Monday, May 28, 2012

Observing American Memorial Day

American Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day, which began with Southern ladies  decorating  the graves of fallen Confederate soldiers in 1868. Today it is celebrated all over the United States and its territories as a memorial to all those who have died in military service.
Decoration Day
from a Book Published in 1891

If you are just getting acquainted with the Memorial Day custom, and wanting to know how you can participate in a meaningful way, it is first necessary to know the history and purpose  of memorials.  God often told His people in the Old Testament to raise a memorial so that others who passed by it would be reminded of something  that took place. Memorials are reminders of the values that people stood for and the historical events surrounding them.

One ancient but living memorial that thousands of people observe each week is the Lord's Supper, which Jesus instituted on the night on which he was betrayed. He taught his disciples that the unleavened bread represented his broken body, and that the fruit of the vine represented his blood. Matthew 26:25-30.  The purpose of this memorial was to provide a time to remember the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Jesus told his disciples when  they took the emblems, "This do, in remembrance of Me." We observe this memorial on the first day of the week when we come together to worship.  Memorials are important because they keep us from forgetting lessons and events that are integral to our future days. 

Observing a memorial day effectively will require a respectful attitude and a feeling of solemnity, accompanied by some knowledge of history.  In America, there is a great choice of ways to observe Memorial Day. In or around  nearly every single town, there is an official event  or ceremony available for people to attend. You can find some of these events by typing in "Memorial Day Events in (your area)."

There are thousands of Memorial Day services across the country, but that is nothing compared to the hundreds more personal family and individual memorial day celebrations, where people plan their own activities.  We always enjoyed having an old fashioned farm lunch taken picnic-style, and reading about the custom of Memorial Day so that our friends and family would not forget what it meant.  On the Lord's Day, previous to the Monday holiday,  a sermon was usually preached about the purpose of observing meaningful memorials.

Historical re-enactment groups host Memorial Day shows in various places across the country, and FM/Classical radio stations broadcast hours of patriotic music and hymns with speeches, on this day. If you are spending the day at home, you can listen to some of these broadcasts on the web.

You can read more about Decoration Day and Memorial Day in a book called "Victorian Entertaining" by John Crosby Freeman, and in a chapter called "The Art of Living" by Linda Lichter in her book "The Benevolence of Manners. The author spent some time detailing the Victorian's respectful conduct during mourning and memorials, and showed how it brings an appreciation for life to those that remain.

If you are in any doubt that this country has strength, value and worth, just read comments by people in other countries when they congratulate Americans on their special observance days. "I love my country," wrote one man after watching a video of a Memorial Day service, "But I truly wish I loved my country as much as Americans love theirs."  Another person added, "I wish people loved my country as much as other countries love America."  In some international events, citizens of foreign countries place their hands on their hearts while the American anthem is being played. We must not forget that in observing memorials to show appreciation for those who have contributed to our safety, we also receive unexpected blessings and respect.

 God commanded the nation of Israel to set aside time to celebrate their nation by honoring God and their leaders. We can re-enact that on Memorial Day and take courage in the fact that our country is unique among the nations, not because of its location, but because of its concept of freedom, enterprise and worship of God. Any country can have what America has, if they have the beliefs and freedom to enjoy the fruits of their labors, beliefs of work and worship, free enterprise, love and loyalty to God, and the belief that they are obligated to develop and use their talents to glorify God and serve others.
Although Memorial Day is generally set aside for patriotic activities, it has been extended to include remembrance and respect for all relatives, friends and loved-ones who have gone on before.

You might be interested in watching this video about Sergeant York, and American Hero, for part of your Memorial Day observance.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Fake Cake to Scent Your Home

A Pet Rose Bush

Although allposters attributes this painting to Corot, I think there has been a mistake made, for it obviously is by the American artist Daniel Ridgeway Knight.

I have had quite a few requests over the years for a tutorial to make this decorative scented fake-cake, which is similar to ones sold in home interior type catalogs for hefty prices.   I have been trying for a long time to make one of these and get it posted. I am entering this tutorial in  Beverly's Pink Saturday .

