Your Weekend Wow!

I’ve never quite understood those early 1890’s shoulders with their massive, poofy tops. Later in the 1890’s, when the enormous leg-o-mutton sleeves were in vogue, the gathered fabric accounted for the fullness at the sleeve cap. But early in the decade such was not the case. Then this morning I found this and it all made sense. Not to mention it reminds me of spring, too.

Afternoon dress ca. 1892. Brocaded silk satin & velvet. Chiffon blouse with tailored jacket built onto it. Self-ribbons on jacket shoulders, which was common in the early 1890s. Decorative enamel buttons. Bunka Gakuen Costume Museum.

Afternoon dress ca. 1892. Brocaded silk satin & velvet. Chiffon blouse with tailored jacket built onto it. Self-ribbons on jacket shoulders, which was common in the early 1890s. Bunka Gakuen Costume Museum


She Sits and Sews! – a sewing room update

Before: white walls, white blinds, white lamp, white sewing machine.

Before: white walls, white blinds, white curtains, white lamp, white sewing machine.

Yesterday I got the urge to sit down and sew for the first time in a long time. Whew! It wasn’t anything big or splashy, but I hope it’s a sign.

As most of you know, I’m a person who loves color. I get a little nuts without it. The place I’m currently renting, like most rentals in the U.S., has white walls and white blinds on the windows. It’s like living in a milk carton.

I’d put up a calendar and some photos from my travels in France over my desk, which helped my writing area.

I’d put up my Quimper tinware over the bookcase with my cookbooks, which helped the kitchen.

I hung a quilt I’d done years ago on the wall between the bedroom and the hallway, which gave a visual shot of color as one comes around the corner to the bedroom.

But the sewing room has remained white-white-white and, therefore, not a mentally lively space in which to sit or work.

fabric2Yesterday I was going through my fabric stash, wondering what on earth I was going to do with all of it, when I came across a length of cotton fabric I purchased a long time ago with the intention of making something to wear. I liked it because it’s colorful and fun and reminds me of the mille fiori glass made in Murano, Italy.

But it’s a bit too heavy to drape well and when I laid it out I noticed that the background ran on the diagonal, which is never a good choice for me. So I’d held onto it for eons because I love it and couldn’t bear to part with it, yet didn’t have the faintest idea what to do with it. Then I stood there with fabric in hand, lamenting the boring whiteness of my sewing space and inspiration hit like a ton of bricks – make curtains. Now.

So I did, right there and then. I didn’t do a bunch of fancy measurements – just cut the length in half, made sure each piece was oriented in the same direction and started hemming, then finished the edges, then turned the top down for the curtain rod.

By complete and absolutely delightful coincidence, the colors in the curtains go with the colors of the fabric bins on both sides of the storage units I’m using as low room dividers. There’s a knitting side and a sewing side and the fabric looks great with both.

So now the room is perked up considerably and I get to see that fun fabric I love every day. It couldn’t have worked out better if I’d planned it.


When Your Muse Wanders Off…Indefinitely


To be fair, I probably should have written this a while back. But I’ve been confused and haven’t known what to say so I’ve been putting it off. I’m sure you’ve noticed I haven’t been posting much lately – for a couple of months, in fact. Well, there’s a reason and I’ve been struggling with it.

What does one do when one writes a blog about reproducing historical fashions and one’s sewing muse abruptly just ups and leaves?

That’s what’s happened to me. At first I thought it was just all the kerfuffle from deciding to move and then getting the whole thing organized so all the pieces came together in the right order. Then there was the move itself and a month of pure chaos – half living in one town and half living in another. That was followed by the exhaustion of unpacking (still not finished, by the way) and further sorting. And so passed December, January, February and a good chunk of March.

(original source unknown)

(source unknown)

Now it’s two months later and in that time I’ve not even been able to make myself sew. Which is so very weird because I have loved sewing since I was a kid, just as I’ve been interested historical fashions since even before I started sewing. Then suddenly – poof! What the heck? I have a marvelous sewing space, a small mountain of a stash, a tall filing cabinet full of patterns…and not a single thing moves me.

I got to the point of considering whether I should let this blog go altogether – admit that my urge to sew was gone for good, pull myself together and move on.

But I just couldn’t do it, and for two reasons: 1) because I could not believe that my sewing muse has departed for good and 2) there is a lot of historical sewing I haven’t yet explored and I’m still interested in learning about it.

So, after months and months of pretty much agonizing over what to do, I’ve finally made a few decisions which I hope will entice my muse to return.

First off, I’m dropping out of the Historical Sew Monthly – at least for the time being. I’ll keep the badge and link active on my home page because I think it’s a great idea and support the HSM wholeheartedly. I just don’t want that additional bit of pressure from a deadline right now. Having said that, the Challenge for May (Holes) is finished and I’ll be sharing that with you as soon as it’s been blocked.

I am really drawn to hand sewing at the moment, so perhaps focusing on a couple of small projects to get the wind back in my sewing sails. A friend of mine has A Big Life Event coming up soon and I’d like to make something for her, so perhaps a little something of a historical nature would fit the bill. So my second decision is to work on smaller projects so I can get to the finish line – hoping that garnering a series of successes will help bolster my enthusiasm.

And, with the HSM retired, I can pick what I want to make for myself and do it at my own pace. My third decision: be a little more selfish in choosing what garments to make and start with something casual that won’t be on display…anywhere. I’m interested in having something to wear around the house other than sweats. And I’m interested in the idea of wrappers. And it so happens I have two Laughing Moon patterns for wrappers and the fabric to make them. So maybe, just maybe, I’ll try that – something just for me to be worn just for myself and my pleasure.

Lastly, my fourth decision is that historical sewing needn’t be confined to garments and accessories only. I’m still hand sewing my 1840’s reproduction quilt using historically accurate reproduction fabrics I’ve collected over the years. I used to think that English paper piecing was the definition of mind-melting, repetitive boredom. But now I find it relaxing, almost meditative. And I believe that making home goods counts, so it’s staying in the mix and you’ll be able to watch it grow over time. Here’s the pattern, as made by someone else (I don’t know who) and posted online:

"Grace's Quilt", based on an extant 1840's quilt

“Grace’s Quilt”, based on an extant 1840’s quilt

So that’s where I am. A little of this, a bit of that and, hopefully, great success in luring my muse back home.

Your Weekend Wow!

This weekend I’m in the mood for bonnets – lovely springtime bonnets sprinkled with flowers.


Straw Bonnet, 1835-49. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Straw Bonnet, 1835-49.


Wedding Bonnet, 1845. The Victoria & Albert Museum.

Wedding Bonnet 1845 The Victoria & Albert Museum


Poke Bonnet, 1850’s. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Poke Bonnet, 1865. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Poke Bonnet 1865 The Metropolitan Museum of Art


A beautiful, delicate sheer lace bonnet from 1840.

A beautiful, delicate sheer lace bonnet from 1840.


Bonnet, ca. 1840, France. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

bonnet mfa