I always have pieces of vintage fabric in my craft box, from large sections of collectable textiles, to small off cuts that are left over from my latest project. While out shopping at vintage fairs and festivals, I often see the most amazing designs, from 1950s barkcloth covered in atomic patterns to more retro 1970s swirls in oranges and browns. Both get me excited as they can brighten up any room or cover any old stool, bringing a sense of fun and delight to the space. My favourite designs however stem from the 1950s.
The 1950s saw an explosion of pattern after the more conservative prints of the 1940s. During the war there was a shortage of yarn and dye so there were strict rules on what could be produced. Colours were restricted to four and the repeat pattern had to be small to reduce wastage during manufacturing.
After 1951, houses celebrated contrasting designs and colours on the curtains, carpets and walls in reds, yellows and blues. These textiles were seen as modern with abstract shapes, strong repeat patterns and often almost blurry images, especially on florals. These were on new fabrics such as spun rayon and barkcloth.
So, what to do with all those pieces you find? Here are some of my favourite ideas.
Create a lampshade
Making your own lamp shades is such a great way to add funky designs onto something that is often so plain. Find out how here on this tutorial.
Make a canvas
Buy or make a canvas (I like to buy these in charity shops) and cover in your chosen fabric. This works really well in a children’s room using cute old fashioned designs to give a sense of nostalgia to the space. I have done this with 1980s Spiderman fabric in my son’s room.
Cover a vintage stool
Cover a stool with your favourite designs, especially if the stool is vintage but has a split in the vinyl top which is often the way. Pop out the original top and firmly spread the fabric over it, using a staple gun to fasten it into place underneath.
Frame off-cuts of fabric to create great pieces of art. Sew the fabric to a linen backing to ensure it hangs firmly in place. Attach double sided tape to the linen not the fabric and attach to the inside of the frame. This way the vintage fabric is not damaged.
Cover a sewing box
Obviously you could cover anything with fabric but I particularly like covering vintage sewing box lids when their fabric is all worn. Also these are often very pretty so a great way to brighten the look if pastel florals are not your thing.
Make your own cushions
The best way to show off your stand out pieces of fabric is by making cushions. Make the fabric go further by backing the cushion with plain material such as velvet. I love to mix and match modern cushions with handmade ones to create an eclectic look.
Hang in embroidery hoops
The perfect place for smaller pieces of fabric is framed inside a wooden embroidery hoop which can be bought at craft shops or again in charity shops. They come in all sizes so you can show off even the smallest remnant.
Where to buy vintage fabric
Keep your eyes peeled when out and about especially at vintage fairs, markets, auctions and festivals. Personal favourites are The Festival of Vintage, The Vintage Home Show and 20th Century Design auctions which are held locally to me.
Where to buy the finished product
For any of you that don’t want to make your own homewares, preferring to buy from someone who has already done the searching and crafting for you, visit Pineapple Retro online who has made many of the products in this article. Alternatively, you could contact a local seamstress or upholsterer if you have already found the perfect textile to discuss your ideas.
Kate’s book Style Your Modern Vintage Home is available online and in bookshops now.
Join Kate on her blog www.katebeavis.com
Images: Pineapple Retro