Turn of the Year…. 2019 becomes 2020

While New Years Day officially declares the changing of the year, I find the time from Solstice through the New Year, and even through to Twelfth Night, to be this foggy, veiled transition from one year into the next. These three-ish weeks are filled with Yuletide, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, my Father’s and Uncle’s birthdays…. Festivities, family time, friend time…. Self reflection on accomplishments, achievements, and personal survivals. For me, this time swirls together fireside warmth, lights, velvety jewel colors, smells of the evergreen forest, and depth of heart. Being the darkest days and nights of the year, this is a time for reconnecting with the unseen, what can be felt and smelled on the sensory level, the interpersonal “hearth and home” of those we share our lives with. Being that I’ve felt disconnected from some of these things, I am taking the time this Yule to close my eyes feel in hopes of making a more truly connected transition into the new year.

And now for the traditional looks back and ahead…

2019 accomplishments:

~~ When I counted out the millinery pieces of the year, I was happily surprised to find how the numbers worked out. I made 92 straw millinery pieces for people, 6 straw millinery pieces for dolls, and 1 lappet style winter hood. This means my 100th millinery piece was (nearly) completed during GCVM’S Holiday Open House. This was not a goal, nor intentional. But, it did feel right as I counted up the numbers.

This turns out to be about 1,500 hours of hand sewing, working through over 2,100 yards of straw plait and three coils of wire. I added several original hoods and bonnets to my collection, many of which you can see the Winter Millinery Series.

Etsy wanted to point out this is a record year for my millinery shop. I am very grateful to each of you who purchased a piece, shared my listings, and supported my work. Thank you.

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~~ I feel as though I made both strides and baby steps in wrapping my head around how I want to present straw millinery. This is two fold for me: the tactile art of the straw becoming millinery and the employment opportunities for women from cottage industry to business ownership.

I found myself giddy twice this year as I developed display pieces for the straw art aspect. First was in finally getting a pleasing presentation format for showing the stages from field to plait as well as the variety of plaits (lower right of photo.) Second was being able to purchase antique decorative straw millinery motifs and finding a perfect display box by a local craftsman.

~~ I gave myself a personal challenge for Ag Fair this year: each entry had to begin with the letter “P“. This became pockets, pen wipers, pin cushions, work pockets, and petticoats in miniature. (This coming year doesn’t have a letter theme, but, I do already have something big in mind. Fingers crossed.)



~~ Discovery of pen wipers! How much fun have these little pretties been?

I’ve really been captivated by how these practical little items can be just so precious. I love how they can be made from the littlest bits and pieces. They truly are a form of Fanciful Utility.

~~ Little projects included…. Revitalizing two wooden fans… making several pairs of earrings that then wandered away, possibly with feline assistance… giving a handful of dolls a new life (DPtC post coming on them)… accidentally dyed my stockings and underpinnings pink… and probably a few other things I am forgetting.

2020 Projects ahead:

  • Pink plaid parasol
  • Rose stripe sheer 1860s gown
  • Pink plaid gown
  • 1830s dress (still from 2018)
  • Red wool petticoat
  • Blue wool skirt with tbd work bodice
  • Winter hood book (still from 2017)
  • The super secret project
  • Embroidery on ticking relaxation project (kit from Colleen)
  • Birdcage Windsor chair currently in kit form
Published in: on December 22, 2019 at 7:38 am  Leave a Comment  

Holiday Open House

This morning, I awoke after the sun came up. After the sun came up. What a simple, glorious thing.

Today is Yule! Today is Solstice! Today was Holiday Open House!

It was a beautiful winter day in the historic village. There was a full blanket of snow fresh from the squalls earlier this week. The temperatures rose from the deep freeze earlier this week. With the sun being out, it was a great day for families to come out for the day.

Inside Foster, milliner and tailor teamed up to talk about winter weather attire.

Watching over us, the Reverend and his wife didn’t look quite so stern with their mantle decorated.

What do you get when you mix winter, hundreds of people, and a blur of time?


Lots of mud!

People came promptly at 11 for opening. They seemed to come a dozen at a time. We had them shuffle in and out in groups, filling the diningroom and kitchen beyond what I ever thought either could hold.

Then, at one point, I am not sure why, I stood up. Thus is when I saw the floor. Um? Oh.

Luckily, there was as many smiles as there was mud.

The day flew by in a flash it seemed. It has been awhile since I finished a day and excitedly thought “let’s do that again.”

Through the day, I worked on number 100. That is until I ran out of wool. I’ll be finishing it this week. Here is where it is at:

I did wear my coat that I’ve been working on. It has its quilted silk panels along the hem. It still needs its cuff panels and collar band.

I took a few photos before opening. I want you to notice the sorti cap Deborah Hyland made for me. This was my firt time wearing it. I love it. It kept my head nicely warm, which is especially important to me. I was supposed to add ribbons, but couldn’t settle between the green and brown I picked out.

Happy Yule!

Happy Solstice!

Notes: My cap and wristlets are by Deborah Hyland. My knit waistcoat is by Bevin Lynn. The buttons on my coat are from The Button Baron. Wool stockings are by Delp.

Published in: on December 21, 2019 at 5:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

New Winter Hood

This lappet style winter hood is based on three lappet style winter hoods in my collection. This one 100% silk plaid on the outside with cream, deep purple, and green tones. On the inside is a 100% silm black taffeta. It is batted with cotton batting.

This style is nice for protecting the face from wind and precipitation due to the depth of the brim and length of the lappets. The brim can be turned back.

This hood is entirely hand quilted. The interior and exterior were quilted separately. As with the originals, the exterior of the hood is lightly quilted, just catching the silk to the batting. I used a combination of hand and machine sewing because my hands weren’t quite strong enough for one interior seam.

Find it in my Etsy shop. https://www.etsy.com/listing/746026474/civil-war-era-winter-hood-hand-quilted

Published in: on December 6, 2019 at 4:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

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