Quilted Winter Bonnet

I have decided to share select pieces from my winter hood/bonnet collection. Every few days, I will post a new piece. My collection currently spans most of the 19th century, though lightly at the very beginning and end. The pieces I share will be from the early and mid-Victorian eras, roughly 1830s through the 1870s. All but one of my pieces originate from the United States.

This adult size winter bonnet is a quilted piece, ca. 1840s-1870s. The exterior is a brown silk which has some staining. The interior is a cotton in a slightly lighter shade of brown on the brim and bavolet, while the crown has a darker polished cotton. The batting is not visible at any point, leaving it undetermined, likely a wool.

The bonnet is constructed of three main pieces, typical of many winter hoods of this era. These pieces include the crown, brim, and bavolet. The brim was cut on the bias, while the bavolet was cut on the grain. The shape and construction could classify this as a winter bonnet rather than a hood.

The quilting is is by hand with a running stitch. The front most edge around the brim having a narrower and slightly thicker section. The quilted rows appear to be done by eye rather than being fully traced out. This can be seen in the cheek area (below) as the rows curve and narrow imperfectly.

There is evidence that this piece was either made from fabric taken from a previous garment or the quilting was redone. In this photo you can faintly see the holes from former threads.

The gathered seam along top of the bavolet where it meets the crown.

The interior seams are treated in multiple ways. The neck edge where the bavolet is gathered to a gathered crown, the seam is covered with a darker fabric. This may or may not have been a later addition/change. Often this neckline has a channel for drawstring to assist with fit. The seam where the bavolet meets the brim is turned under. The seam where the brim and crown meet was trimmed and overcast


Note 1 – Additional Winter Millinery can be found in posts from September though November, 2019 using the search term: Winter Millinery Series or clicking here.

Published in: on September 25, 2019 at 6:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Almost Unpacked

I know. It has been months. I am still unpacking. This post’s title doesn’t even mean all the stuff.

What is unpacked? Well, almost all unpacked?

The plaster blocks!

Because of how delicate these are, I needed to be sure I had a safe shelf for these to live on before unpacking them. After some rearranging, there was finally a shelf

Don’t the bonnet blocks look happy all lined up in a row?

Of the bonnets, Serenity is not yet unpacked. She won’t fit on this shelf.

In fact, although I had pictured the smaller bonnet blocks and the hat blocks fitting on this set of shelves…. I was wrong. As you can see this block definitely does not fit. I am just not comfortable with a 150+ year old piece over hanging like that.

While we are looking at this block…. Does this shape look familiar to anyone? If you’ve been watch PBS’s Victoria, you will have seen a similar shape worn by several women in episode 3.

Hanging out, and fitting, on the shelf is the mystery hat block. This nifty shape is one I have yet to connect with examples of what it made. The waves brim is quite unique.

I will be writing posts soonish about each block and what shape bonnet or hat it makes. I thought people would like that.

Published in: on February 9, 2019 at 5:25 pm  Comments (1)  

Coming Up

33 degrees!

That is how cold it was this morning on the drive in to work. Brrr!!!! By the way… the car currently has no heat. Did I mention Brrrr!!!!

It is most definitely full on fall here in New York.

With the past few crazy months, I am really looking forward to some happenings coming up.

I have two workshops coming up during the Genesee Country Village & Museum’s Domestic Skills Symposium, November 10th, 11th, and 12th. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend registering for this symposium.

IMG_20170818_153458I’ve been cutting the materials for my new Exploring the Work-box: Tools and Trims. This is the workshop held on Friday. Next, I have to make sure I have all the samples organized and pretty. Attendees will be making their own sample book filled with trim samples made with the antique pinking tools I am bringing.  I hope this will be the first in a series of “Explore the Work-box” workshops. Btw, I think I will be naming the pinking machines.

_20171002_181826The materials for the Sunday’s Pin Cushion Sampler are almost ready. Well, they have to all be put in one box to make their way to the village. We will be making popular pin cushions of the nineteenth century – strawberries, seashells, walnuts, and acorns.

fb_img_1479602076155.jpgThe weekend following is GCV’s Preparing for the Holiday’s event. This is a great opportunity to see the historic village in the fall as it will be packed full of interpreters planning for the coming holidays and getting ready for winter. Last year, I made strawberry pin cushions by candlelight with a fellow interpreter. The visitors were wonderful, with the best questions. I have yet to decide if I will be making strawberries or walnuts this year.

