Compact Mirrors & Powder Compacts

Jane Vanroe on collecting vintage powder compacts and compact mirrors. You can find Jane's designs at and on Amazon in the EU & USA

How to make a sifter for your vintage powder compact

DIY how to make a powder sifter for your vintage compact

The finished sifter for my own 1950’s Coalport vintage compact – very used and very loved!

As most pre-1960 vintage compacts were made for loose powder, all too often they have lost their original “sifter” – the little gauze sieve to hold the powder safely in place.

My easy method of making your own is based on the sifters I find in British compacts from the early 1950s. Here I’ve made a round sifter, but you can adapt the shape to give any vintage compact a new lease of powdering life!

You can see this “How To” in print in this month’s Vintage Life Magazine. I’ve also written more about refilling vintage powder compacts.

PS – If you’re lucky enough to own a vintage Stratton or KIGU powder compact, you can also find replacement Stratton powder sifters over at my shop, Vanroe Compacts. x

You will need:
• White card (about shoebox thickness)
• PVA glue (or a friendly newsagent with a laminator)
• A ruler
• A compass
• A pencil
• Finely holed fabric (I’ve used vintage net, but fine cross-stitch fabric works well… as does an old pair of tights!)
• A craft knife or sharp scissors
• A sewing machine (or sharp, strong needle if you prefer to hand sew)
• White thread
• A scrap of thin ribbon

Measuring... and my kitchen's never again looked this clean!

Measuring… in my unusually clean kitchen!

Step 1

If you can, ask a friendly newsagent or stationer to laminate your card for you. This gives the best flexibility and strength for your sifter. If laminators are in short supply, stick two layers of card together with a good coating of PVA glue. Leave this to dry completely.

Step 2

Measure the inside shape of your compact carefully, then draw this shape on your card. Cut out with scissors or craft knife.

Cut out the laminated card - vintage powder compact sifter

Me doing some careful cutting – you can see my baby bump under the table!

Step 3

Check the size of your card by popping it into your compact. It should sit fully inside the powder container, with a tiny (1/2 – 1mm) gap all the way round (we’ll fill this gap when sewing the sifter in Step 7). Shave off a little sliver at a time with your scissors until you have the perfect fit.

Check the shape of your card - vintage powder compact sifter

Check the shape of your card

Don’t worry if the edge of your card starts to look messy. This will be hidden when you sew the sifter.

The sifter ring cut out

The sifter ring cut out

Step 4

Draw another cutting line on your card, between ½ and 1cm from the edge. Be as generous as possible as the more width you leave, the stronger your sifter. Cut out the centre of your shape along this line to make your sifter ring.

The sifter ring pinned to my lace

The sifter ring pinned to my lace

Step 5

Pin your ring to your fabric as shown. Use a double thickness of net, or a single thickness if you’re using cross stitch fabric or those old tights. Pin a loop of your ribbon fully across the ring as in my photograph.

After sewing around the sifter ring

After sewing around the sifter ring once

Step 6

Now the sewing bit. The simplest way is to use a sewing machine with a blanket stitch (like I’ve used) or zig-zag setting. However, if you prefer to hand sew, use blanket stitch and a strong button-hole thread.

Start by sewing the inside edge of the sifter ring. Choose the lowest setting for your stitch length, and a stitch width of around 5-6mm. Stitch completely around the inside edge as shown. Stitch through the fabric and card and over the ribbon loop. Remove the pins as you sew.

After sewing again - ready to cut out

After sewing again – ready to cut out

Step 7

Increase your stitch width to the maximum on your machine (7mm on mine). Then sew around the outside edge of your sifter. As before, sew through the card, fabric and ribbon. This new line of stitches will overlap your first, giving your sifter extra strength.

Once you’ve sewn around your sifter, take a quick look. If you can still see a messy cardboard edge, sew around again a second or third time to hide the card completely.

Step 8

Now cut the excess fabric and ribbon away from the outside edge. Cut close to your stitches but take care not to snip any. A little bit of fabric left all the way around will help your sifter sit snugly in your compact.

If you do snip any threads, simply sew over them again with your blanket/zig-zag stitch.

The new powder sifter ready for use in my compact

The new powder sifter ready for use in my compact

Step 9

Your new sifter is ready to use! Place a small amount of your favourite loose powder in your compact, pop your sifter on top, then dab with a powder puff to apply. Happy vintage-style powdering!

You might also like my post on The Use, Care and Repair of Vintage Stratton Compacts.

My hard work over with a cheesy "finished!" shot!

My hard work over with a cheesy “finished!” shot!

11 comments on “How to make a sifter for your vintage powder compact

  1. lasca sartoris
    October 19, 2011

    great tips! thank you.
    I look forward to getting to finally use some of my collection

  2. Perdita
    October 22, 2011

    How useful. I’m afraid I’m slightly smug re sifters (an unusual type of smug) at the moment because I picked up a Stratton convertable for a couple of quid at a car boot then discovered it was so mint it not only had its sifter, but also its instruction leaflet and a small ‘checked by’ quality slip inside! BUT in the past I have passed up ones with the interior sifter missing so I will bookmark this for next time I see a pretty-outside-old-inside compact!

  3. Pingback: Vintage Tips, Tutorials and Links Round-Up | Penny Dreadful Vintage

  4. Loreley
    April 29, 2012

    Hey, I find your blog lovely and very informative, I recently purchased a Stratton powder compact and it has no puff. I live in México and it is very difficult for me to purchase an original one. Which puffs would you recommend buying or how can I make my own puff? Thanks.

    • Jane Johnston
      April 29, 2012

      Hi Loreley,

      Lovely to hear from you! I stock new Stratton puffs on my site:
      Happy to deliver to you in Mexico, although it may take 5-10 days for them to arrive. The puffs on my site are 60mm in diam. If you have a smaller compact, you can cut these down or I have some 55mm puffs in stock. Just let me know :) x

  5. Kate Larson
    January 2, 2013

    Thank you, thank you! I have a silver compact that was a wedding present from my grandfather to my grandmother in the early 1930s. Now I know it’s a loose powder compact and how to make a replacement softer. Can’t wait to start using it.

    • Jane Johnston
      January 21, 2013

      Oh, that’s fantastic news Kate. Glad you found the post helpful and enjoy your compact! There’s also a chance that your vintage compact may fit a new sifter by Stratton. You can see these and the available sizes at

  6. Christa
    February 6, 2013

    Thanks for the great tutorial, what a gorgeous website you have, and congratulations on reaching over 200 compacts!
    Now I really must find a sewing machine so I can give this a go – I have two compacts that are square or rectangular (one is a musical compact) that I would like to replace the sifters and puffs for…I don’t suppose you have come across any replacements that aren’t round? :)

    • Jane Johnston
      February 6, 2013

      Hi Christa,

      I’m afraid I haven’t yet seen square replacements :( Good luck with your search and sewing machine experiments! And how lucky to have a musical compact!


      • Christa
        February 6, 2013

        Oh rats, oh well, worth a try! :) Thanks!

  7. Sue
    January 29, 2014

    I would so love a tutorial on making my own puffs, we have geese and I love to gather their down….can anyone help?….

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Jane Johnston Vanroe Powder Compact Mirrors

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