For the Love of Pockets

If you have been following even for a short while, you know I love pockets. I love making pockets. I love having pockets.
For years, I carried a basket or a purse. It would get filled with a myriad of this and that, period and modern.
All this stuf I thought I needed to have on me. Extra water, a camera, a little money…. You know what? It all just added up and added up. Frankly, it was heavy and a PITA.
It also wasn’t accurate.
Then, one glorious day, I learned about pockets. Dresses had pockets! We aren’t talking the wimpy pockets in women’s jeans that barely hold a few dollars and a small set of keys. We are talking huge, mother of all pockets!
Don’t think they could be that big?
Take a look at my dress from a few years ago. Okay, 15 years ago. (Ignore the hair falling down and the gloves for rusty nails. This was a heavy work day, building fences and moving corn.) The pocket in that dress is holding my lunch including a couple bottles of water and bananas. Can you tell?

I wear two pockets when dressed in Victorian era clothing. Each of my 1830s through 1860s dresses has a pocket on one side, preferably the right side. In this pocket goes the things I need throughout the day of the event, the period items. On the other side is a separate pocket that sits either below my skirt or below my skirt and upper petticoat. This pocket holds the modern items I hope not to need during an event but should have on me in case of emergency or when I leave.

The dress pocket with period items holds:

  • Building key
  • A small wallet/pocket with ID and cash. This is roughly 3.5”x2.5”.
  • Handkerchief
  • Possibly a workpocket
  • Possibly a purse (a small item that carries money)
  • Possibly a fan
  • Possibly a glass

My seperate tie-in pocket holds:

  • Epipen
  • Medications I need immediate access to
  • Car key (mine pop apart)
  • Phone if I need it

This video shows a sampling of what I carry in my pockets:

Want your own pocket? I have a few available in my Etsy shop:

Plain cotton pocket set into the seam of a cotton plaid skirt. The pocket is nearly rectangular shape with a fold down the long side, and a seam on the bottom and short side.

Pockets were most often set into the seam of a skirt. Originals show pockets were long, wide enough for the hand to fit comfortably, and both rounded or squared on the bottom. They are often a plain or cotton print with the seam to the outside of the pocket. Sometimes a support stay attaches to the pocket part way down and to the waistband. A straight edge of the pocket lines up with the skirt seam, and the skirt edge folds over the edge of the pocket. I prefer to do two rows of stitches around the edge of my pocket for a strong pocket.

The Lady’s Guide to Perfect Gentility and Manners, by Emily Thornwell, 1859.

Seperate tie-in pockets proceed the Victorian era by many decades. While seperate pockets grew less common by the 1840s and 50s as dress pockets became more common, they were still in use and recommended for situations like travel.

Separate pocket beneath the petticoat for travelling – Eliza Leslie’s The Behaviour Book , 1853 & 1859.  Republished as The Ladies Guide to True Politeness and Perfect Manners, 1864.

Currently, there is a pair of pockets embroidered by sisters Mary Ann and Hannah Rose Brigham of New Hampshire in an Etsy shop One is dated 1850. Both show wear indicating their use.

What did they carry in their pockets?

The Behaviour Book: A Manual for Ladies, Eliza Leslie. 1855.
The Behaviour Book: A Manual for Ladies, Eliza Leslie. 1855.

Published in: on January 23, 2022 at 11:27 am  Comments (1)  

A Pair of Bonnets

Usually, when we see a bonnet in a cdv we get a bit from a slightly turned front angle. We can see some shape and some trims.

Delightfully, this image gives us fairly clear, nearly sixty degree angles of not one but two bonnets. As these beautiful bonnets are distinctly 1840s pieces, I suspect this is a cdv copy of an earlier image, though I am not well versed in photography nor that process.

We can see both bonnets have a nearly horizontal transition from crown to brim. The brims reach forward of the face, one in a near circle, the other circular with a more vertical line to the cheektabs. These cheektabs are wide, with a gentle curve, lasting at and just below the chin. Both bonnets feature shallow bavolets, while the one on the right shows just a hint of what may be straw plait. Trim is minimal on both, with ribbon or sashing wrapping around the crown of the bonnets in two different methods. One ribbon appears solid while the other shows a design, likely floral. Neither bonnet shows trims on the interior or the lined bonnets. The women’s seperatly worn caps can be seen inside the bonnets.

Published in: on January 19, 2022 at 2:20 pm  Comments (1)  

Larger, High Brim Bonnets

I have three larger, higher brim bonnets to offer you this week. These were each blocked on my larger, high brim block. The top of the brim has a feature I don’t offer often: a slightly squared top of the brim. One is made with a beautiful golden straw plait. Two are blocked from woven sisal, in two natural shades.

Comparison of shades.

I am going to attempt to make a couple woven bonnets each month. The two milliners who were making blocked woven bonnets retired, leaving a void. I hope to fill this just a little. The process for these is quite different from the sewn straw plait pieces I usually make. I am learning the nuances as I go. Straw plait will remain my passion and focus.

Published in: on January 16, 2022 at 1:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

Looking for a smaller bonnet with a little something special?

Looking for a smaller bonnet with a little something special?
This is it!

The hank of straw I am working with currently has the most beautiful golden wheat color. It made the prettiest bonnet. It is entirely hand sewn and blocked with an original millinery block.

Published in: on January 9, 2022 at 11:14 am  Leave a Comment  

Victorian Plain & Fancy Work BINGO

Today I offer Victorian Plain & Fancy Work Bingo.

In lieu of monthly challenges, I thought a year long game that could be played independently would be fun.

