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How To Make a Reticule

This little reticule was first featured as a project in Petersen’s Magazine in 1857. As you can see from the
Regency fashion plate, it is a style that was popular even then. By definition, a reticule (or ridicule as they
were sometimes called) was a small purse. They became popular in the late 18th century when narrow gown styles
prevented the installation of pockets.

This is a very pretty design for a reticule. Materials: green silk, purple morocco [fine soft kid as from
] and pasteboard. Cut the bottom out of pasteboard the size you wish, and cover it with the morocco,
bringing the morocco a little up the sides as a finish, the pasteboard having first been turned up for that
purpose. Then sew on the four pieces of silk, and complete with a drawing string of sewing silk below to match the
silk of the bag.

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Laura Boyle is fascinated by all aspects of Jane Austen’s life. She is the proprietor of Austenation: Regency Accessories, creating custom hats, bonnets, reticules and more for customers around the globe. Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends is her first book. Her greatest joy is the time she is able to spend in her home with her family (1 amazing husband, 4 adorable children and a very strange dog.)


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Netting Instructions from Beeton’s Book of Needlework

“It is amazing to me,” said Bingley, “how young ladies can have patience to be so very accomplished as they all are….They all paint tables, cover skreens, and net purses. I scarcely know any one who cannot do all this, and I am sure I never heard a young lady spoken of for the first time, without being informed that she was very accomplished.”
-Pride and Prejudice

In Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Bingley notes “netting”as one of the common accomplishments of young ladies. It is, as Isabella Beeton, Victorian Household Maven, explains, “one of the prettiest and one of the easiest accomplishments of a lady. The materials are simple, while the effects produced by good netting are most elegant and of great durability. One great advantage of netting is that each stitch is finished and independent of the next, so that if an accident happens to one stitch it does not, as in crochet or knitting, spoil the whole work.” The following instructions are from Beeton’s Book of Needlwork, published in 1870.

Isabella Beeton's books and articles are invaluable in researching life and practices of the mid 19th century.
Isabella Beeton’s books and articles are invaluable in researching life and practices of the mid 19th century.

Continue reading Netting Instructions from Beeton’s Book of Needlework

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How To Make a Sailors Valentine

Sailor’s Valentine – “A Present/Think of Me”, shell, cedar, glass, metal, cotton, tintype, ca. 1895. Courtesy of Strong Museum.

Centuries ago, Sailors’ Valentines were handmade gifts by sailors to be given to their girlfriend or wife. I can only imagine just how difficult it must have been to be a sailor in the 19th century and to be away from his true love for months, possibly even years at a time. There certainly was no form of constant communication like phones or the internet, and there was no mail delivery at sea. A sailor could write a letter to his love and mail the letter when he was in port, but mail to him would be sporadic, if at all. It would require a great deal of devotion to remain bound to someone you couldn’t see or talk to with any regularity.

No doubt, the sailors chose their vocation to either provide or to prepare to provide for his loved ones. Hard economic times have always plagued our world and people have always done what was necessary to earn a living. I don’t deny there were some who loved the sea and longed for adventure, but that doesn’t mean that they didn’t also desire to be with the one they loved.

Some believe that the sailors spent months collecting unique and beautiful seashells during their travels and personally make intricate, detailed seashell artwork. When they returned home they would present these labors of love to their betrothed or wife as a symbol of their constant devotion. It would say to the recipient ‘I was thinking of you always’ without a word having to be spoken.

My Sailor’s Valentine
Today making a sailor’s valentine is not as difficult as it would have been in generations past. We can purchase seashells by the pound and pick through the bags for the perfect shell. There are even kits available to purchase if you want to make a specific design without the hassle of searching for the right size, shape or color shell.
Continue reading How To Make a Sailors Valentine

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Festival images 2012 Jane Austen Festival

Festival Images 2012

Our professional photographer Owen Benson has loaded all of his fantastic images to an online site for you to enjoy. Just go into the galleries and look around. Image Galleries

If you would like to download high resolution images to print yourself or if you would like to order prints this is now possible. Owen has kept the cost to an absolute minimum.

Prices range from 50p per download to prints from £1.

The download site is a little awkward but if you follow the instructions you will be able to get what you want.

Go to the Image Galleries where you can view the shots from each of the events.

If you would like to purchase a print just click the image and ‘Add to Cart’. You can then choose the size and finish of the print. Simple

If you would like to download an image to print later or send to friends there is an extra step.

