We use the term “parlorcraft” to refer to 19th-century handwork by people of all social classes. Parlorcraft is not limited to needlework, although all 19th-century women, and many boys, and nearly all sailors, would have been skilled at sewing and mending. For the working classes, sewing and mending clothing for the entire family was a necessity, but they also took in piece-work, dipped matches, fashioned paper flowers, and made other small items to be sold on the streets. For the middle- and some of the upper-classes, home sewing was still a necessity.
Even a family affluent enough to afford the services of a dress-maker or tailor would still need to sew and mend underclothing, diapers, handkerchiefs, petticoats, and other garments. Young women were expected to sew and embroider items for their trosseau, to have table linens, lingerie, and night-gowns for their married life. For upper-class women who did not need to sew their family’s clothing, needle skills were the hallmark of an educated lady, as well as a leisure activity. Scrap-booking, painting china and glass, basket-weaving, watercoloring, lace-making, paper quilling, decoupage, hair-work, weaving and many other hand-crafts helped pass the time and create beautiful and useful objects. Nineteeenth-century men also engaged in hand crafts, such as leatherwork, whittling, and yes, knitting. Sailors had their own particular crafts, such as scrimshaw, cabinetry, rope-work, shell-work, and embroidery.
The Parlorcraft Circle was launched by Society founders Eva and Zoh, and is currently hosted by Morgana Toglia and Rachel Klingberg. It meets approximately once a month depending on meeting space availability. The events are free and materials, instruction, and refreshments are generally provided by the hosts.
Support is generously provided by Materials For the Arts, operated by New York City Department of Cultural Affairs with additional support from the City’s Departments of Sanitation and of Education, and by the Friends of Materials for the Arts.
Past Parlorcraft Circles:
September 2016: Handmade Books
July 2016: Cravats, Jabots, and Ties
June 2016: Wallets and Reticules
March 2016: Embroidered Samplers
February 2016: Victorian Valentines
January 2016: Handmade Shoes
November 2015: Spencerian Script
September 2015: Crochet
August 2015: Tatted Lace
July 2015: Smoking Caps
December 2014: Tussie Mussies (Christmas edition)
November 2014: Reticules and Scissors Cases
October 2014: Papercraft (Halloween edition)
September 2014: Embroidered Handkerchiefs and Lace Edgings
November 2013: Free Sewing
March 2013: Free Sewing
October 2012: Swap Meet and Free Sewing
August 2012: Gentlemen’s Accessories – Bow Ties and Suspenders
April 2012: 19th Century Knitting
February 2012: Show and Tell, Free Sewing
December 2011: Knitted Sock Garters
October 2011: Crocheted Lace
May 2011: Victorian Embroidery
April 2011: Free Sewing
March 2011: Gaiters and Spats