Sunday, September 11, 2016

Book Review: The Long Weekend, by Adrian Tinniswood

I picked out The Long Weekend: Life in the English Country House, 1918-1939 from NetGalley to review here as the country house has such a prominent place in classic and historical fiction - think of how many mysteries wouldn't exist without characters being cooped up together for a country weekend!

The book is exhaustive - Tinniswood goes through all the aspects of the country house itself, from architecture to interior decoration to sale to (royal, aristocratic, and common) owners, with detailed descriptions of how these went down at various specific estates. The social aspects, unfortunately, don't seem to get as much time as the others (or perhaps the architecture and interior design chapters simply seemed very, very long?). Country house parties are dealt with at the very beginning, and then at the end there's discussion of gay country house owners, hunting and fishing, the servants, politics, and the collapse of this culture during WWII.

Ultimately, I'm not sure how much it enriches the period-drama-fan's view of country house society beyond what you've absorbed from period novels and shows like Brideshead Revisited and Downton Abbey and the like - it confirms rather than enlightens, and gives specific context to generalizations you already knew. But if the reader is researching the period, all of this specific information is extremely helpful.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

HSM #8 - Pattern: A Victorian Quilt

Well, it was intended to be a Victorian quilt, but I'm not sure about the overall effect.

Photographed on my bed for scale, but the quilt is now in Ohio with Julie.
I've always meant to do some quilting, but it's never come up. In 2015, I went so far as to buy the fabric to make this one as a wedding present, but the actual Hallowedding bridesmaid dress was more pressing, so I backburnered this and ... forgot about it, pretty much. Then, earlier this year, when I was thinking about the "pattern" challenge, it occurred to me that patchwork quilting is definitely all about patterns.

For inspiration and an idea of what I could sew that wouldn't take me too many months, I visited Warmth, Remembrance, and Art: 200 Years of Quilts and Comforters in Northern New York at TAUNY, to which the St. Lawrence County Historical Association had loaned a couple of antiques. I was a little overwhelmed, but this brick pattern struck me as a good one for a first quilt.

This quilt was made by Olive Clark Wood, who married in 1874 and was widowed in 1877. The curator speculated (reasonably) on the label that these were all samples of material from the fancy goods store she ran to support herself. I made mine much more matchy, but it's still the same basic pattern.

When I bought the fabric, I didn't know exactly what I'd make, but I knew it would be an historical pattern so I made sure to aim for plausibly mid-19th century prints and solids (and Julie's favored dark purple colorway). I really wish I had more of this pink print in particular to use for an 1830s day dress, but unfortunately it was going out when I bought this fabric almost two years ago and it's nowhere to be found.

I was doing hand-piecing for the short seams at first, but with some advice from Mom I got into the rhythm of doing it all by machine. The quilting, though, is all by hand - straight diagonal lines, an inch apart. This is something I've seen on a number of period quilts and seemed nice and simple, but one thing you should know if you try to do this is that the lines increase in length very, VERY quickly.