Relatability

I ventured to the local fleamarket on Sunday. I like to go opening day, but this year I was extra busy. I made it a couple weekends in. I woke early with the assistance of a certain feline who wanted to be fed. I ate half a bowl of cereal and headed out. This allowed me to arrive shortly after 7, when finding a parking spot was easy, attendance was light, and some vendors were still unpacking. There were many empty spots, likely due to the forecast of rain and thunderstorms. Muddy ground and wet weather can be more problematic than it is worth.

The fleamarket was a local destination since childhood. As a kid, I looked forward to buying a little trinket with change, or, maybe if I was really lucky, finding a Breyer horse for a few dollars. Now, I still hope for that little trinket or Breyer horse. I also have an eye open for a few other things.

This year, I would like to find some small, doll size jewelry, sewing accessories, Victorian fancy work of particular types, a doll head for the ooops too big body, the right curio for the little dolls, hat blocks, and something curious.

Sunday there wasn’t much that caught my attention for coming home. There was one Breyer in the whole place, of the wrong size. No sewing accessories old enough. Nothing curious enough to fit my interests or research focus. I came home with a lone pair of gloves and this cdv.

This CDV caught my attention for what I am going to call Relatability.

It was her bodice that I saw initially. It is loosely fit through her bust rather than fitted smoothly. The fullness gathers in to the waist in controlled pleats rather than plain gathers or darts. This would make me think this is a more casual dress, but then, when looking at the sleeve with its embellishment and detail, it is seen not to be the case.

At home, I took some time with this image. Partly for a closer look. Partly to see how clear the camera on my sorta new phone does with cdvs. I am pleased with the latter.

The closer look showed me things I did not see standing in the morning sun with sunglasses and hat on. This woman was older but not old. She has wrinkles in emerging in all the natural places. She has graying hair in wisps. She has fullness at the back of the collar indicating the rolling of neck or shoulders that happens when working or reading over many years. She gave herself room in her bodice possibly for comfort, physical or mental, while her sleeves show an attention, creativity, and detail.

Each of these aspects are as much true of being then as now, now as then.

Here is the bodice fullness that first caught my attention. The fullness is brought into the waist with pleats rather than darts or gathers. I can tell you from experience this control lays differently, flatter at the waist than regular gathers do. It appeals to me as a fluffier woman who doesn’t know how my fluff is going to behave some days. *There may be a dart on the right. Count the third square from the right to see it. Also worth noticing is her choice not to wear a belt. The tendency currently in reenacting is to wear a belt. This is not necessary.
I did not see this sleeve a when I first picked up the cdv. It is beautiful in both finish and concept. This appears to be a basic, slightly full coat sleeve with an epaulet-esque overlay and a cuff. Both the epaulet and cuff have a petal like shape used in the design. Each are outlined in a trim (below.)
Looking closer at the trim, it appears to be a chain of flowers.
I was impressed by what I could see in her hair. Usually, I look for the shadowy line that indicates a hairnet or not. But, in this image my eyes moved forward, first to the wisps of grey hairs just above her ear. These light color strands create such pretty waves. Then, I saw the the section above that wanted to be a curl that day. I can’t help but wonder if that curl frustrated her because it would roll smoothly into her coiffure or reminded her of days when she let ringlets of curls fall.
The first close up I tried with the phone was of the collar. This was a 6.5 zoom, later cropped for upload. This shows not only the collar but also some bunching up at the neck. I think the specks are discoloration rather than a pin at the crossing of the collar, but I am not certain.
Other than her ring, these earrings appear to be the only jewelry she is wearing. They are not a type I can identify.

Published in: on May 17, 2022 at 6:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Veil 101

I am reposting favorite helpful posts each Monday throughout March, April, and May. This post will wrap-up this series. Starting in June, I will share posts focusing on the the questions I am asked most often when Intepreting.

This look at veils concentrates on the everyday veils of the mid-19th century, the 1840s through 1860s. It does not include mourning veils.

