Friday 24 March 2023

March Fashion Friday

For this month's Fashion Friday we have a link to a fabulous website with an index of Edwardian to WWI Sewing Books.

Well worth the perusal!

The Victorian Society of Alberta

Free Edwardian-WWI Era Sewing Books

This blog post is meant to be an index for helping you to access free sewing books on from the 1900-1910s. These sewing manuals would originally have been used in conjunction with paper sewing patterns of this period.

Why Sewing Books? Can’t I Just Read the Pattern?

Well, you can… kind of. If you have sewn with original sewing patterns, or reproductions of them, you know that they can be very vague. Sewing instructions of this period, if they existed at all, would have been a few short, written paragraphs with no illustrations. Butterick had the patent on the illustrated instructions, and patterns from about the mid-1910s on have a few simple illustrations but can still be quite vague. Short version: Don’t expect any patterns of this period to have in-depth instructions! They were mostly a suggestion rather than a walk-through. I always suggest in my patterns that readers reference the free period sewing books available online. There is a plethora of them!

Using these sewing books in conjunction with the antique patterns is how our predecessors would have approached their sewing projects. Sewing was also a technical skill that would have been passed down through the generations, or part of a home economics program. Since most students no longer have access to home economics, we are lucky to have a written record of techniques. Pre-20th century books would loosely explain technique, but not always illustrate. As printing technology advanced, so, too, did the practical sharing of knowledge. You may find books reaching towards the 1920s have more in-depth instruction, though I have not previewed each link.

Special note: don’t discount books that were addressed towards children. They have valuable information regardless of age, and sewing would have been a skill taught to girls as part of their education during this period. If you’re learning to sew from scratch, starting with the lessons in a girls’ sewing book could help walk you through the basics (and I say girl’s simply because that’s how the period addressed them- I obviously think sewing is open to anyone!)

Please keep in mind that I haven’t previewed all these books and the information and beliefs expressed within are indicative of the period in which they originated (true when viewing any historical primary source documents). Even sewing books can sneak in some cringeworthy content, so don’t be surprised…

Here are a selection of some sewing books available on

1901: Home and School Sewing

1901: Longman’s Complete Course of Knitting, Needlework, and Cutting Out

1903: The Art of Dressmaking at Home and in the Workroom

1904: Manual of Exercises in Hand Sewing

1904: Margaret J Blair’s System of Sewing and Garment Drafting

1905: Hand Sewing Lessons; a Graded Course for Schools and For the Home

1905: Dressmaking Up to Date


And lots and lots more at this wonderful site!
Check it out.

Free Edwardian-WWI Era Sewing Books


Thursday 16 March 2023

New Feature! Recipe Tests

Today we are starting a new monthly feature by VSA member Marian Gibbard.

Recipe Tests
Trying out period recipes and seeing what they are like.
For this inaugural post Marian is giving us a look at a recipe for Apple Lemon Pie from 1905.

Mmmmmm... 😋

The Victorian Society of Alberta


Recipe Test: Apple Lemon Pie

From: The North End Club Cookbook: A collection of choice and tested recipes.
Compiled and arranged by the Ladies of the Club. Chicago, Illinois, 1905.


In celebration of Pi Day (March 14), I decided to combine a couple of interests - cooking from old recipes and pie.  Not having a suitable cookbook already in my collection, I turned to the internet, and discovered the North End Club Cookbook, published in 1905 in Chicago, Illinois.


 At 166 pages long, the book covers Appetizers, Soups, Bread (includes biscuits, waffles, muffins, etc.), Sandwiches, Vegetables, Eggs and Cheese, Fish, Meats (includes poultry), Salads, Pastry, Puddings, Pudding Sauces, Cake, Small Cakes (includes cookies and doughnuts), Ices and Ice Cream, Preserves, Pickles, Candy, Things Worth Knowing, Chafing Dish, and Beverages. The final section  - twenty or so pages - consists of advertisements for the local businesses whose purchased ad space would have financed the publication of the book.  The foreword of the book makes it clear that these are practical, well-tested recipes. 

