New Project – HSM #7: Accessorize

The Historical Sew Monthly Challenge for July is Accessorize – The final touch of the right accessory creates the perfect period look.  Bring an outfit together by creating an accessory to go with your historical wardrobe.

I need a hat that’s appropriate for my upcoming Edwardian event. 1912 is a great time from which to “shop” because hats came just about any way anyone could want. Hat, toque, tricorn, bicorn. Vertical, horizontal or wicked slant. Ribbons, bows, feathers, flowers. Lots of drama everywhere you turn. Here are a few examples that got my mind turning.

Woman's hat, circa 1908-1910

Easter Flower Hats 1912

124, 1912, pages 119 and 124, from Winterthur Museum Library


The base I’m using is a floppy white paper straw hat I bought at a local thrift shop for $8.95. A band of natural color runs around the edge of the brim. My head is way bigger than the mannequin’s, but you get the idea.

Big ol' floppy thrift store hat.

Big ol’ floppy thrift store hat.

Since trying to pick a favorite hat from all of those extant examples to reproduce is next to impossible, I am blending the concepts. I love “making” hats. This is gonna be fun.

First, I used a stapler to lift the right side a bit. Not only does this lend a fashionable air, it also helps to stabilize the floppiness around the brim.

Can you tell I'm miserably hot? Sorry about the spots on the mirror. Worst selfie ever. But it shows what just two staples can do for the shape.

Worst selfie ever!!

Can you tell I’m miserably hot? Sorry about crummy photo and the spots on the mirror. But it shows what just two well-placed staples can do for the shape. If I have to, I can always run some millinery wire around the brim. But for now it’s looking good.

Now it’s time to start adding the goodies.

The event theme is roses and the color of roses. This is the fabric I’m using for the dress and the antique Edwardian brooch I’ll be wearing with it.

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I want scads of flowers. When I was at JoAnn’s I had four coupons and a lot of their fabric flowers were already marked down. I got the rose-pink satin blanket edging at the local mercantile. I know that in many cultures, chrysanthemums are only used for funerals and memorials for the dead. But that’s not the case here, so I got two bunches…lots of volume at a great price

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Here’s what the flowers look like on the dress fabric.

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And, of course, it wouldn’t be a Big Edwardian Hat without a couple of big ostrich plumes.

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Play time! Now…where are those wire cutters…?


HSM #5 – Practicality: “Stuck on You” – is Finished!

"Stuck on You" - pinner apron for HSM #5

“Stuck on You” – pinner apron for HSM #5

HSM #5 – The Challenge: Practicality. Fancy party frocks are all very well, but everyone, even princesses, sometimes needs a practical garment that you can DO things in.  Create the jeans-and-T-Shirt-get-the-house-clean-and-garden-sorted outfit of your chosen period.

The Project: Pinner Apron

The Title: “Stuck on You”

Fabric: 100% cotton homespun (machine-made)

Pattern: Adapted from World Turn’d Upside Down – Civil War Era Apron Pattern

Year: I intend to this for 1850’s and 1860’s events. The style is appropriate for a wide range – pinner aprons were worn in the 18th century and well into the 19th century.

Notions: cotton thread, heavy Pellon

How historically accurate is it? Very, but not 100% – mostly hand sewn (about 95% – I did the waistband by machine) and based on research of images and notes from the era.  I have historically accurate fibula pins for the bib. However…I did use a heavy, sew-in Pellon for the waistband, instead of historically accurate buckram or stiff muslin, because it’s what I had on hand.

Hours to complete: About ten

First worn: Not yet worn

Total cost: $12.48 USD for the fabric, all notions came from the stash

Notes and photos:

I have absolutely loved working with this homespun. It is compliant, doesn’t fuss or fight, needles easily and presses like a dream. I see more of it in my future. The indigo homespun has woven-in flaws that add to the look (probably the only time I’ve been delighted to have bought flawed fabric) so I didn’t cut around them or try to hide them. This first photo shows the true color of the fabric.

Weaving error - the third stripe at the bottom is missing.

Weaving error – the third stripe at the bottom is missing.

A blob in the spun thread disrupts the woven plaid.

A blob in the spun thread disrupts the woven plaid.

It is a simple and straightforward project so it came together easily. I had planned on using the selvage for the edges of the apron, but it was distractingly colorful so off it went.

I had planned on using the selvage for the edges of the apron, but it was distractingly colorful so off it went.

The finished bib is self-lined and gathered into a band at the top.

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Then the bib is gathered at the bottom and the waistband is applied and turned.

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The apron is hemmed on three sides…

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then gathered, set into the waistband and the inside waistband finished.

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Et voilà! Here it is, shown over a chemise, corset and two petticoats. It fits perfectly and I love it.


