Whether you need a quick 1950s party favor, a pretty placeholder for your reading material, or you need a rainy day craft project, these 1950s spring-themed felt bookmarks solve your problem. All you need is a tiny bit of felt, a needle and embroidery thread, some yarn, and a crochet hook.
I love working with felt. It doesn’t fray, it comes in bright colors, and a little bit goes a long way. One 9 x 12 inch sheet of felt makes several small things, which is really nice if you want a party favor or something small to include in mailed greeting cards. Choose one design, pick a couple colors, and make a bunch of them. Or dive in, purchase an assortment of coordinated felt pieces, and have a blast making all the felt things.
To show off this pattern, I made one of each design. My favorites while I was making them were the strawberries and the plums. Once complete, however, I like the butterflies and the tulips the best. I followed the directions, using two strands of yarn (DK/sport weight) for the butterflies and one strand of the same weight for the fruit. If I were making this again I would use two strands for the fruit as well. (You can do this from one small ball of yarn by finding both ends and pulling from them at the same time to make your two strands.)
Let’s Talk Felt
Now let’s talk about felt. When you start to replicate older patterns and you use the felt you pick up at the craft store, it seems thin. It flops. It drapes over your hand. This is not sturdy felt. You can use it to make things, but your projects won’t turn out as well as they could.
Why? Because the felt of 1920-1960 was different. For one thing, it was made from wool. If it wasn’t made from wool, it was made from high quality rayon fibers, a blend of wool and rayon, or even cotton. What it wasn’t made from: acrylic or polyester.
Today’s craft felt is thin, wimpy, and made from acrylic or polyester. It does not hold a shape well, it’s difficult to work with, and sometimes you can even see through it! That is not the felt you need for a retro project. Using this quality felt for a 40’s or 50’s craft project, unless you double it for every piece, will end in disappointment.
Buying the Thick Stuff
If you want to make spring felt bookmarks, it needs old-style felt. For a retro project like this you need 2 mm craft felt. It can be a wool blend if you like. But fear not. If a wool allergy plagues you, 2mm felt is available in 100% polyester and it works great for projects like these. That’s what I used.
I found my polyester crafty felt at local craft shops like Michaels and Hobby Lobby. It will either be marked 2mm felt or it may be marked Premium or Heavy Duty. This felt holds its shape well, proves easy to cut, and is all-around a delight to work with. It only has two drawbacks. First, it costs a bit more than regular wimpy transparent craft felt. Second, and probably more important, it comes in a very limited color range.
Note: If you are making layered crafting projects, such as stuffed felt ornaments for the holidays, then 1mm 100% wool works beautifully. Most retro or vintage projects, however, require a stiffer felt.
If you have a particular project in mind, this is when you hop on the Internet and do some online shopping. Take a look at Living Felt, The Felt Pod, Weir Crafts, or My Felt Lady in the UK. Felt and Craft sells a wool blend felt with wool and rayon. Most of these listed sell felt with various thickness from 1mm – 3mm. I haven’t tried any of them, but I placed an order with Weir Crafts to try their felt. If you prefer Amazon, many of these felts can be purchased via Amazon as well.
On to the Projects…
Was all that necessary? Yes, if you want a nice project when you’re finished. I spent years playing with felt, and general crafting felt gets lighter and more flimsy each and every year. In order to continue enjoying the craft I needed to do some research and make a change. Actually, the impetus for this came by an unusual find.
While leafing through old magazines and patterns one day, I came upon an envelope addressed to my husband’s grandmother. This envelope arrived at her house sometime in the mid to late 1940s. On the front someone had penciled the word green. Opening it, I found a genuine 1940s piece of felt and a small pattern. The felt was in fern/avocado green.
And this felt felt different. It had body. Substance. In fact, it felt quite stiff, even after 70 years in the envelope. I could imagine myself cutting this and using it for the included lapel pin pattern. That’s when I realized that the felt of yesteryear was not the felt we are buying today. Decent felt is more expensive, but it lasts so long when used for tiny vintage projects that the cost evaporates over time. Making ten small projects from an 8 x 10-inch piece of all wool felt takes the $4.00 cost down to $0.40 per project, more than reasonable as a crafting cost.
