Posted on

Tatting and Lace Making

Tatting, one of the easisest ways to create handmade lace, is an easy art form to pick up– and quite addictive. Thought to have originated in Italy in the 16th century, it gradually made its way across Europe until, in the late 18th century, it could be found decorating all types of items from reticules to bonnets, caps and handkerchiefs. Imitation tatting can be purchased, but nothing beats the real item.

Costume designer Andrea Galer supports this dying craft as she uses handmade lace in her items. All the lace as seen in Miss Austen Regrets, Mansfield Park and Persuasion is made by hand by craftswoman in Sri Lanka. The women had lost everything in the Tsunami and the lace making project allows them to rebuild their lives as well as the incredible craft. You can view and purchase your own Austen garments, made by Andrea Galer, at our online shop. Click here.

Handwork allowed a woman to sit still and be useful at the same time. It enabled her to show off her industriousness, good taste and delicate hands. Small piece of work such as lace making, were acceptable items to occupy one’s time with, while visiting, and could be brought to a friend’s house for a cosy bit of work over tea and conversation. At the time when tatting was introduced in England, Netting was already a popular past time and many ladies, including Queen Anne, Queen Charlotte and Madame Pompadour chose to be painted with or holding their netting shuttles. These shuttles were larger than those used for tatting, but used in a similar manner. Although the world “tatting” is not found in printed text until the 1840’s, in 1781, Parson Woodforde mentions buying a pair of small ivory shuttles for his niece for one shilling. Netting shuttles were quite a bit more expensive than this, due to their size, so it is safe to assume that the parson’s neice was tatting.

Tatting
On account of a similarity in their construction, a chapter
on tatting seems to form a natural sequence to the one on
crochet and is in some ways a preparation for that on macramé
which succeeds it.

The English name of tatting is said to be derived from
“tatters” and to denote the frail disconnected character of the
fabric. By the Italians it was formerly called “occhi”, whilst
in the East it still bears the name of “makouk”, from the
shuttle used in making it.

In the eighteenth century, when tatting was in great vogue,
much larger shuttles than our present ones were used, because of
the voluminous materials they had to carry, silk cord being one.

Shuttles.—The tatting shuttle consists of two oval blades
of either bone, ivory, mother of pearl or tortoise-shell, pointed
at both ends, and joined together in the middle. A good shuttle
contributes materially to the rapid and perfect execution of the
work and attention should be paid in its selection to the following
particulars: that it be not more than 7 c/m. long and
2 or 3 c/m. wide: that the two ends be close enough to
prevent the thread from protruding; this is more especially
important in tatting with two shuttles and lastly, that the centre
piece that joins the two oval blades together should have a
hole bored in it, large enough for the thread to pass through.

In filling the shuttle, be careful not to wind on too much
thread at once, or the blades will gape open at the ends and the
thread get soiled by constant contact with the worker’s hands.

Materials.—A strongly twisted thread such as Fil d’Alsace
D.M.C, Fil à dentelle D.M.C, or Cordonnet 6 fils D.M.C,
is best for tatting. We particularly recommend Fil d’Alsace,
as forming the best shaped knots and picots. A soft material
such as Coton à tricoter D.M.C, can also be used where it
suits the purpose better.

First position of the hands (fig. 486.)—The construction
of the knots or stitches, appears at first sight to present great
difficulties but will be easily mastered by attention to the
indications here given. One thing, to be constantly borne in
mind is, that when the right hand has passed the shuttle
through the loop, it must stop with a sudden jerk and hold
the thread tightly extended until the left hand has drawn up
the knot. After filling the shuttle, take the end of the thread
between the thumb and forefinger of the left hand, and the
shuttle in the right, pass the thread over the third and fourth
fingers of the left hand, bring it back towards the thumb and
cross the two threads under the fingers, as indicated in fig. 486. Pass the thread that comes from the shuttle round the
little finger of the right hand, and give the shuttle the direction
shown in the engraving.

FIG. 486. FIRST POSITION OF THE HANDS.
Fig. 486. First position of the hands.

Second and third position of the hands (figs. 487 and 488).—Make the shuttle pass between the first and third fingers,
in the direction indicated by the arrow in fig. 487, and bring
it out behind the loop.

