Candy Sweet Hats?

I found a bit of this pretty mauvy-rose straw in my basket. For the first hat I paired it with natural straw in some vining around the brim edge. For the second, I braided the rose, pink, and natural together.  It reminded me of taffy candy. I may have gone over board with a loopy twist on the back.

The beautiful green hat from earlier this week is still available, and 10% off.

Published in: on October 23, 2022 at 11:25 am  Leave a Comment  

Antique shop finds

I stopped at the local antique shop on the way back from the post office to see how it was doing with the new owner. I had not planned on buying anything.

I spent $15.

I got some books for family and friends, a beaded slipper, and a pile of tintypes. Yes. For $15.

The beaded slipper is most likely a local Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) piece, though ladies magazines did try to mimic the look. At first, I thought the red base fabric was a silk twill. After taking closer photos, I think it is wool, maybe a wool/silk blend.

The tintypes were the whole pile for $5. I didn’t even go through the pile to loom at them. I just picked up the pile and added it to mine. They have a lot of damage.

You will see one was folded. This is such a shame because the women’s outfit is amazing. Another of two women either has something on the surface or the surface was smeared. This one has two hats.

Published in: on October 22, 2022 at 12:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Good News in Straw!

I have good news!

You may have noticed I started offering my straw millinery pieces at a 10% discount after the first day recently. This is because I know money is tight for nearly everyone. Plus, it doesn’t help me or my budget to have hats & bonnet sitting around unsold. So. I came up with this approach, nervously.

Then something good happened.

But, first a little back story. I had been buying hanks of straw from a wonderful, reliable merchant for years. Hanks were generally $20-$22 plus shipping, with a couple exceptions. Then the pandemic, the shop changing hands, and inflation happened. This summer, hanks went from $20 & $22 to $44 each.


There were 😢 tears.

I had already raised prices for everything else that had been going up. I just couldn’t see raising them again.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. A millinery artist I never met offered natural straw hanks for sale for a pre-inflation low price. I wasn’t sure as I have had very bad second hand straw experiences. I took a breath and anxiously ordered some straw. Actually, I opted to buy straw instead of groceries.

Luckily, the straw arrived and it is Beautiful!

This means…..

For a time, I will be able to offer hats and bonnets in natural straw for nearly pre-inflation prices comfortably!!!!

I am going to continue the second day 10% discount sale approach because that seems to be a way to make the numbers work in Etsy.

Thank you all for your continued support. I hope this helps.

Published in: on October 21, 2022 at 6:12 am  Leave a Comment  

Fancy Work Friday – Boots

👢 Is fall boot season?

This is an example of a boot shaped pin cushion in my collection.  Boots and stocking were fairly common shapes used for making pin cushions and needle-books during the Victorian Era. 

The boot is about 3.5 inches tall and 2.5 inches wide.  This cushion is quite weighty for its size, weighing 2.6 ounces. While the piece is too delicate to squeeze to determine the filling, I suspect it is filled with bran or dense sawdust. It seems too large to be filled with emery, though the weight and solidity feels right. 

From An American Girl’s Book – Cut two pieces of paste-board into the shape of a boot, in length equal to that of a grown person’s middle finger, or larger if you choose. Cover them with black silk. Put between them several pieces of flannel, cur into the same shape. Unite the two sides of the boot, by inserting, between the edges of each, a binding of black gallon.
When this is done, cover the top or upper part of the boot, on both sides, with a bit of thick buff-coloured ribbon, about and inch or and inch and a half broad, to look like the light leather tops on real boots. The. Sew on, at each side of the top, a loop of buff-coloured gallon, to resemble the straps by which boots are drawn on.
The pins are to be stuck in the gallon-binding that unites the two sides of the boot.

Both sides of the boot are velvet with most of the pile worn away. One side was a vibrant blue, the other a deep brown. It seems to have been constructed with a brown thread while a red thread was used to add trim. From a distance,  the trim seems to be a bullion. Under low magnification,  the trim looks to be comprised of two narrow, flat, almost straw like fibers, one light and one dark, set on a thick light brown thread. This trim was arranged in altenating loops along the front of the boot to mimic the look of lacing. Bits of trim remaining suggest a single strand of the trim ran around the edge of the boot as well. The “front” or brown side of the boot has a row of fir or feather stitching. The reverse, “back” or blue side, has a short continuation of this stitching at the top of the boot. Holes in running down this side of the boot suggest this embroidery may have once embellished the length of this side as well.

