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Thursday, April 9th, 2020

A Very Victorian Paper Craft

Contributed by the kind volunteers and sponsors who bring you the Papercutting House at our annual Halloween Trick-or-Treat in the Village!

In the 1850s and ‘60s perforated paper was frequently used as a basis for embroidery. Often large mottos like “Bless This House” hung in the parlor. In the 1870s some women began to eliminate the thread and instead cut very intricate patterns into the paper itself. Crosses were the most popular theme, and they ranged from small ones sewn to ribbon and used as Bible bookmarks to large wall pictures. The papercut style, called simply “perforated card work” at the time, and now sometimes called “paper lace,” was popular through the 1870s and then essentially died out.



The upper photos are two intricate examples. The one on the left is at the Cobblestone Museum in Albion, New York and the one on the right is in a private collection. Notice the right one has a lacy border and a solid cross. One of the variations was to cut many layers of the paper, each one hole smaller than the previous layer, and glue them together for a look like carved ivory.


Above is a page from an 1875 book, Household Elegancies, that included the instructions for the above right cross – a single drawing of the finished product. It makes you appreciate today’s step-by-step instruction books.


Some people clearly enjoyed the paper cutting and stayed with it well past the 1870s. The above photo is a classic Victorian color lithograph with a very decorative paper lace border. It was made by a Belgian woman who made five scrapbooks containing hundreds of pieces like this one from 1876 through 1924. This lithograph is from the Stations of the Cross with Saint Veronica.

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