Tag Archives: embroidery

How She Spent Her Summer Vacation: 1904


How Self-Supporting College Girls Manage.



Do Sewing and Fancy Work, Serve as Companions and Wait at Table.

Vacation to the average college girl suggests rosy visions. It means halcyon days at home, where she is really the guest of honor in her family circle. Little functions are given in her honor. The home dressmaker is busy planning her fall clothes; there are trips to the shore and visits to friends, and the college girl feels that life as a whole is certainly jolly.

But there exists another class of college girls, to whom the mellow summer days represent anything but leisure and luxury. These are the girls who make not hay, but money, while the sun shines. To the girl whose every want is provided by indulgent parents summer means absolute relaxation, but to the girl who is making her own way through college, with perhaps a small allowance from some rich relative, summer means merely a change of work. Like the adaptive American girl that she is, however, she finds that the change of work is really a recreation, and she has real pleasure in the increase of her funds.

Methods of earning money vary at different colleges, and are governed generally by the class of pupils how attend. For instance, at a woman’s college in New York state, notorious for the wealth of its alumni, several girls who are clever and dainty with their needles are earning their way by making exquisite lingerie and dress accessories for fellow-pupils with liberal allowances. One of the girls thus explained her work:

Work With Taste.

“We keep closely in touch with the newest designs in lingerie, neckwear, fichus, and so forth. Where our classmates run into New York on Saturday for matinees and concerts, we haunt the exclusive shops, not only for bargains in materials, but for the newest ideas. During the past year we have kept constantly on hand collar and cuff sets made in Russian cross-stitch, Hardanger and broiderie d’Anglaise. These we sell to the girls, not only for their own use, but to send home as gifts. It is really funny to hear a girl gasp: ‘Oh, mother’s birthday is next week! What shall I send her?’ And that is where we make a sale. Of course we must make our things a little more dainty than anything you could buy at a shop. They must not suggest machine work.

“Such work means that we must give up many of the little social pleasures and use our eyes constantly, but we wear glasses when doing the needle work. After all, sewing and studying do not wear on the eyes in just the same way.” Sometimes there comes to this college the daughter of a wealthy man who is not versed in modes and fashions, or does not know how to buy or wear the little articles of dress which mark the smart girl, and he is quite willing to pay for a course of training in the gentle art of dressing in good taste. In other words, she not only buys needle work from these college seamstresses, but adds a comfortable sum for the information.

A Smith College girl, who is to be married in the fall, has placed her entire order for trousseau lingerie with two undergraduates, who will execute the order during the summer at their own homes.

She Wanted Boarders.

The number of domestic occupations which girls seek as a means of making vacation money should convince the veriest pessimist that the higher education cannot down the distinctive feminine instinct. As an illustration, a Wellesley girl, who had been famous for the quality if not the quantity of her chafing dish at the spreads, announced that she had taken a summer camp in the Maine woods and wanted boarders. In a very short time she had more applications than accommodations. The shacks, which the girls will occupy with a chaperon, are primitive, and the life will be entirely in the open, but the fare will be wholesome and well served. The college girl will do all of her own cooking. She expects not only to pay for her own vacation, but to make a comfortable nest-egg for the next college term.

At one of the eastern colleges where a summer school is held, two pupils from the winter term have remained to do dormitory work. Ten girls from a New England college have gone to act as waitresses at an exclusive mountain resort. No other waitresses will be employed, and the girls have secured a few special privileges in the matter of rooms, bathing hours, &c., otherwise they will be treated exactly like the rest of the help in the house.

At Bryn Mawr there is a regular society for helping self-supporting girls to secure summer work. Notices are sent to the old alumni, asking for positions a secretaries, companions, tutors, governesses and the like. College girls are in demand as governesses or companions for young girls whose parents are traveling or occupied with social or business affairs. The girl who “stands in” with the faculty is sure to get a place during the summer.

Goes Clerking.

