During the Regency era there were any number of ways to embellish a gown, from printing or painting directly on the fabric, to adding lace and other accents, or even embroidery. One method of embroidery, Tambour Work, was especially popular for it’s ease of application. Tambour is French for drum, and refers to the method of creating the embroidery.
According to Jessamyn Reeves Brown”s Costume Companion,
Tambour work was at least as popular as embroidery and was faster to produce. The fabric to be worked was stretched on a large frame held on a stand, and the lady used a hook like a tiny, sharp crochet hook to punch through the fabric and create a chain stitch. The result is almost indistinguishable from embroidered chain stitch except that it is so very fine and even, and the work goes more quickly. Tambour work is still used on couture clothing today.
Fine muslins were perfect for tambouring because the loose weave was easy to punch through without damaging. Most work of the era was white-on-white; subtle, but the translucency of the muslin contrasted with the opacity of the tambouring. In addition to tambouring their dresses, fine ladies tamboured fichus (neckcloths), shawls (not very warm, but pretty), reticules, and more.
By the 1830’s, machines had been created which could produce tambour work fabric 140 times faster than the average seamstress. Professional tambour artists were out of a job, and the ladies of leisure soon found other hand crafts to occupy their time and talents. Victorian tastes drifted away from the delicate details of the previous era and the art was virtually forgotten for a time.
Continue reading Tambour Work
The celebration now known as Halloween has its roots in the Celtic festival of Samhain, one of the four Druid “Bonfire” festivals. Celebrated on November 1, midway between the Autumn and Winter Solstices, some scholars believe that it marked the end of the old year and start of the new. Samhain (pronounced sów-en) was not a god to be worshipped, but rather a term meaning “The End of Summer”. It was at this time that the harvest was brought in, preparations for winter completed, debts were settled and the dead buried before the coming winter. In the highly superstitious Celtic culture, it was also believed that at this time when “a new year was being stitched to the old” the veil between the present world and the next was especially thin, allowing the spirits of the departed, both good and evil to roam.
Because of this belief, October 31 became a highly superstitious night. Some used the opportunity to entreat the dead for guidance in the coming year. Others carried on traditions involving the revelation of one’s sweetheart or good fortune for the coming year. Towards the close of the evening priests and townsfolk, dressed as spirits would parade through the village in order to lead the wandering ghosts back to their resting places. Far from being a burning Hell, the Celtic “underworld” was a place of light and feasting, much more akin to the Christian ideal of Heaven.
As it was also the close of the year, the bonfire, kindled by the priests served an extra purpose. Each villager would let their hearth fire die out that night to be lit afresh by embers from the bonfire, symbolizing a new year and hope for prosperity. During the night of spooks and ghosts, homes would be lit by rustic lanterns carved from turnips (known early on as neeps) beets and rutabagas. Pumpkins would be used later, as they were brought to Europe from the New World in the 17th century. These flickering lights were set out in hopes of welcoming home friendly souls and chasing away the evil spirits who wandered that night.
Continue reading Jane-O-Lantern: Picture Your Pumpkin Two Ways
Jane Austen Pencils! Papa has given me half-a-dozen new pencils, which are very good ones indeed; I draw every other day. Elizabeth Austen-Knight to Cassandra Austen October 18, 1813 With school back in session, and the smell of apples, chalk dust and pencil shavings in the air, what could be more fun than taking a bit of Austen with you into class? We promise that a few of these Jane Austen pencils in your desk will make even calculus more appealing! Pair them with notecards or a journal to create a fun gift for any Austen lover or teacher. Visit Austentation.com for a wide range of Austen themed items including gift baskets, holiday items, craft projects, and custom bonnets, reticules and accessories. To begin, you’ll need: pencils (any type, #2, preferably with white erasers) sandpaper (optional) Modgepodge or white glue a few pages of Austen text (taken from a discarded copy of the book, or printed on a printer. I keep an old copy of P&P simply to upcycle pages for various projects) Scissors foam paintbrush Take your page and cut it so that it can be rolled around the pencil and lightly overlapped. The top edge should begin at the base of the metal “Cuff” which holds the eraser in place and the bottom should extend slightly beyond the end of the pencil (this is uusually about 7″ x 1″.) Lightly sand your pencil so that the glue will adhere more closely. Use the paintbrush to apply a thin (more…)
“How very ill Eliza Bennet looks this morning, Mr. Darcy,” she cried; “I never in my life saw any one so much altered as she is since the winter. She is grown so brown and coarse! Louisa and I were agreeing that we should not have known her again.” However little Mr. Darcy might have liked such an address, he contented himself with coolly replying that he perceived no other alteration than her being rather tanned — no miraculous consequence of travelling in the summer. -Pride and Prejudice Regency ladies, such as Caroline Bingley fancies herself to be, were fastidious about their complexions. The following recipe for “cold cream” would have been a common enough recipe with women spending literal fortunes each year on commercial cosmetics (such as Gowland’s Lotion or Sperry’s Lavender Water) as well as their own home-grown recipes. Cold cream is used not only to clean the skin (especially the face) from cosmetics, dirt and grime, but if left on over night, it will soften the skin, as well. It is also often used on the hands. The ingredients listed here are not too hard to come by when you consider that white wax was white beeswax and spermaceti— an oily product of the Sperm Whale, is easily substituted with Jojoba oil– a naturally occurring plant oil with curiously similar properties. Cold Cream. —Take 2 ozs. of oil of almonds, one half oz of spermaceti, 2 ozs of white wax and one half pint of water; melt (more…)
