November Reflections

Blink…. November has gone.

This was a tough month personally. Lots of emotion, tears, and leaning on much needed shoulders. Thank you all for baring with me.

I started November off with the 2019 FanU Holiday Project.

The Winter Millinery Series continued to look at original winter hoods and bonnets in my collection.

The second weekend of the month was the Domestic Skills Symposium at the Genesee Country Village and Museum, where I taught a unique workshop called Straw Surgery.

I can’t share the millinery pieces I made this month because most of them are gifts. I did write a millinery gifting post I hope people find fun.

I wrapped the month up with Preparing for Winter at the museum. It was Packed. It was Cold. It was Good.

I will be spending most of December making gifts of my own. I may also make a few winter hoods.

Published in: on December 1, 2019 at 3:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

Preparing for Winter

As I walked through the doorway, both brooms fell…. Guests are coming!

oh! did! they! come!

Both the kitchen and dining room of Foster were packed full to capacity for hours. Many times, there was barely room to move.

I was very excited to finally get to work with the uncredibly talented Chris. But, I barely saw her. She brought her handmade Noah’s Ark set and toys for display as she demonstrated whittling wood. I wish I had more time to really look at her Santas and animals.

In the kitchen, I set up an assortment of handmade gifts including the dolls, winter hoods, a workpocket, and pen wiper. This seemed to get a good balance of interest. One young guestwas so caring and gentle as she held each of the dolls. Totally scared her Dad. I got most of the brim of a pumpkin hood done, but between talking and cold, cold hands, the stitching isn’t what I would like.

Oh….I discovered I need to reset the closures on my skirts because the kept slipping. 🙂

Published in: on November 30, 2019 at 5:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

2019 Reenactor WishList

It has been a few years since I updated my very popular “What do I get my wife for Christmas?” post. This post has been very popular over the years. I get a smile each time I see it pop up on my daily stats.

It is time for a 2019 update. I decided to do this year’s recommendations for what to get the reenactor or interpreter on you list based on “If I Wrote a Christmas List”:

First up, Delp stockings . I love their stockings, be it the cotton, wool, or the silk. They fit comfortably and wear well. If she does a lot of summer events, I recommend the their silk stockings. If she does, colder events, pick up some wool.

I have fallen in love with Family Heirloom Weavers this year. The offer beautifully woven coverlets, throws, tablecloths, and runners. My wish piece is a long cherry tree runner that will fit my rather large coffee table trunk.

I find I always need something period to write on at events. The Button Baron has writing implements for almost any need. They have full writing desks with pens and paper to add, a really nice on the go writing roll, and pretty marblized journals that would make a great stocking stuffer. Btw, this is the size I keep in my sewing worlbox.

I have a weak spot for buckles, especially the reproduction buckles Ensembles of the Past offers. I have almost all of them. Almost. These buckles are well made from originals and stand out for their quality and authenticity.

Pomade is something I go through a lot of. I have a few favorites. I particularly like the lavender pomade from Talbotts and Queen Bee Hair Honey from Lush. You’ll need a period container or two for the second one, but, while you are there, they have lots of other gift worthy products. I am a huge fan.

I would be silly if I did not mention I have a few gift offerings in my Etsy shop.

Published in: on November 25, 2019 at 11:13 am  Comments (1)  

How to Sneak Your Wife’s Bonnet/Hat Size

Tis the season of surprise gifting…. Which means the challenge of finding just the right thing… and the right size.

Hopefully, this guide will make it a little easier.

When it comes to 19th century millinery, it is important to understand how a bonnet or hat is supposed to fit before trying to find the right piece. A fashionable bonnet worn from the early 1850s through the Civil War was meant to perch on the back of the head. Take a look at this image:

A fashionable hat of this era was meant to sit high on the head, near the hairline. This is quite different from the modern hat that sits low on the forehead. Take a look:

Now that you have a general understanding of how a bonnet and hat should fit, let’s talk about how to get those measurements…

The Easy Way:

Does your wife/girlfriend/sister/mother already own a hat that fits from me or Timely Tresses or Pam Robles?