The precision and clarity of instructions for preparation of the recipes varies somewhat - clearly there is an assumption of underlying cooking knowledge. This may present a few small stumbling blocks for modern cooks, but for the most part Google is a capable stand in for an experienced cook of an older generation.


 Knowing there were some substandard apples languishing in the back of the produce drawer, and wishing to celebrate Pi Day, I immediately focused on the ‘Pastry’ section. Midway through the section, on page 78, the recipe for ‘Apple Lemon Pie’ submitted by Mrs. Almet Powell caught my eye:

Apple Lemon Pie

Grate the yellow rind of 1 lemon, add the juice, 1 egg, 1 cup of sugar. Beat well together, then stir in 2 medium sized apples grated. Bake between two crusts.


 A simple and straightforward recipe, this went together quickly. I quickly removed the zest from a medium sized lemon using a modern Microplane zester (a fantastic tool that I’d highly recommend)and juiced it with and old fashioned wooden reamer (make sure to strain out the seeds). I then used a fork to combine the zest and juice with a scant 3/4 cup of white sugar (less sugar than Mrs Powell called for, but we like things on the less sweet side)  and then beat in an extra large egg (because that is what I had, but a medium egg would probably be more like the size Mrs. Powell used).  The Ambrosia apples (a modern variety, and these were past their prime) were peeled, quartered, cored, coarsely grated and mixed into the egg mixture. I used 3 apples rather than two to fill my 9’ pie plate. Because I was in a hurry I used store-bought pastry rather than making my own.  I then baked the pie at 375F for about 40 minutes, until the pastry was nicely golden and the juices bubbling up around the edges. It smelled marvellously lemon-y.

That evening, the pie was served at room temperature. Initial reactions were slight puzzlement - the pie neither smelled nor looked quite like conventional apple pie due to the apples being grated rather than chopped, and the lemon zest lending it a bright and sunny yellow colour.  Overall tasting reaction was favourable. The first bite was somewhat suggestive of pineapple - perhaps due to the texture and slight acidity - but the final verdict that it was ‘almost like lemon pie except for the texture’. 

This is definitely a recipe that I would make again, and I would recommend it as great way to use up apples that have lost their crisp texture or are rather flat tasting.


Final conclusions:

Use zest from half a lemon, rather than the whole lemon.

Adjust sugar to taste - 3/4 cup was about right for us, but may be too tart for others.

Experiment with apple varieties to find the texture you like best.

If you want a more apple-y tasting pie, add typical apple pie spices like cinnamon or nutmeg, and use only half a lemon’s worth of juice.

This would likely make a great tart filling - leave off the top crust and top with some whipped cream or maybe even a bit of merengue.



More early 1900’s community cookbook links from the Library of Congress here:

More next month.

Thursday 9 March 2023

Family Day at Military Museums "After Action Report"

The snowy Family Day event at the Military Museums on Feb 20, 2023 was excellent.
According to the main organizer that your Editor chatted with, this was a record crowd for their Family Day event.

The VSA had a great spot, right by the entrance to the theatre.

A varied and fascinating crowd came by to ask questions and listen to our spiel. Interestingly most of them were new Canadians, Ukrainians, Africans (I didn't ask which country they were from), Koreans and Filipinos. The questions were different than we usually get and they were always happy to hear about the history of Western Canada.

Your editor's "Victorian Internet" display attracted lots of interest and it click/clacked away all day.

Our tables were shared with the 10th Battalion WWI group.

A fun event with lots of interesting people to chat with about the telegraph and Western Canadian history.

I hope everyone had a good Family day as well.

The Victoria Society of Alberta

Tuesday 7 March 2023

March Book Tuesday

 This month we have an excerpt from:

by Cecil B. Hartley, published in 1860 in Boston.

This book has tons of interesting information on how a "Gentleman" should behave. Everything from dress and wedding etiquette to letter writing and how to behave at public "amusements".  While much of this seems quaint in today's free and easy world, I think we would do well to remember that many of these rules were necessary in the crowded pedestrian cities of the 19th century.