As some of you know, I have issues with sunlight that can trigger migraines or full-body crashes. So, veils are very important to me. This is very much a “don’t leave home without it” item.

You will notice each of the veils I wear are silk gauze. This is for two reasons. First, when we started exploring veils locally, some years ago, the silk gauze at Dharma was what we felt suitable. Our research has expanded. Second, personally, I find the gauze helps with my light issues nicely. I am kinda afraid to make the change to net. But, I will be giving net a try when I find a net that I feel mimics the feel of those originals I’ve held.

Veil Shapes

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The most common shapes for veils included the wide rectangle and the semi-circle. In each shape, they tended to be wider than they are long, ranging approx from 30″to 40″ wide and 15 ” to 20″ long based on those I’ve been able to see in photos and in person.

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Right above: A rectangular net veil, approx 36″ wide by 17″ deep. Right below: A semi-circular veil. I need to double check the dimensions, as I am pretty sure I bought this one but haven’t a clue where I put it.

There were some variations to these shapes. This example at the MET may be mid-century. It is a variation on a rectangle with the top and bottom edges curving. There is a shape I would call a petal, with two sides each an arc. At the bottom of the page, you will see a quasi-triangle shaped veil meant for windy weather.

Be sure to browse your favorite and local museums to see original veils.

Veil Materials

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Let me first say I am utterly clueless about lace, or at least entirely lacking confidence in my knowledge of lace. I will leave the details of which lace is which and which is correct to those who have studied lace in depth.

That said. In minimum:

In terms of fibers, silk, linen, wool and cotton all come up for nineteenth century shawls in museum collections.

When looking at the net ground of net or net lace, you want little hexagons. You do not want the little rectangles or diamonds.

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Veil Colors

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The most commonly found veil colors for the century are black, white and ivory. We can also find blues and greens. These do tend to appear more frequently in earlier remaining veils then in those of the 40s, 50s and 60s.

To the left is an image of me in an 1820s bonnet with a green veil. This is a dyed silk gauze veil made by Bevin Lynn. I found this green to be gentle on the eyes when out in the sun, given moderate protection. It did not give glare as some white veils can do. It did play with the light giving a streaked color effect similar to what some migraines can produce.

I have also worn white and black veils. I find black silk gauze to give the most protection from the sun. It also gives the most vision dampening of the colors I’ve worn. White give some light protection. I prefer it on moderately sunny day for short walks across the tree filled square.

Attaching a Veil

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This is how I attach my veil. Original veils show either a channel at the top of the veil or worked holes, through which a thin cord or ribbon can be drawn. In my veils, I prefer to put a small knot or loop in the end. This helps keep the cord from sliding back through and makes it easy to grab.

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Once this cord/ribbon is drawn up, the veil can be positioned along the brim edge. I drape the veil over the back of the bonnet.

I prefer to pin just back from the edge. With my drawn bonnet, seen here, I pin under the second cane. On my straw bonnets, I pin a row behind the fancy plait or about the 3rd row back. The end pins are pinned upward sorta following the row of cane or plait. In the center top, I pin one or two pins across the veil, trying to catch the cord,

parallel to the cane or plait. (pinning perpendicular to the plait will allow the veil to pull forward or backward as it drapes.) Here you can see how this veil drapes forward and back. This is a silk gauze veil made for me by Bevin. It is trimmed in silk ribbon. It is a little longer than most 1860s veils. Some 1850s images do show a similar length.

Here Betsy Connolly is wearing a semi-circular veil. Notice how she doesn’t have the ends pooling on either side as a rectangular veil would.

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Specialty Veils

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Note for the repost: This is one of those posts I intended to get back to and provide additional information on but didn’t because life happens. I do hope to do another post about veils addressing several questions and details. Hopefully soon.

Published in: on May 16, 2022 at 9:10 am  Leave a Comment  

Finishing a Straw Bonnet


I am reposting favorite helpful posts each Monday throughout March, April, and May.

