Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Homemaker's Leisure Time

Tea Cup Snack Set
from Victorian Trading Company

This is one of the tea cup sets I recently acquired. When I have a tea buffet, and guests are going to refill their own tea cups and snack plates, I noticed how hard it was for them to handle the tea cup with saucer, and a plate with food besides. This little set solves the problem perfectly, for it holds both the tea cup in its own neat little place, and the snack in another place. Below is another one from Victorian Trading Company.

Myths about homemaking have always abounded, and one of them is that they do not need any rest or leisure time. Sometimes even religious people are guilty of oppressing the homemaker by suggesting that she keep busy every moment doing something productive.  However, it is important and necessary to have re-creation time, to avoid being overwhelmed.

Since preferences differ from woman to woman, not everyone will have the same interests, but everyone should have something they love to do when they are not washing dishes, preparing food, or cleaning house.  In years past, our mothers would get their work done as efficiently as possible so that they could work on their quilts or pamper their flower beds; personal interests that gave them pleasure and relaxation.

Art work of various types is an option for some, as well as crafts and needlework. Others might enjoy working with paper, and still others will have a passion for sewing or knitting.  Whatever the leisure time activity is, it should always be something that renews the spirit and the body, and not taxing or stressful. It should be something  the homemaker looks forward to and enjoys.

For those who like paper crafts, I have made a new envelope template and a sample of what you could do with it. You will notice that the flaps are not typical. It is designed so that it can be used two ways: vertical or horizontal.

First, select some paper (not cardstock and not heavy paper) from your paper collection, old calendar pages, magazine pictures, or whatever you have on hand. Your printer paper or children's construction paper works well for this envelope and letter paper project. This is thin scrapbook paper which is white on the other side, from K & C Company, an English scrapbook paper company which is available in various stores here.

Cut a template of cardstock or cardboard from the pattern I'm giving you, and trace around it with pencil. If you use quilters plastic template material, you can see through it and be able to see the design of the paper and center it wherever you wish.

On another area of the paper, trace your writing paper from the template and cut it out.

This is what it will look like after you cut it out, before you fold the flaps down.

 Crease the fold lines over the edge of a ruler or straight cardboard.


Put a strip of glue on each side of one of the flaps and press up.

The letter paper and envelope above is made from brown paper, rubber stamped and colored with crayon.

Here are the  yellow envelopes folded both vertically (left) and horizontally, and here are the templates:

To print, click on for larger view and then click "print." If you are unable to print things, take apart an envelope that you already have and paste it to a piece of cardboard. Cut it out and trace around it on various colors of paper and you'll never lack for envelopes.
If you have 8 and a half by 11 inch printer paper, you do not really need to print out this template. Just cut a piece of paper in half the long way and you'll get the right size for this envelope. Make a little stack of these for a hostess gift or a party favor, a birthday gift, or any other occasion. People sometimes find it hard to find really pretty stationery at an affordable price, and a gift like this would be appreciated. 

I have been enjoying some evening leisure time in fair weather in my clothes-pinned sheet tent, similar to the one I made last year. In it is a fold-away cot made into a couch by covering it with an old quilt and adding cushions.

You can easily make tents like this for children, by pinning a fitted sheet onto tree branches to make the ceiling, and putting the flat sheets on the sides for walls. I used an old rug for the floor. It takes about 24 clothespins to pin the sheets to the branches and to fasten the sides. Pinch in the ceiling sheet from the top, with more clothespins, connecting it to branches. The fitted sheets create a more billowing, canopy effect which is very pretty from the inside.

 Use bricks or large rocks to anchor the hem of the sheets to the carpet. If you use a cot, you can tuck the lower part of the sheet beneath the stands on both ends.

 Children love these hideaways and it is something anyone can do. If you do not have trees, you can use clotheslines to make something similar. They are great for making a shady place  to read, write or rest. Reading has been a favorite past time of homemakers, and a stack of books would be quite appealing in this setting.

Creative activities or leisure should be a regular part of a homemaker's day. I like to sit out here and listen to the distant train whistle in the late summer evening, and all the sounds that come with the end of the day.

