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Tambour Work

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.

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Jane-O-Lantern: Picture Your Pumpkin Two Ways

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.

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Staying Sharp with Jane Austen

 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.

jane austen pencils
Visit 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
  1. 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″.)
  2. Lightly sand your pencil so that the glue will adhere more closely.
  3. Use the paintbrush to apply a thin coat of Modgepodge or white school glue to the backside of the paper.
  4. Roll the paper around the pencil and overlap. The paper should be snug and not slide. Flatten any air bubbles so that it sticks at all points to the pencil. If necessary, add more glue to the seam in order for it to lay flat and tight.
  5. Allow pencil to dry. Be sure that it won’t stick to anything while drying, by laying it on a baking rack or standing it up in a glass (you can use this time to complete more pencils)
  6. Once pencil has dried, add an additional coat of modgepodge or glue to the outside of the pencil. Let dry again.
  7. Trim the paper so that the end lies flush with the end of the pencil. Embellish with Austen stickers, if desired, sharpen and enjoy!

Pencils such as this can be purchased in gift baskets from Austentation, or individually from Creative Carmelina, on Etsy.

Laura Boyle is an avid Regency enthusiast. Find more fashion information and one of a kind Regency inspired accessories at her shop, Austentation: Regency Accessories

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Regency Cold Cream: Preserve a Pristine Complexion

“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 them in a new pipkin, and when all is melted, whip it till cold; then let it lay in a little rose water till you put it in pots.
How to Cook, 1810


Visit for a surprisingly similar homemade cold cream recipe.
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Make an Heirloom Style Regency Baby Bonnet

Make your own Regency baby bonnet

Heirloom BonnetMake your own Regency Baby Bonnet

These easy instructions will help you create an heirloom style Regency 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.

  1. Cut a 10×10″ square of fabric.
  2. Sew lace all around the edges on the right side of the material. Turn over.
  3. Fold the square in half so that the right side is facing up, Iron or finger press the fold flat.
  4. Sew a line of stitching 1/2″ from the fold all the way across, leaving a casing.
  5. You should have an opening at the bottom of the fold, thread a 12″ piece of ribbon through it.
  6. Cut the remaining ribbon in half. Place one piece between 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.
  7. 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 for a Regency Baby Bonnet by was adapted from one created by Jo, from Maryland.

You can purchase more children’s patterns at our online giftshop. Click here.

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How to Cut a Silhouette

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

  1. Hang a large piece of white paper on the wall of a darkened room.
  2. Have a person sit in front of the paper.
  3. Shine a desk lamp at the person to create a defined shadow on the paper.
  4. Have the sitter turn sideways so that the shadow is a profile. Tell him or her to sit very still.
  5. Use a pencil to draw an outline of the sitter’s head, neck and the top of his or her shoulders.
  6. Use a copy machine to reduce the drawing to the size you want.
  7. Use a glue stick to fasten the copy to a sheet of black paper.
  8. Cut around the outline.
  9. Pull the white paper off the black one, flip the black one over and stick it on the front of a blank greeting card or on a sheet of light-colored paper.


If you use a halogen floor lamp, you can get very sharp detail.

The closer to the person you set the lamp, the smaller and more defined the silhouette will be.

Silhouette information taken from Sharon Wagoner’s article, Period Lighting and Silhouette Making. Sharon is Curator of The Georgian Index. Visit this site for a historical tour through Regency London!

Silhouette information copied from

Buy Jane and Cassandra silhouettes from our giftshop! Click here.

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How to Make Soap

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 are designed for soap making from scratch.
Things You’ll Need

  • Oils:-24 ounces olive oil (not extra virgin)-24 ounces coconut oil-38 ounces vegetable shortening
  • Alkaline Solution:- 12 ounces sodium hydroxide (lye). No longer readily available; can be purchased online. Do not use drain opener; the formulas have changed and are no longer suitable for soap. Or make your own lye solution.-32 ounces spring or distilled water
  • Fragrance or Essential Oil-4 ounces of your favorite fragrance-dried ground herbs (optional)
  • Equipment:-Safety Goggles- Rubber Gloves- Scale to weigh the ingredients-A one gallon stainless steel or enamel kettle, not aluminum – Glass or plastic wide mouth pitcher to hold water and lye -A two cup plastic or glass measuring cup – Plastic or wooden spoons – Stainless steel wire whisk or a hand blender – One accurate glass thermometer that registers between 80-100 degrees F. – Plastic shoe box for your soap mold. Spray with vegetable spray so soap will release easily. – 2 towels to cover your soap
  • A source of running water, in case of a spill. If you get the lye or liquid soap on you, run under lots of water.
  • You will need several hours of time to make your soap.


  1. Put on your rubber gloves and goggles.
  2. Weigh out 12 ounces of lye (sodium hydroxide) into the two-cup measuring cup.
  3. Weigh 32 ounces (2 pounds) of cold water in glass container.
  4. Slowly add lye to water (best done outside), stirring gently. It is very important to add the Lye to the water and not the other way around, otherwise the reaction is too quick and it is dangerous! The lye will heat the water and release fumes. The fumes dissipate quickly, but turn your face away so as not to inhale the fumes.
  5. Set aside and allow the lye to cool.
  6. Weigh out 24 ounces of coconut oil and 38 ounces of vegetable shortening into the metal kettle. Melt these oils over low heat and stir frequently. Remove from heat after the oils have melted and add the 24 ounces of olive oil.
  7. When your lye has reached a range of 95-98 degrees Fahrenheit (35-36 degrees Celsius) and your oils are at the same temperature, add the lye in a slow steady stream to the oils. Use the metal whisk to stir the mixture. After about ten minutes you will notice a change in your mixture. This is called saponification.
  8. Add your fragrance when tracing occurs. The mixture will appear like thin cream, and droplets of soap will stand up on the surface. Stir well. Be ready to pour natural soap in your mold.
  9. Cover your shoe box with the two towels and set aside undisturbed for eighteen hours. The soap will go through a gel stage and a heat process. At the end of this period uncover the soap and allow to sit for another 12 hours. If you measured accurately and followed the directions, there should be no problems. But if your soap has a deep oily film on top the natural soap cannot be used because it has separated. It is disappointing if this happens. This will occur if your measurements were not accurate.
  10. Unmold your natural soap. Turn the box over and allow the soap to fall on a towel or clean surface. Cut your soap into bars. Allow the natural soap to cure in a cool dry place for approximately four to six weeks before using.


