Solace in Walnuts

Yep, it has been a rough year. Then, this box of paired walnuts arrived.

I’ve found working with walnuts to be very relaxing. Surprisingly so. Oh, how I’ve needed a relaxing, pleasing project. Thus: Solace in Walnuts. I still love making my strawberries. Don’t worry. Those aren’t going away. Walnuts give an extra level of fiddliness, which you know I love.

The area squirrels will tell you walnuts are wonderful. The Victorians agreed!

Between originals and crafty directions, there were oodles of adorable things made with walnuts…. pin cushions…. baskets… thimble holders… miniature purses…. doll boxes…

Here are just a few pieces I’ve found inspiring:


I find the pin cushions that use a pair of shells pleasing to make because I basically recreate the guts of the nut out of fabric. Sure, it would be possible to make a simple velvet covered bag and squish it into the shell. But, I find creating a shape that mimics the interior of each nut gives a nicer shape and better pin cushion.

The thimble holders that look like little purses are what I am currently exploring. Some of the originals show little holes for the ribbons, both as the handles and as the hinges. Period directions call for making these holes using a long sharp needle heated red hot in candle light. I am going to give this technique a try. But, I am also going to try my dremel’s drill.

Walnut pin cushions will be part of this weekend’s Preparing for Christmas while at GCVM.


A couple nineteenth century directions for walnut crafts:1


Children’s Fancy Work, 1882

Dainty little pincushions and thimble-case can be made out of walnut-shells. Scrape the inside of the shell  till quite smooth, then stuff a little bag of some bright-coloured materials with wadding, making it as nearly as possible the shape of the shell; sew to this a handle—a bit of narrow capwire, covered, answers for the purpose—then drop a little liquid gum into the bottom of the shell and press in the cushion. This can be supplies with a pedestal in the following way: – Take two walnut-shells and pierce a couple holes in the centre  of each (A red-hot iron meat-skewer or knitting-needle will do this beautifully.) Now place the shells together against each other, and tie them together with a string or fix them with wire. In the upper half the cushion is placed; the lower forms the stand. For an emery cushion take two halves of a walnut-shell and having scraped the inside, brush over the outside with copal varnish. In both halves make narrow slits in the middle of the sides. Fill a little coloured silk bag with emery-powder and gum it into one half of the shell. Then join both halves of the shell together by means of a ribbon the slits in one side, and tied in a bow on the outside. Through the openings on the other side draw another piece of ribbon six inches long. This serves to open and close the walnut. A thimble-case is easily made of one half of a shell lined with pink wool stuck on with gum, then inclosed [sic] in a tiny bag of its own shape, but large enough to admit being drawn closely over the opening with a running cord.


I thought you might like a couple more later Victorian Walnut crafts.


Children’s Fancy Work, 1882

Toys made from walnut-shells will please the little ones, and the making of them prove no less enticing.


….. Nos 54 and 55. These two illustrations show a pretty little toy, the “Surprise” Basket, closed and open. Two exactly– fitting halves of a walnut-shell are scraped clean and lined with pink or silver paper. Holes should be carefully drilled all the way around in both shells, and then a frill of narrow lace sew round each for the outside and round the inside of the lower one. This is effected by putting the needle through the holes. The edges are then bound with pale blue silk so put on that the stitches do not show. In the lower half of the shell is a tiny wax or china doll with a tiny quilted covering over it. In the upper shell dolly’s tiny wardrobe is packed. The shell is closed by means of pale blue ribbon, a loop and end being sewn to each half.




Published in: on November 17, 2017 at 7:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Pin Cushion Sampler Workshop 

Today was my second workshop for this year’s Domestic Skills Symposium at GCVM, a Pin Cushion Sampler. 

Attendees had the opportunity to make of popular Victorian era pin cushions: Strawberries, Walnuts, Seashells, and Acorns. I added a crown for a strawberry emery to their kits as well. 

After getting all set up in Foster, one of my favorite historic buildings in the village, I took a moment to take some photos of some of the pin cushions. I rather like how the seashell one came out. 

Hands were very, very busy, managing to get three in cushions done in three hours. 

Published in: on November 12, 2017 at 7:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

Tools & Trims Workshop 

When I planned the details of my latest Domestic Skills Symposium workshop, a drastic plummet to 20 degrees with frigid wind chill and snow were not on the list. Absolutely not. 
Thankfully, old man winter could not stop the fun and learning, not even with the ice frozen car doors and trunk. 

This year’s workshop took place in the nature center. We totally lucked out with this placement because we had modern heat, bathroms, and tea! 

All set up and ready:*

Tools & Trims focused on recreating fabric trims from the late eighteenth thru the nineteenth century. We started by looking at a slide show of original garments, mostly dresses and a few parasols. Next, attendees were able to try an assortment of pinking dies (which were a little cranky) and four antique pinking machines as well as two types of fluters. We also looked at how to mimic the look of some dies using common pinking scissors/shears. We practiced various ruching and pleating techniques found on originals and in period literature. In the end, all their samples went into handmade sample books. 
Everyone got so into their work, we forgot to stop for lunch until rather late. 

There were lots of busy hands… 

And busy machines 

Follow-up tid-bits:

The slub question – “Beyond the Slubs”

Dolls – Doll posts live on Don’t Paint the Cat. Milli the Milliner, my Peddler Doll, hasher own Facebook page. 

