I craft, a lot. A majority of these projects are inspired by my collection of vintage magazines, books and ephemera. I also have a vast collection of post-war dress and knitting patterns. I am certainly no expert but give me a collection of fabric scraps, trimmings and a few buttons, I will hand you back something pretty and gift-worthy that has cost virtually nothing except my time. Over the last few years I have made quite a few items that I am particularly proud of, so I thought I would share some of those with you here.
The first was a 40th birthday present for one my best friends, I made a smocked evening bag with an original 1960s gold-plated handle and clasp. This was not an easy craft project. I have never smocked before but would definitely do it again. It is actually quite easy and gives a very pretty finish (once you get your head around all the precise marking-up and tacking). The 1960s handle and clasp had been lurking at the bottom of my craft box for ages and it was very easy to sew onto the bag. The difficult aspect of this project was actually the lining. Getting it neatly inside was not easy and this took the most time to complete.
To go with the handbag, I made a 1930’s inspired felt flower corsage. I love working with felt. In fact if you are new to crafting and want instant results to get your confidence up, then purchase some felt and start experimenting. Felt is very cheap to purchase, usually 50p per square and it comes in a wide range of colours. Some of the many benefits of working with felt include: easy to hand sew, edges don’t fray, easy to cut and shape, perfect for craft projects.
A few years ago, I attended a free craft workshop to learn how to make felt (wet felting method). It was brilliant fun! So easy to do. If you cannot find a suitable workshop to attend, then take a look at this blog tutorial which clearly explains how to wet-felt. Below are pics from my first attempt at wet felting.
Felt flower corsages were incredibly popular in the 1920s and 1930s. Women’s magazines from this period were full of felt flower crafting suggestions. A 1927 edition of Woman’s Weekly printed instructions on how to make ‘flowers of felt, everybody admires these little cloth or felt buttonholes, and they are so easy to make at home.’ The article then goes on to suggest:
You can make the daintiest roses and marguerites for buttonholes from an old felt hat. If you have no old hats to cut up, then ask your special tailor or dressmaker for some cuttings of velour cloth, duvetyn, or heavy coatings. Make the little flowers in two shades, such as mauve and blue or brown and gold. If you make them all one colour, then they must match the coat with which they will be worn.
In 1937, another Woman’s Weekly ran an article on how to make ‘gay felt anemones, to wear under your chin!’.
Felt is the most popular fashion fabric of the moment, and flowers are the most popular accessory. So we have combined the two with charming results! To make these enchanting felt flowers you will need: 1 piece each of purple, royal blue, jade green, and dark green felt.
Cut 5 petals from the purple felt. Be sure to cut them on the cross. Cut a strip of purple and a strip of blue, both 1 and 1/2 inches wide, and 4 inches long, and fringe one side. Next cut a half circle of dark green. Slash this evenly (for the foliage).
Roll the long fringed pieces together and sew the base firmly. Sew the petals around the centre, then stitch the green foliage to the backs of the petals. Make a jade green flower, with a jade green and dark green centre and a blue flower with a blue and purple centre. Sew the three flowers together and add three strips of dark green, 4 inches long and 1/4 inch wide, for stems. Stretch the petal edges, so that they curl slightly.
Regular readers will know, I often appear on Solent News Now with my vintage household hacks and retro thrifting tips. I often demonstrate crafting on a budget too (above are a few examples of my recent crafts), upcycling fabric scraps and accessories. Below are pics of some of my best upcycled craft projects.
A couple of years ago, I started collecting retro-style full and short aprons. It has become somewhat of a tradition amongst my family and friends to give me this type of apron for birthdays and Christmas. I have quite a few original post-war apron patterns as well as reproduction ones too. One of my favourite apron makes was Simplicity reproduction pattern number 3544. The pattern in based upon examples stored in Simplicity’s archive and includes apron styles from 1948 and 1952. I made view A.
There is a lot of fabric in this apron as well as being one of those ‘head scratching’ patterns containing multiple pieces. But having said all of that, it was easy to follow and relatively inexpensive to make. The cotton I chose cost £1.99 per metre, this apron required 2 and 1/2 metres (115 cm width). All of the trimmings I had in my box of oddments. I also purchased 6 metres of hot pink satin bias binding which cost approximately £2.20. All in all the apron cost less than £8!
Happy sewing and do share any pics of your upcycled sewing endeavours either via the comments box below or Twitter (@emmahistorian).