From Godey’s Lady’s Book, 1861 – Boot Needle-Book. This is made by cutting out two shapes in card-board of the same size, and covering them with bronze kid kid, colored leather, or satin, velvet, or silk, any of these materials being suitable. It is ornamented with gold thread in the pattern given. A row of very small pearl buttons is placed up the front, or else a row of gold or black beads. A bow of ribbon is placed where the buttons commence. Both the shapes are worked the same, and the inside are lined with silk. The tops are finished with a fringe, and the two tied together with a bow of ribbon, having the leaves for the inserted between them, and leaving them so as to open.

 A few pins remain in the cushion. The placement suggests pins may (or may not) have been used to accent the decorative trim in two ways. A pin remains placed inside a lacing loop hints at the possibility pins were placed to mimic the look of boot/shoe buttons. Two pins remain on the “front” of the boot tucked into the embroidery at the vertices of the Vs

Published in: on October 21, 2022 at 6:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Green Vining

I just added a really pretty hat to my shop. This fashionable hat has a very curved brim with green and natural straw vining around it. The crown has a soft rise to it.

Don’t miss this hat I added late this past weekend – it is currently 10% off:

Published in: on October 20, 2022 at 5:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

Mini Booklets

I pulled out my old mini booklets to use for something in the modern side of my life. After folding a stack, I thought I would reshare them as it has been quite some time since I did.

These are quick, guide style references. Each can be printed on a single sheet of paper and folded into a little, pocket size booklet.

Directions: Fold in half the short wise to cut along the dotted line. Unfold and refold length wise. Fold each side in to the middle. Pull the opposite side out to create a × when viewed from above. Find the front page and flatten into a book. Press with a paper presser or edge of a ruler.

Basic Sewing Stitches

Pleats, Gathers, Gauging, Button Holes

Common Embroidery Stitches

Decorative Embroidery Stitches – Embroidery for Wool Pages

Counted Needle-Work (not my knowledge area)

Shopping Itch

No Image

Published in: on October 18, 2022 at 10:11 am  Leave a Comment  

Copper Vined Hats

The copper straw vining around these hats has a hint of rose to it. It pairs very pretty with natural straw.

Published in: on October 16, 2022 at 4:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

Fancy Work Friday: Sea Shells and Walnuts

Did you collect shells or stones or nuts as a small child? I vaguely recall being fond of horse chestnuts when I was quite little. The scattered the ground along the front roadside of my Grandparent’s house. Of course, when they fell from the trees they weren’t the smooth, dark, stone like objects but fierce, pointy things with their protective skins ready to stab feet.

My Grandparents liked to collect sea shells. They were organized in a big drawer in the back kitchen. I can’t seem to recall if they were set by size or color or location. Knowing my Grandma and Grandpa, each had a meaning.

Between these memories, I find I view Victorian sea shell and walnut fancy work pieces sentimentally. I can not help but wonder if a pin cushion was made with shells collected and held onto had a special story or memory.

Victorians were quite skilled at creating items out of found objects. Sea shells and walnuts seemed to be quite popular based on written articles and surviving originals. Sea shells both became items, such as pin cushions or needle-books, and decorated items, such as frames and boxes. Their shapes were also copied in pasteboard. Walnuts became items such as pin cushions, boxes, and little bags.

A small pin cushion can be added to a single shell, sea or walnut, or between two matching shells. Velvet seems to be the most common fabric used in combination with sea shells and walnuts. Some are left plain while others are enhanced with painting, often with the stenciling method called theorem. Want to know more about Theorem Painting? I suggest this article.


To make these shell pin cushions, I used the method from A Girl’s Own Toymaker of a cotton inside covered with the velvet on the face and glued in place. Tip: I wrapped thread around the shells and tied snuggly tied to secure the layers while they dry. Once dry, the thread can be snipped and removed.

One of the most involved and intricate fancy work projects I’ve done are the purse like thimble holders made from a pair of walnut shells. The most nerve wracking part for me was doing the holes without cracking the shell. Period directions call for making these holes using a long sharp needle heated red hot in candle light. I ended up drilling the holes with a dremel tool. In hindsight, I over engineered the bag, shaping it to the shell, while the shape disappears as it is glued in place.

