I was poking around the Internet the other day when I came across a kit for making a minaudiere. The word minaudiere is French for “little case” and apparently they are being carried on Red Carpets everywhere. Just big enough to carry the bare essentials,they were introduced in the 1930s by the Parisian firm Van Cleef & Arpels and became synonymous with the Art Deco period.
The kit I found online contains a hard plastic shell with an antique brass-toned metal frame and what you do is cover it inside and out with fabric, needlework — anything you can glue securely to plastic. The heart measures about 6″ by 5.5″ by 2.5′” deep. You carry it as a clutch or with a matching chain, usually available from whoever is setting the kit.
I covered the outside of the purse with a ribbon-embroidered velvet I had been saving — for something? — for years, and it turned out the embroidery motif fit the front of the heart perfectly. The non-embroidered part of the brown velvet I used for the back.
I covered the inside with red dupioni silk, which looked great except that, being silk, it absorbed some of the glue. This left small stains on the silk, so I sponged on some gold Lumiere paint. After I attached the chain, I decided to add a dangling red tassel and a glass bead with a couple of keys swinging from it.
I loved the results! About this time, Destiny and I were invited to make shoes or handbags for an art show called “Shoes, Purses and Mahjong: A Few of Our Favorite Things.” I decided to make another minaudiere with a Mahjong theme — and I took photos along the way.
I started by raiding my wife’s mixed-media stash for some vintage Mahjong ephemera, like Mahjong cards and counters. I made Mahjong fabric by arranging cards on a scanner bed, scanning, then printing out the result onto inkjet-ready fabric.
Next you take the plastic shell out of the metal purse frame and smear fabric glue all over the outer surface. You press the fabric in place and let it dry. Then you do the same thing on the inside of the shell. In this case, I used a commercially printed fabric with a Mahjong theme. When the glue is dry, you trim the edges of both fabrics close to the frame.
After the shell is covered inside and out, you slide the halves into the purse frame, glue them together with Beacon 527 Glue and you’re done! Except that I never think done is really DONE. I like to keep going!
In this case I decided to add black ribbon around the edge of the frame and create an embellishment using an Asian coin and a tassel for the front. I also decided to go WAY overboard making fringe to go around the bottom of the heart. The fringe consists of antique ivory Mahjong counters. I drilled holes in them, inserted jump rings, then stitched the jump rings to the black ribbon before gluing it down.
I was thrilled with the result — it was sort of like that thing where the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. I sent it off to the art exhibit and was VERY disappointed that it sold right away! I was hoping I’d get it back….
The kits come with pretty good instructions and if you get stuck, you can always email me and ask. In the meantime, I am going to try covering one with very thin leather. It will need to be thin so the shell will still fit inside the purse frame.
(By the way, if you order the kit, you will see that the packaging says you can paint the black plastic shells. I found this a suspicious recommendation so I called the designer whose name is on the kit. She admitted that she THOUGHT painting would work but she had never tried it. So, be forewarned!)