1 Choose your image and then press ‘Add to Cart’


2 Press the ‘Downloads’ tab in the top right corner


3 Press the radio button

4 Press ‘Add to Cart’.

When you checkout you will need to create an account in order to pay.

I know you will enjoy these images.

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Trim your own Regency Bonnet

A Regency Bonnet

So many styles of Regency Bonnet to choose from! 

Flowers are very much worn, and fruit is still more the thing. Elizabeth has a bunch of strawberries, and I have seen grapes, cherries, plums, and apricots. There are likewise almonds and raisins, French plums, and tamarinds at the grocers’, but I have never seen any of them in hats… Elizabeth has given me a hat, and it is not only a pretty hat, but a pretty style of hat too. It is something like Eliza’s, only, instead of being all straw, half of it is narrow purple ribbon. I flatter myself, however, that you can understand very little of it from this description. Heaven forbid that I should ever offer such encouragement to explanations as to give a clear one on any occasion myself! But I must write no more of this. . .
Jane Austen to Cassandra
Queen’s Square, Bath
June 2, 1799

If you had to choose only one fashion accessory with which to represent the entire Regency period, no doubt it would be the Bonnet. Large and small, close and wide, they came in an array of sizes and styles, each season bringing newideas and new requirements of what it was to be “Fashionable”. Fashion magazines of the day seemed never to tire of describing this brim and that cockade, and the colors! Where Puce was once reigned supreme, Jonquil now led the way. Or so they would tell you.

While wealthy socialites might spend their afternoons seriously pondering the style and purchase of a new bonnet, less fortunate young ladies might employ themselves with equal diligence to trimming and retrimming an older bonnet to meet the new style standards. For these young ladies, books like The Ladies’ self instructor in millinery and mantua making, embroidery and appliqué, canvas-work, knitting, netting, and crochet-work, by R. L. Shep, would be invaluable. Careful perusing of its pages, along with those of La Belle Assemblée would offer all they would need to know to be found in the most current mode, even when “buried” in the country.

One such period book advises, “it is well to avoid the two extremes [of fashion] into which some people are apt to fall. The one is an entire disregard to the prevailing taste, and the other is a servile submission to its tyrannic sway. A medium course is the only sensible one, and, in this, good sense will dictate how far to go, and where to stop.”

As you can see from the following fashion plate and historic gown and bonnet, simple decorations were often the most tasteful and appropriate. The addition of simple trim (make your own or use grosgrain ribbon or bias tape) and lace along with a few ribbons can turn a plain bonnet into a lovely summer chapeau.

Of course, simplicity and moderation did not always rule the Regency, as a look at a few more period fashion plates and examples of the period Regency bonnet will show you! Both of these following fashion plates are from Costumes Parisiens, 1812.












These historic bonnets are from the Old Sturbridge Village Collection:

Styles of Regency Bonnet

The Elinor:

To trim the crown with fabric, use a long strip of fabric, an inch taller than your crown. Fold one long, raw edge under, and baste in place around the crown. Fold over the short edge to make a finished seam up the back and baste in place over the matching raw edge. Fold the remaining long edge over and run a gathering stitch along this line to pull the edges together. Tack in place. You might also wish to add a small square of matching fabric under the hole created by the gathered fabric, or sew a rosette over this spot. Pleating the fabric before basting it on gives a rounder look, which is lovely in sheer cottons.

To create the ruffled ribbon trim seen on the cream and green bonnet, run two lines of gathering stitches down the center of a length of wide ribbon. Pull the threads to create a long gathered line. Tack in place and add an extra row of trim over the gathering stitches to hide them. In general, 3-4 yards of ribbon, a bunch of flowers and berries or fruit, and a few feathers will turn a plain bonnet into a thing of beauty.

Bonnets by Laura Boyle of Austentation: Regency Accessories

The Eliza (A Poke Bonnet)
Trimming the Eliza is nothing but a joy. A few yards of ribbon wound around the crown creates a lovely period look. Take it a step farther by cutting an 18 inch circle from your favorite fabric. Run a gathering stitch around this and pull it tight to fit the crown of the bonnet. Tack in place. Wrap a length of ribbon around the crown to cover the raw edge and finish it off with ribbon bows and ties. 3-4 yards of ribbon will give you plenty with which to work.

