Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Yes, They Did!

Every so often, a debate arises in mid-19th century living history circles - did anyone really create the projects depicted in the lady's magazines of the period?

Just like now, certain magazines were specifically marketed towards women and just like today, they have articles on fashion, cooking, child care, home decoration and craft projects. Two of the more popular were Godey's Lady's Book and Peterson's Magazine; they were targeted for the growing middle class and are a great research resource.

But did anyone actually create the projects?

YES, they did!

I've thus far been able to find four original items that I can directly link to specific published projects and recently was able to purchase one - a beaded pincushion. 

It's from the March 1865 issue of Godey's, with the following directions:

To be worked with clear glass beads, on canvas sufficiently coarse for one bead to cover a stitch. The  ground can be filled with Solerino, blue, or scarlet wool, worked in cross-stitch. The patterns are reduced about one half. The fringe should be formed on the cushions with the clear white beads. Forty beads should be strung and looped up three stitches from where it commences, and each loop should be caught into the one next to it. This forms a very graceful and rich fringe. These same patterns will answer for netted tidies, the figures to be darned in.

The maker of this cushion followed most of the directions: clear glass beads, scarlet wool ground and beaded fringe, but she did not cross stitch the ground - she used the basic continental stitch. The cushion is approximately 7 inches square. It has a red velvet back and is stiffly stuffed, perhaps with bran. There is damage to the wool ground and the fringe and it appears there may have been some type of trim applied in a square around the central design which is now missing.  

I probably would not have recognized the design except that I had previously used it myself, as decoration on a needle book. The design was beaded onto silk taffeta, which was used to cover two bell shaped pasteboard pieces. The pieces were connected on the sides and wool flannel pages can be exposed by pulling the emery strawberry "clapper" and retracted by pulling the velvet loop at the top.

I have another project to share, but need to wait until summer when I'll have the proper equine model...


  1. Love that pillow you found. I have a handful of those ancient crafting magazines and am thrilled to see a real project from them.

  2. On display at the Petersen House in Tempe AZ is a pillow made from a Peterson's Ladies Magazine circa 1864. In the magazine it is used as a Toilette Mat and in later generations someone made it into a pillow.

  3. I have wondered the same thing, especially for such fripperies as match holders and other seemingly practical but fussy-looking items. How fun that you actually found some.

  4. A beautiful find. Thanks for letting us see it.