Category Archives: Victorian

Did You Know . . .


Did you know that in 1846 cans were first invented?  How ironic is it that it took 12 years for someone to invent the can opener?  What did they do with the cans for twelve years; sit and look at the shiny metal lining their shelves; wondering what the contents tasted like?  Of course, by 1858, someone had managed to invent the Rotary washing machine.  This invention provided the young homemaker with other things to do than stare at cans.

How many of you, when you were kids, remember chewing Blackjack gum?  Remember your parents looking screaming in horror, thinking you had swallowed black paint?  (Maybe it was just mine who did this; they were a little over dramatic back then.)  Well, in 1872, the year Blackjack gum was invented, kids everywhere shoved it into their mouths by the bucket full.  Who knew it was so old?  So millions of kids (with black gums) chewed Blackjack on the way to the woodpile, because it wasn’t until 1896 that the first electric stove was developed.  This leads me to my next revelation.

Before 1896, it was little Johnny’s duty to stoke Moms cooking fire.  If he was good, his treat was more Blackjack gum.  Only the rich could afford coal, so wood had to do until the something better came along.  In 1896 “better” came in the form of magic.  The first electric stove graced the family’s kitchen.  Homemakers everywhere were happily cooking away on this newfangled contraption up until 1921, when along comes Mr. Henry Ford – a man who couldn’t stand to waste anything.  You remember Henry; he invented the Ford Model T and Assembly Line Manufacturing, but in 1921 after the electric stove had already been in full use and loved my millions of Moms, good Ol’ Henry brought to us the now-familiar charcoal briquette.  Up until then, no one knew they wanted to go back to wood, but Ford got the idea from the scrap lumber left over from building his model T’s.  He had all this scrap, that he could turn into smaller scrap by heating the snot out of it, and that the resulting (now black – semi burnt – scrap) got very hot and lasted a long time when burned in a stove.  Being the salesperson he was, he sold the public on using his newly coined “charcoal” for cooking.  Low and behold 1921 saw the birth of the “Grill Meister.”

Later that same year the first homogenized gallon of milk showed up on the steps of many a home.  A man in a white coat and white hat, who jumped out of a milk wagon pulled by an old tired horse, delivered the new homogenized milk.  If, in the summer, you didn’t get the milk off the stoop first thing in the morning, you had homogenized sour milk.  You drank it anyway.  It was also in 1927 that Kool-Aid was invented.  It had real sugar in it.  Kids preferred Kool-Aid to the sour milk.  I

The building where Gerard and Edwin Perkins in...
The building where Gerard and Edwin Perkins invented Kool-Aid. Located at 518 W. 1st St. in Hastings, Nebraska (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

think this was the year they also coined the medical term “hyperactive.”

By 1930, a man named F.J. Osius had an idea for a mixer that could chew through anything.  He also had no money.  He went to the famous bandleader – Fred Waring for help.  (They probably got drunk mixing the first margarita.)  Waring ended up lending Osius the funds provided that he (Waring) could put his name on the product.  The pair finalized the deal and then Waring took off, traveling around the country with his band plus a large trunk that opened up into (of all things) a bar.  He would play, blend and demonstrate the mixer, then play some more.

Now for the last one.  Do you know why metal lunch boxes are so collectible?   Because in the early 70’s a group of Florida mothers, fearing for the heads of their children, launched a nationwide campaign against allowing metal lunch boxes in school.  Apparently, they became very good weapons during schoolyard fights.  Little Johnny was getting his bell rung with a metal lunchbox.  Apparently, plastic lunch boxes only rang his bell a little.

You can find these tidbits of history and a ton of other information at a remarkable site called Food and Utensil Chronology at https://sites.google.com/site/coquesters/foodandutensilchronology.  Check this site out. It’s great for vintage collectors who want to know the year a particular item they are coveting was born.  It’s also a great spot for someone who’s been laundering a new batch of vintage linens all week after work, who needed a break and who says to her writer husband, “Please write the blog for this week.”

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Caring for Satin


Satin bedding
Satin bedding (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Remember me telling you about the material we obtained from a retired vintage doll maker?  Maybe I put it on our Facebook site.  (Linens2Lace.)  Well in addition to the faux mink and beautiful lace, we also put a large selection of beautiful and affordable satin into the Willowstone store.  This is dress material weight in a variety of Victorian colors.  First question asked of us, by the visitor holding up the beautiful black satin bolt, was “Can you wash satin?”

The answer is “of course you can – provided you follow the rules.”

