Thursday, 5 December 2013

Five festive DIY decorations

xmas paper decorations
Group shot

If you're planning on decking your halls the DIY way this festive season, look no further than these wonderful 3D paper angel, bird, star and circle decorations – hard to believe they are 46 years old! 

xmas paper ring one
Star of the show

These wonderful illustrations came from the Paper & Cardboard Modelling section in the back of Children's Britannica encyclopaedia volume 13 (Pacific Islands to Pond Life).  

xmas paper ring two
Star in a box

Each project is signed and dated 'Sheila Perry, 1967', the shading details are great and I just love them. So without further ado, get out your cardboard, glue (and perhaps a bit of glitter), and enjoy a crafty Christmas, 1960s-style. 

Click on the caption/link under each image for instructions.

xmas paper flying bird
Partridge in a pear tree?

xmas paper star

xmas paper circles
Groovy circles

xmas paper angel
Best-dressed angel in town

Happy holidays to one and all! 

Oh, and there's another project in the same series here

Monday, 25 November 2013

What I call a stall

When I spied the Judith Mansfield Books stand at the Knitting & Stitching Show in the pretty northern spa town of Harrogate this weekend, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven...

Just a teeny part of the stall

Packed with secondhand books and magazines about sewing, knitting, crochet, weaving, embroidery, cross stitch and printing, not to mention the boxes of old sewing patterns, this was a vintage craft book collector's dream come true.


Or it would have been if I'd not been working. I was hoping for an hour off from teaching workshops to have a proper rummage, but my classes were all booked up and all I could manage was a dash to Judith's stand just as the show was closing. Judith herself wasn't there but I had a chat to her husband, who told me they don't have a website or sell online, but they do have a seven-day-a-week stall at the Hebden Bridge Antiques Market I feel a special trip back to Yorkshire coming on!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

From rags to rugs

rag rug 2014Hello Kitty

I never thought this day would come, but I plan to start making a rag rug. There, I've said it.

This shocking realisation dawned on me soon after buying a 1980 book, simply called Crafts, for 50p in Deptford market last Saturday, and seeing with my own eyes that the humble rag rug, staple of Fairtrade shops and student flats in the 80s, when made in the right colour combinations, could actually look amazing.

The patchwork number above is made out of fabric strips and hardwearing twine or string, woven into squares and sewn together. Fear not, you don't need to have a fancy room-sized loom – a basic £10 kids' tabletop one will do the job just fine... click here to find out exactly how to go about it.

DIY rag rug
Protest singer's pad?

If you can't be bothered faffing about with a weaving loom, this lovely autumnal rug is made by braiding (plaiting) long strips of fabric together, winding the plait round in an oval or circular spiral and stitching each round to the previous one. Depending on the thickness of your fabric and the sturdiness of your sewing machine, you could probably zigzag the whole thing together on a machine. Easy peasy instructions for this one here.

It was a happy day when I stumbled upon my new favourite book. Craft (Book Club Associates, 1980) also features no fewer than 10 different belts to make, plus two hammocks and a picnic basket, which I look forward to sharing with you toute suite.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Normal service will resume soon

Apologies for the blog haitus, I've been doing rather a lot of this of late:

Daring decor

... I look forward to getting back in the making and writing saddle once this move + DIY frenzy is over. Stay cosy! 

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

More Swedish stitchery

Last September, I posted 1950s Swedish Stitchery, about the beautiful embroidery in the book Hemslöjdens Handarbeten by Andra Delen.

Remember this?

vintage swedish embroidery
A Pinterest favourite

It's my most popular post by far, so thanks to everyone who has checked it out over the past year. Thumbing through the book once more, I remembered how spoilt for choice I was last time – there were so many lovely images I didn't have space to include – for instance, how did this amazing cushion not make it into the original post?

vintage swedish embroidery
Blåsväder (Windy Weather) cushion

I had a bash at translating the Swedish captions, but didn't get very far. Love the name of this one though. The hair!

vintage swedish embroidery
Windy Weather (detail)

I also found out that 'kudde' means 'cushion' and, hazarding a guess, 'mönster' means 'maker', but if there are any Swedish speakers reading this, I'd love some help piecing it together!

vintage swedish embroidery
Beautiful washed-out pink

I'd give anything to see this thing of beauty in colour – or even to be able to understand the caption...

vintage swedish embroidery
Is it a bell or is it a tree?