After that…. I will be working on smaller gift items for the holiday season. I will also be making more winter hoods. I hope to have more writing time because I have two publications I am working on. I am anxious to get To Net or Not to Net: Revisited and Warmth for Winter (Wintering Warmly?) written and available to all of you. If you missed the information on these:

  • To Net, or Not to Net: Revisited. A deeper look at the hairnet, how they wore it, and how to capture the correct look. This booklet expands on the article I wrote about hairnets a decade ago. This updated and expanded research will include extensive photographs and a new details.
  • Warmth for Winter: Sewn Domestically Winter Hoods and Bonnets. A detailed analysis of construction methods spanning fifty years of quilted and wadded bonnets. This e-book will be photo heavy with close-ups of original hoods and bonnets in my collection. (This title keeps changing between Warmth for Winter and Wintering Warmly.)

Lunch? Yes, I still want to do the off-season local history lunches. I’ve fallen behind on planning those, as with so many other thing.

This Season’s Winter Millinery 

The winter hoods I am making this fall to winter season are based on original garments in my collection. 

For those in an area with windy, blustery winters, this first hood is a great option. The original comes forward of the face with long lappet like cheektabs. It was made with a dark green wool exterior and bright pink inside. I will be offering this hood in both wool as the original and in silk as many similar originals are made, including another with the same shape and color combination. This hood is also available adps a pattern in my Etsy shop.

This next hood is a sweet hood formerly in Vivian Murphy’s collection. I am quite lucky to be able to care for several hoods previously in her collection. This sweet hood has a light green wool exterior and gold silk interior. The shapes used to make it are beautiful. This hood also can fold forward to protect the face from the elements. I will be offering this hood in wool and in silk with various trims in period techniques.

Functional and popular is this, a warmer, thicker batted bonnet style. This brim is shallower and oh-so soft to wear. The quilted bavolet protects the neck from the cold and snow. I will be primarily offering this style in silk with local wool batting inside. 

Dont worry, I haven’t forgotten the well loved wadded, or pumpkin bonnet. This thickly wadded silk bonnet is filled with wool. It is so and warm, protecting the wearer from the coldest of winters. I will be offering a few of these this winter in silk. 

Please visit my Etsy shop to see what is available. I expect to offer a bonnet every other week or so. I have some beautiful silks to work with and some really lovely wools. 

Introducing Serenity 

 I would like to formally, finally, introduce Serenity. 

Serenity is one of three new millinery blocks that made it home to me in June thanks to wonderful friends. Serenity continues the naming tradition started with Galaxy, in receiving a sci-fi name. 

Serenity is an 1860s shape, approximately 1860-63. She is plaster as are her sister blocks, which I will introduce sometime soon-ish. She is lighter weight than I expected, but definitely delicate feeling. 

This past week, in preparation for the GCVM event, I made and blocked 4 bonnets on Serenity. In doing so, I found how naturally the cheek tabs developed their spoon curve as the brim rose. 

There is one similar block I am aware of found in a blog review of Sue Langley’s book, Hats & Bonnets: 1770-1970. It is remarkable how similar the block shape is while the opening below the tip is different. 

Published in: on July 18, 2017 at 7:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

Anatomy of a Straw Bonnet

Each of these points are general for fashionable bonnets made of straw, primarily straw plait, from approx 1858 through 1863. Finer points adjust with each season’s prevailing fashion.

General Construction – Straw bonnets were sewn by hand in the round. Plaits ranged from 1/8″ split straw to wider whole straw and fancy plaits. Woven straw was also used.

Anatomy 1

Tip – The back section of the crown in the tip. On a straw bonnet this can either be domed, flattened at the back curving to the side of the crown. It should not have a sharp angular transition from the back to the sides.

Crown – The crown of a straw bonnet should create a smooth transition from the crown to the brim. Much of the shaping in the bonnet will be created in this transition area.

Brim – The brim of a straw bonnet will vary according to fashion. The brim’s edge should be a single or double row of straw plait. It should not have raw edges needing to be bound.

Cheek-tabs – The cheek-tabs should have a gentle curve coming from the neck edge of the crown along the side of the bonnet dropping down to roughly your jaw line meeting the brim edge. This is a graceful line, not a straight edge or angular transition. There is a variation in the twist of the cheek-tab from the fifties into the sixties. The cheek-tab is part of what helps hold a bonnet in place.

