Leisure time is generally considered to be time spent on activities with no financial return or reward. During the seventeenth and early eighteenth century leisure time was only available to nobility and aristocracy whose income came from inherited land ownership or other investments. During the eighteenth and nineteenth century the development of the Victorian middle-class brought with it an increase in perceived leisure time for middle-class women. Domestic magazines were produced informing women of the appropriate activities for their leisure time. The lowering in production costs and increase in potential readership through increased literacy for women was in part a driver for the increase in available publications. A by-product of the increase in titles was the increase in roles for women writing and editing the magazines, therefore adding authorship to the list of acceptable leisure activities. The magazines were followed by books, narrowing in genre and focus as the public appetite and buying power increased.
The domestic magazine was the first printed media that gave instructions to middle-class women on how to run their household and suggested appropriate activities for leisure time not spent on housework or household management. The magazines began as a general domestic magazines with sections on cookery, household management and dress. The Lady’s Magazine (published 1770-1818) makes clear in the title of the publication who the intended audience is and the generic title enables the publication to cover a multitude of subjects. As a printed magazine, the target audience is people who can read. This immediately removed a large proportion of the population who were not able to read. Estimates of literacy in the 1750s is 30% female / 70% male with female literacy increasing to 50% by 1850, with little change in male literacy. The number of publications increased as the literate audience increases and publication costs decreased. The variety of subjects covered in the titles widens, reflecting the naturally-occurring trends and changes in society as pull factors, and the industrialisation and product marketing developments as push factors. As circulation increased, the number of titles increased allowing titles on more specific subjects, such as The lady’s album of fancy work for 1850, The royal magazine of knitting, netting, crochet, and fancy needlework (1851-1852), and The royal Victoria knitting book (1853). For those with needlework and knitting skills who could not afford to purchase a ready-made item, it was possible to use the images in the magazines as guides for creating homemade copies. The early knitting books reflect this, containing recipes for edgings and embellishments to dress-up existing garments.
Alongside the promotion of the socially-acceptable activities within the Lady’s Magazine, the magazine itself aided in the increased social acceptability of women writing content for magazines. Veblen notes the very delicate line that women were forced to tread in order to accomplish income from the activity of writing, which can be accomplished as a sole activity within the confines of the drawing room within the remit of a permissible leisure activity, to ensure ‘the good repute of her natural (pecuniary) guardian’, without ‘vulgar useful employment’ being perceived. The research by Claes suggests that writing for magazines was a forerunner to the increase in female authorship of subject-specific non-fiction books. The success of the domestic magazine, targeted at a middle-class female audience, provided guidance on socially-acceptable activities to fill periods of leisure time whilst surreptitiously providing a potential incoming-generating home-working opportunity.
Both needlework and fancywork were promoted in publications of the time as desirable skills for women to aim to become accomplished at. Both Mitchell and Maitzen mention the references in Victorian fiction and non-fiction to the importance of needlework as a 'desirable feminine attribute'. Ward analysed the specific needlework recipes present in different magazines targets at women and observed a correlation between the magazines targeting middle-class women and references to taste. The magazine attempts to train the reader’s taste by providing recipes for items that the magazine writers and editor deem to be appropriate for middle-class women of the time. The naming of the variants of needlework indicates the level of complexity of the handmade item. The term ‘fancy work’ appears to distinguish everyday essential items from those items made for special occasions or for purely aesthetic enjoyment. A simple fabric blouse is an essential garment that can be handmade from a minimal amount of fabric and materials. The addition of a white lace collar adds quality and fanciness to the simple base garment. A lace collar takes hours to produce and can be moved from one garment to another. The addition of fancy embellishments is associated with attending church and special occasions for the working classes. For the flamboyant and wealthy aristocracy the level of fancy work on garments is standard and expected. For the middle-class it is an opportunity to demonstrate visually where on the scale of middle-classes the person was by the amount and quality of the embellishments. The ability to create high quality embellishments for your own garments was perceived socially as a desirable skill.
The decreasing cost of book printing and the increasing literacy rate during the nineteenth century resulted in magazines being scoured for ideas for book genres and subjects. The magazine publications were initially serialised into bound publications. Successful magazines that lasted a sufficient period of time to make it profitable started to produce bound annuals containing the magazines from the full year, often with the addition of a contents page or index. As with magazines, the increase in volume of book publications saw an increase in genres, and increasing niche subject areas and specialisations. Initially the wide genre was on domestic household matters, narrowing into separate genres for cooking and textiles.