Published in: on November 10, 2017 at 9:36 pm  Comments (1)  

At Heart

This is one of those sensitive posts. I acknowledge it may cause me to lose some customers/clients and readers. Reading another writer’s post has convinced me to stick to my beliefs and hit the “publish” button.

I firmly believe spiritual, religious, and personal beliefs and ethics come before reenacting ideals, as do health needs. For me, this includes not eating meat or meat products, not wearing furs, and greatly minimizing the wearing of leather.  This can have additional or other meanings for friends and clients.

This stance manifests itself in a few ways those who attend events with me and those who are client, or potential clients, should be aware.

As a general rule, I will not use furs on my millinery pieces. This is especially true of any furs even possibly originating overseas. On the very, very rare chance, as in once in a thousand, I will consider the use of a fur I know the history of. As in I know who killed it, how it was killed, and how it was treated. At the same time, I will not use an inaccurate replacement for fur.

I will not use gelatin based sizing for my personal millinery nor the millinery of anyone I know keeps Kosher. I’ve been told the gelatin is vegetable based. But, I am just not taking any chances as I respect the beliefs of my clients. I invite anyone who is concerned about this for a particular piece to ask me.


~ I also have a difficult time selecting feathers. I have a small stash of those gifted to me that I will eventually use. When purchasing I can’t help but think about their giver’s care.

~ Yes, I acknowledge this is presentism.

Published in: on November 7, 2017 at 6:05 pm  Comments (5)  

Winter Hood Patterns Available

Do you know I have two winter hood patterns currently available in my Etsy Shop?

This winter hood pattern is drafted directly from an original wool and silk hood in my collection. The long drapey sided and deep brim are great for keeping the wind, rain and snow of your face.

This winter hood wears more like a soft bonnet. The quilted silk brim is shaped and wired to flatter the face as well as keep you warm. This pattern comes with two versions and a full direction booklet.

Don’t forget, Paisley, Plaid, and Purled as well as From Field to Fashion are available in my Etsy Shop.

Fanciful Utility can be purchase directly from the publisher ESC Publishing. Both the book and the projects inside make great gifts.


Published in: on November 2, 2017 at 9:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

This week’s Winter Millinery 

Have you been loving the shape of the hoods I’ve been making but want something warmer? Here you go. This hood has a soft ivory wool on the outside with black silk taffeta lining tufted to a warm wool batting. A maroon satin bow trims the back while black cotton sateen ribbons tie it. 

Find this hood and others in my Etsy shop

Published in: on November 2, 2017 at 6:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

Upgrade in Process

What does it say that just this week, this first of November, this 44th week of the year, I am finally getting around to last spring’s task of upgrading my blog. Simultaneously, I am attempting to sort some non-history posts, moving them to Don’t Paint the Cat*, firming up the future posts plan, and learning about the quirks of the new domain paralleling the old domain – .

WordPress tells me there will be some days of instability as the conversion stuff behind the scenes takes place. My understanding is that the links to pages with the original base url will auto-redirect to those with the new base url. Fingers crossed. I am really, really hoping this change doesn’t mess people’s links to my blog up.

*btw, if you don’t know about Don’t Paint the Cat, this is modern crafty blog and home of the doll projects.

Published in: on November 1, 2017 at 9:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Planning Survey

Could you take a moment to take my simple survey?

This survey is just 5 questions. It will help me plan what Etsy shop projects I will be focusing on after the Domestic Skills Symposium in a couple weeks. The last question will help me plan what to include in this blog after the upgrade.

Please Click Here

Published in: on October 29, 2017 at 10:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

This Weekend’s Millinery 

I can’t post photos as I normally do. I am officially out of space. I can tell you I just added a on ivory wool hood with the prettiest pink plaid silk lining to my Etsy shop. It is available here.

 PS – There are two other winter hoods there as well. An emerald green jacquard lines with quilted gold taffeta and a gold and brown shot silk with a raised corded windowpane lined with black. Be sure to check those out too. 

Published in: on October 29, 2017 at 3:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

Please, Don’t

I respectfully request those who have purchased, or otherwise acquired,  any of my patterns Do Not make these pieces for sale.

You will notice each patterns has a copyright statement as well as a personal request regarding the proper use of my research and work.

To make and sell pieces from a published, for sale pattern not only infringes on copyright and intellectual property rights, it takes money from the writer’s/milliner’s pocket. This is especially true when your knock-offs are being sold at a fraction of the price the writer/milliner is selling his or her pieces for.

btw – Regardless of how well or how poorly you sew, I can recognize pieces made from my pattern. In fact, most period milliners and pattern makers can recognize each other’s work.

**Please note that I absolutely hate that I have to post this.**


As a milliner, there are milliners and artisans I both respect and recommend. If I do not offer what you need, I suggest the following: (I may be forgetting some in my haste.)

  • Timely Tresses – Danielle offers a wide range of nineteenth century millinery, patterns and publications.
  • Pam Robles makes simple stunning pieces.
  • Vivian Murphy hand works her woven straw bonnets. These are available in a limited number each year.
  • Jamie Quick is making beautiful hoods based on original patterns. She has an eye for detail. Find her work on Etsy as barnyardbiddy
  • Holly Ray makes beautiful, detail focused evening headdresses. Find her work on Etsy as thedoctorsstitches
  • Kathey Kelly Hunt makes a variety of headwear with a focus on unique for era.
  • Knit hoods and headwear with sound research and techniques can be found on Etsy as RuedelaPaixRepros. I also like the knitting work of Deborah Hyland.
Published in: on October 25, 2017 at 12:01 pm  Leave a Comment