After an unusually mild autumn and early winter the northern winds have picked up speed and are bringing quite the chill in the air. We are enjoying a nippy 21 degrees here on the farm today; that’s without considering the effect of the wind chill factor. No complaints here, everyone including our four footed family members are snug in their woolies.
My home is a log house which was built in 1790. Most people are surprised when they come to the house and discover that, when they see the only two walls of exposed log which is in the library. The exterior of the house was clad in wood siding, called Dutch siding, sometime in the early part of the 1800’s and then later the interior walls were cover in lath and plaster to “modernize’ the house. We guestimate this may have been in the latter part of the 19th century.
In 1850 a kitchen addition was built alongside the main part of the log structure. This feature was a bonus of its time enabling women to prepare meals during the colder parts of the year indoors. There is a small building called a summer house or some call it a summer kitchen located in the rear garden and that’s where all cooking would have taken place during the sweltering heat of summer.
I think living in an old home makes me slightly more aware of the changing seasons, especially the weather extremes. Maybe the rattle of the old windows with their wavy hand blown glass, helps me to imagine what life was like for the residents who lived here a century or more ago; mostly I think of the women.
A day like today would defiantly have been a sontag kind of day.
A sontag is a garment which was usually knitted or crocheted and worn like a shawl but different in that it is fastened around the waist. I’ve included some photographs here of examples of sontags.
It was really a very practical and fashionable addition to a woman’s wardrobe and instructions to make them were included in popular periodicals including Godey’s and Peterson’s magazines.
I rather like sontags and I don’t know why they went out of fashion. They’re great because unlike the sweaters, which were introduced later in the century, they didn’t have sleeves and so they free up your arms, say, for doing chores like baking bread, or scrubbing the floor or butchering a hen for Sunday dinner. That can be really messy and who needs sleeves and cuffs dangling in the way?
Sontags go by another name too which is kind of nice …. Sometimes they’re referred to as a bosom friend or bosom buddy. Prior to the 20th century women didn’t have ‘breasts’ they had instead a ‘bosom’. I’ll write more about that when I post about underpinnings, specifically regarding corsets. Anyway, breast buddy really doesn’t have the same ring to it.
If you are interested in making your own sontag I’m including pictures here of a really nice one from my Fall 2012 issue of Jane Austen Knits magazine. I’ve started this and I’ll be happy to post pictures when I’ve finished. In the magazine it’s referred to as A Sensible Shawl and I especially like the fancy Van Dyke border which the article states is an adaptation from The Knitter’s Companion series written by Mrs. Mee and Ms. Austin which was written throughout the 1800’s.
I’ll have to do some research on that series, until then, stay warm.