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We are entering the time of year when people are thinking spring and about decorating their bonnets. Straw bonnets have a great appeal because they are cooler to wear in the heat as the straw allows the head to breathe, and the embellishments can be changed fairly easily without leaving as obvious thread holes.

Just as with most other garments and material culture pieces, millinery is an investment. You want to finish your straw bonnet as accurately as possible. This will include several factors:

  • A lining to protect the straw from your hair products and to protect your hair from snagging on the straw. While not every extant bonnet has a lining or evidence or a lining, a lining can extend the life of your bonnet
  • A frill or cap for the inside of the bonnet’s brim. This frill simultaneously frames the face and helps hold the bonnet in place. You may also want to add a facing to the front couple inches of the inside of the brim. This is found in many originals.
  • The bavolet will need a cotton net lining to give it the proper fullness. I believe this net also physically supports the materials of the bavolet. The silk, whether from fabric or ribbon, is most frequently seen on the bias in original bonnets. The net will help the bias cut hold its shape, especially if addition elements such as straw, lace, or bead-work is added. Consider reading “Understanding the Ribbon Bavolet” for additional information.
  • A bonnet will need 2 sets of ties – A functional set of narrow ties which will hold the bonnet on, and a decorative set of wider ribbons.
  • You may want to add a stay to assist in holding the bonnet to your head. The easiest to add is a simple strip of velvet. More information with images can be found in the post “Bonnet Stays
  • Then, of course, you need your decorations – flowers, feathers, ribbons, lace, etc.
  • I will add – A storage box and stand – While this is not an immediate need, a stand and box will help your bonnet last by protecting it from being mis-shappened, and from dust.

Recommended Shopping List:

  • I highly recommend Danielle’s book from Timely Tresses: Finishing a Straw Bonnet Form
  • Cotton net to line your bavolet
  • Fine cotton or silk net (bobbinette), or silk organza or lace for your frill/cap
  • Fine cotton voile or silk taffeta to line your brim
  • 3 yards minimum of wide (silk or quality rayon) ribbon (2 yards for ties, 1 yard for bavolet, additional for decoration/bows) (silk taffeta is also an option for the bavolet.)
  • 1 yard of 3/4″-1″ wide silk or cotton sateen ribbon for ties.
  • Ribbon and laces of choice for decoration
  • Flowers and feathers of choice for decoration
  • 1/2″-3/4″ wide velvet for optional stay

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Recommended Reading List:

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Godey’s, November 1856

Straw Bonnets.—Straw bonnets generally require some sort of lining, crape, muslin, or a thin silk. Very few are now worn with a plain lining. It requires just the same quantity to make a little fullness, which is more becoming. I will explain to you how to make a plain lining or a plain bonnet will take just the same quantity; or, if any difference, the plain requires more than the full. I think I hear my readers say this if very strange. You are aware that, in cutting out a plain bonnet or lining, there are several small pieces cut out to the shape. The piece make the fullness, for the material is used on the straight when put in the easy and on cross-way when plain, which compels you to cut pieces off , which on the straight and put in full, is not required. A head lining of silk or muslin should be put in after the lining to make all neat and clean when the bonnet is worn. Straw curtains are worn; but a great many ladies prefer a silk curtain made of the ribbon to match the trimming. The curtain is best cross-way with a narrow straw on the edge. The curtain will not quite take a yard of ribbon; three and a quarter or three and a half are sufficient to trim a bonnet. Plain colors on a straw are neater than mixed, such as primrose, light or dark blue. Sarcenet ribbon is better than satin. It is a good plan to sew narrow strings on the bonnet at the same time you sew the wide tie; the narrow first: it keep the bonnet more firm on the head. When I say narrow ribbon, I mean an inch and a half wide. An old fancy straw bonnet will make up again very weill by putting some silk between each row of straw. You must have a wire frame, and unpick the bonnet; cut some pieces of silk on the cross for puffings, and now lay your straw alternately with the silk. Unless the straw is a very good color, mix colored silk with it. This bonnet will require a lining.


