Readings for Rural Life

From Moore’s Rural New-Yorker in Rochester, NY

October 1st, 1864

How to Tell a Lady

Two women shall get into an omnibus, and though we never saw one of them before, we shall select you the true lady. She does not titler when a gentleman, handing up her fare, knocks off his hat, or pitches it awry over his nose; nor does she receive her “change,” after this (to him) inconvenient act of gallantry, in grim silence. She wears no flowered brocade to be trodden under foot, not ball-room jewelry, nor rose-tinted gloves; but the lace frill around her face is scrupulously fresh, and the strings under her chin have evidently been handled only by dainty finger. She makes no parade of a watch if she wears one; nor does she draw off her dark, neatly –fitting glove, to display ostentatious rings. Still we notice, nestling in the straw beneath us, such a trim little book, not paper-soled, but of an anti-consumption thickness; the bonnet upon her head is of plain straw, simply trimmed – for your true lading never wears a “dress hat” in an omnibus. She is quite as civil to the poorest as to the richest person who sits besides her – and equally regardful of their rights. If she attracts attention, it is by the unconscious [sic]ace of her person and manner, not by the o[sic]entation of her dress. We are quite sorry when she pulls the strap and disappears; if we were a bachelor we should go home to our solitary den, with a resolution to become a better and a – married man.


Published in: on October 1, 2014 at 6:04 am  Leave a Comment  

“All Lined Up in a Row” FanU Swap – Sign-up Day

Today is the day to sign-up for the FanU “All Lined Up in a Row” Swap!

For the “All Lined Up in a Row”  Swap, Swappers will exchange early to mid nineteenth century appropriate cotton fabrics with motifs lined up in a row, just like a garden. We will mail our fabrics on October 10th.

Please read all the details below. 

To Sign-up, simply comment below with your email and mailing address. (I’ll erase those before approving your comment, so the whole world doesn’t have that info.)

What is a Swap?

This is a chance for to exchange fabric with a small group of people. Each group will have 8 people exchanging pieces of fabric. All you need is a half yard of fabric and envelopes along with your copy of Fanciful Utility.

To Participate:

1: Sign Up Day!
On sign-up day, groups will be assigned on a first-in basis; the first eight will be the first swap group, second eight in the second group, etc. **Please be certain you will be able to fully participate by mailing your fabrics on the Mail-Out Date.**

“Fallen Leaves” Swap Sign-Up Day: September 1st
“All Lined Up in a Row” Swap Sign-Up Day: October 1st
“I Couldn’t Live Without It!” Sign-Up Day: November 1st

Bonus The Greene Swap Sign-Up Day: November 15th


2: Mail-Out Day:
Place a 9×9″ piece of fabric suited to the mid-19th century in envelopes for each of the 7 other people in your swap group, stamp them (be sure to double check at the post office, but the small 9×9″ pieces should mail in a regular envelope with a normal stamp), and send them off no later than the Mail-Out Day.

“Fallen Leaves” Swap Sign-Up Day: September 10th
“All Lined Up in a Row” Swap Sign-Up Day: October 10th
“I Couldn’t Live Without It!” Sign-Up Day: November 10th

Bonus The Greene Swap Sign-Up Day: December 1st


3: Get Fanciful!
Use your Fanciful Utility templates and techniques to make a project from the book, or copy your own from 19th century sources. We’ll all look forward to seeing your projects! You don’t have to sew right away, but don’t keep us waiting forever to see all the fun things!

(If you need a copy of Fanciful Utility, you can purchase them from the publisher at

Fabric Guidelines:

  1. For the cotton and silk categories, your fabric should be early to mid-nineteenth century appropriate. (If there is a want for an earlier or later group, we can do that.) Prints and motifs should reflect those available in the 1840s, 50s and 60s. Cotton should be 100% cotton. Silk should be 100% silk.
  2. To keep the swap and sewing possibilities interesting, please avoid solids as best we can.
  3. Fabrics that do not work well for sewing cases should not be swapped. These include sheers, gauzes, heavy, thick, easy-to-fray, slippery and stretch fabrics.
  4. For the “crazy swap” category, think crazy quilt in a sewing case. This could include satins, velvets, textured fabrics. Quality synthetic fabrics are invited.

