Victorian Children, Consumerism, and Licking Alum

I just published a piece for The Conversation on my research on the Great Exhibition, children’s literature, and how the Victorians taught their children about sustainability and consumerism.

You can read the full article here:


I know it’s not about craft – though it is about archives in a way – but I promise I am working on some new posts. More later.


Hats fit for Heroes


I have some exciting news.

A couple of weeks ago, Charlotte from Palace Green Library at Durham University got in touch to ask if I would like to be involved in their Hats Fit for Heroes charity campaign. As part of their upcoming exhibition ‘Antarctica: Explorers, Heroes, Scientists’ (opens 17th October) the Palace Green Library in Durham are running a knitting event called ‘Hats fit for Heroes’. The idea is to ask knitters/crocheters/sewers to make hats based on those worn by Antarctic explorers and then to sell them with all of the proceeds going to Walking with the Wounded, a charity that works with wounded service men and women and which last year organised an Antarctic trek.

My Tom Crean Teacosy Hat pattern is one of the patterns they chose for the campaign.

I’m delighted to be part of the campaign. I’m very excited by the fact that something I did with this blog could have a real impact on the lives of others. I never thought that a teacosy could change lives! And I never thought anyone would ever describe me as a designer. But there you are.

If you missed the original post, you can read all about Tom Crean and his mighty hat here. Since I posted that piece back in February, I’ve been following Antarctic Discovery, a blog that publishes pieces from Shackleton’s diary. It makes for fascinating reading and I’d recommend it if you want to find out more about Antarctic explorers of the heroic era.

Hats have already started to arrive at Palace Green Library and I’m really pleased to see that there’s a couple of tea-cosy hats there already!


If you want to make a teacosy hat the pattern PDF is here:Tom Crean Tea Cosy Hat

If you’re on Twitter, you can follow the campaign at #AHatFitForAHero

Here’s all the details from Palace Green Library about the campaign:


Could you knit, crochet or sew a hat fit for a hero?

As part of our upcoming exhibition ‘Antarctica: Explorers, Heroes, Scientists’ (opening 17th Oct 2015), Palace Green Library in Durham is seeking crafting enthusiasts to make hats fit for heroes, inspired by Antarctic explorers.

All proceeds will be donated to Walking with the Wounded, a charity working with wounded service men and women across the UK. The charity organised a trek across the Antarctic in 2013 (

How can I help?

Get crafty and create your own hat fit for a hero. You can knit, crochet or sew your hat, and it can be adult or child sized. Be as creative as you like but if you are using someone else’s pattern, please make sure you have permission to make a hat that can be sold for charity.  If you are looking for a knitting pattern, we have teamed up with Woolaballoo in Hexham and knitting designers Jane Carroll of ‘Archives and Old Lace’ and Angelea McGarrah have kindly agreed to the use of their patterns based on authentic explorer hats. These will be available on our website in the next few weeks:

Then simply bring along your finished hat to one of the drop off points in Durham, Hexham or Harrogate:

  • Palace Green Library, Durham
  • Woolabaloo, Market Square, Hexham
  • Woolabaloo stall, Hall B, The Knitting and Stitching Show, Harrogate (26-29 November only)

Or you can post your hat to:

Palace Green Library
Palace Green

We need to receive your hat no later than 30 November 2015. Please include your name and up to 50 words about your hat.

We are also running two free craft workshops with pattern giveaways to help get you started – details to follow.

We will be selling our hats from 1 December 2015  in the gift shop at Palace Green Library, Durham. All hats will cost £15.00 with all profits going to Walking with the Wounded.  We hope to raise even more money as Barclays Bank has kindly agreed to match fund the first £1,000 raised.

If you can, we’d love you to print and display the attached poster in your venue. If you need any further information or would like us to send you some printed flyers, please don’t hesitate to contact the good people at Palace Green Library: or follow them on Twitter: @palacegreenlib


Hammersmith and Fulham Early Children’s Books Collection

The Hammersmith and Fulham Early Children’s Books Collection has arrived at the University of Roehampton! It’s MINE! Or ours, really, I know I have to share with the other researchers and play nicely. I wrote the post below for the NCRCL [National Centre for Research in Children’s Literature] and thought I’d share it here for readers of the Archives & Old Lace blog. I can’t tell you how excited I am about this. The Collection is going to be a major part of my teaching and research over the next while. Would you like to come play with the old books? If you have any questions about the collection (or the other children’s literature archives at Roehampton) or if you would like to come visit the collection, just let me know! 🙂

NCRCL blog

FullSizeRenderHammersmith and Fulham Early Children’s Books Collection

By Dr Jane Carroll, NCRCL Lecturer

If you’ve been up to visit the children’s literature collection in the University of Roehampton in the past few weeks, you’ll have noticed a new set of old books up on the shelves. This is the Hammersmith and Fulham Early Children’s Books Collection.