Satin has a smooth silky feel that makes it appealing for many items from garments to bed sheets.  It comes in various weights and thus ranges in durability.  However, there is a limited amount of cleaning options.  The cleaning and care tags that come with your garment should give you all the instruction you need.  However, what do you do with fabric that you have used to make that beautiful one of a kind gown?

Here’s our advice.

Rule 1:  Only wash satin by hand.  If you do use a washer, the gentlest silk cycle is best.

Rule 2:  Cold Water only.  If you do have to use soap, use the gentlest soap you can.  Woolite is good.

Rule 3: Wash satin as you would silk.  Let it soak in soapy water for awhile, then gently squeeze the wash through the satin by hand.  Rinse the fabric real good with cold clear water.  If you leave any soap residue behind it will whiten and show up as spots.  It’s hard to get these out once they set.

Rule 4:  Leave the dryer off.  Never put satin in the dryer.  The dryer will shrink and put a permanent wrinkle in the material.  Instead, lay it flat on a dry towel.  Don’t wring it out, rather roll it up in the towel, squeezing out the excess water as you roll and then put it out onto another dry towel, laid flat away from the sun until dry.

Rule 5:  You can iron satin, but on a light setting with no steam.  I find that going from the inside out works best but don’t linger.  An expensive satin blouse with a burn mark in the shape of an iron on its back, is only humorous in a sitcom.

Rule 6:  Vintage satin should be dry cleaned only.  Use a dry cleaner you have experience with and who you trust.

If you have any other tips, send them to me.

Until next time.

Sew Vintage


Upcycled Tablecloth Skirt
Upcycled Tablecloth Skirt (Photo credit: Vancour)

Linens, Lace & Faux Mink.
I am often asked for ideas about the repurposing of vintage linens.  For starters, I’m not a tailor; I’m just a lover of fine silks, satins and lace.  I sew my own creations and do small patchwork before I put our material on sale, but being a schoolteacher doesn’t allow me with a lot of time to take on big sewing projects.  Speaking of patchwork, let me first get this off my chest.  I want you to walk into your laundry room and grab your gallon jug of bleach.  On the front of that jug, in bold black letters, write DO NOT USE ON ANY LINEN, VINTAGE OR OTHERWISE.  Any bleach or bleach related product you have in your laundry room, do the same thing.  Now put the bleach down and step away.  Refrain from using it on any linen, new or old.  In the last two months, I have tossed out more beautiful linens pieces, then I care to think of.  I have tossed out Battenberg and Quaker Lace for the same reason.  It hurts me to have a beautiful damask tablecloth fall apart in my hands. When I see bleach burn holes in lace, I want to scream.  Bleach has its uses in moderation, but the culprit is the overzealous use of bleach.  If you must use bleach, rinse twice neutralizing with a ½ cup of vinegar.  I actually had someone look at a small stain on the lace corner of the Rose Victorian Watermark Satin tablecloth/bedspread we have on sale and ask me if they could use bleach to whiten the Battenberg lace inserts.  After I calmed down, I pointed out that this was an expensive Tablecloth/bedspread with ecru lace, which was hand sewn circa 1880 – 1890.  One should not whisper the word bleach in the same room as this piece.

Now that I have that off my chest, I feel better.  The other day, I was going back through some old posts and one of my dear readers had asked if I had any ideas on repurposing left over Damask napkins.  I apparently missed this reader question.  I apologize.  Because old Damask napkins are often large, the first idea that comes to mind is to cut off the damaged part and make Damask placemats.  They would be usable with any tablecloth underneath them.  Another idea is Victorian Doll clothing.

The third is, (if you have enough,) cut the good portions into smaller squares and make a damask quilt.  If you don’t have enough, stop into any of our stores.  We have plenty for you.  A very pretty idea is a linen Damask border with a lace insert, using a vintage lace-curtain panel.  It produces a beautiful tablecloth.  On the reverse side, an old or ruined Damask tablecloth will often produce a large enough usable pieces make a beautiful center, bordered by vintage lace.  Adjust the size of the tablecloth to take full advantage of the usable part of Damask that you have.  Do a search for images on Google using the terms Damask and Lace Tablecloths

What about it readers; have any ideas you can come up with?

One last thing.  Winter is here.  It’s going to get cold.  We just put a large bolt of FAUX MINK into the Willowstone (space 31) store.  But I warn you.  It is so luxurious; and large enough, that – after purchase – you may be overcome with the need to spread it out on the bed and lie naked on it.  When I held it in my hands, my will power was strong, but professional photographers or husbands should take this as a hint.