(This one is similar to last year's effort.)

Clothespins, sheets or fabric, and an old rug is all you need. These are easily cleaned up and stored away, and you can add old quilts and cushions during the day. Remove blankets or cushions at night if your climate tends to be damp. That white iron gate is an old child's bed spring used as a morning glory climbing fence.

I cannot forget to show a pink one, made with clothespins, tablecloths, sheets and quilts:

 Here is a distant photo of the tent village. I'm going to make a dining room tomorrow if it does not rain.
Now for the "dining room":
The fitted sheet is used as a ceiling because it fits around tree branches and prevents the leaves from dropping all over the table or couch. The flat sheets or table cloths are hung as walls, with clothespins. I still have to add the side "walls" to this little scene.

If you really want to seem some great outdoor enclosures, watch the updates at Aiken House and Gardens,  (see my blog roll) on Prince Edward Island. It is a wonder that Victoria Magazine does not do a story on this pretty home and gardens!

Go here for more Sheet Tent ideas!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Taking Tea: A Calm Ceremony

by Catherine Byler

Friday, July 22, 2011

Feminine Dress Portrayed by Victorian Artists

by Ernest Walbourne, England, 1872-1927

by Frederick Gad Clement,  Denmark 1867-1933

The artists wife with their two daughters
by Laurets Regner Tuxen. Denmark, 1853-1927

by Michael Ancher,  Denmark  1849-1927

by Paul Fischer,  Denmark,1860-1934

by Eric Henningson, Denmark, 1855-1930

Indoors and outside, the Victorian women wore beautiful clothing. Inspired by their own surroundings, whether it was the seaside or the parlor, the Victorian woman seemed to have a dress that matched the occasion. I have picked some Danish painters to illustrate women wearing dresses, not just out where they will be seen, but in quiet settings like their own gardens or kitchens.

The Victorian Painters Showed What Photographs Did Not
 Have you ever looked at old black and white photographs of the Victorian era and wondered what the women's clothes were really like?  While the cameras of the time did not pick up color, the painters  who lived during that period did, and that unlocks the mystery of the kinds of garments they wore. With their brushes, they recorded for all time the colorful folds of the ladies skirts and the lovely drape of their dresses for us to observe today.

  A few years ago I posted a series on painting-inspired clothing, to show you how it was possible to get ideas from these paintings using today's fabrics and patterns and
make dresses like the ones depicted in the paintings, without making a costume. Just find a simple pattern and make a long dress. I've picked out a few to post here, that are simple to sew and require no zipper. Everyone will have their own preference, as every figure is different, but these are just examples.

Make a Paper Plan for Your Sewing or  Clothing Shopping
For women who really want to dress more beautifully, modestly, and femininely, I've worked up an idea here on paper that might eliminate closet clutter and reduce the confusion of so many choices: make dresses. They are one piece garments that hang neatly on the hanger in the closet and require no decisions to be made about what top matches what skirt. I did include some skirts and blouses on my planning sheet, but they are not mix and match. Of course, everyone has their own needs, and sewing is so flexible, because you can make whatever you need.

 I've chosen some  easy patterns but if you are a beginner I would suggest you find patterns for wovens that have a front piece and a back piece and a sleeve and facing. These which I have chosen require some knowledge of making a princess seam, which has to be eased on the curves.  They way you do that is that you stitch loosely between notches on the curved areas, and pull up the threads so that the piece matches the corresponding piece of the dress. It takes some practice to stitch them together without puckering the seams, but even if they do pucker, it can be quite a nice dress.

A Dress, An Apron, and a Jacket
My formula for dressing femininely at home is to make a dress, an apron and a jacket or blouse. At home, wear a pretty cotton dress with an apron. It covers the dress and protects it while you do various things at home. When you need to go to the grocery store or post office, remove the apron and put on the jacket.  You can have several dresses in different prints and solids, with maybe a white jacket and a black jacket to wear with them. You can have as many aprons as you like to wear during the week, with a special one for Sunday after church. This way, you never have to change your dress. You just change the apron or the jacket according to what you'll be doing.

