• A Pretty Touch Of Vintage

A Gift Of Time- Reveals Vintage Treasure

I was telling my father the other day that in my life, I either have money and no time to spend it or no money and lots of time. Never have both. Lately, I have lots of time so, this set me on the path of completing projects that I have wanted to do for years. An avid sewist and collector of vintage home arts, I have lots of sewing, quilting and craft patterns. I really do keep them under control but how did I still have patterns from 20 years ago? In the process, I found a nice little selection of vintage embroidery transfers. Many dating back to the 1920's and 1930's.

Before the internet, before super stores (remember?), before TV, women often used their spare time embroidering pretty items to make their home a little more cheerful. Now, embroidery transfers have been around for generations- even hundreds of years but the transfers I'm talking about are the pre-printed, iron-on tissue paper, in paper envelopes with illustrations on the cover if you were lucky. They were sold at department stores, dime stores, through ads in the classified section of the newspaper and magazines. Most stores carried a selection of embroidery blanks usually consisting of pillowcases, tablecloths, placemats, table runners and bureau scarfs. You could purchase the blank, embroidery floss and transfer the pattern of your choice. Pre-stamped blanks were also available. Even today, embroidery floss is very affordable and a hand embroidered baby blanket or kitchen towel is still valued as a treasure. A look on Etsy for vintage embroidery transfers will result in over 3,500 listings! Hand embroidery is still very much alive.

In the last century, practically every newspaper and ladies magazines had ads for embroidery transfers. Note the paragraph below the newspaper ad from the 1930's

Of course my curiosity was up- I wonder if the old transfers still work? Funny you should ask- yes, they do! Follow the instructions printed on the transfer sheet and here's the results:

Each transfer tissue showed a collection of motifs, actual size and including a "test" iron on like the ones above. I'm thinking the ones that I tested are 80-90 years old.

In this collection of old transfers, I found something that I didn't know about (imagine that!) Here's a vintage Vogart "All Color Transfer" #123 Fruits, Gay Baskets and Borders for Dinette or Kitchen. These particular iron-on transfers were designed to stamp existing items like curtains, plate mats or runners with colorful design motifs that followed a theme. Not intended to be embroidered but rather, printed onto the fabric! No stitching required.

In the 1930's if you ordered this transfer from Workbasket Magazine, you also received a copy of the magazine inside the envelope. Workbasket Magazine was published from 1935 to 1996 and I wouldn't be surprised to find that most of the issues are still around- collectors love them. Even then, free advertising opportunities for the company were printed on the mailing envelope.

Sometimes it's hard for me to decide what I love most about vintage linens. I think the colorful, hand embroidered everyday household linens might be my favorite. My Aunt Barbara taught me to embroider when I was 6 years old. I still love to embroider by hand today even though I own a professional embroidery machine!

Here's a pretty example of transfer stamped pillowcases, probably from the 1940's

This post wouldn't be complete without a mention of another way to use the iron-on transfer. Liquid embroidery or ball point paint is an alternative to hand embroidery and REALLY FUN to do. The picture below is a set of pillowcases from my personal collection. I have no idea how many times they have been washed (they're from the 1960's) but they still look fabulous. Supplies for today's Aunt Martha's Iron On Transfers, blanks, tea towels, floss and yes, ball point paint are still available at your local craft store and online at Colonial Patterns. You

should visit their website , it's really cool.

Pillowcases with "liquid embroidery"

So, did you or someone you know learn to embroider using iron-on transfers? I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to pass this on!

Stay Vintage My Friends,


Linen Cottage is an antique and vintage linens dealer based in N Ft Myers Florida selling across many online platforms and at local vintage and antique shows and events. 

Phone orders accepted! 239-225-9566

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