Vintage Needlework

Crochet a Twenties Wrist Bag

Everyone needs a wrist bag. These little objects hold little but make a nice vintage fashion statement. I made this one in a few hours, following a Twenties pattern that I reproduced for you below. Now you can crochet a Twenties wrist bag, too.

As you can see, this bag nicely holds a small ball of thread. This one is designed specifically for that purpose. This crochet Twenties wrist bag is a thread holder for crochet, tatting, or knitting (if any of us are bold enough to knit with crochet thread.) It keeps the ball secure and close so that you don’t spend half your time chasing it as it bounds across the floor.

Make your own

Crocheted wrist bag with a rose emblem. Next to it sits a ball of peach thread and a size 11 crochet hook.
This little wrist bag holds a spool of thread or other small items.

The original instructions direct you to make this with a thread and hook size that will give you about 5 squares to the inch. I used size 40 thread and a size 11 crochet hook.

You will need:

  • Size 40 crochet thread, which you can get from the Tatting Corner.
  • Crochet hook size 11


Here is how to make your own crochet Twenties wrist bag:

Make a chain of 74 stitches, turn.

  1. Double crochet (dc) in 5th stitch from hook; then chain 2, skip 2, dc in next chain all the way across, 22 times. You will have 23 open squares. Turn.
  2. Chain 5, skip 2 ch on row below, dc in dc; then chain 2, skip 2 ch in previous row, dc over dc all the way across. 23 open squares. Turn.
  3. Ten open squares, 4 dc over next 4 stitches, 7 open squares, 4 dc over next 4 stitches, 4 open squares, turn. [The last dc of an open square becomes the first dc of a solid block of crochet. In the same way, the last dc in a solid block of crochet becomes the first dc of your next open square.]
  4. 3 open squares, 7 dc, 3 open squares, 4 dc, 2 open squares, 7 dc, 10 open squares, turn.
  5. 2 open squares, 10 dc, 4 open squares, 10 dc, 2 open squares, 7 dc, 1 open square, 13 dc, 2 open squares, turn.
  6. 2 open squares, 13 dc, 1 open square, 10 dc, 1 open square, 13 dc, 2 open squares, (7 dc, 1 open square) twice, turn.
  7. 2 open squares, (7 dc, 1 open square) 3 times, 4 dc, (1 open square, 10 dc) twice, 3 open squares, turn.
  8. 6 open squares, 4 dc, (1 open square, 7 dc) twice, (1 open square, 4 dc) 3 times, 4 open squares, turn.
  9. 4 open squares, 10 dc, 1 open square, 10 dc, 3 open squares, 7 dc, 1 open square, 7 dc, 4 open squares, turn.
  10. 2 open squares, 19 dc, 7 open squares, 4 dc, 7 open squares, turn.
  11. 4 open squares, 10 dc, 1 open square, 4 dc, (1 open square, 7 dc) twice, 1 open square, 13 dc, 3 open squares, turn.
  12. 7 open squares, 10 dc, 1 open square, 10 dc, 2 open squares, 4 dc, 1 open square, 7 dc, 3 open squares, turn.
  13. 2 open squares, 7 dc, 2 open squares, 4 dc, 2 open squares, 25 dc, 6 open squares, turn.
  14. 6 open squares, 10 dc, 5 open squares, 7 dc, 1 open square, 13 dc, 2 open squares, turn.
  15. 2 open squares, 7 dc, 2 open squares, 13 dc, 1 open square, 10 dc, 1 open square, 4 dc, 7 open squares, turn.
  16. 5 open squares, 7 dc, 1 open square, 16 dc, 1 open square, 13 dc, 5 open squares, turn.
  17. 5 open squares, 13 dc, 1 open square, 10 dc, 1 open square, 4 dc, 1 open square, 7 dc, 5 open squares, turn.
  18. 4 open squares, 4 dc, (1 open square, 4 dc) twice, 2 open squares, 7 dc, 1 open square, 10 dc, 6 open squares, turn.
  19. 6 open squares, 13 dc, 1 open square, 10 dc, (1 open square, 4 dc) twice, 5 open squares, turn.
  20. 7 open squares, 7 dc, 3 open squares, 13 dc, 7 open squares, turn.
  21. 8 open squares, 7 dc, 1 open square, 13 dc, 8 open squares, turn.
  22. Repeat row 2.
  23. Chain 3, dc in next dc in previous row (to narrow), 21 open squares, dc in next dc to narrow, turn.
  24. Narrow like the previous row, 19 open squares, narrow like previous row, turn.
  25. Same as 24th row, decreasing 2 squares.
  26. Same as 24th row, decreasing 2 squares.
  27. Same as 24th row, decreasing 2 squares.
  28. Narrow, 5 open squares, 4 dc, 5 open squares, narrow, turn.
  29. Narrow, 3 open squares, 4 dc, 1 open square, 4 dc, 3 open squares, narrow, turn.
  30. Narrow, 1 open square, 4 dc, 3 open squares, 4 dc, 1 open square, narrow, turn. This row gives the width for the handle.
  31. 2 open squares, 4 dc, 1 open square, 4 dc, 2 open squares, turn.
  32. 3 open squares, 4 dc, 3 open squares, turn.
  33. Repeat Row 31.
  34. 1 open square, 4 dc, 3 open squares, 4 dc, 1 open square, turn.
  35. Repeat Row 31.
  36. Repeat Row 32.
  37. Seven open squares, turn.
  38. Seven open squares, turn.
  39. Repeat Row 32.
  40. Repeat Row 33.
  41. Repeat Row 34.

Now repeat from Row 31 until you have 5 complete patterns of the handle decoration, and have worked 6 rows on the 6th pattern. This brings you to Row 89.

89. Chain 5, dc in dc to widen, 1 open square, 4 dc, 3 open squares, 4 dc, 1 open square, chain 2, dc in the same stitch to widen, turn.

Now work from Row 29 back to Row 1, widening at each end of every row as you narrowed, until you reach the width of 23 open squares once again. Then work without any increases to Row 1.

Note: In case you need more English and fewer numeral notations to complete the increase rows: When creating the second side of the bag, you can chain 5 at the beginning of the row and dc into the base of that ch 5. Complete the solid blocks and spaces according to that row. At the end of the row, complete the last open block by skipping two chains as you always do, and dc into the 3rd chain of the previous row’s ch-5, as you always do. Then ch 2, and make another dc into the same ch you just used. This makes the enlarging triangle at the other end. In this way you will be making two extra open squares for each row.