A student who shows herself particularly suited to clerical work is sometimes retained as secretary at the college during the vacation, or is given employment in the college library. College offices must be kept open during the summer, and it is then that the clerical work is really the heaviest. Innumerable letters must be answered, prospective patrons must be received and shown over the college grounds, and the great wheels of education must be oiled and put in working order of the fall term.

Summer tutoring is one of the most lucrative methods of raising money during the vacation. Girls how have failed in their examinations are more anxious to secure the services of a classmate who has passed triumphantly through the ordeal than to hire a professor who is perhaps to posted on the recent trial. The unsuccessful one, by giving a few hours each day to this work, may pass in a second examination, which is given before the fall term opens. Two girls, who are taking post-graduate work at a Pennsylvania college, have opened a boarding house in a pretty suburb near Philadelphia. One of them looks after the housekeeping and the other does the tutoring, and they have all the pupil-boarders they can accommodate.

A Bryn Mawr girl has taken a position for the entire summer with a wealthy family who owns a hunting lodge on the Canadian lakes. The family consists of a man, wife and two sons. The men folk are devoted to hunting and fishing, and the wife and mother is devoted them, though not to their sports. So she contents herself for the entire summer in a wild and lonesome camp, where it is practically impossible to entertain the average summer guest. The men folk go on long hunting and fishing expeditions with Indian guides, and the woman is left a week at a time with her servants. The Bryn Mawr girl has gone with her as a companion, and will be well treated as a friend rather than an employe. Her duties will consist of reading with her hostess, tramping with her through the woods, and making herself generally agreeable and companionable. For this she is paid not only her expenses, but a little salary. Her outfit of clothing is most simple, consisting of short skirts, leggings, big hats, etc., with none of the summer fripperies which look so dainty and come so high.

At one of the colleges where the girls go in heavily for athletics a couple of students will put in their vacation at the very practical work of making gymnasium and basketball suits in the club colors. The suits will be made to fit different types of college girls as these young dressmakers have learned to know them, and will be ready to turn over to customers after the second fit when the college opens.

The Evening Star [Washington DC] 2 July 1904: p. 5

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: While one certainly applauds these plucky young lady scholars, Mrs Daffodil cannot let pass unchallenged several absurd notions proposed by the journalist who wrote about their summer labours.

First, “The number of domestic occupations which girls seek as a means of making vacation money should convince the veriest pessimist that the higher education cannot down the distinctive feminine instinct.” The heading about “not too proud” suggests non-existent options for these self-supporting scholars; the author seems unaware that opportunities for ladies outside the “traditional” domestic occupations are exceedingly limited.

[Given the correct opportunities, Mrs Daffodil would have pursued a career outside of the domestic sphere, perhaps in medical research or procurement: “bodysnatching” as it is termed by the vulgar. Fortunately she has been able to turn that interest into a lucrative and useful side-occupation.]

Talk of broiderie d’Anglaise and chafing dishes reinforces the foolish notion that higher education will make a female mannish or deranged or dissatisfied with her “proper” station in life—a dissatisfaction, in Mrs Daffodil’s opinion—devoutly to be wished.

Second, “the change of work is really a recreation.” Well, really… Mrs Daffodil would like to see the author set to waiting tables at a summer resort and subjected to heat, fatigue, unpleasantries, and over-familiarity, if not outright insult and abuse from “gentlemen” on holiday. Then one would give much to hear his thoughts on how a “change is as good as a rest.”

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.



“What Can I Do With Birch Bark?” Nature Crafts: 1890


A birch bark notebook painted with strawberries, given to HRH Prince Albert Edward, later King Edward VII, on his 1860 trip to Canada. http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/84321/notebook


Novel and Artistic Uses for Summer Spoils

What May Be Done with Birch Bark and Corn Stalks

Shell Portiere

Mermaid Scarf

“What can I do with birch bark?” writes a correspondent. “I spent last summer in the lake regions of Maine, and gathered quantities of beautiful pieces, some of them very large.”