If you are a knitter, you might consider making a cardigan sweater instead of a jacket.

I've drawn out my ideas here, and have already sewn three of the dresses, changing the necklines for variety. To make a more formal, dressier garment, just add some of the exciting trims that are available these days. There are even some shiny metallic looking braids and trims that you can put on sleeves and necklines, if you like. I prefer piping or leaving the necklines just plain, but you can add a ruffle on the wrist of the sleeve and the neckline, if you like, of the same fabric, or of gathered eyelet.

Feeding the Chickens
by Julien Dupre, French, 1851-1910

Cotton is Easy to Sew, Washes Well, and Gets Softer
Of course, I've picked out 100% cotton for all these things. My favorite cottons are from South Carolina. You can see on the top of the bolt where the fabric is made. Everyone will have their preference of course and it matters most how much you like the print and what it makes you think of when you look at it. I like to think of rose gardens, pretty landscapes and fields of daisies when I'm sewing for summer. These clothes work for winter, too, because they have long sleeved jackets which can be worn with them. Cotton is a natural fibre and it feels nice on the skin. As the garment gets older and thinner it gets softer. Recycle the dress into an apron or other things as it wears out.

A Dress, An Apron and a Jacket is all You Need:
My sketch here will give you an inspiration for your own planning. If you have an apron and a jacket, you do not have to change your dress to a better one when you have to go somewhere or receive company. Just put the apron over the dress for house work, and remove it to put the jacket on for other things.
To print this, click for a larger view and then click "print." I've left one of the aprons white, as I'm making it to wear over a Sunday dress after church. One of the dresses is white, also, with a Swiss dot jacket to wear over it to church.  When the church dress starts to wear out, it will be worn as an every day dress and then I'll replace the more formal dress. With this pattern, you can use a different fabric in the middle, making it look like two garments, as you can see in the aqua and white one on the left of the page.

Pick Out Your Patterns Online, Write Down the Number, and Wait for a 99 cent Sale
Create a planning sheet for your summer or winter sewing, by placing fabric swatches next to sketches of the dresses you want. I've picked out some patterns from Simplicity that go on sale for 99 cents apiece every few weeks. Pick out your pattern on their website, and then when the sales start, you can go to the fabric store with your list of pattern numbers and get them right away.

You might try buying a small piece of the fabrics you like, and bring them home to look at, like you would paint chips, before you decide to buy four yards or more.

I found that the sash, or tie on this dress worked better if it was put in the to back seams or on the side seams, rather than in the front seams as is shown. Also, it is not at the waist, but you can easily place it lower.


Sleeves are really what "makes" the garment, and so I substitute a more puffed sleeve from a costume pattern or an older pattern. You can get costume patterns at the 99c sale.  The modern sleeves have not been anything too desireable, so I always find sleeves from other patterns, which you will see when I post photographs of the sewn dresses and jackets.

This is called a bolero and it is really easy to make, as opposed to the one below it, 4032.

However, this jacket has some very feminine features and differs from the corporate looking blazer because it has a ruffle on the lower edge of one view, and a nice shawl-like collar.
I've sewn this skirt without the fake wrap around piece and it is very easy. You just put one pattern piece on four layers of fabric and cut it out, then joint together matching the notches. The waistband is elastic. This skirt is also very flattering.

I have not made this blouse but I picked it out of the Simplicity pattern book because it was so feminine. It looks like the neckline may need to be adjusted, or else a modesty panel added. Sometimes all you have to do to make a modesty panel is buy a large doily at the Dollar Store and fold it in half and attach it with Velcro, small safety pins, or buttons, inside the blouse.

I have not tried this dress, but it also requires no zipper.

Please note: the photographs below are all privately owned. Please do not place on other message boards or blogs or anywhere on the web. You are welcome to print them out for your notebooks.
Four pretty cotton dresses with neckline variations.  Sleeves are from other patterns.
This one has a matching hair clip:
It is a bow from the same fabric, sewn on to a hair clip that you can buy in a package of 20 from any fabric or craft store. If you buy the extra fabric that the salesperson is supposed to offer you at the end of the bolt, you can make matching purses, scrunchies (a cloth covered rubber band to tie a pony tail), sashes, and even hats. You can also make little fabric clips for your shoes.

