Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Happy Birthday Jane Austen!

Happy birthday, Jane Austen! I won't sport with your intelligence by restating what everyone else does. You know how good you are.

Our joint birthday treat on this most festive occasion is a delicious recipe for a whipped syllabub from Colonial Williamsburg, and some damn good words of wisdom faithfully collected by BuzzFeed.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Cross Stitch Christmas Miracle

Omg! Look at what I have.

This weekend I received a bountiful present from my roommate's stepmom: her cross stitch collection!! She decided she couldn't use it anymore, and because of my crafting passion I got to become the proud recipient.

This variety fun-pack includes multi-sized wooden embroidery hoops, tons of colorful embroidery floss on handy key rings, and retro instructional booklets that I am praying will include at least one soft-focus filter photo of someone in a turtleneck.

You may recall that I gave embroidery a stab (ha! see what I did there?) a little while back and made this cute flower pic.

It was obviously nowhere near as gorgeous or intricate an undertaking as the many beautiful examples of 18th century embroidery you can find elsewhere, but it was fun and pretty and easy to do, and let's be real, that's what the 18th century mod girl is all about.

This year, cross stitch Santa ornaments for everyone!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Ho Ho Ho! Have a Pineapple.

Pineapple hanging outside a home in Annapolis, MD.
Oh, how the year passes. And once again it's that special season where we rig up twinkling lights, hang mistletoe near unsuspecting crushes, and stake a big pineapple outside our front door to alert the neighbors that we've returned from a long sea voyage and are ready to receive social callers.

Not one of your cherished holiday pastimes? Me neither. Mine is to sit around in sweatpants and eat a box of those white chocolate-covered Oreos while sobbing over the intrinsic beauty of The Little Drummer Boy claymation.
OMG, right?
Courtesy of Christmas Specials Wiki.

To be fair, the whole pineapple-on-a-stake calling card may have never happened. Yet pineapples were a large component of 18th century art, architecture and table decor, particularly at Christmas; and they were costly and exotic fruits that when gifted or served, were considered a great honor and treat to the recipient. I have to agree. It's a delicious fruit with a surprisingly pleasing and artistic shape, for all that it's so thorny. I loved seeing pineapples everywhere at Colonial Williamsburg, and I was pleasantly surprised to see them decorating houses in Annapolis, MD as well.
Courtesy of Colonial Williamsburg Marketplace. Buy it here!
Not everyone agrees, however, that the pineapple was particularly associated with hospitality. If you're a nerd who likes reading about pineapples, on Team Pineapple is history buff and New Jersey-dweller Hoag Levins, and on Team Edward is History Myths Debunked.

Colonial Williamsburg maintains a tactfully neutral Switzerland response, saying we can't really know for sure, but someone in the 1930's started decorating Colonial Williamsburg that way, so what the heck you only live once, let's sell them in the gift shop.

Can we really ever know, and does it matter all that much? I mean, why is there a custom of hiding a pickle in your Christmas tree that I only heard of last year? Is this really a thing?

The truth is, before scientists could diagnose everyone with S.A.D. disorder, we had to come up with festive ways to stave off suicide through the dark and cold winter months. Pickles and pineapples are delicious, so why shouldn't they become accidental symbols of merry-making and good company?

What are your weird winter solstice/Christmas/Chanukah/4 hours of sunlight survival traditions?

Monday, July 7, 2014

Turn: America's First Spy Ring

So apparently I'm behind the times and only just discovered AMC's TURN. Thanks to a whole bunch of graphic 18th century sex on this show, I'm betting Colonial Williamsburg is going to get a big boost in tourism this year.

TURN is a pretty fascinating drama exploring the spy ring that developed in America during the Revolution. The show is set in a Long Island town called Setauket that is British-occupied, and follows the lives of its inhabitants and stationed soldiers as they react to the unfolding events that lead to war. I believe the show has received mixed reviews, but I enjoyed it and it's certainly been popular enough to secure a second season.

And yes, there's lots of 18th century sex, gun fights, tavern brawls and such, but the most important thing you need to know is that there is this smokin' hot dude, Continental Dragoon Ben Tallmadge:

I'm pretty sure that Season 2 is going to be all about how he wins the war with his deep blue eyes and earnest expression. Give me liberty, or give me this guy with his shirt off.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Bitchin' Stitchin'

PREAMBLE: So obviously I've been MIA for awhile. If you spent the past year making fancy cockades per my last post to fill the time, waiting for something new from me, then you should consider investing in a wider social circle. Also, I'm so touched that you actually read the post about making cockades, because even I had some misgivings about the whole value of that one. But hey, you can't be afraid to fail.

So what's next? Maybe it's the whole bohemian/Coachella/faux hippie trend thing happening right now. Maybe it's a need to take a bit of a break from the kind of crafting that requires scrubbing excess globs of paint primer and hot-glue-gun glue from the coffee table. Maybe it's that I've run out of Ikea furniture to shabby-chic and my roommate won't let me touch hers.*

The point of this preamble is that there's a whole aspect of 18th century culture that I haven't even remotely delved into yet: embroidery. It's intricate, it's gorgeous, it's everywhere in fashion now, and it's totally 18th century. Embroidery, of course, has been around for centuries, but in Western Europe, it reached impressive heights in the 18th century, with household linens and clothing getting particular attention.
Embroidered purse from the Colonial Williamsburg online archive collection.
Available at http://www.history.org/history/museums/clothingexhibit/index.cfm

If you want to know what diva status looks like in terms of 18th century embroidery, check this out. Then come back and do some sewing with me. You'll need:

  • embroidery hoop/frame
  • embroidery floss (usually silk thread works best)
  • evenweave or block weave fabric (here's a good guide) or for the more adventurous, linen

I'd never tried embroidery before, so I found an embroidery kit that conveniently comes with everything but the embroidery hoop. I highly recommend this for a beginner, because the fabric in the kits has a handy picture screen printed onto the fibers so you can just stitch right over it. Ain't no shame in that game.

Basically, your kit will include instructions for how many threads should be used in each type of stitch. Separate your threads, then get to work!

As you can see, I sew about as evenly and accurately as a chick applying lipstick on a plane with turbulence. So what? This was really fun, and pretty easy to do. I'm going to follow the bohemian mantra sewn on this and give it the 18th century mod girl's seal of approval. Bam.

If you took one look at this, however, and are filled with the desire to do justice to it, you can purchase your own on Amazon.

 *Which I personally think is a missed opportunity on her part.