During the blog redesign, I came up with the idea of a very low-tech (with scanner, two computers, a household network, and several different computer programs… ok, well, at least the light box was low-tech: the patio door on a sunny day) customizable avatar. Working off of a photo of myself in my colonial outfit (I wear it to Colonial Williamsburg and Tea Parties, not around the house), I traced a simple line drawing of the Housewyf.
After getting her settled on the blog header, I thought, hey, I could do more outfits and activities (heck, all housewyfs are busy women, right?). So, Mistress Housewyf, keeping her basic pose and outlines, has multiplied into a variety of interests, themes, and activities. She will be changed to suit my moods and activities. Just in case you wanted to see more detail or see all of them, and because I wanted to show them off, here they are!
While gardening, Mistress Housewyf wears a green striped gown over a plain grey underskirt. The lace on her sleeves is shorter than normal, to keep out of the way. She holds a shovel and a basket of freshly cut flowers. Next to her is a pumpkin and a blooming rosemary plant.
After gardening, of course, comes cooking! Mistress Housewyf is carrying a basket of freshly picked carrots, lettuce, and herbs (and her trowel for digging up the carrots). From the looks of the spoon and the contents of the basket, it’s probably a soup night.
Some days, and especially on Sundays, Mistress Housewyf needs a break, and the best way to ensure that is to not dress for work! She is wearing a lovely stripped underskirt in yellow and purple, with an elegant, complimentary purplish-pink gown. As accents, the gown has a double ruffle of lace at the sleeves and a gauzy, fringed purple shawl. Just to make sure that she doesn’t get digging in the garden, she is equipped with a flowered fan to encourage sitting still and enjoying the garden from the bench.
While cleaning, Mistress Housewyf wears a striped gray underskirt and a plain gown. She holds a feather duster and a mop next to a bucket of bubbles. For cleaning, she puts away her straw hat and wears only the mob cap, a plain cotton hair covering (which is also normally worn under the hat, to protect the hair from dust between baths (which were not as rare as you may have been taught, but also were not a daily occurence in colonial America)).
Running errands is not my favorite task, so I try to get them all out of the way on one day. Mistress Housewyf, holding her list (“Doctor, grocer…”) is surrounded by her purchases: a bolt of fabric, a sack of flour, and a cask and box containing some household necessity or other.
Some days, you just need some chocolate. Mistress Housewyf understands that, although chocolate was usually eaten in a much less sweet form (and usually as a drink) in her time. But bonbons are easier to draw. She wears a gown in a shade of dark chocolate, finely striped. Her sleeves are trimmed in a pointed lace, and her underskirt has a stripes and dots pattern in a lovely hue of milk chocolate.
What Mistress Housewyf spends most of her day on is teaching her three children. Diva is lovely in her burgundy dress with oversized cuffs, with golden brown underskirt; her hat, as usual, is hanging down her back. Empress is typically cute as a dumpling in her blue dress laced up the front over a plain white shift. Crash is incredibly handsome in his navy blue vest with embroidered vines, acorns, berries, and bald eagles. His coat, in the same fabric, is trimmed in gold braid on the edges, around the buttonholes, and along the edge of his oversized cuffs. He also sports a cravate and a tricorn hat. (And, seriously, surrounded by those adorable kids, who’s looking at Momma?) In case you are, she is wearing a simple scarf over her usual blue dress with lace trim, with a golden yellow patterned underskirt.
Crash is studying his ABC’s. Diva is reading a book (at her request) which says, “Pray for Life.” Momma is writing the first line of the St. Michael prayer: “St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle…”
Eventually, Mistress Housewyf might get some time to rest. (Notice the absence of children.) She is wearing a lovely wine-colored gown to match the beverage in her right hand. Her green hat ribbon and patterned underskirt match the cover of her book… a nice, fat book, not written by anyone named “Seuss” or featuring talking animals.
Dressed in a stylish purple dress with green trim, Mistress Housewyf is holding a matching pair of lime green scissors and a trailing yellow tape measure. Strapped to her right wrist is a pincushion (yes, I know, it should be on the left wrist; artistic (or, more accurately, artist) restrictions). Sweeping out of her hand is a gorgeous Storm at Sea quilt.
Added in July 2010, the portrait of Mistress Housewyf spinning was created to note a new hobby. She is holding a batch of roving (carded and cleaned wool) in her left hand. With her right hand, she controls the spinning drop spindle. As the spin moves up the fiber, yarn is created; when the spindle reaches the floor, the fiber is taken off the hook at the top of the spindle and wound onto the shaft. Then, the fiber is re-hooked and spinning continues. Her yarn is much nicer and more even than mine.
Mistress Housewyf is wearing a lovely combination of a green spotted underskirt, with a purple stripe and green dot pattern for her dress.
This may be my favorite of the many versions of the housewyf. Forget the dress, let’s talk about the gorgeous floor loom! It has eight harnesses (those frames holding the wires with the eyes in the middle, where the warp yarns are threaded to be pulled up), allowing for plenty of pattern variations. The front legs are decorated with pomegranates and grapes, and the loom bench is similarly decorated with pomegranates, grapes, wheat, herbs, and multi-colored corn ears. Mistress Housewyf even has her heddle hook hanging conveniently on the side of the castle and a basket of extra yarn on top.
The one clothing note I will make is that this is the only time (so far) that you have seen Mistress Housewyf’s shoes. (The right toe is sticking out of the skirts, working the far right treadle.) They are a light and dark purple brocade. Ever since I saw the news article on Martha Washington’s wildly fashionable purple brocade wedding shoes, I’ve wanted some. Now, I sort of have some… or, at least, Mistress Housewyf, my well-dressed alter ego has some. (For a better view, see the larger version.)
Since Empress is from China, Mistress Housewyf maintains an interest in Chinese affairs, history, and culture. She is wearing a crimson dress, with a cherry blosom pattern on the bodice. Her yellow underskirt is patterned with dragons, and she holds a traditional red lantern. Red, in China and much of Asia, is a color of celebration; traditionally, brides wear red, although white Western gowns are sometimes worn now as well.
From time to time, Mistress Housewyf enjoys dabbling in art, not that she’s particularly gifted in any sketching that doesn’t involve an art projector. (But, hey, now they say that some of the major Renaissance painters used a camera obscura to do the outlines on their masterpieces, too…) She is painting bamboo with a dragonfly, although, actually, you can’ t do Chinese brush painting on a non-horizontal surface. (Didn’t fit with the template; nothing I could do about it!)
After the initial designs, I had to add a few more. Given the cycle of vicious thunderstorms we’ve had this summer here in southeastern Virginia, and resignedly anticipating hurricane season, here is Mistress Housewyf watching the storms roll in.
Set aside for patriotic-themed holidays, Mistress Housewyf has her “Americana” outfit. The bodice is “broad stripes” in red and white, while the skirt is a lovely blue. Her underskirt is covered in “bright stars” in golden yellow.
And finally, for the “crowning of the year,” Mistress Housewyf is wearing her Christmas finery. Her dress is striped in holly green, trimmed in pointed lace with red accents. Her underskirt is patterned in crimson, and she holds a Williamsburg wreath, with oranges and lemons arranged around a pineapple, symbol of hospitality.