Doilies

If you are as in love with the look of doilies as many brides are, the toughest part will be finding them! You can buy brand new fabric doilies from several linen companies that offer them and paper lace doilies by the thousand from restaurant supply companies, but if you want a true vintage wedding, you need to go for the genuine article and scrounge! That means trips to your grandmother's musty linen closet, questioning elderly relatives and friends, and scouring antique and thrift stores. Half the charm of having a vintage wedding is the time searching and the effort you know that you put into finding each and every item. However, if your Granddma's closet is in short supply of these beauties, there are other places to find them. Wedding classifieds are a good place to start since so many other brides are collecting them as well. You can even find vintage fabric and paper doilies on eBay, many in the original packaging.

The danger in using vintage doilies is of course finding those that are fragile. You really don't want to use those that are literally hanging by a thread! However, the wonderful thing about the thread from which doilies were originally created is that it was incredibly strong, so doilies generally hold up very well over time. The most common problem that you may find is staining. Some antique doilies have medium to heavy brown staining, almost as if coffee had been spilled on them and left to dry. The question is should you try to remove it and risk damaging the doily or should you leave it and count it as part of the doily's rustic charm?

Doily Table Runner


Removing Stains from Old Doilies

If you are going for a pristine look and simply must remove the staining from the vintage doilies you have collected, use caution! You can't just toss them in the washer with some Clorox and call it done. Old lace needs to be handled delicately. Use a large sink or tub and fill it with water. Let your doilies soak for a while in plain water. You'll be surprising how much staining is nothing but surface dirt. Soaking it will lift some of the staining, but definitely won't remove all of it.

There are several methods available for cleaning the stains from doilies, including dabbing it with lemon juice and laying it in the sun to dry. However, many people claim that lemon juice is too harsh for delicate doilies. Something many have had a lot of success with is products containing a small amount of hydrogen peroxide like Oxy-Clean. You can even use regular 3% hydrogen peroxide yourself mixed in your sink with water.

Wearing gloves, put your doilies in the peroxide and water mixture and carefully swish them around in the water, kind of being your own mini-washing machine agitator. Some people leave their doilies to soak in the peroxide for a couple of days. I would be careful doing this because if your mixture is too strong, it will cause the delicate threads of your doilies to break down. And definitely never use Clorox and water. Harsh bleach will break down the fibers. After soaking your doilies, rinse them thoroughly, lay them flat on a towel, roll them up in the towel to squeeze the last of the water out, then lay them in sunlight to dry. That should help lift out most of the staining, but if more exists, repeat the process and try again.

Doily Favor Bags


Doilies and Fabric Stiffener

Because doilies are made from string, they can be soaked in fabric stiffener and formed into a number of shapes. Using a fabric stiffener like Stiffy or Alene's Fabric Stiffener, soak your doilies in a bowl of stiffener. If you can't afford pre-made fabric stiffener which can be pricey, you can use white glue like Elmer's. If you want to make a bowl from your doily, choose a plastic bowl to use as a form that your doily will fit around when you hold it up against the sides of the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Once your doily is soaked in stiffener, take it out of the stiffener and squeeze out any excess. Form it around the outside of the bowl and leave it there to dry overnight. If it won't stay, use clothespins to hold it in place. The next day, simply remove it from around the bowl form and you have a doily bowl! You can do the same thing with a Styrofoam cone to make a doily cone and then you can place real or silk flowers in your cone and use it for a pew marker.

Doilies Used as Chair Swag


I've Collected a Bunch of Doilies, Now What?

There are tons of ways you can use doilies in your wedding, but don't go overboard! Although they are beautiful and you can use them as a kind of theme if you'd like, be subtle. You don't want your wedding to end up looking like an explosion from your Granny's linen closet! A beautiful thing many brides are doing with doilies now if they are able to collect enough is create runners from them. Creating runners from doilies is relatively simple and the best part is they don't have to stay that way after the wedding is over. All you have to do is decide on the length and width of the runner, then start arranging your doilies so they are in a configuration that looks pretty to you. Connect them to each other with a couple of simple stitches by hand. That way when the wedding is over, you can just snip them apart with some nail scissors and reuse them for some other project. (Or give them back to Grandma!)

Doily Cones Used to Hold Tossing Petals



    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • DIYweddingplanner profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from South Carolina, USA

      Thanks, Samantha!

    • samanthamsmith profile image


      8 years ago from Small Town USA

      Neat Hub!

    • DIYweddingplanner profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from South Carolina, USA

      Thanks, CYB, I'm sure there are tons more out there!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Really loving all your ideas and tips, so useful! I would never think of this many things to do with dollies :)

    • DIYweddingplanner profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from South Carolina, USA

      My dearest Tess, you own the "love button"! Thank you for reading and your unending support.

    • Tess45 profile image


      8 years ago from South Carolina

      There needs to be a love button.

    • DIYweddingplanner profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from South Carolina, USA

      Thanks, RC! In my book, you're a "Level 10" commenter!

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 

      8 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      As always, your ideas are so beautiful! Dollies are a great touch for any vintage themed wedding.

    • DIYweddingplanner profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from South Carolina, USA

      Oh, WOL, I've been trying to work on that very thing, but what I don't know about code would fill a bucket, so I am struggling. Thanks for your never-ending support! Maras Len, I think a pillow would be beautiful, you should do that. Rosa, I would love to see pics of your mom's work, I'll bet it's gorgeous. You're right, I forgot about sugar water. Thanks for stopping by, QudsiaP1!

    • QudsiaP1 profile image


      8 years ago

      Lovely ideas and pictures.

    • I Am Rosa profile image

      Rosa Marchisella 

      8 years ago from Canada

      Beautiful ideas. Never heard of using glue as stiffener. My mom makes dollies and she uses a sugar-water mixture to shape her creations (butterflies, snow flakes, tea cups, etc.) Voted up :-)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I love this hub. Thanks for sharing the cleaning process. I have several that my grandmother made and they are beautiful. I really haven't thought what I can do with them, maybe make a pillow....i love your ideas though. Voted Up....

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Wow, Hub of the Day contender, or what?

      This is sensational, DIY - the definitive article on the doily. So much so, that if HP don't put it front and centre, I'd take it down, and use it instead as the base for a whole newbiz website for your work; (geddit...?).

      Seriously, I would.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)