But wait, you ask…what about HSM #4 – The Case of the Contraband Crinoline? Last Monday I went to Seattle, tripped on some massively uneven sidewalk and fell. Nothing serious – however, amongst other bruises and scrapes, I had to dig a chunk of sidewalk out of the palm of my hand. It left a bit of a divot and when I apply much pressure to it, such as that which results from squeezing wire cutters into hoop wire, it hurts. Not as much as it did last week, but it hurts. The good news is it’s itching like crazy, which means it’s healing up just fine. So I went ahead and did this month’s challenge while my hand finishes putting itself back together. Never a dull moment!

The Finer Points of Fibula Pins

Nearly all of the information I was able to read about pinner aprons included some variation on the statement that the bibs were held in place with straight pins. This makes sense, since straight pins are simple, cheap and have been around for ever. But they also fall out and I couldn’t imagine an active woman carrying around replacement pins for her apron, just in case.

Then I ran across a reference to fibula pins. I’d never heard of them before so, of course, I had to know more. It turns out they too have been around for just about ever and make a safer yet still historically accurate alternative to straight pins.

So, what are they and why are they named after a leg bone?

Meet Your Fibula:

image from

image from

The two bones that run from the knee to the ankle are the tibia and the fibula. The tibia is the thicker, heftier bone – it’s commonly called the shin bone. It runs down the center of the lower leg. It’s more delicate neighbor is the fibula, which runs down along the tibia on the outside edge of the leg (the side your little toe is on).

Meet the Fibula Pin (historical information – and liberal use of the passive voice – from Wikipedia):

Fibula (/ˈfɪbjʊlə/, plural fibulae /ˈfɪbjʊli/) (plural Fibulae): a brooch, or a pin for fastening garments. The fibula developed in a variety of shapes, but all were based on the safety-pin principle. The fibula form was invented by the Myceaneans between the 13th and 14th Century BC, and is considered an early precursor to a safety pin since they were used in a similar manner. However, it had major flaw. It had no clasp or spring at the end to help put it in place.

Unlike most modern brooches, fibulae were not only decorative; they originally served a practical function: to fasten clothing, such as cloaks. Fibulae replaced straight pins that were used to fasten clothing in the Neolithic period and the Bronze Age. In turn, fibulae were replaced as clothing fasteners by buttons in the Middle Ages. Their descendant, the modern safety pin, remains in use today. In ancient Rome and other places where Latin was used, the same word denoted both a brooch and the fibula bone because a popular form for brooches and the shape of the bone were thought to resemble one another.

There are hundreds of different types of fibulae. They are usually divided into families that are based upon historical periods, geography, and/or cultures. Fibulae are also divided into classes that are based upon their general forms. [Given the fact that fibulae have been around for so many centuries, I’ll spare you the details.]

OK, you ask, so what brings the bone and the pin together? Their shape. When you compare an x-ray of the lower leg with a “violin-bow” fibula pin, it’s easy to understand why archaeologists mentally connected one with the other.

The body of a fibula pin is known as either the bow or the plate, depending on the basic form. A bow is generally long and narrow, and often arched.  The head is the end of the fibula with the spring or hinge. The foot is the end of the fibula where the pin closes. Depending on the type of fibula, and the culture in question, the head of the fibula could be worn facing up, down or to the side. The degree of bend in the bow and/or the angle of the hinge also varied by time and culture.

These are the fibula pins I purchased to secure my pinner apron. They are handmade and the tip of the pin is not sharpened to a point. With the coarse weave of the homespun that’s not a problem, but a point would be good for anything more substantial.

One can wear them with the bow either up or down.

Overall, I really like the look.

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The apron is on the home stretch, so stay tuned…

HSM #2 is Done – and it’s not what you’re expecting.


Historical Sew Monthly Challenge #2: The Blue Housewife.

A “housewife” is a portable sewing kit that folds or rolls into a small size, therefore making it easy to carry. The sizes and dimensions varied, but the basic design featured small pockets for thimble and thread, plus a fabric “flap” that held the needles and pins.

Using the term housewife to refer to a sewing kit appeared in print for the first time in 1749. But they were also known as huswife, hussive, or, most commonly, hussif, which appears to be the contraction of the word “housewife” in the dialect of Lancashire.

My housewife for this challenge represents the years of the American Civil War, hence the name “The Blue Housewife.” It has four cotton pockets and two flaps of boiled wool (for securing needles and pins). It folds into a rectangle of 4 1/4 inches x 3 1/4 inches and ties with a thin black ribbon.

Please note: the colors of the red wool flap and the pink fabric on the inside ends did not photograph well. They are not neon, but that’s how they came out. In reality, they are deeper and more subdued shades.