 All the ingredients  that you see in the picture below are available at Dollar Tree stores.  The styrofoam rounds are essential for this craft, and I would strongly recommend using some from Michaels or JoAnns or WalMart floral department, rather than the Dollar Store brand, which is very difficult to cut. However, if you have an electric knife or some kind of cutting tool, it might be easy to cut the cheaper styrofoam. I have used the Dollar Store styrofoam here and was able to cut it with a table knife or serrated edge cake spatula.

You'll need a hot glue gun with plenty of glue sticks, round styrofoam for the cake layers and a few stems of fake flowers and berries, all available at the dollar store, or just use supplies you already have.  This project is best left to those who are adept at using hot glue and is not for children.  You will need a stem of about 7 large roses and a stem of small roses or flowers, as well as some of the berries that you see in the photo.

If using the dollar store styrofoam, you'll need two packages of round styrofoam, and each package contains two rounds.  If using a higher quality brand, just use three round styrofoam pieces. For a quick and easy project, choose the smallest size you can find. This one that I am making took one stem of flowers, which contained about 7 roses. The total cost for the flowers and styrofoam was about 6 dollars.  

Before attempting this, please read through the directions to see if you really want to take the time to do it. It took me about 3 hours, but I was photographing the steps as I went.

On a piece of paper, trace around the styrofoam shape:

Cut out the paper circle.

Fold the circle in half,

and in half again.

Open the circle and cut out one of the four sections.

Lay the larger paper circle on top of the styrofoam round, and draw with pen or pencil, the fourth section that has been cut out, digging into the styrofaom with the pen.

With the hot glue gun, glue all the styrofoam layers together, using just a few drops here and there on each layer.

With a table knife that has a serrated edge, cut out the slice, following the lines you have drawn. Put the small piece aside, because you will be using this later to make a single slice of scented cake.

Pull some small roses off the stems but do not remove any of the plastic pieces from the flowers, because you will need them to stick firmly in the styrofoam.

Hot glue a strip of the plastic berries in the middle, for the "filling' and dab some glue on the other sections. Put the white roses into the styrofoam and the glue on both sides, as you see here:

Pull the roses off the stems and remove all the plastic joins. Then clip the petals off.

Hot glue the largest petals on to the lower part of the cake, overlapping them and letting the tips fall a little below the edge.

Hot glue another row of petals, overlapping the lower row, and overlapping the other petals as you glue them around. Position the petals to come above the top of the cake a little.

Hot-glue large petals on the top of the cake in a circle, overlapping and overhanging,  starting new rows until it is completely covered.

This is what it should look like, but there can be many ways of doing this. If you have very curly petals, try gluing them all over without bothering to put them in rows, for a different look. Or, you could just leave the plastic pieces on the flowers and push them directly into the styrofoam, along with hot glue. I have seen some of these cakes in home interior shops, with the leaves up the sides for "icing."

Now turn the cake upside down to show the bare styrofoam underneath, and hot-glue the leaves that were on the rose stem, shiny side down, all over.  Be sure to remove the little plastic fittings first. Let the leaves over-lap and stick out beyond the cake base.

It will look something like this.

Take two of the leaf groupings and hot-glue them to the top of the cake,

adding two or three of the smaller roses from the inside of the cake, and some of the berries.

I hope you did not throw away that little wedge you cut out, because now you can make a scented slice to go with your cake. Cut that wedge in half, as you see above,

and set it on a flat side.  Glue berries to the middle, trimming with scissors to fit.

Add hot glue on both sides of the middle and stick the  miniature white roses into the stryrofoam.

Now cover the rounded side with some of the left over, smaller petals from the rose stem, making sure they reach over the edges,  and add some green leaves to the end, like you did on the cake. 

If you want to scent your cake, you can spray it with vanilla perfume or cologne, or get scented oils at the dollar store which work really well on this cake and give off a pleasant scent for a long time.

Use a dropper or pour the scented oil from the bottle onto a section on top of the cake. Find a loose petal and lift it up to get the scent on to the styrofoam, and also tip the cake on its side and add scent to the filling.

Display it with a few spilled berries or flower "filling"  to make it look like a yummy, gooey slice of cake. To make a gift of it, glue the cake and slice on its own fancy paper plate, or use a plate from the thrift store.

If you do not have styrofoam, this could possibly be made with other materials. It is possible to make this by using a round box with lid, as the base, but it would not have a slice. The round box still makes an attractive centerpiece, though, and looks great on a mantel or entry table, but keep out of reach of small children. It looks great behind the glass doors of a china cabinet, on a pedestal cake plate.