The birds on this Bird Wreath cushion go round in a circle, facing a green leafy garland. Just look at the detail in their wings:

swedish embroidery
Fåglar i Krans or Bird Wreath cushion (detail)

The one thing I find frustrating about old craft books in general is the lack of colour plates. but colour printing was such an extravagance, it's actually surprising there is as much of it in this 1954 book as there is. There are loads more beautiful images in here though, even in black and white, so watch this space.

vintage swedish embroidery

Sunday, 4 August 2013

When life gives you lemons

Feeling like a lemon

… have a gin & tonic.  That's what I thought when I spied these fresh yellow lemons embroidered on duck egg blue linen in Golden Hands (part 56/vol4) from 1977. I can see this simple design mounted on a board and hung on the kitchen wall.

The lemons are worked in double knot stitch (Palestrina), the leaves in stem stitch and the red satin stitch pips provide a lovely finishing touch.

I'll raise a glass to that – cheers!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Modern macramé

Us Londoners are experiencing our first prolonged heatwave for as long as I can remember, and it's great – just as long as you don't need to use public transport, work, move your body for any reason, wear clothes or sleep.

macrame hammock
This hammock was my gateway drug back into macramé

I'd rather be in a leafy garden, book in one hand, Pimm's in the other, swinging gently... in a handmade macramé hammock. Ahhh

macrame plant holders
Think macramé, think plant holders

It's the law that every 70s craft book had to have a chapter on macramé, and I've always been fond of the plant holders and owl wallhangings. But one too many dubious necklaces...

macrame necklace
Extreme accessorising

... bags and belts crept in, and this hippie-ish artform was deeply unfashionable for decades. Maybe I've been looking at Pinterest for too long lately, but the results of knotting very long pieces of yarn – especially white, primary-coloured or neon – are suddenly looking quite edgy again.

Anyway, if you'd like to lounge around the garden in your own piece of fibre art, here are all the instructions for the hammock (from The Book of Creative Crafts, Octopus/Book Club 1978) – and macramé virgins will find a basic guide to the main knots here.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Tapestry time

vintage 70s wallhanging

When I had time to have a good look through that haul of school library books I mentioned, the first thing that caught my eye was this splendid wallhanging.

And it struck me how rarely I see this type of textile art these days, although I do know for a fact that, as well as a mini one in my flat, there are a few cosifying the walls of a Swedish bakery in London and a restaurant on the Isle of Mull in Scotland, like rugs on a wooden floor.

Appliquéd in linen and felt, rather than woven, the tapestry above is taken from a book with one of the best ever covers:

wallhanging fun cover
First English-language edition, 1970 (Batsford)
And the back ain't bad either:

wallhanging cover back

By and large consigned to dustbins and attics c1979, I think it's time for a wallhanging revival – and if you'd like to join me, I bring you (free) instructions for the wondrous wall warmer at the top of the post. You're welcome!

Friday, 31 May 2013

Knitting in Iceland

The Handknitting Association of Iceland
Rainbow-coloured unspun wool for sale at the Handknitting Association

I've just (reluctantly) returned from my favourite place in the world – the Icelandic capital Reykjavik, a paradise of beautiful friendly people, hot spring baths, smoked salmon breakfasts and midnight sun (not to mention delicious cocktails and homemade gin).

The Handknitting Association of Iceland
A pile of lopi sweaters, handknitted by Icelandic sheep. Or something

Icelanders just sort of seem to have their priorities right and, as you might expect in a country where cosy woollen clothing is a year-round necessity, and to describe the winters as long, dark and cold is an huge understatement, knitting is BIG here. 

