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Best Ways to Use Vintage Ephemera for Junk Journaling

Junk journaling has gained popularity in recent years as a creative outlet that combines art, storytelling, and memory keeping. One of the key elements in creating stunning junk journals is the use of vintage ephemera.

Vintage ephemera refers to old, often paper-based items such as tickets, postcards, letters, and photographs that evoke nostalgia and capture the essence of bygone eras. Incorporating these treasures into your junk journaling projects adds a unique touch and brings depth to your creations.

In this article, we will explore some of the best ways to use vintage ephemera for junk journaling.

Collecting Vintage Ephemera

The first step in using vintage ephemera is building a diverse collection. Thrift stores, antique shops, flea markets, and online platforms can be excellent sources for finding vintage treasures. Look for items like old postcards, handwritten letters, stamps, book pages, vintage photos, advertisements, and maps.

If you’ve seen my handmade journals, I often use antique postcards as covers. If you’d like to learn more about vintage embroidered postcards, I wrote an article about it here!

Another great resource for antique hunting is Facebook! There are many groups that are dedicated to antique ephemera and paper goods. These groups offer one of a kind deals on unique items that you may not easily find anywhere else, and the prices can be quite affordable.

Sometimes, sellers will either list a price, or they will do a DOND, which refers to ‘deal or no deal’. Basically, you offer up a price you’d pay for the item, and the seller can either accept it or reject it. Some of these groups also hold auctions with well-known auctioneers that specialize in antique ephemera.

The groups I am currently in are:

Important note for readers who want to buy online: always try to buy using Paypal!

Paypal offers both buyer and seller protection in case you get scammed. Make sure to use the ‘goods and services’ category when you are sending money, because this provides you safety as a buyer. One thing to note is that the seller will have to cover the fee that comes with this service. The ‘friends and family’ option removes your safety option as a buyer, and you will have to cover the wire transfer fee.

Using other payment service options carries risks because they usually have little to no protections in place for buyers or sellers. I personally only use Paypal for this reason. Do not use Cashapp or Facebook Pay unless you are dealing with an experienced seller who has many buyers and positive reviews.

Creating Themed Pages

Vintage ephemera offers an opportunity to create themed pages in your junk journal. For instance, you could dedicate a section to a specific decade, such as the 1950s or the Victorian era. Arrange vintage photographs, ticket stubs, and magazine clippings from that era, allowing them to transport you and your readers to a different time. Themed pages make your journal visually captivating and add a delightful narrative.

Incorporating Handwritten Elements

Vintage handwritten elements, such as letters, recipes, or diary entries, add a personal touch to your journaling. You can either include the original document or create replicas to preserve the original piece. Use translucent vellum or tracing paper to overlay the handwriting on your journal page. This technique gives an ethereal quality to the text and allows readers to engage with the sentimentality of the written word.

One of my FAVORITE junk journal creators!!!

Using Ephemera Pockets and Tuck Spots

Incorporate pockets and tuck spots within your junk journal to hold smaller vintage ephemera pieces securely. Pockets can be made by gluing or sewing a folded piece of paper or an envelope onto the page, allowing you to slip in photographs, postcards, or other paper mementos. Tuck spots are small slits or pockets where you can tuck in notes, letters, or tags, creating interactive elements within your journal.

Embracing Imperfections

Vintage ephemera often comes with imperfections like tears, stains, or creases. Embrace these flaws as they contribute to the authenticity and character of your junk journal. These imperfections can serve as prompts for storytelling or can be enhanced with artistic techniques such as distressing, tea staining, or ink splattering. Embracing imperfections adds a vintage and worn-in look, enhancing the overall charm of your journal.

Pairing Vintage Ephemera with Mixed Media

Combine vintage ephemera with various mixed media elements like watercolors, acrylics, stamps, washi tape, and ephemera of different textures. Experiment with blending colors, incorporating hand-drawn elements, or adding textures through techniques like embossing or stenciling. The combination of vintage ephemera and mixed media techniques adds richness and individuality to your junk journal pages.

