Friday, May 06, 2011

Women Sewing

Sunlight and Shadow
by William Kay Blacklock, London and Edinburgh 1872-1922

I love the background scenery in this 19th century painting, which seems so much like scenes I see during trips through the country around here. In the foreground, a woman in a long white garden-party type of dress* in white muslin, with a blue ribbon on the border, sits in a brown wicker chair under an apple tree with her needle and thread, sewing. The ground is a carpet of mowed, green grass dotted with clusters of white daisies and wildflowers. The ruffled hem of her dress touches the grass, where a gentle little dog lays. An umbrella and a book are propped up to the chair, with apples fallen around them.

 A  path from where she sits, with trees on both sides,  leads to the shore of the little lake in the distance. The woman has black hair and is wearing a white hat with a blue ribbon that is the same shade as the ribbon edging on the skirt of her dress, and she is leaning against a red cushion on the wicker chair.  If you will click on the painting, you may be able to get a larger view, and, once you do, there should be a magnifier that allows you to see closer details of this beautiful masterpiece. This is an excellent piece of art for homeschooling. Print it out in a notebook and begin an art-appreciation book. 

I am so thankful that these paintings are being made available to this generation. I wonder if the artists knew how much their descendents and others would be blessed by them! This painting is one of the most beautifully illustrated pictures of a woman at leisure that I have ever seen.

It is possible that I will add a small beginner sewing project here, so please check back some time.

* The "garden party dress" pattern can be found at Folkwear patterns and, as well as Truly Victorian.

A Morning Walk
by William Kay Blacklock

A Quiet Read
by William Kay Blacklock

Summer At Hemmingford Grey
by William Kay Blacklock
Summer 1918 by William Kay Blacklock

Springtime 1918
by William Kay Blacklock
Cotswold Village 1917
by William Kay Blacklock

Note: I will be including some simple beginner sewing photographs in this post when I get time. I will show you how to thread the needle and how to hold the cloth and the needle for best hand sewing results. Notice the hands on the fabric in the painting, "Sunshine and Shadows."  


Lydia said...

I have described some details in the painting as best I can for the blind who come to this blog. If you see anything else here that you like, or even get a feeling about, please share!

Anonymous said...


There is something hauntingly eerie regarding the William Blacklock illustrations dated 1917-1918; In but two or three short years, this world, would be destroyed forever, with the rise of 1920's rebellion and disobedience to the word of God in matters of the home, dress, modest behaviour of both men and women alike and so much more. Rather than the people using their experiences of utter horror and devastation of life bequeathed to them via WW1 to even more fervently re-assert Godly ethics and morality (to try and assure that this would never happen again), holding the warmongers up to a higher light, the hurt and cost to so many nations ran so deeply, they abandoned the pre-WW1 way of life to be lost forever. This dovetailed in with the rise of various humanist, atheist and secularist movements that began in the mid 19th century, but only on the back of the calamity of war and subsequent blow to Christian faith in Europe could they truly take hold. The artist must have been heartbroken to see his beloved world change inexorably in but a few short years.

10% of the entire Australian male population lost their lives during WW1 (and remember, we only had 4.9 million in 1914(. This would be the equivalent of approximately 1 million men killed today (our population is now a little under 22 million). In towns and hamlets all over the country, memorial arches bearing the names of the lost in that terrible conflict can be seen. What devastation this must have wrought on families, on communities, on the fabric of life. And this to be followed with a depression a decade later, and another ghastly world war a decade after that! God have mercy on us all!!

Thank you for this quiet harbour in which we can rest briefly from the lunacy of this present era.

Lady Montgomery said...

Lady Lydia,

Thank you for sharing such beautiful artwork.

I just bought the new 1780's Portrait Dress pattern for my girls and myself. I'm looking forward to getting started on our new dresses.



You are so right, shortly after these paintings the world changed forever.

meroSmero said...

I have the chart "Sunlight and Shadow, " for embroidery!
It is wonderful!

Lydia said...

I will have to add the picture "Sunshine and Shadow." I think I saw it but didnt post it.

Anonymous said...

Those are very special paintings, LadyLydia. Thanks for sharing.

Have a very blessed Mother's Day!

Love & hugs,

~ Mrs. A

Miss Linda said...

I just wanted to wish you a joyous and blessed Mother's Day, Lady Lydia! :)

Lisa T. said...

Thank you for all the lovely paintings you post. I enjoy them very much.

On a sewing note, I would so love to sew but was never taught. I have tried sewing, but my machine is inexpensive and acting up and no longer works. I'm trying to make some little pillowcase dresses to send to a mission in Africa, but now I'm stuck. Do you think it would be "acceptable" to try to sew them by hand? I'll likely not have the most professional looking seams, but I feel it might be better for a little girl to have a less then perfectly sewn dress than none at all.

I'm nervous about his and being judged by the other ladies....

Karen said...

It is very kind of you to describe the details for those that cannot see but they are good points for all of us to consider when viewing the pictures. The way the women dressed enhanced the paintings. The typical fashions of our day would only detract from the entire scene. Imagine a woman in flip flops, tank top and frayed shorts instead of the beautiful dressses -it would ruin the scene!

You pointed out long ago that homemakers should not draw attention to what they "don't" have or "can't afford" if they know they will be met with disapproval. It was some of the best advice I have ever received as a homemaker. That simple observation changed things so much for me. The woman who is doing the hand sewing may want to consider saying (truthfully) that she enjoys hand sewing while she saves up for a new machine rather than pointing out perceived flaws in the finished product.

As for the dresses, she may want to consider sewing the seams of the pillowcase dresses with a careful running stitch, then pinking the seams with pinking shears. Once she is done with the pinking, she can press open the seams carefully. This method is a perfectly acceptable way of handling seams on lightweight garments. I have used this method on cotton nightgown seams and they have held up very well with no fraying. My mother made many baby clothes by hand and I still have some of them. They are beautiful, and the care that would go into a hand sewn dress could mean as much to a little girl as the dress itself. It is also a good idea to pray for the recipient while you sew!

Lydia said...


Yes, an artist would have a hard time finding such a subject today. While women can be seen in parks and natural settings today, they are seldom dressed to compliment such beautiful scenery, and in most cases look more like men. Without the contrasts of appearance between male and female, it can't be as inspiring for an artist looking for subjects like these in the 19th century paintings.

Anonymous said...

Those paintings are just beautiful and I appreciate you posting them. I particularly love the large painting of the creek running through the orchard. It so reminds me of my home here in Oregon.

Thank you for sharing, Janet W.

Lydia said...

I have found a few more paintings from 19th century artists that have surfaced on the web, and will be posting again soon, with some interesting ideas.

Anonymous said...

I have been trying to gather and read books about the true history of our country and the world in general. This blog also helps to put so many things into perspective for us. The information given by you Lady Lydia and the Australian women who posts on comments and and others are so helpful. I think I understand something but the added information clarifies issues. I thank our Lord for people who care enough to inform us on these subjects. Giving us the true light with in they happened. Sarah

Lydia said...

I would love to know where to find the stitchery kit for Sunshine and Shadows!