The Ladies' Tea Guild

Saturday, September 24, 2011

"Indian Summer" is here!

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How did the Victorians survive hot weather, wearing 3 or more layers of clothing year-round?  They had their ways, which are just as helpful now as in 1852.  Unsurprisingly, Godey's Lady's Book has suggestions that are useful for this time of year.  Here is one tip for making cut flowers last longer:

“To Preserve Flowers in Water.—Mix a little carbonate of soda with the water, and it will preserve the flowers for a fortnight.”

Here are instructions for making a lace mantle or "mantilla" edged with silk, very appropriate for summer wear:
From _Le Moniteur de la Mode_, 1855.

“Lace application is now applied to mantillas with great success.  It is done by drawing a border on the silk, which is first cut after a scarf pattern, and lining the silk with common cotton net lace of the same shade.  This pattern is followed by tacking a narrow silk braid on the outline, and cutting out the silk, leaving the centre of the pattern in lace.  It has a very light and graceful effect, but is scarcely suited for anything but a scarf pattern. ... For a watering-place, nothing could be in better taste, or more really useful, to be thrown on for short promenades, with a dinner or evening-dress, or after dancing."

And some directions from 1855 for soothing herb teas:

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"HERB TEA.—Green, fresh gathered herbs are always to be preferred; but they may be carefully dried for winter use, and answer the purpose.  In that case, every bit of stalk should be removed, and only the leaves used.  Take eight or ten tops of fresh gathered balm, sage, or mint, or a handful of cowslip pips, or marigold flowers, stripped.  Pour over them a quart of boiling water, cover the jug or teapot, and let it stand from five to eight minutes—not longer; then strain off.  Balm is the most cooling of these drinks—mint the most comfortable to the bowels—sage and marigold the most reviving—cowslip is composing—all are very wholesome.  Mint and balm together make a pleasant tea.  Spearmint is the most pleasant sort for tea, but double mint and peppermint are most useful in bowel complaints."

Many of the above herbs are easily grown in pots and can be used year-round.  I have 4 kinds of mint, sage, and basil in my garden, and I'm currently starting some lemon balm to keep in a pot over the winter.  These plants can last from year to year (although they do die back when the first frost comes) if they are kept someplace that is sheltered from the wind and gets sun for most of the year.  They fit in even a small garden, and small plants can be kept on a sunny windowsill inside, for fresh herbs through the winter.  


Kathryn Ross said...

I love how informative your posts are all the time! Though, the vintage directions are lost on me - couldn't visualize the mantilla and lace thing - but the tea tips were helpful and I should like to try with fresh leaves sometime as I've never done so - only dried.

Miss Kathy

South Bay Ladies' Tea Guild said...

Hi Kathryn,

yes, I had to think about the mantilla before it made sense to me. I first pictured it as a long narrow rectangle/shawl/scarf shape made of some colored silk. Then, you trace (in pencil) a decorative border shape -- say a wavy line, or Vandykes (sawtooth line), or copy a "braiding pattern" from a vintage fashion magazine -- around all the edges of the piece of fabric, making a 2 to 3-inch border between the traced line and the raw edge of the fabric. Then, you cut a piece of lace the same size and shape as the silk and put it on the back of the silk (right side of the lace to wrong side of the silk) and tack it smoothly down around the edge, as if you're "lining" the silk with lace.

Next, take some decorative braid or cord in a matching or complimentary color to the silk, and sew it down on the line that you traced, stitches going through both silk and lace, so that the cord or braid covers the traced line around the piece and outlines your decorative line. Then, trim away the silk from the middle of the piece, leaving the silk between the cord or braid and the raw edge as a fancy border, and uncovering the lace in the middle.

Make sure the cut edges of the silk don't show from under the braid or cord, and hem the straight edges of the piece, enclosing the outer edges of the silk and the lace. That would give you, basically, a sheer lace shawl/scarf with a colored silk border outlined in braid. Good for a summer ballgown accessory!

Fresh herb leaves taste so different from dried ones! Especially mint, it's so much "mintier" than dried mint, I think. The herb tea recipes were actually taken from a section of recipes for "invalids" and the elderly, but I thought it was good advice for everyday, too!

Jilly said...

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printed coasters

Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)