15 Vintage Crafts We Should Bring Back

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Everything old is new again, especially when it comes to crafting. Some of these vintage crafts are already enjoying a resurgence; others may be waiting for you to bring them back to life. 

1. FANCY DARNING 

Years ago, when clothes were both more durable and more expensive than they are today, darning (or mending) was an important skill. Some darners took this to the next level with fancy darning, stitching geometric patterns and even lace into the holes in their clothing.  

2. DECOUPAGE

Is your furniture looking a little plain? Grab a stack of old magazines or books, a pair of scissors, a paintbrush, and a jar of decoupage glue. Like a 3D collage, decoupage allows you to cover any surface with any image or text you can find. 

3. MIRROR PAINTING

Here’s one that’s really overdue for a resurgence. Victorian ladies decorated their mirrors with oil paints. Today, we’ve got easier options, and some companies even make special paints for glass. What would you like to see each time you look in the mirror? The possibilities are endless.

4. HIPPIE JEANS

Like fancy darners, crafters of the 1960s and ‘70s realized the potential in a torn piece of clothing. They patched old jeans with wildly colored and patterned fabric, making a statement out of a pair of pants.

5. TATTING

Did you know you could make your own lace? Tatting involves looping and knotting a single piece of cotton thread using a small, hand-held shuttle. You can follow a pattern or create your own. It’s a time-intensive, meditative process, good for rainy days or sleepless nights. 

6. CLOTHESPIN DOLLS

A quick look at any wedding blog will tell you that clothespin dolls are coming back in a big way. And why shouldn’t they? They’re adorable. All you need are clothespins, paint, and a paintbrush. These little dolls make great gifts, holiday ornaments, and, of course, wedding cake toppers. 

7. CROSS STITCHING

Cross-stitching may bring to mind colonial samplers and your grandma’s pillowcases, but the craft has made a huge splash in the modern era as a great medium for ironic statements and pop culture references. If cats in baskets or floral motifs really are your thing, rest assured—you can still find plenty of those patterns, too.

8. VELVET PAINTING

Why did we ever let this one die out? Velvet painting has potential that goes far beyond religious icons or a certain hip-gyrating King (yes: those were a thing!). As a medium, velvet is both challenging and rewarding, and the results are vivid and unexpected. 

9. STRING ART

You don’t see much string art anymore, which is a shame. It’s a simple craft: draw a design on a wooden board, then pound in thin nails and wrap string around and through them. The final image is a very cool woven picture in three dimensions—a testament to the crafter’s ingenuity and skill.

10. MACRAME

We know what you’re thinking, but hear us out. Macrame is good for more than just hemp necklaces and hideous owl wall hangings. Sailors used it to pass the time at sea, knotting nets for glass buoys, bracelets, and even hammocks—all of which would be pretty useful today (okay, maybe not the buoy nets). 

11. SPATTERWORK

Here’s a craft the whole family can enjoy. Place a small object like a leaf or even your child’s hand on a large piece of paper, then flick paint over it to create a messy, spattered silhouette. Spatterwork is a great way to decorate stationery and wrapping paper. Nobody needs to know how fast or easy it was. 

12. EMBROIDERY

More free-form than cross-stitching, embroidery is kind of like drawing with thread. Your project can be as big or small as you want; consider that medieval European ladies stitched both monogrammed handkerchiefs and the Bayeux Tapestry.

13. LATCH HOOK

Decorative rugs! With pretty much any image you can imagine! If you ask us, it’s high time we brought back this simple craft, which uses a grid-like pattern, much like cross-stitch. But where cross-stitch uses fine threads, latch-hook involves knotting fat yarn onto a large canvas with a little latched hook. The craft can be learned in five minutes and doesn’t require much concentration, which makes it great for kids (and adults who like to craft while they watch TV). 

14. HAND-COLORING PHOTOS

In the days before color film, photographers often used paints, pigments and dyes to add color to the faces of their subjects and the scenery that surrounded them. The resulting pastel-toned images were hardly lifelike, but certainly lovely. You can recreate this process today on a computer or by photocopying color pictures in black-and-white and coloring them with pencils, crayons, or markers. 

15. CHAIN MAIL

It doesn’t get much more vintage than this. But unlike medieval blacksmiths, you won’t need an anvil or a roaring fire to make your mail. You can buy chain links ready-made and assemble your own jewelry and armor—if you’re into that—with just a pair of needle-nosed pliers.