Attaching the two sides together

When you finish Row 1, do not break the thread. Put the two pieces together, right sides out, and place 3 sc along the bottom of each open space, crocheting front and back together. At the corners, add an extra 2 sc or so to make a nice turn.

Turn, and going up the side, sc 3 into each open square until you reach the first reduction row. At this point, separate the two halves and continue, with 3 sc in each small triangle that forms the side of the bag. Work up one side of the handle.

As you progress up the handle, create a ch-3 picot between every six squares or so. To do this, make 3 sc into the first square, ch 3, and then make 3 sc into the next square. The 3-ch becomes a floating picot along the side of the handle. Quite nifty and period-appropriate.

When you reach the beginning of the divide again, join to one of the sc where you first divided for the top and handle, and finish off, leaving a tail to be worked in later.

Work the other side of the bag in the same way. If you want all the stitches to face the same way, You will want to begin the second side at the back side of the bag, where the narrowing begins. Work up through the narrowing triangles, across the handle (don’t forget your picots to match the other side) and down the front. When you get to the side of the bag, take both front and back together like you did on the other side, working down to the corner where the edging began. Join to the first sc and finish off. Work in your ends using your favorite method. With size 40 thread, it’s just as easy to use a needle as it is a hook, maybe easier.

Closeup image of a small crocheted bag that hangs from the wrist. A rose pattern decorates the bag. In peach on a dark wood background.
An up-close look at the completed wrist bag.

Change the size

Perhaps you want your crochet Twenties wrist bag to be a bit larger. Make it three squares bigger on the sides and bottom, and you have a bag that’s a little more than 1 inch bigger all around. This is large enough to hold keys, a credit card, and a business card holder with a few folded dollars. If you want to use it for anything other than thread, though, you will want to line the bag. Here’s how to do that:

  • Find a piece of scrap fabric that when folded is a little larger than your bag — including the strap. A fat quarter works nicely for this.
  • Place your completed bag on the folded fabric and trace around it 1/2 inch from the outside edges of the bag. This gives you a 1/2-inch seam allowance for sewing. You can place the top edge of the handle on the fold of the fabric if you want to reduce some of your sewing time.
  • Cut along your traced edges.
  • With the wrong sides of the fabric together, and right sides out (if there’s any difference), sew 1/4-inch seam along the bottom and sides of the bag. Also sew a 1/4 inch seam across the very top if you cut the lining in two pieces instead of one, on the fold.
  • Turn your bag inside out and sew another 1/4 inch seam next to the seam you just finished. If you make it a hair larger than 1/4 inch, it will catch your raw edge inside the new seam.
  • Congratulations. You just made a French seam. This will keep your bag lining from unraveling.
  • Turn your bag right side out so the seam runs along the bottom and side of the bag. Slip it inside the crocheted shell and, folding a 1/4 inch hem (1/4 inch and then another 1/4 inch) tack the lining to the top and handle of the bag.

I hope you enjoyed these instructions for Crochet a Twenties Wrist Bag.

Household Sewing · Vintage Ways

Bags for Every Use

Simple drawstring bag with a small cross stitch design on the front and a fringed bottom.
This bag could be used for a day out, sewing, or lace.

How many bags can one person use? Well, in a vintage world without pockets –– unless you happen to be wearing an apron –– quite a few bags, actually. You need a knitting bag, a travel workbag, a sewing bag, an evening purse (for those nights you go out), and a day purse. Most of these need to be updated every year or two as the fashions change. Oh! Don’t forget the storage bags, the travel bags, the organization bags…

For someone who enjoys making bags, the 1910s through the 1950s is a world of creativity waiting to happen. Every needlework magazine offered the latest in bags for this use or that one. Individual crochet booklets offered bags. Once in a while, a company published a booklet containing instructions for bags for nearly every use imaginable.

Vintage bags organized life

In a vintage household, a bag was a sign of organization. Items that needed their own places found themselves nestled into bags or containers specifically made for them. The most obvious example of this in the vintage home was the string holder which hung in the kitchen or pantry.

Have you ever tried to keep a ball of string from unraveling until you used the last of it? Regardless whether it’s thin or thick, slick or rough, string tends to unwind. And it often unwinds in large bunches, a layer at a time. Let’s say you’re in a hurry, you need some string, you open that kitchen drawer and… it’s everywhere. Somehow the string got caught in the ice pick and several layers lie strewn about the top of the drawer. You can’t even see the cut end to pull it. And you are in a hurry. You were on your way out the door to a meeting, and planned to take this package with you….

Keep the string handy

You can see the problem. Thus, one of the most oft-used bags in a kitchen was the string bag. Sometimes it looked like a tomato hanging from a hook. Other times it looked like a puffy round ball of fabric. At all times, though, a thin string of some kind hung from an opening in the bottom of the bag. You pulled the string, it unwound inside the bag, and you cut off whatever you needed to use. The rest of it waited in the bag until next time.

And why did everyone need a ball of string or twine in the kitchen? Because before 1930, Scotch/cellophane tape did not exist. There was no tape. The only tape that existed was for medical use. Everyone else used string. Need to truss a chicken? Cut some string. Tying a roast for dinner? Use the string. Need to get that package ready for the mail? Grab the string. (This, by the way, is why the U.S. Postal Service still states that they cannot accept packages tied with string for mailing. Because for many years, they did! You can find that in this list of packaging suggestions from the USPS.)

Keeping a ball of general purpose string handy is still a good idea. Several times a year I find myself poking through my yarn stash, in search of some inexpensive cotton string or yarn that I can use to tie or measure something. And to keep it neat, I can make a string holder for the pantry.

Organize that linen closet!

If you really had your act together in 1925-1945, your linen closet held a selection of specially made bags. Some held sheets and pillow cases. Others held your best tablecloths. Opening your linen closet door, you could take immediate stock of what was available and what you needed. Your linen closet might even hold a closed bag for soiled laundry of some kind.

Keep your crafting separate

Do you tat lace? Then you need a small bag that hangs from your wrist so that your lacemaking thread remains untangled –– and stays with you instead of rolling across the floor. You also need a small bag to keep your tatting shuttles and other implements safe. In that bag goes your current project.

