Rosemary McLeod's passion for vintage textiles and handcrafts is contagious, so naturally I was among the first to place an order at my local bookshop for two copies of her new book (one for me and one for Mum). With Bold Needle & Thread (Random House, 2013) recreates 47 vintage craft projects that have been carefully selected by McLeod from her huge library of handcraft publications dating from the first half of the twentieth century. The book is everything I hoped it would be - beautifully illustrated and written in McLeod's characteristically engaging, humorous and down-to earth prose.
Of course, the best way to respond to a book of vintage crafts is to test-drive a project or two, and it was fun trying to decide what project to begin with. I settled on the 'colourful workbag,' which is one of the many projects in the section of bag designs. I thought it would make a nice present for Mum's birthday next month along with her copy of the book. I plan to fill the workbag with sewing bits and bobs that might inspire Mum to get crafting.
This little needle book, decorated with tightly embroidered flower buds, and a chain-stitched 'M' for Margaret, was the first thing Mum sewed at school when she was a girl in the 1940s. I've carefully laundered the needle book and I'll return it to her, restocked with needles and thread, inside her new workbag.
I worked the design on a piece of vintage linen that I bought from The Heritage Shop in Martinborough a year or two ago, using the illustrations in the book as a guideline. All of the projects in the book are illustrated by McLeod's recreation of the original item along with an image of the original. The instructions are simply written, easy to follow, and for novice embroiderers like me, there's a useful stitch library to refer to at the back of the book.
This is the orginal magazine image for the workbag taken from My Home 1949.
Here's my finished workbag. As you can see, I modified the bag slightly by sewing handles for it and I added a lining to make it a little more robust (as well as to hide the messy back of my embroidery). I thought I would make it more multi-purpose in case Mum wants to use it as a shopping bag.
All in all, I feel inspired to carry on and make more projects from the book. I would like to improve my embroidery skills, so I think I'll tackle one of the more intricate cushion designs next.
What I would say about this gorgeous book, is that it probably appeals to those of us who already have a decent stash of craft supplies. More often than not, crafting is a spontaneous activity, and when the mood to craft takes you, it's important to already have the materials you need on hand, rather than having to go out and buy things. To that end, I have a well stocked craft cupboard and shelf in my sewing room.
Everything in my stash has been bought from op-shops, markets and second-hand shops. If you are interested in making handcrafts then you should definitely start gathering materials: wool, fabric, felt, pretty pieces of braid and ric-rac, buttons, old wool blankets etc. It doesn't cost much, and before you know it, you've accumulated an impressive stash. Then you're ready to craft!