Conclusion

Vintage ephemera opens up a world of creative possibilities in the realm of junk journaling. By thoughtfully incorporating these treasured relics into your projects, you can create visually captivating and deeply meaningful journals. Let the nostalgia, stories, and charm of vintage ephemera guide your creative journey, and watch as your junk journal comes alive with the magic of the past. Happy journaling!

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A Stitch in Time: Exploring the History of Embroidered Postcards

Dear reader, thank you so much for taking the time to visit. For the very first post of my bookbinding blog, I would like to share with you something truly special – a historical look into the creation of antique embroidered postcards.

In today’s digital age, where communication is often instant and virtual, it’s easy to forget the charm and personal touch that physical postcards once held. Among the various forms of vintage correspondence, embroidered postcards stand out as beautiful and intricate works of art. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the captivating history of embroidered postcards, exploring their origins, popularity, and enduring appeal.

I would like to give a special shout out to Dr. Ian Collins, who is an expert in postcard history. Much of my information is summarized from his fantastic book about embroidered postcards. I highly recommend visiting his site if you are curious about embroidered postcards – he has a really cool image gallery of antique postcards with detailed histories for each unique card! All images on this blog post are courtesy of Dr. Ian Collins and taken from his site.

Table of Contents

1902 postcard with the Swiss shield and floral wreath
~1905 Swiss Alps postcard

The Origins of Embroidered Postcards

Embroidered postcards first emerged in the late 19th century or early 20th century Europe. They were presented at the 1900 Paris Exhibition and published by Adolf Grieder & Cie of Zurich (Ian Collins, 2001). The combination of delicate fabric, thread, and charming designs intrigued the masses. At first, embroidered postcards were considered an expensive luxury, but with the advent of the World Wars and mass production, embroidered postcards were gradually made accessible to the public.

Rising Popularity and Production

Switzerland is believed to be the center-point of early embroidered postcard production, which has a long history of extravagant embroidery. Swiss embroidery is highly coveted for its intricate designs and vibrancy. Indeed, St. Gallen, Switzerland is one of the largest exporters of embroidery in the world. Germany and France were also one of the main historical players of embroidered postcard production. Eventually this practice made its way to the United States, where it remained somewhat less popular compared to picture postcards.

An interesting fact about embroidered postcards lies in their make – some postcards were created with pockets and a decorative flap. This made the sorting process of postcards more difficult for postmen, so a new rule was introduced: novelty postcards had to be sent in an envelope. Unfortunately this means that many embroidered postcards found today were not stamped or dated, and the senders sometimes did not date their postcards, so it becomes more challenging for archivists to figure out what year certain postcards were produced. Nonetheless, we are sure that embroidered postcards came into prominence during the early 20th century, especially peaking around the 1910s.

Hand-embroidery machine in Calais, France

How Embroidered Postcards Were Created

The standard appearance of an embroidered postcard usually involves three key components – the silk embroidery itself, a beautifully ornate frame, and a paper back upon which the sender could write their message. Some embroidered postcards do not have the ornate frame.

In the beginning, these special postcards were embroidered by hand by peasant women who were trying to earn some money for their families. Starched fabric was stretched over a wooden frame and embroidered by hand. Handmade embroidered postcards are visually neater than their manufactured counterparts, which were created by machines starting around the 1910s. Handmade embroidery was used all the way up to the 1930s, when machines finally replaced manual labor.

For a detailed discussion on the history of embroidered silk postcard production, Dr. Ian Collins has a great article here.

The Great War (1914 – 1919)

With the advent of World War I, embroidered postcard production would take a drastic turn. These novelty items went from expensive luxuries to affordable mementos that soldiers would often send to their loved ones back home. France became the most popular producer of embroidered postcards, while Germany, Switzerland, and the United States took a back seat.

The postcards often featured a patriotic theme, with embroidered flags from countries such as Russia, Britain, France, and Belgium. Since some soldiers tended to be illiterate from this time period, these postcards with embroidered greetings were perfect little messages to send back home. For the more literate ones, soldiers were carefully monitored regarding the messages they were allowed to write, so these postcards did not talk about the war itself – rather, soldiers often spoke about the weather or general health. Postcards would display infantry or cavalry regiment insignias, weaponry, places, or patriotic symbols related to certain countries.

