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First free workshop set for Sept. 10 at the historic Barclay House in Oregon City.

In today's world, it's so easy to go to a big-box store and buy a basket or a machine-made "quilt." But back in Victorian times, women above the laboring class were expected to learn how to create these charming accents for the home by hand.COURTESY PHOTO: KIRSTYN WALKER - Learn how to create a six-pointed star like the one pictured above in the English paper pattern piecing workshop on Sept. 8 at the Barclay House.

Now, people who want to learn how to make one-of-a-kind Victorian-inspired crafts can recreate those items during the Victorian Craft Series at the McLoughlin House Unit of the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site in Oregon City.

On Sept. 10, a workshop demonstrating English paper pattern piecing kicks off a fall series of workshops.

The first workshop will be led by Kirstyn Walker, who coordinates the Victorian Craft Series, and by Tracy Hill from the McLoughlin Memorial Association.

"We will begin with little paper diamonds to which we will baste a bit of fabric. These diamonds will then be assembled into the pretty part of a little mug mat," Walker said. "There will not be time to line and bind them, but that is easily done at home. We will give tips and technique advice to save time," she said.

Walker added that "paper piecing is a neat way to hand sew and have an excellent result."

She added that the history of paper piecing is not clear, but there are some quilts from the early 1700s that still have some of the linen paper used in them.

"Primarily this technique was used for bed quilts or coverlets. They did not have the fluffy batting we use today, but were lined and backed with cotton or silk and were very warm," Walker added.

Victorian crafts

Hill started the Victorian Craft series in 2007, and Walker has been overseeing it for about four years.

"Our criteria in choosing a craft to explore is that it must have been practiced, mostly by ladies, in the parlor between 1840 and 1860," Walker said.

She added that she and Hill research periodicals of the era "to verify that we have not let our imaginations get the better of us."

Walker also noted that the activity must be doable by people who walk in off the street, so complex skills like crocheting and tatting are out.

The project must be completed in about an hour, or at the least no more than three hours, she said, adding that presenters do simplify things and bring in examples to inspire participants to go home and explore further.

"The time limit also means we sometimes have to invest considerable time preparing materials so people can get right to work," Walker said.

There is no charge for up to 20 participants, and presenters provide all tools and materials.

"Our budget is tiny; some presenters provide all their materials and some of us donate materials like thread, fabric, beads, embroidery floss and needles," Walker said.

"One of our volunteers must commit time to plan the activity and be there to teach. We do have a really nice group of volunteers willing to pitch in," she said, adding that sewing crafts are the easiest that can be accomplished by beginners.

A future workshop will teach participants to make a metis or mixed-race doll, complete with tiny baskets, a dress with a collar and a beaded necklace.

COURTESY PHOTO: KIRSTYN WALKER - Learn to make a metis, or mixed-race doll, and her accessories in a future workshop in the Victorian Craft Series.

'Joy and satisfaction'

Once upper and middle-class women had free time, they began looking at magazines that catered to crafts and home sewing for suggestions and inspiration, Walker said.

"Today when you try the various needlecrafts and other craft activities, you gain an appreciation for things that are not instant or produced in a factory," she said.

"You get a joy and satisfaction from your achievement. You have a one-of-a kind possession that is meaningful to you," Walker said.

"You learn to focus, you learn to be still, you learn to value the time and skill that go into handmade things," she said.

While taking these workshops, participants can meet people from other walks of life who come together to make something unique.

Walker added, "You will experience generosity as you pass on the lessons you learn. The gifts given and received are not just material, they are spiritual."

Victorian Craft Demonstration

What: English paper pattern piecing

When: Noon-3 p.m. on Sept. 10

Where: The Barclay House, 713 Center St., Oregon City

Details: The workshop is free; all supplies are included

Reservations: Victorian Craft Demonstrations will be on a first-come, first-serve basis through a reservation system. Contact the McLoughlin Memorial Association at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to schedule your reservation.

Next: Learn to make a lucet cord from noon to 3 p.m. on Oct. 8. For more information, visit

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