Published in: on January 4, 2022 at 1:29 pm  Comments (2)  

New Shop Section

On this second day of the year, I am announcing a new section for my Etsy shop.


I love making pockets. Plain pockets. Quilted pockets. Patchwork pockets. Embroidered pockets. But, I simply can not keep them all. By offering pockets in the shop, I can enjoy making them without being overrun by them.

To start off the shop section, I’ve assembled 5 plain pockets made from Family Heirloom Weavers Fabrics. They are lined with either linen or cotton.. Three are entirely hand-sewn, while two combine hand and machine sewing. The perimeter is double sewn, encasing the raw edge inside. The opening is also double sewn, reinforced with a buttonhole stitch and button loop at the bottom. I chose simple tape ties for ease of wear.

Pockets are a historically accurate way for holding necessary items during most of the 18th and 19th centuries. Worn under the skirt and accessed through a slit, pockets free the hands from carrying a bag or basket.

A pocket can become an interpretative source, carrying pieces of material culture to share with visitors. These items can become educational prompts, helping visitors connect with history.

A pocket can also secure essential modern items safety under the skirts and petticoat. Medications, keys, and even a phone can be kept without out of sight. They are no longer at risk of spilling out of a basket or bag.

Interested in learning more about pockets? Check out the book The Pocket: A Hidden History of Women’s Lives.

Published in: on January 2, 2022 at 8:15 am  Leave a Comment  

Looking at Cheektabs

This video was on my holiday recess to-do list. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to sleep or enjoy my last day off without doing the video tonight.

My hope is this video helps give a better understanding of cheektabs – what they look like on original bonnets, how they should look on reproduction bonnets, and how they should frame the face.

I also just had a great question about how a straw bonnet stays on the head. I talk a little bit about how the cheektabs, ribbon, and inner brim decorations work together in tonight’s video. I plan to do a video that looks further at this. In the meantime, here is information on how a bonnet stay works and helps a bonnet stay on:

Published in: on January 1, 2022 at 9:39 pm  Comments (4)  

New Year, New Millinery

I have 4 beautiful bonnets ready fo New Year’s Day.

I will activate the Etsy listings when I wake up.

Published in: on January 1, 2022 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Hello 2022

I step into this new year as one would step barefoot into freshly dewed grass.

With gentle caution and anticipation. The dew will be frosty cold and wet, yet the grass will be so soft underfoot, with hope and connection.

Just me?

Not knowing what to expect from this year, I do not have the expected list of garments and accessories I hope to sew. Instead, I have framework and a plan.

One of the biggest things I need to keep on top of this year is my budget. As you know, the cost of just about everything has gone up. Meanwhile, contractual increases from my main job does not cover it. I need to push myself to make up the difference with my millinery business going forward.

Patreon Shift

I will be moving more content to Patreon as exclusive Patreon access. This is to thank my current generous Patrons and to encourage new Patrons. The majority of new In Detail publications will be moving Patreon. I will also be exploring additional Patreon exclusive content such as project insights and video content.


Knowing most are entering this year with a combination of hope and uncertainty, I want to assure you my millinery will focus on quality and sound research. I want you to be confident when you purchase a bonnet or hat from me, knowing it is well made, with period techniques, and will last many years when cared for.

As I write this in mid-December, my plan is to start sewing shop pieces during recess for January. I am toying with some special straw ideas. A friend actually asked me about something similar, not knowing I planned to explore the idea. I am taking that as a sign.


I plan to continue my focus on women’s employment this year. There is so much of this history to be found and shared, some of it good, some of it bad. I hope to find individual stories from or about these women to accompany the numbers and accounts.

I also want to further explore the connection between fancy work items and the people who created them, the stories the items can tell, and how visitors connect with them. I am continually amazed with how individual visitors connect with particular items, be it a sentimental childhood memory, a deep sensory recollection, or some detail that weaves into something else they know. I feel there is something deeper here to explore, though I am not quite certain what that something is yet.

Clara’s Friends

I will be making an announcement regarding Clara’s Friends soon.

YouTube Channel

I am going to continue the YouTube channel, but I will need to cut back the amount of time I put into it. While I loved making videos over the past two years, I found I was putting more time into them than I realized. Since YouTube will not be an income source, I have to cut back on the amount if time I put in each week. I currently plan to do videos from programs/events, when I have something useful to share, and if I have a project for you. This may change a bit as seasons change or as the year progresses.


Well. I am still working on some life things. Aren’t we all?

Balance and stability are my personal foci for the year. I bought myself some hiking boots. I miss nature and the woods. A big personal goal this year is to spend more time with Mother Nature. Walking. Sitting. Listening. Feeling.

For personal sewing…. I find I like my plait 1830s dress so much, I am going to make another. I also find I want another cooler weather dress or at least basque. I need to go through my wools to see what I have. I may have a light green plaid with enough yardage to do a basque and skirt set.

Published in: on January 1, 2022 at 1:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Will You Become a Patreon Patron for the New Year

This past year, with the funds from Patreon I have paid for my WordPress platform and domains, WeVideo video editing, and a new document camera.

In the coming year, I hope to continue researching, developing presentations and interpretations, writing, and offering videos. Your support through Patreon will continue to pay for both written and video content, as well as research endeavours.

I would love to double my Patreon supporters to 20 in 2022. Doing so would reduce my regular financial anxieties and allow me to give more focused attention to my work.

If you are able, please consider supporting me on Patreon:

Published in: on December 27, 2021 at 6:46 pm  Leave a Comment