Vintage French Soap Labels

Checking Ebay is one of my morning rituals. I keep tabs on the auctions I'm bidding on and see what's new from my favorite sellers. One of whom is paris-zakka. She's the one who had those great buttons I got last month. With free shipping, which was nice since she's in Belgium. (My package did take a few weeks to arrive - you should know that if you decide to bid). This month she has free shipping on vintage French soap labels. Now, I had no idea about these and how very cool they are. I'm afraid they may become a new addiction. Like I need another one. She has about 50 labels listed and the following are my favorites (it was really hard to chose just four).

Most of you may not know that I'm also a graphic designer, so I love things that are beautiful and well-designed. And I'm definitely loving these labels!


Swedish weaving

When my grandmother died about ten years ago, she left me a box of embroidered towels - several pairs in beautiful colors. I never really knew much about them except that they were embroidered by her in the 1940s. I sometimes used the red and white ones during the holidays, but otherwise kept them packed away.

When I learned of the dishtowel apron challenge last month I considered using one of the towels for my entry. But then found the fruit towel and changed my mind. So, I had to laugh when I saw Sarah's entry in the gallery - it was almost exactly what I was going to do. I commented on it and that led me to do a bit of research about the embroidery technique, which is called Swedish weaving, huck weaving, huckaback darning, huck embroidery, and punto yugoslavo.

While it dates back several centuries, it had a resurgence in the US in the 1930s and 40s (which is when my grandmother did hers) using huck toweling. Traditional huck fabric has pairs of threads, called floaters, that alternately run vertical and then horizontal on top of the fabric to make a row. Swedish weaving is the embroidery done on this fabric by sliding the floss under the pairs of threads to create a geometric design on top of the fabric - no threads on the back!


If you buy vintage towels they'll likely be huck but it's more common these days to use Monk's cloth for this type of embroidery.

There are several traditional patterns, like trees:




and mirror image designs:



Here's a pillow I made from a vintage turquouse huck towel with black embroidery - love this color combination!


If you'd like more information, here are a couple of sites you can check out:

Huck Weaving
Swedish Weaving


Dishtowels into Aprons

The gallery is up at Tie One On for last month's apron challenge. Our mission was to create an apron using a dish or tea towel. A simple idea really. But I couldn't resist adding a few embellishments to mine.

The towel is vintage and was in a box of vintage linens that someone gave me. 1940s, I think. I love the colors and the design of the fruit. I had some red polkadot reproduction feedsack fabric that I used to make the waistband and pocket. You may recognize the yellow stripe from my last apron. I had just a little left - enough for the ties and a border along the top of the pocket. I added a big red button and, because that still wasn't enough, I used a bit more of the polkadots along the bottom.

That made a pretty long apron, which is fine for me because I'm 5'9! I'm happy with how this apron turned out and with how easy it was to do. I have several cute vintage towels with embroidery and this is another option for using them.

Be sure to check out the other submissions - there are some very talented ladies out there.


Crafters United

I'm not usually awake at 4 am but I just couldn't sleep. We're starting to get some wind and rain from the hurricane now - that's what woke me up. But then I couldn't stop thinking about all the photos of the devastation on the internet yesterday and thinking about what it means to evacuate whole cities. I don't think we even know at this point how bad things really are or how this will impact all of us in the coming weeks and months.

As they've done in the past when one of our own needs help, the crafty community is coming together to raise money to help. Craft Revolution has set up a shop at Etsy with handmade items donated by members of the craft community. All proceeds from the sale of these items will be donated to the Red Cross Hurricane Relief Fund, which provides shelter, medical assistance, and hot meals to victims and rescue workers. The initial goal is to raise $1000.

If you're a crafter please consider donating items. If you're a shopper take a look at the great items listed so far and do what you can to help. You can also make a cash donation through Paypal at the info page below.

More info

Etsy Shop

Donate items


Pink Lemonade

This is my apron submission for Tie One On's July theme "Pink Lemonade."

I had so much fun with this. The pattern is a vintage 1940s Marian Martin and the embroidered fruits are from a vintage Vogart transfer pattern, modified slightly so the cranberry and lemon are holding hands. Actually the cranberry was originally a cherry but I wanted to stick to the recipe that Amy posted at the start of the theme.

I had planned to use just yellow and pink stripes but it turned out that I didn't have enough of the yellow and a quick cruise through the sale racks at Joann didn't yield any more. I know, I need to buy more of fabrics I really like. So I went to plan B and used another fabric in coordinating colors.

The best part (in my opinion) is the braided rick rack. I saw this on a photo of a vintage apron and loved it. As I braided the two colors it got kind of twisted up (and my cats had great fun "helping"), but it ironed flat in the end and looks very cool. Here's a closeup:

This apron has a button back waistband instead of the usual ties so I used a bright yellow vintage button.

Want to see more pink lemonade aprons? Check out the gallery. And I can't wait to get started on next months theme. Mini-me. As in mother and daughter. Since my mini-me is a cat this should be interesting!


Summer Porches

I have such wonderful memories of sitting with my grandmother on her front porch, sipping lemonade and watching the hummingbirds visiting the honeysuckle that grew up the lattice and over the railings.

And I've been fortunate over the years since to have porches on most of the apartments and houses I've rented. They were often small, sometimes tiny, but if they were big enough for a chair and some pots of herbs I was happy.

Part of the reason I decided to buy the house I bought 3 years ago is the screened porch that runs along the back of the house. We added a tile floor which is cool on our feet in the summer and easy to clean. You'll find all of the houseplants there on summer vacation from their usual homes and a comfy hammock that is the perfect place to read and dream on hot afternoons.

