Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Goodbye Sew-Along, Hello Vintage Purses!

I am disappointed and a little bit sad. I entered my first sew-along, and what happened? I broke my toe. Then I got sick, for about 2 weeks a ghost. My daughter got sick too. And now September is over. That's life. I'm glad the little girl is well again, the toe is healing (it was the second accident this year...), and a missed sew-along is no disaster. I will finish my dress, promised. Maybe next year, in spring, as autumn was here so quickly with rather low temperatures that it's not really tempting to make a sleeveless cotton dress.

As I couldn't sew I planned tried to tidy up my studio. "Studio" is a big word for such a tiny room, but it's all I have, and I even feel privileged to have it. I didn't get far, as the two little ones were just to demanding. But I managed in the time between cooking and doing some laundry and playing with the little monsters to surf a little bit around the wide world of the web. And I was very lucky to find some rather inexpensive vintage items. Some were on sale, some were just lowly priced, but all, according to me are real bargains. As a stay-at-home mom I'm living on avery limited budget. (This is probably better. We would end up with Switzerland's first and only Vintage Hat, Purse and Pattern Museum.)

Some of my purchases arrived today. Have a look.

I found this crochet cord purse on Etsy. The condition is rather good. There are no damages at all on the crochet part. The handles still close well, even though the closure latch is missing. The screw is still there, so I guess it broke and fell off. But as I will have to keep the purse anyway in my hands, that's no big problem at all.

The handles show a pair of exotic birds, maybe peacocks. Made of cordet yarn, it shows the common pop-corn crochet pattern that can be found on many purses from the 30s through the 50s. The lining is made of black acetate, without additional pockets.

This darling is very clean (I wouldn't wear it if it was dirty or smelling), the handles have some wear from use, and the cord is partially a little bit discoloured, so that the purse is not deep black anymore, but shows some brownish "highlights". But these can bee seen only if you take a very close look.

After having bought this purse I found an almost identical one on Etsy too. It has clear handles, but is the same purse in navy blue. I even saw later more such purses, mainly in navy and black. I imagine this type was very fashionable and widely diffused.

Sometimes I wonder if these purses were handmade, and only the handles were bought, or if they were produced by manufactories. The handle is marked, it says "Made in the U.S.A.". I am not sure, but I once read that this mark can provide an indication that the item was produced most probably after WW2. I really don't know, I'm no expert. But the style is definitely suitable for the 30s, 40s and earyl 50s.

 Shipping was in the end more expensive than the purse itself, and each time this happens I get upset. Shipping all over the world is just a nightmare if you depend from international sellers. No, there are almost no vintage items for sale in Switzerland. I often wonder if everyone has thrown away their 30s and 40s stuff or if all 50s items are locked up in some private collections. Of course we are a small country, but from a vintage collector's point of view, Switzerland is a desert.

And I bought this little purse as well. 3, 2, 1 - it's mine.

I am not yet THE expert for vintage purses, but I'm getting better. You can learn a lot about such items by taking a very close look at them, how they are made.

This purse for example seems to be of a different making than the tiny coin purse that came with it. I bought them together, just like on the picture, and most probably they "belonged" together once. But the outer fabric of the coin purse is completely different, a kind of moiré taffeta. The lining of the purse is plain acetate taffeta and slightly more creamy coloured than the coin purse. Maybe the coin purse and mirror were bought items, whereas the crochet purse could as well be handmade. The snap fastener is sewn-on in a very bad way (I will have to re-do it soon), but this could be the work of a previous owner of the purse who was probably not the most brilliant sewing talent.

The crochet pattern is similar to the popcorn pattern of the navy purse, less puffy. I love the crochet covered button of the closure.

The closure, by the way, is a feature rarely seen on such purses. Most of them had the handles only. As mentioned previously, many handles had a closure latch. On most vintage purses of that type, the latch is missing now. So if you see a purse still featuring the latch, you have found a purse frame in an excellent condition. Consider to buy it.

The black purse is probably slightly younger than the cream one. I think the handle plastic, at least it feels and looks like it, and I guess the cream purse frame is made of celluloid, which was very common during WW2. At least it was sold like as a celluloid frame, and I can clearly feel a difference of material when I touch it, and there is a difference of weight as well. To my guess, the cream purse is older. The frame also looks kind of carved, and the black handles are definitely pressed or cast material.

It was a little bit spoiled, nothing serious, just dust from the decades and numerous touches, and a slightly greasy feeling on the crochet closure. It could be just my imagination, as I am very picky when it comes to smelly or dirty vintage textile items. At least there were no odours, but usually it doesn't do damage to clean vintage items. Just be careful! I soaked the purse in lukewarm water mixed with sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), it came out very clean, and all the yellowish parts and what I thought seemed to be slightly greasy had disappeared. But it takes quite long for such a material to get dry again, so if you plan to clean you bag before using it, keep that in mind.

Now my two new old purses are carefully stored in a box. They are waiting for their first big day out.


  1. What a lovely purses! I especially like the first one!

    I also missed the deadline of the fall for cotton sewalong, so you're not the only one

    1. Anthea, I could have accepted that I missed the deadline, but I couldn't even start properly with the dress. But maybe it's better that way (you know, there's always a reason...), so I if loose some more weight the next few months, I can make the dress in a smaller size and will look definitely better. :-)

      I like the first one better too. The cream purse is rather small, but then, ladies in the past didn't have to carry a cell phone with them. If I can find a larger one, I will sell the small purse.

  2. Oh, sorry about your little accident. I hope you are fine now and start again with your precious sewing projects. And those bags .... Oh dear Lady! I am literally drooling as I watch your wonderful treasures ... sigh.

    1. Rosy, have a look around the shops on Etsy. From time to time, there are such treasures for reasonable prices. Compare the costs, and you surely will find something you like without paying a fortune. (Some sellers of course have prices beyond reason...)

      I love especially the 40s/50s style, there are many from the later 50s and 60s, whatever decade you prefer.

      If you find one, I would love to see it on your blog! :)

    2. Rosy, what were you doing at that hour? Not yet asleep?!?! ;-)


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