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Three Last Minute Valentine Ideas from the Rubenstein Library

Post contributed by Amanda Lazarus, Ph.D. Candidate and Eleonore Jantz Reference Intern for the Rubenstein Library.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, our love of archives, and busy/forgetful people the world over, here are three very last minute gift ideas for your Valentine, straight from the Rubenstein Archives!

Vintage Cake Recipe

If you’re a bit (or very) obsessed with GBBO and your Valentine loves sweets but isn’t into chocolate, this one’s for you!

Marian Jane Parker’s Selected Recipes and Menus for Parties, Holidays, and Special Occasions (1920s) offers readers three different menus for Valentine Parties and a shortlist of recipes that vary considerably in complexity. Among these is a simple recipe for a heart-shaped cake made with pantry staples, which makes it ideal for hasty baking. Don’t have a heart-shaped cake pan? Neither did I! Just use what you have on hand and adjust the recipe quantities and baking time as needed. Since my cake was destined to feed no less than nine RL librarians, I doubled the recipe and made the sponge in two 9” round cake tins.

After 35 minutes in a 350F oven, everything was perfectly baked. I left the cake rounds to cool and moved on to the icing. Since MJP advises you to cover your cake with “white icing” without specifying any ingredients, feel free to choose your own recipe (vanilla buttercream and whipped cream are classic options), or keep things easy and use a prepared icing product. As for decorations, these can be as simple or elaborate as you like. MJP recommends you adorn your cake with small hearts, while the photograph shows her heart-shaped cake a bit more gussied-up with red and pink piping. I added a pink marzipan cover to my cake since I had some almond paste hanging around, and added strawberries—inside and out—both for the bright flavor and Valentine’s Day color. As a final touch, I cut the strawberry toppers into little hearts.

Custom Mittens

Easy, scalable, and will fly off your needles in no time!

I know what you’re thinking, “Winter’s over, it may not have even happened at all.” While that may be true-ish, here’s what I know for certain: summer is coming, which means we only have 2.5 months before Perkins undergoes its annual transformation into an ice cube. So, this Valentine’s Day, show your friends and SOs how much you care, and give them the gift of bespoke forethought and coziness. Give them the gift of handmade mittens.

This pattern for adult mittens comes from the Sarah E. Goodwin Needlework Patterns Collection, and is one of many charming designs and printed instructions for the creation of tapestries, collars, edging, capes, mittens, afghans, hoods, curtains, infant shoes, slippers that Miss Goodwin both collected and created during her life. In the 19th century, it was common for women to submit and collect needle work patterns from their local papers and women’s journals. Here, Miss Goodwin appears to have copied out one such pattern:

Rule for Knitting Mittens Mrs. M[ose?]/ Washington 1866.
22 stitches on each needle, knit an inch or more seamed, make a seam stitch each side of one of the two stiches and widen one new stitch between, knit 5 rows and widen twice just inside the two seams and so continue until long enough to commence to close the thumb. When there are 23 stitches between the two seams, take them off with a darning needle on a piece of yarn. Continue your knitting by making 8 stitches when you made the thumb knit around once. The second time slip and bind at the beginning of the 8 stitches and narrow at the end of them. Knit once plain again and narrow again as before then continue to knit to the end of the little finger these narrow once in 5 stitches and knit 5 rows, once in 4 and knit 4 rows until you finish. Take up the 8 new stitches one needle the rest on the other two, knit around and narrow twice as before. Knit plain until as high as the nail then narrow twice in each needle every other time.

After working this pattern myself, here are a few additional notes to help you get started:

Supplies*

  • 220 yard of DK weight yarn
  • US 5 / 3.75mm DPNs (double sided needles)
  • Stitch markers (paperclips work, too!)
  • Darning needle
  • Waste yarn

After you’ve cast on all your stitches (44 in total), evenly redistribute your stitches across two other needles (11 stitches over 4 needles), before joining in the round.

Happy Knitting!

New and Elegant Valentines for the Present Year

Back in the mid-19th century, folks did their Valentines by the book, and this book in particular:

In addition to having the longest title I have ever seen, Richardson’s New Fashionable Lady’s Valentine Writer or, Cupid’s Festival of Love , Containing All the Most Popular New and Elegant Valentines for the Present Year (this is only the half of it), is an example of books of Valentines that became quite fashionable during the 19th century.

Typically written in a series of rhyming couplets, some of Richardson’s Valentines are sweet, while others are sour. The best, in my humble opinion, are those dedicated to a person of a particular demeanor or profession:

*Did you know you can purchase all of these supplies at the Scrap Exchange**?
**Not a sponsored post.

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