There are so many beautiful uses to which birch bark can be put that I scarcely know where to begin. A piece 7 by 9 or of any desired size makes a nice cover for a blotter. Paint or draw with India ink some little sketch, and fasten to the blotters like a book by punching holes in the corners and running a ribbon through, with a bow at either end. Dark red makes a pretty contrast with the gray brown of the bark.

It will cover an old frame most artistically. Use pieces of any size, fastening them on with very small tacks and letting edges and corners curl up here and there. A bit of gnarled twig, a pine cone or a pretty piece of lichen can be placed at each corner. This would frame a woodland etching delightfully. Brackets and wall pockets may be covered with the bark alone, or with bark and lichens. Mounted on wide, handsome ribbon it makes the daintiest sort of souvenir menu cads. Write the menu on the bark with India or brown ink in quaint, irregular letters and tack the pieces on ribbon a very little wider, and two inches longer on each end than the bark. Fringe out one inch of this. They may be mounted on white, pale green, pale or dull gold, light blue, dark red or golden brown.


In the country home of an artist on the borders of Lake George is a room in which birch bark has perhaps found its artistic limit. As in most country houses the room is a low one. About two and a half feet from the baseboard a narrow moulding of plain wood runs around the room, and the ceiling is of beams stained to represent old oak. A dado is formed of golden corn stalks cut into regular lengths and nailed to the baseboard at the bottom and the moulding two and a half feet above. The top is finished by running lengths of stalks horizontally, thus hiding completely the strip of moulding. A sharp, small saw must be used to cut the stalks into equal lengths, and as straight, firm and even stalks selected as possible. The side walls are covered with a greenish gray or grayish green cartridge paper. The frieze, ether or ten inches wide, is formed of irregular pieces of birch bark nailed to the wall with small brads. The joinings are hidden or emphasized by trailing bits of Florida moss or pieces of beautifully colored lichens form tree trunk and fence rail. It is finished top and bottom with a moulding of corn stalks. Long, slender brads are used to nail the stalks that form the dado.

You may make a pretty card receiver for the hall or for a corner of the parlor. Take three long, strong cat tails and cross them as in the illustration, fastening in your last season’s seaside hat, of which you have covered the brim and crown with birch bark, with a rim of lichens or Florida moss. Tie a huge bow of golden brown ribbons were the stalks meet. Laundry lists, card cases, and many such articles can be covered with birch bark, as well as glove and handkerchief boxes.


Ladies who are making read for a summer in the mountains or by the seashore may be glad of the following idea for fancy work from “M.U.S.:”

“This table cover is made of one yard each of olive and light blue felt. Taking the latter for the centre, I cut the former into four equilateral triangles, couching the same onto the blue centre with a thick strand of pale yellow filoselle.

“After painting in oil with a good deal of spirits of turpentine the appropriate designs on the corners—viz., dogwood bloom for spring, wild rose for summer, oak and maples leaves in red, bronze and yellow for autumn, and holly and mistletoe for winter, I drew with a white chalk pencil a line two inches from the edge of the tablecloth as the depth of the fringe, into which the felt was to be cut after everything as finished. Above this was embroidered a heading for the fringe using two shades of gold colored silk, the darkest a burnet sienna, and the lightest of the same shade as that used for uniting the two tints of felt as already described. Do not attempt to cut the felt for the fringe until the painting and embroidery are done, as it gets unnecessarily beaten about in pinning the felt to the stretcher and would make the embroiderer frantic by catching into her silks.

“Of the embroidery, by the way, although it looks like a bona fide netted heading to a fringe, it is only one of the simple ‘crazy’ stitches—just a line of ‘cat stitch,’ then in the subsequent line each stitch is taken loosely linked to the bottom of the upper stitch—not through the felt, save at the bottom of the stitch.