The One Hundred Hints below have some insights into what it means to be a Gentlemen regardless of what one's station in society was.

Here are the first few to give you a feel for the content.

The Victorian Society of Alberta


1. Always avoid any rude or boisterous action, especially when in the presence of ladies. It is not necessary to be stiff, indolent, or sullenly silent, neither is perfect gravity always required, but if you jest let it be with quiet, gentlemanly wit, never depending upon clownish gestures for the effect of a story. Nothing marks the gentleman so soon and so decidedly as quiet, refined ease of manner.

2. Never allow a lady to get a chair for herself, ring a bell, pick up a handkerchief or glove she may have dropped, or, in short, perform any service for herself which you can perform for her, when you are in the room. By extending such courtesies to your mother, sisters, or other members of your family, they become habitual, and are thus more gracefully performed when abroad.

3. Never perform any little service for another with a formal bow or manner as if conferring a favour, but with a quiet gentlemanly ease as if it were, not a ceremonious, unaccustomed performance, but a matter of course, for you to be courteous.

4. It is not necessary to tell all that you know; that were mere folly; but what a man says must be what he believes himself, else he violates the first rule for a gentleman’s speech—Truth.

5. Avoid gambling as you would poison. Every bet made, even in the most finished circles of society, is a species of gambling, and this ruinous crime comes on by slow degrees. Whilst a man is minding his business, he is playing the best game, and he is sure to win. You will be tempted to the vice by those whom the world calls gentlemen, but you will find that loss makes you angry, and an angry man is never a courteous one; gain excites you to continue the pursuit of the vice; and, in the end you will lose money, good name, health, good conscience, light heart, and honesty; while you gain evil associates, irregular hours and habits, a suspicious, fretful temper, and a remorseful, tormenting conscience. Some one must lose in the game; and, if you win it, it is at the risk of driving a fellow creature to despair.

6. Cultivate tact! In society it will be an invaluable aid. Talent is something, but tact is everything. Talent is serious, sober, grave, and respectable; tact is all that and more too. It is not a sixth sense, but it is the life of all the five. It is the open eye, the quick ear, the judging taste, the keen smell, and the lively touch; it is the interpreter of all riddles—the surmounter of all difficulties—the remover of all obstacles. It is useful in all places, and at all times; it is useful in solitude, for it shows a man his way into the world; it is useful in society, for it shows him his way through the world. Talent is power—tact is skill; talent is weight—tact is momentum; talent knows what to do—tact knows how to do it; talent makes a man respectable—tact will make him respected; talent is wealth—tact is ready money. For all the practical purposes of society tact carries against talent ten to one.

7. Nature has left every man a capacity of being agreeable, though all cannot shine in company; but there are many men sufficiently qualified for both, who, by a very few faults, that a little attention would soon correct, are not so much as tolerable. Watch, avoid such faults.

8. Habits of self-possession and self-control acquired early in life, are the best foundation for the formation of gentlemanly manners. If you unite with this the constant intercourse with ladies and gentlemen of refinement and education, you will add to the dignity of perfect self command, the polished ease of polite society.

9. Avoid a conceited manner. It is exceedingly ill-bred to assume a manner as if you were superior to those around you, and it is, too, a proof, not of superiority but of vulgarity. And to avoid this manner, avoid the foundation of it, and cultivate humility. The praises of others should be of use to you, in teaching, not what you are, perhaps, but in pointing out what you ought to be.

10. Avoid pride, too; it often miscalculates, and more often misconceives. The proud man places himself at a distance from other men; seen through that distance, others, perhaps, appear little to him; but he forgets that this very distance causes him also to appear little to others.

11. A gentleman’s title suggests to him humility and affability; to be easy of access, to pass by neglects and offences, especially from inferiors; neither to despise any for their bad fortune or misery, nor to be afraid to own those who are unjustly oppressed; not to domineer over inferiors, nor to be either disrespectful or cringing to superiors; not standing upon his family name, or wealth, but making these secondary to his attainments in civility, industry, gentleness, and discretion.