Wednesday 15 December 2010

How to Decorate Your Home for Christmas, c1880


THE materials to be used include all kinds of evergreens, everlasting flowers, and coloured and gilt papers. It is a strange thing that though mistletoe is used in the decoration of houses, not a sprig of it is put into a church. But in house decoration no Christmas would be thought complete if there did not hang in hall or dining-room a bunch of its curiously-forked branches, with their terminal pairs of nerveless pale-green leaves, and white crystalline berries.
     Holly is of course the special tree of the season. Its leaves bent into various curves, its thorny points, and its bunches of coral-red berries make it the prince of evergreens. Let it be conspicuous throughout the decorations. It is a good plan to strip off the berries, and use them strung in bunches, as the berries get hidden when the sprigs are worked into wreaths and devices ; and the berries, bent into little bunches, dotted about the festoons here and there, look very effective.
     Ivy must be introduced with care. Small single leaves come in with good effect in small devices, or to relieve a background of sombre yew or arbour vitae. The young shoots of the common ivy are best, or of the kind which grows up trees and old walls, which are very dark and glossy, with a network of light-coloured veins.
     Laurel is a very useful green in sprays, and the single leaves may be applied with excellent effect in wreaths, or overlapping one another in borders. The variegated ancuba makes a pleasing variety in the colour.
     Yews and Arbor Vitae are useful, especially the small sprays of them, for covering the framework of devices.
    Myrtle and Box also are pretty in narrow borderings, into which coloured everlasting flowers may be introduced. The black bunches of ivy berries may sometimes be used with advantage, to give points of contrast in the decorations. Of course if chrysanthemums, Christmas roses, primulas, and camellias can be obtained, the general effect is heightened, and the decoration becomes more elaborate and more elegant. The best wreaths for decorating the banisters of a house, or any pedestals, pillars, or columns, are those made in a rope of evergreen sprigs. There are several ways in which such wreaths are made. One way is as follows :—Get a rope or stout cord, of proper length, and a quantity of twine and a handful of evergreen twigs. Begin at one end of the rope, which should be attached firmly to something. Dispose a bunch of the twigs round the rope, and tie them on with the twine; then dispose another bunch so that the leaves may conceal the stalks of those already on, and give the twine a turn round them, fastening it with a running knot, and so on until the rope is rushed. This must be done at the fastening of each bunch of twigs. Another way very frequently adopted is, in place of a rope, to use only a piece of stout twine to run rough the wreath, so as to prevent its falling to pieces, and instead of twine to tie the twigs on, to use fine wire, which must be firmly twisted round the twigs.
     In all kinds of wreaths the thickness of the wreath must be carefully regulated at the outset, and evenly maintained throughout, and care should be taken that all the foliage turned in one direction, especially where two persons are working at the same rope. The wreaths may be made of one kind of evergreen only, or of any number of kinds mixed : the latter has the better effect. There should be an equal mixture of the fine kinds, as yew, box, &c., to keep the wreath light and sprayey. Whether the berries are left on the holly twigs, or threaded and attached at intervals, is, of course, according to the taste of the decorator. If threaded, they are best fastened among the oily leaves in bunches about as large as the natural clusters, so as to imitate their natural effect.
     In fastening the wreath to the pillars, take care not to put it on upside down, as foliage must never be placed in a direction contrary to that of its growth. When small chaplets or wreaths are constructed, each should be made by one person, as the effect is frequently spoilt by the two ends not matching, or it is otherwise wanting in uniformity. When the wreaths are finished, and before they are hung up, they should be kept in some cool place, or else they shrivel up; if necessary, a little water may be sprinkled over them.
     If holly berries are scarce, a good substitute may be found in rose hips, which may have a small piece of wire passed through them as a stalk, and several twisted together. The fallen holly berries, strung on wire, made into rings, and slipped over the leaves, are very effective; also split peas, glued on here and there in the shape of small rosettes, look like golden flowers, and they may be made to resemble holly berries by pouring over them red sealing-wax melted in spirits of wine.
     Where definite shapes are required, there are several methods of accomplishing the desired effect. Some use a groundwork of tin or perforated zinc.
     If outline forms are employed, to be covered with leaves or flowers, these will be best coloured black. The method of arranging the leaves and flowers will depend in a great measure upon individual taste. If it is required to use masses of berries in such a manner that it would be inconvenient or difficult to fasten them together by any other means, paint the places required to be filled in with a stiff coat of glue, very hot, and drop the berries upon it. When the glue is dry they will be found to adhere.
     Holly strung has a very good effect. It is very quickly done, and looks like a rich cord when finished, and all the banisters in a house may be draped in holly. It is made by threading a packing-needle with the required length of twine, and stringing upon it the largest and most curly-looking holly leaves, taking care to pass the needle through the exact centre of each leaf. Flat borderings, to lie flat along panels of cabinets, doorways, mirrors, and the backs of sideboards, should be made of leaves sewn in strips on brown paper, or yards of buckram, cut in strips and sewn together to the required lengths. Garlands or half-wreaths (Fig. 1) are best made on barrel hoops for their foundation. For making letters there is nothing that bends to the shape of the letters so well as crinoline wires. Single letters are best cut out in brown paper, and the leaves sewn on with a needle and thread.
     Rice decoration is very effective, and looks like carved ivory. The required shape should be cut out in cartridge-paper, and firmly glued down to its intended foundation, and then covered with a coating of thick warm paste, or very strong white gum, into which the rice grains must be dropped, and arranged so as to lie closely and regularly together, and the whole left until it is perfectly stiff and dry. Immortelles, and other coloured dried flowers, may be used in the same manner. The best plan of applying the rice is first to take a small quantity in a paper funnel and scatter it over the design till dry. Pour on more gum, then scatter the rice on again, and repeat the process till the proper thickness and evenness are obtained. When finished, a sharp penknife will remove all superfluous grains. Monograms made in this way, if the shadows are picked out with Indian ink, roughly put on, give a very good effect. Alternate letters of rice and sealing-wax berries look very fanciful and gay.
     Mottoes and monograms in white cotton wool have the effect of snow. They are produced by cutting out the letters in thick white paper, and pasting over them an even piece of clean white cotton wool, which is, when dry, pulled out so as to give it a fluffy or snowy appearance. The letters should afterwards be carefully trimmed with a sharp pair of scissors, and mounted on a ground of coloured paper.

