Tag Archives: julz

A History of Shawls

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This is a really interesting piece I found recently, by Jen of Roving Crafters written in 2016 – I’m not sure if she is still blogging as it seems she was having problems with her eyes in the last post I can find on her site – but there are plenty of free tutorials and other interesting pieces on rovingcrafters.com, and if you want to read the original of this unashamed copy click HERE

Venetian widow, Cesare Vecellio, 1585-90

Technically the shawl as a garment and as a word comes from 14th century Persia. They were woven rectangles worn over the shoulders and made from kashmiri goat. That’s significant I think because Kashmir was a major trade center. Knowledge and supplies and all sorts of other goodies coming out of India had to go through Kashmir to get to the western world. In fact I personally believe its very likely that the shawl as a garment originated in China, was adopted by India, and from there passed to the weavers in Kashmir (but I can’t find any sources to back that up).

From Kashmir, shawls spread to southern Europe and North Africa. Ethiopians took to wearing large rectangular shawls that can be wrapped around the body once and then over a shoulder.

Ethiopian boys in traditional shawls
16th century French pine figures of female saints wearing blue shawls

Manila shawls took Spain by storm in the 15th century.  These were square pieces of woven silk with hand embroidered designs. They seem to have picked them up from the Philippine islands (again I’m saying the shawl is a Far East garment) and once the Spaniards had them, they went to the New World.

All these early shawls were woven. They were made in whatever fiber was on hand; silk in the east, cashmere in the near east, wool in the New World. They were square or rectangular in shape and usually large enough to wrap and fold around the body.

Decorative lace shawls seem to have come into fashion in the early 1800’s. The earliest styles were made on tambour or other netting with intricate designed stitched/embroidered on that base fabric. This seems to be when shawls became circular and triangular.

Hand embroidered Spanish blonde lace on ecru silk net, circa 1830’s.
A French fashion plate displaying a shawl of black Chantilly lace, circa 1865.

Then the knitters and crocheters got into the business of shawl making. That’s when the styles and shapes of shawls seems to have really exploded. Knitters in the Shetland Islands started making haps,

Jessie Thomson knitting by her fireside at Lower Huyea, Haroldswick while wearing a hap shawl. circa 1930

knitters in America made sontags,

The “bosom friend”, aka sontag from Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine, 1860.

crocheters in Ireland made collars,

Irish crochet collar, circa early 1900’s

and so on.

Up through the 1920’s shawls and stoles and wraps were worn by ladies in English speaking countries of all economic levels. Wealthy women wore creations of handmade lace and silken embroidery. Working women wore cheaper, machine made imitations. But all women had a shawl or two to dress up and cover up.

Not so today. Today its a rarely seen specialty item. For those of us who do wear shawls there is a dizzying array of styles and shapes and choices. And isn’t that just wonderful? We get to borrow on all these traditions of shawl making and invent some of our own. Shawl patterns can be found big or small, in every shape, in lace, cables, and color work. You could spend a lifetime making shawls and not explore everything.


The Twelve Days of Christmas – Last Part – 7 Swans a-Swimming + all the rest!

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12DaysChristmasBIRDS-1Exploring the 12 Days of Christmas History and Life in the 18th Century  

By Christine Henrichs – originally published in Backyard Poultry Magazine (2013)

This is part of a series  based on the popular Carol – that starts – ‘On the First Day of Christmas. my True Love sent to me – a Partridge in a Pear Tree.’

I have been running this series over the Christmas Holidays – starting with  Part 1.  You can find the full text of the Carol HERE.

Officially the 12th Day of Christmas is the 5th of January – or as Wikipedia says The Twelve Days of Christmas, also known as Twelvetide, is a festive Christian season celebrating the Nativity of Jesus Christ. In most Western ecclesiastical traditions, “Christmas Day” is considered the “First Day of Christmas” and the Twelve Days are 25 December – 5 January, inclusive.

However many communities actually celebrate Christmas on the 6th of January, Epiphany, instead of the 25th December.  

This series, based on the article in the American Poultry Magazine,  has attempted to link all the Gifts in the Carol with either poultry or a species of birds, and up to the 7th Day, it sort of works.  

When it comes to 8 Maids a-Milking , 9 Ladies Dancing, 10 Lords a-Leaping, 11 Pipers Piping and 12 Drummers Drumming, I’m not sure you can stretch the analogy that far!  People have tried to find various links, including  Hugh D. McKellar, a Canadian hymnologist, who published an article, in 1979 – “How to Decode the Twelve Days of Christmas”.  He suggested that “The Twelve Days of Christmas” lyrics were intended as a catechism song to help young Catholics learn their faith, at a time when practising Catholicism was criminalised in England (1558 until 1829).  This hypothesis has now been found to be incorrect!  So who knows?

