Leaf Pen-Wipers

In reading through the directions for making pen-wipers, one design group caught my attention: The Leaf Pen-Wiper. The leaf pen-wiper shows up again and again in both publications for adults and youth. This type of pen-wiper stands out for me as having possibilities as a youth or family project. Helen Campbell’s directions
include selecting an actual leaf, a maple or oak, to be the pattern for the pen-wiper:

Leaf Penwiper.
“Choose a pretty maple or oak leaf for the pattern of your penwiper, and select cloth of a color that would suggest the leaf, – reddish-brown for an oak, or yellow for a maple. Take a paper pattern of the leaf by
laying it on stif paper, tracing the outline with a pencil, and then cutting it out with a pair of scissors. Cut out two leaves of your brown or yellow cloth, and three inside leaves of chamois-skin or broadcloth. If you like, you can imitate the veins of a leaf by embroidering them with silk in stem-stitch on the upper leaf of the
penwiper.” ( The American Girl’s Home Book of Work and Play, 1902.)

What a great outdoor to indoor project. I am picturing children collecting leaves outside as the leaves
fall in the autumn. Then, coming inside and creating their own pen-wiper.

Leaf Pen-Wiper. – Work a leaf in green cloth, with the veins all marked in lighter silk, and black pieces
underneath. Any shaped leaf can be taken; a fern will do even, as the pinnules can be worked on it to imitate the shape tolerably.” (Three Hundred Decorative and Fancy Articles for Presents, Fairs, etc. by Lucretia Peabody
Hale, 1885.)


A Leaf Pen-Wiper.
Your pattern for this must be a beech-leaf again,—a long one this time,—or you may trace the shape from the illustration. Outline the shape as before, and from the model thus secured cut six leaves in flannel—two green, two brown, and two red, or red, white and blue, or any combination you like. Snip the edge of each leaf into very tiny points, and chain-stitch veins upon it with gold-colored floss. Attach these leaves together by the upper ends, arranging under them three triply pointed leaves of black broadcloth or silk to receive the ink, and finish the top with a small bow of ribbon. (St. Nicholas Magazine for Boys and Girls, Vol 5, 1877.)

Published in: on October 22, 2021 at 1:05 am  Leave a Comment  

A Viney Brimmed Black Bonnet

I finally finished this black straw bonnet I started last weekend. It came out so cute. I love the vining brim. It is on the smaller size for an average to smaller head.

Published in: on October 21, 2021 at 5:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

Whimsy Wednesday

Finally… a Whimsy Wednesday video after… um…. well… a few weeks.

The new playlist I mentioned is called: Making Items That Would Make Good Gifts.

Published in: on October 20, 2021 at 8:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

About Pen-Wipers

Whether penning a letter to a far a way sister or updating the household ledger, using a pen and ink called for the use of a pen wipe, or pen wiper. Through the Victorian era, pen wipers could be quite simple, entirely utilitarian, or quite decorative, comprising utility and fancy. In either case, a pen wiper was simply its name: a wiper for the pen. An inked pen could be dabbed off or cleaned upon the layers of wool.


At their simplest, a pen wiper was simply layers of wool layered upon each other or rolled together. The layers tacked together or secured simply. The wools used tend to be fulled, flannel, or worsted, holding its fibers tight as not to fray. Often the edged were pinked. With plain black wool being most frequently used as it disguises the discarded ink best, we see an assortment of colors, solids, and plaids used in pen wipers.


Directions for making pen-wipers were published in ladies magazines as well as books for young girls. They were often recommended as gifts. Lydia Child gives us a nice introduction to pen-wipers in her Girl’s Own Book:

“Pen-Wipers
These are very necessary accompaniments to a neat writing desk. The most common ones consist of two circular pieces of black velvet, neatly bound and caught together in the middle with two or three circular pieces of black broadcloth between them, for the purpose of wiping the pens. Some, instead of velvet covers, have bits of black broadcloth covered with bright-coloured round pieces, about as big as a wafer, laid oe over another, like the scales of a fish.
The butterfly is likewise a common form. The wings are of embroidered velvet, and the leaves between are of black broadcloth.
The most convenient pen-wiper is made of three pointed pieces of broadcloth, about half of a quarter of a yard long. Each piece is about an eighth of a yard, or two nails, wide at the bottom, and goes of to a point at the top. Each one is stitched up separately, and turned wrong side outward, when it looks lot unlike a tunnel. After they are made, the three are all joined together at the seams, and a tasteful little bow is placed on the top. The bottom can be bound or embroidered with gay colours, according to fancy. This form is peculiarly convenient, because the pen can be run into these little tunnes, and wiped without any danger of
inking the fingers. Pen-wipers should always be made of black flannel or broadcloth; other colours soon get
spoiled by the ink.”

