Frutta V

Frutta V
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Thursday, November 4, 2010

18th Century Floorcloths & Lye Soap - November 4, 2010

The Artful Life of Maria can be a little overwhelming even for Maria.  After a great trip to North Carolina to see my son and his family I was back on the artful track.  The next two days were spent at the Pen Women exhibit dismantling and awaiting artists who were to pick up their entries.  It was great talking with them and updating them on our future events.  I know I will see many of these great artists again.  Late yesterday I did squeeze in some time to create a batch of Heritage Market Lye Soap Bars.  Today I grated soap for my natural laundry soap and of course there is packaging and labeling yet to be done.

Delaware's 18th Century Market Fair, 1st State Heritage Park:  We are going  back to the 18th century this Saturday, Nov 6, to demonstrate creating floorcloths and peddling handmade soaps.  My husband and I will be dressed in period costumes of the working class mercantile folk.  Our town, Dover Delaware, has a central green area that forms a square with 17th & 18th century buildings, including the Old State House.  On one corner of the green is the Golden Fleece Tavern where it is said the Constitution was first ratified. This scene is also one of the Fall Market Fair that occurred in the 18th century.  Goods were sold and exchanged and entertainments of all sorts were offered on "The Green". 

Market Fair at The First State Heritage Park

Painted Floorcloths:  I was called on to participate in this event to demonstrate the 18th century art of making floorcloths.  That I will do using my own handmade stencil patterns and other various implements to show how these rugs were created using paints and methods of that time.  Basically the canvas cloths were stretched on a verticle frame, stiffened with starch and then ground smoother with pumice stone.  They were  painted to the edge of the fabric with many layers of oil based paints sometimes applied with a trowel.  The wealthy could import ground colors. Maple wood printing blocks were sometimes used with multiple colors. The final product was then varnished and would last at least 100 years.

Of course I will have a selection of my hand created floorcloths on display and one showing the steps I use to produce this work of art using current methods and paints.

Heritage Market Soaps:  Another 18th century product I will offer at the Market Fair is the natural lye soap, Heritage Market Lye Bar Soap (Anderson's Lye Bar Soap)  and Market Fair Laundry Soap.   The same natural lye soap is grated finely, washing soda and borax are added to make a low sudsing laundry soap.  Lye soap is still used and requested by many people today.  Said to be good for skin problems and poison ivy, it is all natural and unscented.

Soap making:  The basic differences in making today is the accurate scale to measure the fat (either vegetable shortening or lard)  and lye also called sodium hydroxide.  Until recent times a batch of ingredientes could result in soupy to hard soap because of pour calculations and the strength of the lye.  Lye was produced by steeping wood ashes and water, later straining out the ash.  Of course pigs and cows were slaughtered and their fat rendered and kept until there was  enough to use to make a large supply of soap.  The French and Italians conceived the idea of using olive oil to replace the rendered animal fat. 

4 Pence For Soap Bar:  That is what I will be selling my the 3 oz bars of Heritage Market Soap.  I thought it would be great to have all products in 18th century English prices.
I have also found that in the 18th century England a pound of perfumed soap cost 1 shilling.  Today 1 shilling would be equal to 6.7 pounds or $10.18 US dollars.  Consider the price of an average 3 oz bar of natural soap today cost at least  $5.00 without shipping. 

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Well I have lots more to do in my artful life before I go nighty, night.

Love to all!

Maria L B

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