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Published in: on May 16, 2022 at 6:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Pansies on Copper – Hat in Shop

This fashionable copper straw tapered crown style hat is trimmed in fresh green German moire ribbon and vintage velvet pansies. Each of the pansies is individually handsewn in place. This tapered crown is slitpghtly higher in the front. I am very pleased with how this cam out. This hat is suitable for the fashionable waredrobe ca 1860-65.

This hat measures 21″ around the inside of the crown with the ribbon lining.

Published in: on May 14, 2022 at 9:46 am  Leave a Comment  

Unboxing: An 1880s Bonnet Block

Published in: on May 12, 2022 at 5:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

How is a Tie-on Pocket Worn

I was asked to talk about and show how a tie on pocket is worn. Here is a short video that looks at how a separate pocket ties on around the waist and how they are accessed through the skirt. I also give examples of what might be found in a pocket whether it is worn for interpretive use or keeping modern essentials.

I forgot to mention in the video that having the emergency/essential items in a tie on pocket reduces to chance of losing or forgetting something in transferring from one dress pocket to another.

Left: Items for interpretation or period use: notebook and pencil, fan, workpocket with sewing items, hairpins, candy, lavender sachet. Right: Modern essentials: Emergency or medical needs, hand sanitizer, lip balm. Inwould also include: keys, emegency/medical forms, phone. Note: I wear period items on the right and modern items on the left.
Published in: on May 9, 2022 at 8:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Hairnets – The Basics and More Indepth

I am reposting favorite helpful posts each Monday throughout March, April, and May.

There are several resources available to learn more about hairnets…..

Are you confused about the word “Snood”? Read Getting Snoody by Elizabeth Stewart Clark.

Do you want to know what basic hairnet to buy and have in your hair kit? Watch this video:

Want to know the basic ins and outs of hair nets? Read To Net, or Not to Net an article by Anna Worden.

Want to know the details of hairnets, who wore what kinds and when with lots of photos and illustrations? Read the full-length e-book To Net, or Not to Net: Revisited, by Anna Worden Bauersmith.

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Are you one of the many readers enjoying my millinery blog posts?

Consider becoming a Patreon patron. Doing so helps support my work and helps me write more useful articles.

https://www.patreon.com/AMillinersWhimsy

Published in: on May 9, 2022 at 6:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Connection

We all yearn for connection,

whether we know it or not.

My goal for the day was a simple one: sew a doll dress by the end of the day.

After a slow start, I found myself thinking about connection.

We connect in many ways. We connect with our senses. We connect emotionally. We connect physically. We connect through story.

To lack connection, or worse, to be denied connection can be detrimental, can be tragic.

On this Mother’s Day, sitting in the sun and shadows, I found myself listening to a story. I often listen to stories in this spot. This story was different. The words came from their mouth but the story came from the heart and eyes. The story was one of lack of story, of being denied story. It tugged at my heart.

I am grateful I heard what I could in that moment.

As days filled with sun and people go, moments fly away.

I was no longer working on my simple goal for the day. I was connecting with one of my Grandmas by sitting where she used to sit, while connecting with one of my Grandmas by sharing a love she loved.

I share with you Theo:

Theo was named by a moment, a moment created by two pairs of siblings. As I finished her dress and was ready to put it on her for the first time, the first pair of siblings came in. They were darling in how captivated they were. They watched wide eyed, both eager and polite, as I tucked and fussed and adjusted, then presented the newly dressed doll. I said: “She still needs a name.” The first sibling said “Theo.” The second sibling said “Yes, Theo.” both said “Hello, Theo” as two more siblings walk in and one says “Hello.” One of the new pair of siblings was also named Theo. It was obvious to me, the doll is Theo.

