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Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I do enjoy a nice cup of tea, particularly from a nice china teacup. So I am indebted to the Duchess of Bedford for inventing afternoon tea, which became so popular in the 18th century that all sorts of other tea occasions were invented. 
So now we have morning tea, Devonshire tea, high tea, picnic tea and on it goes.
And so many varieties of the tea itself. 
My long time favourite is Taylors of Harrogate Yorkshire Gold, but I've also recently discovered Wedgwood English Breakfast which I really enjoy.
I gather the term 'high tea' once meant a rather more robust repast including meat dishes but over time the term has come to be associated with more elegant and dainty repasts.
I enjoy making tea, it's is a very meditative 
process. And while I have been known to have my tea with a buttered pikelet, a red velvet white chocolate pattycake or even a macaron, my favourite accompaniment will always be a freshly baked buttered scone. Another wonderful thing about tea is that there is so much paraphenalia required: china teacups, teapots, silverware and table linen, that it feeds my collecting habit.  But that's another post! 

Monday, November 21, 2011

DIY 18th century shoe article

While searching for 18th century shoe buckles - original and reproductions - I found a great article by Loren Dearborn at "Your wardrobe unlocked" outlining the steps to creating your own 18th century style shoes out of modern shoes.
Since I like a bit of DIY I might have to try this just for the hell of it.  You know, when I get through the alarmingly long list of things on my To Do list! In the meantime check out the article.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Walking stick citing

I've been reading Amanda Foreman's "Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire" and lo and behold, a walking stick reference caught my eye.  
James Hare, a friend of Georgiana's wrote a satire on life at Chatsworth called "A Rational Day in the Country" in which he mentioned the ladies walking outside "with the help of a long Pole with a spike in the end of it (to throw over their shoulders or stick into any gentleman's foot who has the honour of accompanying them)...  Bearing in mind the satire, I must admit I hadn't thought of shouldering my walking stick. However I am sure one can do it in a genteel fashion and hopefully not poke someone's eye out.
Not that I particularly wish to emulate the Cavendish ladies. Far too tiresome what with the strangling of the English language and all.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Étui anyone

I've had a very long love affair with these gorgeous indispensible adjuncts to a ladies attire in the 18th and 19th centuries: the étui or necessaire.
I first read about them as a teenager and was captivated by their variety, delightful decoration and dainty tiny-ness.
Dating from the 1720s these tiny cases generally contained items used daily such as tiny folding scissors, needles, thimbles, bodkins, tweezers, nail files, little folding knives, spoons, hairpins, makeup pencils and even tiny vials of perfume.
They were most often carried in pockets, although I believe some were suspended from chatelaines - another delightful accessory. 
While they were mostly the possession of women, there are examples around of those carried by doctors, engineers and draughtmen. I recently saw an engineer's étui or pocket drawing case on eBay complete with brass instruments and boxwood rulers in shagreen from the early 1800s.
Étuis were made of a wide variety of materials including gold, silver, ivory, mother of pearl, agate, tortoise shell, wood, leather and shagreen (shark or ray skin). I've even seen one set inside a large hinged walnut shell. I wish now I had bought it. 
Some are decorated with etched designs and some in gorgeous enamels as you can see in these photos.
Even the shapes are delightful.  The tapering enamel ones are my favourites and I would love to own one. Others were much more elaborate rococco affairs.  
A trawl through eBay came up with a variety including a number from the Palais Royal - these items are always of beautiful quality. 
I've seen larger cases from the late 1800s described as étui although they look much more like the modern dressing case or manicure set.
You can still buy little sewing cases which serve a similar purpose today as the étui. I have two tiny modern ones - hinged boxes containing sewing items.

Pearls, Girls and well, Tiaras!

There has been precious little in the way of 18th century fun lately, but I did go to the Vintage Fashion Fair - which is full of vintage girly delights.  
In fact they even had some vintage boy stuff which was good to see. 
The stall with vintage jewellery components always claims my attention for a good hour or so, so I made a beeline for that one and stocked up on lots of bits and bobs as you can see in this photo. I loved the vintage pearls and Czech glass beads.
This time around they also had hair ornaments and tiaras.  
Ok, a tiara was not on my list but faced with a reasonably priced tiara what would you do?
So I bought one!  I think it has a bit of russian influence.  Can't think where I'll wear it but you know it's just the sort of thing you don't think you'll want and then WHAMO you get an invite that requires one. Well I hope so anyway! Of course I can always sit in the lounge wearing said tiara, watching Elizabeth simper at Ross Poldark.  
I also scored some pieces of old raffia which I thought I might fashion into fascinators, a couple of 60s era aprons for gifts and a 60s sewing pattern. 
A good evening in all.