Blushing to my Roots – The Liebster Award


I’ve been through a rough patch lately – for nearly 7 years now, as a matter of fact, life has been…challenging. The things that have gotten me through it all are friendship, writing and my rescue dogs, first Peanut and now Sophie. Coming out of a long, dark tunnel means putting one foot forward, day by day, and learning to trust your path. It’s not easy and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. But emerging from the tunnel is a gift of incalculable value, as are the things that get you through. This blog is very much a part of that trip back to the light.

I started this blog with two goals in mind: as an avenue to write on a regular basis and as a bit of a cautionary tale for those who, like me, are learning about historical garments and how to re-create them. I figured that, giving my propensity for creative…uh… pathways, I could spare someone else my folly or make a project easier by sharing a tip or trick learned along the way.

What I didn’t anticipate is the community of readers I’d meet – their interest in my stories and their help when I’ve sewn myself into yet another corner (usually full of pins). Nessa is one of those readers. Her own blog ( is full of detail and the kind of advice that I appreciate. And I am chuffed to no end that she has nominated this blog for the Leibster Award. Nessa, my dear, thank you so very much. It is humbling to think my words are worthy.

So, what is the Leibster Award? A detailed history and the rules can be found here, but the short story is it’s an award that is given by bloggers to other bloggers. It’s purpose is to promote blogs with a following of less than 200 (the number changes from time to time).

As part of the acceptance process, the nominee is given a set of questions to answer. Nessa’s questions are great..

What is your favorite historical period?
For historical costuming, I love the Early Bustle Era: 1869 to 1876.
For just plain history, it’s hard to choose. Every era has its own fascinating people and events. For me the Bronze Age is just as interesting as the Industrial Age.

How long have you been sewing, and how did you get into it?
I taught myself to sew, starting when I was about nine-ish. I saw a photograph of a red and white striped summer top in one of my mother’s magazines (I think it was Vogue) and wanted it. I found some red and white striped fabric in the rag bin (mom didn’t really sew much), a needle and thread, two big red buttons for the shoulder straps and made it by hand, following the photograph and draping on myself as I went. I didn’t know about openings and closings, so it slipped on over my head. I didn’t tell mom or show anyone until it was done. That’s when she decided it was time to teach me how to use the sewing machine.

Which historical person would you like to meet and why?

Allegoria (self portrait by Aretmisia Gentileschi)

Allegoria (self portrait by Artemisia Gentileschi)

Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1656). She was an Italian Baroque painter, and considered one of the most accomplished painters in the generation that followed Caravaggio. She is famous for her strong female characters and dramatic style.
Artemisia did not have a traditional female’s upbringing, nor did she lead a traditional female’s life. I’d love to know what she thought about being a strong woman in an Italian man’s world.
She was born in Rome and studied under her father, artist Orazio Gentileschi. He asked his colleague and fellow painter Agostino Tassi to continue her tutoring. The relationship became notorious when her father accused Tassi of raping her (some controversy here). There was a scandalous trial and Tassi was sentenced to a year in prison.
Afterward, Artemisia married (someone else – Tassi was forbidden by the court to see her again) and spent her life traveling around Italy, painting in Florence, Rome, Venice and Naples. She also worked for some years undertaking commissions for the English court of Charles I until the English Civil War broke out.
She was a friend of Galileo and the first female admitted to the Florence Accademia della Arti a Disegno. Those two things alone are enough for a conversation or two.
The story of her life is portrayed in the 1997 French film “Atemisia.” (In French, with English sub-titles.)

Tied for second place are:
Hatshepsut – the best-known of Egypt’s few female pharaohs (still, so little is known about her)
Tom Lehrer – Harvard mathematician and singer/songwriter (pithy, satirical lyrics – I love intelligent humor)
Richard Feynman – American theoretical physicist (I love physics)

Do you have a favorite kind of fabric you enjoy working with?
Cotton! It does everything except rustle when you walk. You can fold it, pleat it, ruffle it, stuff it, quilt it, embroider it, wash it, dye it, and just about anything else. It breathes. It doesn’t shatter over time. It doesn’t have a temper tantrum if it gets wet. It doesn’t crinkle into a zillion creases just because you put it on and the dew point changes two degrees. And I’m allergic to silk.

What will be your next project?
A new Victorian corset. Yay! That I’m going to make myself. Yikes!

Which place, in space and/or time, would you love to travel to?
France, particularly Brittany and Alsace-Lorraine. Packed and ready to go. Speak enough French to get by easily enough. Passport is good for another decade or so. I think I must have been French in a former life…probably an apprentice seamstress.
But I would like to travel to so many places and times to see what it was really like in the Dark Ages, Medieval England, Renaissance Italy, Shogun Japan, France during the Resistance, the Irish Potato Famine, the Great Plague. Maybe just for a week; long enough but not too long.
I’d like to see how people really reacted to the first steam engine locomotive, the first iron bridge, indoor showers instead of tub baths, anesthesia for surgery, zippers, electric fans.
It’s all interesting to me.

Where do you wear your sewing creations? Are you a regular at historical events or do you sew it just for yourself?
I am entering the word of historical events as I complete my projects and have finished ensembles to wear. I just attended the local Victorian Heritage Festival in a 1898 suit ensemble. This year I’m hoping to also attend a Dickens Fair (1840’s), a birthday party for Jane Austen (Regency), and a holiday tour of local Victorian homes (Victorian, yes, but which era…hmmm…). So much sewing to be done!
My town has a strong Victorian flavor and I would like to become an active docent at some of the museums – in full period-correct dress, of course.

Do you have a favorite clothing item, historical or modern?
Open drawers – so comfy and convenient! *blushing again*

What is your favorite book?
Anything written by Guy de Maupassant. A particular favorite is Boule de Suife (Ball of Fat), a timeless lesson in the morality of snobbery.

What are your other hobbies?
Reading, knitting, studying French, writing children’s stories and, of course, historical costuming.

This concludes part one of my Liebster Award duties, and such fun duties they are. Thanks again, Nessa, for the honor.