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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