Measure around the inside using a flexible sewing tape measure. Lack that kind of tape measure? Use a string and compare to a ruler or metal tape measure.

While you are at it,take a couple photos of the hat. We may remember the piece.

Measure Her

If you think you can sneak a measurement right from her without her knowing, great!

Here is a guide for getting a hat measurement:


This higher, hairline measurements is often smaller than those taken at the eyebrow. A comfortable, period worn hat will be this measure minus one inch less. For example: a woman with a 22.5″ measure at the hairline will wear a hat 21.5″.

For a bonnet, get both the red and green line above. Also, measure from earlobe to earlobe over the top of her head.

If you are indeed trying to sneak a measurement while she is sleeping, be sure she is a sound sleeper or has enjoyed and extra glass of wine. Make certain the tape measure is as even as possible.

Need to Measure Another Way?

This is where it gets a little harder. If you can’t get a measuremement from a hat, you will need to measure another way or get a good estimate. Consider enlisting help from a friend.

  • See if you can get her to try on a friend’s hat or tiara. (Finishing the ellipse of a tiara really can give an idea.)
  • Trick her into measuring her own head or putting something measureable on her head. Make a game of it.
  • Measure something else. Things that might give measures to work from: Modern fashion hats (take a photo), custom fit riding hats.Things not to measure: Knit or crochet hats, reenacting hats that fit poorly, sleeping masks, cowboy hats.

When all else fails, estimating may help. General guidelines I use:

  • Small = Less than 21″ at the hairline (crown less than 20″)
  • Average = 21″-22.5″ at the hairline (crown 20-21.5″)
  • Large = Greater than 22.5″ at the hairline (crown greater than 22″)

Measuring example:

Here is my head with the tape showing where to measure. This is where I wear most CW era hats:

I am 22.5″ around at my eyebrows and 21.5″ at my hairline. The vast land of the internet tells me that the average woman’s head measures 22.5″ to 22 5/8″ around at the modern measuring point. So, I am about average. I comfortably wear a mid-nineteenth century hat that is 19.5″ to 21.5″

Published in: on November 25, 2019 at 10:37 am  Leave a Comment  

New Black Hat

I just added a fashionable taper crown black straw hat to the shop. This hat is for an average size head, being 20.5″ around the crown. (note: there is some asymmetry to the back of the brim. I was sewing in low light again.)

Published in: on November 14, 2019 at 7:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

Gifts that Little Girls can Make

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

Jennie Juneiana: Talks on Women’s Topics by Jennie June (Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1864)

Gifts that Little Girls can Make

A little girl once asked us, confidentially, what she could make without asking her mother, which she did not wish to do, because the present was for her mother, and she had no sisters, and only two shillings in money. We told her of several things which she could easily make herself, and which would cost within that sum; and now we mention them again, for the benefit of other little girls.

A plain dimity toilet cushion is one of the most useful and acceptable of gifts, and is easily and cheaply made. A double piece of thick cotton cloth – size, six by eight inches; this must be stitched closely round, leaving half of one end open, so it can be stuffed with bran. When it is thoroughly stuffed, wedged well down into the corners, then the gap may be sewed up, and the foundation of the cushion is complete. The cover is made of fine white dimity, surrounded with a frill, neatly hemmed. It is made like a bag, one end being left open, the other side hemmed, and the frill attached to the upper one, so that it can be readily be slipped on and off when it is soiled and needs washing. More elegant cushions may be made just as easily by substituting colored silk or ribbon for the foundation, and transparent muslin for the cover, with a frill of lace.

The pretty silk and satin scent-bags, which cost from fifty cents to a dollar at a perfumer’s, may be made in a few minutes with a scrap of satin, a little piece of gold or silver cord to tie it up with, and sixpence worth of scented powder to enclose in the inside. The more costly ones are embossed, made flat, and surrounded with narrow gold braids or silver fringe. Little circular travelling cushions filled with pins, are also nice, as are handsome morocco needle-books, well supplied with pockets, and with fine flannel leaves; but these are almost too elaborate for little fingers, unaided.  

