What Mass-produced “reproduction ” Bonnets Get Wrong

Sunday morning, I did a short Reel about one aspect mass-produced 1850s-1860s style bonnets get wrong. Then, I quickly realized I have much more to say on the subject. I need to get my hands on one of the mass-produced bonnets to really show people what I am talking about. Until then, here is Sunday’s Reel (moved to YouTube. )

Published in: on April 17, 2023 at 7:14 am  Leave a Comment  

Understanding the Ribbon Bavolet

~~~This is one of the many wonderful bonnets found in the Susan Greene Collection at the Genesee Country Village. (To see some of their ribbons, be sure to hop over to the Millinery Ribbon Blog.) ~~~ This straw bonnet shows a great many things from the over-all spoon bonnet shape to the shape of the cheektabs to the fineness of the straw. I would like us to look at the bavolet today. We also know the bavolet as the “curtain.” The bavolet is a fabric or ribbon pleated into the back neckline edge of a bonnet. This can resemble a flounce in that the top is drawn in while the lower edge floats or flares out. The bavolet can, but does not need to be a single material as we see here. It can be made of layers of silk, net and lace. Some high-end fashion plates show beading as well.

(Honestly, I don’t think I could handle beads dangling on my neck.)
~~~The construction seams on the underside are covered by a net. Net is used to give the silk bavolet more body and fullness. It is sewn so the net is not seen from the outside and pleated into the bavolet. The bavolet reaches all the way around the back of the bonnet (the tip) and up along the sides while the lower edge connects to the cheektabs.
*The section of ribbon that decorates the exterior of the bonnet can be on the grain or on the bias. The ties need to be on the grain. To see a nice example of the ribbon decorating over the top of the bonnet, see this MFA example that happens to have the bavolet on the grain. Notice how the bavolet flops more than floats.

Published in: on April 17, 2023 at 12:05 am  Comments (3)  


A couple weeks ago, I decided to try making informative mini videos with reels. Just this morning I realized I can download them and shared them on YouTube. (Again, time travel put me behind the times.) Here are the first three millinery reels. There will be more.

Published in: on April 14, 2023 at 8:42 am  Leave a Comment  

Straw Bonnet Workbook

First Review – Thank You!

Published in: on April 13, 2023 at 4:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

Straw Bonnet Workbook

My newly re-written 1850s-1860s Straw Bonnet Workbook is ready!!!!!

My Straw Bonnet Workbook walks you through hand sewing a late 1850s to early 1860s straw bonnet from straw plait. Included are directions for a high brim bonnet, often referred to as a “Spoon Bonnet” and directions for a low brim bonnet, also known as a “Cottage Bonnet.”

This workbook starts with an introduction and a brief history of straw millinery in the mid-nineteenth century with a look at original straw bonnets and bonnet blocks in my collection. The core of the workbook gives step by step instructions with color photos of working from crown to brim, guiding you through making your own straw bonnet. The workbook wraps up with a discussion of finishing materials and bonnet care.

***Please know this workbook requires hand sewing straw plait/braid. This workbook does not include directions for machine sewing or pattern pieces.***

***This purchase includes 2 downloads – The 55-page Workbook had to be divided into 2 files to fit on Etsy. Be sure to download Both files.***

Published in: on April 12, 2023 at 5:24 pm  Leave a Comment  


Coming Soon!

My newly updated, likely long overdue, Straw Bonnet Workbook is in the proofreading & final edits process. My hope is to have it up in Etsy and available this weekend, sooner if I get a burst of energy or can’t sleep again. The next step is splitting the file into two pdfs that fit Etsy’s size parameters and writing the listing. I am very excited to have this project come together quickly. If you look over on the right side of this page (or bottom on mobile devices) you will see the contents has been updated in anticipation of not only this workbook but a couple other publications as well.

Changes on Patreon

I made an update to two of my Patreon tiers. The Straw Sewer and Milliner levels will now receive some of my e-publications as part of their support level. This will include a the coming Straw Bonnet Workbook as well as other future, and possibly past, e-books and e-patterns.

New Groups Kits Coming Soonish

The great Spring Purge looms. Actually, it is much delayed as it should have been done last week. When I tackle the disarray that is the millinery room, I decided to assemble some project kits with small groups in mind. I have precut materials for Fanciful Utility style sewing case workshops. I plan to put them together in sets, likely 6 or/and 8 or/and 10, for people to do in groups. This may end up happening this summer.

Published in: on April 11, 2023 at 5:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Weather Outside is…. Drenching

Here is a past post that should fit with “April showers.”