The Handknitting Association of Iceland
The doorway to a knitter's paradise

Tucked up a side road off Laugavegur, the sweet main shopping street, on the way to the cathedral is The Handknitting Association of Iceland shop. Step through its humdrum front door, head to the back room and you'll be dazzled by floor-to-ceiling shelves stuffed with characteristic Icelandic lopi sweaters, each one a unique colour, pattern and size. Fashioned from Icelandic sheep wool by local women (and men?), it seems everyone in the country owns at least one of these super-warm circular-yoked sweaters – and what better place to buy one?

National Museum of Iceland
Mitten display at the National Museum of Iceland

The next day we paid a visit to the National Museum of Iceland. Partway through finding out all about the country's history and after marvelling at the rest room with an inviting single bed you can have a quick lie down on if you feel fatigued looking at the exhibits, we stumbled upon an area devoted to knitting. It was small and mainly consisted of colourful mittens displayed in a cute 'holding hands' arrangement. 

National Museum of Iceland
Hands up who loves these two beautiful pairs of embroidered rose mittens

Thence to the museum shop. I was so very tempted to buy these beautiful embroidered rose mittens but they cost 9500 ISK (£50) and, as I already have Icelandic mittens from my last trip, I made do with a photo – alongside a 'Happy summer' postcard, which I also regret not buying!

I have so much to learn about Icelandic textiles and I'd particularly like to find out more about the saumaklúbbur, or sewing clubs, that I've heard all Icelandic women belong to. If anyone knows anything about these, I'd love to hear it in the comments!

Bæ bæ Reykjavik, til next time!

Sunday, 19 May 2013

School library scoop

I thought my eyes were deceiving me when I happened upon a massive collection of 60s, 70s, 80s (and one 30s) craft books in my local bric-a-brac market yesterday. All from a school library in East Dulwich in south east London – and at £1 a pop, I bought as many as I could carry.

Sadly, for reasons of shelf space, I had to leave behind titles on macramé, plaiting, braiding, soft toy making and other skillz just a little out of the scope of my interests, but this little lot will keep me going for a while. Watch this space for some of the highlights.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Gay flowers

 stitchcraft magazine 1934
'Gay flowers on a trellis-work background' (detail)

I was delighted when my colleague and neighbour* gave me this copy of Stitchcraft magazine, published in September 1934. It's hard to believe it's nearly 80 years old, especially as the iron-on embroidery transfer is still folded up inside, in pristine condition.

stitchcraft cover September 1934
Autumn modes

Several colourways are suggested for the Gay flowers design, but I'm ever so taken with these bright blooms on black linen, reminiscent of a design by Celia Birtwell.

The Stitchcraft people propose making your finished piece of embroidery into a cushion and runner set, a dressing table set or even a Radio Times or telephone directory cover (it says you need to make two phone book covers if you live in the London area – back in 1934 was there one directory for north London and another for south, or perhaps one for inner and one for outer London?)

stitchcraft transfer
Iron-on transfer, free with Stitchcraft, September 1934

The clever thing about the design of the transfer is that you can use sections, separated along the lines of the trellis, depending on the size of your project. I adore the flower with the sunray (/eyelashes) in its centre.

stitchcraft transfer detail
The 80-year-old transfer (detail)

I'm desperate to put this truly vintage transfer to use soon, but it seems such a shame not to keep it. Think I'd better trace it instead!

 *(thanks Cleo!)

Friday, 12 April 2013

A pattern a day

Vintage Butterick sewing pattern caftan
Micro mini and hooded caftans c1970. Far out!

Just a quick one today, to say I'm posting a vintage sewing pattern a day over on Twitter, so if you fancy a daily dose of mod girl dresses, 60s maternity separates, micro-mini caftans, capes, and lots of culottes, follow me (@GYCMI via the link on the right)

Simplicity vintage sewing pattern capes
Capes c1967

Friday, 29 March 2013

Number 73

vintage blackwork embroidery
All that's missing is a bike chained to the railings

I love the way blackwork, the monochrome counted-thread technique that was all the rage way back in fifteen-hundred-and-something, can look so modern, like a pen and ink illustration – and the patchwork effect of areas of different black and white geometric patterns side by side.

