DIY Pinup: Vintage Fruit Basket Bag

A popular accessory in the 1950’s was the fruit basket bag which was bascially a wicker basket made small enough to resemble a purse or ladies handbag, adorned with velvet fruit. Although wicker basket bags have been around for hundreds of years, they are still popular and return often in popular trends; the latest one being a large bag alternative for beach go-ers. I’ve always loved the 1950s fruit basket bags but online, they can fetch a pretty penny even if they are discoloured or slightly damaged. As an active DIY-er myself, if I can’t buy the thing I want within a decent price range, I’ll happily attempt to make my own. So that’s what I am doing today along with the help of my pinup bestie, Miss Vintage Orchid, we are making vintage-inspired fruit basket bags.

We have been wanting to do this DIY since October of 2019 but just havn’t found the time to sit down and complete it. But here we are over a year and a half later and we are ready to make our dream bags. Ironically, in the time it’s taken us to make this DIY we have both purchased authentic vintage fruit bags for ourselves but the need to craft is a strong one. Now as much as we love some crafting a good challenge, there’s no way we could actually make a wicker basket ourselves. We looked around for a while and found an amazing Aussie brand Olli Ella who specialises is adorable and cute items, some of which are wicker bags. For Christmas, I was lucky enough to receive their Acorn bag which I love (you can find my review here), and Reenie bought herself the tiny house bag a little while later. For this project, we both purchased the Piki Rattan Basket in white as our base bag.

For my bag, I opted to go for a very autumnal colour palette as it’s a season that makes me happy and I love all the seasonal produce. I decided to make velvet peas as per the fruit bag tradition and also add velvet pumpkins and carrots. Reenie went quite traditional with her pink and red themed bag which includes strawberries and peas to keep it as authentic to the original bags as possible but with pops of cherry blossoms. When you start this project, make sure you have an idea of what fruit you want as that will influence what materials you will need eg. what coloured velvet etc. Personally I believe that any fruit or vegetable would be fine and you don’t need to feel constricted in making the bag look authentic. Make the bag reflect who you are and what you like. There are no rules in DIY.

For this DIY you will need:
a vintage looking wicker basket bag
-Velvet trim or ribbon
-Velvet sheets in various colours
-a range of sew-on pearls
-sewing needle and threads
-Floral wire (for peas)
-hot glue
-Lighter/candle for sealing the edges

Making Velvet Strawberries
Cut two circle templates from paper or cardboard with a diameter of 8cm (for small strawberries) and 11cm (for larger strawberries). Cut about a third wedge from the circle. This will be your stencil for your strawberries.
Trace the stencil onto some red velvet and cut out the shape.

Fold your cut out in half with right sides together, and hand stitch the sides closed.

Turn your strawberry inside out. Using a running stitch, hand stitch along the top to create a drawstring.

Take some polyfill and stuff your strawberry until firm and full. Pull on your stitching to tighten and close up the opening. Stitch the top of the strawberry so it will remain closed.

To attach the strawberry seeds, use small white glass beads. Push your needle and thread through the top of the strawberry and poke out wherever you want a seed to be, pick up a bead and sew it into the strawberry. Then push the needle through the strawberry to the next place you’d like a seed and continue on the process until you’re happy with the amount of seeds you have on your strawberry. When you’re finished, push the needle back through the top of the strawberry and tie it off.
Feel free to leave a small patch seedless as when you glue your strawberries onto your bag, you won’t be covering your seeds.

To make the strawberry leaf top, cut a piece of thick green velvet ribbon about 2inches.

Fold your squares in half with right sides together and then cut your leaf shape into the ribbon. We went for a three point shape. Use your lighter to seal the ends. Please do this under adult supervision and only if you feel confident handling a candle or a lighter.

Using hot glue, attach your strawberry top to your strawberry.

And you’re done. Of course you can make as many strawberries as you like and in whatever colour you like.

Making Velvet Peas
After velvet strawberries, velvet peas seem to be the next most popular decoration on vintage fruit basket bags and after a bit of trial and error, we are happy with our construction method. This method does require use of the lighter to seal the velvet ribbon quite a bit so please make sure you are being responsible and careful when making these peas. Keep a fire extinguisher handy just incase and of course, adult supervision.
On a piece of floral wire about 5 inches long, bend the end to become a stopping point and then thread 5 pearls. Further bend the end to tuck itself under the pearls. These are your peas.

Cut a piece of green velvet ribbon around 6cm long. Use the lighter to seal the ends to stop it fraying.