My cats love to curl up on the twig bench with the barkcloth pillows I made. It's the perfect vantage point for bird and chipmunk watching, and for sleeping, too.

So, here's to lazy days and hammocks and porches. Happy summer!



With the warm (OK, hot) weather we've been having lately, all the hard work in my garden this spring is really starting to pay off. And to bear fruit, literally.


There's nothing like waiting to pick strawberries until they're perfectly ripe and having the time between picking and eating them be mere minutes. It makes up for the year we had to wait until the plants established themselves. We also have blueberry bushes (which look promising for this year) and fruit trees - apple, cherry, peach, and pear (that need another year or so). Gardening is an exercise in patience.

So, what does this have to do with inspiration? Once I started thinking about fruit I realized that I had lots of fruit-related things in my collection of linens and fabrics. I hadn't paid attention but much of what I was buying fit that theme. With the addition of a few coordinating fabrics and some vintage transfer patterns, the idea grew for a fruit collection. And what better time to do it than summer.

You may have seen a few fruit items already on my web site. Tomorrow, just in time for the first official day of summer, I'll be adding a small group of fruit pillows. And I'll add more pillows and tea towels as I get them finished. But, in case you can't wait, here's a sneak peek:

Strawberry Jam

Strawberries in the garden + strawberry fabric = strawberry pillow. Sweet!


The Appeal of Aprons

This month Country Living magazine has several articles about aprons. There's also an exhibit traveling the country called "Apron Chronicles: A Patchwork of American Recollections" that showcases 200 vintage aprons along with memories and photos of contributors (see www.apronchronicles.com for more info).

Why are aprons suddenly making a comeback? Maybe it's the nesting trend of recent years. Maybe it's the fact that you can buy them at all the hot stores like Anthropologie and Cath Kidston. Or maybe, to quote one apron designer, it's because they just make sense. "Aprons protect your clothes—and they celebrate the spirit of the women who wear them." That makes sense to me.

There are several great places to buy new vintage-inspired aprons but why buy new when you can still find so many vintage ones in perfect condition. And for comparable prices. Check the Apron category on Ebay. Or visit the Kitchen category on my site where I've just listed five aprons, including the one shown above.

If you're like me you might not want to use a vintage apron for cooking. I'm a bit messy in the kitchen and have an old denim bib apron for that. But they're perfect for display in a vintage or retro kitchen or to wear for entertaining. Or, like some stylish young women are doing, wear them over jeans. As a prized collectible or chic fashion accessory, vintage aprons are small bits of history and symbols of pride in women's handiwork skills. To quote the title of one of the CL articles—"tie one on"!


I did it!

My submissions to HHG are on their way. I was a little worried at first that I couldn't contribute pillows, but that turned out to be a good thing. It forced me to be more creative and I was able to try some of the things I'd been planning but that I never found the time for. All of which will now be added to my site as products for sale. So, coming soon are (1) tea towels with fabric borders and embroidered motifs from vintage transfer patterns; (2) lavender sachet bundles made from vintage fabrics and tied with vintage grosgrain ribbon; and (3) cards of buttons made from vintage fabric scraps. Sneak peek here:

It's been rainy and cold here in Pennsylvania this spring. Not so perfect for working in my garden, but very good for working indoors in my studio. I've actually been quite busy with graphic design lately (yes, I do that, too), but I always manage to squeeze in a little sewing time no matter how busy I get with other things.

I'm looking forward to another big estate sale this weekend. Memorial Day weekend is the official start of "the season" around here and I'm excited about what things I'll find this year. I've already planned two out-of-my-area trips for later in the summer - one to southeastern PA in July and one to New York state in August. I'll keep you posted on what treasures I find!



I know it's spring but it's still so cold here in the mornings that it doesn't feel much like it. Soon I'll be spending more time out in my garden but for now I'm in my studio as much as possible every day. My studio is a spare bedroom converted into a space used exclusively for sewing. I like that I can keep materials that I'm working with out in sight and that I can be as messy as I want to be. A trip to IKEA for new shelves is in the works - the armoire where I keep my fabrics is threatening to overflow very soon. Can't...resist...vintage...fabrics.

I've signed up to be part of the Happily Handmade giveaway for summer. For those of you who don't know what this is you can find more about it at the official website (http://www.happilyhandmadegiveaway.com). Basically you will be able to sign up to win one of many (34 this spring!) gift baskets filled with cool things donated by indie designers. When you sign up for my mailing list (or with anyone else who is part of the group), you'll be entered to win. You get a chance to win free stuff and help support independent craftspeople, I get more subscribers to my list, we who participate get more exposure - everyone is happy! There are pictures of the spring baskets at the website if you'd like a sneak preview of the kinds of things you might win. All I can say is that there are some awesome designers out there!

The winner for the spring giveaway is being chosen today and the new contest starts on June 1. So more details to come. My pillows are too large for the baskets so I'll be donating some smaller items - things I've been planning and working on this winter. I'm going to be a little mysterious about them for now, but hope to post photos soon.

Happy Cinco de Mayo today!



Welcome to the Primrose Design blog! Instead of the News page on my site that you're used to visiting, you'll now be directed to this space instead. And, since it's so much easier to update, perhaps I can do it more often.

You may notice some other changes to my site in the next week or so. Or maybe not. I'm planning some things that will make navigation easier and adding more categories for some new products I plan to offer. But they're subtle changes and, if all goes smoothly, you may not even notice.

Look for updates on a Summer Collection I'm working on. It doesn't have a name yet but will definitely be fruit-related.

One of the features of this blog is that you, the reader, can make comments. So, have questions, criticisms, suggestions? Go ahead and speak up.