Saturday I glanced at my library's Best Bets shelf as I passed and
stopped dead to pick up 19th Century Embroidery Techniques, by Gail Marsh.
That might not seem like much of a compelling title to the average procrastinator, but the cover shares several images of beautiful and seriously labour-intensive embroidery and quilting.
This told me two things:
a/ the book might inspire an idea for something I could use to procrastinate productively should the writing bog down this winter, and anyway I don't expect to have any quiet writing time until Tuesday so I have little pockets of time to fill in
b/ any book talking about historic embroidery techniques is going to be talking about historic lives of women. And I am a sucker for social history.
The book so did not disappoint that I stopped reading about halfway through and ordered a copy for my own library, along with the author's earlier work, 18th Century Embroidery Techniques.
All of the textiles in the book are gorgeous, and quite a lot of it is work I can imagine seeing on tiny happy, or Quite A Handful - it's that vibrant and contemporary. There is, in fact, quite a lot of incidental history, and some really touching moments.
For example, the book includes pictures of one Nancy Horsfall's wedding bedcover, made in 1833. It's a bright and cheerful with an embroidered message, part of which reads, less cheerfully,
When I am dead and in my grave,
and all my bones are gone to dust
Take up this work and think of me!
When I am quite forgot.
Done and done, Nancy, and not in a sad way either. She was an artist!
A year later Nancy made a cot cover of similar design that includes the phrase "Welcome sweet babe."
I think Nancy must have married for love and looked forward to having children to play with, don't you?