Turn the ribbon over to the wrong side, and cover the middle section in hot glue.

Before the glue cools, stick your wired pearls (wire stop facing downwards). Quickly pick up the ribbon and bend the sides of the ribbon up against the pearls and hold till the glue sets. The wire should stick far out from one side of the ribbon, it is this long on purpose to help in the bag assembly process later on.

Using scissors, snip the ends of the pea pod in a diagonal direction. Be careful not to cut the wire (bend it upwards for this processs) and then seal the ends using the lighter.

Once both ends are cut and sealed, put more hot glue onto the ribbon and pinch the ribbon together until it’s glued shut. Don’t use too much glue or else it will pour out the ends and look messy.

And you’re done. Feel free to make as many peas as you want for your project. If you have time, look into getting some green pearls to look more like actual peas. We would have done this if we had thought of it at the time but the shops only had cream, white and pink pearls. Maybe next time.

Making Velvet Pumpkins
I can’t find any evidence of velvet pumpkins being on any vintage fruit basket bags but I love pumpkins and autumnal themed so I’m making them anyway. This method can be a little bit fiddley so feel free to ask for help from someone who can keep a finger on the threads as you tie them. Trust me, there were loads of “finger my pumpkin” jokes being tossed around during the construction.
I used orange crushed velvet as I loved the texture and it gave a bit of difference between the pumpkins and the smoother velvet for the carrots. Start by drawing (or tracing) a circle approximately 12cm in diameter. Cut out your circle.

Using a running stitch, hand sew along the inner edge of the circle to create a drawstring. I found it helpful that once I had completed my stitching circle to pull the pumpkin into the middle of my thread.
Note: it’s really helpful to have quite a long length of thread on your needle when doing this process.

Using polyfill, stuff your pumpkin till it puffs out in shape. Don’t over stuff it as it becomes harder to close it up and your pumpkin shape will not be as defined. Your pumpkin should be squishy. Once you’re happy with the amount of stuffing, double knot the drawstring closed.

As you have double knotted your drawstrings, pull both threads down and around your pumpkin meeting at the bottom. Then twist the threads around each other and come back up at a 90 degree angle. This should create a cross at the bottom of the pumpkin. Pull tightly to ensure the pumpkin puffs out into the desired pumpkin shape. Double knot at the top of the pumpkin.

Repeat the thread wrapping one more time pulling the thread into the sections where the pumpkin puffs out the most. This should create 8 ridges in your pumpkin. Double knot at the top of the pumpkin. Pull the thread with the needle tightly and sew through the top a few times before tying off the thread and snipping off any excess thread.

It’s ok if your pumpkin ridges are not equal, personally I like it to look a bit random as it closely reflects true pumpkins which are all different from each other.
To create your pumpkin stem, snip a small piece of thick green ribbon and use the lighter to seal the ends.

Put a line of hot glue over the bottom of the green ribbon piece. Place one end of the ribbon, glue side down onto the top of your pumpkin, pinch the inner section of the ribbon and then stick down the final end of the green velvet.

And you’re done! When it get’s closer to Halloween, I plan on making these pumpkins but in a bigger size to use as decoration around my house. They are fun and pretty straightforward to make once you master the thread wrapping.

Making Velvet Carrots
Much like the pumpkin, velvet carrots don’t really appear on vintage basket bags but here we are breaking all the rules. trust me, I’m trying to think of an easy way to make a velvet corn cob but right now, I’m making carrots.

Begin by drawing and cutting out the same sized circle as the pumpkin (approximately 12cm in diameter). Cut your circle into quarters. One circle makes four carrots.

Take one quarter of your circle and fold it right sides together. hand stitch down the side so you create a sharp cone. Trim off any excess velvet.

Turn your carrot inside out. Use a pencil to poke out the end and make it nice and sharp. Take some polyfill and stuff your carrot until it’s firm. I trimmed off any excess stuffing.

Using a running stitch, hand sew along the top of your carrot to create a drawstring.

Take your thick green velvet ribbon and cut a square around 2 inches long. Then, cut long snips into the ribbon but not cutting through it. It should look a bit like fake grass.

On the inside of your green ribbon where the ends are not cut, put a line of hot glue. Roll your ribbon into a tight curl.

Put a dollop of hot glue onto the top of your carrot where the stuffing is. Quickly push the green ribbon (non-frayed end) into the glue. Pull the drawstring thread tightly around the green ribbon and sew it closed.

And you’re done. Repeat these steps until you have your desired amount of carrots. You can of course, use whatever colours you wish for your carrots so feel free to take as much artistic license as you need.

