Getting Back on Track with the HSM and HSM #1 Makes Its Very Belated Appearance

Competitors in a sack race, 1933. (

I don’t remember much of January or February. For that matter, I don’t remember very much of December, either. It’s been a whirlwind of To Do lists and deadlines, packing and unpacking, sickness and health, deadlines and little down time. In the midst of it all I got kinda disorganized and the HSM kinda got lost, or at least misplaced. In fact, I never formally signed up for it. But now it’s time to get it together and either do this thing or not. So I think I will.

Here’s what has, and hasn’t, been happening.


January: Procrastination – finish a garment you have been putting off finishing (a UFO or PHD) or make something you have been avoiding starting. Due Jan 31st.

January’s project was supposed to have been the white organdy Georgian cap, but problems plagued me and I’ve still not got what I think I should have. Late in January it became clear that moving and doing fine hand sewing weren’t going to be compatible so I started wondering what I could substitute for the cap. After all, it’s not like there weren’t other items I’d started but hadn’t managed to finish. I do love a good experiment, but they can be frustrating when you’re treading new territory.

With just a few days remaining in the month, I remembered the red sontag wrap I’d started to knit some months ago. Under the circumstances, hand knitting was a lot easier to do than hand sewing. I found the abandoned sontag and recalled why I’d stopped – the yarn was not knitting into even pattern blocks.

Around the same time, I started knitting a red shawl for the HSM “Red” Challenge later in the year. It starts with casting on 1069 stitches and goes from there. I’d figured it would take me forever to get through it, hence the way-early start. But, to my great surprise, I had it done by early February; on the 10th, to be precise.

I still needed a project for the January HSM, and here I sat with a completed wrapping shawl – a perfect substitute for the sontag that never was. So it all just came together.

And, therefore, I give you HSM #1 – The Procrastination Wrap. It’s made of a heathered red wool that can almost look like a dark raspberry pink in different types of light. It wraps like a sontag and ties in back at the waist. The back is long enough that it covers the tie ends when worn. It’s cozy, easy to wear and easy to work in. I’m very happy with the way it turned out.



February: Tucks and Pleating – make a garment that features tucks and pleating for the shape or decoration. Due Feb 29th.

The project for February’s Challenge is the blue Victorian overskirt, which is still languishing on the dress form. I’ve got the other half of the pleated side panel and the lining cut, as well as the self ruffle I’m adding. While cleaning out the car, I discovered my Rowenta iron had gotten wedged under the passenger side front seat. That’s a good thing, because the iron I bought at Goodwill has been an OK substitute, but if I iron a bit too vigorously, water leakes out the fill cap and dribbles everywhere.

As of this point in time, the ruffle is sewn and is ready for gathering into place. I’m definitely in the home stretch with this one.


March: Protection – make something to protect yourself (from weather or injury) or your clothes (from soiling etc.). Due Mar 31st.

I don’t have any period-correct outerwear to speak of, so this is a welcome Challenge. The local Victorian Heritage Festival is held late in March each year and the weather is extremely variable. It could be 65 degrees (F) or 45 degrees. It could be sunny or rainy, windy or calm. Most years I’ve been freezing outdoors and uncomfortably warm indoors. That ends now.

March’s project is a Victorian Talma Wrap appropriate for the Early Bustle Era. I’m using the Talma Wrap pattern from Truly Victorian – TV500 – which I purchased some years ago.

I started to make a Talma Wrap last year. Unfortunately, the fabric I chose was a one-way design and cutting a mirror-image left front turned out to be impossible. Normally, I’d just lay the fabric flat, selvage to selvage, cut the right front, flip the pattern and cut a matched, mirror-image left front. But the pattern rebelled and I still haven’t been able to work it out. So it’s all been sitting in a jumbo project bag awaiting my attention: main fabric, interlining, lining, trim, buttons, embellishments, thread…everything.

