The Season of Gifts

This week is dedicated to the making and giving of gifts, from the mid-nineteenth century perspective.

This passage is by Jennie June in her Jennie Juneiana: Talks on Women’s Topics (Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1864.)

The Season of Gifts

“Who to give to?” is sometimes a puzzling question; for each one cannot give to all, or all who have claims upon them, and it is sometimes hard to decide between sisters, and aunts, and cousins, and still nearer and dearer relations. Some philanthropic people, who, however, rarely follow their own advice , advocate the ignoring of family ties altogether on these festal occasions, and urge the giving only to those who absolutely need something. But this is too hard and rigid a policy; it may be, and probably is the extreme of unselfishness, but we frankly own that it is beyond us. Give all that is possible to those whose friends are few and wants many, but yield something also to inclination and affection, and the kindly feelings which prompt and demand a fitting expression.

            But who to give to is not yet received a definite answer. First, as a loyal woman (we are talking to women), to those you love best; second, to those to whom perhaps you have done an injustice, if only in thought, and to whom you feel is due some slight reparation; and third, to those who need it. But it must be remembered that the sentiment of the gift is more than the gift itself. A very costly gift is sometimes not half so much valued as a flower, a book, or a kind word; but this is only true of very unsophisticated people. We have seen vulgar women, in garb of silk or satin, who would coarsely express undisguised contempt for a gift which did not come up to their ideas of cost. Such persons are incapable of appreciating a sentiment, and therefore give them nothing, or if that is impossible, let it be a check for so much money, which is the only point for which they care.

            What is proper to purchase for gifts, is a very embarrassing question to sensitive individuals, who desire to do the thing just right, and are afraid of making some mistake or committing some gauche-rie. Between husbands and wives, or in a family circle, such a difficulty can hardly exist, a wide range of the useful, as well as the sentimental and beautiful, being proper to choose from. For mere friends, however, the choice is sometimes very perplexing, notwithstanding that the variety of goods in every department is almost infinite, and books always exist as a dernier resort, although, in fact, they are the most suitable and valuable of gifts. To pretend to indicate those things which are most adapted as gifts to varied circumstances, would be to give a catalogue of every jewelry establishment, dry goods store, and fancy goods house, not to speak of toys, furs, groceries, bonnets, greenhouses, picture galleries, and furniture shops, all of which supply their quota to the generous influences of the season. A safe way is to ascertain a want or a taste on the part of the recipient, and then supply the one or gratify the other, according to means or convenience. Young ladies, or others who have time, and know how to execute the different kinds of fancy work, cannot pay a more delicate compliment to their friends than by presenting them with some pretty trifle of their own making.

Published in: on November 12, 2019 at 1:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Domestic Skills Symposium… Inside Out

I am feeling accomplished.

I should back up. The last two weeks have been miserable, exhausting, and absolutely not as planned. The last two weeks were supposed to be focused on preparing for the Domestic Skills Symposium and filling my Holiday Shop, both things I enjoy immensely. Instead, I spent it focused on doctor visits, “doctor says”, and stressing.

So, as I packed my car Friday for the Symposium, I was worried I was too over-done and would melt or wither or something in the midst of people or my workshop.

I’ve never before had the level of nerves and concern about a workshop or presentation as I did about my Sunday Straw Surgery workshop. Not speaking in front of 200 peers, not speaking in front of 300 strangers, not teaching for a national organization.

I’ve now been home an hour. Half the bags and boxes are in. Clara is fed. I’ve eaten a little. And…..

I feel accompished.

This isn’t the “I got this and this and this and this done” type of accomplishment.

It is more of a “I pulled myself together, and did me” feeling.

Symposium Awesomeness

This is the point where I want to share a whole bunch of photos and say “see! Look at the awesomeness!”

Except few of my photos came out.

So, here is the photo minimal run down on what was truly a great weekend…..

Saturday morning I arrived at the museum as the sun was rising and thd the ground was going “crunch” under its icy glaze. After unloading my car, I took time to meet some of the museum kittens, a trio of siblings and the prettiest pastel. Two of the siblings were a matching pair of midnight black babies while the slighly smaller dark tabby sported the coolest pair of bat wings. As adorable as these dears are, I really wish people would stop dropping cats off at historic sites and opt to get their pets spayed or neutered.

I headed inside to a much warmer meeting center to get my table set up for the day.

I brought an assortment of pin cushions, pin keeps, pen wipes, sewing cases, and minitature straw goods for people to choose from. People were intrigued by the pen wipers. I spent a good portion of my time explaining how they were used and they types of pen wipers that were made as well as sold.