When we started this project (in late January 2021), we were happily crafting together when suddenly my hubby yelled out that there had been a Covid case in WA. We put down our tools, watched the news and prepared for lockdown. It was not recommended to have visitors so Miss Vintage Orchid went home and we simply said we will assemble our bags in our own homes to keep each other safe.
In terms of assembly, we drew inspiration from vintage fruit bag images but also added our own interpretation to the bags. Reenie was heavily inspired by her background and was going for a pink and red theme. After piling all the fruit and flowers onto of the bag, she used hot glue to secure everything. She also added a velvet trim to the outer edge of her bag.

As I wanted to embrace my love of all things autumn, I also started with a cardboard base to the top of my basket to stop glue leaking into my bag. I then added artificial wheat as part of my decorations and piled my vegetables onto the top of my bag. I love how the colours are reminding me of fall and open fruit and vegetables markets. To finish off, I added an edge of orange ribbon to the base of my bag using hot glue to secure it all. I found the wire from the peas really helpful in attaching everything together and keeping it all in place.

The assembly only took a few minutes and it was a really fun process. I really love how both of our personalities are so vibrant in these bags and how one idea can be so customised to suit who we are and what we love.

We are so excited to show you our finished bag. We took them out for a spin (once lock down was over so don’t worry) and went out for a lovely breakfast together early one Saturday morning. It’s super cute to see how different our styles are and how well our bags suit our vintage aesthetic.

Reenie says: I’m very happy with how the bag turned out and I wouldn’t change anything about it. Originally I wanted to put some cherry blossoms amongst the other decorations but I ended up changing my mind as it looked too cluttered. Upon first hearing of this idea, I got very excited and couldn’t wait to get started; all the creative juices were flowing and I could hear my wallet sobbing already because it knew another trip to the fabric store was imminent. I’ve always wanted a vintage strawberry bag but have never found one within my budget in a good quality; I’m also very cautious about buying online especially overseas so my range of scope was very limited. It was also a major plus to have a creative outlet with my best friend since I’ve always enjoyed our other crafting adventures. The only downside to this project was upon glueing my final strawberry and burning the top of my finger to the point of curling up on the floor wailing like a banshee. I was eventually aided (after everyone stopped laughing at me) with cold water and burn aid cream. Lessons were learnt, mistakes were made and I eventually found the culprit strawberry which I had thrown most unceremoniously across the room.

MonMon says: It makes me smile knowing that whilst designing my fruit bag I was watching “Over the Garden Wall” and was heavily inspired by all the autumnal tones, harvest and stylings. I really wanted a fruit bag that was something new and different to what’s already available. I scoured the Internet to find a vintage bag with pumpkins on it and came up with nothing so this project was super fun and a chance to make something magical and inspiring. I’ve always loved autumn and autumnal tones (despite adoring all things pastel). By making this bag, I now have the perfect harvest/autumnal bag which no one in the world has. This project brought me so much joy and I surprised myself by what I could do in an afternoon even when I took time out to laugh whole heartedly and drink lots of tea with a dear friend.

Overall, for a first effort, we are both super happy with out new vintage inspired fruit basket bags. This project became a great way to do a craft together and produce something that’s unique to each of us. The fact that we could use similar skills and produce something so fun and individually tailored to our preferences also made this project really enjoyable. When we first set about this project all those years ago, we came up with many different versions; originally I purchased us some rattan/wicker bags from Bali but after discovering Olli Ella’s bags, we both fell in love and changed our original concept. We also originally played with using plastic fruits, vintage millinery fruits and beaded fruits. Eventually we realised that buying our fruits would push our budget out the window, there was no where to buy such items (besides plastic fruit) so we couldn’t make judgements on exact sizing, colour and whether the items would really work together. By making the fruits ourselves from velvet, they also closely resembled the original inspiration. In the end, we also wanted to spend our time together and we knew that by hand crafting our fruits, we would achieve just that and I’m secretly happy to have had the whole day of fabric shopping and crafting right on the cusp of another hard lockdown.

There’s always room to grow and improve. Since we still have the original bags from Bali, we might very soon make a brand new version of these bags very soon. There are so many possibilities with such a project so I do hope it’s inspired you to think outside the box and make something magical. We would love to know if you try this DIY for yourself! Please tag us in any photos you share on social media as it brings us so much joy.


Note: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions and thoughts expressed are solely my own and not influenced in any way. There are no affiliate links and I do not benefit from any link clicks or purchases made.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s