Assorted Directions for Using Walnuts and Shells:

The Girl’s Own Toy-Maker (18) Shell Needle-Book. Procure two shells of the same kind and size; perforated nine small holes round the front of the top one, at equal distances, about half an I ch from the front, and two more at the top part of both shells. Take a narrow piece of sarcenet ribbon, put one into the left hand hole and fasten it there, then the front of the shell, under, and through the second hole, so on to the last, and fasten it off. Cut out pieces of fine white flannel I. A little less, and also the form of the shell, bind it round with the same ribbon; put these inside, and with another ribbon tie them together through the four holes at the top a neat little bow. For the strings in the front some more of the same blue ribbon, and after fasten to each shell, tie together in a little larger bow.
The Girl’s Own Toy-Maker (18) The Shell Pincushion. Many of this kind are extremely pretty, and are easily made. Take a piece of calico, and cut out a pattern of the shape of fig. 2, and large enough to go round just inside the shell; cut another piece, fig 3, sew them together, leave a small hole to put in the bran; fill it, and stitch the remaining portion. Take a piece of blue or red velvet, the shape of fig 2, and sew it all round. Glue the two shells to the cushion, then finish it off with a small bow of the same colored ribbon as the velvet. (Note: Fig 2 is an elongated petal shape the width of the desired shell opening. Fig 3 is best achieved by tracing the shell and adding seam allowance.)
Needle-book. – This we think a very captivating pattern. The five leaves that form one side are covered with green silk, gathered in the center and veined with gold beads. Each leaf is bordered with a cross-stitching of corn-colored silk, and edged with chain-stitch. It may be lined with crimson, and the white flannel leaves that hold the needles inside edged with crimson in buttonhole stitch. Over the joining of the leaves is placed the half
of an English walnut shell, the perforations necessary for attaching it each covered with a large gold bead. The ribbon bows may be either green or brown. (The Lady’s Friend, 1864
398-512 )

Children’s Fancy Work, 1882

Dainty little pincushions and thimble-case can be made out of walnut-shells. Scrape the inside of the shell  till quite smooth, then stuff a little bag of some bright-coloured materials with wadding, making it as nearly as possible the shape of the shell; sew to this a handle—a bit of narrow capwire, covered, answers for the purpose—then drop a little liquid gum into the bottom of the shell and press in the cushion. This can be supplies with a pedestal in the following way: – Take two walnut-shells and pierce a couple holes in the centre  of each (A red-hot iron meat-skewer or knitting-needle will do this beautifully.) Now place the shells together against each other, and tie them together with a string or fix them with wire. In the upper half the cushion is placed; the lower forms the stand. For an emery cushion take two halves of a walnut-shell and having scraped the inside, brush over the outside with copal varnish. In both halves make narrow slits in the middle of the sides. Fill a little coloured silk bag with emery-powder and gum it into one half of the shell. Then join both halves of the shell together by means of a ribbon the slits in one side, and tied in a bow on the outside. Through the openings on the other side draw another piece of ribbon six inches long. This serves to open and close the walnut. A thimble-case is easily made of one half of a shell lined with pink wool stuck on with gum, then inclosed [sic] in a tiny bag of its own shape, but large enough to admit being drawn closely over the opening with a running cord.

Children’s Fancy Work, 1882

Toys made from walnut-shells will please the little ones, and the making of them prove no less enticing.


….. Nos 54 and 55. These two illustrations show a pretty little toy, the “Surprise” Basket, closed and open. Two exactly– fitting halves of a walnut-shell are scraped clean and lined with pink or silver paper. Holes should be carefully drilled all the way around in both shells, and then a frill of narrow lace sew round each for the outside and round the inside of the lower one. This is effected by putting the needle through the holes. The edges are then bound with pale blue silk so put on that the stitches do not show. In the lower half of the shell is a tiny wax or china doll with a tiny quilted covering over it. In the upper shell dolly’s tiny wardrobe is packed. The shell is closed by means of pale blue ribbon, a loop and end being sewn to each half.

Available in my Etsy shop:

Published in: on October 14, 2022 at 6:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Green Vining Hat

This fashionably shaped hat has green straw plait vining around natural straw on the crown and brim edge.

Published in: on October 11, 2022 at 5:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

New Hat….. Finally

It’s Monday. How about a piece of millinery?

This weekend, I worked on a hat for the first time in many weeks. I made a shallow, tapered crown style suitable dot the 1860s.

Published in: on October 10, 2022 at 12:05 pm  Leave a Comment