FIG. 487. SECOND POSITION OF THE HANDS.
Fig. 487. Second position of the hands.

Here the first difficulties for beginners arise and until they
have sufficiently mastered the movements of both hands not
to confuse them, we advise them to pay careful attention to
the following instructions. As soon as you have put the shuttle
through the loop, place
the right hand on the
table with the thread
tightly extended, leaving
the left hand perfectly
passive.

FIG. 488. THIRD POSITION OF THE HANDS.
Fig. 488. Third position of the hands.

Then, raising the
third and fourth fingers
of the left hand with
the loop upon them,
pull up the loop,
stretching the thread
tightly in so doing by
extending the fingers.
By this movement
a knot is
formed, the
first part of the
“double knot”,
which is the
most common
one in tatting.

Remember
that the right
hand must be
kept perfectly
still as long as
the left is in motion and that the knot must be formed of the
loop thread that is in the left hand.

The right hand, or shuttle thread, must always be free to
run through the knots; if it were itself formed into knots it
would not have the free play, needed for loosening and tightening
the loop on the left hand, as required.

Fourth position of the hands (fig. 489).—The second
part of a knot is formed by the following movements: pass the
shuttle, as indicated in fig. 489, from left to right, between the
first and third fingers through the extended loop; the right
hand seizes the shuttle in front of the empty loop and extends
the thread; the left hand pulls up this second part of the knot
as it did the first.

FIG. 489. FOURTH POSITION OF THE HANDS.
Fig. 489. Fourth position of the hands.

Single or half knots. Josephine picots (figs. 490 and 491).—The
Josephine picot or purl, as it is also called in tatting,
consists of a series of single or half knots formed of the first
knot only. These picots may be made of 4 or 5 knots, as in
fig. 490, or of 10 or 12 knots, as in fig. 491.

FIG. 490. SINGLE OR HALF KNOTS.<br />
SMALL JOSEPHINE PICOT.
Fig. 490. Single or half knots.
Small josephine picot.

FIG. 491. SINGLE OR HALF KNOTS.<br />
LARGE JOSEPHINE PICOT.
Fig. 4

Posted on

How to Dance Mr. Beveridge’s Maggot

 

To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love
-Pride and Prejudice

Many English Country Dances, like American contra dances, are danced to a pair of phrases of music played AABB — i.e. the first phrase is played twice, and then the second twice. In contrast, the generally accepted version of Mr. Beveridge’s Maggot–a version usually attributed to Pat Shaw–has the structure AAB. This is the version given here.

When Cecil Sharp interpreted this dance for modern consumption, he decided he could not get all the instructions to fit into so little music, so he published a dance to fit AABB. Cecil Sharp’s version is also widely known, and is given in Palmer’s Pocket Playford.* This dance was originally printed in Playford’s Dancing Master in 1695.

Although neither this particular dance nor the duple minor formation it is in were being used in Jane Austen’s day, the dance is a very ‘cinegenic’ dance. I’m not here giving the Cecil Sharp version which has a longer B part dance sequence to fill out a repeated B part (even though the original clearly says play the second strain but once). I’m here giving a closer-to-original Dancing Master (1695-1728) version. This is the sequence they dance in the movie Emma, but in that movie they dance the sequence just once then go into a snowballing cast off. P&P2 has the same non-Sharp B part as given below and used in Emma (with the dramtaic up and back) but for the A part has everyone r.h. turn, l.h. back, then 1s cross, cast, cross back up. I suspect this change from the original was probably inspired by the need for a more dramatic face-to-face beginning to a dance that was to be the vehicle for a ‘battle’ between the two protaganists, without giving away altogether a dance which offers the lovely, camera-confronting, film-effective, 4-in-line (with Darcy and Elizabeth ‘trapped’ side-by-side in the middle) up and back figure.**

A Maggot when referred to in country dancing means An extravagant notion; a whim.

Mr. Beveridge’s Maggot as danced in P&P2

A1

The first Man crosses over and goess back to back with the 2nd Woman.

