What You Know

One of my favorite types of blog comment is when someone takes the time to reminiscence.  Yesterday reader Susan Grote posted about the trials of wearing crinoline petticoats, and it got me to thinking about how much we can learn from what others know.  Often, they just assume that everyone else knows it too because it just a part of their experience and they forget that maybe others did not have the same experience in their lives.

The embroidered burlap tote bag pictured above might be an example.   These are relatively common.  Right now I counted 52 of them for sale on etsy, but only one listing correctly identified how this bag was made.  Many of the sellers guess that their bag was made in Mexico or Peru and the term ethnic, tribal, or boho  is usually applied.

When I was in high school in the late 1960s and early 70s, these bags were a fad – not so much with the girls at school as with their moms and grannies.  I can remember that the ladies at my church shared the directions for making the bag and that quite a few of them actually made it.  The raw materials consisted of a skein of variegated yarn and a length of burlap buckram.  This type buckram was  used mainly as the stiffening and structure in the top of draperies and is quite similar to the burlap used in the underpinning of upholstered chairs.  Today drapery buckram is made of a high tech synthetic, but cut into a pair of vintage drapes and chances are you’ll find burlap.

The buckram was about two to three inches wide, and the embroidery was done before the tote was stitched together.  After the bag was constructed, it was lined in a cotton fabric.

If you look closely, you can see the stitching line where the strips of buckram were joined.

It would be interesting to know where and how this craft got started.  It was obviously very popular and quite widespread as they seem to be found in every corner of the US, and perhaps beyond.


Filed under Curiosities

5 responses to “What You Know

  1. How interesting, Lizzie. I can offer no further enlightenment, except to say that embroidering with wool yarn onto hessian (a British equivalent to burlap, but not as dense as the buckram variety) was an activity I engaged in in my 1970s girls’ school; I remember making a small decorative hanging and also a cotton-lined case for my recorder. But I think our prescribed stitching patterns were less geometric and more representative (flowers etc).


  2. Hi Lizzie..You are exactly right, and I share that memory with you! My mother had one, and I remember her putting it together. Thanks for educating the younger set!


  3. Ookoo

    That was one of our projects in Home Economics in 7th grade in 1970. We were supposed to use at least 4 different embroidery stitches. That was the last year that our school reqired all of the girls to take Home Ec and the boys took woodshop. The next year everybody got one semester in each class. They dropped the embroidery project because the boys refused to do it.


  4. ourdailydress

    How amazing. I would have never thought that bag had that history. I often find mismarked modern dresses in vintage shops just because the owner did not grow up when those dresses were popular, eg. I see a fair but of Laura Ashley that’s only a few years old marked as 50s or 60s because that was the style it was made it.


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