Friday, November 3, 2023

Literary Sewing Circle: Author Feature!


Today's the day to talk about the author of our pick for this round of the #LiterarySewingCircle! L.M. Montgomery is a classic Canadian author and is very well known indeed! 

Lucy Maud Montgomery was born in New London on Prince Edward Island, Canada, on November 30, 1874. She is best known for a collection of novels, essays, short stories, and poetry beginning in 1908 with Anne of Green Gables. Anne of Green Gables was an immediate success & established her career.  She published 20 novels as well as 530 short stories, 500 poems, and 30 essays. Most of the novels were set on Prince Edward Island (except for our Blue Castle!) and those locations within Canada's smallest province became a literary landmark and popular tourist site. She lived on PEI until she married, when she moved to Ontario, but always wrote about the PEI she knew.

(mostly via Wikipedia)

But what many readers might not know about her is that she was also very interested in the domestic arts. She loved cooking, and was also an accomplished needlewoman. In 1903, before she was a published fiction writer, she contributed a pattern for a Netted Doily to the Modern Priscilla, a popular periodical at the time which included articles about craft, cooking and domesticity - and also some fiction in later issues. You can see some of that in a copy of The Shining Scroll, a newsletter sent out by the LM Montgomery Institute. I don't think the scan is clear enough to make the exact pattern, unfortunately but maybe you can find The Modern Priscilla is an archive near you ;) 

There is also heavy use of needlework as a way to illuminate characters and personalities in most of Montgomery's books. And who can forget Anne Shirley's gift of a dress with puffed sleeves? There is an interesting article called The Symbolism of Needlework and Textile Arts in the Anne series in the Shining Scroll newsletter, written by Pamela Hancock. (note it starts on p. 24 of the issue) While Anne never really takes to patchwork (and neither does Valancy for that matter...) there are other needlearts that they both find more to their taste, ie: Valancy's hooked cushions that she asks her mother if she can take to her new home.

There is also a master's thesis about clothing in LM Montgomery's work, which includes The Blue Castle as one of the books studied. Changing Clothes: Female Dress and the Widening Sphere in 
the Fiction of L.M. Montgomery by Sabrina Mark can be found online, if you are interested in reading more about this fascinating topic!

We can see from our own reading that Valancy's clothing changes her from a dowdy spinster to someone with bewitching eyes, who looks like a sparkling young woman, when Uncle Benjamin spots her in town, to his chagrin. 

Montgomery was also fond of nice clothing herself, something that she mentions in her journals and also included in her scrapbooks. She kept two colourful scrapbooks for quite a few years when she was young, between the years of 1893 and 1911. The Blue Scrapbook and the Red Scrapbook were collected into a volume called "Imagining Anne", where you can look at the bright fashion images and clippings that Montgomery had put together over those years. Part of these scrapbooks were images of beautifully dressed women from periodicals of the day. And there are a couple of pages where she attached circles of fabrics she had used for making her own clothing - I would love to see the originals! 

Montgomery discussed what she would wear to various events, in her journals, and paid attention to her outfits. She was happy to have money of her own to spend on lovely clothes once she started supporting herself. And her descriptions of beautiful clothing, or useful clothing, or the strange outfits on some of her eccentric characters, really flesh out her characters and their status in their communities. 

She also had strong feelings about other domestic arts -- she was house proud and liked to keep a clean and well appointed home. She noted that having their own house once Ewan retired and they were no longer living in a church-owned manse was a satisfying thing for her. And she was a noted cook. She enjoyed and was good at cooking, with recognized signature recipes. There was a cookbook put out in 1996, collecting her recipes, called Aunt Maud's Recipe Book. This was based on Montgomery's own ledger of go-to recipes that had been passed down to her descendants. It's well worth searching it out if you can - there are some interesting recipes and menu suggestions. It's a fun read! 

Because LM Montgomery is such a classic writer, there are lots of places to find out more about her! You can check out the following sites: 

And always remember, as Anne Shirley once said: 

“It is ever so much easier to be good if your clothes are fashionable.”



  1. Hi Melanie, This post has added a whole new dimension to the author and book. There has been so much to review and research. I am really enjoying reading Sabrina Mark's thesis.
    I also love Montgomery's practice of keeping journals. Was that unusual for the time? I have also been doing this for the past few years, and it is amazing how often I go back to my notes to see what changes etc I made. I guess you would be using your blog to achieve this? But my journal entries are no where near as artistic as Montgomery's journal entries.

    Thank you for such a great post.

    ... Sara

    1. I'm so glad you're enjoying this post and the info shared on this wonderful Canadian author :) I also enjoyed Sabrina Mark's thesis and am glad to hear that someone else is reading it!

      I think journal keeping was quite popular for many bookish women at the time, but the colourful scrapbooks were often something that younger women put together. I remember there being mention of this habit among young girls who tried to get the newest periodicals for the fashion pages and/or images, in some article I read recently about this era. I also keep journals but haven't made a scrapbook since I was about 15 ;)


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