Binding – The binding on a straw bonnet should be straw plait. Raw edges were covered on the exterior and sometimes the interior along the back of the cheektabs, sides and tip. Multiple rows were used as well.

Lining – A lining is a functional layer of light weight, open-weave cotton covering most of the interior of the bonnet. It aids in keeping the straw from snagging the hair while worn. The lining can not be seen when the bonnet is worn.

Frill/Cap/Ruche –This decorative layer of gathered cotton or silk  covers fills the inside of the brim. This is very fine most often net, lace or organza. The full frill aides in holding the bonnet in place.

Facing – Some bonnets have a facing of silk from the edge of the brim through the first couple inches of the interior brim.

Bavolet/Curtain – The bavolet is attached to the binding edge on a straw bonnet along the sides and crown. This silk piece should be lined with net to give it more body. The bavolet may be a single piece of fabric, most often on the bias and occasionally on the grain, or pieced from bias cuts of ribbon. The bavolet may also be decorated.

Functional Ties – The functional ties are attached to the interior of the cheek-tabs or under the decorative ties. These are narrower ribbon to hold the bonnet in place.

Decorative Ties – Decorative ribbons are wide, 3″-8″ based on a wide survey I did years ago. They are on the grain, not bias. Tied, they do not take the support of the bonnet.

Interior Decoration – Interior decoration also helps hold the bonnet in place.

Anatomy 2

At the Sea Shore and Watering Place

For those friends who will being enjoying the sea shore or other watering places this year….

In looking at the millinery selected for wear at the sea shore, beach or watering place, it becomes obvious there are those women in attendance who wish to enjoy the water visually and those who wish to get a little closer, be it relaxing near the water or in the water. The former group seems to wear bonnets and hats fashionable for the day. I am focusing on those in the latter group who appear to be dressed to enjoy the water or spend a time in close proximity.I am looking at images, illustrations, paintings and photographs, from the 1850s and 1860s.

This group leans towards wearing hats over bonnets. Those in the late 1850s seem to have more hats that have wider brims. Yet, while there are more hats with narrower or moderately wider brims appearing in the 1860 images, this does not exclude the wider brimmed hats.

Simple ribbons around the crown, as bows, and/or as ties seem to be the most common for those hats meant to be worn in or very near the water. (*I recommend testing any trim for color fastness if it will be worn in proximity to water. I also recommend not using paper flowers for this purpose.)

Let’s look at some images.

Details from August in the Country, the Sea-Shore, by Winslow Homer, August 1859:

This first close-up shows two women wearing similarly shaped hats with shallow, oval crowns and shaped moderately wide brims. The on on the left is trimmed with a ribbon around the brim, bow at back and a narrower ribbon to tie beneath the chin. The woman on the right has lace encircling the brim of the hat as will as a ribbon for the crown, and one to tie under the chin.

This next close-up shows the back/top of the hat. It has a shallow crown and an moderately wide brim. The illustration is vague about the decoration, suggesting a ribbon on the exterior.
Details from The Bathe at Newport, by Winslow Homer, September 1858:

On the left mid-ground a woman stands in arm with a man. Her shortened skirts suggest she may intend to bathe/swim. Her hat does not show the crown. I surmise it is shallow. The brim is quite wide with some shaping causing a dip in the front and back. THis hat ties under the chin.

Further to the fore-ground, two women are bathing with what appears to be a type of net or cap upon their heads. Several women in the water are similar. No hat.

Just past the mid-ground off to the right of center is a woman swimming with a tube. To the right of her is an individual of interest because this person is wearing a hat. It is debatable whether this person is a man or woman.
The New York Public Library has a very nice feature where it groups images thematically into digital “book” for easy viewing. They have one such “book” for “Bathing Beaches, 1899 and earlier.” (They also have one called “Resort life.” This gives several additional illustrations to examine for head-wear.

Details from A Day in the Country – At the Sea Side, by Alfred Fredricks, August 1858:

In whole, this illustration has more of a comical sense to it, with a “come as you are” sense to the scene. In the center of this illustration is a mother with two children. She is wearing what appears to be a straw bonnet with minimal trim. This is more of an every day selection rather than a special piece for the beach.
Details from The Mermaids’ Haunt, by Joseph Swain circa 1854-69:

This illustration offers us a wide assortment of hats. It is unclear who in this group has or intents to enjoy getting in the water and who will remain on shore. This first close-up shows three hats. On the left is a moderately wide brim hat that has a fashionable curve to the brim and a low crown. This hat is decorated with a feather plume. (this may not do well in the water.) In the middle is a hat with a shallow brim, a moderately wide brim and a simple ribbon. To the front right is a very different hat with a turned up brim and round crown. This is a fashionable hat.