Then the 1st woman crosses over and goes back to back with the 2nd Man at the same time (in short, 1s cross right shoulder to other side- possibly giving right hands momentarily, then after a bow to 2s below, do-si-do-ing with 2s below)

A2

Then meet and turn Shoulder over right shoulder with 6 steps (2 bars) then the 1st man turns the 2nd Woman with his right hand, and 1st Woman turns the 2nd Man with her right hand at the same time in 12 steps (4 bars), then 1st Couple take left hands and turn into their own places with 6 steps (2 bars)

B

The 1st couple cross over into the 2nd couple’s place by pulling on left hand, passing left shoulder and casting down on opposite side while 2s meet partner and lead up, and go back to back with their Partner while 2s cast out with 6 steps onto outside end, then all four lead up hands abrest with 2 steps and a rise, then back with 2 steps and a rise, then 1st man and Woman cross (Woman in front) as they lead up and go the partial Figure through; and cast off into the 2nd couple’s place while 2s meet partner again and lead up.

 

**Information from Earthly Delights and The Hawaiian Contra Dance Page.

Mister Beveridge’s Maggot appears on Popular English Country Dances of the 17th & 18th Centuries by the Claremont Country Dance Band and is also part of a medley on the CD English Country Dances from Playford’s Dancing Master by the Broadside Band.

Sheet Music for this song can be found on the Republic of Pemberley’s website in Easy and Complex formats.

 

*Thanks to Hugh Stewart of the Round, in Cambridge, for this information.

Posted on

Jane Austen’s Easter

Colonel Fitzwilliam’s manners were very much admired at the parsonage, and the ladies all felt that he must add considerably to the pleasure of their engagements at Rosings. It was some days, however, before they received any invitation thither, for while there were visitors in the house they could not be necessary; and it was not till Easter-day, almost a week after the gentlemen’s arrival, that they were honoured by such an attention, and then they were merely asked on leaving church to come there in the evening. For the last week they had seen very little of either Lady Catherine or her daughter. Colonel Fitzwilliam had called at the parsonage more than once during the time, but Mr Darcy they had only seen at church. The invitation was accepted of course, and at a proper hour they joined the party in Lady Catherine’s drawing room.
Pride and Prejudice

Easter is arguably the most important holiday in the Christian Calendar. It is on this day that Christians from all denominations celebrate Christ’s victory over death, for, as the Apostle Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15 , “If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins…But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” That victory is the sure knowledge that He is the Son of God and that all He said was true—who else could be raised back to life from the dead? “For he taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day.” If He had not been raised then He would be, as some claim, only a great teacher or Rabbi.

As the daughter of a clergyman, Jane Austen would scarcely have missed a service at the small Anglican Church in Steventon where her father served. She would have been intimately familiar with The Book of Common Prayer, as Her father would have used this as a guide in planning his services throughout the year. It gives the prayers and rites necessary to a clergyman and scripture readings for each service. The suggested reading for Easter is in John 20, appropriately, the “Easter Story” of how Jesus’ disciples and friends went to grieve over his body in the garden tomb where it had been laid, only to find the Lord, Himself, alive and waiting to ascend to his Father in Heaven.

With this proof of Christ’s deity, the rest of His message to all peoples can be embraced, “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” Salvation by Grace was a concept which was gaining ground in the Georgian world as evangelists like John Wesley and George Whitfield preached a break from the tradition of attending church for the sake of being seen and encouraged a personal relationship with Christ as offered through the scriptures. Austen, at first (in a letter to Cassandra in 1809) claims to dislike Evangelicals, though she declines to say why, but later on in life seems to question this belief with a sort of envy of their assurance of Salvation: “I am by no means convinced that we ought not all to be evangelicals, and am at least persuaded that they who are so from reason and feeling must be happiest and safest.” (a letter to her niece, Fanny Knight, 1814).

History of Easter
When Christian Missionaries spread throughout Europe in the early centuries after the resurrection of Christ they found that many pagan rites and rituals existed in the early spring, at the same time that they were celebrating the resurrection of Christ. One of these involved the Saxon Goddess, Eostre. When writing his Historia Ecclesiastica, Bede, the famed historian, noted that the month we know as April was named Eostre Month. From her name came a name for the time of year, Easter, and, as with other holidays such as Christmas and Hallowe’en, certain established rites surrounding her worship such as hares and colored eggs were absorbed into the modern celebration of the season.