So, I’m going to stop at:

Seven Swans A-Swimming

“On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…seven swans-a-swimming.”

Seven-Swans-Swimming

Seven Swans a-Swimming – well a pair of adults and their 5 cygnets. Swans mate for life.

Swans are one of the most charismatic birds. Their graceful flight and peaceful beauty as they glide across the water have inspired humans to find spiritual meaning in them. Iron Age Britons, eighth century BC and later, considered them supernatural. Mute swans are the traditional birds of folklore. Although migratory, they became semi-domesticated in Britain by the 10th century.

Richard the Lionhearted is often credited with bringing swans to England on his return from the Crusades in the 12th century, but some documentation shows swans being kept as far back as 966, during the reign of King Edgar.

It was in the 12th century that the Crown claimed ownership of all swans. In the 15th century, swan ownership was shared with the Vintners’ and Dyers’ Companies. That continues today, with an annual ceremony called Swan Upping, in which cygnets, baby swans, are captured, weighed, checked for health problems, banded and released.

So, the 12 Days of Christmas meaning behind Seven Swans-A-Swimming would have had royal as well as spiritual connotations.

In the 17th century, Mute Swans were semi-domesticated in England. In the Netherlands, they were farmed, for their down, their meat and as ornamental birds, according to Sylvia Bruce Wilmore, in her book, Swans of the World.  In the Netherlands, those practices continued until after World War II.  Because all swans in England belong officially to the Royal Family, swans given as gifts would have been marked on the upper part of their bills. Their markings identified the person who had responsibility for them and thus could benefit from them. Marks date back to 1370.

Today in the U.S., migratory waterfowl are protected by state and federal laws. Permits are required to keep wild birds legally. If you are in any doubt about birds you are considering acquiring, check with the state department of fish and game, parks and wildlife or natural resources.

mute swan

Mute swan (Cygnus olor) spreading its wings. photo by Adrian Pingstone

Mute swans are controversial residents along the East Coast, where they have displaced local Trumpeter swans. Mute swans have been acquired as decorative waterfowl for parks and estates, but easily escape and become feral. They are now regarded as unwanted invaders, trashing the fragile wetland habitat in which they live and chasing out native birds. To avoid those problems, the state of New Hampshire requires by law that Mute swans be pinioned, an operation done on young cygnets to remove the distal joint of the wing, making flight impossible. They retain their mythic grip on people, touching the hearts of those who glimpse them gliding across a misty lake. This dichotomy confounds wetlands managers who want at least to control Mute Swans, if not eliminate them entirely.

“They are a beautiful form of biological pollution,” said Jonathan McKnight, associate director for habitat conservation at Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources. Others disagree, citing Mute Swans’ circumpolar migratory route, and claim that they have a historic presence in North America.

Current wildlife control professionals hunt them to reduce the population, which has been successful. Tundra and Trumpeter Swans are unquestionably native birds to North America. They remain protected. (I have added the paragraph below, as well as all the pictures of Swans)

trumpeterswans

3 Trumpeter Swans flying

Trumpeter swan, Black-billed species (Cygnus cygnus buccinator) of swan, named for its far-carrying, low-pitched call. About 6 ft (1.8 m) long, with a 10-ft (3-m) wingspan, it is the largest swan, though it weighs less than the mute swan. Once threatened with extinction (fewer than 100 were counted in the U.S. in 1935), it has made a strong comeback; though still listed as vulnerable, its population in western Canada and the northwestern U.S. now exceeds 5,000.

 

I haven’t found any evidence that swans were ever raised commercially in North America. They are wild birds, the largest flying bird, and formidable aggressors willing to protect their nests. Swans-A-Swimming remain a lovely image, but one not practical for domestic production.

I hope you have enjoyed this series and maybe even learnt something useful! Please do leave a comment and let me know what you think!

 

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The Twelve Days of Christmas: Part 7 – 6 Geese A-Laying

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12DaysChristmasBIRDS-1Exploring the 12 Days of Christmas History and Life in the 18th Century  

By Christine Henrichs – originally published in Backyard Poultry Magazine (2013)

This is part of a series I have been running over the Christmas Holidays – see Part 1

Six Geese A-Laying

Geese certainly were part of English and French life in the 16th century and long before. Geese have been hunted and tamed and domesticated since the early days of settled agricultural life. West of England Geese, also known as Old English geese, may well be the breed that came over with the Pilgrims on the Mayflower. They were an important American regional breed, particularly in New England.

