How have I not seen this painting before? Preparing for a Walk, by Samuel Baldwin, adorns a speckling of blogs and book covers. Yet, I had not seen it before today.

It shows a wide brimmed, shallow crown, dark brown straw hat trimmed in a red ribbon from both the front and back thanks to the mirror.

I am going to need some dark brown straw.

Published in: on March 24, 2017 at 2:00 pm  Comments (2)  

Today’s Millinery – Chapeau Cloche

Want a hat with an oval shallow crown and a brim that is just a bit wider while it dips for a little more shapes? 

How about a Chapeau Cloche. 

This fashionable Civil War era hat has a wide brim that both curves down all around while dipping in front. It is meant for country or seaside wear. 

This hat will best fit someone who prefers an oval hat. The crown measures 20″ inside. (Average)

Visit my Etsy shop for this hat

Published in: on March 23, 2017 at 4:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

2017 Spring Sew Along – A Rolled Sewing Case – Information

Hollow sewing cases or housewives seem to appear during the mid-nineteenth century and continue through the beginning of the twentieth century. Today, we will look at different examples. Note: this is one item where there are few examples with images publicly available. I recommend looking at your local collections for additional pieces.

1To the right is a sampling trio of hollow sewing cases. The top is the accompanying illustration for a housewife published in Peterson’s Magazine in 1862, Arthur’s Home Magazine in December of 1863, August 1864, and Godey’s  Lady’s Book in 1864 (directions follow). The bottom left is an undated sewing case of similar construction that I suspect is late 19th century based on the sewing and accompanying advertisement. (The image in Pinterest links only to a Flicker account that I have not been able to find the original image or location in.) To the right is another broken Pinterest link. This one is noted as an early twentieth century example attributed to Shakers. The use of this material can be found earlier.  The seams appear to be hand sewn.


To the left are three examples attributed to Shakers from Willis Henry Auctions, sold in 2011. (Note the examples are not to scale.) Notice each is a single, solid color interior silk. The blue example is 9 1/2″ long. Just the very edge of the binding can be seen on the open tube center. This example has a single pocket, a scissors holder, and embroidered wool needle pages. The red one is 5 3/4″ long. This image allows us to see a spool inside the hollow tube. Note: I do not believe these scissors go with this case as it will not easily roll closed with those handles. Both of these appear to have had ribbon tie closures. The yellow example is a later piece. Notice the snap closure. This small case has three spools and needle pages. This one is 3 1/2″ wide.

Additional Examples:



Materials.—A piece of black cloth, eight and one-half inches long, five and one-half inches wide; a piece of toile  circe the same size; one and one-half yard of blue sarsnet ribbon; one skein of coarse black purse silk; a few needle-fuls of various colored silks; buttons, etc.

The stars are worked either of one or in several bright and varied colors; but out pattern is made in the latter style. The stars of the same color form slanting lines; those in a light shade are white; then two lines farther , yellow; the two intermediate lines are one red and the other blue; then after the yellow stars, one line of green, the other of lilac. When the embroidery is finished, line the cloth with toile cirle, and bind both the outside and inside together with sarsnet ribbon, stitching it neatly on. Cover each of the round pocket, or housewife with a round of crochet work in black silk. To do this, make a chain of four or five stitches , join the first to the last so that as to form a circle; take some fine cord, and over this cord work crochet 8 rounds, increasing here and there, so that the round may be a little convex. When finished, it should measure about two inches round. Sew these rounds on to each side of the embroidered cloth, beginning at one of the ends. The rounds form the sides of the pocket and the embroidery is sewn round them, leaving a space of about one inch for the opening. The handle consists of a piece of bright blue ribbon, 10 inches long, fastened on each side in the middle of each round, and finished with a small bow. Two buttons (see illustration) are then added, and at the edge of the work two button-holes made to shut the housewife. To make the house-wife . To make the house-wife still neater and more complete, a piece of ribbon may be stitched inside to hold scissors, bodkin or knife, without putting these things into the pocket loosely.