Swapper Guidelines:

  1. Please be certain you can fully participate in the swap before you sign-up.
  2. If something arises after you sign-up that will effect the date you are mailing your fabrics, please email your group so everyone is aware.
  3. If you fail to fully participate in a swap, you will not be able to sign-up for future swaps. (We do understand medical and family emergencies. I need to be able to ensure swappers will receive fabrics when they send fabrics out.)


Yes, you can participate in 1, 2 or 3 of the swaps.

Yes, if we end up with multiple groups, you can participate in more than one group to swap more fabric. If you participate in 2 groups, you should swap 2 fabrics.

Yes, you can swap large and small scale prints.

Yes, you can swap now and sew later.

Yes, we would love to see what you’ve made with the swapped fabric.

Yes, you can use your own fabric in your swapped project.

Published in: on October 1, 2014 at 6:00 am  Comments (6)  

Learning & Living History at The Genesee Country Village & Museum

Check out the Genesee Country Village & Museum’s new video showing how they help children learn about history.

(The link does go to the video on Facebook.)

GCV Educ promo video screen shot

Published in: on September 29, 2014 at 3:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Year in Millinery Fashion – 1864

Curtianless bonnets are rapidly gaining ground in Paris. Some are but mere caps, almost entirely covered with flowers; others are a half handkerchief, with a small front; and other again have only a fall of lace for the crown. In the next number we will give a very pretty illustration of one of these curtainless bonnets, and the ladies will then be able to decide whether to accept or reject them. (Godey’s, September, 1864)

Published in: on September 29, 2014 at 1:01 am  Leave a Comment  

Looking at the Seasonality of Straw Bonnets – A How-To

A question about the seasonality of straw bonnets came up on Facebook today. The general question of seasonality has come up a few times over the years. In 2009/10, I did a chart looking at the number of times straw bonnets appear in fashion descriptions by month for the major ladies publications. The pretty version is on one of the disks in a box of disks. The pretty version is also dated since several more publications are now available. (You can see some of the raw data on the Sewing Academy in a similar discussion.) As it will be some time before I can do an updated pretty chart with all the color-coding I have in mind, I’ve decided to offer a little research how-to instead. This will give a little intro into one online source of digitized books. This source is nice because it give a visual reference for hits.

There are two versions of this how-to: an Audio/Visual Recording linked via Google Drive and a screen shot with text version below.

This resource is Internet Archive at Susquehanna University. The URL is I know Archive has several complete Godey’s Lady’s Books available.On Archive’s home page, type “Godey’s” into the search field.

a 1This brings us to the search result. You will see many listings including individual months, collections of fashion plates and full year collections. Scroll down to the 1861 edition. Notice, these are divided January through June and July through December. Click on this option. a 2

Within the book listing you will see the book in the center of the right window. Below that is the data on the book (below the photo). To the left, there are several ways of viewing/reading the book. For our purposes, choose “read online”


In the online viewing window, you will see a search bar in the upper right. In this bar, type “straw” and hit enter. It will take several seconds to process the search.


The results will appear as little yellow bubbles below the book. This is the nice visual component. We can see that the word straw is used through-out the year; January being on the far left, December being on the far right. 2
It is important to notice not all the uses of the word “straw” is in a fashion description. There are many short stories and other works mentioning straw, even straw bonnets. As you hover over each yellow marker, a window will pop up showing you the hit for “straw”. This example is not from a fashion description.


This example is from a fashion description. 4

If you click on the yellow marker, you will be brought to the page for the hit. Notice the arrow below the book marking where you are in the book. 5

By looking at each of the times straw is mentioned in a fashion description through each year, you can begin to get a sense of when straw bonnets were popularly worn, generally worn and less worn.

I hope this helps. I also hope my little how-to doesn’t make too many librarians cringe due to my terminology or process.