Goose is the traditional festive bird for the holiday feast. When raising geese for meat, it’s important to note that geese do not thrive in the intense husbandry conditions of modern agriculture, so they are not as plentiful as they were in the 18th century when every farm had some. Most American cooks have never roasted one, so recipes have disappeared. Prominent chef Nigella Lawson is a champion of goose. Because they are waterfowl, they have a layer of fat under the skin. When you roast goose, it naturally bastes itself. The fat is flavorful and can be used to toast vegetables and other meats. Food critic Bonny Wolf calls goose fat “the creme de la creme of fat.”

The two main types of domestic geese are those descended from the European Grey Lag Goose and those from the Asian Swan Goose. The European line gives us the domestic Embdens, Toulouse and all their American descendants, such as Pilgrim Geese. The Asian line gives us the African and China breeds, with their distinctive knobs.

Wild geese have lived closely with humans for centuries. Even as little as a century ago, they were maintained as semi-wild livestock in England. Villagers let their geese forage and live on the River Cam. The geese spent the spring and summer on the village green, then migrated to the river for the winter.

In February, the owners would call their geese, which responded to their voices and returned home to nest and rear their young. Those offspring were a significant contribution to the villagers’ income. Those Geese A-Laying were valued not only for the eggs themselves, but for the additional birds into which the eggs would hatch.

Despite centuries of domestication, geese remain seasonal egg layers. (In fact, it seems that most Geese aren’t actually laying this early.) Some modern breeds such as the China goose have been selected for laying, bringing their production of eggs up to 70 or more annually. Some breeds of ducks have become more productive egg layers with selective breeding over time.

The eggs are reputed to be superior for baking. The albumen is thicker than that of chicken eggs, making it unsuitable for whipping into meringue. The higher fat content of the yolk makes them desirable for baking. The good news about having Geese A-Laying would be that the goslings would soon follow. Geese are excellent parents and protectively raise their young.

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geese with goslings

The Gift of 6 Geese a Laying would have been quite valuable! This is a picture I found of two Canada Geese looking after 40 goslings on the Thames in Reading .

Grahame Madge of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said: ‘Canada geese are well known for forming creches.  You tend to get them in areas where you have quite a large number of nesting geese in a small area. The broods get mixed up and you get a few adults looking after a large number of goslings.’
Canada geese were introduced here in the 17th century.
Like swans, they are monogamous and will only seek out a new mate if their partner dies.

Although so-called geese ‘creches’ – where the offspring of different parents get mixed up – are fairly common, experts say this is one of the largest and most understaffed they have seen.

The Twelve Days of Christmas: Part 6 – 5 Gold Rings

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My “12 days of Christmas Sale” is running in my ETSY SHOP 

****** For more details, please see my previous post  ******

Exploring the 12 Days of Christmas History and Life in the 18th Century  

Five Gold Rings

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Illustration of “five gold rings”, from the first known publication of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” (1780)

I’m deviating from the original article I have been basing this series on for the 5th Day of Christmas, as its difficult enough to relate Gold Rings to birds, although this “may have referred to Ring-Necked Pheasants, or perhaps to Golden Pheasants. Those original meanings unify the verses around a bird motif.

Both of them are natives of Asia but have long had successful populations in Europe and the British Isles. The Romans probably introduced them to Europe during their Empire. Pheasant were accepted residents of Britain by the 10th century.” 

I’m not convinced this is the best interpretation!  After all, the whole song is not just about birds, but it’s fun to try and link them anyway – and FIVE gold rings do seem to be a bit excessive, even if it was for a ‘true love’!

The Radio 4 “Tweet of the Day” has chosen another bird, and you can hear it here;

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09jgnf4#play

a British Goldfinch in flight showing the yellow ‘flash’ on wing feathers – some American Goldfinch have bright yellow bodies!

“As actress Alison Steadman outlines the refrain Five Gold Rings in the song is a recent thing, having emerged as an Edwardian addition to the song when Frederic Austen composed the music we know and love today. Yet in the century before that, a small colourful bird captivated Victorian society like no other. The goldfinch.”

PS:  In the past, some international readers have had problems listening to BBC iPlayer links – especially in the USA.  If you manage to get to the page without any problems, you may be able to download the file – its only 2 minutes long – and listen to it on iTunes.

Please do let me know if you have any difficulties, or even if you can access it – as its good to know.  You may have to register with the BBC site – this is a consequence of the new rules and regulations on paying for tv licences if you watch programmes online. A pity really, because the BBC always prided itself that it was available worldwide!

