Some hints from yesterday age like old milk. Others stand the test of time. Even if a few details need to change to fit into our lifestyles today, the basic information in these hints remains useful. Use these 5 vintage craft hacks to make your life easier. All these hints are curated from my vintage collection.
1. Suitcase Sewing Room or Hobby Holder
For somone living in a small apartment or living space, an inexpensive Japanese suitcase makes an excellent substitute for a sewing room. The bag (or elasticised pocket) inside the cover provides a splendid place to keep patterns, scraps of cloth, and so on. The case itself holds the sewing. A pincushion can be attached to the side. A box holds thread, scissors, thimble, chalk, tape measure and pencil. Such a suitcase looks neater than a cardboard box or open bin, is more durable, and easily carried about or kept beside the machine.
The Japanese suitcase was simple, inexpensive, and extremely useful for short trips or household organization. Of course, this will work for any portable hobby. Do you like quilling, a form of paper craft? Interested in Chinese brush painting? A case like this keeps your supplies together. Many hobby stores sell comparable containers that add both organization and atmosphere to a small home space. If your interior decoration tends more towards the Forties, Fifties, or Sixties, a vintage suitcase works well there, too.
2. Counting While Knitting or Crocheting
Many needleworkers knit, crochet, or tat lace while talking with family or visitors. Or they watch a movie or television series while making progress on that new afghan or sweater. If the worker pays too close attention to the conversation or the show, mistakes work their way into the design.
Here’s a trick which helps with mistakes due to conversation or an engrossing movie. If you are knitting, say, eight stitches, count them backward. Eight, seven, six, five, and so on. When you reach one you know you knitted to the end of that count without needing to keep any particular number in mind. So if making shells in crochet, count: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 double crochet stitches, and that shell is done.
3. Store That Afghan or Blanket Away
Some things are better when they are hidden in this 1920s vintage craft hack. Perhaps you keep a fleece blanket or light afghan on your sofa or comfy chair. It’s not a current color, the thing doesn’t match your decorating scheme, but you love it. Its warmness, snuggly factor, and comfortableness brings a smile to your face every time you pick it up.
Make a simple square sofa pillow cover. It can zip, button on the back, or fold over. Look here to find instructions for a simple folding envelope pillow cover. If you want to be fancy, add buttons to the back to keep it more secure.
Then fold up your beloved blankie and slip it into the cover until you need it the next time. Voilá! Now you have a new decorator item and the blanket remains well within reach for those days when you find the air a little chilly.
4. Do You Carry a Handkerchief?
…and wear woven fabric blouses? Whether cotton or silk or linen, old clothing can be put to good use. When their time is over as tops, cut them down into individual handkerchiefs. From a button-down blouse with no darts you can get one from each front side, and two or more from the back, depending upon the cut of the material. You may even be able to cut one from each sleeve. You just scored half a dozen handkerchiefs for the time it takes to cut and hem them.
Roll the hems and sew them by hand. Make a pretty finish by overcasting the rolled hems in two directions to give the appearance of cross stitch. Then embroider a flower or emblem in the corner. If you prefer, use a sewing machine for a 1/8-inch hem. The corner embroidery really livens up the handkerchief and makes it a joy to use.
If you crochet or tat, you can always add a lacy border to the hems and for the price of your decorations you have a one of a kind, artisan vintage handkerchief. This is one of the vintage craft hacks I’ve used for years and it gives new life to old fabric.
5. Paper Reed for Basketwork
After World War I, basket making reed became expensive for home basket makers. One basket maker began using the brown paper that was used for wrapping packages. Brown paper grocery bags would work as well. Cut the brown paper into 2-inch strips for a large basket. For a small basket made with finer reed, cut the paper into 1-inch strips. Dip the strips into water and then twist them. When dry and stained with a coat of shellac, it’s strong enough to weave with and more artistic than imported basket reed.
This technique continues to be used today. Not too long ago, in 2019, one of the shops sold baskets made from twisted newspaper strips. Periodically you can also find baskets in the stores made from twisted paper strips, which is what this describes.
While all of these vintage craft hacks might not appeal to you, I hope that one or more sparks your creativity today.