Theo is dressed in an 1850s style dress made from one of GCVM’s reproduction kerchiefs. This is one of three reproduction kerchiefs based on originals in the Susan Greene Collection and produced by Burnley & Trowbridge. When I saw this beautiful red and black on white print, I knew it had to be made into a doll dress. I am delighted with how the dress came together today. The skirt is the full 36 inch width of the kerchief with the border design around the hem and up the front. The design lined up creating a circling leaf motif centered on the bodice. The sleeves are open sleeves with the border edge at the wrist. This is the one change I would make: I would make the sleeves more funneled.

The dress will be accessorized with a black belt and mother of pearl buckle. I will add a broach as well to the deep V neck bodice. Theo will also be getting hands soon.


If you read my “Transparency” post you may be wondering how the day went for me, the part of me that has been exhausted. Today was much needed. Approaching this weekend, I was not sure how I was going to do it; I wasn’t sure if I could do it. The morning started hard for me. I was struggling to feel my groove and zone. Then I got there. The above happened. Suddenly it was closing time and I wasn’t tired. I reached the end of the day without feeling like it was the end of the day or the end of me for the day. I wasn’t even tired a little bit until the drive home. When I got home, it didn’t hurt to get undressed, well except for the bit about gravity. I hoped in the shower. I ordered dinner. I uploaded. started editing and writing. In this moment, I am good; I feel that soft sigh of “this is good.”

Published in: on May 8, 2022 at 6:40 pm  Comments (3)  

Free Printable Sewing Resources

As part of the 5 year anniversary for Fanciful Utility I created these goodies for the workbox. These are “Fill Your Case” useful PDFs you can print and put in your sewing case.

Basic Sewing Booklet from Eliza Leslie’s Lady’s House-Book 1850

Basic Sewing Booklet from Eliza Leslies Ladys House Book 1850

Mini Quick Reference Booklets

Mini Booklet Sewing Guide

Mini Booklet Gather Gauge Button Guide

Mini Booklet Gather Gauge Button Guide

Mini Booklet Basic Sewing

Directions for folding the two mini booklets:

Mini Booklet Directions images

Needle Packet Labels

These are scanned from antique packets in my collection I’ve included directions for the two ways these packets are folded as well as label and packet measurements.

Sewing Needle Labels to Print and Fill Your FanU Case

*note: These are direct scans. Some were on the packets angled.

Construction:

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Each of these packets can be made of black paper slightly lighter than writing paper and the label printed on white paper.

  • Print your labels on white printer paper. Cut them to the size indicated on the print out.
  • Cut the black paper using the dimensions accompanying each label – 3 times the width and 3 times the length. ie – if the folded packet is 1″x1.5″, cut the black paper 3″x4.5″
  • Fold the black paper in thirds lengthwise. Fold the paper in thirds width wise.
  • Looking at the placement chart and the notes with each label, glue the label in the corresponding location on the exterior. Use either a brush or small glue stick for the best control.
  • You can also cut a second piece of black paper, slightly smaller to fit inside the outer paper to help hold your needles.

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Looking for your own copy of Fanciful Utility?

Click HERE to go ESC Publishing.

Published in: on May 7, 2022 at 12:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

Transparency

It isn’t often I get out my laptop to write anymore. Usually, I thumb-type away on my phone or tablet, squeezing posts together between bonnets, before driving to work, at lunch. I know my thoughts are far more fluid when I type on a keyboard; more fluid, more complete, more many things. Yet, life in the twenty-first century utilizes mobile technology and squeezing of time.

This morning I find I have a myriad of thoughts whirling around in my head. Along with the din of wanna-be-migraine noise that sorta combines the sound of ceiling fans and old tube lights, I am having difficulty focusing on the detailed sewing tasks that need to be done. Best to get the thoughts out.

Those details sewing tasks – Moments ago, I cut the pieces for the kerchief doll’s dress and my dress’s collar. These are the items I need for tomorrow, my first nineteenth century day of the season. I should be excited. I have a new wool challis dress to wear. I have a great project dressing a Jenny Lind style porcelain doll in a reproduction kerchief based on an original in the Greene Collection at the Wehle Gallery. The weather is going to be lovely. The people are going to be lovely. I should be excited.

