August 29, 2015

1830s Working Class Wear

New clothing demands a quick update...Right after work this afternoon, I hopped out of my car and begged the sister to take a few pictures of my new 1830s working class wear before the sun set.  Thankfully, Maria agreed and shot these beauties in the grove next door!  (All photographs courtesy of Maria M. - many thanks!)

Over top my mid-century undergarments & striped work petticoat, I am sporting a brand new 1830s short gown, actually completed this afternoon, and blue check apron.  A large, block printed kerchief and 30s cap perched on top of my mid-century hairdo complete the look.  Many more clothing close-ups & construction details to come...

More pictures from the impromptu photo shoot:

In case you are or have been wondering, I am clutching two new pincushions in my hands.  One is a simple, round, calico pincushion; the other features my first attempt at Berlin work.  

Stay tuned for more clothing adventures ahead!  Thanks for reading!

August 25, 2015

Entertaining in Style...1830s Style

Summer is winding down and it's just about time to hit the books again!  In fact, this past week at the museum we've had to say so long and farewell to all of the college students for the 2015 season.  There certainly will be a void without them around, especially without Mary, the crowned "games mistress" of Thomson's Tavern!  

In choosing our friends, we all hope to find people who assist and support in times of need, are faithful companions and keepers of secrets.  People you can laugh, cry, and be silly without fear.  People to share hopes and dreams; and, most of all, know your greatest flaws, but love you anyways.  For me, that's Mary, she's the definition of a best friend.  

Lady Mary looking out onto the rainy grounds of Hamilton.

This summer, it has been such a privilege to get to know Mary and, now, to call her a friend.  She's helped me all season, showing me the ropes at Thomson Tavern and with all of the 19th century children's games.  She knows the village like the back of her hand, and is a fantastic interpreter.  There is always something new to learn from her and never a dull moment when she's around!

Playing the hydrocrystalophone, or glass harmonica.

While my friend is now settled back in college, before she left, she gave us one last performance...1830s style!

Slack rope walking in style!

Mary is certainly a one-woman show (hence her title as "games mistress").  She can juggle, ride a unicycle, stilt in full 1830s costume - forwards, backwards, sideways, twirl, waltz and even climb stairs (you name it, she can do it, on stilts) - and now, slack rope walk.  So, for her final gathering (historical talk & demonstration) for the season on 19th century entertainers, it was only fitting that she sport the appropriate attire!

CDV of circus lady with a lion & tiger.
(Image via: ebay -

The outfit itself consisted of a puffed sleeve blouse, bodice, skirt and knee-length bloomers, topped with a large turban.  Mary worked with the costume department to research, design and construct her entertainer costume - all I was really responsible for was her blouse and showing it off to the world!  

Hiding in the shade of Thomson Tavern's trees.

In fact, the finished ensemble reminded me of the gymnastic dress...

Read this excerpt from The Vintage Traveler's fantastic article on the Evolution of the Gymsuit:
"The gymnastics movement began in Germany, and newly arrived immigrants started the first gyms in the USA.  These were primarily for men, but as early as the 1830 there are references to women doing gymnastic exercises.  By the 1860s it was being suggested that women wear a “gymnastic dress” while exercising...
The gymnastic dress was similar to the Amelia Bloomer costume.   It was made of a loose-fitting blouse, a fitted but loose waist, and a gathered skirt.  The dress was worn shorter than fashionable dress of the time, but usually about six inches or so from the floor[...]By 1865 the exercise dress was often bloomers attached to a blouse, with a shorter skirt that was worn over the bloomers" 

Godey's January, 1858 Gymnastic costume.
(Image via:

 Anyways, usually, I don't like to take commissions from, I fear sometimes, complicates matters and takes away from the joy of sewing.  However, when Mary, a bit concerned by the one week deadline, asked for a peasant blouse, I was happy to oblige:

I used an altered version of my fairy costume blouse pattern, adding more length and a drawstring rather than elastic at the neckline.  Six hours and a couple yards of cotton muslin later, we had a finished puffed sleeve blouse!

Front view.

Back view.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention, take a look at those directional pleats on her skirt!  I was called in last minute to help attach all of the skirt material to the waistband, and spent a few hours in costuming chatting and pleating away.  Best of all, the pleats were all pinned evenly and facing the right direction the first time, which almost never happens, hah.  

More completed pictures of the entertainer & costume in action: 

The proud & pretty slack rope walker!


...and catching, success!

Thanks again, Mary, for posing & letting me share all of these wonderful pictures of you!  (And, of course, many thanks for allowing me to join in all of the fun!)  Study hard this semester - best wishes 'till next time!

August 14, 2015

A Ruffly Romantic Cap

I finally finished my ridiculously ruffled, Romantic Era cap!   

Photography courtesy of the sister - thanks Maria!

I spend most of my time at the museum interpreting in the 1830s buildings - Foster-Tufts House, Thomson Tavern & Hosmer's Inn dinners - and the look sure has grown on me!  I love the 30s - the frilly caps, the sleeve puffs & let's not forget those fantastic poke bonnets!  So, I think it's time that I make my own early 30s day dress...enter my current project:

So far, so good...I'm working kind of working backwards by beginning with the accessories as well as all new undergarments; then, I plan to tackle the dress using Past Pattern's full high gown.  

Close up of the dress print.  When I stumbled across this fabric,
it screamed 30s dress to me and demanded to be bought immediately!

I quickly whipped together a brown silk belt with a pretty mother of pearl buckle:  (And, I'm so happy that I did because I wear it at work constantly!) 

Made from brown silk dupioni (no visible slubs, yay), faced with plain, white muslin and interlined with sturdy cotton twill.  All hand stitched.  

