Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Gentle Domesticity week 16...

After a two week break let's get back to this year's The Gentle Art of Domesticity book study, and the chapter we're beginning today is titled "Practical".

As with all Jane's chapters this one is divided into many smaller sub-topics and the first of the Practical topics is...


In the quote I used for this week's study photo (above) Jane's writes in Life Skills about the very basics of returning to a gentle domestic life, the arts which once were practiced as a matter of course by most homemakers, yet which over the years have become regarded as "mildly eccentric, touchingly nostalgic and outmoded." (page 116)

I love that Jane champions these beautiful arts which we can adapt to suit our lifestyles and skills, that she encourages us to bake a cake of our own and forgo the shop bought one, to knit bright and cheery socks instead of buying off the rack, to sew a pretty quilt and leave the production line version on the shelf. She's asking us to take up our domestic arts tools and be uniquely creative and to do so with confidence in our skills, regardless of how well honed or lacking they are. She asks that we "just have a go". (page 124)

"Embedded in the gentle arts is a slyly subversive streak that encourages free thought, individuality, creative self expression, imaginative thought processes and not a little self-determination. All this and a great deal of pleasure too." (page 116)


This mini topic reminded me of those first years teaching myself and Blossom hand embroidery and patchwork, how imperative it seemed that we should have at our side a huge variety of tools, threads, fabrics and notions because otherwise we'd not be accomplished in those arts. 

As Jane points out in Kit and Caboodle, you don't need to buy everything for a particular craft all at once and in fact little by little over a period of many years is how she gradually built her own 'kit'.
A phial of pretty pink beads one day, a perfect blue yarn the next month, edible green colouring another time...

By purchasing what she genuinely loves, just a little at a time, Jane avoided having supplies which really weren't her style and had to be stored away, gifted on or thrown out. She also chose not to fall for a lot of consumerist advertising and looked for other ways to make what she loved.

"I sometimes feel there is huge marketing pressure to buy every single tailor made item for a certain craft, when in fact a make-do approach can be far more economical, satisfying...and creative." (page 117)

"A domestic artist can build up a collection of kit and caboodle over time. There is no rush, and plenty of time to savour each addition." (page 117)

"The sheer ordinariness and anonymity of practical domestic kit is what gives it charm." (page 118)

Jane does try to buy the best quality of things like cooking utensils, bowls and tins but explains she does not own a lot, preferring a few good pieces to many that will not last the distance.

" is worth paying a little extra for something really excellent that is not only pleasing to use but is also capable of standing the test of time." (page 118)


Jane describes herself as having two apron modes. 
Firstly, the sensible and practical apron wearer whose long, straight garb washes easily, has a large pocket and is made from sturdy cottons and linens.
Her second self embraces the 1950's Doris Day style of apron-wearer, the frilly, gathered, pleated, shaped aprons with huge bows made from highly impractical delicate fabrics.

"But both my apron personalities agree that an apron is a wonderful thing and that this simple, modified piece of fabric with its marriage of form and function possesses all sorts of creative possibilities." (page 120)

Below you can see the apron Jane knitted over nine evenings. Made from linen yarn she found it interesting that when she reflected on the photo of herself and her husband below, they were both wearing their work clothes - he in his business attire and she in her working uniform of an apron, her newly knitted linen apron.

"...this is one that drapes beautifully, flatters the hips and it wouldn't look bad on my frillier alter ego." (page 120)


Jane's mother in law had four rowdy sons but still managed to read books as she cooked a meal. It was her way of switching off from the crashes, noises and fights, though she did keep her wooden spoon close at hand.

Jane had three children under three and found she could only manage snatched moments to browse magazines, but soon lost interest in the glamour and perfect interiors between their pages.
Realising that a good short story may be a better option she sought out writers who offered her a gentler touch of reality in their prose - and not surprisingly most of those writers who penned about their everyday lives were women.

"Short stories...written in between dusting, bed making, answering the door and home-making are wonderful for reading in one sitting while you wait for the biscuits to brown, while children play, while the bread rises...or while stirring the gravy." (page 122)

Listed below are some of the writers of short stories Jane suggests...

