My dear reader, it can be daunting to stand at the precipice of beginning a new hobby, looking over the edge at all of the possibilities that lay before you, and freezing up because you don’t know what path to take and are afraid of messing things up from the start. Hello analysis paralysis, our untimely friend. (I’m currently suffering from this ailment in terms of getting my first garden off the ground, BUT that is a story for another time.)
When I first began historical sewing, I was just a baby sewist in 2016 trying to cobble together an 18th century dress inspired by Claire’s wedding dress from the TV series Outlander. The patterns I Frankensteined together was more 17th century pirate wench with lots of sparkly metallic machine embroidery. The petticoat wasn’t even properly hemmed and the raw edges were fraying like crazy. I had weird gapping in the bodice around the neckline. And let’s not mention how much I was lacking in the appropriate foundational garments department (i.e. my corset was a fashion corset I purchased online, my chemise was a nightgown, and I was definitely wearing yoga pants underneath it all).
As you can imaging, it was overwhelming and a bit of a hot mess, but at the time I was absolutely thrilled with result and wore it proudly to the Renaissance fair. Through this endeavor, I learned a handful of new techniques and skills that I still use in my projects today even though I don’t have the dress anymore.
As a sewing novice, you may read the above anecdote and think to yourself, ‘There’s NO WAY I’m going to tackle a project like that! There’s too much going on and quite a bit of investment in time and money.’ And that is perfectly fine.
In the place of a giant project like the one above, I would like to guide you towards a handful of relatively small sewing projects that are historical, involve a low investment of money and time, teaches you new hand sewing skills without overwhelming you, and are absolutely useful for a modern homemaker.
My dear reader, Spring has fully arrived in Central Illinois! Flowers are blooming, trees are budding, birds are singing, and everything is green again. This fervor of new life and buzzing energy always gets me into a Spring cleaning mood. This year I wanted to do more than just an overwhelming overhaul of deep cleaning in my home. Instead, I want to create a cleaning routine that I can sustain throughout the year so my Spring and Fall cleaning won’t be the ordeal it seems to always be.
Historically speaking, there were handfuls of household management manuals from the 19th century that would help the housewife or the housekeeper run the home smoothly, and sometimes they would include a rather vague cleaning, or task, routine. Looking at the 20th century, it’s a bit easier to find the ‘ideal’ routine for a housewife, especially from the 1950’s era. These lists can be daunting with the number of tasks a single woman was supposed to complete by herself each and every day.
Instead of following a vintage routine, I wanted to take the time to make a cleaning schedule that best suited my home and family. I invite you to do the same! To help, I made a small workbook (under 20 pages) to walk you through the 5 steps I took to make my own cleaning routine.
Here in Central Illinois, we are beginning to see small signs of Spring peeking through the remnants of winter’s hold upon the land. Sporadic warm days (above 40 degrees Fahrenheit) and the melting away of snow have sent me into a tizzy for all things Spring related. Windows have been thrown open to air out the house, the garden is being planned, spring cleaning is on the brain, and I can feel the buzzing of renewed energy after a long Winter hibernation.
One of my favorite springtime activities is to make a batch of linen spray. This simple spray helps lift the mood and freshen up the house after a long winter being cooped up indoors. Below is the recipe I have been using for several years now.
The home-maker will then have time to devote to the other side of life, to the things that bring inspiration and joy and peace into this little circle of love which we are proud to call “our home.”
Georgie Boynton Child on the science of homemaking in “The Efficient Kitchen”
As a stay-at-home mom and a homemaker, I find that a good portion of my time is spent in the kitchen, be it cooking, cleaning, or planning. It is not lost on me how important it is to have a warm and welcoming kitchen as well as one that is well managed. Several months ago I was introduced to the book The Efficient Kitchen by Georgie Boynton Child (1914) after watching this video from Paige at the Farmhouse Vernacular YouTube channel. This manual was intended “as a book of practical directions showing how to so build new kitchens or transform old ones that the work of the home may be accomplished with a sense of master, instead of remaining the hopeless problem it has become” in the early 20th century.
Georgie Boynton Child was an American efficiency expert who took great care in assisting the homemaker, be it a man or a woman, to run an efficient and economical home , no matter what their household income level may be, so they could spend time away from the “villain kitchen vassalage,” and devote their time to the things that bring inspiration and joy to them and their family. It amazes me that the domestic issues we face today were very much in the forefront of the issues homemakers well over a century ago.
I must confess, dear reader, that I am a complete and unabashed Jane-ite. Not only do I find great joy in reading her novels and watching the film adaptations, but I love learning about Jane’s everyday life and the people she surrounded herself with. One of those individuals was Martha Lloyd, a family friend that lived with Jane, Cassandra, and Mrs. Austen for a time; who later married Jane’s brother, Francis. Martha left behind an incredible artifact that gives us a glimpse into the domestic life of the Austens’ and their circle of friends, her handwritten household book.