Regency Bonnet in White Straw

This sweet Regency era straw bonnet is ready just in time for the holidays.

Published in: on November 23, 2020 at 1:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

Preparing for Winter… 2020

I am snug in my flannels pjs, wrapped up under two fuzzy, with Clara on my stomach watching one of Cornell’s bird cams. We are relaxing after a much needed day in the nineteenth century. Me. Not her.

Today was Preparing for Winter at the Genesee Country Village and Museum. My topic for the day was handmade gifts of the nineteenth century. I thought I would have time to record a short video of my “presentation.” But, the reality was… I took this video and a few too quick photos… Then I didn’t stop talking for 5+ hours.

I talked about finding gift suggestion lists in period publications. I talked about why slippers were a popular gift. I talked about the differences between a wallet and a purse. I talked about what children could have made and sample projects from An American Girl’s Book. I talked about “those squishy pillow things” aka dressing table pin cushions. I talked about pen wipers, which led me to discover several visitors remembered them from childhood when the wrote with pen and ink. One in particular I wish I could have spent more time with as she was nearly in tears on the edge of her memory.

I have so much more to say about today, but I find I am tired. Possibly more later….

Published in: on November 21, 2020 at 6:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

Whimsy Wednesday: Fish Pin-Keep

I had a solid plan: Post Office, then home to tell you fabulous things about the fishy! Well… Then I saw the maintenance man had changed the hvac filter. This meant I could move the utility closet boxes back from the millinery room. Wththat, I had a great idea to put some in the bedroom closet. I did bad. I dropped a box on my head. Corner right down on the top. It hurts. There is a lump.

Oh. The whole point of recording Tuesday was because Wednesday there is a big finals game in town that half the town will be live streaming.

Back to the fishy……

This is such a darling and incredibly well made piece. I am giddy honored to have it.

The detail in pin-keep is just amazing. It is smaller than most pin-keeps I’ve studied, being just under 3 1/2″ long. Some of the pins are set at an angle to fit. I suspect these pins are also shorter than usual. I don’t want to take one out because the silk and paper layers are delicate. Parts of the coloring appear to be ink. Other parts, particularly th scales on the dark blue areas, appear to be an opaque paint. I think the lace was added later. It probably was a good thing to help with handling. (then I go and drop it on camera.)

Published in: on November 18, 2020 at 1:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Whimsy Wednesday

Today’s chat includes some reproduction bog oak bracelets and my current mini-project: toilet cushions.

Violet would like you to know the anchor, rose, cross broach is a perfect size for a doll. The dog, tree, and rose pin seems like it may suit a larger doll as well.

The maker of my bracelets and broaches is Victorian Hair Workers International over on Ebay. Please go take a look at their work. The seller is very helpful in answering questions. I prefer the matte finish of the bog oak line over the Whitby jet line. I find the feel of the bog oak bracelets quite lovely on my wrists. I have yet to hold their other finishes in hand.

I feel I can not mention one artisan I am currently fond of and purchasing from, without mentioning another. (I did say I love this type of jewelry.) Please take a look at the work of Beth Miller Hall, who offers her work on Etsy. Beth shares her research and work processes on her Facebook page.

I do not know if another artisan I have pieces from is currently producing or not. I will check in and let you know if this is the case.

I finished up the blue on blue stripe cushion using the alternate method. While I am satisfied enough, I did find the corners did not fill out quite as well. I also found this method resulted in more puckering along the side. This puckering will be covered in trim, yet to be determined. I am hoping to find a pink or berry in my stash to ruche for the blue. I will make a button or rosette for the center of the blue as the in perfection of that 8 piece point in the center is emphasized when the cushion is filled.

Published in: on November 11, 2020 at 9:55 am  Comments (2)  

Handmade for Christmas ….aka My Thought Process

The most common type seasonal questions I get is “what did they make for Christmas gifts?”, “What did they make for Christmas ornaments?”, “What can I make?”, or “What can my child make?” I get to address this question theme during Preparing for Winter at GCVM coming in a few weeks.

Luckily, period writers help us out with these questions. I’ve shared a few of these over the years:
Jennie Juneianna: Talks on Women’s Topics by Jennie June. (Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1864) has several passages referencing gifts for the Christmas season. “Gifts that Little Girls Can Make” recommends toilet cushions and scent bags.
Christmas Day” includes a few paragraphs illustrating which family member will be gifted what. (Note: I shared this in two parts.) “The Season of Gifts” discusses the cost and meaning of gifts.
A list of gifts for gentlemen and particular occasions from Treasures in Needlework; Comprising Instructions in Knitting, Netting, Crochet, Point Lace, Tatting, Braiding, and Embroidery, by Mrs. Warren and Mrs. Pullan. (London, 1855)
From later in the century, I have excerpts from “Gifts for Women for Christmas” by Francis E. Lanigan and “Homemade Christmas Ornaments” from 1881, out of Cassell’s Household Guide.

Knowing the connection people had with the velvet strawberries a few years back, I am drawn to the desire of recreating that. The small, textured strawberries with up-close details don’t fit in the unique interpretive needs of this season. This year calls for finding items that can not only be seen, but can also spark a connection from a distance. Knowing no single item will spark the connection a strawberry did, I picture a variety of items. Preliminarily, this list of display items includes:


  • Slippers (completed and in process)
  • Purse (Long purse, aka miser purse)
  • Wallet
  • Pen-wipers (need to find a pen for explanation)
  • Pincushion
  • Toilet cushion
  • Medium size workbox (?)