If you knit, you need a knitting bag. Or two. Or more. Some knitters are One Project At A Time knitters, but most knitters I know have two to three projects going on a time. Often they are a quickly made project, an intermediate length project and something large like an afghan or a detailed cardigan that takes many hours of work. Mixing these together in one knitting bag is not wise. All those knitting needles start talking together while you aren’t looking, and before you know it you have a knitting mutiny on your hands.

Seriously, though, keeping projects separate means that they remain clean. They also survive with fewer poked holes in them. I don’t know what those knitting needles do in there, but I inevitably find a stray needle poking through my current project if I have more than one per knitting bag.

Crocheters need bags too. Even though it uses yarn just like knitting, a crochet project works best by itself in its own organization bag. For one thing, crochet can get bulky as the project grows.

Today many crafters grab a large ziplock bag to create a “project bag” with yarn or thread, needles or shuttle. Then they are ready to go. These individual crafting bags predated the plastic ziplock bag and fulfill the same function. Truly, they were bags for every use.

Sewing on the go

Although makers use their sewing machines a lot, keeping a sewing bag close at hand can be quite useful. A few vintage lovers find themselves making garments and items completely by hand. Others (myself included) prefer handworked buttonholes to machine buttonholes. (The fact that I can’t seem to get a buttonholer attachment to work with any of my vintage machines doesn’t help either, but I digress…)

Mending used to be never-ending in the vintage household. Someone always needed a replaced button, lengthened dresses or pants, darned socks. The clever worker kept a mending bag just for these items, with a darning egg, matching threads, strong threads for attaching buttons, and other such necessities. That way, when ten spare minutes presented themselves, they could grab the bag, open it up, and complete a quick project.

Other people kept a sewing bag specifically for pickup work. This included small handmade gifts, embroidery projects for spare moments, and that placemat project you wanted to start last year. Items you can pick up, spend half an hour on, and put back down until next time.

So when you see those lists of bag projects from vintage years, keep in mind that the vintage worker kept bags for every use under the sun. If you’re looking for an easy project to carry in a bag, these Outline Stitch squares go together to make up a small quilt.

The Creative Corner · Vintage Sewing

Make a Simple Vintage Sunbonnet

Mannequin head wearing a purple sunbonnet. Sits on a wooden table.
Keep those rays out of your face and the insects out of your hair.

This project started out so easy. I wanted a simple vintage sunbonnet or sun hat to wear outside while I do needlework. I often sit outside under a tree on nice days and tat. Sometimes I knit. Other times I sew by hand. It gets me out into the air and into the sunshine.

However, I sit under a tree outdoors. And I might be there for a few hours. Trees have birds in them. And insects. I found the idea of things falling into my hair while I bent over a needle and thread less than thrilling. Better to fall onto a washable hat. That’s what I need! A simple sunhat of vintage or antique history, but modern materials, would do nicely.

Simple, right? Not so fast. I found my fabric, that great purple that you see above, followed the 1940s instructions, put it together, and it Did. Not. Fit. Nope. That hat you see there would fit a ten year old, which I am not. The back curve needed three more inches to go over a modern medium-sized head.

This is why I test almost all the patterns that I present. Even taking into account the change in fashion and how things fit differently now than they did, this hat was far too small. It was uncomfortable. The ties wouldn’t tie under my chin. They were too short. If you try a craft for the first time, I want it to work. This should be a pleasant experience. Thankfully, this is a very simple pattern so when I realized this didn’t work I removed almost all the stitching and returned the large, now completely hemmed rectangle to my scrap bag for another project. You may see it later as part of a small quilting project.

Although I show putting this together on the sewing machine for speed’s sake, you can absolutely do this completely by hand. In fact, it’s a good handwork project because the seams are simple and all straight.

You will need

In order to make your simple vintage sunbonnet, you will need:

  • Piece of fabric measuring 21 x 36 inches. The original pattern squeezed it out of half a yard of fabric and that’s where this doesn’t work. For comfort it really needs to be about 21 inches wide. I made my samples from cotton, but you can use anything that will gather well. Lace yardage might be really cute if you have some left from another project.
  • Ribbon, 1.5 inches wide, 2 yard to 2 1/4 yards. Cut one piece 28 inches long and use the rest in one long piece of 44 – 48 inches. The longer you cut this, the longer and more luxurious your hat ties will be. If you don’t have ribbon, but you have fabric, you can make two long hemmed pieces measuring about 1.5 inches wide and use those instead.
  • Thread and needle or sewing machine for assembly
  • Large safety pin or bodkin to pull ribbon or ties through completed hat channels.
  • Iron to press your seams. This does make the whole process a lot easier.

Putting it together

  1. First, hem the two short ends with 1/4-inch hems. Turn the fabric edges up 1/2 inch and press.
  2. Then turn half that 1/2 inch allowance under and hem, like the photo below.

3. Now you have both short sides hemmed. Great! Turn the fabric so the long side is facing you, and turn up 1/2 inch like you did before. Press. Do this with both sides.

4. On one end, bring up a 1-inch hem. Press.

This hem forms the back of the hat.

5. Sew this into place close to the top of the hem, using a 1/8 inch seam or less. Do not close the ends, because you will be threading a ribbon through there.

6. On the other long end, fold the edge up 5 1/4 inches and press. This makes the brim of your hat.

This hem forms the front of the hat.

7. Sew this in place, sewing close to the edge of the hem. Use a 1/8 inch seam or less.

8. Sew again, one inch below the first seam. You should be sewing through the outside fabric and the hem at the same time. This makes the channel for the under the chin tie.

9. This is what it should look like after all your seams are finished. This image is folded to show you both the top side and the lower side. Your simple vintage sunbonnet is almost complete!

All sewn and ready to assemble

10. Next we’re going to insert the short ribbon or tie, your 28-inch length. Using a large safety pin or bodkin attached to one end of the ribbon or tie, work it through the smaller of the two hems. Once you get it through, pull tight and tie it in a bow. If you don’t want to remove the tie for cleaning, you can use your needle and thread to tack the bow in a couple places so it doesn’t come apart.

Back all finished, with bow in place.

11. Now, taking your longer piece of ribbon or tie, thread it through the 1-inch channel at the top of the larger hem. Pull it up a bit, adjust the gathers so they will fall softly around your face, and try it on.

