Darning Egg Designs, from Godey’s Lady’s Book
Sat Oct 16th Have made more barberry sauce to day
have three girls here now Ann came
Wednesday night but I am not to commence
paying her wages untill Monday and Catharine
Middleton is to leave to night I have been
mending to day
Bad weather kept Evelina and her servants indoors. As Old Oliver recorded, “the ground froze some last night and it is verry cold to day for the season wind high from north west and some cloudy.” It was a good day for making barberry sauce, especially with three young women to help. The shelves in Evelina’s pantry – or buttery – and cellar must have been nearly full of jars of preserved fruit. There would be plenty to go around come winter. And winter was coming.
It was a good day, too, to catch up on mending. At least some of the mending consisted of darning the holes in the socks – or hose – worn by everyone in the family. Darning eggs, such as the ones in the illustration from Godey’s, were found in most homemakers’ sewing kits or work baskets. They were held on the inside of a sock to keep it firm while the stitching was done on the outside. Some intricate darning eggs also held needles, thimbles, and other tiny sewing utensils on the inside.
The prosaic simplicity of the day’s chores would not have raised any suspicion on Evelina’s part that seven years from this day, John Brown and a band of cohorts would lead a raid at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. The incident would shock and alarm the nation as it realized that even in the civilized “Old Dominion” – as opposed to places on the wild frontier, like Kansas or Missouri – arms would be raised to eradicate slavery. None of the Ameses knew, of course – no one could – but a civil war between the states of the North and South was drawing near.