Lessons learned as a first-time JASP attendee

JASP First Time Attendee LessonsThinking about attending the Jane Austen Summer Program for the first time? Read on to check out all of the lessons I learned as a first-time attendee and intern in 2019 to see why JASP might be just right for you.

  1. Everyone loves a good cardboard cutout of Colin Firth.

And I mean everyone. You won’t go a day without seeing someone (or everyone) cheesing for a picture beside the standee of many people’s beloved Mr. Darcy.

  1. New to dancing? That’s okay!

If you thought you couldn’t dance (like I did), then get ready to move, because JASP has a thing — or fifty — to teach you about many Regency-era dances that you probably never thought you could attempt on your own. JASP offers three main dance classes, plus introductory sessions if you’re entirely new dancing.

  1. Thought you knew “Pride and Prejudice” inside out? Think again.

Okay, so this lesson applies to last year’s convention in particular, but it carries over to  any JASP. I thought I had a good bit of knowledge surrounding Austen’s novel, but let me tell you: I left with way more insights into “Pride and Prejudice” than I would have ever gained on my own. In 2019, speakers included three authors discussing their diverse modern retellings of “Pride and Prejudice.” This year JASP has Janine Barchas (“The Lost Books of Jane Austen”), Mary Robinette Kowal (the “Glamourist Histories” series) and Robert Morrison (“The Regency Years”).

[Read more about our 2020 guests here.]

  1. In fact, there is so much more to learn about Jane Austen.

JASP explores Austen’s world beyond her texts: There’s the social context to all of her novels, there’s the information about her life, there’s the historical events and traditions that were prevalent in her time. The list is ENDLESS.

  1. There’s so much more to JASP than words on websites and emails can describe.

You can put a lot into emails and website headlines, but you really just can’t convey all of the heart in this program. The friendships, memories, fun moments, interesting speakers and more all work together to make JASP a blast.

  1. There’s no reason to be nervous about speaking up and talking to others.

I’ll be the first to admit that I can be a little shy. However, last year’s JASP gave me the courage to speak up and interact with people in ways that I might never normally. The small-group discussions feel a lot like a book club than a formal meeting, which allows people to open up and talk to one another.

  1. You’re going to want to go to EVERY TALK and hear EVERY SPEAKER.

And I do mean EVERY. They’re all so good, and your JASP experience really wouldn’t be complete without them all. 

[See our schedule here.]

  1. Part of what makes JASP so appealing is the diverse group of attendees.

There are so many people from so many places, of so many ages, and with so many different backgrounds and so many different experiences with Austen’s novels — and it really is beneficial to your JASP experience to interact with everyone. You can learn just as much from your fellow attendees as you would from those at the lectern.

  1. Go to the ball, and have fun (you won’t regret it)!

The ball is SO MUCH FUN, and if you feel like it, you can go all-out. It really amplified the experience to get dolled up (in a Regency gown or modern dress). You won’t regret it.

  1. The opportunities you’ll have are even greater than you might imagine.

You’ll have the chance to speak to best-selling novelists, professors, graduate and undergraduate students, and Austen lovers from all over. You get to engage in all sorts of activities. Your love of Austen is really taken to the next level.

  1. By the time JASP is over, you’re going to be ready to register for next year ASAP.

Those were my exact thoughts when I left last year’s convention, and they’re just as true today as they were then.

  1. Interning with JASP was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had.

I really do mean that. I’ve had lots of great experiences since coming to UNC, but no college experience has been as academically and personally challenging and rewarding as the Jane Austen Summer Program. I learned so much in just a few months, and I’ll carry those lessons with me forever.

How to embroider

The education of young girls was neither reliable nor consistent in the early 19th century, and the same might be said of the education of Jane Austen. Claire Tomalin’s “Jane Austen: A Life” biography describes not only the schools Jane and her sister attended but also a few other examples of schools ranging in quality from well rounded to worthy of the gothic novels parodied in “Northanger Abbey.” Many girls did not go to school and learned at home instead. Yet regardless of where and how they obtained their education, young girls were expected to learn the skills that would help them to maintain their homes as grown women. One of those skills was the ability to sew, and in the days before sewing machines everything was sewn by hand.