This is the one that actually fits, and more like what yours will look like.

12. The strings should tie comfortably under your chin, and the brim should fall far enough in front of your face that it gives you some shade.

You did it!

Congratulations on your new simple vintage sunbonnet. This pattern appeared during the 1940s as a simple hat to make with very few supplies.

Most sunbonnets also offer a neck guard to keep the sun off the back of your neck, which this simple vintage sunbonnet does not. This is more of a sun hat or a costume hat than it is a traditional sunbonnet.

If you want to decorate your sunbonnet brim, here are some Outline Stitches that would look lovely.

The Creative Corner · Vintage Needlework

Tatting with Rings and Chains

Wooden table surface with three strips of handmade tatted lace.
You can tat all these with two threads.

If you’ve been following my series on introductory tatting, you’ve spent the last several installments working with only one thread. If you missed prior sections, you can find the last one here. Personally, I love shuttle-only designs for their airiness and their portability, but one cannot live by shuttle alone. So today I bring you a few options for tatting with rings and chains.

There are two ways to tat with two threads. You can keep the thread connected to the ball of thread after winding your shuttle. You then make your chains using the ball thread while you create rings with the shuttle thread alone. While this is a traditional way to tat, it offers drawbacks as well as advantages. It allows you to suspend the ball from your wrist in a holder if you like. This keeps it close yet lightens the weight on your hands. A negative, however, is that when you run out of shuttle thread you have to cut both threads, rewind the shuttle, and attach both threads as you continue. That, in a word, is a pain.

An alternate way to tat with two threads is to use two shuttles. I thought this was a relatively recent way to tat until I came across a 1925 pattern calling for two shuttles. The benefit here is that everything is very portable. Two shuttles fit into your pocket or bag as easily as one, and off you go. Plus, since your remaining thread waits for you on the ball, you can refill an empty shuttle at any time. I have found two drawbacks to this method, however. First, the extra weight from a loaded shuttle can be trying for my hands over time. And second, the two shuttles tend to wrap around themselves and tangle if my attention wanders or I try to go too fast.

However, the two-shuttle method remains very popular. Lots of tatters use it and love it. Experiment a bit, if you haven’t yet, and decide which method is better for you. You should also know: in some modern patterns two shuttles are required because they include techniques that simply cannot be completed with only one shuttle and ball thread. So if you regularly tat modern patterns, or you plan to, the habit of tatting with two shuttles may be a good one to acquire.

Instructions: tatting with rings and chains

These patterns are all straight edgings. Done two-sided they would make splendid bookmarks. As they are, they would look nice on handkerchiefs, towels, shirts, jackets, bedsheets, hats, handbags, or whatever you fancy. Usually I present these in time order, oldest to newest, but today I’ll give them in simplicity order. All these threads are tatted with size 10 thread so you can see the detail. You make them in whatever size thread you like.

Abbreviations you will need:

  • r: ring
  • cl r: close ring
  • ds: double stitches, the basic tatting stitch
  • p: picot
  • ch: chain
  • rw: reverse work. Turn the thing upside down so the ring facing north is now facing south
  • turn: flip the work over side to side, like looking at the front and back sides of a PopTart, or turning the page of a book

Edging 1

tatted lace in white on wood background. Clover, circle, clover, circle, joined with arcs at the top.

This first edging dates from 1959/1960. As you look at it compared with the others you can see that it’s very simple. This is the next step up from a beginner’s pattern of tatting with rings and chains. I really liked the little ring in between each clover leaf. In a fine thread (size 40 or 80) this would make a lovely edging for a handkerchief, special dinner napkin, or scarf – if you use scarves to dress up your 1950s wardrobe.

This would look lovely made in two colors. The chain thread could be a light version of a color, like lavender or pink or yellow. Then use a darker version of that same color, like purple or rose or deep yellow for the rings. Here’s how to make it:

  1. First, wind a shuttle and leave attached to the ball, OR wind two shuttles splitting 6 – 8 yards of thread evenly between them, OR use a wound shuttle and a ball thread or second shuttle thread, knotting the ends together before you begin. Your choice.
  2. Make a ring of 3 ds, p, 3 ds, p, 3 ds, p, 3ds, cl r.
  3. R of 3 ds, join to last p of last ring, 3 ds, p, 2 ds, p, 2 ds, p, 3 ds, p, 3 ds, cl r.
  4. R of 3 ds, join to last p of last r, 3 ds, p, 3 ds, p, 3 ds, cl r. [You have now made one of the clover leaves.]
  5. Rw. Make a chain of 6 ds, p, 3 ds, p, 3 ds, p, 6 ds. Pull up tight and rw.
  6. Make a r of 3 ds, join to 2nd p of last r, 3 ds, p, 3 ds, p, 3 ds, cl r. Rw. [This is the small ring in between clovers.]
  7. Ch of 6 ds, p, 3 ds, p, 3 ds, p, 6 ds. Rw.
  8. R of 3 ds, p, 3 ds, join to last p of previous r, 3 ds, p, 3 ds, cl r.
  9. Repeat from step 3 for the length of the lace.

Edging 2

White tatted lace on wooden background. It looks like a row of little figures holding hands, their arms raised next to their heads. Below the arms the lace terminates in a circle with five picots.

This lace dates from 1925. You can see that it’s more elaborate than the one above it. This would be a great edging for all the uses described above, especially handkerchiefs. It would be nice by the yard to trim underthings or pajamas. This edging would probably look best in one color, unless you use a variegated thread. That might be really pretty. Here’s how to make it:

  1. First, wind a shuttle and leave attached to the ball, OR wind two shuttles splitting 6 – 8 yards of thread evenly between them, OR use a wound shuttle and a ball thread or second shuttle thread, knotting the ends together before you begin. Your choice.
  2. Make a r of 2 ds, p, 2 ds, p, 2 ds, p, 2 ds, cl r. Rw.
  3. Ch of 7 ds. Do not rw.
  4. R of 2 ds, p, 2 ds, p, 2 ds, p, 2 ds, p, 2 ds, p, 2 ds, cl r. [You are making a ring of 2 ds, (p, 2 ds) 5x, cl r.]
  5. Rw. Make this next ring as close as possible to the base of the last one. R of 7 ds, join to last p of first small r, 4 ds, p, 4 ds, p, 7 ds, cl r.
  6. Rw. Chain of 7 ds. Rw.
  7. Small r of 2 ds, join to last p of large r, 2 ds, p, 2 ds, p, 2 ds, cl r. Rw.
  8. Repeat from Step 3 for length of lace.