The Twelve Days of Christmas: Part 5 – 4 Calling Birds

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My “12 days of Christmas Sale” has started in my ETSY SHOP

****** For more details, please see my previous post  ******

Exploring the 12 Days of Christmas History and Life in the 18th Century  

By Christine Henrichs – originally published in Backyard Poultry Magazine (2013) – I have added a few photos and modified the text slightly!

 12DaysChristmasBIRDS-1Four Calling Birds

 

In the Carol ” The Twelve Days of Christmas”,  Day Four, the “calling” birds were originally “collie” or “colley” birds, meaning black-as-coal blackbirds. My poultry mind wants to stretch and consider that they could have been black domestic fowls, such as the old French breeds, all of which were often black, or black Spanish chickens.

Black turkeys also were popular in the 18th century in Europe. ( see photo at end of post)

 

blackbird

A very black Blackbird! Not sure why they should have been a gift to a ‘true love’, but they were thought to have magical powers, and are well known for their beautiful ‘song’, so maybe they are in fact “calling birds’ – smile

Black fowl lost favor because the dark feathers show up in the skin of the bird prepared for the table, unlike white feathers. In the 19th century, white birds lost popularity because they were thought to be constitutionally weak. Fashions in food are as variable as fashions in dress.

rooster

jersey giant cockerel

Many breeds have modern black color varieties. American breeds such as Javas, Jersey Giants, sometimes called Black Giants, and the English Orpington have black heritage. Asian breeds such as Cochins and Langshans have a strong history of black plumage. Sumatras are always black.

Black varieties of Orientals are relatively recent, such as Malays and Cubalayas. Among Mediterranean breeds, the White-Faced Black Spanish is an old breed. Minorcas were originally an entirely black breed called Red-Faced Black Spanish.

cayugas

cayuga duck

Black East Indies ducks are an old breed, although whether they date back to the 17th century is a matter of discussion. Some authorities trace their history back only as far as the 19th century. Cayuga ducks are always black. The recognition of the breed dates back to the 19th century, but it originated from wild American Black ducks crossing with domestic ducks. A black variety of Runner ducks is recent, 20th century. Black ducks could fit the description of “colley” birds.

Black turkeys were popular in Europe, and after Columbus introduced the wild turkey, American colonists crossing the Atlantic brought domesticated black varieties with them. Turkeys were often known by their origin as well, such as the Norfolk Black and the Black Spanish.

In domestic poultry, black plumage has an iridescent quality that gives it a greenish sheen, sometimes complemented with violet. The feathers are truly beautiful and eye-catching, suitable for a gift that would honor the season.

black turkey

A ‘spanish style’ Black Turkey

Three French Hens – at last Part 4 – 12 Days of Christmas Carol

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My “12 days of Christmas Sale” has started in my ETSY SHOP

****** For more details, please see my previous post  ******

Exploring the 12 Days of Christmas History and Life in the 18th Century  

By Christine Henrichs – originally published in Backyard Poultry Magazine (2013)

12DaysChristmasBIRDS-1Three French Hens

(I have kept hens for many years, which is why this piece caught my eye!)

Three French hens could be selected from the three old French breeds recognized by the APA for exhibition. Houdan, LaFleche and Crevecoeur were all in the original APA Standard published in 1874. They have long histories, as far as the 15th century in the case of the La Fleche, the 17th century for the others. All are large birds, topping out at 8 pounds for roosters and 7 pounds for hens. All are white egg layers.

Houdans have been known as Normandy fowl. They are a crested breed, recognized in mottled-black and solid-white varieties. Solid black, blue mottled and red mottled varieties have existed in the past and may be raised by fanciers yet.

In the U.S., Houdans were a popular dual-purpose production breed in the 19th and early 20th century. They have five toes like the Dorkings.

The La Fleche, which may be the oldest of the three, was selected and managed for egg production in Britain and North America. They take their name from the town of La Fleche, around which production was centered in the early 19th century. They probably resulted from crossing Polish, Crevecoeur and Spanish birds, which gave them their white earlobes.

Their unusual horned V-shaped comb is remarkable, in the past causing these birds to be called the Horned Fowl. Although now clean-headed, some breeders report occasional offspring with small crests or tassels. The French standard requires a crest.

Although recognized now only in black, they were bred in other colors in the past. In 1580, Prudens Choiselat wrote that blacks, reds, and fawns were the best. Blue and white strains have existed in the more recent past.

The Crevecoeur is sometimes compared to the Dorking, which has history on both English and French sides of the Channel. They also have V combs, although earlier in history they also had leaf combs. Currently recognized only in black plumage, white and blue ones were raised in the past.

The Crevecoeur was also used as a production fowl in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Wyandottes & Houdan Chickens