Apr
06
2012
3

What Victorian trades and professions had the weirdest names?

Velocipede, Victorian fashion, zebra clothAnyone who’s looked in a 19th century street directory while researching their family history will have seen job descriptions and business names that are frankly puzzling. A twister? A japanner? What kind of work did these people do? What were those manufacturers making? Recently I was asked to help figure out the facts behind this [more…]

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Feb
06
2012
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What is dupion silk?

dupion silkDupion silk fabric is not “as smooth as silk”. The texture is uneven with intermittent stretches of nubbly thread in the weave. It may be used for elegant clothing and furnishings now, but it had to overcome its original reputation for being an inferior, rough silk. Making silk begins with gathering heaps of silkworm cocoons. [more…]

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Dec
09
2011
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Did Queen Victoria's royal train have a dining car?

Breakfast cart for royal trainQueen Victoria travelled by train regularly. Even though she had her own royal train, luxuriously furnished, she never dined or breakfasted on the journey without stopping. The carriage she commissioned in 1869 included a small kitchen, but it was just for making tea and a few snacks prepared by a footman. There was no dining [more…]

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Apr
06
2011
1

Were Argyle gravy jugs named after the Duke of Argyll?

Inveraray castle kitchen, ArgyllIf you’ve heard of an argyle gravy jug, you’ll know it’s a pot with a double wall. Hot water goes into the cavity between the outside and inside, and creates an insulating jacket to keep the gravy warm. They were popular in wealthy British households in the later 18th century, a period of elegant dinners [more…]

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Feb
28
2011
4

How did Argyle socks and knitwear get their name?

blue, green, black argyle sockArgyle socks have centuries of history, and yet that particular name wasn't used until nearly 1940. Socks with the typical “Argyle” diamond design used to be called tartan hose or plaid stockings. They were knee-length, and made from wool, sometimes rather scratchy wool. The pattern of lozenges in two or more colours, criss-crossed by narrow [more…]

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Jan
12
2011
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What knitting accessories make good gifts?

Victorian knitting basket, apron, needle caseDo you keep your yarn in a hand-woven basket or a plastic bag? Do you keep your knitting needles in an embroidered case or a mass-produced box?  If you’re choosing a gift for a knitting friend, or for yourself, attractive needle cases or knitting bags are an obvious first choice. Most people who enjoy crafts [more…]

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Oct
22
2010
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What is an etagere?

etagere design american 1850sWhat makes an etagere different from other sets of shelves? The name came into fashion in the 1850s when English adopted the French word étagère for a piece of furniture with open shelves for ornaments and oddments. The etagere was a decorative piece made from hardwood by a cabinet-maker. It looked good in a drawing-room [more…]

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Sep
14
2010
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Is a highboy different from a tallboy?

Antique American highboys Tall chests of drawers, made in two pieces, with an upper chest fitting into the top of the lower, were popular in the 18th century. In Britain they are known as tallboys, while Americans call them highboys. The English master cabinet-maker Chippendale inspired some of the best designs on both sides of the Atlantic, including [more…]

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Sep
01
2010
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Any recipes and suggestions for cooking sloes?

sloesIf your sloes are not all wanted for sloe gin, try making them into jellies, jams, or spiced conserves to go with savoury dishes. It’s more trouble than gin – you have to really cook, not just mix – but you’ll end up with attractive and flavourful jars of stuff you made yourself, and the [more…]

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Sep
01
2010
2

What is a bullace and what recipes suit it?

bullacesA bullace is a wild plum that can be either dark blue-purple or light yellowy-green, sometimes flushed with red. Black bullace and white bullace are the traditional names for the two kinds. There are a few cultivated varieties too, which give rise to more names and varied colours. Damsons are similar to a dark bullace, [more…]

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