Frills and furbelows, corsets and cuffs, prose and poetry, mittens and muffs…
If these are a few of your favourite things, you will love Tea in a Tea Cup – a blog that looks at the fashion, art, literature, poetry, customs and pastimes that were prominent in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.
Kelly Lock is a mother of six, talented seamstress and writer of the Tea in a Tea Cup blog. She is passionate about all things period themed; she loves to read the works of Jane Austen and Dan Parkinson, and she loves to create clothing that is reminiscent of the era.
“When I was about 20 years old, I found a book at my university library, published by The Victoria and Albert Museum, on historical fashion in the eighteenth century. This really sparked my interest in historical dress as well as history itself, so I began to read history books more widely,” Kelly explains.
“Once I began making period clothing, I realised I needed somewhere to wear them, and so I found some folk dancing groups in my area. Around this time I also saw the 1995 Pride and Prejudice series on TV, which was the first time I discovered Jane Austen. I think all of these things really combined to spark my interest.”
Costumes and Creations
On the blog you can see some of Kelly’s amazing creations, all made painstakingly by hand, and true to the time period there were inspired by. Kelly says her favourite piece is an eighteenth century embroidered stomacher, inspired by two extant stomachers held in the Victoria and Albert Museum.
“I am not a very good embroiderer; it was something I really detested as a child, much preferring the more simple cross-stitch and long-stitch. I began to do more embroidery when I realised it would add something extra to my costumes,” Kelly says.
“As I have improved my skills at historical sewing, I have tried to look at either extant pieces, paintings or fashion plates for my inspiration, as they tend to be the most historically accurate sources.”
Juggling family and hobby Spare time is at a premium for Kelly, who is married with six children, ranging in age from 17 years to two years old.
“It can be hard to find uninterrupted time to engage in such a time consuming hobby with young children at home,” Kelly says.
“I rediscovered that creative part of myself after having three children in three and a half years. I decided that I really needed to prioritise some creative time, so I structure my day so that all my children have a rest time between 12 and 2pm each day. I use this time to sit down and work on one of my projects. This means that I also have to resist using that time to do housework!”
Some of Kelly’s Projects
Mr Darcy or Mr Knightly?
When asked about the “Mr Darcy” in her life (referring to the popular antagonist of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice), Kelly is quick to point out that she prefers to think of her husband as “My Mr Knightly” (one of the lead characters from Austen’s Emma).
Kelly makes period themed clothes for her husband and her children – everything from breeches for the boys and petticoats for the girls.
“My eldest daughter is 10 and loves dressing up in costumes – she has even made some for herself. She also enjoys being creative in lots of different ways, from drawing to embroidery,” Kelly says.
“My sons and husband are also very creative but in more construction-related ways. Their creativity generally takes the form of cool inventions or scientific experiments or building awesome stuff!”
A Natural Talent
Aside from high school textile studies and one short corset making course, Kelly has no formal dressmaking training. “I was taught to sew at the age of six and by the time I was in high school I was sewing clothes for myself regularly,” Kelly says.
“I have always loved being creative in lots of different ways; sewing is only one of them. I would love to learn pattern drafting and draping one day!”
Kelly believes that while we can learn a lot from history, in many ways, not much has changed. “The one thing that I learn consistently from history is that people essentially haven’t changed,” Kelly says.
“Certainly language has changed. Our ability to express ourselves has changed. Our cultural customs have changed. Our dress has changed. But people are still the same. We have passions, we get hurt, we feel rejection or despair, we can be selfish, we enjoy power, we can be devious, and we can be compassionate.
“Whenever I read the personal letters or journals of a person from history, I always retain that sense that they were a person just like me. They may have been living in a different social and cultural context, but they were motivated by all the same desires as I am.”
A few of Kelly’s favourite things…
Favourite book: Fox and the Faith, by Dan Parkinson (first of a four-book series)
“This series of novels is set in the late 1770’s during the war between Britain and the American colonies, who were desperate to assert their independence from the Crown of England. It follows a young seaman, Patrick Dalton, who had been in the British Navy, but upon being charged with treason, endeavours to evade capture from British, American, French and Spaniard forces on the seas. I read these books over and over. There is something about the descriptions of the sea and the landscape that makes me feel good.”
Favourite film: Anne of Green Gables
“Always has been and always will be! I love the spirit in which this downtrodden girl overcomes all the difficulties in her path.”
Favourite keepsake: a beautiful fan
“I bought a fan from an antique shop many years ago. I doubt it is a true antique, hundreds of years old or anything, but it was the 18th century picture on it that really caught my eye!”
Favourite time period: the eighteenth century
“I love the fashion of this era, primarily. But I also love the level of change during this time period. There were major changes of thinking and of ideas, changes in agriculture and in inventions, changes in the labour force, and changes in laws, and these all changed the way people related to each other.”
Visit Tea in a Tea Cup blog at https://teainateacup.wordpress.com/.