It is interesting to note that the Puritan fathers (Those who colonized North America in the years before Jane Austen’s birth) looked on Easter as a pagan holiday and refused to celebrate using any of these devices. Nevertheless German settlers brought their customs with them and the idea of white rabbits bringing baskets of treats and eggs to good boys and girls caught on in the popular imagination. After the American Civil War (1861-1865) it gained popularity becoming the modern festival of candy consumption and Easter Egg Hunts.

Easter is known as a moveable feast, as it is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox, instead of on a set day each year. A table for calculating Easter Sunday was included in each book of the Common Prayer and, somewhat unbelievably, it takes 5,700,000 years for the cycle of dates to repeat itself!

During Jane Austen’s day, the Easter Season (Easter and the 40 days following it, until Ascension Sunday, when Christ’s final ascension into heaven is celebrated) or the Easter Holidays as they are sometimes referred to, were a time of traveling and visiting Family. Every mention of Easter in her letters and novels involves travel, including her most notorious use in Pride and Prejudice when Mr. Darcy arrives at Rosings Park, to visit his aunt, Lady Catherine DuBourgh.

The idea of wearing something new for Easter has its roots in Roman tradition (it was good luck to have something new to wear in the spring) and early Christianity where new converts would celebrate their baptism by wearing white for a week. The first Easter bonnets were spring bonnets which would be delightful to wear after the dark clothes of winter and somber tone of Lent.

Lent
Easter is preceded by 40 days of fasting, known as Lent. This is not a full fast and is broken every Sunday, making Lent actually fall on the 46 days preceding Easter Sunday. According to common definition, the forty days represent the time Jesus spent in the desert, where he endured temptation by Satan. The purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer—through prayer, penitence, almsgiving and self-denial— for the annual commemoration during Holy Week of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the events linked to the Passion of Christ and culminates in Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.*

During Lent, it is customary to give up eating rich, fattening foods and live on only the simplest of meals. These foods would include sugar, eggs, meat, dairy products and other fats. Many traditions have sprung up around Lent including Mardi Gras in the United States (which means “Fat Tuesday” in French.) This is traditionally held as the last day of partying before Lent begins. In England the day before the beginning of Lent is known as Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Tuesday and is a time for using up all those ingredients you won’t be using during Lent, before they go bad.

Easter Eggs and other Specialty Foods
Eggs have long been a symbol of fertility and new life and giving them as gifts in the spring, often colorfully decorated, is a centuries old custom among many people groups. Since they would not have been eaten during the weeks preceding Easter, it was common to hard boil them (in order to make them last) and have them in abundance during the week of Easter. It is said that Christians dyed their eggs red using red onion skins in order to remember the blood of Christ shed in their place.

Beautifully decorated eggs became an art form across Europe, from the Pysanky created in the Ukraine and Faberge’s gorgeous creations for the Tsar’s family in Russia, to homemade tokens created as gifts from lovers to their beloved, often trimmed in paper, lace, gold leaf, and paint or dyed with natural colors. Dyeing them in pale, pastel colors seems to come from Egypt, though tales of multicolored eggs spring from the legends surrounding Eostre, as well.

It would be hard to imagine Easter without the traditional dinner of Ham or Lamb. While both may seem a bit odd considering that it is a holiday focused on a Jewish Man, known as the Lamb of God, there are good reasons for it. First of all, a meal of meat was a delightful celebration following the deprivations associated with Lent. What better way to celebrate this most auspicious of days? Easter is inextricably linked with the Jewish Passover celebration, as it was the festival which Jesus and his disciples were in Jerusalem celebrating when he was arrested and crucified. Central to the Passover celebration is the eating of the Passover Lamb—ironically, Passover and the Passover Lamb are pictures of Christ the once and for all sacrifice needed to wash away the guilt of our sins.

Practically, Easter was celebrated in spring, just as the first lambs were born and they would be readily available on farms and in markets. The same reasoning holds for hams, which would be the last of the cured meats, set aside for winter. Spring was the time to use them up in preparation for the fresh meat which would soon be available. Due to the doctrine of grace, early Christians did not hold to the kosher diet observed by Jews and some other religions, such as Islam, which forbid the eating of Pork. Eating ham in celebration of Easter was, therefore, an allowed indulgence.

