Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Cleaning and Storage for your Vintage Handbags

Spring is coming so let's get cleaning our handbags. Due to their unique properties, always test products first on a hidden patch with your vintage bag. That said, here's what you will need: warm soapy water, leather cleaner, leather conditioner, Windex (with caution), Magic Eraser (with caution), Q-tips, soft cloths (no paper towels please), soft brush, shaving cream, steam iron, fingernail polish remover, and a vacuum cleaner. You may also find Oops! multi-purpose remover, Brasso metal polish and furniture polish useful.

General cleaning for most bags:

Start off with a soft brush to loosen any dirt and vacuum your bag inside and out. Be careful not to pull out linings or use too much suction. You are just getting as much dust off the bag as possible. Next, use a damp (not wet) cloth of soapy water, wipe lightly, going over the whole purse, inside and out.  If you worried about making a water stain on the lining then skip this step. It's important not to soak any vintage bag, too much water can loosen already weaken threads. Take a damp Q tip and get into the corners of your bag, You'll be surprised at what you find.

Beaded bags:

If you have a very old bag that is in a weaken state I would suggest looking for a professional to dry clean your purse. That said, if you don't see any loose beads, then take a dry toothbrush and begin lifting up any dirt. Next, if there are some stains, a little shaving cream may pull them up. Don't use too much. Apply and let set for a few minutes, wipe clean.  For an overall clean, dip a toothbrush in warm soapy water, gently moving across beads pulling up the dirt.  Remember most of these bags have some kind of cardboard put into the linings, so easy does it with the soapy water.  Allow to dry,  store your beaded bag, in plain tissue paper or an piece of cloth. Plastic bags do not breathe and any color printing on plastic bags can be transfer onto the beads or for that matter, Patent bags. This has happened to me! After grocery shopping at Kroger's, I put a couple of grocery bags in the front seat of the car and placed my purse next to them. I was horrified when I got home to discover the word "Kro"  had transferred  onto my purse. The conditions were just right, a little moisture and the two touching. It took a lot to get the ink off my purse, and in the right light you can still see some color from the ink stain.

Patent Bags:

 Next, if you have a patent bag you can use Windex, but do a test spot first. I wouldn't suggest spraying WINDEX DIRECTLY ONTO YOUR BAG, I have had more luck with a spray on a cloth first, and wiping lightly. If you have a soiled area, use a Magic Eraser, but test it first on the bottom of your bag. These erasers can cause DAMAGE to some finishes. Only use if you have a soiled area that is resistant to everything else. Be aware that Magic Erasers can take off the finish on painted hardware and dull some patent leather bags if used too heavily. You may want to repeat these steps until you feel the bag is really clean. I know that some people use Vaseline on their bags to get some nice shine.  I do not use Vaseline on my patent bags. After buying a pretty, blue, patent bag that someone had used Vaseline on, I thought I could clean it up.  The Vaseline over time had mixed into the patent material creating a  sticky finish that was blotchy. I am not 100% sure that the Vaseline caused these problems, but I rather be safe with my treasured collection. Also, Vaseline on patent attracts dirt and dust that can build up on your bag, which is never a good look. Another great way to get some shine is to use a steam iron on your bag. Hold your bag upright and take your iron holding it about 2 inches from your bag, the iron should NEVER touch your bag, you are just getting a few burst of steam onto your purse. Careful not to get to close to any stitching. Take a soft cloth and buff. The steam heats the patent and smooths out the finish, making it really shiny. This is my favorite method of cleaning a patent bag, no chemicals.

Leather Bags:

 A lot of vintage bags have been stored in people's basements and attics, they are most likely very dry and need a good cleaning and conditioning.  I condition my leather bags about twice a year while watching a movie, that way I am not in a hurry.  For leather and leather look a likes, I use Coach leather cleaner and follow up with Coach conditioner. I know it's a bit expensive, but I really like the Coach brand, but any will do.  You can also make your own leather cleaner. The biggest thing is to keep the bag's leather soft, to avoid over drying and cracking. As you pull up dirt, use a fresh cloth until you see no more dirt. Be aware that you may see some dye coming up. This can happen, but unless you see major changes in the leather's color expect that you will see some. Just follow the directions on the label. You will be surprised how beautiful your bag will look and feel with a good conditioning. For stains I have had some luck with Fingernail polish remover. Do a test first to see how the remover works with your leather. And then condition.
This was just some dirt that came off my wicker bag. 

