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For the man who has everything…

November 26, 2009

Stumped for what to craft for the men in your life this Christmas that isn’t another hat or scarf? A curious and innovative answer comes courtesy of the Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine for November 1863. How about a carriage foot warmer, with your man’s best friend, his favourite beagle, lovingly beaded on the lid!

“Now that the cold weather is coming on” asserts the magazine, “this will be found a very suitable and seasonable article to work, and makes a very elegant and useful present.” (I’m not so sure about elegant but do know I wouldn’t mind having my feet on one of these now- I’m sure it would work as a footstool…)

The actual foot-warmer apparently consists of a felt-lined box covered with a stuffed lid. Lift up the lid, and there’s a tin vessel inside the box, which you fill with boiling water, and “the heat comes through the soft lid, thus imparting a delightful warmth to the feet when the box is in use”.

“The dog is worked entirely in beads, the rest of the pattern in wool. The back of the animal is executed in three shades of brown beads; the belly front and legs in fawn alabaster, chalk and crystal beads. The collar is worked in blue beads, with a gold bead here and there; and in the eye three gold beads must not be omitted. When the work is finished it is nailed roung the fame of the lid and the nails are concealed by means of a quilling in scarlet ferret or worsted braid neatly tacked round.”

(Be assured that no real ferrets were harmed in the making of this carriage warmer- ferrets were the name given to “narrow ware” such as tapes, ribbons, etc.)

Although handmade gifts are obviously lovely because the giver has clearly put a lot of time and thought into the gift, I wonder if it was partly the economic conventions in place in Victorian times (and earlier) which meant that presents given by women tended to be mostly hand made. If you were poor and unmarried, the only option might be to remake something or make some inexpensive materials into something greater than the sum their parts. (Note that our carriage warmer does not sound as if it will be a cheap option.) But, but, if you were a reasonably well off Victorian housewife you technically had no money of your own. It all belonged to your husband, so, to give a really thoughtful present to him that he technically wouldn’t have paid for himself, maybe the only option was to make something by hand. Your investment would be your time and effort- a veritable labour of love.

If any of you think this would be just the thing for any of your male acquaintance, click the pattern at the top of the post for a larger image you can actually work from. But promise you’ll send a picture (complete with carriage, naturally…)

One Comment leave one →
  1. Nathalie permalink
    November 26, 2009 5:35 pm

    What a fabulous object! Although I might take some convincing about the beagle on the lid, the idea that it’s beaded means that you can warm your feet whilst giving yourself a foot massage all at the same time! Exactly what’s needed for late nights in front of the computer…

    I suspect money and access to shops (or the lack thereof) must have both contributed to the fashion for making one’s gifts rather than buying them. And it would have kept them occupied (now women have educations and jobs; swings and roundabouts…). These days it’s far more tricky I find. In times of penury, many a present I have made – a shirt, pyjamas, or a little dress – yet however much the gifts seem appreciated, it took a while not to feel cheap when giving them, as though the value of things were only linked to their cost…

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