These easy instructions will help you create an heirloom style baby bonnet in no time. Read The Regency Layette: The Well-Dressed Infant on the Eve of the 19th Century for a complete look at a Georgian child’s first wardrobe. This pattern requires a sewing machine and white thread, a 10×10″square of cloth, a yard and a quarter of lace, and about two yards of medium (1/2″) width ribbon. Cut a 10×10″ square of fabric. Sew lace all around the edges on the right side of the material. Turn over. Fold the square in half so that the right side is facing up, Iron or finger press the fold flat. Sew a line of stitching 1/2″ from the fold all the way across, leaving a casing. You should have an opening at the bottom of the fold, thread a 12″ piece of ribbon through it. Cut the remaining ribbon in half. Place one piece betweent the layers of fabric and lace on the one of the short sides of the fabric. Sew a seam over the entire end to keep the layers together and secure the ribbon in place. Repeat on the other end. Gather the ribbon on the opposite side, knotting it and then tying it into a bow to make the back of the bonnet. This pattern by was adapted from one created by Jo, from Maryland. You can purchase more children’s patterns at our online giftshop. Click here.
During the Regency, Candles, the primary form of artificial light available, were not only utilitarian. They also provided a source of evening entertainment. A candle brought close to a person’s profile could cast a shadow on a piece of paper attached to the wall that might be drawn around and blacked in with lampblack or gauche resulting in a silhouette. In those days before photography, a silhouette provided a simple and inexpensive way of taking someone’s likeness. Because anyone could create a silhouette, their making became a popular party activity in the 18th and 19th century. Jane Austen did not portray this activity in her books but silhouettes of Austen family members exist. The term “silhouette” derived from the name of Etienne de Silhouette (1709-1767), a Frenchman who was a finance minister to Louis XV. Etienne de Silhouette, though not the originator of this type of tracing, became synonymous with the art form because of his ability to create elaborate pieces. The English called them “shades.” Making silhouettes was a favorite pastime at the court of George III. The King loved to throw shade parties. In 1775, Mrs. Samuel Harrington invented the pantograph. This mechanical device could be used to enlarging or reduce the size of a drawing. A silhouette, normally made life size, could be reduced to a smaller size using the pantograph. These miniature silhouettes were extremely popular because they could be used in jewelry such as lockets and cameos. How to Cut a Silhouette Hang a large (more…)
Well, and so the good news is confirmed, and Martha triumphs. My uncle and aunt seemed quite surprised that you and my father were not coming sooner. I have given the soap and the basket, and each have been kindly received. One thing only among all our concerns has not arrived in safety: when I got into the chaise at Devizes I discovered that your drawing ruler was broke in two; it is just at the top where the cross-piece is fastened on. I beg pardon. Jane Austen to Cassandra Paragon, Bath, May 5, 1801 Until the Industrial Revolution soap-making was done on a small scale and the product was rough. Andrew Pears started making a high-quality, transparent soap in 1789 in London. With his grandson, Francis Pears, they opened a factory in Isleworth in 1862. William Gossage produced low-price good quality soap from the 1850s. Robert Spear Hudson began manufacturing a soap powder in 1837, initially by grinding the soap with a mortar and pestle. William Hesketh Lever and his brother James bought a small soap works in Warrington in 1885 and founded what is still one of the largest soap businesses, now called Unilever. These soap businesses were among the first to employ large scale advertising campaigns to sell the output of their factories. How to Make Your Own Soap Whether you choose to make soap for your own personal use or for gift giving, you will no doubt be hooked after your first batch. The following instructions (more…)
Much could not be hoped from the traffic of even the busiest part of Highbury; — Mr Perry walking hastily by, Mr William Cox letting himself in at the office-door, Mr Cole’s carriage-horses returning from exercise, or a stray letter-boy on an obstinate mule, were the liveliest objects she could presume to expect; and when her eyes fell only on the butcher with his tray, a tidy old woman travelling homewards from shop with her full basket, two curs quarrelling over a dirty bone, and a string of dawdling children round the baker’s little bow-window eyeing the gingerbread, she knew she had no reason to complain, and was amused enough; quite enough still to stand at the door. Emma The chief art of the baker lies in making bread, rolls, and biscuits, and in baking various kinds of provisions. It is not known when this very useful business first became a particular profession. Bakers were a distinct body of people in Rome nearly two hundred years before the Christian era, and it is supposed that they came from Greece. To these were added a number of freemen, who were incorporated into a college, from which neither they nor their children were allowed to withdraw. They held their effects in common, without enjoying the power of parting with them. Each bake house had a patron, who had the superintendancy of it; and one of the patrons had the management of the others, and the care of the college. So respectable were the bakers (more…)