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Archive for the 'Craft History' Category

Oh Dry Up

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012
By Twistie

Hey guys!

Remember way back in October when I started musing on towels and how to achieve them at home?

Well, I then promptly got distracted by numerous shiny things of great glory… such as Project Runway All Stars, and trying out needle felting, and abusing my Simmies, and, well, you know how it goes.

Still, the question has remained simmering in the back of my mind ever since. And then it poured rain in Biblical torrents this week and I found myself thinking about the subject again, more in a foreground kind of way.

And then I found an article (available in PDF form, no less, for free on your computer) at Textile Reproductions on the proper method of making 18th century linen towels.

If you’re not already familiar with Textile Reproductions and you have any interest at all in an 18th century way of life or living history projects for the period, you’re in for a treat when you visit their online store. From period-sized pillow cases to vegetable dyed embroidery threads, to pockets to wear under your skirts, they’ve got an amazing range of great products.

Oh, and I’m absolutely downloading and using those instructions for making towels. I could use some more hand towels and kitchen towels.

The Village Blacksmith

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012
By Twistie

If you live near Williamsburg, VA or are planning a visit to the area soon, it may interest you to know that James Anderson’s Blacksmith Shop and Public Armory will have its ribbon cutting ceremony on March 31. That’s this saturday, for those of you without handy calendars.

The armory will include demonstrations of: blacksmithing, coopering/basket making, carpentry, brick making and masonry, and more.

I only wish I could be there, too.

One Hundred One Years Ago Today….

Sunday, March 25th, 2012
By Twistie

… the Triangle Waist Factory in New York caught fire at 4:45 pm.

The Triangle filled the top three floors of the ironically named Asch Building. Since it was a saturday, the other businesses in the lower floors had closed for the weekend around noon. But the workers at the Triangle were scheduled to work until five that afternoon.

The blaze began when a cigarette (or match, according to some versions) fell into a scrap bin filled with two months’ worth of undisposed scraps unnoticed. The workers on the eighth floor notified the owners on the tenth floor immediately via telephone. The owners evacuated via the rooftops to safety.

Unfortunately, nobody thought to warn the factory workers on the ninth floor. Equally unfortunately, many of the workers on the eighth floor – where the fire started – found themselves unable to escape.

How To Save a ‘Dying’ Craft

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012
By Twistie

(Illustration via Stuart King)

Mention bobbin lace, and chances are if the listener knows anything at all about it, this is what they think of: an old woman in antique clothing doing something they can’t for the life of them figure out.

A hundred years ago, that’s exactly what bobbin lace looked like, too. It was something nobody needed to do for themselves anymore, so they didn’t learn it. It was something only very poor people did, and most of them had been run out of the market by the machine laces that were so much faster and cheaper to make.

By the time I took up the craft in 1990, most people I saw at demonstrations thought it was tatting and would pontificate that it was a ‘lost art.’

In reply, I would hold up a tatting shuttle to show them the difference, and explain that bobbin lace isn’t lost at all. I found it just fine.


They Don’t Make Them Like They Used To….

Friday, December 23rd, 2011
By Twistie

… and that’s not always such a bad thing.

Once the German tradition of Christmas trees was imported to England in 1841 along with Prince Albert, people had to come up with ways of decorating them. We all know about popcorn strings and candles and candy canes, but the endlessly creative Victorians came up with a plethora of ways of making their homes festive for the season, and some of them were less classically attractive. has compiled a selection of Christmas ornaments Victorians made at home that you can, too… if you really want to.

The one above is peanuts on a string. That’s right, those are peanuts wrapped in pastel tissue paper, fringed on the ends. For my money it’s miles and away better than the chimney sweep made of prunes.

By Hook or By Crook: A Brief History of Crochet

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011
By Twistie

This table is crocheted. How fabulous is that? It’s the brainchild of furniture artist Marcel Wanders, and details on it can be found here. I’m sure when the first person began crocheting, she – or he – never imagined it being used for such a purpose.

But how long ago did that person fail to imagine crocheted furniture? Well, it’s difficult to say precisely… but sometime in the first three decades of the nineteenth century seems the most likely period.


Herbal History at Plimoth Plantation

Friday, July 1st, 2011
By Twistie

There are hundreds of uses in craft for herbs. From pretty dried sprigs for your wreath to fragrant additions to your potpourri to colors for inks and dyes, herbs are wildly useful to the handmade lifestyle.

The folks at Plimoth Plantation understand this. That’s why they’re holding a series of workshops with renowned English herbalist Tina Stapely from July 14 – 19.

Whether your interest is in historical cookery, planning and growing your herb garden, medicinal uses, or, yes, dyestuffs and inks, there’s a hands on workshop for you.

I know if this was happening on my coast, I’d be there! Let’s see… cooking or dyes and inks….


Born to Lace

Friday, June 3rd, 2011
By Twistie

via the Higgs Family Website

Pictured above is Miss Annie Baker’s Lace School, Risely, in 1914. The school was established in 1906, but it was among the last of a dying breed by that point. The large scale handmade lace industry was already well on its way out, between changing fashions and the common availability of machine made laces.

But lace schools had been a part of the British landscape  for a more than a century at this point. These schools dotted the landscape and were a major source of education for children of the poorer classes. And yes, boys went to lace schools, too.


Mrs. Delany’s Flowers

Friday, May 6th, 2011
By Twistie

Some people find an artistic voice at an early age. Others… do it a little later in life. Mrs. Delany, pictured above, is one of the latter.

That’s not to say that she didn’t have crafty leanings earlier in life. In point of fact, she painted, made silhouettes, embroidered, and even wrote and illustrated a novel entitled Marianne. She was a keen student of botany and zoology. She spoke French, played music, and met Handel. She married a man of sixty at the age of just seventeen, and  found herself widowed just six years later. Unfortunately, he had failed to update his will after his marriage, and the young Mary Grenville Pendarves was left with almost nothing to her name.

Forced to rely on the kindness of relatives, she lived with an aunt and uncle, then later moved in with a friend in Ireland. After nearly twenty years of poverty-stricken widowhood, she met and married an Irish clergyman named Dr. Patrick Delany.


Quickie Question: Who Would You Ask and What?

Monday, April 25th, 2011
By Twistie

It’s fun sometimes to consider what one would do with access to a time machine. My favorite time machine is, as you might have already guessed, the TARDIS. I love the idea of wandering through time and space with a wildly eccentric alien – especially one who knows that bow ties and fezzes are cool.


But what if the deal were extremely limited? What if you could go to only one historic time/place and ask one question of one person? What if that person had to be related to your favorite craft in some way?


Disclaimer: Manolo the Shoeblogger is not Manolo Blahnik
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