In Creative Needlecraft (Sundial Books 1979), author Lynette de Demme had the brilliant idea of depicting one house in blackwork (above) and in three other stitching techniques:

vintage embroidery
Colour embroidery, blackwork and a bit of applique

To me, no73 looks just like some of the grand Victorian houses around Highgate, north London...

vintage applique
Gritty realism in applique

I'd love to see these lined up together as if they were neighbouring houses on the same street.

vintage drawn fabric work
Close up on the drawn fabric work version

How nice the way the qualities of each technique emphasise different features of the building – the drainpipe, the balcony, the tiled front steps and three square decorative panels towards the top of the house.

If you'd like to sew your own house in black and white, you'll find a basic guide to blackwork here, and part 2 here.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Hanging with my Valentine

Children's britannica Sheila Perry Valentine
Impress the one you love with a dangly decoration

If you're of a romantic, as well as creative, persuasion, there's still time to make this fancy 3D heart, or pop-up secret-message card for your sweetheart this Valentine's Day...

children's Britannica Sheila Perry Valentine
Lift the flaps to read secret love messages

A few weeks ago, I spotted an entire set of Children's Britannica encyclopaedias, dated 1973, in a charity shop, and after I snapped up 10 of the most colourful volumes to use in another project* the lady behind the till put them in one of those large paper bags with string handles. It was snowing outside, which, I soon realised, meant I couldn't put the bag down the whole two miles home without it getting soggy. Boy did my arms ache when I staggered through my front door. But then, in the back of Volume 13 (Pacific Islands to Pond Life), I found this delightful papercrafting section which I hadn't even noticed in the shop:

Valentine 1
Oh Sheila, you do spoil us

In this unencyclopaedic-looking 24-page supplement (first printed 1967), Sheila Perry** explains how to make a three-dimensional decoration for every occasion – she does a mean illustration and has some really lovely ideas.

Better still, I discovered that she contributed another section – Scissors and Paper – to Volume 15 (Rice to Sedge). Expect funny people, paper puppets and stand-up animals coming to you soon. 

So if you think your crush or squeeze deserves a handcrafted Valentine's message, click to find out how to make these original Valentine's cards, here.

* watch this space ;-)
** I've tried Googling her to no avail

Sunday, 3 February 2013


Vogue Guide to Knitting cover
Published by Collins/Conde Nast (1972)
Two new (read: 30-year-old) craft books recently came into my possession, both on the subject of knitting - must be something in the air (er, that would be the snow, sleet and rain).

The first – the Vogue Guide to Knitting, I picked up in Oxfam in Tooting (a nice area of south London I venture to rarely and which makes me think of Citizen Smith and 'Power to the people'. I was in that neck of the woods getting some advice at the amazing Wimbledon Sewing Machine Centre, which, incidently, is attached to one of my favourite museums, the weird and very wonderful London Sewing Machine Museum).

I clocked the 'Tiny bikinis' referred to on the cover, and then the 'Exciting designs' – for example a terrific smock (with rolled-up jeans, thick socks and sandals), and a fair isle sweater and matching beret worn by a rather stern child:

Vogue Guide to Knitting
Vogue Guide to Knitting

I also just love the floral/stripey pullover on the cover (not to mention the girl's hairdo). Here she is again, looking as if she's holding an iPod in some bizarre knitting-meets-time-travel experiment.

Vogue Guide to Knitting
The shape of things to come

Click here for a (as always free) PDF of the pattern for her lovely floral pullover.

Aran & Fair Isle Knitting cover
Published by Marshall Cavendish (1982)

The second book, Aran and Fair Isle Knitting, I received as a gift from someone who knows me only too well. 'Tis a technicolour treasure trove of Scottish knitwear, such as this lovely jumper:

Aran & Fair Isle Knitting
Getting it in the neck
and I also just really like the colours in the stitch samples and the diagrams:

Aran & Fair Isle Knitting

Aran & Fair Isle Knitting vintage craft book

Aran & Fair Isle Knitting vintage craft book
Add caption
I'm spoilt for things to share with you from this book so I'm plumping for the adorable pompom mittens shown on the cover. You will need three balls of Aran wool and these instructions.

Stay cosy!