Thursday, 22 June 2017

The Cottage Applique Book Bag inspired by 1930's Country Houses

Once upon a time


Once upon a time there was a book bag, designed by me and stitched from a lovely piece of upcycled French provencale twill cotton ...

The Cottage Applique Book Bag by karen vallerius

The book bag was practical, just the right size, sat nicely on the shoulder, lined in lovely bright red, softly wadded to protect the contents but was, I have to admit, just a bit boring.

The book bag as art canvas


The size of the side of this bag was crying out for some decoration, just the right size for a picture canvas.  I had long been inspired by traditional cottage applique quilt projects as shown below in a 70s patchwork book from my sewing library.

vintage 70s patchwork book

vintage 70s patchwork book

1930s cottage motifs and Metroland homes


My inspiration for the design of this book bag is in fact even earlier than the 70s as it goes right back to the 1930s.  In the 30s, there was a vogue for using the country cottage as a design motif for all sorts of domestic needlework.  I have seen needlecrafted tea cosies, needle cases, string containers and blotters all decorated with country cottages replete with cottage gardens full of traditional English flowers.  Housing at the beginning of the 20th century was often cramped and of poor standard, with many people living in inner city flats with inadequate facilities.  The homes built in Metroland changed all that, and indeed many house designs of the 1930s incorporated elements of the "cottage" aesthetic in their architecture.  Below are some house designs taken from the Concise Household Encyclopedia by Hammerton of that time.

vintage 30s Household Encyclopedia by Hammertons

vintage 30s Household Encyclopedia by Hammertons

vintage 30s Household Encyclopedia by Hammertons

Even the title page of the Hammerton's Encyclopedia features a small illustration of a country cottage!

vintage 30s Household Encyclopedia by Hammertons

Designing the 1930s Cottage Applique Panel



The Cottage Applique Book Bag by karen vallerius

Back to my trusty cutting board.  I marked the dimensions of the side of the book bag onto the board using pieces of washi tape.  I then set to with pieces from my scrap stash designing the cottage.  I decided that I would cut the roof into the sky piece which would be represented by a panel of the navy provencal cotton showing through.  This early layout above shows a gate and hedges which I did not use in the final version.

Stitching the sky


The Cottage Applique Book Bag by karen vallerius

The sky background was the only piece of this design which I stitched on place with the sewing machine.  The ecru linen for the walls of the cottage was stitched with a running stitch to give a representation of painted brickwork.

Carefully stitching the applique picture by hand


The Cottage Applique Book Bag by karen vallerius

This was a lovely project to work on and I enjoyed the hand stitching.

It was a lovely project to incorporate some of my precious scraps of textile.  You will see fragments of gingham for the windowpanes; gold woven fabric for the door & dormer roof; 80s Laura Ashley dark red woven furnishing scraps for the flower pots, chimneys and door step; a 70s Laura Ashley bird motif on the roof; scraps of 60s Sanderson fabrics for the pathway and a William Morris for the potted trees; denim window boxes; antique French ticking window blinds, one of which has a tiny frayed hole; and blowsy roses cut from a 50s apron bloom at the windows.

1930s Needlecraft books


I often turn to my 1930s Good Needlework books for inspiration.  They were published during the 1930s until the outbreak of the second world war when their at times elaborate designs were overtaken by the practicalities of the Mend and Make Do approach to sewing.

A cushion design inspired my cottage on the book bag.

Vintage 30s Good Needlework Gift Book


Find this bag and other OOAK upcycled clothing in my etsy shop.

The Cottage Applique Book Bag by karen vallerius






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Sunday, 4 June 2017

Embroidered Vintage Linens into Cute Camisole Top

Embroidered Vintage Linens stitched into a Cute Camisole Top


embroidered vintage linens into cute camisole top by karen vallerius

Find OOAK upcycled clothing in my etsy shop.

Antique linens in the sewing room


If you look at the photo of my workroom below, the embroidered vintage linens are in the second horizontal storage box just behind the little 1930s felt dog.  I love repurposing antique linens by upcycling them into fashion or home items which can be used today.

embroidered antique linens by karen vallerius

Repurposing embroidered vintage tablecloths, doileys and traycloths 


I wanted to stitch the linens into some little summer tops.  I used pieces of damask and linen cut from antique tablecloths for the main "body" of the garment for which I used self drafted patterns inspired by vintage 30s and 40s dressmaking books.

I then looked through my vast collection of vintage embroidered doileys, traycloths, tablecloths, chairbacks, pillowcases and selected little embroidered motifs, flowers and butterflies which I could then piece together, a bit like a patchwork, into a panel which would be inserted into the garment.  Read more about making the patchwork panels of vintage embroidered textiles in my earlier post here.

Antique embroidered linens motifs


embroidered vintage tablecloths into camisole top by karen vallerius


I love the way that the pretty embroidered textiles can complement each other, even though they are stitched by different embroiderers and in different coloured silks.  In the close up of the linen camisole above you can see that I have used pieces cut from five different vintage tablecloths and tray cloths.  In particular I love the butterfly which is incorporated near to the tie front.

embroidered vintage butterfly motif into camisole top by karen vallerius

How to make a patchwork from vintage linens


embroidered vintage linen patchwork by karen vallerius

I marked the size of the panel I would be inserting into the garment on my cutting board with washi tape.  I then cut pieces from the vintage tablecloths and doileys and arranged them to roughly cover this area.  I then neatened edges of the patchwork pieces with my overlocker or by turning and hemming the edges before joining them together, piece by piece, into the panel.  Finally I set the panel into the garment piece before making up the camisole.

Repurposing antique embroidered tablecloths


This is a lovely way of using up precious fragments saved from antique linens which may have small areas of damage or wear.  You can cut around the damage and use the patches to make new garments as I have done here, or you can applique them to other garments or home textiles.  And don't forget that scraps of linen can be used for cleaning cloths which are amazing at cleaning glass or crystal.  Never waste a scrap!

Find these tops and other OOAK upcycled clothing in my etsy shop.

Happy stitching everyone


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