This time around I opted for a fabric with no pattern and excellent drape. It’s a lightweight, 100% wool tweed in black and white that “reads” grey from a distance. I’m using a heavy cotton flannel interlining for warmth. My allergy to silk means I need a substitute and I found a cloud-grey, static-resistant polyester fabric that will do the job nicely. The trim is a wonderful run of cotton tassels in a deep red-maroon. I bought it ages ago at a Big Box Fabric Store final clearance sale so I ended up with two kinds to choose from, each at $1.86 a yard (!!!).

TV500 - Talma Wrap (from Truly Victorian)

TV500 – Talma Wrap (from Truly Victorian)


April: Gender-Bender – make an item for the opposite gender, or make an item with elements inspired by the fashions of the opposite gender. Due Apr 30th.

One word: spatterdashes, aka spats, in wool. (OK, five words.)


May: Holes – sometimes the spaces between stuff are what makes a garment special.  Make a garment that is about holes, whether it is lace, slashing, eyelets, etc. Due May 31st.

I’ve already started on this one. I want a black wool shawl to wear for an event coming up this Fall and I want one that will work across a number of historical fashion eras. After looking at more dreary, acrylic shawls than I care to remember, I decided to knit one.

I tried a number of “historic” patterns, all with varying issues related either to old knitting terminology or to bad transcriptions of old instructions. I also didn’t want something heavy and smothering. Finally I found an acceptable pattern that works, started it last week and it’s zipping along. It’s made of wool sock-weight yarn from Norway. There’s a little bit of nylon in it, as there is with most sock yarn, for durability and it’s hand-washable.

This takes a tremendous amount of yarn, but it’s fun to knit and easy to problem-solve if I make an error. I like it so much I just might make another one. It’s still on the circular needle, but here’s a peek. Think I have enough holes?


And, looking far ahead, I’ve also started working on the August Challenge. August: Pattern – make something in pattern, the bolder and wilder the better. Due Aug 31st. Bold and wild? Check!

Your Weekend Wow!

(Life has been coming at me like some B-grade ninja movie and keeping me on my toes, so I apologize for the non-existent posting. But I finally have the trim for the HSM #12 projects and hope to be back working on them soon.)

This elegant pelisse is from the Museum of London as part of their “Expanding City: The Pleasure Garden” exhibit. While the pelisse is authentic, the hat is a fanciful work of art and is not a historically accurate piece. Remember the Marie Antoinette sailing ship hat? That was a Museum of London exhibit, as well. A little artistic license can be fun, as long as it’s understood as being just that.

Here are the curator’s comments:

A pelisse or pelisse-coat, a kind of women’s outer garment which could be make in everything from the lightest silk to heavy fur. It was worn over a gown but could look like a gown itself, especially when floor length like this garment. The pelisse was made for a trousseau in 1823 for the wedding of the grandmother of the donor.

Unfortunately, there is no other information. I’d hazard a guess that it’s made of silk, also lined in silk. The piping and soutache work are lavishly done. And I adore the “bow” ornament at the back.

original front

original half side

original side

original back

original back detail

original bodice detail

original front detail

original reticule

And if you’re truly curious about that fanciful sattelite-dish affair of a hat, here’s a close up shot. Just remember, while it is a truly impressive example of artistic millinery, saying it’s historically inaccurate doesn’t begin to come close.

original the salletite dish affair

Orange in Regency Fashions: a Post Script

When putting together the gallery of Regency fashion plates that featured the use of orange, I neglected to include one of my über-busy orange favorites. What’s up with the asymmetrical details? The left bodice looks laced, while the right bodice has Van Dyke points; the left sleeve is fully slit and laced while the right sleeve is only partially slit. Perhaps a way to show options? Probably, but it sure catches the eye. And, for some reason, I keep thinking of all of those balled tassels as bells.

"Walking", October 1810

“Walking Dress” October 1810.

Your Weekend Wow!