Perhaps the most famous Easter food is the Hot Cross Bun. The first mention of these in association with Easter comes from Poor Robin’s Almanack (1733): “Good Friday comes this month, the old woman runs, with one or two a penny hot cross buns”. Typically, the cross marked on the top of the bun symbolizes the cross on which Jesus died, and they are eaten on Good Friday as a build up to Easter Sunday. English tradition holds that a bun baked on Good Friday brings good luck to the household and will not mold. Many were kept throughout the year until the next batch would be made.

Although Egyptians and Romans celebrated some spring rites with small loaves baked with crosses imprinted on top, the traditional “spiced buns first became popular in Tudor days, at the same period as the larger spice loaves or cakes, and were no doubt usually made from the same batch of spiced and butter-enriched fruit dough. For a long time bakers were permitted to offer these breads and buns for sale only on special occasions, as is shown by the following decree, issued in 1592, the thirty-sixth year of the reign of Elizabeth I, by the London Clerk of the Markets: That no bakers, etc, at any time or times hereafter make, utter, or sell by retail, within or without their houses, unto any of the Queen’s subject any spice cakes, buns, biscuits, or other spice bread (being bread out of size and not by law allowed) except it be at burials, or on Friday before Easter, or at Christmas, upon pain or forfeiture of all such spiced bread to the poor… In the time of James I, further attempts to prevent bakers from making spice breads and buns proved impossible to enforce, and in this matter the bakers were allowed their way.”**

Like their cousin, the Chelsea bun, hot cross buns were sold in great quantities by the Chelsea Bun House, writes, Alan Davidson in Oxford Companion to Food, “ In the 18th century large numbers of people flocked to Chelsea during the Easter period expressly to visit this establishment.”

The first mention of egg shaped candies comes in 1820 from Guglielmo Jarrin, a self described “ornamental confectioner”. In his book, The Italian Confectioner, he describes hollow comfits, filled with trinkets. At that time a comfit was a spice, dried fruit or nut covered in a candy coating, similar to a Jordan almond. The creation of these eggs was a difficult business and would have been attempted by only the most skilled confectioner.

During the Victorian Era, the celebration of Easter became more elaborate, adapting imagery from the pagan festival and other spring symbols (such as chicks). Candy making also became easier and more standardized due to the Industrial Revolution and many of what we now think of as traditional Easter candies were developed including the chocolate Rabbit (90 million sold annually, according to the National Confectioners Association) and Jelly Bean.

Many of these candies find their way into Easter Baskets. These, too hearken back to the days when the faithful would bring baskets of spring seedlings to the temple to be blessed by one of Goddess’ priests. A variation on this involves a Catholic tradition of taking the Easter food or eggs to mass to be blessed.

There is not a lot of information about how the Austen’s celebrated the season. What little we do know is drawn from Jane’s letters and what was typical for the period. While it is assured that Jane Austen celebrated Easter, her holiday was probably a quiet one. She would have observed Lent and broken the “Fast” on Easter with a special dinner with her family. She may have dyed eggs and probably ate them in abundance once Lent was concluded. Mrs Austen is known to have had chickens at Chawton Cottage and it is unlikely that they would have allowed the eggs to spoil. Likewise, Austen mentions Lambs at Steventon, as well as Hams that her mother cured so either might have been eaten at Easter dinner. In her letters, she mentions using the Easter Holidays as a time to travel, and visiting friends along the way to one of her brothers’ houses. As a religious holiday celebrated by a religious family in the early 1800’s, it is unlikely that she ever associated the holiday with rabbits or candy.

*Historical Information from Wikipedia and The Food Timeline

**English Bread and Yeast Cookery, Elizabeth David [Penguin Books:Middlesex UK] 1979

Austentation Regency  			Accessories

Laura Boyle has an avid interest inall aspects of life during the Regency. Visit her site, Austentation: Regency Accessories for custom made hats, bonnets and other accessories.

