Vintage postcard embroidery workshop

Pink blossom – Jo Bund

The journey of a holiday postcard

In the pre-digital age, it was quite common to send a postcard home to friends and family, during your holiday. You’d pick out a selection of cards, write a brief message on the back and post them off. When they arrived at their destination, they would be read, put away in a drawer, and then probably forgotten about. At some point in the future, when the drawer is cleared out, the cards will either be given away or thrown in the bin.

Often, when you go to boot fairs or second hand book shops, you’ll find boxes of old photos and postcards that have been discarded.

So, what happens next?

It seems a shame to throw old postcards and photos away, as they are a piece of social history. But what can you do with them?

I’ve recently pondered this thought and came across a couple of artists who give old postcards a new lease of life by embroidering on to them:

FRANCESCA CRAMER – is an Italian textile artist and designer, based in North Wales. She describes her postcards as having “a conversation with the past, like lifting a layer of dust and letting the colour through, adding another chapter.”

Her technique varies from piece to piece where she either:

  • adds something new;
  • colours over a feature of the photograph; or
  • erases something completely.
Francesca Cramer embroidered postcard examples

HAN CAO – is a self-taught artist, living in Palm Springs. She uses embroidery to create new narratives for long-forgotten photographs and postcards found at flea markets and antique shops from around the world.

Her aim with these examples is to bring life to lost images, telling new narratives from the past through thread and colour:

Han Cao embroidered postcard examples

My workshop idea

I’d been asked to run a workshop at my local Embroiderer’s Guild and thought this would be an interesting idea to share with them. Being based in Southend-on-sea, thousands of postcards have been sent from here over the years. So I sourced some old postcards of Southend-on-sea, and the surrounding area, from the early 1900s to the 1970s.

I asked the group to choose a postcard each. The postcards themselves created an interesting discussion as the images brought back fond memories for people who had grown up in the area.

I wanted them to think about how they could change the image they had chosen and bring it to life…create their own story…

I suggested they keep their stitches simple – e.g. french knots, cross stitch, kantha stitch – for maximum effect. Stitching into card is very different to fabric – once the hole is pierced it’s permanent, and if you pierce holes too close together they can create one big hole!

TIP: I would always pierce holes in the card first before beginning to stitch and place a cork mat underneath the card for protection.

Embroiderer’s Guild workshop

The results were quite varied especially as some found the idea of stitching into an old postcard a little troubling! But everyone did have a go.

Before and After postcard by Jo Bund

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