Vintage Needlework

Buttonhole Stitch Embroidery

1920s photo of an embroidered pillow. A pine tree stands on a hill while the sun sets. Text: The Lonesome Pine Pillow.
This vintage pillow is embroidered completely with buttonhole stitch variations.

If you’ve never explored buttonhole stitch embroidery, you are in for a treat. Use this one stitch movement in many different ways for various effects. This is Lesson Four in the Beginning Embroidery Lessons series from 1927-28. If this is your introduction to the series, after reading this you may want to start at the beginning with Lesson One.

Buttonhole stitch

Although we know this stitch as the Buttonhole Stitch, it isn’t the stitch we use to actually work buttonholes. Very close, but not the same. This stitch — which you are probably familiar with if you’ve done any embroidery at all — is worked left to right, with the finished edge closest to you. You hold the loop still with your left thumb while passing the needle over it, and pulling it tight you get a nice little purl along the edge.

Illustration of buttonhole stitch in embroidery

Made very close together and firm, this stitch serves well as a finished edge, with the rest of the fabric cut away (Hardanger embroidery and linen embroidery both use this technique). This way the finished edge doesn’t fray.

When you work the regular buttonhole over a turned hem, the stitches can be further apart. They still need to be even and regular.

Long and short buttonhole

Illustration of long and short buttonhole stitch in embroidery

Make this variation by alternating long stitches with short ones. If you like, you can change it further by taking two or three stepped stitches up to a long stitch and then two or three steps down. This creates more of a pyramid shape, and it goes in and out of popularity.

Blanket stitch

Illustration of blanket stitch in embroidery

This version of the buttonhole stitch got its name from its use for thick fabrics like blankets. Too thick to hem normally, the blanket stitch held everything in place.

For this stitch, make regularly spaced buttonholes whose length is about the same as the space between them. One variation of this stitch is shown below. Complete the blanket stitch first, and then insert back stitches between the stitches. You can use the same color for both passes, or different ones.

Illustration of buttonhole stitch with back stitches in between each stitch.

Grouped buttonhole stitches

This variation actually begins with a chain stitch. Work the chain stitch line first, on one side of the space to be embroidered. Then work the buttonhole stitches into the lower loop of the chain stitch and into the fabric below. Leaving a little space between every two or three stitches makes a lacy effect.

If you like, you can work back stitch over each group of stitches close to the purl. Done in one color, this emphasizes the texture of the stitch. Done in two colors, it emphasizes the color changes. Making the chains and back stitches in one color and the buttonhole stitches in another can be very effective.

Circular buttonhole stitch

When filling in a circle or working a flower, the buttonhole stitch is worked around a center point. Take almost all the stitches in the same place, letting the buttonholes surround the edge of the circle. When doing circular buttonhole stitch, occasionally take a short stitch as you move around the circle so the stitches don’t crowd one another and pile up in the center.

Cretan Stitch

Image of New England stitch, a modified buttonhole stitch that makes leaves.

This filling stitch is based on the buttonhole stitch, but the purl comes in the center rather than at the edge. It’s also sometimes called the New England Stitch. These leaves appear often in the blue and white Deerfield embroidery as well as folk embroidery from central Europe.

To make this stitch, the needle goes in at the line, first on one side and then the other, and it comes out beyond the center line on a slant. Taking a stitch to the right and then to the left makes both the leaf shape and the center purl.

Buttonhole loops

Image of buttonhole stitches worked over a loop.

While you may be familiar with these to hold buttons in place on the back of a dress, they also function to heighten interest within an art needlework piece.

Little buttonholed loops are a happy addition to a flower. They provide good filler for narrow spaces, one loop after the other.

To make it, carry two or three threads across the fabric and then covered closely with buttonhole stitches.

Fish hook stitch

Image of buttonhole stitches worked vertically to resemble fish hooks.

This stitch gets its name from its appearance. A vertical buttonhole stitch works well for thin lines and flower stems.

To make this stitch, put the needle into the fabric and bring it out on the line, keeping the thread always on one side. For a different effect, throw it first to the right and then to the left like the illustration below.