Enjoyed this article? Browse our book shop at janeaustengiftshop.co.uk

Posted on

English Muffins

The entrance of the tea-things at seven o’clock was some relief; and luckily Mr and Mrs Edwards always drank a dish extraordinary and ate an additional muffin when they were going to sit up late, which lengthened the ceremony almost to the wished-for moment.
The Watsons

Oh, do you know the muffin man? He was a common enough character in Jane Austen’s day- even garnering a mention in Persuasion! English styled muffins (different from the modern quickbread version) were made of yeast raised dough and baked on a hot cast iron griddle. They are thought to have originated in 10th century Wales.

These early muffins were the fare of the lower classes and didn’t see the fashionable tea table until the 17-1800’s. As tea became a meal in itself, many cooks tried to out do each other with elaborate pastry and iced confections. For those not given to sweets, however, English Muffins, toasted and buttered, could be just as delicious. Growing in popularity throughout the 19th century, the muffin became the “most fancied” bread on the Island and English Muffin factories sprang up all over England. Muffin men, hawking their wares in city streets, were a common sight.

Because they bake so quickly, a plate of steaming hot muffins soon became a tea table staple. Served in their own silver dish, the muffins would be split, toasted over an open fire, buttered and served, sometimes with jam or preserves. English muffins and their American equivalents were also served at breakfast- as they are to this day.

One of Jane Austen’s distant relations, Mrs Lybbe-Powys kept a household journal much like Martha Lloyd’s. In it, she records this recipe:

half a Gallon of Flour, half a pint of Yeast, put as much water as will make it about the thickness of paste, stir a little salt into it and beat it well over nigh. ye next morning lay a clean Cloth on the table and flour it, then turn ye past out of the pan and make them up with your hands into small flat Cakes. they must be baked upon an Iron plate of ye Fire and when half done turn’d.

English Muffins
4 cups of flour
1 1/2 packets of yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water or milk
1 tablespoon of Salt
1/2 teaspoon white sugar (to feed the yeast)
cast iron griddle

Pour the water into a bowl and add the yeast and sugar. When the yeast is soft, add the flour and salt. Mix thoroughly. Dough will be very sticky.

Coat your hands in flour before kneading the dough. While kneading, continue to add small amounts of flour to the dough until the stickiness disappears and the dough becomes more solid. You may find you add as much as 1/2 cup more flour during this process.

Put the dough in a large bowl, cover with a towel, and leave in a warm place overnight. The dough should more than double by morning. The underside of the dough may be a bit sticky — if so, knead it a bit more. Using your hands, shape the muffins into small golf-ball sized balls. Set the muffins aside, cover with a towel, and let rise for an hour.

Preheat ungreased griddle over medium heat. Add shaped muffins to griddle and cook for about five minutes on each side.

The muffins will look like biscuits on the outside and English muffins on the inside. Serve immediately. Makes two dozen small muffins.

Enjoyed this article? Browse our giftshop at janeaustengiftshop.co.uk for Regency recipe books!

Posted on

The Life of a Seamstress

March 15th – The seamstress came this morning to begin my wardrobe. We were with her for more than two hours and Mama ordered so many new gowns as that I am sure I shall never wear the half of them, but she insists that I must be properly dressed.
– From The Journal of a Regency Lady, Chapter 5
By Anne Herries

 

Dressmaker shop in 1775. Image from Regency England by Yvonne Forsling

The above quote, though coming from a contemporary author, might well have been written during the regency era. Women’s clothes were made at home during this period by the ladies themselves, their servants, or a professional seamstress. A dressmaker (or mantua maker) would charge about 2 pounds per garment and come to the house for fittings, where she might be served tea. A successful mantua maker who had set up shop in the fashionable part of Town would also provide a pleasant environment in which a lady could relax, serving tea and refreshments to prolong the shopping experience.

In her letters, Jane Austen mentioned a Miss Burton, who made pelisses for her and Cassandra in 1811. The cost of cloth and labor were reasonable, she wrote, but the buttons seemed expensive. Fabrics, increasingly mass produced, became more affordable during the Industrial Revolution, and demand for clothes grew among the newly wealthy middle class women. Young girls who sought work in the cities became seamstresses in homes and sweat shops. A little over twenty years after Jane’s death, the poor working conditions described below were common for seamstresses.