Edging 3

A sturdy scalloped lace. White tatting on a wooden board background.

This lace also dates from 1925. This is one sturdy lace. If you look closely you can see that almost every picot attaches everywhere else. It does not move. If you make a row of this, the only picot that hangs free is the one at the bottom point. This is a lace for bedsheets, towels, the ends of runners. I’m thinking about making a length of this for the edge of my fireplace mantel or a piano scarf.

It would be gorgeous in holiday colors, whatever colors say holiday to you. Taking pink and green for example (are there any pink and green holidays?), rings of pink with chains of green would look like flowers winding up and down, up and down. Very nice. Here’s how to make it:

  1. First, wind a shuttle and leave attached to the ball, OR wind two shuttles splitting 6 – 8 yards of thread evenly between them, OR use a wound shuttle and a ball thread or second shuttle thread, knotting the ends together before you begin. Your choice.
  2. R of 4 ds, p, 4 ds, p, 4 ds, cl r. Rw.
  3. Ch 6 ds. Rw.
  4. R of 4 ds, join to last p of last r, 4 ds, p, 4 ds, cl r. Rw.
  5. Another r of 4 ds, p, 4 ds, p, 4 ds, cl r. This should be close to the base of the last one so they sit bottom to bottom. Rw.
  6. Ch 6 ds. Rw.
  7. R 4 ds, join to last p of last r, 4 ds, p, 4 ds, cl r.
  8. Maka a r of 4 ds, join to last p of last r, 4 ds, p, 4 ds, p, 4 ds, cl r.
  9. R of 4 ds, join to last p of last r, 4 ds, p, 4 ds, cl r. [You have just completed the clover at the bottom. Now you will work your way back up.]
  10. Rw. Ch of 6 ds. Rw.
  11. R of 4 ds, join to last p of clover, 4 ds, p, 4 ds, cl r. Rw.
  12. Another R of 4 ds, join to 2nd ring made, 4 ds, p, 4 ds, cl r. Rs.
  13. Ch of 6 ds. Rw.
  14. R of 4 ds, join to last p of last r made, 4 ds, p, 4 ds, cl r. Rw.
  15. R of 4 ds, p, 4 ds, p, 4 ds, cl r. [You are back where you started, completing the first ring at the top of the lace.]
  16. Repeat from Step 3 for the length of the lace, being sure to join the third ring of the second scallop to the seventh ring of the first scallop as you go.

What do you think?

If you enjoy tatting with rings and chains and would like to see more patterns like these, drop me a comment and I’ll hunt them up for a future post. I really enjoyed making these and found a new favorite pattern or two along the way. If you’d like to check into this series from the beginning, you can take a look at Easy Vintage Tatting Patterns. If you need basic tatting instructions, Making Lace with Shuttle and Thread links to some beginning tatting videos that I found very clear.

The Creative Corner · Vintage Needlework

Embroider the Ship of Dreams

The Ship of Dreams in embroidery. A bird sits on the bow of a ship while water swirls below. Text: The Ship of Dreams.

Recreate this 1927 project and embroider the Ship of Dreams for yourself. This Dream Ship would go great in any vintage-style decor, especially if you have a room decorated in 1920-1940 style.

The Ship of Dreams was the original project designed to show off outline stitches and their potential. Even through the original black and white photo above, you can see the amazing texture that outline stitches provide. This is a project you can be proud of when it’s completed.

Sometimes you want embroidery to look smooth. A king’s cloak, the soft rose petal, the velvety down of a bird’s feathers. These things would look odd with a lot of texture. Color, yes. Texture, probably not.

But when it comes to the billows of an unbridled sea, texture adds interest. Intrigue. Wonder. I want to join that bird on the ship and go wherever that ship is headed. Texture keeps your eye on an object longer than it might be there otherwise. And using outline stitches in creative ways can build that texture.

Using all those outline stitches

In the last Embroidery Lesson installment, the first half of Lesson 3, I talked about variations of outline stitches. You can find that lesson here if you haven’t already read it. While the 1920s needleworker had access to far more threads than we have today, and more types of threads, that worker didn’t always have access to technique.

People were busy in the Twenties. Not everyone had hours to pour into the Perfect Satin Stitch as they did ten to fifteen years before. Radio, movies, automobile rides, picnics, parties, evenings with friends –– all these ate into the schedule of the needleworker, not to mention the daily toil of cooking, cleaning, sewing, and perhaps a full or part time job on top of all that. Enter more simple embroidery methods!

The original instructions suggest that you embroider this in wool. If the worker only has access to worsted weight yarn (commonly known as Germantown), the worker could separate the four worsted strands. Then they would use two of those strands for the embroidery.

While you can do that, if you have an abundance of multi-colored wool at hand, you also have other options. Embroider the piece with perle cottons. Or use 3-6 strands of 6-strand embroidery floss. Use one strand of sock (4-ply) yarn. Use whatever you have an abundance of. I happen to have a small bag of yarn used for punch-needle embroidery. It dates from the late 1970s – early 1980s. One or two strands of that would make a delightful pillow.

What you will need

To make this pillow, you will need:

  • Two pieces of tan medium weight fabric (heavy muslin, linen, etc.) that measure 15 x 15 inches.
  • An assortment of colored threads or yarns (see below).
  • A sharp embroidery needle that has an eye big enough for your threads or yarns.
  • The pattern, downloaded from below.
  • Your favorite method of transferring a pattern. See here for some options.
  • Your favorite embroidery hoop.

Colors you will need

You’ll need a handful of different colors to make this as it was designed. Here’s the original list:

  • Apricot for the boat sail
  • Light green to outline the diamond on the sail
  • Deep red-orange (called Chinese Red) for the diamond on the sail
  • Light sea-blue for the center of the diamond and the waves
  • Heliotrope (light lavender) for the waves and an outline around the green on the sail.
  • Cedar brown for the ship hull

How to make it

Here’s how to embroider and assemble the pillow.

