Friday, April 15, 2016

Made It: Crafting the Vintage Better Homes And Gardens Way

Hello! As a kid in the 1960's and '70's, I remember reading my parents' Better Homes and Gardens magazine, which they subscribed to faithfully for years. (I was never sure why they got it, since they rarely seemed to use any of the project ideas or recipes therein). 

I found the recipes boring, and had no use for advice on how to improve a home's curb appeal or how to add on a spacious master suite. But I always enjoyed the fanciful craft projects, so as a young woman in 1980's married student housing, I continued to buy some of the BH and G craft books and magazines. 

For awhile, these publications had a number of similar craft projects that consisted of a. either send away for a kit of fabric designs to decorate, stuff and sew or b. follow the instructions in a magazine or book for enlarging the small-scale versions of the designs.

Well, a. I was too cheap to send away for the kits and b. the designs happened to be quite detailed, so the copy-the-grids method BH and G offered for enlarging them would have taken a lot of time to do well. I suppose copiers were available in public libraries, but I guess it didn't occur to me to seek one out. Jobs and other projects loomed instead.

But when a portion of one of these kits showed up at a thrift store recently, I recognized its provenance immediately and pounced on it:

A set of ten Old Fashioned Dolls, stamped on fabric and ready to decorate, stuff and sew together. It was produced in 1976:

Here's what the complete kit was about:

The kit came with the printed fabric panel like the one I have, plus fiberfill stuffing and embroidery floss. My thrift store find just came with the panel - plus one embroidery needle. That's okay, since I have plenty of fiberfill and embroidery floss already.

I decided to start with one of the smaller-size designs, just to see how the process would go:

This young miss has a basket of apples. 

My fabric panel came with the original instructions too, although I remembered the directions pretty well since, as I'd said, BH and G had several sets of these designs over time. And among the several suggestions for decorating the designs, one had stuck out in my mind: coloring in the different sections in crayon!

Had never decorated fabric with crayons, so thought that would be interesting to try. The directions stated to color in the areas, place paper towels over the finished design, then iron (without steam) to cause any excess crayon to be absorbed onto the paper towels. 

So here was my apple girl design, all colored in:

It was kind of fun coloring in the design; kind of like using a coloring book, but more of a novelty since I was working on fabric. The colors are a bit muted due to some of the crayon being "ironed away", but I thought the overall look turned out well. I took the panel to show to a friend whom I met for dinner, and the waitress voiced her approval when she saw my coloring job. "Oh, that's pretty" she commented.

The next step was to add embroidered highlights. The instructions suggested adding just a few details, so that's what I did, using embroidery floss on the apple stems, basket, shoelaces, hairstyle, hat, apron and sleeves. 

Lastly, I sewed together the front and back, stuffing the figure before sewing an opening closed:

Ta da, the finished "old fashioned doll". It's about 5 1/4" high. 

Now, what to do with it? BH and G had several suggestions: Christmas ornament, gift package tie-on, sachet (add potpourri to the stuffing), applique fronts and backs to pillows, aprons, etc, or use the entire set to construct a mobile. 

"You'll be able to think of dozens of other uses for your "Stitch and Stuff" dolls. Best of all, they make charming gifts for almost any occasion, suitable for friends and relatives of all ages." Or so BH and G opined near the end of the instructions.

Their ideas are all good, I'm sure, but as for me, I was just happy to find this panel so I could finally craft the vintage Better Homes and Gardens way!



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