EVIDENCE TAKEN BY Children’s Employment Commission
February 1841
Miss — has been for several years in the dress-making business…The common hours of business are from 8 a.m. til 11 P.M in the winters; in the summer from 6 or half-past 6 A.M. til 12 at night. During the fashionable season, that is from April til the latter end of July, it frequently happens that the ordinary hours are greatly exceeded; if there is a drawing-room or grand fete, or mourning to be made, it often happens that the work goes on for 20 hours out of the 24, occasionally all night….The general result of the long hours and sedentary occupation is to impair seriously and very frequently to destroy the health of the young women. The digestion especially suffers, and also the lungs: pain to the side is very common, and the hands and feet die away from want of circulation and exercise, “never seeing the outside of the door from Sunday to Sunday.” [One cause] is the short time which is allowed by ladies to have their dresses made. Miss is sure that there are some thousands of young women employed in the business in London and in the country. If one vacancy were to occur now there would be 20 applicants for it. The wages generally are very low…Thinks that no men could endure the work enforced from the dress-makers.


Visit the popular costume section at our online giftshop for dresses, patterns and accessories!

Source: Hellerstein, Hume & Offen, Victorian Women: A Documentary Accounts of Women’s Lives in Nineteenth-Century England, France and the United States, Stanford University Press.

Posted on

The Hands

“Don’t you find it colder than it was in the morning, Elinor?…I can hardly keep my hands warm even in my muff.”
Sense and Sensibility

The following advice is offered from A Manual of Politeness: Comprising the Principles of Ettiquette and Rules of Behaviour in Genteel Society, for Persons of Both Sexes. This charming title was anonymously printed in Philadelphia in 1837, however the advice it offers is timeless.

The Hands

Cleanliness is no less essential to comfort than health, while no one thing is so truly degrading as dirty hands or face in a lady.—It displays, at first sight, a familiarity with very low habits, that is even shocking to the delicacy of the female character, where we naturally look for every outward perfection of appearance that is pleasing and engaging, as the nature of their habits and pursuits is supposed to be of a much more refined order than that of men.

In high life, few things more bespeak the true lady and gentleman than the appearance of the hand. Lord Byron has gone so far as to affirm, that a white and delicate hand is a sign of patrician birth. Although I cannot exactly agree in this declaration, yet the attention that is commonly bestowed upon the hands in the upper circles of fashion at once shows the importance that is attached to them.

One assertion may be relied upon in reference to the hands,—the finest and most delicate from nature may be made coarse by neglect; and, vice versa, the roughest fine, by attention. In corroboration, I shall now clearly explain. — The formation of the hand, in the first instance, of course comes from nature, and if not distorted in early life by rough usage and hard work, it of course will retain its form, such as it may be. Hence arises the grand distinction between the hands of gentlemen and artizans. The former, from care and attention, preserve to their hands all the advantages of formation with which nature may have endowed them; while those of the mechanic or artizan are soon distorted in shape and make, rough and coarse, as by their constant use, it may be, in work. Thus, therefore, the distinction between the hands of the higher and lower orders, arises from treatment, and not nature, as Byron affected to fancy.

The most prejudicial habits in early youth, to the hands frequently arise from the learning the piano-forte and harp. The former, particularly, if not well looked to, from the early endeavours of children in stretching the octave, is apt to render the fingers crooked; while the latter, if played without the proper covering to the fingers, thickens and hardens the ends to a most unpleasant extent. A few hints respecting the culture of the hands, may not perhaps be deemed unacceptable.

I shall first proceed to show the method of obtaining a soft and white skin, and afterwards of good nails,—the two chief attributes of a lady-like or gentlemanly hand. With regard to the skin, it may be freely remarked, that nothing is so conducive to the preservation of its beauty, as frequently washing in warm water and with fine soaps. Gloves too, by ladies, should always be worn in the house; it is a very elegant fashion, and tends much to preserve the delicacy of the hands. After washing the hands, they should always be rubbed dry; if they be not, the damp left on the skin is apt to turn them red, than which nothing can be more inimical to the pleasing appearance of the hands.


