15 Vintage Crafts We Should Bring Back

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istock

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.

Wish You Could ‘Shazam’ a Piece of Art? With Magnus, You Can

Manuel-F-O/iStock via Getty Images
Manuel-F-O/iStock via Getty Images

While museum artworks are often accompanied by tidy little placards that tell you the basics—title, artist, year, medium, dimensions, etc.—that’s not always the standard for art galleries and fairs. For people who don’t love tracking down a staff member every time they’d like to know more about a particular work, there’s Magnus, a Shazam-like app that lets you snap a photo of an artwork and will then tell you the title, artist, last price, and more.

The New York Times reports that Magnus has a primarily crowdsourced database of more than 10 million art images. Though the idea of creating Shazam for art seems fairly straightforward, the execution has been relatively complex, partially because of the sheer quantity of art in the world. As founder Magnus Resch explained to The New York Times, “There is a lot more art in the world than there are songs.”

Structural diversity in art adds another challenge to the process: it’s difficult for image recognition technology to register 3D objects like sculptures, however famous they may be. Resch also has to dodge copyright violations; he maintains that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act applies to his app, since the photos are taken and shared by users, but he still has had to remove some content. All things considered, Magnus’s approximate match rate of 70 percent is pretty impressive.

Since the process of buying and selling art often includes negotiation and prices can fluctuate drastically, Magnus gives potential purchasers the background information they need to at least decide whether they’re interested in pursuing a particular piece. Just like browsing around a boutique where prices aren’t included on the items, a lack of transparency can be a deterrent for new customers.

Such was the case for Jelena Cohen, a Colgate-Palmolive brand manager who bought her first photograph with the help of Magnus. “I used to go to these art fairs, and I felt embarrassed or shy, because nothing’s listed,” she told The New York Times. “I loved that the app could scan a piece and give you the exact history of it, when it was last sold, and the price it was sold for. That helped me negotiate.” Through Magnus, you can also keep track of artworks you’ve scanned in your digital collection, search for artworks by artist, and share images to social media.

One thing Magnus can’t do, however, is tell you whether an artwork is authentic or not. The truth is that sometimes even art experts have trouble doing that, as evidenced by the long history of notorious art forgeries.

[h/t The New York Times]

'The Far Side' May Be Making a Comeback Online

tilo/iStock, Getty Images Plus
tilo/iStock, Getty Images Plus

For the first time ever, it’s looking increasingly likely that cartoonist Gary Larson’s "The Far Side" will be available in a medium other than book collections or page-a-day calendars. A (slightly ambiguous) announcement on the official "Far Side" website promises that “a new online era” for the strip is coming soon.

From 1980 to 1995, "The Far Side" presented a wonderfully irreverent universe in which hunters had much to fear from armed and verbose deer, cows possessed a rich internal life, scientific experiments often went awry, and irony became a central conceit. In one of the more famous strips frequently pasted to refrigerator doors, a small child could be seen pushing on a door marked “pull.” Above him was a sign marking the building as a school for the gifted. In another strip, a woman is depicted looking nervously around a forest while cradling a vacuum cleaner. The caption: “The woods were dark and foreboding, and Alice sensed that sinister eyes were watching her every step. Worst of all, she knew that Nature abhorred a vacuum.”

Unlike most of his contemporaries, like Berkeley Breathed ("Bloom County") and Bill Watterson ("Calvin and Hobbes"), Larson has resisted reproduction of his work online. He famously circulated a letter to "Far Side" fan sites asking them to stop posting the single-panel strips, writing that the idea of his work being found on random websites was bothersome. “These cartoons are my ‘children,’ of sorts, and like a parent, I’m concerned about where they go at night without telling me,” he wrote.

Many obliged Larson, though the strip could still be found here and there. That he’s seemingly embracing a new method of distribution is good news for fans, but there’s no concrete evidence the now-retired cartoonist will be following in Breathed’s footsteps and producing new strips. ("Bloom County" returned as a Facebook comic in 2015.) The only indication of Larson’s active involvement is a new piece of art on the site’s landing page depicting some familiar "Far Side" characters being unthawed in a block of ice.

Larson’s comments on a return are few and far between. In 1998, he told The New York Times that going back to a strip was unlikely. “I don’t think so,” he said. “Never say never, but there’s a sense of ‘been there, done that.’” In that same profile, it was noted that 33 million "Far Side" books had been sold.

[h/t A.V. Club]

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