A Story in the Threads: The Clothing of Enslaved Women in the Antebellum South\” by Cheyney McKnight, Public Historian and Proprietor of Not Your Momma\’s History.\n\”Upon These Shoulders: Speaking Truth to Power. The Freedom Fighters in Upstate New York.\” by David Shakes, Actor, Director, Producer and Historical Interpreter.

The one photo I took that I did like was this one of the village goods:

After setting up, I went over to look at Louise’s beautiful woven pieces. I’ve been wanting something of hers for ages and I finally decided it was time to get something. See in the lower right hand corner… Those are her quilted petticoat pannels. That is what I wanted. A big big big treat. I just needed to decide on 2 or 3. Problem. I got distracted. When I looked back over they were gone.

As the registration portion of the morning proceeded, it was so very nice to say hello to people I simply do not see often enough. Among them was my neighbor, Kristen with her beautiful jewelry and beadwork. It was nice listening to her talk people through which stones and styles were popular when. It is really cool when we really love our research topics.

I was only able to catch two of the presentations: Cheyney’s “A Story in the Threads: The Clothing of Enslaved Women in the Antebellum South” and Mr. Shakes “Upon These Shoulders: Speaking Truth to Power. The Freedom Fighters in Upstate New York.” Both were excellent and informative. It was nice to finally hear Cheyney present in public.

I confess, I couldn’t bring myself to listen to the quilting presentation. I just finally went into the house with the quilting demonstration this summer for the first times since Grandma died.

(I am getting tired as I write.)

A few of us went out to dinner. Itvwas very nice. We stayed out too late. I am old.

By the time I got home and got into bed, I was that uncontrollable cold I get when I am overly tired. I have no temperature control.

On to Sunday….

This was my teaching space for Straw Surgery: Care and Repair of Straw Millinery.

We talked about how to store, care for, reinforce for musuem longevity, and repair straw hats and bonnets. Each attendee was asked to bring a damaged straw hat or bonnet for us to discuss and repair as part of the class. Each did. Some brought 2. I was worried people wouldn’t bring any. I was so happy and relieved by everything they brough. They were fun challenges. I got the impression each person enjoyed themselves and learned some things.

I do have photos of everyone working…. But I forgot to ask each about sharing. The photos show them very focused on their work.

Okay… My hands are cold and I am tired. Time to hit “publish” and crash on the couch with a nice ginger beer.

P.S. There are a couple other things about this weekend that particularly made me happy and or smile. Thank you.

Published in: on November 10, 2019 at 6:21 pm  Comments (3)  

October Reflections

I am a full week late on writing my October Reflections. (I’ll probably back-date this later in November.) The last week and a half has completely gotten away from me.

October was certainly filled with lots and lots of projects – The Winter Millinery Series, sewing for the Holiday Shop, preparing for the Domestic Skills Symposium, and some straw millinery.

October started off with the Agricultural Society Fair at GCVM. This is a long time favorite part of the year for me.

I hope you have enjoyed the Winter Millinery Series. I have enjoyed sharing some of my pieces with you. I will admit it has caused me to want to add even more pieces to the collection. It has also started me reevaluating what I should do with the collection itself. I had been planning to do an e-book, but I haven’t found time to do proper photos and writing. If you could take a moment and give me some quick feed-back, I would appreciate it:

Winter Millinery Survey

I finished a handful of straw pieces this month, earlier this month.

I spent most of the month making giftable goodies for the Holiday Shop in my Etsy Shop. I am very excited about the pretty items I am offering this year.

That kinda blurs me into November. So, let’s look ahead:

Winter Millinery Survey Please

Published in: on November 7, 2019 at 5:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Winter Millinery Series (7)

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.

Today’s winter hood is of the same style as my second winter millinery pattern. It has a deep brim and elongated cheektabs/lapets. This hood is constructed with a basic three piece construction – brim, crown, and bavolet. This hood has a black silk taffeta exterior. Black silk lines the interior of the brim while brown polished cotton lines the crown. The bavolet is unlined.

The brim is pieced together to get the large piece. The piecing is finely done making it difficult to spot. The easiest one to see is a horizontal piecing on the left hand side about half way up. This piecing can be seen nicely in this photo that also shows how the bavolet is attached:

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Notice how the bavolet is completely unlined. This is rather uncommon for winter hoods. I have seen some where there is an exterior and interior fabric with no batting or wadding. Completely unlined is unpractical in terms of warmth and moisture protection. This bavolet is simply gathered into the neck edge. There is a hem at the bottom which is tacked on each side to the cheektabs/lapets. You can see how the binding for the neck edge continues down along the inner edge of the cheektab to the point where the bavolet is attached.

