The lace canopy that shields from torrents and sunbeams possesses a history that spans the centuries back to the East Indies 5000 years past. But the French popularized the hand-held accessory during the reign of King Louis XIV when couturiers would fabricate lavishly trimmed parasols to match splendid gowns.
No doubt, summer is the most social season the year. It is a time for block parties with the neighbors, family vacations, camping trips, evenings spent in the company of friends on the back deck.
Door-step parties were a favorite summer pastime for the Victorians.
I was so cut-out for this. I remember calling dibs on my mother’s McCalls magazine, anxiously thumbing my way to Betsy McCall. Every month beginning in April, 1951, the adventures of the two dimensional pre-teen were shared with readers. Every little girl envied her wardrobe almost as much as her whirlwind adventures. Manual dexterity was required to extract her pretty clothes from the page with scissors. Almost every women’s periodical offered a paper doll, one of the earliest being Ladies’ Home Journal in which children would crayon the color. Celebrities were celebrated on paper, from Queen Victoria to movie stars. From Lettie Lane and Polly Pratt to Dolly Dingle, the cut-out friends would be stashed in shoeboxes for rainy day play. Printed paper doll sets were reserved for the affluent during the Victorian era when the colorful lithographic sets by Raphael Tuck and the McLoughlin Bros. were selling for a hefty fifteen cents.
The term “chintz” has come to imply a broad range of products bearing a vintage floral pattern—most commonly associated with porcelain china and polished upholstery fabric. Favorite patterns were comprised of delicate rose motif with meandering sprig stems connected by tiny hand-painted “spots”. The earliest records indicate that French cotton printers arrived in London in the mid-1600’s. They were known as “Calico Printers,” having mastered the craft of rendering colored patterns in layers upon silk and cotton. The process consisted of stretching a length of cloth upon which an engraved wooden block is stamped at even intervals in a variety of colored inks. With one hand the stamp block is precisely positioned while the other hand strikes the block to entrench the colour deeply within the fibers.
It is official. The fireflies and frogs have announced the barefoot season. Even the Autumn lovers have succumbed to hammocks and wind chimes in wait of the eminent turn. The rhythmic hum of oscillating fans, lawn mowers, children’s clamor and gurgling fountains are the soundtrack of summer. Family potlucks and cookouts invite picnic hampers, nostalgic tablecloths and pieced quilts to sprawl upon the ground.
This is the nonchalant season when the living is easy. Relaxed conversation over icy lemonade on the porch swing and patriotic cupcakes with butter cream frosting, and trips to the organic market (wicker cart and grocery shopping bag and bicycle basket).
May your sunshiny days surprise your thirsty gardens with an occasional thunderstorm. Revel in the aromas and visions of the leisure season until that first cold snap induces sweater weather once again!