Challenge: Unlikely to Ever be Found

Some pieces of history will never be found. These are pieces that were used up, loved to threads, unwanted, situation-ally unlikely to survive, deemed unimportant…. then lost to time.

Every so often I think about these pieces from time to time, wondering if there is a single example out there, what we are missing because we haven’t held it in our sight line or hand…

Here is my challenge to you readers……

Find a textual description of an item that is Unlikely to Ever be Found… And share it here in the comments below.

Here I offer one such example:

The below clip is from The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine, 1862. In the “Book of the Month” column, the author is reviewing Female Life in Prison, by a Prison Matron. The passage describes dolls, “prison dolls”, roughly created by inmates. Such a doll is unlikely to have survived many days within the prison walls and less likely to leave the prison. As described, I can not imagine one, if it did escape, being saved long unless tucked deep inside a sentimental trunk. 20190320_130815-1.jpg20190320_130827-1.jpg

Published in: on March 20, 2019 at 1:38 pm  Comments (2)  

New Millinery in the Shop!

I just added a Mousquetaire hat and a Civil War era bon et to the Etsy shop.

Published in: on March 17, 2019 at 9:52 am  Leave a Comment  

My Top “Must Read” List

I really am writing this post with a friend, who wants to get back into reenacting, in mind. But, I also figured some others may benefit from these links and thoughts as well.  It has been a while since I wrote a post that was reenacting focused….

Do you want to get into CW reenacting? Returning to reenacting after a long absence? Here are my top posts I would like you to read…… (many of these are mine. I am working on adding others.)

The Basics

  • It is helpful to know where you are, what kind of event you are at: Watcha Doing can help with that.
  • This is an older (2011) but still sound post about the basics: The Basics.
  • It is helpful to know the terminology for the dress(es) you will be wearing. Anatomy of a Dress should help with that.
  • Here are a pair of posts that look at the parts of a bonnet: Anatomy of a Straw Bonnet and Anatomy of a Drawn Bonnet. Of coarse, there are other bonnets.
  • Why this is GoodThis post has a PowerPoint and PDF with photographs of well dressed historical interpreters, with bullet points as to why what they are wearing is good.
  • Once you know what clothes (and pieces of material culture) you need, you should take a moment to read Know Your Maker.
  • I’ve been told The Shopping Itch, a small pocket reference, has been a great help in the moment.
  • Pizza, and the Piggy BankThis is my philosophical take on spending for the hobby.


Paying Attention to the Details

  • The Sewing Academy has been kind enough to offer several patterns for essential garments for Free! Please make use of these:
    • Chemise (Plan to have 3)
    • Drawers (Plan to have 3)
    • Petticoats (Plan to have 1 for under the cage, 2 for over the cage)
    • Sunbonnet (Start with 1. Eventually have a working one and a nice one)
    • Apron (Depending on your impression)
  • If you have a straw bonnet or hat that needs to be finished, please read these: How to Finish a Straw Bonnet and Guidelines to Finishing a Straw Hat
  • Cold weather events require layers to keep you warm. Read Are You Ready for Winter?


On the Book Shelf

These are the books that should be on your bookshelf. For some, you may want to get 2 – one to write notes in and one to keep clean.


I suppose this is a good moment to pause and say I no longer consider myself a reenactor. I do not “reenact” a particular event. I also do not focus on a particular military era, which is most often connected with the concept of “reenacting.” I find I am no longer interested many aspects of “the hobby” as a military, social entity.

My (current) focus has shifted to visitor education and skill refinement. My participation is as a historical interpreter and takes place at historic sites. My primary research and interpretive focus is on women’s employment, specifically the spectrum of straw millinery. On occasion I will take on other roles as specifically needed for programming.

So, with that in mind…

Who do I Read?


Published in: on March 14, 2019 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Guidelines for Finishing a Straw Hat


I am calling this post “Guidelines” because there was a good bit of variation in how straw hats were finished and trimmed. Because of this variety, it is difficult to say “do this” because there are options. I am going to try to address the questions I get most often:


How do I keep a hat on my head?

There were a few ways original hats were kept on the head – narrow ribbon, wider ribbon, or narrow elastic. In each case, the ribbon or elastic was attached to the inside, side-walls of the crown. Placement is just above the ears. This could be tied under the hair in the back or under the chin. In photos showing wider ribbon as ties, the ribbon seems to match the ribbon used for decoration.

Le Follet, August 1861

Where can I put the ribbon?

Ribbons can be found in a wide variety of placements – The most common being around the base of the crown. They are also found as bows in the back, arrangements in the front, occasionally arrangements on the side, and as a binding around the brim edge. There are a few other placements seen in originals and photos such as “tabs” running from the crown to brim.

Magasin des Demoiselles, September, 1861

Where do I put my flowers or feathers?

Most flower or feather arrangements are center front with an attempt at balance if not symmetry. This is most, not all. Some hats have asymmetrical arrangements running from the front along to one side. The trick here is to visually move they eye while physically maintaining the weighted balance of the hat. Heavy flowers can cause a hat to be difficult to wear.

Magasin des Demoiselles, July, 1861

Can I wear a veil?

Yes. There were veils particularly made for hats. They would tie and pin to the hat. Another option is to have a deep lace circle the hat brim draping over the edge. Note: you want a natural fiber lace for either a veil or lace fall. These will allow you to breathe. Synthetic laces can make it difficult to breathe, especially in the heat.

Things to Avoid:

I generally don’t like to list things of what not to do. But, in this case, because there is so much leeway that could lead to foggy temptations, I think this may be helpful:

  • Nylon net (this is a heat and fire danger as well as an inaccuracy)
  • Obviously synthetic lace (if you have any doubt, skip it.)
  • Flowers with plastic (there are just better options)
  • Overly dyed feathers (On an overly humid or foggy day, the dye will come off and stain your hat, possibly your clothes.)
  • Wired ribbon


Magazin des Demoiselles, June 1861

The Queen, July 1862

Le Follet, October 1861

common 1

common 2

common 3

Published in: on March 12, 2019 at 9:28 am  Comments (1)  

Finishing a Straw Bonnet

20180723_092546.jpgWe 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


Recommended Reading List:


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.

Published in: on March 12, 2019 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Mousquetaire March #2

The second piece for #MousquetaireMarch
Mousquetaire hats have tapered crowns that rise about four to five inches, not quite double the height of other fashion hats of the early 1860s. The brim is shaped, with a curve dipping front and back. This brim is narrow, only a few inches wide. The decorations are primarily at the center front, reaching the height of the crown. A ribbon may or may not circle the crown with a bow or arrangement in the back. This shape is also called a Postilion Hat.

Published in: on March 11, 2019 at 5:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hairnets – The Basics and More Indepth

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: Invisible Hairnets.

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.


Published in: on March 11, 2019 at 9:47 am  Leave a Comment  


This is going to be a post of miscellaneous random things. Just to prepare you.

I don’t know if I’m being super lazy or just multitasking, but for this post I am attempting to use my phone’s text to speech software. We willll see how it goes. I am wiring a straw hat while I’m attempting to do the post here.

I found this week I was having one of those moments where I keep running the projects I’m working on and want to do through my head. I wrote them all down in my pretty little planner, which really is pretty. But that didn’t satisfy, so I find I Must List and share them publicly.

  • Sitting over there, across the room, is the coat that I started in January. It has one sleeve on and one sleeve off. On the pinking machine table lies the batting and silk for its quilted edge. It has since accumulated a layer of Clara. Initially , I needed it for an event in January. Now it’s new goal date is whenever I’m going to be out in the cold again. Obviously, that is to be determined.
  • I have this idea stuck in my head for a straw sample display put together in and emptied out writing slope. It’s so stuck in my head that if I don’t do it exactly how I want it I’m just not going to be happy with it. So even though I initially had a mid-April deadline, I’ve decided it’s completely flexible, depending on actually finding a gutted writing slope at a decent price. And by decent price I mean I’m being totally cheap. I refuse to pay more for a gutted writing slope then I have for any of my nice ones. And for those wondering why in the world it has to be a writing slope, there are reasons there are really good reasons. Trust me.
  • Okay, so it’s been a long while since I’ve done anything with my travel impression. But, recently I’ve been talking travel bags with a friend. In this conversation, we came across a silk travel bag. It is more utilitarian than pretty. It needs a durable silk, a heavier silk. But it’s interesting enough that I really want to make it. It’s not essential obviously. So, it’s not on the Urgent list, but it’s definitely on the stuck in my brain list.
  • Next on the list is quite unique and I’m going to be a little vague. I’m going to make a bonbon doll. I may make 2, a big one and a small one. For the big one, I need the right head. I keep changing my mind on which one that is. I need it to be an affordable head and not a really good head, just in case. It will be cool when it’s done
  • It does bring me back to the dollies that need bodies. One Dolly had needs a regular body. And another Dolly head is going to get a pen wipe body.
  • In the midst of all of this there is the “do I want to make curtains?” question. I don’t really but the windows need curtains, and I have all this fabric, but there is such a pretty pretty pretty pair at HomeGoods.

Okay so watching this text to speech is rather hysterical. I’m going to do my best to go back and correct all the mistakes and get some punctuation in here. My apologies for what I’ve missed.

Clara stop it.

Okay so maybe I’ll leave that.

Lately I’ve been thinking about depth and breadth. Meaning the death of skill versus the breath of skill, or the depth of interpretation versus breath of interpretation. They’re definitely visitors who are looking for a breath of information, a little bit here and there about a lot of different thing. But at the same time there are visitors who are really looking for death, they want to get into the nitty-gritty about a particular topic.

In thinking about millinery, from me that includes the aspects of women’s employment, women’s business ownership, the the poor health Young milliner’s had in urban millinery shops, Urban to rural variations, the impact of cottage industry, and things like that. Each of these aspects have various challenges in researching them or writing about them, but they have a whole other set of challenges when thinking about how to interpret that or how to visually represent them in a demonstration or display setup. At the moment this is a giant question and goal for me. I want to figure out how I can provide depth in my millinery shop presentation as well as breadth. I’ve been thinking about what objects or arrangments I can use to aid in the conversations connected to that depth, which can of course vary.

Here’s a cute Clara photo, because you all need some cuteness. She is the guardian of the clips.

Published in: on March 10, 2019 at 1:08 pm  Comments (1)  

Un-Boxing: Quilted Silk Bonnet/Hood

The bavolet/curtain attachment I mentioned:

I don’t know if you can see the stitch holes I mentioned:

Published in: on March 8, 2019 at 7:13 pm  Comments (1)  

Hand Sewing Straw Plait

Each of my straw bonnets and hats are entirely sewn by hand. On average, each piece uses 20 yards of straw plait and 1,500 stitches.

Published in: on March 5, 2019 at 8:19 pm  Leave a Comment