Thursday, February 28, 2008

Still Snowing.....

I'm really sick of winter this year. Is it because it has been dragging on for so long? I've not seen the ground (green or brown) for months, it seems!

I will be posting some wonderful Victorian notes later this week, but for now.....a few new things in the cottage.......
Not your average Easter basket....

Cute little ironstone tea set.....

72" round damask table cloth....

Ivory Venice Lace topper with fringe.....

Just a few things I've been working on this week for the cottage. Come visit me there! The fire is going and I'm in the kitchen preparing tea for us.......

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A little sick and a little trick.......

I've been a little "under the weather" (who made that up, anyway?) of late. But, I suppose about two thirds of you that are reading this have been, also. What a year for sicknesses!

Before the full brunt of it hit me, I was able to do this little project over the weekend.

I slicovered this little wing back chair. I've had this fabric and was waiting for a speical way to use it and I just love it on here. I shared this photo with my PRH friends today and expained my problem with finding a place to put it. They are fighting over who will take it from me and put it in their living rooms to sit in and relax, I imagine. It does look comfy and I can picture myself curled up reading a book in it.

While lying around in bed feeling crappy, my mind conjured up all kinds of things that I should be doing instead...laundry, sweeping out the car from last summer, cleaning the garage so we can park the cars in it and not have to shovel 6 to 8 inches of snow off them every morning, washing those two windows that didn't get it in the "fall" cleaning, making the four jackets I cut out in August, organizing my craft stuff, sorting through all of my fabric, put away the Thanksgiving decorations (I never even got out the Christmas ones), write my will, read 72 magazines and file my nails.

Instead, I drifted in and out of sleep and ached like I'd been beaten with a lead pipe. Every awakening finds me taking inventory of my body parts as I am sure someone has come in and ripped them off of me while I was sleeping.

I'm feeling much better now and have decided to get back to work. So, I've made quite a few velvet and satin roses, dyed some lace, listed some new crafting goodies and started a few gifts for friends that need to be done soon. I also have four custom orders that need supplies, so I'll have to go out in this snow covered world and get those tomorrow.

Oh, and my PRH friends that want to take that little chair off my hands will just have to find something else for those bare spots in their living rooms. I have found a use for it......

It's holding my coffee cup!
No, that's not a GIANT coffee cup, it's a mini chair and is available for purchase in Aunt May's Cottage.
It really doesn't take up much room as you can tell.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The American Valentine

In 1847, a young woman named Esther Howland, who is credited with being the “Mother of the American Valentine”, received a typical commercial English valentine from a friend. Very taken with it, she was inspired to try to make some of her own.

Esther persuaded her father, who was a stationer, to order a supply of large blank lace paper sheet and other valentine materials from England. When she had finished making a small assortment of samples, she persuaded her brother, who worked as a traveling salesman for their father, to take her cards with him.

He returned with five thousand orders and Esther set up shop in a spare room of the family home. She engaged a handful of her friends to help her and began the first assembly line production of American commercial valentines. Most of Miss Howland’s cards were so elaborate they had to be packed in boxes to protect the delicate confections. Their elaborateness was matched in their price, with the majority of them costing between $5 and $10, a considerable sum for the time.

Despite their cost, Miss Howland’s valentines became extremely popular. In 1880 she sold her business, which netted her over $100,000 a year, to another American valentine producer, the George C. Whitney Company.

By the end of the nineteenth century, improvements in color printing processes soon gave elaborate commercial valentines the preference over the home made sentiments. Two companies on either side of the Atlantic competed fiercely for the valentine market: Marcus Ward in England and America’s Lewis Prang, who perfected the graphic art of lithography. Prang also began trimming his valentines with silk fringe and soon this distinguishing feature replaced the lace paper borders on the most elegant and highly desired Victorian valentines.

Gazing upon a Victorian valentine is to return to a more romantic era. To hold one today, as fragile as a dream, is to know, as the nineteenth century poet Katherine Lee Bates said, “Old love is gold love, old love is best.”

I hope you have enjoyed our journey in the discovery of the Valentine.

Excerpts from Sarah Ban Breathnach, author of Simple Abundance.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

History of the Victorian Valentine

Perhaps no memento so perfectly captures the essence of an entire era as the valentine does for the Victorians. Hidden within the undulating paper curves of these charmingly conceived, lovingly crafted tokens of affection – the more elaborate the better – lie fascinating clues to the gilded age in which the valentine was transformed from mere ephemera into art.

For behind the lavish decorations stood not just the secrets of Victorian hearts but of Victorian society as well. Valentines were among the few tokens that could freely be exchanged between men and women, and much was read between the lines, or in this instance, the hearts and flowers. Depending upon the elaborateness of the lace filigree, the number of cupids, or the cleverness of imported “trick” valentines, which opened to reveal moving parts, a hopeful young lady could measure the true emotional involvement of her suitors.

Until the early nineteenth century, valentines were primarily handwritten love letters. As printing techniques became more sophisticated, the Victorian valentine business boomed. The London stationery firm of Joseph Addenbrooke is considered one of the major contributors in the evolution of the commercial valentine. During the 1830s, Addenbrooke discovered while embossing paper borders that by filing of the raised relief, he could create paper that imitated lace. Soon lace paper or “doilies” became the rage and English stationers competed fiercely to provide elaborate doilies that rivaled real lace.

With the lace papers and the chromo cutouts of cherubs, hearts and flowers as valentine prerequisites, the art form of both homemade and commercial valentines began to flourish. Swags of fringe, feather, fabric, tinsel and glitter (including powdered colored glass) were added. Printed verse became hidden behind secret doors and valentines began to have moving parts that permitted hearts or cherubs to twirl. Victorian valentines were limited only by the sender’s imagination and still have the power to amuse, entertain and awe, even today.

Tomorrow, let's talk about the American Valentine and its humble beginnings.

Excerpts written by Sarah Ban Breathnach, author of Simple Abundance.