Do you know the emotional rollercoaster you ride when you find a killer piece of vintage fabric--like a 1940s spiderweb rayon or 1950s Saul Steinberg design--but then come to realize it's a remnant size piece?
At first, we can get really excited because it is objectively a really cool piece of art and textile history! Or maybe it's our holy grail like the 1960s Si and Am fabric from Disney's Lady and the Tramp which is something we've always dreamed of finding--but then we get deflated a bit, because there's only four panels. What really can you make out of such a small scrap piece?
But us here at Sputnik's Vintage World Headquarters are here to say any day you find an amazing vintage fabric you love is still an amazing day. And great things can be made with small pieces.
Here are just a few low time investment but high-style reward ideas for your next vintage sewing creation with a remnant piece of fabric.
Photo by Taylor Hamby
Accent a Garment
Here's your opportunity to really get creative with the fabric you do have (instead of lamenting the fabric you don't have). You can create a shirt or dress from scratch with a complimentary solid color fabric or accent a garment that already exists.
For example, you could add a vintage novelty print fabric to the collar of a plain shirt and add a matching breast pocket.
You could trim a hemline with your scrap piece, as shown in the photo above.
You could fill just the pleats of a dress or skirt with the fabric. Or even the inside of the cuffs for a fun peek-a-boo feature.
And if the piece of fabric is really super tiny, you could just cover the buttons and gussy up a plain white blouse with vintage novelty printed buttons.
Or why not consider some combination of a few of these ideas for a really nice put together-looking piece?
We love the ingenuity of turning these four vintage Si & Am panels into a half apron! While four short panels is nowhere near the typical 16-22 panels used for a 1950s style circle skirt, it's still totally wearable! How?
Well sure, you probably don't want to wear this rare and expensive vintage fabric to cook and clean in, as an apron would typically be used for, but after some quick color-coordinating this apron would be absolutely wearable.
I love wearing my Si & Am apron with this color-coordinating sun dress to Disneyland. I also wore it to Disney's D23 last year to a zillion compliments. I could also pair it with a matching brown wiggle dress for more of a flirty peplum-esque look.
Belts are a classic way to wear your vintage novelty prints! Most dresses and many skirts in the 1940s and 1950s had thin matching belts worn at the natural waist. You can re-create this classic accessory and add a pop of color to a plain dress or skirt. If you're lucky enough to have found a remnant piece of fabric of a print you already own a dress or skirt of, you can make a matching belt with it!
Simply find yourself a killer NOS bakelite or lucite belt buckle and attach your strip of fabric to it. Poke holes at your waist measurement and voila!
Whether you create a traditional bow tie or a mid-century style clip on style bow tie depends on your preference and how much fabric you have available. Whichever way you choose is an excellent way to showcase and work in a fun vintage novelty print into your more formal outfits.
Here's a quick and easy (no-sew) tutorial on how to make your own bow tie with approximately 5 inches of fabric.
Handbag and/or Wallet
No sewing machine or sewing skills? No problem! Here's something you can create without sewing.
My favorite wallet I ever had was a beautifully handmade brown lizard skin style checkbook wallet with this bold pink 1960s mushroom on it. The artist, De La Luna Designs, had deconstructed a psychedelic late 1960s dress with mushrooms all over it, cut out the mushrooms, and used a decoupage technique to accent these wallets with. It was gorgeous and I used it every day until it fell apart many years later. I wish I had a photo of it to share with you all, but you'll have to use your imaginations here.
While I personally am not advocating cutting up a good vintage garment to create your next wallet or purse, I do love the idea of cutting up small scraps of unused vintage fabric and turning them into something you can use and cherish often.
You can decoupage the scrap onto a plain wallet or purse. Or perhaps you can place the fabric on the side of a handbag and cover it with a clear plastic sheet, sort of like the wicker Atlas handbags of the 1950s.
Or for a really simple pop of color, simply place the fabric inside a purse that has a clear side pocket. Here's an example (Sputnik's is not affiliated with this company).
A throw pillow is a simple and straight-forward craft project that can brighten up your bedroom or living room with vintage fabric. If you've got a square or rectangular piece of fabric (or can cut it to size), you can easily make it into a throw pillow. This is good for really cool bandanas and scarves, too!
Only have enough material for one side? No problem. Just pair the backside with a complimentary piece of fabric, like my mother and I did with this vintage piece of tropical barkcloth and some modern upholstery fabric with matching green stripes.
You can either create the pillowcase and fill it with a throw pillow or simply stuff the material with pillow filler and sew it closed. We chose to create it as a removable pillow case over a plain white throw pillow, because I wanted to be able to wash it. The choice is yours, though.