Last Surviving Person of Interest in Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Heist to Be Released From Prison

Federal Bureau of Investigation, Wikimedia Commons // Public domain
Federal Bureau of Investigation, Wikimedia Commons // Public domain

Almost exactly 29 years ago, two men disguised as police officers weaseled their way into Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and started removing prized artworks from the wall. They made off with 13 famous paintings and sculptures, representing a value of more than $500 million. It remains the largest property theft in U.S. history, but no one has ever been charged in connection with the heist.

Now, as Smithsonian reports, the last living person who may have first-hand knowledge about the heist will be released from prison this Sunday after serving 54 months for an unrelated crime. Robert (Bobby) Gentile, an 82-year-old mobster who was jailed for selling a gun to a known murderer, has been questioned by authorities in the past. In 2010, the wife of the late mobster Robert (Bobby) Guarente told investigators she had seen her husband give several of the artworks in question to Gentile—a good friend of Guarente’s—eight years prior.

A 2012 raid of Gentile’s home also revealed a list of black market prices for the stolen items. Previous testimony from other mob associates—coupled with the fact that Gentile had failed a polygraph test when he was questioned about the art heist—suggest Gentile might know more about the crime than he has let on. For his part, though, Gentile says he is innocent and knows nothing about the art or the heist.

The FBI announced in 2013 that it knew who was responsible for the museum heist, but would not reveal their names because they were dead. Still, the whereabouts of the artworks—including prized paintings by Rembrandt, Manet, Vermeer, and Degas—remain unknown. The museum is offering a $10 million reward to anyone who can provide information leading to “the recovery of all 13 works in good condition," according to the museum's website. A separate $100,000 reward will be provided for the return of an eagle finial that was used by Napoleon’s Imperial Guard.

[h/t Smithsonian]

9 Colors Named After People

Alice Roosevelt—for whom Alice Blue is named—in 1902
Alice Roosevelt—for whom Alice Blue is named—in 1902
Frances Benjamin Johnston, Library of Congress/Wikimedia // Public Domain

Throughout history, a variety of famous people have lent their names to shades of brilliant blue, shocking purple, grassy green, muddy brown, and other hues. While many of these figures are artists who were known for using or developing these hues, other color eponyms come from the scientists who invented them or those who loved to wear them. Consider this list the place where the history books meet the artist’s palette.

1. Alice Blue

A pale azure blue named for Alice Roosevelt Longworth, daughter of Theodore Roosevelt, who was known for wearing gowns of the color and thus sparking a trend for it. (She was also known for smoking in public and other forms of mischief-making, leading her father to declare: “I can either run the country or I can attend to Alice, but I cannot possibly do both.”) Her ice-blue dresses inspired the song "Alice Blue Gown" by Joseph McCarthy and Harry Tierney, which premiered in the 1919 Broadway musical Irene. ("I once had a gown that was almost new / Oh, the daintiest thing, it was sweet Alice Blue / With little forget-me-nots placed here and there / When I had it on, I walked on air.")

2. Yves Klein Blue

Visitors look at 'Monochrome Blue, without title' (1960) by French artist Yves Klein
Visitors look at Monochrome Blue, without title (1960) by French artist Yves Klein
THOMAS LOHNES/AFP/Getty Images

The artist Yves Klein was interested in art as transcendence, and he’s perhaps best known for painting monochromes in a brilliant ultramarine meant to suggest the infinity of sea and sky. (As Klein once explained, "Blue has no dimensions, it is beyond dimensions.") In 1960, he registered a formula for the color—known as IKB, or International Klein Blue—with the French government; the formula relied on ultramarine pigment mixed with a synthetic resin that wouldn't dilute the color.

During his “blue period,” Klein exhibited only blue paintings and objects, releasing a thousand and one blue balloons into the sky in Paris to celebrate one show, and serving gin, Cointreau, and blue-dye cocktails at another. Don’t copy that last idea, mixologists: everyone who drank them peed blue for days.

3. Titian Red

Visitors look at a painting by Renaissance master Titian in Rome
Visitors look at a painting by Renaissance master Titian in Rome
GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images

A person with red hair is sometimes said to be a Titian, after the great 16th century Venetian painter who was notably fond of painting redheads. (Examples of such paintings include Bacchus and Ariadne and Noli me Tangere, now in London's National Gallery.) In the 1960s, redheaded Barbie dolls were officially known as “Titians.” More loosely, the term has come to mean any orange-red color, although people seem to love to debate exactly what shades count.

