Yarn-Arts in the 19th Century

"Welsh Landscape with Two Women Knitting" by William Dyce, 1860

I am a knitter. I knit mercilessly, using up yards and yards of yarn to make hats, scarves, and socks. I take knitting when I go reenacting, I take knitting to the library, knitting to watch TV, so as you can see, my knitting goes everywhere. As I look through photos and fashion plates, I see relatively few images of people wearing knitted items.

But it’s obvious people used yarn in the 19th century, right?

Yarn-Arts (as I call them) is knitting and crochet. Both of these Yarn-Arts have a long and illustrious histories that I can take hours to retell. Let’s cut to the chase- where are the patterns and pictures of knitting in the 19th century?

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Why I’m Re-Reading Jane Eyre

Two years ago I picked up Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. I made it to Chapter 7 and then I stopped. I was completely and utterly bored with it. In truth, Jane Eyre was not what I was expecting it to be. Just now, however, I’ve begun reading it again.

  • At first, the language of Jane Eyre sucked.

Two years ago, when I first began Jane Eyre, I could not understand diddly squat of what Charlotte wrote. But this year in my English class, I blundered through Frankenstein, a similarly written book by Mary Shelley. By the end, I understood the language. I figured that since I could finally understand the language, it would be a better read.

  • Jane Eyre seemed like a boring girl.

When I was reading Jane Eyre for the first time, Jane seemed like such a boring girl. Little emotions flowed to me through the words (or maybe that was because I didn’t understand them!) and everything Jane did seemed like it was glazed over. When I read, I see pictures and hear voices in my head (like watching the book turn into a movie)- but I wasn’t getting that with Jane Eyre. Now, however, I can see Jane in a different perspective since I have read it last, and it gives Jane a real personality instead of a black-and-white girl.

  • It’s a challenging read for me.

Although I am in a higher-paced English class, novels from the 19th century still escape my grasp. (Yet another reason as to why I haven’t read any Dickens yet!) I have a hard time comprehending them. In recent books, everything is spelled out about what is going on and who the people are. In books from the 19th century, there is a lot of guesswork (for me) about what is going on, what characters are exactly doing, and so on.

  • I needed to give it another chance.

Like I said in the beginning, I was just on Chapter 7 when I stopped reading Jane Eyre. That’s not so far into the book, just a taste of the beginning. I had an extremely biased opinion on the book then, and since I had given it time, I could take another chance at reading the book with an open mind.

  • It’s a good book.

There’s no doubt now that Jane Eyre is a good book. It’s well written, (although slightly confusing at times), descriptive, and interesting. In plain, it’s just a good book, and I recommend it to anyone who wants to read English classics.

Have you read Jane Eyre recently? What did you think of it?

Marvelous Millinery: Leghorn Hats

August 1860 Godey's Lady's Book

I am a die-hard hat lover. (Or at lease a die-hard historical hat lover!) I own one plain brown hat that’s pretty weird to wear, but we aren’t talking about that today. Today we are talking about the Leghorn hat. In the above picture, it’s the creme hat that the girl in the white and red is wearing.

The Leghorn hat appears in many fashion plates from across the early 1860s. I have never seen this type of hat worn at a reenactment that I have been to. Since I am a fan of photo documentation, here’s a couple of fashion plates with Leghorn hats in them.

Click the image to view it bigger!

Click the image to view it bigger!

Click the image to view it bigger!

Cameo, or No Cameo?

One of my CameosThe other night I was looking through a vast archive of CDVs for some new dress ideas. Since I was looking at women’s dresses (and mostly trimming) I noticed something else… not many women or girls were wearing cameos. It got me thinking- are cameos period correct? If they were, were they reserved for the younger set?

The first thing I looked for was some photo documentation. I found a handful of images. Here are 3 of the small few I found:

The cameo is very large here!

The cameo is very small in this example.

Another small cameo example.

The second criteria I looked for was how big the cameos were. For some, the cameos were large and easy to find, but many were smaller and harder to locate on the picture. Personally, I have one small and one large cameo. My small cameo, pictured above, is about an 1 1/2 inches tall and 1 1/2 inches wide. The other cameo, not pictured, is probably 2 inches tall and 1 1/2 inches wide. By the photos, you can see that the cameos did range in size from person to person.

An example of an older woman with a cameo.

The third criteria was the age of the wearer. I noticed that about two thirds of the images I found were younger girls/women and the last third was of older women. I concluded that it was fashionable for younger girls and women to wear cameos, and the fashion-forward older woman wore one as well. (Of course, that was a large and general assumption based on the pictures I could procure!)

While I was doing my research, I started to think about some places where I could buy pretty cameos to wear. I had bought both of mine at flea markets after bargaining prices (The cameo pictured above was $16, and I haggled down to $8) I managed to have a sizable collection of 2. The first place I could find was Abraham’s Lady. Another online store is The Jeweler’s Daughter.

Overall, I found that cameos are indeed period correct for 1860s re-enacting/period impressions. There is photo documentation to back it up, including backing up the facts that cameos ranged in size and the wearers were both young and old. Do you wear a cameo with your 1860s period impression?

Pinny Embroidery

A Pair of Mill Workers

In preparation for an upcoming event, I have invited my BFF over to do some sewing. We plan to make a few things- 2 pinnies, a chemise, and a pair of drawers. One of the pinnies is for myself.

Since I strive to portray an upper middle class or a regular middle class girl, I want to make my pinny pretty. Since it’s a bit plain, I am going to add embroidery. The only hitch is that I need my embroidery to be period correct.

I did some Google-Fu and found a few small embroidery ideas from the 1860s. The first comes from the January 1860 issue of Godey’s Lady’s Book. The second site has 5 patterns ranging through the 1860s. The last I could find was a page scanned in from an 1860s Godey’s Lady’s Book.

I really like all of the patterns! However, I would just like one to grace the top of my pinny. The last example is too complicated (and require too many colors) for me to finish soon. The second site has many good examples, but they are too complicated for me to finish quickly. On the first site do I see the one I like. (It’s the circles with the dots in the middle!)

What do you think about these patterns? Will you use them in one of your projects?