Isak Dinesen, Katherine Mansfield, Alice Munro, Helen Simpson, Molly Panter-Downes, Dorothy Whipple and Elizabeth Taylor.


"...there is a lot to be said for 'outsider' art and craft, the sort of thing that is made by ordinary people with ordinary skills. It has directness, sincerity and individuality often missing in more sophisticated, refined, knowing art." (page 123)

In this mini-topic we are encouraged to take a leaf out of the life of a child and express ourselves more freely with our creativity...simply, without fuss and fanfare, without unrealistic expectations. As we grow up most of us have "...lost the gentle art of self reliance, and lack of practice erodes this further." (page 123)

Jane compares the things a child loves to do - growing a plant in water, watching seeds germinate, playing with colours and sticking things together - to what we 'grown ups' can do that is in reality much the same - growing bulbs in glass vases, cultivating basil in window pots, stitching colours together as fabric and making a simple layered quilt.
"We need to rediscover and cultivate a childish enthusiasm and willingness to try, and attempt to conquer our doubts about our abilities. A misshapen biscuit, an uneven row of stitching, a floppy hyacinth and an uneven pot of basil are still better than the bland, neat and regular shop-bought versions that look and taste like everyone else's. Just have a go." (page 124)

Personally I loved the study this week and have a real desire to hunt down those short story writers, plan a new apron, and tend my herbs with a bit more love.

Please share your thoughts about the reading today in the comments below and tell me what stood out as something you'd like to take on in your own life. Will you knit an apron? Read or write a short story? Comb through your personal kit and caboodle to weed out the unnecessary and only keep what you love? Watch a bulb grown in water on your kitchen bench? Plant some herbs? 


I'm going to keep the book study running on a fortnightly schedule now as it's much easier on me and we get to cover a little more each time doing it this way. 

We'll be reading pages 126-135 for our next study post on May 28th.

The winner of this month's giveaway is...
Congratulations Debbie, I have sent you an email.

Every Gentle Domesticity book study post I'm encouraging readers and lovers of the gentle domestic life who have a current blog and have blogged about Living the Gentle Domestic Life this year to link their relevant weekly book study post for others to come by, visit their blogs and be inspired. 
 Please do not link to the same post on your blog each week.  Your posts should be new and relevant to the current week's study.
NOTE: If your link is advertising or not a true reflection of the heart for living a gentle domestic life it will be deleted. 

God bless you all so very much!


gracie said...

I love having plant cuttings in water and waiting for the roots to appear. I feel very accomplished! I am now looking at all that is in my craft storage and have been slowly eliminating what I really do not need or will not use. I found a school that has already received one large box and will get more when school reopens in August. A good feeling to give to them.

Delight in Nature said...

When I was first married I thought that building a home was all about housework and resented the time spent on this. Then, through necessity, I returned to work full time, employed a cleaner, and thought little of home making. My greatest joy, since retiring, has been to find my style of gentle domesticity which starts each day with the Lord. I've found such joy in gardening, simple baking and sewing. It's 5am now and I've already been out into my garden and thanked the Lord for another beautiful day.

Perhaps those of our group who can write could write some short stories for the rest of us. Why not set a challenge to us all to write a short story of less than 500 words. That would be fun.

Beth said...

Last year I went through my scrapbooking supplies and gave away quite a lot of it. Bit and bobs, papers and ephemera that I realised I was never going to use. It felt good to bless someone else with perfectly good supplies that they were much more likely to use than I.
Now I just need to go through my fabric and actually make my quilt that I've been planning for 21 years!

Kay said...

This is very timely because today I had already planned to spring clean our bedroom and have a good sort through all my different craft things which are kept there. x

Jane said...

I too like to spend a bit more on my baking tins. I only have a few and make everything in them. Five years ago I purchased quite an expensive bundt tin. The tin is fluted and a plain old cake made in it, then dusted with icing sugar, looks amazing.
I have been gifted and have picked up a lot of fabric of late. I do believe that I am going to have to take myself through what I have within this kit.