This nest illustration close-up shows two hats with curved down dome style brims with shallow crown. This style is nice for shading the eyes. Both are decorated with ribbon. In the back ground is a shapely hat as well.
Details from Bathers, by Joseph Warren. I approximate late 1860s-early 1870s:

In the front, a woman hold a rather large hat for the fashion of the time. The crown appears to be shallow and round, while the brim is quite wide. It may or may not have shape to it.

Standing upon the rock, a woman with braids looping by her ears, holds a hat with an oval crown that may have flat sides, and a moderately wide brim. The brim appears to have the slightest curve down.

Additional Information


Looking at the upcoming Christie’s auctions, I came across Frederick Ifold’s A Day at the Beach. This painting, or another version, appears to have also been called At the English Coast. The 1858 painting has several woman and children depicted with straw hats and bonnets.

To the left, a woman wrapped in a green paisley is wearing a straw bonnet trimmed in white or cream. The bonnet appears to have fring or lace draped from the bavolet as well as brim decoration.

In the center middle ground, we see a woman and child sitting upon a what may be a boat or short wall. She appears to be in what may be a bathing costume with a light color skirt and blue sacque. Her darker brown straw hat has a moderate, domed crown and curved brim with lace draped around the edge.

Children play in the sand in the foreground, the four girls each with hats, three being straw.

*Another painting in the same sale that may be of interest for the same era is George E. Tunson’s The Embarkation.


I find William Powell Firth’s 1859 Life at the Sea-Side (Ramsgate Sands) to be an interesting and frustrating image. There appears to be numerous scans and photos of this painting on the internet of vastly varying quality and color tone. It seems it is a painting that must be seen in person – with a magnifying glass – and utter silence.

The vast majority of the women in the painting appear to be wearing bonnets rather than hats. Many look like they are straw, but I would not say it is the majority. A number of parasols and umbrellas speckle the painting. 12 by my count. The brown one left of center reads as an umbrella in size compared to the others. Some women wear shawls, including the woman to the far right who has a border plaid shawl in blue with brown and gold. The chairs I see are not folding chairs.

To the far left along the shore line, there are three people with what appears to be a calash style visor on their straw bonnets. The black seems to fold out reaching forward of the brim to shade the eyes. A similar piece is seen just to the right of center on a green bonnet and a bonnet of undetermined color. I know I have seen one of these in a collection before. I am trying to recall where.


Eugène Boudin enjoyed painting and drawing seaside scenes. Among his work are several pieces of Trouville, such as Beach Scene at Trouville, 1863, which support a variety of millinery, hinting at both hats in bonnets. A further investigation of his work may tell more about the head-wear as well as attire and culture. (I do suspect that with the number of whome wrapping their shawls rather fully around themselves in some paintings (right) and the wind shown in others, that few ventured into the water in this area.) The National Gallery of Art has a nice article about him with a sampling of work. Many other pieces come up in a web search (I rather like the ones at sunset.) It is tempting to order a book.


I have a few on my evolving Pinterest board for “Seaside, Watering places, and Watercure.”


 “This hat may be made of straw or leghorn. The trimming consists merely of a band and bow of ribbon.


Jest by Punch regarding the sea side.



Published in: on March 16, 2017 at 4:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

CW Era Hats – Symmetry vs Asymmetry

I was asked about a few millinery related things in the past migraine infused week. Here is one quick look at symmetry and asymmetry in straw hats of the Civil War era. (Please note: This does not break down the location of trim by yearly or seasonal fashion.)



Image Sources:

MET, MFA, Peterson’s Magazine, assorted pins on Pinterest.

Published in: on March 6, 2017 at 6:00 am  Comments (1)  

A Weekend in the Millinery 

If I was to give this event one word, it would be “relief”.

 This time last year I was in horrible pain, with the worst sun reaction and migraine i can recall, to the point where I was literally hitting my head against the wall and packing my head in ice packs. I was quite certain I might have to be done with historical events. The thought was horribly depressing. I spent the whole year with the fear that I might have a repeat physical event. 

