Friday, August 2, 2013

Tutorial: Upcycle a Vintage Table Linen Into a Funky Wristlet - Now with Wine!

Edited to add: Here is the non-silly version of how to actually make a wristlet from a vintage table linen. PDF format with links to resources for the supplies I used.

I love vintage linens! And I also love purses, so what could be a better match than a wristlet made from a vintage embroidered table linen? Nothing? Correct.

I promise the hardest part of the whole project is forcing your scissors to cut the linen. There's no turning back at that point.

Fortunately, I purchased a box of vintage lace and linens from a store on ebay so I had no emotional attachment or memories of the linen being used every Thanksgiving. Still, cutting that sucker went against every fiber of my being.

Once cut, it was damaged and HAD to be made into a wristlet just to save it from becoming a dust rag or something equally degrading. The project instantly became a rescue mission.
The victim, er, vintage piece of embroidered linen.

The linen, unbleached cotton, and fusible fleece.

  • A small table linen that, when folded in half, appears to be a suitable size for a clutch or wristlet.
  • A piece of lining material (I used unbleached cotton) of similar size.
  • A piece of fusible fleece, likewise of similar size
  • A zipper longer than your linen is wide at the center, where you fold it in half
  • Thread, scissors, pins and a sewing machine, naturally.
  • Optional hardware for strap
  • Zipper foot attachment optional

Oh, and if you are anything like me, get that seam ripper handy.