Eliza Leslie includes directions for simple pen wipers. The first is essentially a book with pages of wool to wipe the pen upon:

A Pen-Wiper.
Take two old playing-cards, and cover them on both sides with silk, sewed neatly over the edges. Then sew the cards together, so as to resemble the cover of a book. To form the leaves of the book, prepare six or eight pieces of canton crape; double them, and cut them to fit the cover. With a pair of sharp scissors scollop them all round, and then lay them flat and even on the cover, and sew them in with a needle-full of sewing-silk. On these leaves of canton crape the pens are to be wiped. Black is the best colour.

The next is a garland of wool as a pen wiper.

“Another Pen-Wiper.
Cut our a great number pieces of canton-crape about the size of half a dollar, and of as many dif erent colours as you can procure. Lay them evenly in separate piles; let on pile be black, another red; some ples of blues, and some green. Let there be an equal number of pieces in each pile. Then stick a needle with a thread of silk in it, through the centre of each pile, and fasten the pieces together. When all your various piles are ready, make a small hole through middle of each, with a pair of sharp-pointed scissors, and run a silk cord through them all, as if you were stringing beads; arranging the dif erent colours according to your taste. You may make a string of pen-wipers of any length, from a quarter of a yard to a whole yard.
These are very useful to hang over a desk where a great deal of writing is done, and may be acceptable presents from little girls to their fathers.
They will look for the better having the edges scolloped. You may either fasten each cluster of pieces permanently to the string, so as to repairing stationary, or you may leave them to slip up and down like beads.”

Leslie’s third pen wiper comprises pasteboard and wool sandwiched between:

“A Third Pen-Wiper.
Cut out two circular pieces of pasteboard about the size of a dollar, or larger if you choose, and cover them with silk on both sides. Then get some canton crape; cut it into round pieces to fit the covered pasteboard, and scollop their edges in very small points. You may prepare eight to ten pieces. Put the leaves of crape between two pasteboards, and fasten them all in the centre, stitching them through and through with strong silk and a coats needle. Conceal the fastening, by covering it one each side with a tuft of ravelled of floss of a bright colour.

Come the turn of the century, Helen Campbell’s The American Girl’s Home Book of Work and Play (1902) has more elaborate penwipers in the chapter on gift making. First uses a baby’s shoe:

Baby-Shoe Penwiper.
Cut out of black cloth four circles three inches wide, and pink the edges. Fold each one across; then fold it again, so that the shape is like a quarter-circle. Take a baby’s shoe of red or blue morocco, and fill it with the folded circles, placing them so that the pinked edges project at the top. A pair of shoes will make two penwipers, and they are very pretty. If liked, the shoe can be fastened to a larger circle of pinked broadcloth.


A note regarding “Canton crepe” – Canton crepe as a recommendation puzzles me. When I look it up, it seems to be silk rather than wool. Canton crepe shows up frequently in searches for the 1920s as blouses and dresses. In advertisements, it is listed with other silks and/or from silk merchants. In the 1870s, searches show “Canton crepe bows”, again more likely silk rather than wool.

Based on feel, wool for pen-wipers tends to be a very tight weave in a medium weight with firm body. Some appears to have been filled with a soft surface, while some is quite smooth.

Published in: on October 20, 2021 at 1:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Looking Ahead to the Holiday Season

I feel like I am inundating you with posts recently. I am on a roll. So, we are going with it. As the weather has shifted here in New York, I am shifting my attention to the coming Holiday Season. That makes this the annual:

Holiday Season Post!

I am super excited to tell you about one of the gift items I will be offering in the shop this year: Gift Filled Pockets!

Last June, the Pocket Fairy got busy making pockets after hearing pockets were in want by some. In the midst of this, the idea a pockets filled with gifty goodies struck. After tossing this idea around during the summer, I’ve had so much fun deciding what to put in these pockets. So Much Fun.

Each pocket will be filled with little gifty goodies. I am not going to tell you exactly what in the listing just in case you are purchasing to gift yourself. The items will be pocket appropriate items for the first half of the nineteenth century (okay through the 1860s.)

I will be making a few select millinery items for the season. These will include straw hats, straw bonnets, and
winter hoods.

I have a super fun Pen-Wiper in the works. It is a playful idea that will let me use the pinking machines. There will only be a few of these. You don’t get to see these quite yet as a component is coming.

People are asking for Sewing Accessories. So, I will make a few special sewing accessories. I have yet to decide what.

This year’s ornaments will include some Whimsy Witch Hats for the tree and possibly something more cat focused. The straw ornaments I was planning seem to have dissolved. I do have another straw related idea churning.