Wicker Bags:
 After cleaning with a damp cloth, for unpainted wicker, use a toothbrush to get into tiny areas where  dirt likes to hide. Then try using just a little wood polish/oil, it goes a long way. You should use enough for the bag to have some moisture, but not too much or you will have the same problem as the Vaseline. If you have a painted wicker bag, these are hard to clean because old paint likes to chip. Use a toothbrush to loosen dirt, follow up with glass cleaner, you may be able to use a Magic Eraser lightly if the paint seems intact and you have stains you would like to tackle.

Fabric Bags:
Spot clean as needed with soapy water. You can use Febreze fabric refreshener if you like, my only experience with these products are they makes things smell great, but they seem to attract dirt to the fabrics more quickly. So follow up with some Scotchgard to protect your handbag against dirt and stains. Allow to dry.

This is my shoe cabinet, these purses are filled with the "basics", I just take my wallet out to change to the next purse and I am ready to go.

Now that everything is clean and dry! If your bag doesn't need any repairs, this is a good time to store it away until you need it. I can't express how important it is to store your bags away from the sun, dust and  humid/damp areas. Most bags will have color fading and warp if left in these conditions. I do have some of my purses on display on a shelf, but in general they are tucked away in my shoe closet and bedroom closet. Another important thing is to have your patent leather bags standing upright, NOT TOUCHING each other. These bags dent very easily. Wrap your favorite, unused bags in a t shirt, this will keep dust away. I do not wrap my bags in plastic, most materials need to breath, temperature changes can cause humidity to build up. Also, I put a small sachet made with baking soda in my unused purses, this helps them smell fresh. For most, but especially hard sided bags it's great to keep them filled with a t shirt and some dryer sheets. This will insure that your bag retains it's shape. If you have a large collection like me, I had to give a few away because of storage space. You can buy under the bed storage bins, just be careful with the handles of your bags that they don't get crushed.  You can hang your bags using a hook system designed for behind a door, or hang them as wall art.  Although, extended periods of a bag hanging can cause damage to the handles. To retain it's shape, move it from time to time to avoid pressure points. It's like everything else, using it is the best way to maintain it.  I have a wardrobe that I bought just for my purses and shoes, it's in our mudroom and works out great for me. Everything is ready to go, when the season changes, I switch them out for the coming season. Click here for more ideas on storage.
Canvas Hanging Purse Organizer

Above all enjoy your vintage bags and use them!

Next post repairs.

Have a wonderful vintage day!


Friday, February 24, 2012

Peachy Pair

I really needed to curl my hair today

Over the last month I have been sewing about 5-7 hours everyday. Yes, my life is a bit slow right now in winter time, so I am putting my hands to work. The idea is to stash bust everything, that includes fabrics that are only so so and come up with as many combinations as possible for skirts and blouses.  Katie from Little red squirrel is hosting a wonderful project called Stash Busters and I am on board with that. Tilly is also doing an  interesting project that takes One week, One pattern and wearing it in as many different ways as possible. Well, to me these ideas got married, they are excellent projects together. Like Jane, I am a fan of the ginger so I am pushing the boundaries a bit and have made up seven ginger skirts. Yes, I love the pattern that much. For blouses, I am buying as many patterns as possible to try out different styles, I am still in the process of finding a few that I love. I can't wear a Chinese style blouse everyday! he-he. Anyhow, this blouse I made from Butterick 3696, its a simple button down thin collar. I am really happy with the outcome of both pieces, they are easy to wear and still look crisp and clean. I love peach, and to be honest, I wanted an outfit to go with my peach 50's purse. I love the little flowers behind the patent material.  I'll see you soon with another ginger combo, made by me.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Buying Guide for the Vintage Handbag

Over the next couple of weeks I am going to be posting about something very near and dear to my heart, the vintage handbag.  I am very passionate about vintage purses.  I have been collecting for about 10 years now.  I am not an expert, just a person who loves to acquire, utilize and care for my collection. Along the way I have found there are some tricks to buying, cleaning, and making general home repairs in order to keep my bags looking their best. There are some detrimental mistakes one can make with caring for vintage bags, which I will be addressing in the next post.  Today I want to share what I have learned about buying vintage purses.  Most vintage bags fall into, but are not limited to, these categories: beaded, patent leather, fabric, wicker/straw and leather bags.