With this soak-you-to-the-bone weather leading up to and likely through the weekend event, I am thinking about ways to keep dry. As I think through my list, I realize most of them won’t happen because the bits and pieces needed are buried deep in storage. That doesn’t mean I can’t share them with you.
Reenacting events inevitably mean walking, likely through grass or even mud. With wool boots, I find my rubber over-shoes a must. They slip right over my boots covering up to about my ankle. Extant rubber over-shoes were found when the Steamboat Arabia was uncovered. Those made by Tingley seem to be the closest.
Just in case, still pack extra stockings or socks for everybody.
A wool coat can help keep the wet off of most of you. A long paletot gives you great flexibility in the arms while buttoning up the front to keep you dry.
If you don’t have a coat, consider the largest, plain or plaid wool shawl you have. Wrapping this around you will help keep you dry.
We talk a lot about parasols in reenacting but not much about umbrellas. Use an umbrella, a period umbrella of course.
Skip the fashion bonnet. Instead opt for a sunbonnet or for a hood. Water can cause a bonnet to soften, warp and even run.
If you carry a bag, make sure it is water-resistant. You may want to try a pocket instead. A pocket hidden under layers of skirts can usually stay dryer than a bag carried out in the open. If you must carry medicines or modern technology put them inside painted canvas bags or zip-lock bags just incase.
For larger bags, choose one with a heavy carpet and good closure. If it has a leather or painted canvas bottom, even better. Leave the bandbox at ‘home’.
You will be happier with your tent if you have sod-flaps and overlapping doors. Also put down a good water barrier under your flooring. I find a wool rug helps control the moisture better than other fibers.
Inside your tent let wool rule. Wool rugs on the ground help keep the area more comfortable. Put a wool blanket layer over your cot or ticking first. Be sure it drapes almost to the ground on each side. This keeps the moisture from coming up from underneath. Make you bed how you prefer. Then cover it all with a wool quilt or blanket. This will keep the moisture from getting in during the day. If you are sensitive to a moist pillow, wrap it with an extra wool shawl during the day to keep it dry.
Don’t hang your clothes. Put them in a trunk or box with a layer of wool covering them to help keep moisture down. You may consider a layer of wool on the bottom as well.
As you settle in for the evening, light a candle or two (safely). Whether the candles really do help cut the moisture or not, they help psychologically.
What do you do if you do get drenched?
If you can lay or drape your dress flat that will be best. Hanging it can cause it to stretch under the weight of being wet. If you have a trim that can run, be sure to lay the dress so the fabric does not lay back on itself particularly the trim.
If your bonnet get damp, set it up on a hat/bonnet stand. If you don’t have on make-d0 with something like the back of a chair. Do not lay it on its side because it will warp.
If your bonnet gets particularly wet, try to blot the trimmings so there is no running water. If your flowers are pinned in or on, consider removing them so they will not run on the bonnet itself.
If your boots get wet inside, stuff them with newsprint or fabric to absorb the water. Do Not put them near the fire as they can be damaged. (most warranties do not cover fire damage)
If your corset gets wet, layer it inside material to press out any excess moisture. Drape it over the back of a chair to dry.

Published in: on April 10, 2023 at 12:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Work in Progress: New Publication

What I am working on this week:
A new version of my Straw Bonnet Workbook.

I am updating my first work to reflect a better understanding of shaping straw for an 1860s bonnet and using finer straw. The format will parallel my wadded hood workbook, meaning it will include information from my research as well as details from an original and study pieces.

I had hoped to pull off the vast majority of this rewrite this week, spring recess for me.  But, some wild thunderstorms slowed me down a little during the first half.

I do have nearly 400 photos of sample pieces and background information narrowed down (mostly) and sorted in order. I anticipate this publication will be similar in length to the wadded hood workbook,  around 50 pages. This likely means being divided into two files on Etsy.

I am already envisioning future volumes focusing on an 1840s bonnet and an 1880s capote. I do have a Quilted Hood Workbook started as well.

Published in: on April 6, 2023 at 10:43 am  Comments (1)  

Trying Something New

This morning, I am trying something new. I created a few super-short informational videos in Instagram’s reels (yes, I know I am way behind the times when it comes to personal/millinery use of tech.) Now to see if they will link in WordPress…..

Rows of straw…



Hand stitches on straw bonnets…


Lining on straw bonnets….


It looks like I can link but not embed. Now I know.

Published in: on April 3, 2023 at 10:13 am  Leave a Comment  

“What should be my first bonnet?”

This week’s question comes from a visitor who wants to begin reenacting as a hobby. They are either just starting out or have been reenacting for a short time. In developing their wardrobe, they know they need a bonnet. They ask “What should be my first bonnet?” or “What bonnet should I buy.”

My answer often surprises.

A sunbonnet.

So many women post about just starting and needing a bonnet. They often waste money on a bad fashion bonnet. I would rather see them buy a sensible sunbonnet and save for the right fashion bonnet. But, no. The bad fashion purchase gets worn far too long out of the feeling of remorse for the expense.

A correctly made sunbonnet is a purchase that will last many years. It will protect the wearer’s face, hair, and neck from the sun. It can also protect the fashion bonnet by allowing it to stay “home” in inclement weather.

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Published in: on April 3, 2023 at 12:05 am  Leave a Comment