Crafty Kit Purses
By Wendy Dager
Rather than purchase the well-known, ready-made Enid Collins or Collins of Texas tote-style purses sold in the 1960s by high-end companies such as Neiman Marcus, do-it-yourself kits of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s were available to crafty housewives. With the kit, glue and a steady hand, these women were content to pay a mere $10 to create their own “practical handbag of luxurious fabric in 3 fashionable colors—BLACK—OLIVE—NATURAL, superbly finished with harmonizing trim, genuine mahogany bottom and personal zipper pocket.”
This enticing description is direct from “The New, Fabulous Jewel Tone Handbag” catalog, which was tucked inside each box, along with “exciting jewels, braids and sequins” to glue directly onto the bare make-by-number purse. While other companies—including Collins of Texas, which put out “Sophistikits”—sold these kit bags, the most popular were those from the Jewel Tone brand, a product of the General Crafts Corporation in Baltimore, Maryland.
The kit purses, with their linen-like exteriors, wooden bases and plastic interiors, ranged from elegant to sassy, and included popular hippie-esque designs such as the peacock, owl, butterfly, rooster and other animals, along with several floral patterns. Harder to find, but very desirable, are the Spanish dancer, poodle, seashells, carousel horse and “Travelogue,” with its Paris, London and Rome motif. Depending on where one shops, these purses generally range from $15 to $75 and sometimes come with their original box. Occasionally, one can find these purse kits unused, with the beading still packaged in plastic and the bare purses awaiting their décor.
With completed bags, common problems are missing beads, curled edges on trim, stains, and age-related stiffening of the purse, which can cause it to break away from the metal brads that fasten the handles. Purses should be taken to a tailor or shoe repair shop for new brads, but minor defects can be fixed with glue and replacement beads.
There are some who might say these purses are but an imitation of Enid Collins’s handiwork. But to those who are simply interested in having fun with their wardrobes, kit purses of the 1960s are just their bag.