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“Girls School” by Jan Josef Horemans the Younger, 18th Century

In “Jane Austen: The World of Her Novels,” Deirdre Le Faye describes how girls would create samplers and cross-stitch patterns to demonstrate their stitching skills that would later be used for larger projects. She also says embroidery continued to be a popular pastime on rainy days for middle- to upper-class families. Mrs. Norris scolds Fanny in “Mansfield Park” for not better applying her time to such projects when she says: “Why cannot you come and sit here, and employ yourself as we do? If you have no work of your own, I can supply you from the poor basket.”

Thankfully Mrs. Norris is not here to nag us about how we spend our time. Instead, let us imagine that Jane herself is wishing to join us as she did with her sister in 1808 when she wrote: “I wish I could help you in your needlework, I have two hands & a new thimble that lead a very easy life.” If you have ever wanted to learn how to embroider, here are a few basic techniques.

You will need:

  • A bit of fabric (I use linen in this example)
  • An embroidery hoop
  • Embroidery threads (I use crewel, which is a fancy way to say “wool”)
  • Needle
  • Needle threader (optional – if the eye of your needle is big enough, you may not need a threader)

You could also hold the hoop this way, if you choose. This style is called “in the well.”

As you can see, the tapestry needle has a wide enough eye that I do not need a threader. The so called “embroidery needles” are very small and are designed for a fine cotton thread or beading work. If you are choosing to use this type of needle and thread, you will need to use a threader.

Once the thread is in the needle, leave one tail of the thread longer than the other. You do not need to knot the end.

Let’s learn three basic stitches:

First to learn is the Back Stitch.

You begin from underneath the fabric.

Then pull the needle through.

Keep pulling until there is only one thread going through the fabric.

Leave just a little bit behind. Here is what it looks like from the back.

This is the beginning of any embroidery stitch. For the back stitch, you will be moving along a line. Move the needle in the direction you wish to go and point it back to the first stitch.

Notice I am placing the needle below the other thread. You could do above the thread instead so long as you are consistent in every stitch. Pull the needle through and stop before the thread becomes taught.

Then, do the same thing. Move the thread further down the line you wish to make and point it back to the last stitch.

Continue in this fashion

After a while you will have a lot of little stitches creating a line.

Second to learn is the French Knot.

Again, we begin the stitch from underneath. This time we will place the needle close to where the thread comes out.

Then, wrap the thread around the needle once.

Twice.

Three times. Then close to the hole where the thread comes out we will push the needle in through the fabric and gently pull it through.

Here are a few French Knots together.

The final stitch here is the Satin Stitch.

If you are left-handed, you may find it easier to go from the other direction but as I am right-handed, I begin the stitch on the far left side of the area I wish to fill.

Then I will push the needle in to the fabric on the far right side of the area I wish to fill. When I do this I will be poking the needle out just above where the first stitch came out and pulling the needle out from above the fabric.

These stitches will fill a small area.

If you wish to fill a larger area, you can do so with overlapping the smaller satin stitches because if you make it too big, it will not keep its shape well.

Confused by these instructions? Here is a quick instructional video to demonstrate the exact same stitches.

Now that we have learned some basic stitches, we need a project! A new book is coming out in May (March for the UK) full of project ideas based on 18th-century embroidery by Jennie Batchelor and Alison Larkin called “Jane Austen Embroidery” (from Dover Publications).

In the meanwhile, however, I free-handed a design based upon a shawl attributed to Jane Austen herself. You can see an image of the original here.

Here I have drawn the stars in pencil. I will be using satin stitches and French knots.

After a little bit of progress……

A close up of a French knot in progress:

Here is the completed hoop.

I needed something in the middle so I drew a silhouette of Jane Austen based on an image search online and filled it in with black satin stitches.

Hope you enjoyed this miniature lesson on basic embroidery stitches!

Putting pen to paper: JASNA student essay contest now open

jasna-essay

Calling all high school, college/university and graduate students worldwide! The Jane Austen Society of North America has released the details of its 2020 Essay Contest, centering on female “villains” in Austen’s novels and juvenilia.

Winners will receive a monetary award — $250 for third place, $500 for second place, and $1,000 for first place — in each of the three divisions (high school, undergraduate, and graduate). In addition, first-place winners will receive free registration and two nights’ lodging to attend the JASNA annual general meeting Oct. 9 to 11 in Cleveland.

For contest topics, submission guidelines, other details, and past winning essays, visit the website. The deadline for submissions is Monday, June 1.