This time, an amazing bit of Regency cotton. I adore the stitching details – the closer you look the more you see! Hundreds of micro-pintucks on the bodice, arrow-straight, sewn into alternating directions and held in place by those tiny “stems” leading to fun little curlicues at their terminus. The cording treatment, or perhaps it’s trapunto work, on the collar. The broderie anglaise inserts on the back bodice. The pintucks and curlicues on the sleeve caps. And the cuffs are absolutely loaded: pintucks, curlicues, insert lace (also known as entre-deux, meaning “between [the] two”) and lace edging. Notice all the beautifully uniform hand stitches in the last photo. Plus, it’s – gasp – unlined! 100% Wow.

I love this spencer…too bad it wasn’t photographed on a darker background to make it easier to see. Who says cotton is boring? I’d like to see it done in a pale color and would wear it in a heartbeat! Click on the link for the museum website, where you can enlarge each photo to savor the details.

Spencer, 1805-1815. Probably British. Cotton. (

Spencer, 1805-1815. Probably British. Cotton. 1 (


Spencer, 1805-1815. Probably British. Cotton. 2


Spencer, 1805-1815. Probably British. Cotton. 3

Front collar – detail

Spencer, 1805-1815. Probably British. Cotton. 4

Front bodice detail

Your Weekend Wow

It’s in the low 40’s (Fahrenheit) outside and the wind is literally howling, stripping the trees of their leaves and blasting us with a wind chill in the 30’s. Perhaps time for a modest little jacket? OK, it’s not very warm. But it’s oh, so lovely.

Jacket in the Capuchin style (hooded). France, c. 1760-1770. Shaped taffeta, brocaded silk and spun silver, entre-deux and silver lace flounces. (Veste à capuche. France, vers 1760-1770. Taffetas façonné, broché soie et filé argent, entre-deux et volants de dentelle argent.) UFAC collection. Inv. 96-07-80. © Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris. Photo by Jean Tholance (


Your Weekend Wow!

It is dark and windy and spitting – oops, make that pouring – rain today. Nothing like a wonderful bit of pink silk to brighten the mood. This comes courtesy of the Chertsey Museum in Chertsey, Surrey, England. Sadly, there is only one photo – but what a photo it is. Hope this enlivens your day as much as it does mine.

pink silk spencer

Pink silk spencer with front opening and turn down collar, applied decoration of pink satin rouleaux loops with five rouleaux strips at wrist and two rows at lower edge, collar piped in silk, three layers of ‘leaf’ decoration on epaulettes over straight sleeves; c.1815. The spencer is silk, the collar is buckram, and the lining is cotton. Dimensions: length at Center Back = 300mm, length at Center Front = 160mm, width at chest = 350mm. MT.2043.

And for those curious minds who want to know what a rouleau loop is (hint: it’s not piping) and how to make one properly, here are a few good tutorials: Peggy’s Pickles (uncorded), By Hand (corded), and Pattern Scissors Cloth (uncorded). If you’d prefer written instructions you can print out and keep, try this free PDF tutorial from

Your Weekend Wow!

This very fabulous Regency spencer comes by way of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website. I’ve been wanting to find an early Regency spencer with a bit of something special and this fills the bill. Not only is the amount of detail both intriguing and impressive, but the photos clearly show the fabric is not of a plain weave. For me, that makes it all the more interesting.

Spencer, 1804-1814, probably British. Silk. Accession number: C.I.46.83.3.











Your Weekend Wow! (And a Bit of Fashion Sleuthing, too.)

This Wow is a study in creamy contrast. Both are simple shapes, yet each makes its statements in completely different ways. The pelerine (please see discussion below) relies on a bold, softly pleated trim for its drama. The cape is a cascade of elegant lace with a soft green lining. Made approximately twelve years apart from each other, they convey different senses of what is elegant. Which do you prefer?


Pelerine, 1872, American, silk. Length at center back is 24 in. (61 cm). C.I.53.24_S2 (

1872, American, silk.