You Will Need
One of the great things about these vintage patterns is that you don’t need to purchase Color Number 783.5 of anything in order to complete a project. These designs were often brand independent, and they were definitely color independent. If you have embroidery floss that will work, use it. If you want to make the plums and all you have is light purple felt, go for it. That’s all I had and mine turned out great. If you want yellow strawberries because you have yellow felt and no red felt, make yellow strawberries. Part of the artistry included choosing your own colors for your makes. You can make spring felt bookmarks with whatever you have on hand, or what you can easily get.
- Felt in green, yellow, purple, red, brown, and any color you like for the butterflies, tulip, and tulip pot.
- Embroidery thread in white, yellow, brown, green. I used colors from a handful of generic six-strand embroidery thread I found lying around. I used two strands for embroidery and one strand for sewing. Be gentle; embroidery thread can break if you pull too hard.
- Yarn. I used sport/DK weight that I had, in green. For the butterflies I used pink and purple to match them.
- A crochet hook to match your yarn weight, either 3.5 or 4 mm. If you can’t crochet, cut three strands and make a braid. Works just as well.
- Pencil, pins, or thin sewing needle to pin your pattern down
- The printed pattern
How to Make Them
This project comes from a public domain 1950s craft magazine. Options include a potted tulip, butterflies, strawberries, plums, and brown-eyed susans. Here’s how to do it:
- Print the pattern. You may need to enlarge it so that it measures about 5 inches by 8 inches.
- Cut out the pattern pieces. You’ll notice that each piece is marked with the number of pieces you need to cut from each pattern.
- For the tulip, cut the tulip flower, the stem piece from green, and the flower pot.
- Cut a contrasting band to fit across the flowerpot stripe.
- Stitch the band to the front of the pot.
- Attach the tulip to the top of the stem and the pot to the bottom, under the leaves.
The Brown-Eyed Susans
- Cut a 1.4-inch straight strip of green felt. Make it about eight inches long.
- Cut two yellow flower pieces.
- Cut two brown circle centers.
- Embroider the faces on the centers with yellow floss. For most of the face I used a feather stitch. This is like a laisy daisy stitch, but open instead of closed at the top.
- Sew the brown centers to the yellow flowers with small stitches in brown embroidery thread.
- To make the butterflies, cut two butterflies and contrasting spots. You can see from the photo that I used pink and purple, cutting the pink butterfly’s spots from the purple felt and vice versa.
- Use two different colored strands of yarn to crochet a chain long enough that the butterflies will hang outside a book when closed. I used pink and purple to match my butterflies. [If you can’t crochet, then cut three strands of each color about 18 inches long. Place a knot about 1.5 inches from the end, and braid. Use one strand of each color in your 3-strand braid. When you reach the desired length, knot the end of the braid and cut off the excess about 1.5 inches from the end.]
- Knot both ends of your chain [or braid]. The loose ends form your butterfly’s antennae.
- Sew the chain along the middle of each butterfly. If you use a crocheted chain, notice that I sewed it upside down so that it looks like a braid. The backside of the crochet chain is seen; the front of the crochet (the loops) are facing the back of the bookmark.
- Cut two strawberries from red.
- Use yellow embroidery thread to embroider the seeds along the berry. I didn’t bother to trace this, but simply did it by freehand. These are open laisy daisy stitches.
- Crochet a chain to form the middle of the bookmark from green yarn. I made mine about ten inches. Again, you can cut three strands and braid them. No one will ever know.
- Overlap the berry about 1/2 inch onto the chain, with the berry on top. Turn it over and sew the yarn onto the back of the berry. Repeat for the other side.
- For the strawberry stem, use green yarn and embroider three laisy daisy stitches along the top of the berry. Then make two yarn loops sticking up to show the rest of the stem.
- Cut the two round plum pieces from purple felt.
- Crochet a chain to form the middle of the bookmark using green yarn. I made mine about ten inches. Again, you can cut three strands and braid them.
- Sew a plum to each end of the chain as you did for the strawberries.
- Use green thread or green yarn to embroider laisy daisy leaves on the top. I used embroidery thread; you use whatever you like.