Now, getting back to my newly finished cap, I was inspired by these examples:  I even made an entire pinterest board for Early 19th Century Caps!

Lady's ruffled white cap, 1800-1850.
Tasha Tudor Historic Costume Collection
Augusta Auctions, Lot: 142
(Image via:

Cap, 1820-1835.
Colonial Williamsburg, Acc. Num: 1990-192
(Image via:

After seeing this cap, I knew immediately that I wanted to use dotted swiss for the body and caul & a light lawn for the ruffle:

Ruffled cap, early 19th century.
(Image via:

And, here's my version of a ruffly Romantic cap...

Just look at those ruffles!  They are really doing their ruffly thing, even without starch & being crushed under bonnets for several days already...yay!  When I started, was worried that the cotton lawn was just too wimpy and fine to stand up to the job.  

Slowly, but surely, I worked away at this cap...for being so small, it was quite the undertaking!  Each straight edge was finished with a tiny 1/16" rolled hem and the caul & ruffle were attached with whipped rolled gathers.  And, I am so proud to say that it is entirely hand stitched!  Last year at this time, this project would have been impossible - I've come so far.  

Detail shot of the flat felled seam & whipped rolled gathers.

I made sure to concentrate the gathers around the lappets, so the flounce lies smoother.  I also played around with a bit of ribbon hoping to add a pop of color and settled on brown satin (no silk on hand) ties after the portrait in Foster's dining room.

Inside & out views of the lappets.

The cap turned out a bit large, but I'm too happy that it's finished to change anything!  Now I want to make another ruffly confection...

More completed pictures, all thanks to the younger sister :) 



The other side.


Thanks for reading!

August 7, 2015

HSM July Challenge: Working Woman's Bits & Bobs

Better late than never, at least that's what they say, right?  So, with that in mind, take a look at my entry for Challenge #7: Accessorize  of the Historical Sew Monthly, hosted by the lovey Dreamstress!

Accessory (noun) - an object or device not essential in itself
but adding to the beauty, convenience, or effectiveness of something else.

Throughout the month of July, I spent my spare time on vacation and during slow periods at the museum, hand-stitching accessories!  I hemmed two, printed cotton neckerchiefs, threw together a linen apron, and stitched a muslin cap directly from the pages of The Workwoman's Guide.  

My handmade neckerchief collection...

Since discovering the "rolled hem" technique, I've become obsessed with stitching smaller and smaller rolled hems!  Neckerscarves provide the perfect opportunities for practice.  Plus, they come in handy at work to enhance the "working" impression, as well as keeping those pesky mosquitoes off the neck.  


The first neckerchief that I tackled is just a large, 40" triangle hemmed on all sides.  Such an easy and relaxing project, which has become my most used accessory at work!

Semi-sheer, block print cotton that I purchased from Regency Revisited.

The second neckerchief is much finer (and took longer to hem!).  It was made from a lighter weight cotton than the blue one, and is a yard by yard, square piece.  It hasn't been worn yet, but it nicely complements the two fabrics that I picked out for 1830s short gowns.

Tiny, even 1/16" rolled hems!

Next, you can never have too many aprons!

Striped linen apron, full front view.

For my newest apron, I chose a light weight, striped linen from Joann's.  Hemmed the sides with a 1/4" seam and the bottom with a nice, deep, 3" hem with running stitches.  The stripes were very useful for measuring and keeping the seams even.

Close up of the gauging and band.

To add some variety, I choose to gauge the top of the apron skirt and whip it to the band, following early 19th century examples.  (Like this beautiful, marigold, silk damask apron, c.1810 featured on VintageTextile).  To keep the raw edge on the inside from unraveling, I made sure to overcast it.

Inside view of the gauging - again, the stripes sure came in handy!

And finally, a plain, 1830s, muslin cap from The Workwoman's Guide

This cap was a fun project!  (In fact, I'm actually working on several more caps for work.)  The plain, utility muslin I used was quite bulky for a cap; however, I am very pleased with the result.  

The diagram in The Workwoman's Guide showed the cap as an easy one piece to cut out.  First, the band was stitched together with a flat felled seam.  Then, the caul portion was gathered with whipped rolled gathers and attached to the band.  Lastly, the entire outer edge was finished with a small 1/8" rolled hem.  

A view of the whipped rolled gathers from the outside.

A view of the whipped rolled gathers from the inside.

I am just tickled pink by whipped rolled gathers!  This was my first attempt at trying the technique, so the cap also fits in nicely with Challenge #6: Out of Your Comfort Zone of the 2015 Historical Sew Monthly.

More views of the finished working woman's cap:

The Challenge:  #7 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.  (Bonus: the cap also works for #6: Out of Your Comfort Zone)

Fabric:  Block print cottons for the neckerchiefs, striped linen for the apron, and utility muslin for the cap.

Pattern:  None except for the cap, which came from an original plate in The Workwoman's Guide

Year:  None specifically; intended use for 1800s-1830s impressions.

Notions:  Thread

How historically accurate is it?  All four projects are entirely hand-stitched with period techniques.  How about 95% accuracy?  

Hours to complete:  Didn't keep track, but (infrequently) worked on them throughout the entire month of July. 

First worn:  Multiple times at work in the village, often with my 1830s impression.  And, I am looking forward to continued use throughout the rest of the season! 

Total cost:  The blue print for the neckerchief was a second hand craft store find, the lighter block print from Regency Revisited cost around $10 for the yard, the striped linen was a remnant from JoAnns, and the muslin came from the never-ending muslin bolt.  So, let's say $20 or a little more in all.  

Thanks for reading!

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