  1. After you have sufficiently paid tribute to, and mourned the demise of, the linen as it exists in its pristine, vintage state (probably a rare piece that would fetch a six figure appraisal on Antiques Road Show), fold it in half and iron it.
    Nooooooo! That was grandma's!!!!
  2. Cut it along the crease you just ironed
  3. After you make it back from tossing your cookies over the terrible remorse you feel from having just desecrated your vintage linen, lay one half of it on top of your lining material and trace around the outside edge.
  4. Cut 2 and pray your vintage embroidered linen which was hand made 437 years ago was actually symmetrical, OR, a better idea for step 3 would have been to lay the whole thing flat BEFORE cutting and trace around it. But I'm giving you the tutorial step by step as I did it.... not necessarily as it *should* be done because what the heck, I love blog comments and I know stuff like this inspires people to write them.
  5. Lay one piece of the lining on top of your fusible fleece and try tracing around it with a maker. Notice how the tip gets repeatedly snagged in the fleece? Now get creative with those cuss words as you realize that's not going to work and you've just ruined your perfectly good fine point Sharpie.
  6. Go pour a glass of wine. You're going to need it for the zipper step anyhow. Let's start early because you deserve it.
  7. Okay, you're back in control now. You've got this! Pair the fleece pieces with the matching lining pieces. Get all set up to iron them together. 
  8. Let it dawn on you how bulky the seams will be if you have the fleece the same size as the lining. Trim 1/2" away from the edges of the fleece all around and center them back on your lining pieces to iron in place.
  9. Go get another glass of wine. You're going to need it for step 10 which should have been the easiest step.
  10. Try to recall the directions for using your Fusible Fleece. You threw away the tissue with the instructions when the cat ripped it to shreds. Instructions are for wimps anyhow, right? <sip wine>
  11. You recall something about water being involved, so use your spray bottle to dampen the lining material which is positioned over your Fusible Fleece and press it for freaking ever, checking now and then for scorch marks or bonding to have occurred.
  12. Scream shrill obscenities and actually spill some wine when you realized you have fused the fleece to your towel which is a stand-in for your ironing board.
  13. Bang around in your closet where you have stuffed all your supplies, swearing about how you are your own worst enemy and why the hell have you never organized this shit? Find replacement fusible fleece and repeat steps 7 through 11 but make sure the bumpy side of the fleece is adjacent to your wrong side of your lining material.
  14. When you have successfully adhered your fusible fleece to your lining (which took damn near 2 hours and the whole project could have been completed by now if you were an expert – or at least sober) go reward yourself with a glass of wine... and what the hell? weren't there some brownies left? Screw the diet! Have one of those, you're doing good!
  15. When you have your two lining pieces and your two embroidered linen pieces ready to proceed around midnight, go watch Arrested Development on Netflix and forget about it for a while.
  16. Next day: Take two Motrin for the wine headache and feel determined. You are NOT going to let this tattered, torn-in-half bit of rag that's full of itself and all snobby-from-the-past get the better of you.
  17. That was the headache talking. Pay no mind to the attitude from step 16. You got this! Grab a juice box.
  18. THE ZIPPER (say no more. is that juice box from step 17 of the grape variety and fermented? We're gonna need a bigger juice box.)
  19. Ok, I don't have a picture for putting the zipper sandwich together, but if you look closely at the image above you will see the line of holes where the first pass under the needle secured all layers together (1 piece of outside, zipper, and one piece of lining) together so that the zipper pull tab thingy was on what will (EVENTUALLY, someday  maybe) be the inside of the finished bag.
  20. Rip seam, start over. Pour wine. (whenever you doubt a step, or don't understand it, always best to pour more wine until you figure it out).
  21. Go Google how to install a freaking zipper because ain't nobody got time for that! Then come back and pick up with step 22. Remember, Google Is Your Friend.
  22. When you have installed the zipper, go take a nap.
  23. Awake refreshed and determined. Hey, now you have not only wasted 2 days, a priceless vintage linen, some lining material, and twice as much fusible fleece as you needed... You have also wasted a zipper. No turning back now.
  24. It's hard to explain with yet another wine headache, but for God's sake, look at the picture and just do this, okay? And keep your voice down my head is pounding and it's like nails on a chalkboard.
  25. Sew right up against the edge of the fusible fleece all the way around from zipper seam to zipper seam. Make sure you keep the precious piece of special cloth <extra sarcasm intended> out of the freaking way.
  26. You didn't, did you. <--Said as a statement intentionally because there's no question - you snagged the Special Cloth because you thought you could do this simple step without using pins and it got in the way. Get out the seam ripper and join me at step 27 when you have repeated step 25 but for cryin' out loud keep that tattered bit of linen which is acquiring more and more unnecessary needle holes OUT OF THE WAY!
  27. Now, trim away the excess in the seam allowance and flip the outside pieces down over the lining. The idea is that you want the lining part a tad smaller than the outside pieces so you can sew both sides of the outside together, trapping the completed lining section inside? Follow me? NO! I did NOT say to go get more wine! Where are you going? COME BACK HERE THIS INSTANT!
  28. Feel thoroughly reprimanded from step 27 and be ashamed of yourself for causing my elderly mother to yell out from the other room asking if everything is okay.
  29. <whispering> seriously, that wine is mine, back off.
  30. Ahem.... where were we? Okay trim both ends of your zipper off, but leave some sticking out because you're not sure where this is going and you can never un-cut a zipper later.
  31. Realize you have no clue what to do with the one end of the zipper, so fold it down over the lining seam you just sewed and tack it into place. Who cares, right? I mean it's not like you're going to try to sell this or anything. <sigh and look at the stack of other stuff you can never sell because you went all improv on the instructions>
  32. See picture above.
  33. Sew around the lining going a little farther inside the first pass (making the lining smaller) because you can't pull the outside pieces together to trap the lining inside yet.
  34. Try to figure out what the hell step 33 meant but don't waste too much time. Move on to step 35 while realizing you are reading something written from the computer in the day room at the insane asylum.
  35. Turn the outside (Special freaking-bane-of-your-existence Cloth) down and matching up the outside edges, PIN IT TOGETHER. For the love of GOD, use pins this time, okay???
  36. Sew along the edge as close as you can get, making sure not to catch the lining in between.
  37. Stop right there if you only want a clutch, but figuring out what to do with the other end of the zipper you trimmed is all on you. I'm raising my hands and stepping back. 
  38. I decided to make a pull tab thingy square piece of cloth to trap the end of the zipper. I've seen lots of bags that have these, so apparently there are other people who get this far and don't know what to do with the zipper end sticking out either.
  39. Start cussing. You'll need a head start for step 40.
  40. Realize you have no clue where you're going to attach the loop strap (because you're calling this a wristlet after all) and then have a great idea. (see step 41.)
  41. (see step 32 and meet you back here)
  42. Swirl the wine in the glass and sniff it. Ahhhhhh! All better now.
  43. Get out the bag of those things you just had to buy off Amazon because you got a gift card and like a rabid dog you went in search of something you couldn't live without but didn't even know they existed before surfing Amazon... See image above.
  44. Make your strap. No, I'm not going to tell you how. Oh for God's sake, okay! Cut cloth, fold in half, iron. Open, fold sides to center, iron, fold in half again, iron. Looks like this.
  45. Put ends together and attach the hardware.
  46. Because you realize the other end of the bag is sewn up tight, you use another one of the metal doohickies to attach the handle to what use to be the pull tab. 
  47. You hook handle to pull tab and stand back to survey your improv solution. The damage isn't too bad and it almost looks intentional.

    All done! This wristlet makes the perfect accessory to carry your wallet, keys, ID, lipstick and a comb as you head out the door for your trip to the Betty Ford Clinic where your family has scheduled a nice surprise vacation for you.

    Looking fabulous, now go have fun!

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