The sail

  1. Download and transfer the pattern below. It should measure 6 1/2 inches high by 7 1/2 inches wide when you print it out.
  2. Center the design in your hoop. The embroidery starts with the sail and moves downward in the instructions.
  3. Outline the sail with apricot in chain stitch. Fill in the sail with the slant snailtrail stitch. Keep the stitches close together, but loose enough that the fabric doesn’t pucker. Stop when you get to the oval.
  4. Outline the oval with heliotrope (lavender). Fill in the four lozenges (flat ovals) that make up the oval with general outline (stem) stitch.
  5. At the diamond outline or right outside it, do two rows of chain stitch in light green.
  6. Inside the light green, fill the diamond with the red-orange. Use a chain stitch.
  7. The very center of the diamond is outline stitch in sea blue. I marked it with an X because that’s how it looked to me. If it looks more like a circle or a small diamond shape to you, fill it as you like.
  8. Work the pennants and the masts in snailtrail with the red/red-orange.

The boat

  1. Use the red (red-orange) to fill the hull. Use three rows of chain stitch. Then backstitch over the top row of red-orange with the apricot thread or yarn. This is what gives the deep color contrast at the top of the hull.
  2. The rest of the hull is also in chain stitch. Use the brown, and make the rows up and down instead on longways like the top of the hull you did in red. If you work one row with the chain stitches facing up and then back the other way when you reach the end, this will make the texture more obvious.
  3. Now let’s do the bird. This little guy sits on the prow of the ship, but he also functions as a figurehead. Work the bird solidly in outline (stem) stitch. Use green for the head, with tiny dots of heliotrope for the eye. Use apricot for the rest of the bird. His beak is red.

The waves

  1. Use the darning stitch to fill the waves solidly with sea-blue. Use the light green to whip the upper edges of the waves, like an overcast running stitch.
  2. On the lower edges of the waves there is an extra row of darning stitch using heliotrope.
  3. For the lines that represent the sea spray, use green and heliotrope side by side. First use outline stitch in green, and then a row of heliotrope in darning stitch.

The pattern

Here’s the pattern for the Dream Ship. Download it and print it. You may have to play with your settings a bit to get the design to measure 6.5 x 7.5 inches, or you may not. If you want a larger picture or cushion, download the design at a larger size. Remember to size up your fabric accordingly.

Outline drawing of a ship on the water. The ship has one mast, and it sits on billowing waves. A bird sits on the prow of the ship.
This is the embroidery pattern. Print it out and transfer it to your fabric.

If you enjoyed this project you might like projects that go with Embroidery Lesson 1 and Lesson 2.

The Creative Corner · Vintage Needlework

Embroidery Lesson: Outline stitches to fill

What do you do if you have an outline of something and you want to fill it with color? You could use another fabric and appliqué the center. You could use a satin stitch and embroider the center. Or you could use variations of the versatile outline stitches from the last lesson to fill your design. This third embroidery lesson shows you how to use outline stitches to fill your embroidery design.

Embroidered ship on the water. An owl sits on the prow, and embroidered waves swirl below the ship.
This ship uses outline stitches to fill the design.

This ship became the center of a cushion. The entire project was embroidered with outline stitch variations. These stitches are incredibly useful, yet little used today. The outline stitches give this piece wonderful texture and interest. Best of all, the stitches are easy to do and you can use them for any size project.

You will need

Like all the embroidery projects, for today’s embroidery lesson on outline stitches to fill, you will need

  • an embroidery needle with an eye large enough for your thread
  • six-strand embroidery floss for practice
  • an embroidery hoop to hold your fabric taught

Take a running stitch… and whip it

Embroidered running stitch that has another thread wound through it. Use this outline stitch to fill a large area. Text: Overcast running stitch.

Here you see a whipped or overcast running stitch. First you follow the line with the running stitch. Then you stitch a second line, starting at the beginning. Instead of going through the fabric you overcast, or whip, the running stitches. Always place the overcast stitches in the same direction so that the design stays consistent. You can make this in one color, or use two contrasting colors for increased interest.

Slanted snailtrail stitch

Snailtrail embroidery stitch made with the needle entering the fabric at a sharp angle. Use this outline stitch to fill a large area of embroidery. Text: Slanted snailtrail.

In the last lesson you learned how to make a snailtrail stitch by passing the needle perpendicular to the design line. This time the needle passes through the fabric at a deep slant or angle, like you see in the illustration. When the needle follows the direction of the line instead of working at a right angle to it (as you did in Lesson 2), you see a very different effect from the stitch.

Backstitched chain stitch

Embroidery illustration of a line of chain stitch. Over the top of the chains a needle passes a second time making back stitches at each loop join. Use this outline stitch to fill a large area. Text: Chain stitch with backstitch.

In this version of the chain stitch, you take a small back stitch over the chain. Using a different color is most effective. You might try this with either a different weight of thread for the backstitch, or the same thread in the same color, and see how you like it. To make this, complete the row of chain stitch as normal, and then go over the embroidery a second time with small backstitches.

Darning stitch

illustration of long running stitches that fill an area. Perfect outline stitch to fill a large embroidered area. Text: Darning stitch.

This stitch is easy and quick. You take long stitches that cover the embroidered area and combine them with short underneath stitches. As you go, alternate so that the new row’s stitches always span the last row’s space between stitches. If your stitches were further apart it would look like a brick wall. Worked closely, the stitches have a satin-like effect. Keep your stitches even as you work for the best overall effect.

Try it yourself

Grab some fabric and thread and give these stitches a try. Most of us don’t even think about using anything but a satin stitch, or maybe a long and short stitch, to fill areas like embroidered flowers, leaves, and figures. Using outline stitches to fill embroidered spaces opens up a whole new world of texture, color, and possibility. Best of all, these are easy and relatively quick stitches.

Next time I’ll give you the pattern for the Ship of Dreams above, and you can make it yourself with the stitches you learned. Drop me a note and let me know how you liked these stitches! I look forward to hearing from you.

The Vintage Kitchen

Mocha Cake from 1917

Tan slice of mocha cake with frosting on white plate. Cake server sits behind it, also on the plate.
Enjoying a slice of mocha cake. Over 100 years later, the recipe still shines..

Some of the old recipes are the best. And others are just weird, like the jellied frankfurter-Spaghettios combination from the 1960s that pops up every now and again. Thankfully, this Mocha cake from 1917 fits into the first category. It’s a recipe I make over and over again.