Bonnets by Serena Dyer, author of Bergère, Poke and Cottage: Understanding Early Nineteenth-Century Headwear

The Cottage Bonnet

The Cottage bonnet is another adorable style of Regency bonnet. Trim it with simple ribbons and feathers or rosettes and ties.


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Silk Ribbon Embroidery

Elizabeth took up some needlework, and was sufficiently amused in attending to what passed between Darcy and his companion.
Pride and Prejudice

According to Victoria Adams Brown, author of several silk ribbon embroidery books, silk ribbon embroidery made its first appearance in England in the early 18th century when London dressmakers began copying the French technique of broderie de faveur. The famous French couture house, the House of Worth, increased the popularity of silk ribbon embroidery, when Charles Worth’s master embroiderer, Michonet, began using roccoco ribbons to adorn the gowns of the rich and famous.

Before that silk ribbon embroidery first adorned the vestments of the clergy. From there it could be seen on the gauntlets of high-ranking soldiers, and then filtered into the fashion arena. During the Industrial Revolution, the Nouveau Riche, did not want to be seen in mass-produced gowns. They changed gowns up to five times a day, so they hired the services of Charles Worth, which spawned the famous couture houses that even today, continue to dress the wealthy and the elite.

Ribbon embroidery uses the same embroidery stitches that have been popular for hundreds of years – except stitched with ribbons. The most popular width of ribbons are 4mm and 7mm, although larger widths are gaining in popularity.”

The beauty of Silk Ribbon embroidery is that it takes almost 1/5 of the time to execute when compared to cross-stitch or other embroidery methods, and it is almost impossible to make a true “mistake”. Even the novice can pick it up in an afternoon and soon be turning out beautiful, one of a kind embroideries. During the Regency era, a great deal of a gentlewoman’s time was spent visiting and being visited. While one ought not to pull out the mending to repair in front of company, it was perfectly acceptable to take along some piece of fancy needlework to stitch on while chatting. Cushion covers were embroidered and handkerchiefs monogrammed, giving the worker a chance to show off one of her accomplishments and allowing her companions to marvel at the size and accuracy of her stitches.

Below you will find instructions for ten basic stitches, which, when combined can be turned into any number of elegant little projects. Practice them on plain fabric at first and when you feel confident, try embellishing a pillowcase or reticule– perhaps even a gown or petticoat! You can also buy ready made kits both in craft stores and online at places like and Victoria Brown’s website, features a wide array of kits, supplies, patterns and other ribbon embroidery projects.

We also have a lovely craft section at our own giftshop. Click here.

To begin, you will need:

  • 1 large-eyed needle
  • 1 12″ square of muslin or target=”new”>Aida cloth
  • 1 8″ embroidery hoop
  • A selection of 4mm silk ribbons (or at least one package)
  • Small scissors

Place your fabric in the hoop, making sure it is pulled tight.

Thread your needle.

To secure the ribbon when stitching, pull the ribbon through your fabric once, leaving a 1/2″ tail on the back side of your fabric. Stitch through that tail when making your second stitch. Your ribbon is now in place and you are ready to begin!

Follow this link to find instructions for your 10 basic stitches, including the lazy daisy, French knots and spiderweb (woven) rose.

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Instructions for Whist

On Playing the game of Loo

Instructions for Whist

Card games were a popular way of whiling away an evening at home or with friends. The game of whist is one that was common during Jane Austen’s era. We hope these instructions for whist prove helpful.

“Whist and speculation; which will amuse me most?”
Mansfield Park


Deck: 52 card deck
Players: 4 players, as partners (2 and 2)
Object: To take tricks and score the most points
Preliminaries:All 52 cards are dealt facedown except for the final card, which is turned up to establish the trump suit.

Whist was one of the first card games to use the trump-suit concept. It developed in the 18th century from the French game of triomphe, which began in the 16th century. This game was replaced at the end of the 19th century by bridge and is very similar to hearts.

When playing, the dealer adds that card to his hand when it is his turn to play. The player to his left starts play by leading a card and the other players follow suit, if possible.

The trick is won by the highest card of the suit or by a trump card played form a hand with no cards in the suit that was led. The winner of each trick leads next. Six tricks are called a book and each additional trick counts as one point. The first partnership to score seven points wins.


Enjoyed these instructions for whist? Have a look at our Jane Austen playing cards!