“This table cover looks exceedingly artistic and expensive, which latter it is not—that is, if you can do the painting yourself.”

If you cannot do the painting you can at least embroider the designs in outline or long and short Kensington stitch with very good effect, almost equal to painting, in fact, if the Kensington embroider is used.


“An ingenious girl of my acquaintance,” writes “Bo-Peep,” “has added to her cosey parlor at a trifling expense two artistic and novel specimens of her handiwork. When I describe them to you and tell you the actual cost I am sure all of you who go to the seashore this summer will have next winger a ‘shell portiere’ and a ‘mermaid scarf.’ Do you remember the thin, yellow, almost flat shells which are so abundant on all beaches? Of course you do, but when you saw them by hundreds in the white sand I am sure you never imagined what a beautiful portiere could be made from them. Yet to this use have they been put by my young friend. She pierced each shell with a hot wire, and then with a delicate wire fastened the narrow end of one to the wide end of the next until a string sufficiently long to reach form the curtain pole to the floor was made. Enough of these were fashioned for the entire portiere. At the top they are held in place by a narrow strip of cloth of the same color as the shells. The effect is something like the Japanese portieres, but the coloring being Nature’s own is prettier, and then the cost—twenty cents, the price of the wire, and twelve cents for the strip of cloth.

“For a scarf dainty enough to grace the home of a sea nymph, buy a yard of Nile green India silk. Sew the shells on either end in artistic confusion, putting here and there a pretty bit of dried, golden brown seaweed. Make a fringe of the shells in the same manner as you made the portiere, only join them with Nile green embroidery silk instead of the wire. The scarf shows to particular advantage thrown over a highly polished antique oak frame enclosing a delightful water color of Maine’s wild coast.”

New York [NY] Herald 18 May 1890: p. 14

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil feels that the correct answer to the question “What can I do with birch bark?” is “It makes excellent tinder for lighting the fire or stove.”

Behind stories like this is the notion that the “ingenious girl” must do something with every scrap of birch-bark and sea-weed  picked up in an idle moment. Ladies’ magazines are chock-a-block with ideas for making sea-weed pictures, shell ornaments, and all manner of natural fancy-work. Even on holiday, ladies were not permitted to be idle:

If women staying at seashore resorts will spend part of their idle time in collecting a variety of shells, they may utilize them in the fall for a unique door drapery. Fasten the shells thickly on fish netting, then drape of the netting over a door casing and let it hang down at the sides. The shell trimmed netting also makes an attractive portiere by lining it with a light shade of sea green silk finished material. The Ypsilanti [MI] Commercial 12 August 1897: p. 5

Mrs Daffodil has nothing against shells, but suggests that there is no such thing as “a pretty bit of dried, golden brown seaweed” in a domestic interior.  And the very idea of birch-bark friezes, lichen trimmings, and corn-stalk dadoes would make any self-respecting parlour-maid shudder at their potential for collecting dust and harbouring insect life.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.


Mrs Daffodil Reviews Her Readers’ Favourite Posts of 2015

reading woman


Mrs Daffodil has been leafing through her scrapbooks and noting the posts that most found favour among her readers. As the year 2015 passes, here are some nostalgic favourites. Mrs Daffodil wishes her readers the happiest of New Years!

An archival post on The Angel of Gettysburg is a perennial favourite.

A look at the grewsome relics of King Charles I was also popular.

A Bashful Bridegroom was the “hit” of the June bridal specials.

Strange Flower Superstitions in Many Lands continues to fascinate.

How to Make Stage-Thunder and Lightning seems to have struck a chord.

Also popular were An X-ray Spook Party, Motto Dresses, Men who wear Corsets, Bicycle Jewellery, and, a personal favourite of Mrs Daffodil, who was able to “scoop” that person of mortuary fancies over at Haunted Ohio, The Death Drawer.

Mrs Daffodil will return to her regular level of service early in January 2016. Happy New Year!