Starting with the pincushion and toilet cushion, This could be one of the segmented cushions I made up in velvet this past summer. The segmented cushion is a curious looking style that is easy to see. This style opens a connection with other segmented cushions including the pillow pin-ball and the more commonly known puzzle ball, which many people may recall as it became a child’s toy in the latter 20th century. I would need to make a puzzle ball and tighten up the research as it is sprawling. Another connection would be comparing a toilet cushion to a sewing pincushion. This could lead to a visual comparison of size and types of pins, and lead to a discussion of how each was used.

The gift of a pen-wiper can be a role player in an interpretive vignette of gifts for a writer: pen, inkwell, paper, and pen wiper. Standing alone, many penwipers can easily be thought a pincushion. In the company of its fellow writing implements, the pen-wiper prompts question and discussion. The simple pinked circle version happens to be an easy demonstration project that families with children could replicate at home.

A purse and a wallet are a natural pair (though, a purse and a workbag are a tempting pairing as well.) Both are words that we can relate to now, with specific purposes. We can tangibly imagine what goes into each.When the nineteenth century versions present themselves, the question of “what goes inside” can be a fun one.

Slippers seem to come up frequently as recommended gifts, while illustrations for making them abound in the century. This season, slippers may be one of those conduits for connecting where guests are standing to what I am wearing, and…. Cold. While I can not have guests touch this year, I can have them look at where they sre standing: a bare wood floor, and ask how that compares to what their floor looks like at home. I am picturing a discussion on how to keep the feet warm and comfortable.


By default, I will be bringin a sewing box to accompany whichever of the above I will be working one during the day. So, bringing a sewing workbox may be redundant. We shall see.


Published in: on November 5, 2020 at 6:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

Whimsy Wednesday: Velvet Bird Ornament

Today’s project is a sweet velvet bird ornament inspired by an original pincushion that was too far out of my reach.

Use this template to make your own bird ornament:

If you enjoy birds or want a simpler project, consider this bird ornament from 2017:

Published in: on November 4, 2020 at 1:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Assorted Winter Bonnet Unboxings

I opened several additions to my winter bonnet and hood collection over the past year. While it is nice to have pristine or exceptional examples, I prefer pieces that allow me to explore how they were made, the details of construction. Some pieces show piecing or little make-dos. Others show wear patterns. Fractured silk can allow a look inside. While some are fairly clear puzzle pieces falling into place, others are little oddities, offering more questions than answers…..

Plaid silk wadded

Lots tbd..

Black silk

Plaid wool hood

Doll size wadded silk hood

Quilted silk hood/bonnet

From the Winter Millinery series I started but got distracted from:

Black silk quilked hood

Published in: on November 1, 2020 at 1:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

Whimsy on the Weekend: Decorating Cornucopia

Cornucopia – a symbol of hope for plenty

I have enjoyed making these straw cornucopia ornaments this year. I hope you enjoy decorating them.

Where can I get a cornucopia? – My handsewn straw cornucopia are available in my Etsy shop. There is an assortment of colors and sizes. If the shop runs out, I can make a few more.

Published in: on October 31, 2020 at 1:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

October Reflections

Yet another month has gone by in a fog and we find ourselves at the end of October…..Do I sound a bit dismal?
Wait a second…. The great spell and grammar check tells me dismal must be spelled with an “s”. Well, I can tell you the current state of being says dizmal feels like it should be spelled with a “z” and possibly multiple “zzz”s at that.
While many have taken delight in seasonal terrors this month brings under the guise of festiveness, I have eyed numbers of all sorts with my own version of trepidation and terrors.
On the upside…. I managed not to sleep my way through this month.
The month started out with a much needed escape to the nineteenth century during the annual visit to the Agricultural Society Fair. Good wares and food were to be had.
I met my goal of making a minimum of 4 straw millinery pieces this month. This included a walnut brown straw high crown late Victorian hat, a black straw dome crown Civil War era hat, a green straw dome crown with fun brown and green vining edge, and a green straw bonnet to finish the month off.

As part of my Share the Spirit initiative, I shared my Clara’s Christmas Friends project during Whimsy Wednesday and added a few Strawberry Pincushions to the Etsy shop.

I am wrapping up the month with a new found fondness for witch hats. I tried my hand at a few styles during the weekend. This resulted in enough hats to display my inner witch ach day of the week.

This weekend I will be preparing my display and project items for Preparing for the Holidays. I’ll be adding all the warm snuggly layers to my basket: wool stockings, wool petticoat, quilted petticoat, knit waistcoat, wristlets, and warm hoods.

Published in: on October 30, 2020 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Mossy Green Bonnet

This bonnet is made with a pretty green straw that is a more mossy green than the forest green I usually have. Side by side, this has a hint more blue. From the front this bonnet has round brim with just a hint of the spoon shape from the side. The edge of the brim is finished with vining braid.

This bonnet was blocked on an original bonnet block. It is best suited for an average to smaller head.

https://www.etsy.com/listing/881418972/civil-war-era-straw-bonnet-hand-sewn-by

Published in: on October 29, 2020 at 7:45 pm  Leave a Comment