This interior photo shows the same area. The neck binding adds strength, neatness, and comfort to this seam area. One thing of interest is the remains of a ribbon (just left and above center) along the neck edge. There are corresponding threads in the same spot on the other side. This shows functional ties were at one point place rather far back on the head. I find this placement can be helpful if in a windy climate.

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There is evidence of what may have been ribbons on the inside of the cheektabs/lapets. These holes are either pin holes or thread holes.

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Alright, I kinda fizzled with this writing…

I do want you to see the inside of the crown. This shows both the layers as seen in the seam area and how it is set with denser gathers towards the top.

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Two damage spots let us see inside to the lining:

Similar style hoods:

(Left to right: Pink silk with longer lapets in the Greene Collection at GCVM. Green silk exterior with pink silk interior in Anna’s collection. Green wool exterior with pink silk interior in Anna’s collection.)

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.

Winter Millinery Survey Please

Published in: on November 6, 2019 at 1:00 am  Leave a Comment  

What is a Pen Wiper?

A pen wiper was used to remove the excess ink from the nib of a dip pen.

They could be simple or decorative, purchased or handmade.

Directions for making them could be found for children in An American Girls Book and A Girl’s Own Book as well as for adults in the pages of Godey’s Lady’s Book.

Handmade pen wipers came in all sorts of shapes from leaves to butterflies to animals. Some are all wool. Some are beaded. Tis is one page of my tablet folder:

You might be able to tell from the images I saved that i really like the animal kind. But, pen wipers originally caught my attention as I was assembling images and articles on doll projects.

This is an original pen wiper with two penny dolls I chanced upon when it was labeled as a pin cushion. This is the piece that inspired me to make the wax doll pen wiper.

Here are some of the pen wipers I’ve made in the last few months:

Published in: on November 3, 2019 at 12:03 pm  Comments (2)  

Pen Wipers for the Holidays!

Every now and then I’ll be working on a project when I realize this is the project Grandma would really like. I usually mean one Grandma or the other. But, today as I sat down and started dressing my little wax dollies, I thought Grandma would really like this and realized I meant both Grandmas.

There’s something about the cute fiddliness of this I think they would both enjoy. Grandma K was very crafty, loved to quilt, loved rug hooking and fun projects in general. Grandma 2 liked little detail projects. She enjoyed needlework and later on decorative, beading projects like ornaments and stuff. In my chest to favorite goodies I have an envelope of little note cards she made with button dolls on the cover. Each doll is made with a button for her face and little trims as decoration. Dressing these little wax dolls reminds me of those.

I started my day with dressing wax dolls and adding them to their pen wiper bases.

I finished up my day making tiny wool mice for another batch of pen wipers. This was Clara’s selection.

Yes, I showed her a bunch original photos and let her pick.

We should not be surprised she picked mice.

The first batch of mice are the simple partial circles just made really, really, really small. I filled them with local wool batting. Then gave them little faces. The eyes are glass beads, picked to go with their bases. Their ears are tiny thread loops sewn like button loops. They got added to their wool bases I made the other day with a little bit of ribbon.

The second batch uses the design in original directions for a mouse pen wiper. I used wool instead of cotton canyon flannel described in the directions. These are also filled with local wool and have glass bead eyes. These have cute thread whiskers.

I was so focused as I sewed, I completely lost track of time and didn’t notice I hadn’t moved much for 6 hours out of a 10 hour sewing day. My feet were soooo cold. And, when I stood up…. Well, you can guess what my back said…. It was totally worth it. I love how these pen wipers came out.

Please consider giving one as a gift this season.

Find them in my Etsy shop!

For more information on my pen wipers:

Published in: on November 2, 2019 at 8:19 pm  Comments Off on Pen Wipers for the Holidays!  

My 2019 Holiday Shop

I am so excited to share what will be available in my 2019 holiday shop.

I will begin listing items in my Etsy shop today and continue as I make pieces. Please keep in mind there will be a very limited number of the filled sewing boxes and the pen wipers.

If you are attending the Domestic Skills Symposium at the Genesee Country Village & Museum next weekend, you will have an extra special shopping opportunity.

(Please take a moment to visit my friend Christine’s shop for amazing, sparkly jewelry: https://www.christineandcodesign.com )

Edit: A special thanks to Colleen Formby for noticing what I called a little crochet hook may actually be a repro tatting or purling pin.

Published in: on November 1, 2019 at 1:00 pm  Comments (1)  

2019 FanU Holiday Project

I am excited to offer this Silk Stocking Needle-book for this year’s FanU Holiday Project!