Yet, I am exhausted.

I feel like I am constantly saying that lately: exhausted. That is because I am saying it constantly. At least I am feeling it constantly. I recharge my battery. I refill my glass. But, rarely ever to 100%. I am lucky if I get my battery to 50%; my glass to half full before I need to start back in.

Work is work. I actually enjoy the tasks, even the extra tasks to help out coworkers. I enjoy the problem solving, the challenges. What has worn me down is the stuff I am probably not supposed to talk about, the startling, the worrying about kid safety, the worrying about coworker safety, the worrying about kid mental health, the worrying about coworker mental health, the worrying about my mental health. Too often I get to the end of a week and find myself sitting on my couch so tired I could just cry, but I am too tired to cry. Even this past week, when I started the week feeling great, feeling like I was on top of what I needed to do, feeling optimistic, feeling like my body was good, I got to Friday and again found myself feeling like I could cry but was simply too tired.

This is why, in recent weeks, there is less millinery. My goals for the year were to complete 2 pieces each week for you to choose from. That is about 22 hours of sewing, photographing, and listing if they are undecorated, closer to 20 if they are decorated. Today is May 7th and I have only made one piece this month. It is hanging out in my shop waiting for someone to buy it along with one adorable little bonnet from last month.

That brings me to one of the thoughts whirling around – Millinery waiting.

Without a doubt I find far more joy in watching bonnets and hats sell quickly. I get very excited when pieces sell in less than an hour. I have this “yes” feeling with a please sigh when I see a piece selected by a person it matches well with. I love these feel-goods. I thrive on them.

Lately, I haven’t been getting them.

I suspect the longer, much longer at times, “shelf” time is due to my increase in prices. Keeping prices manageable is important to me. I managed not to increase from my $125 and $200 base prices for the whole of 2020 and 2021 despite the rise in costs for materials and overhead. (Okay, let’s call overhead what it is – living – rent, utilities, taxes. My rent and fees went up nearly $200 this year.) I made the price increase. The side of me waiting for pieces to sell regrets it, is reconsidering it. The side of me that has to meet budget knows I had to. My hands that get painfully tired and weird knows I had to. The choice was raise prices and increase two pieces a month or leave prices and increase 4 and 5 pieces a month. Pushing my hands to 10 pieces (18 in the summer) a month would likely mean I would be done, unable to sew in a year or two.

Yet, I am considering pulling back the prices or offering more discount options. Please know – returning customers and Patreon supporters receive discount codes currently. I just need to figure out how to make up the difference.

Now on to a less depressing whirling component – The next blog series idea. As the current series of Monday Millinery reposts is coming to a close in a couple weeks, I am considering two options for the next series. 1) Continuing on Monday Millinery with answering the most common questions I get when interpreting. This would mean freshly written posts each week. This is both an appeal and hesitation as time is a big factor for me. 2) A Fancy Work Friday with a combination of revisited past posts and projects along with some new projects. The ability to repost some projects is very appealing. But, during the summer, I really prefer to stick to millinery so I don’t distract myself. So….. decisions must be made.

And now, as I get this far into my typing I find I can hear the birds singing outside rather than that din of wanna-be-migraine sound. This is good. This means getting some of my thoughts out was a good idea. If you’ve read this far, thank you for reading.

I need to go press the waistband for the doll dress along with the inner bias piece for my collar. Then I need to put the hooks on my dress. I am also going to prepare two pockets because I want to squeeze in a pocket video tomorrow. It is a very good thing I stepped back from doing both days this weekend. While I do regret not being there for opening day, I don’t think it would have been doable.

This needs a cute photo.

White tabby cat ducking out from under a red, white, and gray wool skirt that is draped over a chair.

EDIT: An hour later – She bit holes into the front shoulder of my dress.

Published in: on May 7, 2022 at 9:52 am  Leave a Comment