When, however, the hands have been neglected for any length of time, or have been naturally coarse and of a bad colour, an excellent thing to wash with is oatmeal.—Use it thus: after having well washed the hands in hot water and soap— fine soap, for there is less alkali in its composition than the common,—take some of the meal in the hands, and after wetting it, keep rubbing them together some time, then dry them well with a coarse towel. By this means the uneven surface of the skin gradually becomes softened, and the colour will be found improved. An excellent recipe for giving a temporary whiteness to the hands, is the juice of lemons.

A very common notion prevails that the use of oil and wax, and sleeping in kid gloves, refines the hands—a practice that is not only very unhealthy by preventing the proper circulation of the blood, but inefficacious in every respect.

Next to colour, the nails most attract the attention to the hand. Those that are considered the handsomest, are the filbert-shaped, so termed, from their resemblance to the fruit so called. In the care of the hand, the nails require much attention. The too frequent blemish to the nails are white spots, and the undue growth of the skin immediately round the nail. The Circassians have a pink dye, in which senna forms a principal ingredient, to remedy the first of these blemishes; but the exact recipe used, is unknown in this country. With regard to the thickness of the skin that skirts the nail, it is frequently occasioned by the injudicious use of the scissors or penknife, in trimming the nails: for to cut it off is to increase the defect by causing accelerated growth. The only method that presents itself of keeping it under, is by the free and frequent use of a hard nail-brush, the use of hot water, and the employment of a corner of the towel in turning it back every time you wash.

If this treatment be continued for any length of time together, it will rid the fingers of the hardest skin, by means of keeping up a brisk circulation in the hand, in which alone consists the art of obtaining and keeping the skin of the hand fine, as it calls into action all the minute pores and their secretions, thus rendering it smooth and soft.

With regard to soaps, I have heard many very high encomiums bestowed upon Rigge’s scented soap, for the pleasing effect it has in softening and whitening the skin.

Chapped Hands

There is not a more common or more troublesome complaint in the winter season, especially with females, than chapped hands. It is rather remarkable that few individuals seem to know the true cause of this affection. Most people attribute it to the use of hard water, and insist upon washing, on all occasions, with rain or brook water. Now the truth is, that chapped hands are invariably occasioned by the injudicious use of soap; and the soap affects them more in winter than in the summer, because in the former season the hands are not moistened with perspiration, which contracts the alkaline effects of the soap. There is a small portion of alkali in hard water, but not so much as there is in soft water, with the addition of soap. The constant use of soap in washing, even though the softest water be used, will cause tender hands to be chapped, unless some material be afterwards used to neutralize its alkaline properties. In summer the oily property of the perspirable moisture answers this purpose; but in winter, a very little vinegar or cream will, by being rubbed on the dried hands, after the use of soap, completely neutralize its alkaline properties, and thereby effectually prevent the chapping of the hands. Any other acid or oily substance will answer the same purpose. There are some very delicate hands which are never chapped. This exemption from the complaint arises from the greater abundance of perspirable matter which anoints and softens the skin. Dry and cold hands are most afflicted with this complaint.

Gloves and soap for your own hands are available at our giftshop, visit now and escape into the world of Jane Austen.

Posted on

Gentleman’s Watches and Fobs

Gentleman's watches

“We have been exactly a quarter of an hour here,” said Edmund, taking out his watch.

“Oh! do not attack me with your watch. A watch is always too fast or too slow. I cannot be dictated to by a watch.”
-Mansfield Park

Gentleman’s Watches in the 18th and 19th Centuries

In 1675, Charles II of England introduced long waistcoats. As this became the fashion, men’s watches began to be worn in the pockets of the waistcoat instead of pendant style from the neck.

In 1704, English watchmakers Facio de Duillier and P. and J. Debaufre developed a method for using jewels as bearings. Though in 1715, this practice was still rare, byabout 1725 it was common to find a fairly large diamond endstone mounted in the time piece. The most common watches of the early 1700’s had pair cases in gold or silver, both of which were plain. Dials were mainly champlevé, but were slowly replaced by white enamel dials with block numbers. Continue reading Gentleman’s Watches and Fobs