This collection, comprising over a thousand early children’s books dating from the late 18th century to the early 20th century, was originally held by Hammersmith and Fulham library.   The collection began in 1931-2 with the first 300 books – it then grew by purchase and gift to a total of roughly 1,120 books.   Last year, Hammersmith & Fulham libraries approached the University of Roehampton to see if we would be interested in taking it on.

In May 2014 I visited the collection with Julie Mills (Subject Librarian) and Kornelia Cepok (Archivist). With the help…

View original post 714 more words

#loveyourblog challenge: beginnings, ferret-shock & old books.

As usual, I’m late.  In my sort of defence, on the Monday when this post was due to go up I was sitting in an archive working through texts for my latest research project. But I guess it’s better late than never and I do want to participate in A Playful Day’s Love Your Blog Challenge.

love your blog creativity challenge with A Playful Day 1

While finishing things is usually the problem with my crafting (Made in Oxford has a lovely post about getting things done), I find starting things is often more difficult in my academic work. My problem, generally, is not that I am reluctant to begin things but rather that I want to begin too many things. We call it “ferret-shock”.


I often warn my students about the dangers of ferret-shock.

It goes like this.  If a ferret gets into a henhouse it goes a little crazy.  There are so many chickens.  All the chickens.  The ferret wants to eat the chickens and so it runs around the henhouse biting and clawing and grabbing chickens.  Feathers and panic everywhere.  In the morning, you will find the poor exhausted, confused ferret sitting in a pile of feathers.  It won’t have managed to eat any of the chickens. If it had been calm and sensible – like a fox – and crept in to steal away one single chicken, all would be well.  But there were so many chickens.  Too many chickens.  And, in trying to have it all, the ferret ends up with nothing.

Researchers are more like ferrets than you might expect.

Especially when we get into an archive which, let’s be honest, is basically a henhouse for books.


I felt ferret-shock descend on me last week when I made a visit to the Pollard Collection in Trinity College Dublin.The collection houses about 10,500 early children’s books.  Some of the books go back to the 17th century but, for this new research project I’ve been working on, my focus is children’s texts published in the late 19th century and the early 20th century. I’m particularly interested in stories that are told from the point of view of objects.

One of the biggest problems I faced when starting this research project was not knowing exactly what books I really needed to read. So many books.  Too many books. Research-ferret-shock starts to kick in.

It goes like this: you feel that there must be a book published about such-and-such a topic.  You don’t know when or where it was published, who wrote it or what it was called.  But you have to find it. Usually, this involves days of working through catalogues and indices and making lists of texts that might be useful. It’s particularly hard to locate texts that are published anonymously or texts that are not catalogued accurately (for instance when children’s novels are listed as school-books).   The solution – you think in your crazed state – is to order up everything.  And read everything.  But that’s not a useful or sensible way to spend your time in an archive.  Especially when texts often don’t have useful titles. For instance “Dolly” by Frances Hodgson Burnett is not about a doll but about a young girl who is nicknamed ‘Dolly’. After waiting an hour and a half for “Dolly” to arrive (a remarkably short wait for an archive, mind) only to discover the book was no use to me, I was ready to kick Frances Hodgson Burnett in the shins.

After the first day in the archive, I realised that I had to scale back my ambitions. I could not succumb to research-ferret-shock. I valiantly fought down my instinct to rip open all the boxes and sit on the floor reading random things and instead made some hard choices about what books I really wanted to consult and pared my list of hundreds down to dozens.

And so my beginnings were smaller and more humble that I had expected.

But I still got to look at some wonderful and weird books.

Now that I’m back in England and starting to write up my research from the archive, I have a little more time to reflect on the archive as a place for beginnings and fresh projects. These are not the crafty kinds of books I normally post about but I’m sure I can find inspiration in there too…The Adventures of a Watch has a section about watch-chains made from hair as love-tokens.  I don’t think I’m likely to try making things from my own hair any time soon (my hair is like badly-behaved wire anyway) but it does give me some ideas for other posts for this blog…let’s see where the #loveyourblog challenge takes me over the next few weeks!

Up the women…

It’s St. Swithun’s day. It’s also Emmeline Pankhurt’s birthday.


There’s a celebratory Google Doodle and everything.



I thought I would join in the fun by sharing some clips from lively but short-lived t.v. show “Up The Women”

Just look at those lovely shirt-waists!  The show is about Margaret’s attempts to transform The Banbury Intricate Craft Circle into a new (sort of) political group ‘Banbury Intricate Craft Circle Politely Request Women’s Suffrage’.    Most of the other members aren’t too sure what suffrage is or why they might want it but if there’s cake and fancy rosettes, they’ll give anything a shot. The best episode (of the three) was when Emmeline Pankhurst shows up and she’s not quite what anyone expected…

Happy birthday Emmeline!