Thursday, January 8, 2015

Ring Carson for Tea:Welcome back Downton Abbey

Perhaps we can credit the Abbey's scenic grandeur, elegant settings, or edge-of-your-seat intrigue, both above and below the stairs (really Thomas?), with its unprecedented popularity both stateside and across the pond, but for me, it's also the magnificent costumes which keep me utterly enchanted by this series, season after season.
Naturally I was more than delighted to receive a gift of tickets to Winterthur Museum's exhibit, the Costumes of Downton Abbey in nearby Delaware, and it did not disappoint. 
Photos CPaul2014
Former estate of the du Pont family, the gracious Winterthur Museum displayed the costumes and accessories in elegant vignettes with information on the designs, historical context, sources, and stills from the show. It was fascinating to see how the clothing, textures and subtle details translated from screen to reality.
This exhibit has closed but others are popping up around the US and Canada- (Biltmore in N.C. will welcome the costumes in February) or for an interview with Downton's talented costume designer pop over to downton-abbey-costume-queen For more on Winterthur's exhibits and events visit 
Sadly my camera decided to misbehave that of all days, so I came home with limited photos but lots of inspiration. I thought I'd share some whimsical DIY projects to bring a little Downton into your everyday
*Historians and purists please note, these ideas are purely a fun nod to the era so please forgive the glaring historical inaccuracies 

Edwardian Costume Choker

 While I'd love to don one of the great outfits from the exhibit, I'll settle for a fun DIY accessory with basics from my closet to help set the tone for a Downton tea at home with friends. An online search found a myriad of jewelry items and accessories inspired by the show including this fabulous tutorial for a lace one by love Maegan. Loving the look but lacking much sewing prowess, I thought I'd come up with a simpler temporary party favor version to put together in minutes.

You'll need
wide black lace or edging with interesting details
velcro dots
printable-accented with metallic pens
faux jewels or accents 
images, CPaul, graphics fairy, Dearestgeeksof
simply measure and cut lace for neck size and glue velcro dot on each end. I then spritzed the image with clear varnish and once dry attached with hot glue. Accent with some sparkle and stick-on jewels.

While the show spans a decade of transitions in fashion, Dowager Violet still prefers the high necklines popular in her day.

Petite "Faux" Charlotte Russe
Created for the Czar Alexander' s daughter Princess Charlotte by famed french Chef Careme, and popular in Downton's day, this elegant dessert can be complicated to create. Since my kitchen staff consists of several curious feline friends rather than the able Mrs. Patmore and her crew, I thought I'd opt for a simpler no fuss recipe, in the spirit of the confection. This, perhaps healthier, adaptation uses light cream cheese and Greek yogurt in tune with January's resolutions.

You'll Need
Lady Fingers 
(I used 12 but will depend on size)
1 8oz regular or neuchatel cream cheese (softened)
1 container Greek yogurt (5.3 oz) 
(any fruit flavor)
2/3 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 tsp orange or other flavored extract
berries, whipped cream, mint for garnishing
This is adapted from a recipe for Couers du Creme on my Valentine's day post 
or makes a nice fruit dip as well
Line a 6" round or square container with plastic wrap leaving extra hanging over edge
*If using a larger container you can adjust ingredient amounts as needed
Blend cream cheese, yogurt, sugar and extract
arrange Lady fingers around edge, pressing together where they meet
Fill with cream cheese mixture and smooth evenly
cover with Lady fingers, tearing pieces to fit if needed
(this will be the bottom so no one will see it anyway)
Cover with plastic and
Chill several hours or overnight

Invert onto decorative plate and carefully remove plastic
garnish as desired
Set the table and serve with tea of course
I added props like silk flowers and "family photos
(images found online,  printed in sepia tone and popped into frames)

Carson gets an earful, scene from Downton Abbey
With much of the show dealing with Downton's residents adapting to the "modern" world, (who can forget the Dowager wrestling with a swivel chair) the gramophone becomes one of the symbols of the new age. I've seen modernized versions of gramophones which connect to smartphones in chic home shops but thought I'd make a more humble DIY version in homage to this retro now hip icon.
I used:
mini speaker for phone or iPod 
(I got one from the store Five below)
small cardboard box, paper tubes, 
plastic cup, lid, straws and paper bowl
faux wood shelf paper
black, brown and metallic spray paint
Printable labels and accents
printed from fun site featuring labels from 1898-1926
This project channels your inner kindergartner by simply assembling boxes and odds and ends until, through trial and error, you're happy with the result. Here's a brief run down of what I did. 

I cut out an opening to fit the speaker and then covered the box with "wood" paper. 
I hot glued the bowl and cup together, adding an angled cut piece from the cardboard roll, and sprayed it gold.
An old lid painted black makes a record with a printed out vintage label
I then hot glued it all together, adding supports where needed 
add some details like some gold painted craft sticks and labels found online
My husband , taking this literally asked where the handle was- so I quickly painted two bendy straws and voila!
You can here a snippet of it playing on PennWise's facebook page
Turn on some old fashioned tunes and dance the night away!

 For more Downton DIY's visit our previous post 
Tea Time at Downton Abbey
Downton Masks, DIY Abbey votive, Earl grey shortbread spoons