Image of buttonhole stitches worked vertically, alternating from left to right, to look like fish hooks.

Fagoting buttonhole stitches

Image of two rows of buttonhole stitches worked parallel. In between them a thread laces from bar to bar to create a looped stitch between the two rows.

For wide stems or lines, work two rows of blanket stitches close together. Then join them with a fagoting stitch, work from side to side, passing the needle under the loop between the blanket stitches to unite them. This is also good for filling long, narrow leaves. Edge the leaves with chain stitch first to give them a finished look.

Brussels net stitch

Buttonhole stitches worked in a pyramid to look like a net. This is loose from the fabric in the middle and called the Brussels net stitch.

Brussels net is also a variation of the buttonhole stitch. Made almost entirely on the surface of the fabric, work a row of stitches into those of the previous row. Work back and forth across the space, catching only the end stitches into the fabric.

This is actually a needle lace stitch rather than embroidery, but it’s useful for filling open spaces in embroidery.

Flower buttonholes

Buttonhole stitches worked in groups of three, with the long ends together to look like bells or flowers.

Here little groups of buttonholes gather like flowers. They sit completely detached from one another, sprinkled on the fabric.

Buttonhole stitches worked in groups of three along an edge. It looks like a row of flowers.

Or you can set them in a row for a dainty edging. This works well to cover a narrow hem with embroidery. Possible uses include handkerchiefs, dinner napkins, or underlinen like slips.

Next up

The next time I’ll give you a couple options for using these new stitches, drawn from the original article.

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.

Decorations and Decor · The Creative Corner · Vintage Needlework

Make Spring Felt Bookmarks

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.

Spring felt bookmarks. A tulip in a vase, two butterflies, and two brown-eyed susans.
Make some happy spring bookmarks from felt

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.

Two spring felt bookmarks, one with two strawberries and one with two plums. The felt pieces are attached to a length of green yarn.
And even more happy spring bookmarks. All made from felt and yarn.

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

Two butterfly shapes, two strawberry shapes, and two plum shapes cut from felt.
This is 2 mm thick felt. Not your general cheap flimsy craft 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.
  • Scissors
  • Pencil, pins, or thin sewing needle to pin your pattern down
  • The printed pattern

How to Make Them

Drawing with shapes to make spring felt bookmarks.
Pattern for spring felt bookmarks.

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:

  1. Print the pattern. You may need to enlarge it so that it measures about 5 inches by 8 inches.
  2. 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.

The Tulip

Pieces for a tulip bookmark: yellow flower, stem, and blue pot all cut from felt.
Tulip bookmark pieces, cut and ready to go.
  1. For the tulip, cut the tulip flower, the stem piece from green, and the flower pot.
  2. Cut a contrasting band to fit across the flowerpot stripe.
  3. Stitch the band to the front of the pot.
  4. Attach the tulip to the top of the stem and the pot to the bottom, under the leaves.

The Brown-Eyed Susans

Felt pieces cut into yellow stars with eight points, smaller brown circles on top, and a green stem. These will make a flower bookmark.
Brown-eyed Susan parts, ready to make into a bookmark.
  1. Cut a 1.4-inch straight strip of green felt. Make it about eight inches long.
  2. Cut two yellow flower pieces.
  3. Cut two brown circle centers.
  4. 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.
  5. Sew the brown centers to the yellow flowers with small stitches in brown embroidery thread.

The Butterflies

  1. 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.
  2. 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.]
  3. Knot both ends of your chain [or braid]. The loose ends form your butterfly’s antennae.
  4. 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.

The Strawberries

  1. Cut two strawberries from red.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

The Plums

  1. Cut the two round plum pieces from purple felt.
  2. 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.
  3. Sew a plum to each end of the chain as you did for the strawberries.
  4. Use green thread or green yarn to embroider laisy daisy leaves on the top. I used embroidery thread; you use whatever you like.
History · The Magazine Rack

Saving Magazines for a Century

Illustration of 1920s man and woman by Charles D. Mitchell.
Illustration for a short story by Charles D Mitchell, 1925.