1872, American, silk. Dimensions Length at CB is 24 in. (61 cm). C.I.53.24_S2 (

1872, American, silk. Dimensions Length at CB is 24 in. (61 cm). C.I.53.24_S2 (

1872, American, silk. Dimensions Length at CB is 24 in. (61 cm). C.I.53.24_S2 (


Cape, ca. 1860, American or European. Fabric type not available, dimensions not available. (

Cape, ca. 1860, American or European - 2 (

Cape, ca. 1860, American or European - 3 (

Cape, ca. 1860, American or European - 1 (

Cape, ca. 1860, American or European - 4 (

Cape, ca. 1860, American or European - 5. C.I.41.66.2a-d (


And now for a point of discussion and a bit of sleuthing. The item the Met calls a pelerine is something I would have called a mantle. Which got me wondering – what’s the difference? I found the following information on in answer to someone who asked this very question (I’ve put the take-home message in bold).

“Pelerines are often smaller–something that’s shaped around the shoulders, and waist-length–while mantles are a larger-scale accessory outerwear piece. But you’re right, the shapes can be quite similar. I would define a pelerine as an item to complete a dress, whereas a mantle is an outerwear item. As such the round and sometimes pointed short capes/capelets/large collars in either the dress fabric or white are pelerines.”

That is how I’ve understood the difference, even though I hadn’t been able to articulate it. I think the Met just might have it wrong, since the piece in question definitely looks like outerwear to me and too large to simply “complete” a dress. So it’s a mantle in my mind and shall stay that way…technically a mantelet (also “mantlet”) that is.

1872, American, silk. Dimensions Length at CB is 24 in. (61 cm). C.I.53.24_S2 ( said that, one can see in the back view photo that it’s unlined. Certainly a mantelet would have been lined. Is that why the Met labeled it a pelerine – an absence of lining indicating it was only meant to complete a dress? But surely a pelerine would be lines as well, since it was probably as some point the inside would be seen. Yes? No? Maybe? As a stand-alone item, without the dress with which it was meant to be worn, if there was one, it’s hard to say.

For a detailed and complex history, please see the discussion on – Mantelet Fashion History, Part 1, for more possibilities of which was called what and when. She has mages of early Victorian mantelets here.

And then there is this interesting tidbit, from the Belle Assemblee, Volume 3, from January to June, 1826. Although written decades earlier, it appears to distinguish between mantels as outerwear and pelerines as part of the dress:

“Mantels continue the rage for out-door costume: those most in favour are of silk Scotch tartan, or velvet. On quitting the theatres, ladies generally envelope themselves in a mantle of cachemire, of a new-fashioned brown, named the Lord Byron, but differing little from chestnut-brown. Some cloth cloaks are of a dark green, or of very dark blue; and fur pelerines over high dresses of merino are very general at the different promenades. The new pelisses fasten down the side of the skirt, in an imperceptible and very ingenious manner, and appear more like round dresses than pelisses. They have generally three rows of flounces, and the bodies are laid in plaits. Many ladies who desire to appear singular, and find the comfortable warm pelerine of fur too common, wear their’s of black velvet, lined and wadded: these have two long ends which reach the knees, and the ends are confined under the sash.”

The same volume also describes the latest fashionable addition for dresses of merino: “…these comfortable winter dresses are made partially high, and are finished by a broad colerette-pelerine of fine lace, pointed at the edge in the Spanish style…”

And that’s all I know…for now, at least.

Your Weekend Wow!

Fall is approaching – just over 10 days away. One item I do not have is a nice coat for the dressy events on chilly nights to come. I could probably manage to squeeze this one into my coat closet…

Woman’s coat, c. 1890. United States, maker unknown. Embroidered silk with ostrich feathers. Length: 52 inches (132.1 cm) Waist: 33 inches (83.8 cm). Accession number 1949-50-1.

winter coat 1