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.




The Anti-Fancy-work Fairy: 1893

A gentleman's smoking cap. http://explore-art.pem.org/object/american-decorative-arts/109133/detai

A gentleman’s smoking cap. There may be shaded roses on one of the panels. http://explore-art.pem.org/object/american-decorative-arts/109133/detai


A Voice of Disapproval Raised Against useless Fancy Work.

“One reads about women that do fancy work, but one rarely meets them,” said the disagreeable Christmas fairy to the New York Recorder, “but there are such woman. I was going to say that there are such things, not that I scorn them, but one cannot help regarding as a curio a fin de siècle woman, to whom voice culture, the Delsarte system, stenography and skirt dancing are every-day studies, and French cookery and elocution only trifles that are expected of her, having time for fancy work.

“One cannot help wondering at what hour a woman gets up who performs her morning ablutions properly—I won’t go so far as to include manicuring, because, they say, it’s going out—who reads the daily paper enough to be able to talk to uninteresting people, who eats her meals without courting indigestion, who dresses as all women dress now, not wisely, but too well, and still has time to make things that hang on and tumble off chandeliers and chairs.

“There are such things as knitting machines; you can buy embroidery and insertion at less than 10 cents a yard; every one, in his or her heart, has an instinctive dislike to an antimacassar; no one loves a lamp mat; there never was a man yet who used a canvas pipe rack worked with forget-me-nots, and even embroidered braces are a species of pearl cast before swine; few men have the amount of moral courage required to wear a smoking cap with shaded roses worked on it, and a yellow tassel; all humanity hates, loathes and despises the kind of person who wears woolen cuffs, and yet—I speak with knowledge—there are still women in the heart of this great city who sit in a little woolly world of their own and count stitches and work flowers that nature wouldn’t recognize even as third cousins.

There are even women who work ‘Scratch My Back’ on a piece of perforated cardboard, and think that people of average intelligence are going to walk across the room, full of chairs, to a corner, full of knick-knacks, and take very remote chances of getting a light from the back of a bobbing concern with three tassels and four yards of ribbon on it.

“Life is too short for that kind of thing!

“I once knew a man who used an embroidered cigarette case, kept his newspapers in a satin wall-pocket, his handkerchiefs in a gorgeous affair inscribed ‘Mouchoirs,’ hung his watch in a perforated cardboard slipper, and folded his nightshirt into a scented case embroidered with his monogram, and a quotation from Shakespeare. He was, fortunately, a government clerk, and so had plenty of time. I should not call such a man a fool, so much as an old lady, and pity, rather than condemn him, because he was so obviously the victim of women who had too little to do.”

Times-Picayune [New Orleans, LA] 17 December 1893: p. 24

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: If that impassioned plea were not enough, here is a cautionary tale depicting a home that became a perfect hell of fancy-work.


The women of Brooklyn have taken a craze for embroidery on linen, and for the time being this fad has eclipsed china decorating, cushion collecting and souvenir spoon hunting. Every dish upon the dinner table reposes on a fringed or hemstitched doyley embroidered in delicate silks in all shades of the rainbow. A South Brooklyn man whose wife is an especially ardent embroiderer, told some of his friends the other day that his home was becoming a sort of nightmare to him. There were hard, knotty monograms on all the sheets, the bath towels were inscribed with sentences advocating cleanliness, and maxims were freely sprinkled about the house in all conceivable shapes, But the climax, he says, came the other evening, when he took off his coat to enjoy a game of billiards. He wore a white waistcoat, and across the back of it was embroidered in yellow letters:

I don’t care what the daisies say,

I know I’ll be married some fine day!

He was so mad when he discovered it that he went home and tore up a cheese doyley that had yellow mice embroidered all round the edges, and refused to sleep upon a pillow which read: “Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care.”

Star 12 August 1893: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil implores her readers who contemplate making holiday presents for their loved ones to shun the needle and floss as they would an opium pipe and purchase him that chain-saw for which he longs.