Holiday Shipping Reminder:

With expected delays in shipping, the last day I will ship for Christmas will be the morning of Saturday, December 11th. This will be orders through the night before: Friday, December 10th. I highly recommend making your purchases earlier. I will be working hard to make fun and accurate gifts available throughout November.

Published in: on October 19, 2021 at 1:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Fall Edition of In Detail – Now Available

This fall edition of In Detail may be of particular interest to my doll focused readers.

On Detail: Frozen Charlotte Pen-Wipers takes a close look at not one, but two pen-wipers made with frozen Charlotte dolls. The 22 full color pages detail the dolls and pen-wipers, and includes directions for making your own.

Published in: on October 18, 2021 at 1:05 am  Comments (4)  

Fall: Writing in Progress

I had a nice unboxing video going until…. Clara. This is take 2

Currently Working On:

  • Promoting my newly released Wadded Hood Workbook.
  • Writing the newest In Detail which looks at two doll pen-wipers. (Hopefully finishing Sunday.)
  • Writing a collaborative hood pattern, the Princess Capote.
  • Getting the pieces together for what I hope you think is a great holiday gifting offer.

If you want a Whimsy Witch Hat, don’t miss the current sale. I may pull them from the shop next week so people don’t try to order last minute for Halloween and have shipping disappointments.

Published in: on October 17, 2021 at 8:54 am  Leave a Comment  

What is a Wadded Hood?

A Wadded Hood, also called a Pumpkin Hood, is a style of sewn winter hood made in much of the nineteenth century and later eighteenth century. This type of hood is also known as a wadded hood or an “ugly.”

The wadded hood was commonly made with three pieces: the brim, crown, and bavolet, with the crown and brim occasionally combined. Rather than being quilted, the brim has parallel channels sewn across the head which were filled with wool wadding or down. Between these channels, narrower channels of cord help draw up the brim and give it light structure. Occasionally, some of these channels are cane or wire, though not as often as in quilted styles. The crown of this style tends to be small, with a row or two of additional wadding. The bavolet ranges from rather a rather short couple inches to as much as four inches.

The wadded hood is one of the, if not the, warmest style hood as it hugs the head snuggly. The draw back is there is no protection for the face.

The exterior fabric is most frequently silk taffeta. The smooth, tight weave helps with moisture control. Dark solid silks out number the plaids and lighter colors, which were also used. The linings tend to be polished cotton or cotton sateen in neutral browns and creams. Most pieces have a facing of the exterior silk.

I find wool wadding to appear more frequently in originals than down. The wadding fairly evenly fills the channels, though not as firmly as some quilted hoods. These hoods are quite soft. The bavolet tends to be very lightly filled, though I suspect some loss has occurred over time for some pieces.

When decorated, a bow tends to embellish the center back of the crown at the neckline. Some pieces also have a row of smaller bows or mock-bows along the top of the brim.

Learn more about Wadded Hoods and How to Make Your Own in my New Wadded Hood Workbook.

Published in: on October 12, 2021 at 6:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Wadded Hood Workbook!!!!!

I am trying to squeal or cry as I write this…….

Finally! After 5 years in the wanting and the making….

My Wadded Hood Workbook is Available!!!

This pattern, become workbook, contains a detailed look at a half dozen original wadded hoods from my collection and directions for making not just one wadded hood, but directions for combining methods into a nearly endless assortment of wadded winter hoods!

The workbooks starts a close look at original wadded hoods from my collection.
Next, it shows you how to make your own wadded hood with original cuts and methods. This includes multiple brim, crown, and bavolet options.

This purchase includes 3 downloads:

  • The Pattern Pieces (17 pages)
  • 2 files for the Workbook (53 pages total)

I tried to figure out just how many different ways of making a wadded hood: 5 brims….. 2 facings….. 3 crowns….. 2 bavolets…. mathematically that works out to 60 variations!

Find my new

Wadded Hood Workbook

in my Etsy Shop

Published in: on October 11, 2021 at 3:09 pm  Comments (1)  

This Weekend’s Millinery

It took me all week to make this one straw hat. I just don’t have the energy to sew for a handful of hours each evening after work like I used to. It looks like it sold Sunday morning.

These two witch hats were the last of the big batch I cut a weekend or two ago. The black on has glow in the dark stars on the lining fabric. I may decided to add some shaping to the brown one.

This last one, and its little friend, are for my niece. She loves purple.

I will now soend the rest of the three day weekend working on one or both of the winter hood patterns in hopes of getting one done. The wadded hood pattern is closer to done. But, the capote hood is what is stuck in my brain currently.

Published in: on October 10, 2021 at 9:20 am  Leave a Comment