In my last post I talked about the joys of reading A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband… with Bettina’s Best Recipes. If you don’t know about this cookbook, you can read about it here. This recipe for Mocha cake is one of my favorites from that book. However, it’s not my only favorite. Many of the recipes in A Thousand Ways are worth the time they take to make, especially if you cook for a small household of 1-3 people.

This particular cake serves 12. It’s designed for either entertaining (which is where it falls in Bettina’s story), or for storage. I generally pop half the cake into the fridge after using it for dessert. The other half gets sliced and put into the freezer for another day. This, of course, is assuming that you have a family the size of Bettina’s, and not four hungry teenagers who live at your house. If you live with teens, even if one of you is the cook, prepare to say goodbye to this cake in one sitting.

Ways to make it your own

A two-layer cake with tan icing sits on a white platter. The platter sits on a black and white marbled surface.
Mocha cake baked, iced, and ready for dessert time.

When I make this recipe, I usually cook the layers in my vintage RevereWare 9-inch cake pans. Although the recipe itself doesn’t tell you what size pan to use, I find that partitioning a cake into 12 pieces Is much easier with a 9-inch cake than it is an 8-inch one, even if the layers come out a bit more flat. With the addition of icing, a small piece adds just the right sweet note to end a dinner along with hot tea. You can enjoy it with coffee or milk, too, if you like.

In 1917 the term mocha didn’t mean chocolate-flavored coffee. It meant coffee, period. So this is a coffee-flavored cake. No chocolate. No cocoa. Just coffee. It’s an inexpensive cake to make because it uses the leftover coffee from the morning’s brew, if you make it a pot at a time. The recipe calls for 1 1/4 cups coffee total.

When the original bakers made this Mocha cake from 1917, they had access to plain coffee. If you like flavored coffees, I encourage you to try one in this recipe. This time I made it with Michigan cherry flavored coffee and it was delicious. Even the household’s non-coffee drinker loved it.

Because this Mocha cake from 1917 yields a light coffee taste in both the cake and the icing, you might want to try it with hot tea or another beverage. Trying it alongside a cup of the same type of coffee you put into the batter gives you a cake that tastes sweet, but not particularly coffee-like.

Photo showing one complete and one partial pan of cake batter. This is mocha cake from 1917. A partial teapot sits behind the pans.
Ready to go into the oven. Soon we will have cake!

Make it yourself

This is a great recipe for drop-in guests or teatime with friends. A slice also makes a good midmorning snack or a decadent breakfast treat. It’s relatively quick to make, as cakes go, and it’s pretty sturdy. This means it travels great in a lunch box to the office or schoolroom. It would pack well for a picnic. I love it with a cup of hot tea while I sit at the table pouring over the current month’s vintage magazines.

Mocha Cake from 1917

This cake delivers a mild coffee flavor. It contains no cocoa and no chocolate.
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Total Time55 minutes
Course: Dessert, Tea time
Cuisine: American
Keyword: cake, coffee, mocha
Servings: 12 servings


  • 2 cake pans, 8 or 9-inch diameter or whatever you have
  • wax paper for bottom of pans
  • Mixer


  • cup butter softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup strong coffee brewed
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups flour, all purpose I used Bob's gluten free 1 to 1 with good result
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder

Mocha Icing:

  • 4 tbsp strong hot coffee
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups powdered sugar May use 2 to 3 cups


  • Prepare your cake pans by lining them with wax paper. Or, if you prefer, grease and flour your pans. Preheat your oven to 350° F.
  • Separate the eggs. Set the yolks aside and beat the whites until they are stiff. Pour the whites into a bowl for later.
  • Cream the butter. Add the sugar, and cream again.
  • Add the egg yolks and mix well.
  • Add the coffee, vanilla, flour, and baking powder. Mix until combined and then beat for 2 minutes.
  • Stir in the stiffly beaten egg whites. Be gentle, you don't want to undo all your hard work.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes in a 350° oven. Test for doneness by pressing the top center of the cake. If a finger indentation pops back up and disappears, the cake is done. If the indentation stays, it probably needs another ten minutes or so.
  • Let the cake cool before icing.

Mocha Icing Instructions

  • Mix the 1 tsp vanilla with the 4 Tbsp coffee.
  • Add the powdered sugar slowly until the mixture is thick and spreadable. You may need as much as three cups (even though the original 1917 recipe only called for 1 ½ cups).
  • Spread over one layer and place the other layer on top. Spread the icing on the top. Depending on the size of the cake, you may also have enough for the sides.

If you enjoyed this and would like to try another vintage cake recipe, this Many Layered Jam Cake from the Twenties is addictive and oh-so-sweet.

Recipe Collections · The Vintage Bookshelf

A Cookbook Worth Reading

A 1920s illustration of a woman sitting at a table. She has in front of her a plate, an open can of pineapple rings, and a bowl. Shelves of cookware and dishes sit beyond her. From a cookbook by Louise Bennett Weaver.

Every now and then I like to curl up with a nice cup of hot tea and a good cookbook. A cookbook worth reading is a wonderful addition to any kitchen library. A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband (with Bettina’s Best Recipes) qualifies as one of those books, and I’m reading it this month. To be truthful, I’m reading it again.

During the 19-teens, instructional novels became quite popular. These were books that taught you how to do something, but did it within the framework of a story. Thus, while the story entertained you and you found yourself caught in its grip you also learned something. The books tried to walk the fine line between instruction and entertainment. Some succeeded more than others at this task. This cookbook is from that genre.

A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband…

A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband, by Louise Bennett Weaver and Helen Cowles LeCron, first appeared in 1917. The story opens as Bettina and her new husband Bob step into their little cottage when they arrive home from their honeymoon. Each short chapter tells something about their first year of marriage. They also conclude with a set of recipes that serve two (or three or more, when Bettina and Bob have guests or she needs planned left-overs.)

Each month begins with a short and somewhat corny little verse. You can smile over them, laugh over them, or groan over them. Your choice.

Weary are we of our winter-time fare;
Hasten, O Springtime, elusive and arch!
Bring us your dainties; our cupboard are bare!
Pity us, starved by tyrannical March!