4. Scheele's Green

Svenska Familj-Journalen, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Arsenic-based green pigments were all the rage in the 19th century, coloring everything from hosiery to hats to children’s toys. The first such pigment on the scene was Scheele’s Green, discovered by Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele in 1775. The vibrant yellow-green hue caught on, especially after it was discovered that arsenic also produced a variety of other greens, from deep emerald to pale peridot. Although Scheele and others knew how toxic these pigments were, that didn't stop the colors from being used for clothing, candles, papers, playing cards, book-bindings, and sometimes even food. In perhaps the most famous example of its use, arsenic green wallpaper graced Napoleon’s last bathroom while he suffered through his exile on St. Helena, and some think the fumes caused by his long baths may have been what killed him.

5. Isabelline

José Reynaldo da Fonseca, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.5

If true, this color's origin story has to be the most off-putting in history. Once used to describe the pale champagne color of certain horse coats and bird feathers, the term Isabella-colored or isabelline is said (by no less than Isaac D'Israeli's 1791 Curiosities of Literature) to come from Isabel of Austria, the devoted daughter of Philip II of Spain.

Supposedly, when Spain laid siege to the city of Ostend in 1601, Isabella vowed not to change her undergarments until the city was taken. She expected a speedy victory, but much to her dismay (and presumably that of everyone around her), the fighting continued for three years before Spain won.

The Oxford English Dictionary dismisses this origin story, noting that Isabella as a color is first noted in 1600, a year before the siege began. But linguist Michael Quinion notes that accounts in French, German, Spanish and Italian (where isabelline has a similar color meaning) refer to the earlier Queen Isabella of Castile (1451-1504) and the siege of Granada—which means the story might just be true, even if it's about a different Isabella and a different set of 7-month-old dirty underwear.

6. Fuchsia

Heinrich Füllmaurer, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Here's a more pleasant etymology: The vivid red-purple of fuchsia, the color, comes from fuchsia, the flower, which is in turn named for 16th-century German botanist Leonhart Fuchs. (His last name, by the way, comes from the German word for "fox.") And if you think fuchsia and magenta are the same color, you're closer than you might think: Magenta was originally an aniline dye named fuchsine, named after the fuchsia flower. The name was changed in 1859, the year it was patented, in honor of the French victory at the Battle of Magenta. That apparently helped the dye become a stunning success.

7. Vandyke Brown

Anthony van Dyck, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

This deep, warm, transparent brown was made with a high concentration of organic matter (basically: actual dirt), and was popular with the Old Masters. It was named for the innovative Flemish painter Anthony van Dyck, who often used the color in his paintings, and who also lent his name to an early photographic printing process—which also produced a brown color, but did not actually involve dirt.

8. Perkin's Mauve

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Like so many scientific discoveries, the invention of synthetic dyes happened by accident. In 1856, chemistry student William Henry Perkin, then only 18, was trying to find a new way to make quinine (a popular treatment for malaria, and the ingredient that still gives tonic water its slightly bitter taste). The experiment didn't quite work as planned, but Perkin noticed some purple sludge left over in his flask after rinsing it with alcohol, and realized its potential.

His instincts were good: After Perkin patented his creation and began mass-producing it, the color swept England, becoming so popular that the magazine Punch condemned an outbreak of “the mauve measles.” The color was originally called aniline purple by Perkin, as well as Perkin's purple or Perkin’s violet. The mauve part of “Perkin’s mauve” came a few years later thanks to the French, who named it after their word for the mallow flower.

9. Hooker's Green

Thomas Herbert Maguire, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The warm, grassy "Hooker's Green" is named for botanical illustrator William Hooker (1779–1832), who created a special pigment just to convey the exact green of leaves.

Bonus: Mummy Brown

A close-up of an Egyptian mummy head
A close-up of an Egyptian mummy head
iStock.com/izanbar

OK, it’s not a color named after one person, but a color named after many people—many dead people. First made in the 16th and 17th centuries, but a special favorite of the 19th century painters, this rich brown pigment was created by mixing both human and feline mummy crumbles with white pitch and myrrh. (Although we tend to think of them as protected antiquities today, people in centuries past often considered mummies just another natural resource.)

In part because of its curious components, the pigment wasn’t the most stable in the world, and it fell out of favor once its origin story became better known. According to one biography, the Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones gave his tube of Mummy Brown a funeral in his garden when he discovered where it came from. The pigment was sold into the 20th century, although if you see the name “mummy brown” used today, rest assured it contains no actual corpses. Probably.

A version of this list first ran in 2016.

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