     If there is a lamp in the dining-room supported by chains, holly wreaths twisted round the chains look well; while a chaplet round the base, and a small basket filled with mistletoe, suspended from the centre of the base, look very effective. Borders of evergreens may be placed along the back of the sideboard, and if there be a mirror in it a small chaplet in the centre, and seeming to join the borders, looks very pretty. Pictures and mirrors can be framed with made-up borders of evergreens. Where these are square, borders arranged in the shape of Oxford frames will look very pretty. If the entrance-hall be in panels, narrow borderings of box and ivy look well, laid on all round, and in the centre half-hoops or chaplets, or a monogram. Scrolls, with mottoes, bidding people to be welcome and happy, either laid on bright-coloured calicoes, with holly borderings, or else merely the word "Christmas," done in laurel leaves, and variegated with immortelle flowers. Even in the bedrooms the frames of pictures and mirrors can be edged with wreaths.
     In Fig. 4 will be found a bold and effective device for a large space, as, for example, the end wall of an entrance-hall or landing. The cross-pieces are stout sticks, the size of which must be regulated by the space intended to be filled ; and it will be found advisable to join them in the centre by a cross joint, otherwise they will be very awkward to manage. They can then be wreathed with holly and misletoe, as shown in the figure. The legend surrounding them is made of letters in gilt paper, pasted on to coloured cardboard, and the figure of the robin is cut out in cardboard and painted.
     The monogram in Fig. 2 signifies Christmas, and is very pretty made either of leaves and berries, or moss glued on cardboard, and edged with three different shades of immortelles. The border is made of bosses of different coloured immortelles, and the outside row of star-points with fern fronds. Fig. 1 is a bordering for the cornice of a hall or large room and is made of laurel leaves and  rosettes of coloured paper or immortelles. In Fig. 3 the trefoil is made of holly leaves, and the border of laurel.
     In our decorations we must not forget the dining-room table when our guests gather round it. A very pretty centre-piece is made by covering an inverted basin with moss, into which insert sprigs of holly quite thick until it forms a pyramid of holly. On the top place a figure of Old Father Christmas (which may be bought at any bazaar or sugar-plum shop) and instead of the holly sprig he generally holds in his hand, place a small spray of misletoe. A great many lights are required, where fir and holly are much used, in table decoration, otherwise the effect is heavy and gloomy.
     These hints will make it an easy task to adorn the house for Christmas; but half the pleasure consists is inventing new devices, and giving scope to one's taste and ingenuity, new ideas springing up and developing themselves as the occasion arises, till the worker finds delight in the work, and is thus best rewarded for the toil.
Cassells Household Guide

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