  • Temperature is crucial when mixing the oils with the lye. If too hot, it will separate; too cool and it won’t turn into soap. If you have a thick layer of oily stuff after the 18 hour covered period, the soap will be unusable. If it has a layer of white stuff, don’t worry about it, that’s normal. If there are small white lumps in the soap, they are lye and it will burn if used.
  • Adding any chemical to water significantly reduces the risk of the chemical splashing back to your face. Remember, “Do what you oughtta, add acid to water”. It works with base as well.


  • Lye (Sodium Hydroxide)is a harsh base and can be extremely dangerous. Avoid skin and eye contact. If you get skin contact, flush with a diluted acid (water and vinegar would do fine) and seek medical attention. If you get eye contact flush with cool water for 15 – 20 minutes. Use eye wash center or eye flush bottles if available, seek medical attention immediately. If swallowed, contact poison control center.
  • Don’t use the same tools for food preparation as you do for soapmaking. Wooden spoons are porous and will suffer splintering when used repeatedly for soaping. Similarly, whisks have too many little nooks and crannies in which caustic substance can hide.
  • Caution! Put on your rubber gloves and goggles when working with lye. Do not leave lye in reach of children and animals. Always add lye to water, not water to lye!
  • In case of a spill, run under lots of water! (Vinegar is a weak acid, lye is a strong base….the vinegar is not enough to neutralize the lye, and the burn may worsen while you’re looking for vinegar. Use water.)

For more recipes have a look at our cookbook “Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends“, available from our giftshop! Historical information from, the online encyclopedia. Soap making instructions from

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The Baker

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.

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 at Rome, that occasionally one of the body was admitted among the senators.

Even by our own statutes the bakers are declared not to be handicrafts; and in London they are under the particular jurisdiction of the lord mayor and aldermen, who fix the price of bread, and have the power of finding these who do not conform to their rules.

Bread is made of flour mixed and kneaded with yeast, water, and a little salt. It is known in London under two names, the white or wheaten, and the household: these differ only in degrees of purity; and the loaves must be marked with a W or H, or the Baker is liable to suffer a penalty.

The process of bread-making is thus described: –To a peck of meal are added a handful of salt, a pint of yeast, and three quarts of water, cold in summer and hot in winter, and temperate between the two. The whole being kneaded, as is represented in the plate, will rise in about an hour; it is then moulded into loaves, and put into the oven to bake.

The oven takes more than an hour to heat properly, and break about three hours to bake. Most bakers make and sell rools in the morning: these are either common, or French rools: the former differ but little from loaf-bread: the ingredients of the latter are mixed with milk instead of water, and the finest flour is made use of for them. Rolls require only about twenty minutes for baking.

The life of a baker is very laborious; the greater part of his work is done by night: the journeyman is required always to commence his operations about eleven o’clock in the evening, in order to get new bread ready for admitting the rolls in the morning. His wages are, however, but very moderate, seldom amounting to more than ten shillings a week, exclusive of his board.

The price of bread is regulated according to the price of wheat; and bakers are directed in this by the magistrates, whose rules they are bound to follow. By these the peck-loaf of each sort of bread must weight seventeen pounds six ounces avoirdupois weight, and smaller loaves in the same proportion. Every sack of flour is to weigh two hundred and a half and from this there ought to be made, at an average, twenty such peck-loaves, or eighty common quartern-loaves.

If bread were short in its weight only one ounce in thirty six, the baker formerly was liable to be put to the pillory; and for the same offence he may now be fined, at the will of the magistrate, in any sum not less than one shilling, nor more than five shillings, for every ounce wanting; such bread being complained of and weighed in the presence of the magistrate within twenty-four hours after it is baked, because bread loses in weight by keeping.

The process of biscuit-baking, as practiced at the Victualling-office at Deptford, is curious and interesting. The dough, which consists of flour and water only, is worked by a large machine. It is then handed over to a second workman, who slices it with a large knife for the bakers, of whom there are five. The first, or moulder, forms the biscuits two at a time; second, or marker, stamps and throws them to the splitter, who separates the two pieces, and puts them under the hands of the chucker, the man that supplies the oven, whose work of throwing the bread on the peel must be so exact, that he cannot look off for a moment. The fifth, or depositer, receives the biscuits on the peel, and arranges them in the oven. All the men work with the greatest exactness, and are, in truth, like parts of the same machine. The business is to deposit in the oven seventy biscuits in a minute; and this is accomplished with the regularity of a clock, the clacking of the peel operating like the motion of the pendulum. There are 12 ovens at Deptford, and each of them will furnish daily bread for 2040 men.

By referring to the plate, we see the baker represented in the act of kneading his dough the bin upon which he is at work contains the flour: on his right hand is the peel, with which he puts in and takes out the bread: at his back we see the representation of the fire in the oven, and in the front is the pain in which the yeast is fetched daily from the brewhouse; and by the side of the flour-bin on the ground is the wood used to heat the oven.

From The Book of Trades, or Library of Useful Arts published by Jacob Johnson, in 1807, with the original copper plate engraving.

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