Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Downton Abbey

I could write volumes about Downton Abbey and bore you all to death, but there's no need when bloggers Tom and Lorenzo do such a splendid job. I may not agree with everything they say, but they are sharp-eyed, amusing, and venerate Lady Violet as she deserves.

Burying Lavinia with a light heart and (almost) a straight face

I was in tears when William died in Episode 6, of course, but I nevertheless wanted to snatch the gorgeously embroidered pillow from beneath his bloodied head. It looked like an uncomfortable pillow to die upon, but my motives were not pure. It must have made ridges on the back of his head, but I didn't care — that was Daisy's job. I wanted that pillow:

The desperately desired pillow

Whenever I covet something old, I go directly to eBay and amuse myself over hours, days, or weeks trying to find it at the right price. I often succeed but I'm stumped this time because I don't know the name of this type of embroidery and I suspect it's sought-after and expensive. If anyone can tell me more about it, I'd be grateful. The closest I've come is Mountmellick, a type of Irish white-on-white embroidery that's similarly intricate. I've already lost a couple of eBay auctions for rare pairs of Mountmellick layover shams from an old estate collection.

(Layover shams have no backs. Often lavishly decorated, they are meant to lie on top of the pillow, just for show. Your maid would lift it off and whisk it away at bedtime so you could sleep on the plainer, more comfortable pillowcase underneath. Since I can never find my maid when I want her, I'd sew my layover sham to the front of a sturdy cotton European-sized sham and remove the whole pillow from the bed myself, as I do every night when I get tired of waiting for my maid to come and take care of me. It's so hard to get good help, even imaginary help....)

There are just two more auctions coming up and then there likely won't be any more antique Mountmellick shams to be had for a long time. So, in the spirit of Lady Violet, I will have to muster all of my powers to prevail.

Last Sunday this TV hater watched five hours of Downton; we like to watch each new episode twice and I wanted to see last week's episode beforehand, too (and not just to revisit the pillow sham). It took me three viewings to figure out that the burn-victim, Major Gordon, all but confessed to Edith (although she didn't understand) that he was impersonating Patrick Crawley; he was undone by her trust and kindness and couldn't keep up his lie.

In this week's two-hour episode, there were too many eye-rolling plot twists, but they were never absurd enough to ruin my enjoyment. Between the fine acting and gorgeous visuals, I don't suffer much when the story lines get a bit goofy. So much was accomplished in record time: Matthew's recovery was as efficient as it was implausible, and I was thrilled to see the Spanish Flu take Lavinia in the course of a few minutes. I'd known for weeks that an "upstairs" female character was going to be killed off and I was afraid it would be Cora. Cora hasn't been any fun lately, but we still need her around. Otherwise, the newest heir would probably arrive via Jane, the creepy-crawly parlormaid. Unbearable. And besides, Lavinia was a bore and, as the universe knows, Matthew belongs with Lady Mary, the most riveting character of all.

The biggest tragedy of the series is that we have only one more episode to savor and much of it appears taken up with Christmas decorating and unwrapping gifts. They'd better pack in plenty more action and tie up some of the wackier plots because Season 3 feels like it's almost a century away.


  1. You could try trapunto. I used to do that one or two lifetimes ago and you could use that technique to create something like the pillow.

  2. Thanks! I did search for trapunto and candlewicking, and got nowhere, although the techniques are similar to what I'm coveting so I'll keep looking. I'm surprised I remembered these names? I haven't embroidered anything since I was in grade school!


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