Published in: on November 14, 2019 at 1:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Gifts for….

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

Treasures in Needlework; Comprising Instructions in Knitting, Netting, Crochet, Point Lace, Tatting, Braiding, and Embroidery, by Mrs. Warren and Mrs. Pullan. (London, 1855)

“There are many occasions in life when ladies desire to mark their esteem for a friend by some gift or token; and they are often in the choice of what to give or to work. Hence it is that no question is more frequently asked than, “What will be a suitable present for so-and-so?” or, “What will be the most valuable things I can make for a Fancy Fair?”

In making gifts to individuals, the leading idea is, to assure them of our regard. That the gift is out own production, greatly adds to its value in the estimation of the recipient; and, indeed, there are many circumstances in which, when desiring to show gratitude for kindness, a lady may very properly offer a specimen of her own work, when a purchased gift would either be unsuitable or out of her power. For the same reason, – that it proves the receiver to have been an object of our thought and care, – any article evidently intended for that person only, is more welcome than such as might have been worked for anybody. The following list of articles, suitable for the respective purposes, will be found suggestive:


Braces. – Embroidered on velvet, or worked on canvas, from a Berlin pattern.

Cigar Cases. – Crochet. Velvet, and cloth applique, velvet, or cloth braided. Embroidered or worked in beads.

Slippers. – Braided on cloth, morocco, or velvet; applique cloth and velvet; Berlin work.

Shaving Books, especially useful. – Braided. Worked in beads on canvas. Crochet, colored beads, and white cotton. (washable.)

Smoking Caps. – Velvet braided richly; cloth, velvet and cloth applique. Netted darned, on crochet.

Fronts for Bridles. – Crest embroidered with seed beeds.

Waistcoats. – Braided on cloth or velvet. Embroidered.

Penwipers. – Worked in beads, and fringed. Applique velvet and cloth. Gold thread.



Sermon Cases.

Comforters. Driving Mittens. Scarfs.


Chairs. – Embroidered in applique. Berlin work ditto. Braided ditto.

Sofa Cushions. – Braided or embroidered.

Screens. – Raised cut Berlin work. Berlin work with beads.

Hand Screens. – Netted and darned. Applique. Crochet.


Table Covers. – Cloth, with bead or Berlin borders. Cloth braided.

Set of Dish Mats. – Worked in beads, with initials in the centre; border round; and grounded in clear white beads.

Fancy Mats. – For urns, lamps, &c.

Ottomans. – Braided. Applique, or embroidered.

Footstools. – Berlin or bead work. Braided.

Whatnots. – Braided. Berlin work.

Doyleys., – The set – bread, cheese, and table doyleys – worked in broderie and chain stitch.


Netted Curtains.


Point-Lace Collars, Chemisettes, Handkerchiefs, &c.

Embroidered Ditto.

Handkerchief Case or Box. – On satin, embroidered or braided in delicate colours.

Glove Box. – Worked In beads. Initials in centre; grounded with white beads.

Slippers. – Braided or embroidered.

Workbaskets. – Netted and darned, or darned on filet, or crochet.

Carriage bags. – Braided. Worked in Berlin work or beads.

Purses. – Netted or darned, or crochet; delicate colours, as pink and silver.

Porte-Monnair, or Note Case. – Crest or monogram in centre, grounded in beads.

Embroidered Aprons. – Worked in Brodierie-en-lacet. Braided, or embroidered.

Toilet Cushions. – Crochet or netting.

Reticules. – Darned netting; or embroidery.


Infants’ Caps. – Point lace, crochet, or embroidery.

Frocks. – Ditto.

Quilts. – Crochet. Bead borders with motto, and drop fringe. Crest in the centre.

Pincushions. – Crochet, or embroidered satin.

Blankets. – Knitted with white wool, in double kitting, – a real “blessing to mothers.”

These are a few of the leading and most useful presents. They are equally appropriate as offerings to a Fancy Fair.”

Published in: on November 13, 2019 at 1:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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