Allie said...

Congratulations to Debbie!! I love making do - I only have one quilting ruler, one rotary cutter, very few actual quilting tools. Same in the kitchen - I have basics I use for everything and I hate clutter. Of course, I do hate to cook, lol....but still. Excess makes me crazy. I grew up reading at the dinner table - mum and dad did as well - and I continued that with my boys, as their dad worked afternoons. I still read a book a day. But my preference is cozy murder mysteries - usually set in England - British authors don't use bad language as a rule.
The one thing I'd love to tackle this late in life is gardening, although my bug phobia keeps me from it. Hubby is planning a big garden when he retires - I'll learn how to deal with the harvest from that.

Marie said...

I can't imagine knitting an apron, but I do need to make myself a couple new ones. I have quite a few craft supplies for things that I'm really interested in, but realizing that at my age I'm not likely to do it all and have to decide what to let go. I do like a simple, uncluttered home and by clearing out my sewing/craft room, I can be further on the way to that. Don't know if I can ever let my yarn stash go, though ;) I'll never write a story but I love reading, and like Allie, enjoy British murder mysteries.

Remembrances said...

I do practice all sorts of crafts and nearly all of my supplies come from thrift stores. I do need a new apron and have been looking at chicken scratch designs/patterns, as I was gifted a large box of gingham (one of my favorite fabrics!).

africanaussie said...

I love to use up scrap fabrics and make them into something useful. I think I get more pleasure out of making something new from something old. I do have drawers of craft supplies for the times that my grandchildren come over to visit. they are getting older now and dont do that much craft anymore, oh wait! there is another grandchild right behind them, so no need to clear out the drawers - they will be used again!

Joanne said...

Hi Jenny,
Kit and Caboodle! always heard the term, but never in print! Looks cool!
once a fortnight is great! Lets the ideas from what we have learned sink in and be used. looked at.
Practicality, reduce reuse recycle these days. I love turning unused items into planters!

Tammy said...

Congratulations to Debbie on her winning the beautiful giveaway. I recently rooted a some bought sage from the grocery store. I was only able to successfully transplant one and get it ti grow it is now bearing a flower which i hope will put on seed so I can start more of it. I was extremely delighted like a child and had to call mom and keep her updated about the roots when I had it in water....I love being able to collect a variety of craft supplies slowly but surely over all the years from different thrifty sources and always finding a use for them eventually or gifting to others that I know can put them to use. Its so exciting for me to go into a thrift shop and look for goodies. As I do not every go and pay full price for things. That way I can buy things for others in need and gifts to others that brightens their day and a thing or 2 for me along the way. I now am trying to look at life at a child and find excitement in the the smallest of things....My newest excitement is painting my patio chairs in bright vivid colors and each one a different shade. It reminds me of a pack of candy skittles or jelly beans....A big bright lively mess...And I love it....All that black basic boring furniture has been replaced with bright loud abandon......

Debby in Kansas, USA said...

SOmehow, I missed this last week! I have to say that this was one of my favorite reads in this book. It was so basic and full of great advice. It's so true about feeling like you need everything before starting a new hobby and it's just not true. When the scrapbooking madness began in the early 90s, there was very little to buy at first. I remember buying an album, some paper, templates, pens, & a few stickers. I was tickled to death with the results of those simple items. Of course, more and more came out and I bought what I really loved. But I recall saying to a friend 2 decades later...."I'm so glad I got started when there was little to buy or I would've been totally overwhelmed and never would've done it." I wonder how many feel that way when walking down aisle after aisle of things. When one of my friends started crocheting several years ago, she bought her items at a garage sale. She bought a hook and 2 skeins of yarn. She watched a youtube video and went from there. Now, she is so talented that it floors me. But, for less than $1, she got started with the most basic items.

I want to learn how to crochet some dish cloths. I did one last week with some leftover cotton yarn from my mom's stash. It was pathetic, but I'm going to keep practicing. It still works just fine!