As I stood at the mirror this morning, doing my hair, I almost cried. It was Sunday. I was good. I ended Saturday feeling great. I was good. I didnt even need to resort to my backup , can lace lighter dress. (Actually, I found I laced closed! Alterations coming.) I hoped into the sewing room and pulled out one of my favorite dresses, from a fabric a far away friend gave me. I was good. 

So, here I am. Proof I made it to Sunday. 

IMG_0012edit 2

 This weekend, I set the millinery up in the Insurance Office. A big thank you to Deanna and Melanie for arranging this space for me. It was close to Ward Hovey, just in case, and a shorter walk to the gallery for my talk. It has  a lovely breeze and nice shade. It also is right on the village square insuring lots of visitors. Saturday, I pretty much started talking at eleven and didn’t stop until six. (The morning was quite)

My little sister, Lily, helped out in the millinery the whole weekend. She talked with visitors while I was away at the gallery and while I was consulting on millinery questions. She did a very nice job. She also followed the small ice cream handed child around the room guarding the pieces. 



 A myriad of thoughts:

Our most unique visitors were either the well loved plush bunny or the real live rooster. 

All guests during the battle must be watered. Roosters included. 

While I wasn’t sure which project to bring, I ended up being busy wirh sewing the whole of Saturday and I to Sunday . 

I actually got to talk about the dynamics of women’s employment. 

Sunday, two young men had an excellent vignette on my porch. They were gambling, for stamps. As they played, they pulled visitors in. I know some expected me to shoo them off. But, it was such and excellent interaction , I just listened from inside. 

I never once got to do the story I developed behind my unfinished sign. But, I did determine i must have one. 

I got quarantined for a couple hours. Weirdness was theme

I got to see the most amazing original fichu and a lovely net needlework. 

I was gifted some wonderful surprises. I am grateful and blessed by each. Thank you. 

Now, sleep. There may be more added tomorrow 



























Milliner Shop

In a short hour or so, the Milliner Shop was set up, all ready for the Genesee Country Village’s Civil War event. A big thank you to Anneliese and Lily for their assistance. 

Let’s start with a fun “What’s wrong with this picture?”

In all the preparation for transforming an Insurance Office into a Millinery – bonnet stands , band boxes, appropriate paint, appropriate papers, ribbons, bonnets, hats, veils – somehow I did not think about sitting down …. in a cage… in these three lovely, matching chairs. 

Ooops. Slight problem, especially since each of my chairs were home awaiting their much needed tlc. 

Luckily, I got the okay to borrow two chairs from Hosmer’s . 

Much better.

This even gave us a chance to color check the paint colors. The hat stands are a shade lighter than the chair. Peter tells me Prussian blue had a range of shades, depending on how much white was added. So, mine just has more white. 

Looking around the room:

Here are the three fashionable bonnets on display. Each is one one of the new stands. The one one the left is the batwing soft crown with the blue and plaid silk. The one on the right is my personal bonnet, a soft crown with sheer check organza. Below is a bonnet with a decorative brim using antique straw threads. In the basket below are my slippers and a box of fabric scraps that would make some cute doll clothes or such. I plan not to bring that box back home. 

To the right, is a stack of my recovered band boxes, and my personal bonnet box. This one came from a local stationary shop. It is perfect for holding my bonnet. Atop the boxes is one of my yardsale find stands holding a wide brim hat. This hat is appropriate for a recreational scenario or a dress reform impression. Draped on the hat is an antique lace that may or may not be considered a veil. (Digging deeper into this.) 

In the corner, is a little table filled with assorted bonnets and hats. As we were setting up, I started to think I should have brought my second table and more stands. The top most, on the boxes is a cottage bonnet draped in my newest veil, one I made with silk net and lace. (Coming soon, I will have a post comparing the light control of different veils.) In the center is a coarse straw bonnet that would be worn by a poorer or institutionalized woman. On the left is my example of a woven straw bonnet, by Vivian ! Murphy. The two hats on the stands are children size. The one resting on the table is a large crown fashion bonnet. The top box is the one I made, sewing a heavy pasteboard. The other two are recovered. 

I am tickled that the ribbons filled this mantle. I think it looks pretty”in use” rather than just display. Lily did a nice job. Can you tell which rolls are real and which are fake? 

I forgot to get a photo of the sign. As the lettering was a fail, and despite sanding off the black paint, the tracing depressions show through the new ground coats, it looks very much like the “work in progress” it is. I’ve decided to say the young man who was painting it for me took off to enlist as the trips came near. But, as we expect this fighting to be over by the end of the summer, he can finish it soon enough.