Saving magazines for a century? Or even fifty years? Why would people do this? What was so engaging about these periodicals that they lived in the bottom of a cupboard or drawer for that length of time?

Some of these magazines stay with a family for three or four generations. I’m a third generation owner myself. While visiting my husband’s 94 year old grandmother on my honeymoon, we uncovered a stack of needlework magazines from the 1930s. She sent them home with me. I’ve taken care of them lovingly ever since. In not too many years they will reach their centennial anniversary. Maybe I’ll bake them a cake.

Learning New Skills

Actually, people held onto their magazines for several different reasons. They were considered valuable. Women’s magazines often contained step by step cooking instructions for new cooks. Divided into twelve to fourteen months (or even longer), each article told how to create a specific type of food. If you used those magazines to learn how to cook, or even to refresh your memory, you aren’t going to throw out the “breads” issue.

Experiencing the Best Authors and Illustrators

Photo of short story by Gene Stratton-Porter.
Gene Stratton-Porter, the author of ‘Girl of the Limberlost,’ also wrote short stories for magazines.

They also contained some of the best writers of the day. Edna Ferber, Mary Roberts Rhinehart, Kathleen Norris, Temple Bailey, and Faith Baldwin filled the pages. These authors, and more like them, kept women reading and subscribing for more. Usually the stories focused on relationships, but sometimes readers found a mystery or humor. Some of the stories focused on a social problem. And many times subscribers read through a new serialized novel by a famous author before its publication. Each issue published a few chapters of the novel until it was complete. The magazines with the best stories tended to be kept by their owners. Scroll through one of those magazines, Woman’s Home Companion.

Some magazines published new or famous art prints that could be removed and framed for the home. Others specialized in current or new popular artists. (Norman Rockwell, for instance, illustrated for The Saturday Evening Post for years.) Almost all these illustrations used charcoal, pencil, or ink drawings printed in black and white. They were still eye-catching and well done. Some magazines placed a color seasonal print on the cover every month to catch readers’ eyes. Others used the cover to highlight a project inside.

Reading for New Recipes

Picture of woman standing over stove, 1920s. Menus for One Week in February.
A welcome sight for the weary cook. All meals planned with some recipes included.

As the seasons turned, home managers turned to the pages of last year’s periodicals looking for useful, seasonal recipes. All cooking in the 1920s and 30s was seasonal cooking, unless the cook could obtain food in a can, or personally canned it herself the year before. Although many periodicals preached meal planning, the monthly menu calendar proved a welcome sight to many a weary cook. Sometimes published recipes were family favorites. Others combined familiar ingredients in new ways. During the Colonial revival of the 1920s, some periodicals published colonial-style recipes that used cornmeal as an ingredient.

Providing Patterns for Crafting

Clipping from Anne Orr needlework page, showing purse frame and embroidered purse blank for purchase.
Anne Orr was a famous needlework designer of the time.

Some readers saved magazines for the needlework patterns. For example, filet crochet reached its heyday during the 1920s and 30s. Needleworkers who enjoyed that type of crochet work kept their magazines so they had ready access to patterns that all too soon dipped into obscurity. If someone liked to tat lace, the magazines provided a goldmine of patterns. Each issue of a needlework periodical until the 1940s or beyond featured one or more tatting patterns to keep those shuttles moving. My favorite tatting pattern of all time dates from 1919. Without saving magazines for a century, I never would have met this pattern.

Often, the magazines stayed around to be brought out every now and then in a fit of nostalgia. “Do you remember when…” can be a great story starter. A comment about an article sparks a family story. In addition, there is something precious about keeping Grandma’s magazines that she loved enough to treasure for fifty years. Paging through them brings up memories of Grandma’s baked bean recipe – with no barbecue sauce, thank you. Only savory beans for Grandma. Looking at the needlework patterns brings to mind the room dividers she embroidered in brown and green. (Wonder what ever happened to those?) Memories become as mellow as the pages that turn when we look through the old magazines that stay in the family generation after generation. There’s something to saving magazines for a century. Especially if they’re good ones.