Knowing what to buy can save you time and money. Here are some tips broken down into the above categories before you make that vintage purchase.

The Beaded handbag:

The workmanship on these kinds of bags are generally intricate. They are mostly used for special occasions. Before buying a beaded handbag, take a close overall look at the bag's beads, are there any missing? Would you be able to find a matching bead if one falls off?  Do you feel confident that you can sew or glue another bead on if needed? Is the bag in reasonable shape, take a look at the stitching, are there any stitches missing or loose? Does the bag have any odors that are strong that may bother you if you can't remove them? Are the beads smooth? Is anything catching your hand as you run across it? These questions will help you to make a quality decision and one you will not regret later.

Yes, they are all mine, this is only about 1/2 my collection.
 Patent leather bags:

 These are my favorite bags, but are more problematic than all the others in my opinion. Most of these types of bags have hard sides and bottoms to them. When looking to buy this kind of purse, first open the bag and inspect the corners of the flap area, are there cracks on the inside or outside of the bag's flaps?  Generally, the first sign of wear comes from this area where the hardware and patent material meet.

Cracking means that the handbag has been used a lot or stored incorrectly, these cracks will shorten the life span of the bag. Next, it's a good idea to check the tightness of the hardware, is it closing tightly?  Most bags have what is called the kiss closer that snaps shut.

Once the closer is loose, it's very hard to fix this problem, the result is that your bag may fly open on you at any time.  Before you buy, ask the sale associate if you can put a few of your items into the purse, can you close it?  I have noticed that if I over stuff a bag or if my items are heavy in nature, that the weight can make these purses pop open, even if they are not overstuffed.  It's good insurance doing this little exercise to know you have a bag you can rely on to stay closed.  Next, do you see any dents in the patent that bother you? If you look at a patent leather bag from the side you may find some denting and scratches.  Unfortunately, the dents do not remove completely, but there are so ways to make them less noticeable.   I have had some luck with scratches, but not tears in the patent, although there are repair kits.  Finally, take a look from the side of the handbag.  Does the handbag's lines still form a symmetrical shape or is it misshapen?  I have noticed that these types of bags warp over time. Which means they will not look like a perfect triangular shape from the side.

Some have been stored incorrectly and problems have occurred. There are a lot of great bags out there, but there are a lot that look wonderful at first glance, but are full of problems.

Straw/ fabric bags: 

Essentially you will be looking for tears, rips and worn out handles. Also, do the rub test, rub the fabric between your fingers. If there is a lot of disintegration, and the fabric is rubbing off into your hands the handbag may be in poor condition. Fabric does age over time and looses it's integrity. Weakened fibers generally won't hold up too long. Inspect these bags thoroughly and if they pass your test, You have a great find.


 Leather bags last for years. Mostly with these types of bags they just need a good cleaning.  If there is any cracking/peeling or cuts in the leather, you may want to skip buying that bag. If you see fading around the edges of a bag, this can be fixed easily. I will be covering this in the repair post.

Also, you may have noticed that I didn't speak about the linings of all vintage handbags. I never let that hold me back from buying one, because I replace them. Which I will cover in the repair post. If you are not into putting a new lining in, you will need to take a good look and sniff to see if this bags is going to be worth it. Stains in fabrics sometimes come out, other times they just won't.

