Objects old, vintage, hand made or upcyled, and old techniques with a modern twist

Posts tagged ‘embroidery’

Inspiration: Lovely Old Lace

There is a cabinet of lovely old lace fragments at my local museum, which always serves to remind me that it is good to tackle a more complicated craft project every now and then, and that it is amazing what craftsmen and women could make with their hands before machinery started to do it for us.

These pieces of handmade lace are so delicate and intricate, and must have taken an immense amount of time to complete: they certainly show the benefits of patience and dedication.

A Little Embroidery

I made this little silk purse as a present, and it was a great small project to experiment with embroidering with silk threads on to silk cloth. The silk threads have a lovely lustre, making the colours glow, and thread slides so easily through the fabric. The finished piece is relatively delicate (I think that the pale silk fabric would mark quite easily), but was made as a decorative piece for someone who would appreciate the techniques and materials used.

I always seem to forget quite how time consuming embroidery is (if you want it to look neat and tidy!), but I enjoy the process as well as the finished piece. This was just a simple design, but I didn’t plan it out before I started sewing which made it slightly more complicated to complete than necessary!

I have seen some beautiful (and often very intricate) antique and vintage embroidered purses, an I can certainly appreciate the time and skill required to produce them- and am inspired to try to achieve that level of detail and neatness one day!


Vintage Embroidery and Upcycling


I recently went through the various vintage and antique hand-embroidered fabrics that I have, in the hunt for some material to make bunting for a friend’s wedding. Due to the hours of work that these pieces represent, I am loathe to cut them up, with the exception of any items that are damaged or spoilt by a permanent stain (I remove and bin the damaged area, and use the rest of the material in craft projects).


Depending on the size of the material, the embroidered fabrics can be used in a variety of projects: I really enjoy giving new life to something that someone else has put so much time and effort into, but is now ‘ruined’ for it’s original purpose (e.g. a tablecloth with a stain in the centre).


Using some fabrics that I already have (in this case by upcycling) also means that I am still managing to stick to my new year’s resolution to buy no new craft materials this year!  BLUE-EMBROIDERY

The few pieces that I have shown here are all undamaged items, and as I seem to have collected quite a few pieces in good condition, I have decided to sell a selection- after all, there are only so many tablecloths etc that one person can use!


Vintage Sewing Items

 Vintage Sewing Box (2)-001

I do love vintage haberdashery, both to admire the lovely packaging, and to use the (generally) good quality products. I also have a vintage leather suitcase full of hand-embroidered linens, which I have been saving to use in a future craft project (or several projects!).


Monday Mood Board

Jar of silk threads

In this unassuming glass jar live all of my precious silk threads. I have come by most of them when buying assortments of vintage sewing items at car boot sales and jumble sales, and some of the nicest are on lovely old wooden reels. I use these lustrous silk threads on particularly special projects, like an embroidery for a friend’s wedding present, or decorating a silk blouse or scarf.

I think that on the whole stitchers must be quite clean and tidy people, as I’ve very rarely had to throw any second-hand thread away due to discolouration (and I am fussy about quality and condition!). I don’t buy any haberdashery or sewing supplies that smell like they may have come from the house of a smoker, as I’ve found that the smell is impossible to get rid of (sadly the same applies to second hand books). Pieces of fabric, lace or ribbon can, or course be washed, but this isn’t possible with reels of thread, and isn’t worth the trouble with balls of yarn.

It is amazing how many good quality sewing and other craft supplies you can find very cheaply if you are prepared to have a rummage in a charity shop or at a summer fete!

Happy hunting xxx

A bit of Embroidered Upcycling

I love the old pieces of vintage and antique hand embroidered linen that I have come across (…yes, some of them have ended up in my stash..!), and it is amazing to think about the huge amount of time some of the larger and more intricate items must have taken to make. I enjoy doing some embroidery myself, but generally don’t want to commit to a mammoth project: I also like using embroidery in less traditional projects.

I have a some lovely vintage rosettes that I have used in a few projects, and they seem a nice way to display a small piece of embroidery. Combining that with a friend who likes cocker spaniels, and voila, an idea for a handmade present!

