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. 

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 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. 

How To Make a Bonnet and Cap

Godey’s, November 1856

How To Make a Bonnet and Cap.

Drawn Bonnets.—Have a plain willow shape ready, the size and pattern you wish your bonnet to be; measure round the edge, and put a pencil mark to denote half of the bonnet; measure your silk, or whatever material you are going to make your bonnet out of, on the edge of the shape, and let it be five inches longer to allow for fullness. This quantity is quite sufficient. Measure your material selvage way, regulate the edge of the bonnet very nicely; the fullness must be even, the same as putting on a shirt collar, and neat stitches are required. In drawn bonnet-making, do not cut your sewing silk; wind it, and have your needlefuls the length of the silk or material you are going to run; do not fasten off your silk at the end of the runner, as it requires drawing up before the bonnet is finished; halve the material of your bonnet, before you begin to run with white cotton, all the way down; when you have done the tucks in your bonnet material, place the silk, or anything else you may be making in a bonnet of, on the willow shape, and cut a small piece out at the ears to shape it like the willow shapes; never mind fastening off your ends of silk—they will be all right before you finish your bonnet. The tucks in the silk are to be run just as you would a petticoat or a child’s frock. Four or five are enough. When your bonnet is run, and ready to put on the shape, it ought to measure seven or eight inches deep, according to the wearer. Old persons generally require a larger bonnet than young people. Try you hand in making a bonnet in a piece of book muslin or something common at first. The size of the tucks varies according to the taste of fashion a little. They are now worn all sizes. Some bonnets have only three tucks with wires in them, others five. Before you get forward in your running, try the wire you are going to use, “and do not do what is too often done” – run the tucks, and then find the wire will not do. The wire had always better be too small than too large; in fact, the runners must be loose on your wire. The cane or whalebone for drawn bonnets I have never seen used. A wire, covered with cotton, is to be bought any size you wish. The wire must be very hard and firm for the edge, and soft and pliable for all the rest of your bonnet. Attend to this, or you will make people’s heads ache. I would not give two pence for the prettiest bonnet ever turned out if the wires were not light and soft. All these things only require attention; for little things I have no doubt some of my young readers think them in comparison to the look of a bonnet. Many persons can tell you what part of town a bonnet has been made in simply by the foundation—I mean the wires and supports of the bonnet. If you wish to make a drawn bonnet of two colors or two pieces join them together before you begin; and now be careful, joining the work strong; and let the tuck you put in hid where it is joined, not because you wish anyone to think it not joined, but for neatness. When you have run the tucks in your bonnet, before you begin to put in your wires, cut the piece of silk that at the ends the exact shape of your pattern-frame; this after the wires are to be put in; and now place the silk on half of the willow shape;tack the silk, not the wire is in, on the shape, all around the edge of the bonnet; now pull your wires to the right size, that is, exactly like the shape; having done this, now fasten the short wires that come down at the ears to the pieces of chip and wire that you have run through the edge of the bonnet.

When the wire that goes in the edge of your bonnet must go quite round the back, and cross a little. It is almost the whole support of your bonnet. When the wires are all firmly fastened, you may now draw up your sewing-silk that is in the tucks. Be careful not to break them. You will find our bonnet looking better for being run well, and then drawn tight. All this must be done before you take your drawn bonnet off the willow frame. You will require five supports got ready to put in. They must be silk wire, rather firm, and the color of your bonnet. They should be cut one inch longer than the bonnet, so as to allow a small piece to be turned down, top and bottom. Put one piece in the middle of your bonnet, and the remaining four at equal distances. These wires are called support’s, as they help to keep the bonnet in shape. Having reached so far with your bonnet, bind all round the back from ear to ear, and bow put on our curtain. In putting on your curtain, draw the thread at the top to the size of ten inches, and make this firm; place half your curtain to the half of the back of your bonnet; now sew it on; mid the fullness is equal.

If you wish to make a drawn bonnet with puffs, begin the bonnet just in the same way. When you have made a runner or tuck, push up a little of your silk; a very little will do. You require a piece of net underneath your silk. This net must be the size of the piece of the silk. When you turn down the first hem, put the net inside, and run it with the silk. The use of this piece of net is that you may full your silk on it, keeping the net plain. These kind of bonnets require a lining; it should be a little full. Always bear in mind that two or three inches are a good deal of fullness in millinery, in silk, net , or anything else. When you put linings in any bonnet, puff net on the lining before you put it on the bonnet. If you put more than one inch inside your bonnet, put it on the lining before you put the lining in. The bonnet is lined after the outside is done so as to keep it as fresh as possible.


Published in: on March 14, 2016 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Finishing a Straw Bonnet

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 7, 2016 at 6:00 am  Comments (2)  

Spring Millinery Reading

As spring arrives, a great many of us are thinking…. Spring Millinery!  Here are a few past articles of interest….

Published in: on February 29, 2016 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Straw Plaiting


Published in: on February 22, 2016 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Italian Straw Plaiting

Published in: on February 21, 2016 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Alas, no home

These poor bonnets never did find a home last year. Each is waiting for the right time and person.

The first is one of my favorites from last year. I just love the combination of the velvet calla lilies and pink & green silk.

This is a smaller straw hat. (It fits my head perching forward.) It would be good for an adult with a smaller to average head or a child. Find it on Etsy.

This little hat is ideal for a late war to post war impression. Light weight, made of fine hemp-straw and silk, it sits back over the hair as it begins to rise. The inspiration for this bonnet comes from this 1865 wedding bonnet at the National Trust Collections (below) Find it on Etsy.


**Note: I am going to make a point to share my millinery work here first as the listings are complete. This means, to get the first look and chance at pieces, subscribe to my blog. You can opt to have the new posts go to a feed or your email.**




Examples of a Turn-Over Shawl

A nice example of a Turn-Over Shawl is on Ebay this week. I hope they keep the photos up for a good long while.

A “Turn-Over Shawl” is A shawl that when folded in a triangle, shows all four finished borders. This is done by attaching 2 borders on the right side and 2 on the wrong side.

The three-quarter back view shows the Vs of the two border pairs. These are set on opposite sides so when folded over, both sets of borders form their Vs. You can see the “right side” construction of the top V in one of the photos. This shawl is made with a center piece of black wool, 4 paisley type borders and black wool borders that are frayed. The right and wrong sides of the paisley type borders can be seen in the other two photos. A border such as this one could have been purchased at the time.


There is another one over on Etsy as well. This shawl is 58″ square, within the common size perimeters for the mid-century. Again we can see the borders set in pairs on opposite sides so they will make Vs when the shawl is folded. While this border is narrower than the Ebay shawl’s, the way it is folded and photographed really shows how dramatic and lovely the look can be. The seller includes a teaser photo of one corner showing the right and wrong sides of the border. The color thread clearly shows the construction details. (btw – Please do not dry clean an antique shawl as the seller suggest.)

I believe Genteel Arts just did a workshop on making a turn-over shawl.

Additional examples:

Published in: on January 25, 2016 at 6:50 am  Comments (2)