Interestingly, when Russia fell to the Bolsheviks in 1917 and left the War, the Russian flag disappeared from embroidered postcards and was typically replaced with either the Serbian or American flags. This certainly helps dating some postcards from that time period.

If you would like a very detailed explanation of how embroidered postcards were tied to the Great War, please refer to Dr. Ian Collins’s book. Indeed, the legacy of embroidered postcards is intimately linked to the war effort.

Inter-War Years (1920 – 1938)

After the Great War, the mass production of embroidered postcards seemed to die out as quickly as it started. Nonetheless, they continued to persist with casual civilian flair, featuring themes such as greetings, birthday wishes, romance, and holiday remembrance. Many cards have gorgeous illustrations of birds, flowers, and holiday art. This category of embroidered silk postcards is sometimes referred to as ‘Hearts and Flowers’, which is less coveted by serious collectors because they are usually interested in war memorabilia. Regardless, there are many postcards with these themes, and they are truly beautiful to look at.

The Hearts and Flowers postcards are a particular favorite of mine, and I love using them for my handmade journals. According to Dr. Ian Collins, these type of postcards have been shown to feature over a dozen different birds and animals, and the most common flower designs are roses, pansies, and forget-me-nots. Some postcards even came with beautiful little handkerchiefs tucked into the front pockets.

Despite the fact that patriotic themes were no longer needed on embroidered silk postcards, companies still represented at least 20 different countries with their flags on postcards made from this time period. Not all flags were of European origin – some postcards featured flags from South America, Japan, Palestine, India, South Africa, Syria, and Hawaii. During this inter-war period, Switzerland, France, and Germany were still leaders of the embroidered postcard business, although it had declined since the war. Most of the postcards from this time period were sent to and from France.

Second World War (1939 – 1945)

Production of embroidered postcards once again ramped up, this time in France. However, since France was occupied by Germany for three years, it did not meet the same output quota for postcards as it did during the first world war. There aren’t many patriotic postcards from this war period. Most common of the postcards from this time are the 1940 postcards, with many of them referencing France. Following the Battle of Normandy, newly liberated France immediately resumed postcard production. In summary, it seems France dominated the embroidered postcard industry at this time, with a three year cool-down period due to German occupation. Even though production resumed after its liberation, the creation of embroidered postcards continued to decline and ceased in France after WWII was over.

Post-War Period

Although France ceased its postcard production after the end of the war, Switzerland never quite lost steam in the trade. Swiss embroidered postcards were always in the background of production, and seemed to have broken through the dark clouds with some new designs that made their way to the market. Some Swiss postcards were made in the form of greeting cards written in English, which might mean they were aimed at British or American tourists.

By the 1950s, a new player entered the embroidered postcard market – Spain. Due to the rise of tourism in Spain, embroidered postcards made a surprising entrance in this country. These cards were called “Spanish Silks”, although they were produced in Switzerland. They are also not exclusive to Spain, and feature designs from other countries like Greece, France, Denmark, and more. Spanish Silks usually show an embroidered traditional costume on a person from that country, and the embroidery was done on the card itself, rather than embroidered and glued onto the back of a postcard like the earlier designs.

Conclusion

The history of embroidered silk postcards is rather intimately tied with the First World War, but it certainly exists in distinct forms from its patriotic themes. Many postcards were designed for civilians who wanted to send messages of greetings, birthday wishes, holiday tidings, and other general themes. While there was a tug-of-war between Switzerland, Germany, and France over the domination of embroidered postcard production, we must not forget to appreciate the beauty and effort of hand-embroidered postcards that were created in the early years of this industry.

Many postcards have been discovered and archived, and yet many more are probably still waiting to be found. I would like to say a big thank you to Dr. Ian Collins and other experienced collectors who not only continue to uncover these unique postcards, but also tie their existence to significant parts of history.

I hope you enjoyed this retelling of embroidered postcard history. If you would like to see more designs, I create little journals using antique postcards and currently sell them on this site, as well as on Etsy. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post, and have a wonderful day!