Spaniel Embroidered Rosette

The upcycled rosette was a quick and easy project: once the embroidery was finished, I removed the cardboard centre from the rosette, and cut a new one of the same size. I then wrapped the embroidery around the new cardboard centre, and glued the edges of the fabric to the back. Next I glued the embroidery-covered cardboard centre on to the front of the rosette. The final task was to attach a circle of decorative paper to the back of the rosette, and write on a message to the recipient.

P.S. I’m not spoiling any surprises by posting this project, as the friend has already received the gift!

Apple Pincushion Paperweight DIY

Apple Pincushion or paperwight (a)

This week I needed to make a present for a friend who is relatively new to sewing, but very enthusiastic (yay, another convert!). I decided on a pincushion, and after spending time digging out all of my scraps of green coloured fabrics and trying to choose two, I thought red would look better. The leaves and stalk are made from felt.

Although the apple looks a little fiddly, it is actually quite a simple project, and a great one for upcycling small pieces of vintage fabric (I can’t be the only one with miscellaneous small pieces of treasured fabrics saved… at least, I hope it’s not just me!).


  • Two different patterned cotton fabrics
  • Green and brown felt
  • Sewing thread- I used white for sewing together the apple, and brown for the stalk.
  • Contrasting embroidery thread for the veins on the leaf- I used an old gold/ochre colour.
  • Paper pattern pieces: a rectangle for the stalk, a leaf shape, and an ellipse for the apple (this piece is shown in the picture above).
  • Toy stuffing and dry, uncooked rice.

Because the apple is relatively small, I used rice to give it weight, so that the finished pincushion would stay put when being used, and so that it can also be used as a paperweight (always useful when pattern cutting!).

Apple pincushion materials

First cut out all of the pieces: one brown felt rectangle for the stalk, two green felt leaves (I used two different shades of felt), and six apple pieces (three in each of the two different fabrics). The template for the six apple pieces was calculated by deciding the finished height of the apple, and the finished circumference/girth of the apple : each piece is then the total finished height x one sixth of the total finished circumference/girth.

First I sewed together all of the apple pieces, leaving a gap for stuffing. I stuffed the apple with rice, putting a little toy stuffing at the top and bottom to soften the shape.

After stuffing I sewed the gap closed, and sewed a thread through the ‘core’ from the top of the apple to the bottom, to give it a more apple-like shape.

The stem was formed by rolling up a rectangle of brown felt, and then winding brown thread around it in a spiral to maintain the shape. The thread was then sewn through the bottom of the stalk, and was used to attach the stalk to the apple.

The leaf was formed by joining two leaf-shaped pieces of felt together using a small amount of glue (this keeps both pieces neatly in place for the next step), and then using a contrasting thread to embroider veins on the leaf. The final step was to sew the leaf to the apple.

Ta Da… one Apple Pincushion Paperweight!

Apple Pincushion or paperwight (b)

Monday Mood Board

I have been doing some experimenting with embroidery on paper, and have enjoyed mixing the two mediums of paper and textiles. Here are some of the experiments in my sketchbook, as you can see they aren’t all finished yet!

Bird Embroidery on Paper (a)

Bird Embroidery on Paper (b)

Bamboo Plant Embroidery on Paper.

Monday Mood Board

Vintage Embroidered Fabric 1

Today I have been looking through some of my vintage hand embroidered fabrics- they seem to multiply when I’m not looking! It is amazing how much work has gone into some hand embroidered antique and vintage fabrics, and it’s a shame that they get thrown away if they have a rip or stain. I use damaged pieces in new projects, and am able to cut them up guilt free as they were no longer usable in their original form, even if most of the fabric is undamaged.

It is nice to give a new life to something that was made with such care and skill, upcycling something slightly damaged to make it desirable again!

 Vintage Embroidered Fabric 2

Vintage Sewing Kit


Vintage sewing kit

I put together a sewing kit as a present for a friend: she is a vintage enthusiast and a new convert to sewing, so I hope that she likes it! The lovely  box is an upcycled vintage wooden cigar box, and the contents includes three lengths of handmade lace, some cute buttons and silk embroidery threads. One of the best things about putting together a kit like this is that you can select colours that you know the recipient likes- and it’s fun choosing what items to include!

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