So, you're walking around your favorite flea market and you see beads glistening at a booth in the distance. You rush over as fast as you can without tripping over other patrons to see that beaded imp that has caught your eye. You gingerly lift it out of it's resting abode and you touch it...the heavy glass beads feel cold against your hands...the swishing beaded strands dangle delightfully from your fingertips.
This gem of a 1920's glass beaded purse will look swank on your arm for your ex's upcoming wedding. You can just see the envy in his new wife's eyes upon spotting this beaded treasure hanging on your arm. You envision the pangs of jealousy she feels. Yes! You finally have one up on her.
You quickly scan the purse for the price tag. $125...ok...lets see if this actually worth that chunk of your hard earned paycheck. The beading is good, a couple missing here and there, no biggie. You open the top...oh no! The silk lining is falling apart as you touch it. How will you possibly keep your iPhone and lipgloss in there for those much needed selfies. The beaded frame alone will not hold the weight...where can you get it re-lined and how much would it cost to redo the lining? You contemplate and finally realize that it’s just not worth it. You unwillingly place "the precious" back into its placement and walk away giving wistful looks at what would have been a much needed triumph. What a shame!
This hilarious scenario may or may not happen to you. But if you’re interested in antique purses, either to use or collecting for display, learning to reline them is resourceful. Of course purses are made of different materials and may not need to be relined. But antique beaded, crochet and fabric purses are always lined and for the most part, lined in weighted silk. Wait…what? What is weighted silk?
Weighted silk is silk which has been treated to restore or increase the weight. This processing started in the 19th century where silk was treated with chemical solutions made of salts or lead/tin. The heavier weighted silk was, the more expensive it was. By increasing the weight of the raw silk, silk merchants made top dollar.
While silk is a strong and durable fiber, the weighting process is highly damaging to the finished goods. If the garment is worn, it wears out quickly and is highly susceptible to perspiration, salt, weathering. Even if stored away, it becomes brittle and breaks. Alas, most silk garments of the 19th and 20th centuries are shattered at the arms and back areas due to this reason. The same reason applies to silk lining in purses. Even though not much wear goes on inside of a purse, the weighting process damaged the silk fabric over time.
The purse that we're relining today is an antique crochet purse. Judging by the pattern of this exact purse in the photo from the Richardson's Irish Crochet Book, this purse was hand-made around 1912.
The color of the purse (rare for the era) is just amazing and the Irish crochet is remarkable. The crochet exterior has withstood the test of time and remains flawless. However, the silk lining has not fared well. See restored purse here.
So, let’s begin the process of relining this beauty. This process took me about 25 minutes total. Depending on your sewing skills, it may take you less or more time. I do rate this at beginner’s level sewing as it mostly consists of simple hand stitches. See below for photos.
Step 1: You need to find matching replacement fabric for the liner. I opted to use post 1920 silk organza and cotton batiste. The crystal organza is a remnant of a damaged 1940’s ballgown which matched perfectly. You can use era appropriate fabrics but do keep in mind that pre-1929 silk will be weighted and will shatter eventually. For this piece, I did a double liner as the silk organza was sheer. Also, I like the stability of cotton.
I used a 1940’s Coats and Clarks #58 thread which is sea foam green in color. Do note that the color chart for C&C has changed so if you’re purchasing modern thread, do use an up to date color chart.
Keep in mind that some vintage thread can have dry rot so I prefer 1965 and newer threads for repairs but we’ll discuss that at another time.
Step 2: Measure your purse and the measurements for your liner will be ¼ of an inch (about 6mm) smaller than your purse measurements.
Step 3: Cut fabric and join together. Sew fabric ¼ of an inch away from the edge. When you have finished sewing the 3 edges (we're leaving the top open), turn fabric inside out. You would have created something that looks like a pouch. Press out edges with a steam iron and put aside.
Step 4: Carefully remove shattered liner from inside the purse. The edges may be attached by small stitches so be careful not to snip the purse fabric itself.
Step 5: Place liner inside of purse and attached at each corner. In this case, the purse is rectangular shaped so I’ve attached the bottom ends as well as the around the opening of the purse. Before securing the liner around the top opening, I’ve folded the top edge of the liner and did a simple basting stitch for neatness.
Step 6: Knot all loose thread and snip away any excess threads. Steam again so that the new folds will be flat.
And that’s it, voila! You have yourself a restored purse. This new lining will last quite another 100 years :)
You can purchase this restored antique purse here.