There was actually an organisation devoted to the abolishment of useless Christmas presents, which may be found in this post, which includes a delightful story on the subject by Saki, “Reginald on Christmas Presents.”

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.



“Motto” Dresses: 1924


The “motto” dress is the latest fancy of the Parisienne. It is an outcome of and an improvement upon the fad of working blouses and jumpers with the wearer’s monogram or cypher. A “motto” gown has a charming little aphorism, or even a slang phrase, fancifully worked in the form of embroidery on the pocket, the neck scarf or the girdle or panels. Sometimes the motto takes the form of a play upon the wearer’s name, but no matter what its origin, it must be either “short and smart,” or “short and sweet,” to achieve distinction and success. Sports dresses, in particular, adorned in this way are very popular, while tea gowns and boudoir wraps often support sentimental or intimate phrases. These latter are so skilfully intertwined in the embroidery that often only those that are shown the words have any hint that they exist.

Rather on the lines of sermons in stones are the new hats worked with a motto in crystal beads. Taken usually from the heraldic motto of the wearer, they are in Latin, and written quite clearly across the front of the small black cloches. The same motto is often repeated on the sunshade by people on the Riviera. New Zealand Herald, 29 March 1924: p. 6

Such whimseys had previously been popular in the 1880s and ’90s.

The latest whim of the gilded youth is his autograph embroidered, full length, upon his suspenders. Evening Star [Washington DC] 9 February 1889: p. 10

In bridal lingerie, the motto night-gown is the latest craze. The motto is embroidered, perhaps around the bottom of the skirt, on the cuffs, or on a shield-shaped piece in front, with a border of flowers. Among favorite quotations are: “Come thoughts as sweet as incense crushed from flowers;” “Good-night, sweet, good-night;” “Forget the world and all its cares;” “He giveth His beloved sleep;” “Sweet dreams,” etc. Godey’s Lady’s Book September 1890

A Philadelphia paper states that a belle who is shortly to be married in New York has hit on something original. She has had her dainty silken petticoat embroidered in delicately coloured silks, with verses from her favourite poets and writers. The lines are put just above the hem, so that if in crossing a muddy road the wearer were to raise her skirts an atom higher than usual a passer-by might judge at once by the embroidery on her petticoat if she were a lady of deep reading or only a lover of frivolous verse. Otago [NZ] Witness 30 January 1890, Page 41

Lady supporters of Truman-Barkley or Dewey-Warren may purchase lingerie embroidered with their favorites’ names. Register-Republic [Rockford, IL] 22 October 1948: p. 22

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The best Mrs Daffodil could do is the Jacobite garter pictured at the head of this post; the 18th-century equivalent of the Truman-Dewey political contest lingerie, one imagines. She is desolate that she has not been able to find true examples of these chatty, ephemeral garments and asks her kind readers to contribute, should they know of a poetic petticoat in their local costume collection. Mrs Daffodil supposes that motto-dresses and the heraldic hats with their insufferable Latin pretensions were the precursors of the witty “I’m With Stupid” singlets often seen in the States. Even “short and sweet” is a slippery slope.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.



An Officer and an Embroiderer: 1883

Berlin Wool-work slippers, c. 1860 http://collections.lacma.org/node/247862

Berlin Wool-work slippers, c. 1860 http://collections.lacma.org/node/247862


Who Frequents Fancy Stores and Discourses with Authority upon Feminine Handiwork.

