Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Christmas in a Nutshell

In the early 1900s, 
my maternal grandmother announced her engagement to her friends 
by handing out walnuts with a paper message tucked inside.
She said she had decided to give them the news "in a nutshell."
I always thought that was terribly original and charming.
Charming, yes. Original? Maybe not so much.
Because the other day, I ran across a reference to Victorian pastimes
and one of those was crafts involving walnuts.

This photo is by Michael Arnaud,
in the Good Housekeeping article: "All-Natural Christmas Decor" at
homemade walnut ornament

One of the craft projects was to gild walnuts. 
I'm not sure exactly which method they used. 
There are a few possibilities.
According to, gilding in the Victorian era 
required a somewhat complicated process of mixing ether and gold chloride. 
The ether would take up the gold, enabling it to be painted on a surface.
Painting was an acceptable pursuit for Victorian ladies,
so there may have been ready made metallic paint available.
And I think using gold leaf was probable.
Regardless of process, Victorian crafters would gild walnuts 
and hang them as Christmas tree ornaments.

Another project with walnuts was to pick the nut meat from the shell,
and then create miniature bird nests 
or perhaps fashion a cute kitten or puppy inside.
Sometimes the shells were hinged so they could be opened to reveal 
a tiny still life or gifts of jewelry.
The blog "Disdressed" has a photo of a cute walnut sailboat:

Years ago, my parents gave me a dish made of cross-sawn walnuts:

The cross-sawn walnuts would make beautiful gilded ornaments.
They would require a steady hand and a lot of time though.

I like the idea of using naturals in art and craft, especially at Christmas time. 
Sitting around a table with people you love, working in harmony
to create unusual Christmas decorations from simple materials--
that's one of the best things in life.
Try it sometime.
And don't forget the glitter.

No comments: