DIY - Upcycled Postcards – Leah Nikolaou

DIY - Upcycled Postcards

Embroidery On Postcards

Updated 2nd September 2022

embroidery on postcards

There is nothing more satisfying than stitching into paper with a contrasting chunky piece of wool and vintage postcards are perfect for recycling and giving a new lease of life to.  Personally floral postcards are my subject of choice but you would probably find postcards about most subject matters as they were the once the communication tool of their day. You can read about that later!  First I will guide you through my method of stitching:

Carefully select your vintage postcard.  Consider the thickness of the paper.  Too flimsy and it will be prone to ripping easily, too thick and you will struggle to get a needle through it.

Choose your wool.  I opt for DK (double knitting) wool but you could use a thinner 4ply wool or tapestry wool.  Also think about whether you want your wool to create a block of solid colour or whether you want to use different colours for different sections or a hand dyed multi colour wool. I’m in love with hand dyed wool at the moment!

threading needle with woolTake a piece of wool, not too long, approx 35cm long.  Tie a knot in the end of the wool then thread onto a needle.  Try and use a needle with the smallest head possible whilst also being possible to thread the wool through it. I struggle to get the wool through mine but it helps me get the stitches closer together.

Decide what piece of the picture you want to embroider.  I’ve chosen the vase on mine.  I choose not to start at the very bottom of the vase but at the widest, straightest point.  I will come back to the bottom at the end because I may choose not to use completely horizontal stitches.  I get a ruler and pierce holes one each side of the vase perfectly in-line with each other.  It’s not necessary to use a ruler for every stitch but getting the first stitch straight helps the following stitches.
how to make embroidered postcardsStarting at the back of your vintage postcard, take the needle through and pull the wool tight.  Then go down the opposite hole you have made.

Stitching through a postcard from the back, a side view
Making the first stitch into a vintage postcard
Next make your next two holes.  Far enough apart so that your card doesn’t tear but close enough to get a good effect.  You could practise with your wool on an old envelope or piece of card (cereal box?) to get a feel of how close its possible to stitch with your needle head size. Next make the next two holes you need for the next stitch.

vintage embroidered postcards
back of a vintage postcard
Stitch and repeat following the outline of your shape.

When you get to the top of your object (and similar when I return to bottom of my vase) you may choose to shape your object slightly by working back though a hole you have already made and only pierce one new hole on your next row.  This will make the next stitch slightly diagonal rather than horizontal.  You can repeat this as many times as is necessary.  Just be mindful that too many inserts through the same hole can result in your vintage postcard ripping.  You need to use your own judgement as it depends on the needle size and wool thickness you are using.

Once a piece of wool is finished thread it through the back stitches and trim.

hand embroidered vintage postcard

‘vintage tweets!’

I can’t help but draw a parallel between vintage postcards and Twitter and find the comparison fascinating.  Postcards were after all short updates about someone’s life limited by the number of words they could fit onto the piece of card.  Similarly Twitter restricts the number of characters you can use to write a digital update on its platform.  Postcards originated from as early as 1840 but had their golden age between 1902 and 1928. They were back then the prime networking tool of their day.  Following the war they became less used as new forms of communication became more popular like telephones.  Similarly Twitter is being squeezed today by new platforms competing to be the next big social network.

The oldest postcard on record in the UK is of that sent by Theodore Hook a play-write and novelist from Fulham in London who sent the postcard to himself in 1840.  Most probably a joke, it featured a caricature of postal workers and a penny black stamp.  Postcards not only give us insight into how new forms of communication are adopted and adapted but also a social understanding of past times. In 1902 Britain was the first country to make space for the prominence and importance of an image and moved the address and stamp to one side.

Postcards sent from holiday destinations were probably the most common types of postcards sent.  My interest is in floral postcards often sent as birthday cards or as notes and tokens of love.  They are such a sentimental souvenir of the past.  However I can’t help but feel I’m invading someone’s privacy by reading what is written on the back and similarly eek when I read anything too personal about somebody through social media.  Postcards were only meant to be read by one person or household unlike most of today’s digital messages.  Postcards feel far more personal to me today than a simple tweet or digital message.  They still seem more considered and thoughtful! Ensuring a stamp is at hand and a letter box remembered on the correct day shows more dedication than pressing ‘send’.

Go make someone’s day and send them a little piece of home made vintage!

The Linen Garden

Website of The Linen Garden

One of my favourite online shops for sourcing paper ephemera for embroidery on postcards is The Linen Garden

Postcard Pages is a great website which lists forthcoming local postcard fairs in the UK.

USA based Old Postcards claim they have the biggest offering of postcards to the world so definitely also worth a look if you are after something specific!

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