Printed needlework patterns have a flourishing publication history. Between 1523 and 1700, over 150 different needlework pattern books were published in England and on the Continent.
The mid-nineteenth century was significant for the book publishing industry as printing production costs decreased and literacy increased, and significant for the general public as barriers to accessing information were eroded. The publishing industry was gaining momentum and starting to adjust to being a commercial entity for the masses transitioning from a specialised market for the elite few. Decrease in cost of printing results in decreasing cost to purchase books and magazines. The decreasing cost enabled an increasing number of female readers and increasing literacy. As the female audience increases, publishers increase the number of titles targeted specifically at women. This increase in publications results in an increase in authors of those publication. As authorship increased the number of women who were authors was also able to increase, followed by increases in female editors. A result of the increase in the pool of available books and the increase in literacy was the erosion of the barriers of entry to access knowledge, referred to by Bennett as the ‘democratization of knowledge in Britain’. Bennett points to the five-schilling Family Library books published by John Murray from 1829 to 1834 as being one of the earliest endeavours to provide cheap books to the working and middle-classes. Belolan’s American-centric research found multiple adaptations of the same recipes appearing in magazines and book publications, most likely due to the editors of the work-table sections in the magazine also being the authors of books. Belolan found that many prolific contributors of recipes to magazines, including Mlle. Defour, Mrs. Jane Weaver, and Mrs. Pullan, continued on to have successful publishing careers on domestic-related subjects. Publishing of domestic magazines and books contributed to an increased in female readers and authors.
 R. S Schofield, ‘Dimensions of Illiteracy, 1750–1850’, Explorations in Economic History, 10/4 (1973), 437–54. https://search.proquest.com/openview/80fd98f85d08cb29f6ceca05dfb92be7/1
 Michael Wolff, John S. North and Dorothy Deering, eds., The Waterloo Directory of Victorian Periodicals, 1824-1900 (Waterloo, Ont., 1977)
 Veblen, Theory of the Leisure Class, 358.
 Koenraad Claes, ‘“due Encouragement”: The Consecration of Female Authorship through Reader Contributions and Extracts in the First Series of the Lady’s Magazine (1770-1819)’, Victorian Periodicals Review, 50/2 (2017), 319–35. https://muse.jhu.edu/article/663882/summary
 Rohan Amanda Maitzen, Gender, Genre, and Victorian Historical Writing (New York, 1998), 65; https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=-xM9chlXwWsC
Rosemary Mitchell, ‘A Stitch in Time?: Women, Needlework, and the Making of History in Victorian Britain’, Journal of Victorian Culture, 1/2 (1996), 185–202. https://doi.org/10.1080/13555509609505923
 Ward, ‘“A Charm in Those Finder”: Patterns, Taste and the Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine’, 249. https://www.jstor.org/stable/27760186
 Footnote: Katherine Epstein, intro., German Renaissance Patterns for Embroidery: A Facsimile Copy of Nicolas Bassee's New Modelbach (1568; reprint, Austin, TX: Curious Works, 1994), 3. (Belolan 2011:326)
 Alexis Weedon, Victorian Publishing : The Economics of Book Production for a Mass Market, 1836-1916 (London, [England] ; New York, New York, 2016), 1–2. https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=SadBDgAAQBAJ
 Marianne Van Remoortel, Women, Work and the Victorian Periodical: Living by the Press, 1st ed. 2015 edition (Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire ; New York, 2015).
 Scott Bennett, ‘John Murray’s Family Library and the Cheapening of Books in Early Nineteenth Century Britain’, Studies in Bibliography, 29 (1976), 140. https://www.jstor.org/stable/40371632
 Bennett, ‘John Murray’s Family Library and the Cheapening of Books in Early Nineteenth Century Britain’, 139–66. https://www.jstor.org/stable/40371632
 Nicole Belolan, "From the Collection “The Blood of Murdered Time”," Winterthur Portfolio 45, no. 4 (Winter 2011): 321-352. https://doi.org/10.1086/663734