Where to Buy the real thing:

Vintage purses are not like vintage clothing, they are easy to spot. Vintage purses feel heavy, the linings  and inside zippers give them a way too. If you are unsure, ask. As you shop for vintage, you'll get a eye for it. Finally, even though I have bought several vintage purses online through Ebay and Esty, I have learned this is not always the best way. In general, I have limited myself from buying handbags off the internet because a picture can't really tell the whole story. I bought one expensive bag online and it was warped and wouldn't sit on the counter without falling over. The pictures looked great, but they hung the bag from a hook and never disclosed that the bag was warped. So I am sticking with going to antique shops and vintage stores. I haven't had a lot of luck at the thrifts.

It has been such a joy to carry a vintage purse everyday.  Next post will be cleaning and storing your vintage bags.

Have a wonderful Vintage day!


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Silk Mandarin Blouse

I have a weak spot for the Chinese inspired blouses. The details of the piped, mandarin collars and frog fasteners just plain appeal to me. So last year, I ran across this piece of fine silk at the thrift.  Although I was a bit intimidated at the idea of working with silk fabric, I threw caution to the wind and brought the 3 yards for a whopping 4 dollars. I was careful to line up the fabric's firer, red flowers front and center. I am pretty happy with the result and have determined that silk is easier than I believed it would be. The vintage, well made bolero is also a thrift find, but I refashioned it to suit better. It had a swing style that was unflattering on me, so I unpicked the lining and collar to adjusted it for a better fit. I whipped up the black ginger skirt this past week to match up with the blouse and bolero. The vintage pin , fan and 50's handbag complete the look.

Pattern:  Blouse Simplicity 5098, Ginger skirt by Colette Patterns
Fabric:  Silk for the blouse,  Linen blend for the skirt
Make Again?  Yes, for sure! I am wondering if the blouse might look nice in a solid color with contrasting piping.

My husband and I are doing our Valentine dinner this weekend, he said he could see me wearing this outfit on our date. So I think I am going to be wearing it soon. Maybe we'll go for some Chinese, sweet and sour chicken sounds yummy.

Have a wonderful vintage day!


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Sew Grateful Appreciation Blouse

Nan from Nans News from the North sent me this lovely pattern. Thank you, Nan! Check out her blog, she has been sewing for many years and lives in Alaska.  So today as part of my appreciation for the online sewing community I made up the 40's blouse pattern she sent to me.  The oversize collar frames the face well and fit is comfortable.  This blouse will be great paired with a skirt or some shorts. It's also easy everyday vintage styling.  I am finding I need a few of these kinds of garments to live in. I have lots of dresses, but often times yard work, tending to the chickens, baking and doing life keeps me from wearing the vintage clothes I love so much. This is a great way to "go vintage" on a hectic day and still have some comfort.  Even as I have highlighted Nan today,  you too have been just wonderful beyond words. I  want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart, to all of you who have left me a comment, sent a email and offered your knowledge on your fabulous crafting/sewing blogs.  I know I have learned so much from YOU! So keep those tips coming and remember you may never know who you have helped and encouraged along the way with your gift of creativity.  Hugs to you all.

Have a great vintage day,


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Springtime happiness, 40's blouse & skirt

Yes, I know it's not spring yet, but something bright and happy makes the winter blues go away. Anyone ready for spring out there?  I am ready to step into spring with this new outfit.   Love has hatched with this 40's blouse. The detail of the yoke back makes me smile.  I did stumble a bit through the 1940's instructions, but am so glad I got through them because the blouse is so comfortable.  I have total freedom of movement in the arms and back area. I believe the back yoke helps a lot.  I have been making and enjoying separates lately.   Right now the basic wardrobe builders are very important to me. Have you ever notice that sometimes it's hard to find the basics at the stores? Even just a plain black skirt with minimal design can be a challenge. So I am making Ginger skirts in as many colors as I can, stash bustin along the way. I have never worn white on the lower half of my body, (except my wedding day) but as I age I am letting go of the idea of having the perfect body and since made peace with my legs. So here's to freedom in not following my old "thin rule".  If you don't know that rule. It goes like this, wear whatever makes you look the thinnest at all times and at all cost! I have lived this way and began to realize that I only wore black for years. How boring of me! So here's to breaking out the shell.

Have a wonderful vintage day,