Published in: on September 26, 2014 at 4:03 pm  Comments (2)  

Black Silk Drawn Bonnet

wpid-2014-09-15-18.09.52.jpg.jpeg   This black silk drawn bonnet was a custom request. The new owner is adding her own flowers and ribbons.

wpid-2014-09-15-18.10.44.jpg.jpegThe silk is a flat black tissue taffeta. I like this silk because it is so similar in weight and weave to silks I’ve seen on original bonnets. It draws up nicely on the thinner cane and allows for tight gathers without looking bulky or adding too much weight, while also drawing lightly giving nice waves to the silk.

The buckram form base is shaped to have a nice flaring brim, fashionable yet flattering.


Inside, is a cotton sheer lining and a silk organza frill ready for flowers to be added. The bavolet is lined with white cotton net.

wpid-2014-09-15-18.11.44.jpg.jpegI’m sure some are wondering if this bonnet could be dressed for mourning. Yes, it could be. One could add matte black ribbons and simply fluff out the frill (I like to ship the frills un-fluffed) for a mourning impression. For later in the mourning period, purple ribbons and simple white flowers could be added.

Published in: on September 25, 2014 at 4:26 pm  Comments (1)  

Green Mini-Check Silk Drawn Bonnet.

The form for this bonnet has been sitting on the work table since mid-summer, with the silk patiently waiting.

wpid-2014-09-24-21.13.06-1.jpg.jpegI played with the shaping of the buckram form to get the brim to flare up into a high fashionable shape. This is a shape that will want a bonnet stay. (Yes, I will get to taking some photos of stays asap.)

wpid-2014-09-24-21.12.43.jpg.jpegFor this piece, I wanted to play with the texture created by placing the drawn canes evenly together, following the curving shape of the brim. I used the thicker of the canes to play off the tiny check. I found this really emphasizes the curve of the brim and visually elongates it. I love how that works.

wpid-2014-09-24-21.12.57.jpg.jpegThe decorative ribbon is the German moire I like in white. It makes for a nice, wide ribbon that ties beautifully and lasts. The functional ties are silk satin, in ivory.

I set the organza frill high and slightly asymmetrically. Part of me wants to fill in the sides all the way through the cheektabs. But, this placement is supposed to emphasize the vertical line and height.

wpid-2014-09-24-21.13.49-1.jpg.jpegNow the flowers. As I worked with the silk, I knew it really wanted purple. I found a pair of pretty purple velvet roses and delicate white lilies whose edges have just a hint of purple. The spray of velvet blossoms add to the height. I went with a small bouquet set asymmetrically.

Almost forgot. This bonnet is available on Etsy.


Published in: on September 25, 2014 at 4:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

Readings for Rural Life

From Moore’s Rural New-Yorker in Rochester, NY

Sept 24th, 1861

Fires in the Bedrooms.

Most people, even many intelligent reformers have the idea that to sleep in a cold room is good – essential health. It is an error. It is better to have an open fire in your bed-room. The atmosphere is not only by this means constantly changed, but with the fire you will keep the window open, which will add greatly to the needed ventilation. But more than his, with the fire you will have fewer bedclothes over you, which is a gain, as a large number of blankets not only interferes somewhat with the circulation and respiration, but prevents the escape of those gases which the skin is constantly emitting. Even furnace or stove heat with an open window is better than a close, cold room. Interchange with the external atmosphere depends upon the difference between the temperature of the air within and that without. But let us have the open fire. Let us go without. But let us have the open fire. Let us go without silks, broadcloths, carpets, and finery of all kinds, if necessary, that we may have this beautiful purifier and diffuser of joy in all our houses. In my own house I have ten open grates and find with coal at eleven dollars the expense is frightful, and if it were in any other department of housekeeping I should feel I could not afford it; but in this I do not flinch, so important do I deem the open fire. Dr. Lewis.


Published in: on September 24, 2014 at 6:04 am  Leave a Comment  

A Year in Millinery Fashion – 1864

A Leghorn bonnet, trimmed
with a salmon and black ribbon. The feathers are black. The inside trimming is
composed of scarlet velvet, black lace, and salmon-colored flowers.  (Godey’s, September, 1864)


Published in: on September 22, 2014 at 1:01 am  Leave a Comment  

Comparing the Crossing


Published in: on September 20, 2014 at 9:20 am  Comments (1)  

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