The middle one is made of the fabric I was using for beginner sewing projects last year on the blog.
This fabric looks like a pale blue sky with pale peach roses against it. Here are some trims I might use on the sleeve edges or neckline:

In selecting trims, I try to coordinate them with the prints. If the fabric has roses, the trim or buttons can be roses, and if the fabric has a print with some other thing on it, I would buy buttons or trims that were similar.

Hawaiian Traditional Dress is One of the Most Flattering to Women
I linked once to some Hawaiian dresses that I believed suited every figure and size, and I think these patterns are similar to those. You can make them loose by choosing a larger size and then using the tie in the back to pull in the dress a little more if you need it tighter.

See Saw
by Frederick Morgan
Children Look at Their Mama's Pretty Skirts and Dresses
And now I would like to say what I think is important about wearing dresses. If you have children, they see your pretty prints on the dresses. It is in my opinion really dull for a child to look at jeans all day in this world. If you've seen one pair of jeans, you've seen the lot of them.  And, jeans are so unimaginative. They do not come in the pretty cotton prints that you see in skirts and dresses, like on the planning sheet I've shown.  We are not living in such a rough world that jeans are required. Most women live in beautiful homes with conveniences and comforts that even the Victorian women did not have, and yet, they wear jeans, as though they are going to dig ditches all day.

Clothing Has an Effect on the Mood of a Woman.
Wearing a dress can improve your mood, too. There is no denying that women are more nervous, burdened and upset than ever, these days. Part of it I think, is due to the frustration of finding clothing that fits them properly or is modest enough and pretty enough to wear. I've seen women leaving dress shops in tears because the clothing was so awful. There are a number of links you can find where you can order clothes that look nice, if you do not sew.You do not have to wear jeans.

Wearing Dresses Shows Your Respect for Yourself and Your Family
When you dress up, you are telling your husband and children and friends that they are important. You are honoring them by wearing something pretty every day. Making 10 new dresses for yourself every few years is better than buying jeans.  If you are farming, you can shower after your chores and change into a pretty western style farm dress. Calico, gingham and other cottons are very western and durable yet feminine.

Dainty Fares
by Frederick Morgan, 1847-1927

Feminine Dress Creates Memories

Dress for each new day. You do not know if it will be the last. Why not enjoy it in something feminine and pretty?  Life is shorter than you think. Do not allow it to fly by without wearing something nice. Even at home, out in the country, where you think no one sees you, you can boost your enthusiasm quite a bit by dressing in a pretty "dress of the day." There are plenty of seamstresses who have blog sharing to encourage a -dress-a-day. The cotton fabrics are beautiful these days. Seize the time and go for it. Even the smallest occasion with your family, weather it be tea at home or an  excursion somewhere else, warrants wearing a pretty dress, long and modest.

By the Pond
by Ernest Walbourn

A Lot of Men Do Not Think Women Look Good in Jeans
The other thing you might want to consider is that really masculine men prefer women to wear dresses, and like them to wear longer dresses, below the knees, at least.  They say jeans do not look good on women, and will always appreciate a woman in a dress. Designers have stolen every article of men's clothing and made them into women's wear, so that men hardly have anything left that is really theirs anymore. There is so little left for them to be different about. If women would wear dresses, and let men wear the pants, there might be more appreciation for women by men.

Think of the people who lived a hundred years ago. Look at the old photographs and the paintings of the women in their lovely dresses and the men in their masculine clothes and try to imagine what they would all think if they could see the deterioration of feminine clothing through the ages. I'm sure at least the artists would be aghast and wonder what happened to their world.

Even 50 years ago women thought nothing of sewing for their whole family. You might get some inspiration from this article

Young Women Can Get In the Habit of Wearing Long Dresses
Young ladies, summer is too fleeting and youth is too short to go around looking drab and depressing in jeans and tee shirts.  Watch some old movies, where women used to wear dresses and notice the contrast with the women today. You'll see that they walk differently and they talk differently and they behave more masculine today. You need to know that really worthy, manly men do not admire the masculine things in women. They don't like women to dress  or act like smaller versions of men. They want women to be women, to be a contrast to the masculine, and there is nothing more feminine than a long dress.