Fake food like this is used for display in historic tour-homes and other places. This might be something worth making for someone's Etsy store and it certainly is nice to look at.

Try  another kind of fake cake here.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Victorian Outerwear

Mending Nets
by Eugene De Blass   1815-1894, Italian

With all the 19th century paintings that are surfacing and being shared on the web, I wonder that modern designers don't take a hint. Women love to look at the details of these clothes, with their drape and texture and color. Could not they be modified in designs for modern wear?

The aqua prints on the aqua and blue skirts in the painting look like some of the woven fabrics I've seen lately in the calico and quilting fabric sections of fabric stores.  I also like the red bandanna collar that the woman on the far right is wearing around her shoulders. Eugene De Blass painted this style many times.

A Helping Hand
by Eugene De Blass

 The vests and bandannas are so colorful, and the women's  shoes look quite stylish, even today. It was quite common even in the early 1990's to wear white or black stockings with dresses, and they were also available in pink, red, and other colors.  I know some young women who have developed a personal style using just long skirts which you can buy anywhere today, poets shirts, colorful vests which they sew, with these types of stockings and shoes. 

  I'm hoping to find time to make some sketches to go with these beautiful paintings, using modern patterns. You see the Victorians were not limited by their clothing to stiff, formal indoor events, and in this scene of mending nets, is portrayed a woman knitting, on the left. I'm still curious about their apron over-skirts, and remembered that back in the 1980's there were clothes like this from designers like Lanz of Salzburg, Laura Ashley and others. 

In the Orchard
by Ernest Walbourne,  British, 1872-1927

A Couple Playing Golf,
By M. Humphrey 

Most people immediately comment on the how the length of Victorian skirts "dragged on the ground" and although that may be so, I noticed in this video clip shows women catching trams and their dresses did not seem to hinder them at all, neither were they dragging in the mud.Certainly today, with updated sanitation and street sweepers, etc. a dress cannot get dirty now as it would have then.

In a previous post, I shared how make a sewing planning sheet, and this is what one of my email friends sent me to share. She made these dresses for wearing at home.

You see where she has pasted a clip of her fabric on the planning sheet.

I have a new column on the sidebar called "Sewing" where I'm gathering the collection of sewing articles for easy reference.

Australian Woman and Her Daughter Strolling in a Garden of Australian Native Plants
by Percy Spence, Australian  (1868-1933)

Picking Flowers at a Water's Edge
by Ernest Walbourne

A lot of the country type clothing of the past was actually quite roomy, comfortable and colorful. I think it can be easily re-designed for today's wear and patterns made by Simplicity, McCalls, Burda, Vogue, and others. Here are some patterns that are similar in design, to the clothing of the paintings. All patterns can be altered to fit better, and I've put a link on the sewing section on the sidebar for an old fashioned and easy method of raising necklines and making facings. If you are familiar with sewing, you know that some of these costume-like designs could be modified for every day wear.

These are similar to my idea in a previous post about a dress with a jacket.
 Sleeves can also be added to any sleevless pattern,

Use my simple method for raising necklines, posted on the sewing section of the sidebar.

These patterns could be sewn in a current fabric found in your local fabric store.

View wedding patterns with an eye for casual clothing. It is the style that counts. This pattern would look good in calico, like a country-western type garment.

If you are going to make a neue mode pattern for the first time, you need to make a muslin sample first, just to see what the fit is like. 

You might also notice women and men freely mingling in this video clip from 1900 in England. The ladies are walking around in long skirts with apparent ease, and everyone is fully dressed,  even in good weather, yet they seem happy and comfortable.

This is a two piece garment I sewed yesterday, using this pattern for the top:
This is not a current pattern, so I do not know if it is available any more. It has a one-piece drop shoulder.

 The buttons are clear with a silver sparkle in them. To sew buttons quickly on the machine, do not clip the threads or remove the fabric after each button is sewn. Instead, lift the presser foot and pull the thread to the next button, and sew the next button. repeating until all buttons are sewn.  Then pull out your work and clip all the threads  joining the buttons.  The fabric is another "Fabric Traditions" brand from Wal-Mart but is also available at JoAnns, and is cotton.