“Have you any lighter shades of arrasene?” The deep manly tones of the speaker rose above the hum of female voices that filled a little store in this city devoted exclusively to the sale of materials for fancy work. Fashionably attired in garments of the latest design, but betraying in his appearance none of the follies of the dude, the speaker stood leaning carelessly against the counter, handling the mysteries of flosses and skeins opened out before him with all the familiarity of a lady customer. He had none of the awkwardness of the ordinary husband, brother or lover who finds himself in such a place and was apparently making purchases for himself and not merely acting as an errand boy for his sister or lady friend. The lady who was waiting on him happened to be the proprietor of the store, and in spite of the fact that he was a man apparently treated him as an equal. She had none of that manner of pitying condescension for helpless and dense ignorance with which the average man is greeted when an unkind fate or bad weather compels his unwilling steps into such a store.

“I am sorry that we are out of the lighter shades just at present,” she replied in her most gracious manner. “But don’t you think that this would do,” she continued, taking up a skein and holding it up to show it off to the best advantage. It was an appeal to his judgment and not a dogmatic assertion.

“No, I don’t think that it will,” was the prompt and decided response, and the saleswoman yielding without further parley began to restore the scattered silks to the box.

“How did you succeed with your last piece?” she inquired with a pleasant smile as the young man began to draw on his gloves.

“Splendidly,” was the enthusiastic response. “It was perfectly lovely.”

Other customers demanding her attention put an end to this interesting fancy work gossip, and deprived the world of further information as to the achievements of this remarkable young man. He is, however, well known in society circles in this city, and his lady friends have had frequent occasions to admire specimens of his handiwork. When macramé became the fashionable craze he worked a number of elaborate pieces and contributed them to fairs for charity objects. He is a young naval officer, and employs his spare moments in cultivating his gifts in this direction, but in other respects he is not effeminate and is very popular with his associates in the service.

Evening Star [Washington DC] 29 December 1883: p. 2

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Obviously the embroidering gentleman was a novelty and the author feels the need to defend his subject against charges of “dude-ism” or effeminacy. Yet during the golden age of embroidery, when Queen Elizabeth was on the throne, there was a class of professional male embroiderers who may have outnumbered the females in that profession.

Many men in high places, such as the Duke of Windsor, who learnt the art from his mother Queen Mary, enjoyed relaxing over their needlepoint. Mrs Daffodil believes that Sir Winston Churchill also stitched, but she has not been able to verify that assertion. Canvas stitchery enjoyed a resurgence during the 1960s when an American football player, Mr Roosevelt Grier helped to popularise it in the States, even writing a book on the subject: Needlepoint for Men. Its appeal lay in offering something to do with the hands that required little thought. One expects that to-day, that function is fulfilled by “smart phones.”

Arrasene was a silk or wool, chenille-like embroidery cord. See this page for details and photo-gravures.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.



The Dude’s Trouser Bug: An 1888 Fad



From The Philadelphia News


“What’s the matter?”

“There’s a horrid bug on your trousers. Brush it off, Jack!”

A pretty girl and a particularly well-dressed youth were walking out Walnut Street yesterday afternoon about 3 o’clock. The pretty girl’s face filled with horror at the sight of a long, brightly colored caterpillar, which extended itself lengthwise on her companion’s pantaloons just above the knee. She struck it deftly with her parasol, but the insect clung to the cloth, which was a fine quality of black cassimere. A second poke failed to dislodge it. Finally she stopped and tried to pick it off, but it refused to move.

“Better leave him alone, sis,” laughed the young man, and upon her asking what it was, remarked as follows:

“It’s a new wrinkle. You order a jet black pair of trousers with a shine on the cloth. Then, after your tailor has cut the pieces, have a spot marked over the left knee and get somebody to embroider there a bug or butterfly, or some such insect. It’s only been out a week, and nobody has it outside of Philadelphia. Great idea, eh, sis?”

“Who embroidered that?”

“Fannie; great scheme.”

His sister curled her lip. “I don’t like it,” said she.

New York Tribune 12 September 1888: p. 3

Mrs. Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: So reminiscent of the deliberately ripped jeans and safety-pinned holes of the so-called “punk” and “grunge” adherents. The young and rebellious are often tediously derivative. Mrs Daffodil finds it a shocking waste of good cassimere.


Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.