Older Women Need to Be Examples
Older women in the church: your later years could be spent guiding the younger women into being more womanly and feminine, and less masculine. You might not be able to make anyone listen to you, but you can be sure that young women will look at you in your feminine clothing. Just wearing a long dress will make a big statement for modesty and femininity.  It is a shame that young women dress in jeans and tee shirts and masculine, or immodest clothing, but it is even more shameful for older women to look like men. Just look at a street scene in your own town, or go inside a store where women are shopping and look around. Notice how many of them look like men from the back.  In Victorian times, designers and dressmakers thought the rear end view was as important as the front view, and they designed the clothing to show as much dignity  both ways. Pants today show every inch of a woman's body that ought not to be revealed in public.

Spring Shower
by Kevin Daniel (will provide link soon)

Modest Dresses Give Elderly Women Gracefulness and Dignity.
 Elderly women need to get back to wearing soft skirts that flow gently over their bodies and give some dignity to their appearance.Unless you have had a prolonged illness, there is no need to go around looking like you are a patient.  By the time you have raised your children and taken care of the home for many years, you deserve something better than pants and tee shirts.  As years go by, you will have family albums for your descendants to look at and you need to think of the influence it has on younger people.

 Older women need to inspire younger woman. People complain that the younger women want to wear the popular, immodest styles, but what have older women got for these younger ones to admire and to seek to one day emulate?  Older, Christian women, especially, should not go around in low slung trousers, jeans, shorts, tee shirts, horrid looking shoes, shaved heads or masculine hair styles.  If you have to have short hair, why not start wearing pretty hats?  They are feminine, and they shade your face and make your appearance encouraging to younger women.

Find Out What Conservative Men Really Think About Women's Appearance
For further reading on the opinion on men on women in jeans, read "The Imitation of Man." (Warning: bad language in the comment section of this article.) In this article, he mentions flip-flops. This kind of footwear is dangerous and unhealthy, as it does nothing to protect the feet from possible injury both on the street and in the home.  Women need to think more of themselves and dress in shoes and dresses that they really deserve.  The kind of clothing you wear reflects who you identify yourself with. As one woman commented here recently:  "I decided to quit wearing jeans because I was not sure I wanted to be identify with thousands of people I do not even know." 

Sadly, even the Indian and Pakistani women I admire so much because of their modest and feminine, beautiful traditional saris, are allowing changes in their culture by wearing the tee shirts and jeans. I think they will regret the loss of that part of their culture.  It is going to take a while to get women wearing pretty clothes again, but older women can give the next generation something to aspire to by dressing more like a woman, and less like a man.

A Day on the River
by Frederick Morgan

This dress could be sewn from one of the patterns I posted here, by adding a detachable collar)
Start Small and Plan a More Feminine Wardrobe
Start by drawing out a small selection of feminine clothing for yourself: a dress, an apron and a jacket. Look for something similar to buy, or sew it yourself. Choose shoes to match the dress, and wear it at home. You might notice a change in how you feel at home. Some women I know who wear dresses at home say it makes them feel like they are in a grand house, and they give greater attention to the details of homemaking because they are dressed in a more feminine way.

Dressing like women is more than just trying to please the men in your life. It shows God that you are glad He made you a woman and that you want to reflect His beautiful creation by the clothing that you wear.

Some Victorian costumes made by a friend of mine:

White walking skirt over blouse

Blue Walking Skirt Over Blouse

Pink Gibson shirtwaist

Blue Walking Skirt and Jacket

This apron would work well with any of the everyday dresses I've shown. Each dress cost about $15 dollars, and there was material left over for other things. An apron like this would be a great Sunday apron for wearing in the kitchen after church. That way, you would not have to change your clothes right away.
Thank you Mrs. J.! Your sewing is wonderful!

For those readers inquiring about Hawaiian Dresses,  go here: