Monthly Update – January

_20180108_135341I’ve spent most of this month wrapped up in snuggly warm blankets and plucking away at my laptop. I’ve been editing and re-editing To Net or Not to Net: Revisited. As I started the first round of editing the re-write, I decided I just wasn’t going to be happy without the illustrations from fashion columns. To appease myself about image rights, I tracked down original Godey’s Lady’s Book for 1860, 1861, 1862, 1863, and 1864. And bought them.  I sorta oopsed on 1865 because I was distracted editing photos. I am now discovering just how long media mail can take.

This past Saturday, I had every intention of sleeping in in the morning and finding some way to enjoy the 50+ degree weather after a week of testing. I awoke to find hubby checking out the local auctions. Of course, I looked. This one photo of a photo album, opened to show 1860s CDVs inside, caught my eye. It was 9:38. The auction started at 9:30, 30 minutes away. We quickly dressed and headed to the auction. We were there just in time for some thing Dan was watching and to see the $15,000+ comic books sell; then to wait and wait and wait for 3 hours before my box of albums came up. Btw, this three hours was just enough for my previous day’s migraine to start knocking. When I won the box of three albums, two 1860-75 and one 1916-18, for far, far less than a single single album should have gone for, I was quite certain I would find most of the pages empty. I did not open them in the hall. I did not open them in the car. I did not open them before lunch, a much needed lunch. I finally opened them to find nearly every window was full in both albums. The larger album was in incredible shape, while the smaller received some abuse to the spine during the auction. I was actually a bit overwhelmed by what was in the album. These appear to be fairly local with a few outliers. A couple clippings accompany the photos. And, to my delight, several women are wearing hair net.

The month has been fairly light on sewing for me. I have been working here and there on my rug project. I had been keeping it a secret, intending it for last  year’s Agricultural Fair. But, it has now leaked over into year three. I have the very top and very bottom done, with a band across the center to do. I know, I am sure that is quite the reverse of most rug makers out there. It will all work out though.

A need for organization prompted this month’s blog sewing project. This will _20180114_122654hopefully keep the sewing box a little more manageable. I do love these rolled cases for keeping various things. I can’t tell you how often the one in my desk draw at work has been brought out as the keeper of needful things. I should do a write up on that version, for just that use.

IMG_20180121_120805I’ve made a few bandeau headdresses. I enjoy this light sewing. Light in that it is easy on the hands and easy on the mess. Velvet ribbon takes up far less space and ‘stuff’ than straw plait.
Speaking of straw plait, I do keep saying to myself that I need to get started on sewing straw for the season. I know I should. Financially, I really should. But, I am just not there yet. I made one small doll hat from a short bit of rosy plait that came my way. It did not please me the way it usually does in the midst of winter. Don’t despair. Eventually, the straw will come out to play. Eventually.

I almost forgot one thing. When it really, really cold earlier this month, I finally did something I’ve been joking about for a while. I made up one of my hood patterns with fleece. Yup. Let me tell you how soft and warm this thing is.

I know some of you want a GB update. I met with my GI doctor, well one of them. She’s rather awesome: patient, calm, and explains things well. I am getting there. I know I’ve been pretty open about just about everything with this, but now I’m going to be a bit more reserved on a couple things. I need to wrap my head around them. I will share one fun bit. She said I have nerve damage that is likely permanent around the incision just below my breast bone. This is the one I opened inside trying to pack up after the CW event in July. I’ve decided since these weird electrical spasms are likely permanent, it needs a name. Norbert. After all, it is like a tiny dragon inside.

One last thing to share. This morning a blog post came up on my feed that is obscure and delightful at the same time. I must say, never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined cat bustles were a thing, actually a thing. Okay, maybe in my dreams.

Published in: on January 30, 2018 at 12:00 pm  Comments (1)  

Going to need More Velvet

I made a few bandeau headdresses this weekend. I am going to need some more quality velvet ribbon if I am going to make many more. I do have a coral color and a pumpkin color. I don’t know how desired those colors would be. 

I may make some of the kind that have the fluffy loops on the divided this week. I need to find the right name. 

Published in: on January 21, 2018 at 2:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

Another Hexagon

I just love it when I stumble across additional examples of pieces. This purple and  yellow hexagon pin cushion is constructed just like the velvet on from my “Hexagons” post.

I like how coarse the stitches are. The beads are much larger.

Published in: on January 19, 2018 at 4:30 pm  Comments (1)  

Bandeau Headdresses

While we do not have an event quite so fine as The Duchess of Kent’s Grand Dinner and Concert to attend, we do have a lovely assortment of dinners, socials and balls to attend throughout the year as reenactors and interpreters.

These events often call for a special dress. They can also call for a special headdress.


The bandeau style headdresses wrap around the head with velvet or ribbon or lace. Be they symmetrical or asymmetrical, a focal point often lands center back. . “The most favorite cap of the season is formed of a round crown, set into a narrow band, which just encircles the head. This band is trimmed in various ways…” (Peterson’s, 1862)

Personally, I just love velvet. The softness. The texture. The way it moves. It is a beautiful material to work with and wear. I am looking forward to making several new headdresses this season. Currently, there are a few in my Etsy shop.

_20180117_100617This first example, from 1862 Godey’s, show a simple band  with two millinette pads/ovals to which flowers are stitched. “This coiffure is very simple, and generally becoming. The rosettes are formed of pieces of bias silk about an inch and a half in width; the edges are cut out in point, and the silk box plaited and formed into a rosette, then sewed on to stiff net; the band can be formed into a rosette, then sewed on to stiff net; the band can be of velvet of silk, and a bow of ribbon to match the silk is often placed on one side of the band. One of more colors can be used; rose sublime and black make a good contrast.” This particular headdress is just calling to be made with the aide of one of my pinking machines.


Frank Leslie's 1862This “Coiffure Zelia”  head-dress loops heavy ribbon  or velvet around the wired base, a “circular frame.” The heavy ribbon allows for fuller body. This season, I am looking forward to seeing pearls paired with velvet. I may even add turquoise as one description calls for.

The Coiffure Zelia may be made of velvet or heavy ribbon tastefully  looped upon a circular frame, and these loops are confined by pearl or gilt pendants. Black lace is quilled on the one side and terminates in a bow with floating ends behind. The centre is a pearl or gilt ornament to correspond with the pendants.”


Peterson's 1862

This Nerissa head-dress uses pink and black ribbon on a “band of millinette cut to fit the head, and which is stiffened with cap wire.” The description calls for box pleats. While the illustration fails at showing these, I think box pleats would be just lovely, as would directional pleats or tufts of alternating black and pink.

The Nerissa Head-dress, and engraving of which we give above, is composed of black and pink ribbon. This head-dress is made of a band of milinette cut to fit the head, and which is stiffened with cap wire.

The upper row of ribbon is black and the under row pink, and both colors put on in full box-plaits. the Strings at the back are of black and the bows of pink ribbon. The knot of hair is to pass between the upper and lower bow, and must, consequentally, be dressed quite low on the neck. Head-dresses of this description will be exceedingly fashionable this summer; their comparative cheapness yes beauty recommending them as especially suitable.”

The Esmeralda Head-dress or the Coiffure Esmeralda appear in Peterson’s Magazine, V41-42, 1862 (right) and Frank Leslie’s Magazine, v 10, 1862(left). In both instances, the focal point is atop the head in front, rather than in back, though there is a knot or half bow in that location. The Peterson’s version specifically mentions being “on a foundation of millinette stiffened with a cap wire,” while both illustrations show the form in the illustration.


I have yet to decide if I will make any of the coronet style head dresses. There substantial structural base appeals to me. At the same time, I would want them to fit just right, while everyone’s head is different. Here are two beautiful coronets from Godey’s, July of 1862:

Godey's 1862

Of course, this similarly shaped coronet appeals due to my current work on To Neto or Not to Net: Revisited.



Looking for a head-dress for that upcoming occasion? Please take a moment to visit my Etsy shop to see those I have to offer.


Me, on a very day wearing a black and red velvet bandeau. _20171202_182105

Published in: on January 17, 2018 at 7:00 am  Comments (2)  

January Project – Rolling Organization 

This month’s project is about organizing. It can also be called a FanU Fat Eighths Project because of the materials it uses. 
Here is what I needed to organize. This is the Shaker bandbox I keep next to the couch for my everyday day sewing. This is my go to space for the odds and ends of project after project. The funny thing is, though it is my first and favorite box, I never lined it with special pockets for keeping organized. So, I am constantly digging through looking for little tools. Bandbox filled with messy sewing tools and odds &ends.

Here are the tools that I tend to dig for. Bodkins, stilettos, awls, a crayon, hairpins, crochet hooks, seam ripper – long skinny ones. (I did notice not a single one of my metal bodkins are in the box. Where they should be.)Assortment of antique and modern sewing tools.

The long, skinny nature of these tools makes a rolled case perfect for keeping them organized. Rolled cases show up for both sewing and travel in nineteenth century literature. This one will have lots of narrow pockets for each tool. 

Materials, aka FanU Fat Eighths Project 

  • 3 fat eighths cotton (18″x9″) (makes 2 rolls)
  • 1 1/4 yards 1/2″ or 1″cotton sateen (or 1 1/2 yards for 2)
  • Optional: 1/2 yard ribbon to tie with
  • 1 or 2 good movies 
  • A good cup of tea

Some time in the past year, I picked up this pack of fat eighths in reproduction prints at an estate sale of all places. It has moved around the sewing room from project basket to project basket. At one point I thought “quilt”. At another, I thought “doll clothes.” 

They seemed like just the pieces for this project. I hadn’t actually opened the pack. I was quite pleased to find how pretty some of these fabrics were, especially the green and blue 1830s print. 

I picked out three fat eighths.  This is one outside, one lining, and one pocket. 

I cut each piece in half lengthwise. This makes 6 pieces 4 1/2″x18″. I set aside one of each.

The layer that would become the pocket, the top fabric, needed 1″ trimmed off the top. 

Once trimmed, I hemmed the upped edge of the pocket. The whole length. 

The pocket was then basted to the lining and pockets marked. (Imagine vertical lines marked.) 

I didn’t measure the pockets. I just eyed them mostly a half or three-quarters of an inch wide. I did make some wider pockets as well. If you have specified you want specific widths for, you may want to lay them out before marking the pockets. Keep in mind this is a flat pocket. The spaces for each tool needs to about twice as wide as the tool, in most cases. 

Next, the three layers were all basted together and bound with ribbon. Check your copy of Fanciful Utility for directions on how to do this. 


Each tool gets a space. the crochet hooks will live elsewhere. There was space for a small scissors in the box too. The pockets on the right are wide enough for needle packets. 

Why make one, when I can make two? Here is the second I made at the same time. That blue and green fabric was too hard to resist. 

Here it shows how this would be a nice case for holding hair supplies. Narrow pockets for hair pins; wider ones for fine hair nets, elastic ties, a couple ribbons, maybe even a small comb. 

Don’t miss the previous monthly projects:


We are having lots of fun talking about other used for a rolled case like this over on FB. Ideas like knitting needles, crochet hooks, paint brushes, even flatware have come up. I want to give a little heads up on jewelry. I would hate to see an earring fall out of this style of roll. Instead, pockets facing the other way would be a better choice, not guaranteed, but better. Take a look at this style Pocket of Pockets I use for many, many things: 

Published in: on January 14, 2018 at 2:22 pm  Comments (5)  

Autograph Books – Inquiry

Surfing books on Ebay, I stumbled across this blue Victorian velvet autograph book and instantly thought “that could be a great FanU project!”, just bigger. But, should it be a FanU project? Is an autograph book appropriate for mid-nineteenth century interpretation? Did they exist in the 1850s? Where they used? How were they used? Did women use them?

I went looking.

The first article I came across was this. It suggested that yes, indeed autograph books were used in the mid-nineteeth century. They seem to be personal and social at the same time. This passage also suggest they were for men. What about women?

Autograph Books.

There is no good thing on earth that is not abused. Humility becomes, in the hands of Uriah Heep, an instrument for the satisfaction of his own aviaries. Friendship is but too often affected, for the purpose of obtaining, at your hands, valuable favors. Even religion is sometimes used by the knave as a cloak for his selfishness. But the good things of this earth are far more frequently abused, through want of thought, that from intended malice. By one who thus unintentionally errs, especially if his error be practical in its effects, a few practical suggestions will not be taken unkindlly.

Everything that is abused must have its uses. This is implied in the very expression. Let us then examine first the uses of autograph books; and these will appear more clearly for a comparison with the photographic album. Here we have the expression of the heart as portrayed in the countenance. And is it not portrayed there? Do not the features in their varied expression or in their habitual cast, tell of the temporary emotions or of the deep-seated principles of the soul? Hence one component part of the value whic we set upon the likeness of a friend. A second component of its value to us, consists in the pleasant associations connected with it; and our valuation or it varies in proportion to the number or the character of these associations. Again, in it has been presented to us by the friend himself, it has to us a value as a token, a visible sign, of his friendship, an assurance that he cares for us.

In each of these particulars the autographic album has a value only secondary to that of the photographic. The handwriting expresses, perhaps not so well as the eye, yet does express clearly the character of the man. Did you ever notice the habitual hand-writing of your friends, and did it not in almost every case comport with his known character? An energetic man will make his strokes bold and clear; a dandified man will attempt a style of chirography that is full of flourishes, a man that is careless in everything else, will be careless also in his penmanship. True, there are exceptions to this rule; so also is a man’s physiognomy sometime wonderfully deceptive. But both of them, as a general rule, bear witness to a man’s character.

Neither does the autograph fail in its office of bringing before the memory by association, kind recollections of the past. The circumstances of our acquaintance, of the relations which we have borne to each other, of the many kindnesses performed by one or the other, cluster around the autograph as freely as they do around the portrait of a friend. And the value of the autograph is still further enhanced by the fact that it is almost always the gift (non the less valuable because not costly) of the friend himself, bearing on the very face of it as an assurance of respect or of regard.

Thus much for the simple signature. But how much is its value increased when we add to that, expressions of good will, and direct assurances of regard. For we know that these words of friendship are not the hollow, oily professions of those who are actuated only by the desire and expectation of valuable services, whose friendship will turn into indifference or hatred when their selfish ends are accomplished. Have you not felt, my reader, the power of the schoolboy attachments when in college you have met with a former companion? Did you not at once, however slight your previous acquaintance may have been, rejoice even in the midst of college-mates to see a face whose familiarity dated several years back? How much more will college friendships be valued hereafter when in the midst of selfish strangers we look over the autographic momentos of our class-mates. Add yet to this the gentle reminders of scenes of pleasure in which we have mingled, and we shall have a partial idea of the value which in after life we shall place on these manuscript volumes. [continued] (Nassau Literary Review, 1862)

Next, this student lament about autographs. It, too, talks of autograph books owned by men, signed by men. What about women?


I have an excessive hatred of a certain kind of stuff written in Autograph books. It puts a modest mad like myself quite to the blush. To have a classmate tell you in so many wordst that you are a “man of talent,” a “a fine fellow,” and “that there is no one of all the class whose friendship is so much to be desired” – all this, I say, is exceedingly embarrassment to a man of innate modesty. [continued] (The Yale Literary Magazine, 1852.)

At last, The Works of Charles Lambin which we see verses written for women’s autograph books. 9 verses titled “In The Album of….” or “to….”. If these were actually written for women, in their autograph books, then we have women owning autograph books in the 1850s.

What is that you say? Why don’t I just look at autograph books to see who owned and wrote in them?

Published in: on January 13, 2018 at 2:50 pm  Comments (3)  

Netting Baby Steps

While the weather out side was frightful this weekend, I stayed warm and cozy inside with my laptop writing away on To Net or Not to Net: Revisited.

Here is a shot of the cover as I worked on it:


What will you find inside?

Here is the working Contents

1. Research—Then and Now
2. In a Word (Definitions)
3. How Was a Hair Net Worn?
4. How Were Hair Nets Constructed?
5. How Were Hair Nets Trimmed?
6. Who Wore a Hair Net?
7. When & Where Were Hair Nets Worn?
8. Bibliography
9. Appendix
      Directions for Making Hair Nets
      Fashion Descriptions
      CDVs in Full

Published in: on January 8, 2018 at 7:00 am  Comments (5)  

Corset Can-Do

Several times a year, concerns about what can’t be done in a corset comes up. Reality is a well fitted, nineteenth century corset supports the body, it does not restrict it.  Here are some photos of what can be done while wearing a corset with a DDD bust. (Please note this is well before the recent abdominal damage which give me shoe trouble without a corset.) Oh, I should say this was with a small cage too.

Moving and position a wagon. This was up hill at one point.


volunteer day 002

Moving a wagon full of corn from said wagon to the corncrib.IMGP1881[1]

Building a rail fence including moving the rocks, which were on the ground.


Published in: on January 6, 2018 at 12:03 am  Comments (6)  

2018 TBD


After our official Day of Great Laziness at home, it is time to get back to work and think about the year ahead. For me, this means a pretty new planner and a few changes from the norm.

Usually, I start the year with a nice long project list including some personal things and some shop things. This year, I’ve decided not to do that. Lists help me organize and plan. But, they can also stress me out and I become trapped by my lists. So, for now…. no list.

While I do have some UFOs, I figure we all do and I will get to them when I feel like I will get to them.

I need this year to be about me. Me happier. Me healthier.

What does this mean for my blogs and shop?

If you had a chance to read my 2017 review, you saw I have three simple overarching goals for 2018:

  • Focus, Streamline, and Simplify – This goes for my millinery, FanU pieces, and the Etsy shop. I was considering adding shop sections for vintage pieces. Nope. That just doesn’t do it for me.
  • Make time for the Joy. Some time around mid-November it hit me that I just wasn’t enjoying what I was making. Part of it may have been burn-out, part just the year. But, I became very aware that I need to take more time to do some projects that are just for the fun of it.
  • Sink my teeth into something. What this is going to play out to be… we shall see.

I also have some simple framework goals for the blog that are rather open ended:

  • _20171128_060900I have started a monthly project post that I hope to continue through the year. Each one will be something small with some guidance or direction on how to do it your self. They won’t quite be a thorough as the Sew Alongs.
  • Another blog goal is to write a Monthly Update. These updates will fall sometime during the month with a combination of, well, just about anything that is going on, including project information, personal updates, events, activities, who knows.
  • One more I’ve added: I would like to hear from you, my readers, more. I enjoy reading your comments. If you make one of the monthly projects I would love to hear about it.

Then there are the two big writing projects that I will work on when the moments feel right:

  • Wintering Warmly – There are some spacial, technical things I need to work out to get that on ‘paper’.
  • To Net or Not to Net: Revisited is much closer to being available. I need to just lock myself away for a few days to get some solid writing and layout completed.

For now, I would like to know what events and activities you are looking forward to in the coming 2018. I have a couple nifty things I’ve been talking about with folks. When those details get worked out, I’ll be very excited to share.

Published in: on January 2, 2018 at 7:00 am  Comments (1)  

From The Work Box – Scissors

I started writing a From the Work Box series of posts a last year, but never finished them to post. With a recent question about scissors coming up in a particular FB group, followed by a reply from an exceptional merchant pointing out which scissors are most popular with reenactors, I decided I really need to finish this post for the sake of balanced accurate material culture interpretation.

Do I have I have a bias against stork scissors? Yes. I am just not a fan. I just don’t see the point of having an asymetrical bird hanging out on my scissors. I also just don’t understand why they seem to be everywhere. They are like the poly-cotton tomato’s best buddy. They are, without a doubt, over represented in historical settings. Why are there so many of this one kind of scissors when the 1851 Great Exhibition has 230 different pairs in a single display? Um, proportional variety please?

Okay, enough of my whining.

At the minimum, every interpreter’s sewing kit needs at least a pair of scissors. According to Miss Leslie, everyone in the mid-nineteeth century should have three:

You will find it necessary to have three pairs of scissors; a large pair for cutting out things that are thick and heavy; a smaller pair for common use, and a very small pair for work that is nice and delicate. They should all be sharp-pointed. When your scissors begin to grow dull, have them ground at once. The cost will not exceed six cents for each pair, (even if ground at a surgical instrument shop,) and haggling with dull scissors is very uncomfortable work. (Miss Leslie’s Lady’s House-book. 1850)

What did these scissors look like?

What I would love is an 1850 catalogue filled with illustrations of each and every household item someone would have needed. Wouldn’t that be nice. Instead, we can look at a few other places for glimpses of scissors: Paintings, museum collections (inside sewing cases), and occasional illustrations. Just keep in mind we want the scissors an ordinary person in the US would have had; we don’t need the uber-pretty pair that we could not have afforded. Here is a catalogue illustration of scissors that would be plausible for a working class impression:  


What do I use?

IMG_7487When sewing on the go, I am doing one of two things: Either I am sewing small things with pieces already cut or I am sewing straw. This means I need two types of scissors – One for cutting thread and one for cutting straw. To the right are some of the scissors I use in my various sewing kits for the thread snipping part and the occasional ribbon cutting. Two are reproduction. Three are antique. My straw cutting scissors are roughly 5″ long, an estate sale find. To have a rounded visual interpretation I should carry a larger pair of scissors as well.  Admittedly, I remember these when I take my large box, but tend to forget them when I have my smaller kits.

Looking for your own?

(Liz posted some of her picks in said FB thread)

wpid-2015-06-14-10.16.48.jpg.jpegSmall Scissors options:

Full Size Scissors Options:

More information:

Published in: on January 2, 2018 at 7:00 am  Comments (2)