A thousand Ways to Please a husband with Bettina’s best recipes

While the First World War rages somewhere, and deeply affects the lives of readers, the book remains blissfully unaware of such events. Bettina exists in the pre-war world, where she shops carefully for meat and fills her days with decorating the cottage and cooking for small parties. In the course of this first year Bettina throws an informal luncheon party, a Sunday evening tea, a motor picnic, a porch party in the late afternoon, a porch breakfast, and a Sunday dinner for guests. She also hosts a shower for her friend Alice and a good-bye luncheon for another friend. Bettina and Bob host a Halloween party. They host friends for dessert regularly.

So what’s with all this entertaining? Did the authors have nothing to talk about but parties? Actually, not really. Within these 152 chapters the authors lay out, in story form, practically any occasion that a young bride might find herself hosting. Have a friend who’s getting married? Here are two shower menus, dinner menus for both the bridal party and bridesmaids, and an outline for how to gather the bridesmaids for a luncheon after the wedding. This information, and the stories that surround it, makes this a cookbook worth reading.

Recipes for every vintage occasion

Need to serve a somewhat formal dinner? Bettina did that when she made Sunday dinner and she helpfully provides the menu and the recipes for her trip to Aunt Lucy’s for Thanksgiving. She also gives a menu and recipes for Alice and Harry’s bridal dinner, probably the most formal menu in the book.

An interesting point of the book is that all dishes are alcohol-free. The book makes no mention of wine, beer, whiskey, or any other alcohol either as ingredient or beverage. The strongest liquid Bettina serves is coffee, and it seems like none of her friends imbibe either. I expect alcohol-free cookbooks during the 1920s, but A Thousand Ways saw publication a full two years before Prohibition. (Bettina and her friends do drink a lot of coffee! In fact, the only two beverage recipes listed in the index under Drinks are for coffee and hot chocolate.)

Thankfully this book contains a decent index, because if you find yourself immersed in the story you will have no idea where to find the hot chocolate recipe once you’re finished, other than “I think it was somewhere near the beginning.” That is one issue with a cookbook worth reading. Without a good index it becomes hard to find things later.

Similar books by the same author

This was the first Bettina book. Several more followed: A Thousand Ways to Please a Family, When Sue Began to Cook, and Bettina’s Best Desserts, for example. Please a Husband focuses on events like gatherings, informal parties, and unusual occasions –– like fixing dinner from the emergency shelf after you’ve been out all day. Please a Family, on the other hand, concentrates on holidays. This second book covers ice-skating parties, Valentine’s Day, Easter, May Day, summer cooking, Christmas, and New Year’s.

A Thousand Ways to Please A Husband proves more popular today than Please a Family, its sequel. For one thing, the tone of the two books comes across very different. In the first book Bettina can appear a bit bossy. In the second she’s downright insufferable. Which is a shame, because the story holding the second book together is just as cute in its own way as the tale of Bettina and Bob’s first year together.

In my copy of How to Please a Husband, several half-sheets of paper live inside the back cover. These are the names and page numbers of many recipes from the book that I want to try. Some of the recipes from this book are so good that they found their way into our regular family rotation.

If you’ve never experienced a cookbook worth reading, I encourage you to give How to Please a Husband with Bettina’s Best Recipes a try. I re-read it every few years, cover to cover. Sometimes it’s when I need a little encouragement to try new recipes. Usually, though, I find myself reading about Bettina’s adventures when I want to dip into the world of 1917 when cut flowers decorated every nice dining table, automobiles were new, and homemade candy sent through the mail provided an indescribable treat. 

Read it for yourself

You can find A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband online at the Internet Archive and Project Gutenberg. If you’d like to try A Thousand Ways to Please a Family as well, you can download it from Google Books. Dover Publications has reprinted it as well, if you’d like a paper copy.

Poems from the Pages · The Magazine Rack

Poem: Queen Anne’s Lace

A closeup photo of a meadow with white Queen Anne's Lace flowers. In the background to the left you see some yellow summer flowers.

I always loved Queen Anne’s Lace. When I was young I memorized the poem Queen Anne’s Lace by Mary Leslie Newton that brought the flower to life for me. You may know it. It went like this:

Queen Anne, Queen Anne has washed her lace
(She chose a Summer’s day)
And hung it in a grassy place,
To whiten, if it may.

Queen Anne, Queen Anne, has left it there,
And slept the dewy night:
Then waked, to find the sunshine fair,
And all the meadows white.

Queen Anne, Queen Anne, is dead and gone
(She died a Summer’s day)
But left her lace to whiten on
Each weed-entangled way!

I expected to see the poem above when I turned the pages of a September issue of Needlecraft magazine and saw the title of the monthly poem. Seeing a poem for adults in the space surprised me, I was so ready for the children’s chant above.

I poked around a bit to unearth some history for both poets. While I can find a good deal of information about Mary Leslie Newton, whose life was well documented and who wrote several books, I found almost nothing on Alicia C. Stewart.

Apparently Alicia’s poetry found occasional publication, even if she is forgotten today. I located one poem called Thanksgiving, published in a Vermont newspaper in 1934. But as far as I can tell, she published no compilations, she appeared in few magazines, and she left her papers to no university. If anyone knows anything about Alicia C. Stewart, the poet, please drop a line in the comments. I’d like to find out more about her.

Queen Anne’s Lace

Queen Anne's Lace
by Alicia C. Stewart

As I looked from my window this morning
  O'er the meadows, drenched deeply with dew
That the sunbeams were turning to diamonds
  A marvelous miracle grew.
There, dainty and white as a snowflake,
  And pure as a baby's sweet face,
All over the green carpet scattered
  Glistened patches of Queen Anne's Lace.

Were they dropped from the hands of the fairies ––
  Wee 'kerchiefs so filmy and fine?
I wondered what magic had brought them,
  Like stars in the meadow to shine;
And whether a needle or shuttle,
  Each serving so well in its place,
Was plied by Queen Anne's skillful fingers
  As she fashioned her beautiful lace.

Arily, gracefully swaying,
  Facing the sun and the sky ––
No loom for that magical weaving,
  No shuttle nor needle to ply.
Straight from the hand of the Father,
  Pasture and meadow to grace
Teaching the lesson of trusting,
  came this wonderful Queen Anne's Lace.

One of the things that appealed to me about this poem, Queen Anne’s Lace, was its mention of needle and shuttle made lace. What a delightful nod to the lacemakers among us. I wondered which kind of lacemaking needle the poet had in mind, if any, when she wrote these words?

If you enjoyed this poem about nature and its flowers, you may enjoy A Song of June as well.