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When I saw this adorable silk stocking needle-book, I knew it would be a delightful option for this year’s project. To make it extra fun, I am sharing directions on how to make the original needle-book as well as a smaller pin-keep and ornament.

The original needle-book is larger than most needle-books, being 7 1/4″ from foot to calf (18.2cm) 3 13/16″ from toe to heel (9.7cm), and 2 15/16″ across the calf (7.4cm). The foundation is two layers of thin pasteboard for each the front and back. The exterior is covered in a blue on blue clouded silk taffeta in a large floral motif. The interior is a tissue taffeta in solid pinkish-red. The edges are bound in tiny whip stitches worked in red thread. The two wool needle-pages are quasi-polygons with the front edge slightly curved. Both pages are bound with an irregular blanket stitch worked in red thread. One of two thread hinges remains at the ankle. I believe the other was previously at the back of the calf. Three bows remain on the needle-book: at the back of the ankle, at the front of the ankle, and at the top of the calf. A fourth may have once been at the top of the front calf as well. Each bow consists of two ribbons: a yellow and red/orange underneath and a black on top.

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Closer looks at some details:

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This damaged corner shows a few things. It let me see just how thin the pasteboard is on this piece. I do suggest we use the fairly standard pasteboard most of us have on the backs of notebook. There is a thicker version I like for boxes, but that would actually be too thick for this project. Along the edge of the fragment piece, you can clearly see the whip stitch used for binding the exterior and interior fabrics.

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This interior corner shows the binding whip stitch as well. This gives a good view of the blanket stitch on the wool needle- pages. This photo also emphasizes the curves this stocking shape has. I think these curvy lines are what make this shape so appealing.

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This close-up shows how each bow is really two bows stacked on top of each other. I rather like how the use of a two color ribbon gives the suggestion of three ribbons.

The Project:

Please download this PDF for directions on making the original size needle-book, a smaller 4″ pin-keep, and a 4″ ornament. You will need your copy of Fanciful Utility to do this project.

November 2019

Examples:

Needle-book

Pin-keep

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Ornaments

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Published in: on November 1, 2019 at 1:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Pumpkin Hood

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. (I do have to retake some of tonight’s photos. My phone camera just doesn’t play well with lights.)

Tonight’s winter millinery pieces is the classic pumpkin hood.

Okay, a little play on words tonight…. A Pumpkin hood on Halloween… Haha?

First, let’s talk about the name: pumpkin. When I first started hearing people call these fluffy hoods “pumpkin hoods” I was skeptical about this being a period name. But, if you hop over to HathiTrust or Google Books, you will find a speckling of search results for “pumpkin hood” including entry and donation lists, as well as references to “old fashioned pumpkin hoods.”

This pumpkin hood is made with a light weight, soft matte black silk taffeta exterior. Inside is a brown cotton lining that may have once been polished and a silk faille facing with soft ribs. Beneath the silk exterior is a light color lining. This style hood is constructed with a single brim/crown piece and bavolet. (in some pumpkin styles a small piece is used it the very back.) There are 5+ softly filled channels that feel as though there may be down inside. Between each loft is a corded channel sewn with a running stitch. A ruffle is formed at the edge of the brim in front of the cord.

The back most loft channel is gathered together as many pumpkin hoods. This lower portion of the channel is turned inside creating the taper on the outside. This makes an elongated heart or teardrop on the back of the hood. This is topped with a ribbon arranged in a bow. This is the same design ribbon used for the ties.

The bavolet was constructed separately of elongated trapazoids, silk and lining. The finished top edge was gathered tightly and attached to the bottom edge of the crown/brim. This technique makes a look similar to gauging.

Inside, the neck edge is covered. Notice the hem of the bavolet with the very even stitches.

Here is the front interior edge showing the cotton lining, silk faille facing, and silk taffeta ruffle.

This is the interior looking at one of the corded channels. This cord is approx 3mm thick, based of feel. It is not overly stiff.

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 October 31, 2019 at 7:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

Winter Hood

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.

For this edition of the winter millinery series, I have a video to share. This video is of my first observations of this winter moments after I opened it.

Here are some detail photos:

Brim quilting and turn back.

Bavolet quilting and bias piecing

Brim quilting and basting at brim edge

Interior with soiling on lining.

Crown quilting

Interior showing hand stitching of silk facing, how the ribbon ties are attached, quilting on lining.

The neck seam or bavolet seam is bound in silk while the crown to brim is raw.

Cotton or linen warp threads along the sides of the silk ribbon.

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 October 23, 2019 at 1:05 am  Comments (1)