Outer Fabric

Outer Fabric

Blue Pinwheel lining fabric

Blue Pinwheel lining fabric

Inside, opened

Inside, opened…









HSM #2 – Colour Challenge Blue: Make an item that features blue, in any shade from azure to zaffre.

Title: The Blue Housewife

Fabric: 100% cotton, boiled wool

Pattern: My own creation

Year: 2015

Notions: Thread and a bit of ribbon for tying

How historically accurate is it? Very. For this “housewife” I used 100% cotton and boiled 100% wool. It is hand sewn. The cotton fabrics are reproductions of American Civil War era prints. The patterns in the wool would also have been available at that time.

Hours to complete: about 4

First worn: Not yet used.

Total cost: $1.00 for the spool of ribbon. Everything else was in my stash.


(I’ll be brief – I abandoned the reticule. I couldn’t get it to hang straight and it was driving me nuts. So I set it aside until sometime down the road when we’ve both had a chance to take a deep breath and settle down a bit.)

Ending the Year by Starting Anew: HSM #2 – Colour Challenge Blue

I’ve spent the last 3 days in a state of cardio-cleanout, getting rid of superfluous fabric and knitting yarn and, frankly, I’m beat. So, rather than end 2014 by re-arranging the shelves, I decided dive into next year’s projects and start with HSM Challenge #2 – Colour Challenge Blue: make something featuring the colour blue.

My project is a hard-base reticule inspired by these extant examples:

There aren’t many extant reticules like these to study and compare, so I’ve designed one that will reproduce the look, although it’s not 100% historically accurate because…

(Sorry about the wonky angle, can't get it straight.)

(Sorry about the wonky angle.)

…the base is a styrofoam soup-to-go cup. But the size and shape is accurate and it’s lightweight, so I’m going with it.

One of the things I’ve been concerned about is the noise generated by my “Regency” keys and “Regency” cell phone sliding around and rattling up against each other as the interior lining shifts about. The solution for that is the second historically inaccurate bit…

…using non-skid shelf liner to help the lining stay stable against the base. I put down a double layer, so I hope it keeps the noise to a minimum.

Now, the fabric.

There was a fabric store in Paris (France, not Texas) called Le Rouvray (website is in English), on a little pedestrian street between the Seine and Boulevard Saint-Germain. It was a little corner of fabric heaven. They had over 2000 fabrics featuring Provençals and Toiles de Jouy.

There were two sections of Toiles. One had designs that are new, yet historically accurate ($$$). The other section ($$$$$) had reproductions of antique French toiles, copied either from extant fabric or from period colored drawings in fabric designer’s work books. In other words, was about as genuine as you could get without buying the real deal.

Sadly, the store has closed, but the website is still active.

Long story short – when I was there I bought three pieces of “genuine” reproductions and have been sitting on them, waiting for the right time and place to use them. This is one of those times. Here they are:

Reproduction French Toiles from Le Rouvray.

Reproduction French Toiles from Le Rouvray.

I’m planning on using this one for the reticule:

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I also already have half a yard of this reproduction fabric. The blues match perfectly, so I’ll use it, too:

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Now I’m off to play with fabric until the fireworks start. Happy New Year’s Eve to all!

Lost in Lace

Miss Lily Elise (tumblr)

Miss Lily Elise (tumblr)

The other day, a reader asked about the machine-made laces in the previous photos, and I want to let everyone know those are not mine. Which got me thinking, why not show a few of mine? They are all machine lace of varying age. The shiny white piece is the newest, the net lace collar is the oldest.

I love the wide, net lace collar. It fits me perfectly, draping just over my shoulders. My first though was to finish it off so I’d have a collar that could be used with different waists. But I need to do more research on finishing techniques and see some historical examples, so it’s going to have to wait until I know how to make it correctly.

Fortunately, an eager substitute is waiting in the wings.

A project I’ve been dying to do is an 1870 lacy fichu from Ageless Patterns. I love the fashions of the First Bustle Era and this fichu is a perfect complement to my 1870 waist patterns. My skills and knowledge are not yet up to tackling one of AP’s full dress patterns, but the fichu’s vintage instructions make sense and I can visualize the construction process in my mind. Here it is – my HSF 2014 Challenge #2:

Ageless Patterns #1530-2

Ageless Patterns #1530-2 (copyright Ageless Patterns)

The cover for Ageless Patterns # 1530:


(copyright Ageless Patterns)

I love this pattern. It has collars, cuffs, and this fichu; more than enough to stretch a basic 1870’s wardrobe by adding a variety of looks to a just a few waists. I already have the fabric for my “real” 1870 reproduction dress. (As shown on the “Completed” page, my first attempt was somewhat less than great. I still cringe when I look at the fabric and trim.)

And I appears I’ve gotten over my prior aversion to lace, ruffles and bows. Although just how this lovely piece of fluff will look perched on the girls is yet to be seen.