Published in: on March 22, 2017 at 1:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Tonight’s Millinery 

This is a sweet Civil War era hat with a narrower brim. The crown is flat on top with curved, tapered sides. The crown is 20″ around inside for an average size head. 

The accompanying illustration is from Peterson’s, August of 1864.

This hat is available in my shop. 

Published in: on March 16, 2017 at 6:34 pm  Comments (1)  

At the Sea Shore and Watering Place

For those friends who will being enjoying the sea shore or other watering places this year….

In looking at the millinery selected for wear at the sea shore, beach or watering place, it becomes obvious there are those women in attendance who wish to enjoy the water visually and those who wish to get a little closer, be it relaxing near the water or in the water. The former group seems to wear bonnets and hats fashionable for the day. I am focusing on those in the latter group who appear to be dressed to enjoy the water or spend a time in close proximity.I am looking at images, illustrations, paintings and photographs, from the 1850s and 1860s.

This group leans towards wearing hats over bonnets. Those in the late 1850s seem to have more hats that have wider brims. Yet, while there are more hats with narrower or moderately wider brims appearing in the 1860 images, this does not exclude the wider brimmed hats.

Simple ribbons around the crown, as bows, and/or as ties seem to be the most common for those hats meant to be worn in or very near the water. (*I recommend testing any trim for color fastness if it will be worn in proximity to water. I also recommend not using paper flowers for this purpose.)

Let’s look at some images.

Details from August in the Country, the Sea-Shore, by Winslow Homer, August 1859:

This first close-up shows two women wearing similarly shaped hats with shallow, oval crowns and shaped moderately wide brims. The on on the left is trimmed with a ribbon around the brim, bow at back and a narrower ribbon to tie beneath the chin. The woman on the right has lace encircling the brim of the hat as will as a ribbon for the crown, and one to tie under the chin.

This next close-up shows the back/top of the hat. It has a shallow crown and an moderately wide brim. The illustration is vague about the decoration, suggesting a ribbon on the exterior.
Details from The Bathe at Newport, by Winslow Homer, September 1858:

On the left mid-ground a woman stands in arm with a man. Her shortened skirts suggest she may intend to bathe/swim. Her hat does not show the crown. I surmise it is shallow. The brim is quite wide with some shaping causing a dip in the front and back. THis hat ties under the chin.

Further to the fore-ground, two women are bathing with what appears to be a type of net or cap upon their heads. Several women in the water are similar. No hat.

Just past the mid-ground off to the right of center is a woman swimming with a tube. To the right of her is an individual of interest because this person is wearing a hat. It is debatable whether this person is a man or woman.
The New York Public Library has a very nice feature where it groups images thematically into digital “book” for easy viewing. They have one such “book” for “Bathing Beaches, 1899 and earlier.” (They also have one called “Resort life.” This gives several additional illustrations to examine for head-wear.

Details from A Day in the Country – At the Sea Side, by Alfred Fredricks, August 1858:

In whole, this illustration has more of a comical sense to it, with a “come as you are” sense to the scene. In the center of this illustration is a mother with two children. She is wearing what appears to be a straw bonnet with minimal trim. This is more of an every day selection rather than a special piece for the beach.
Details from The Mermaids’ Haunt, by Joseph Swain circa 1854-69:

This illustration offers us a wide assortment of hats. It is unclear who in this group has or intents to enjoy getting in the water and who will remain on shore. This first close-up shows three hats. On the left is a moderately wide brim hat that has a fashionable curve to the brim and a low crown. This hat is decorated with a feather plume. (this may not do well in the water.) In the middle is a hat with a shallow brim, a moderately wide brim and a simple ribbon. To the front right is a very different hat with a turned up brim and round crown. This is a fashionable hat.

This nest illustration close-up shows two hats with curved down dome style brims with shallow crown. This style is nice for shading the eyes. Both are decorated with ribbon. In the back ground is a shapely hat as well.
Details from Bathers, by Joseph Warren. I approximate late 1860s-early 1870s:

In the front, a woman hold a rather large hat for the fashion of the time. The crown appears to be shallow and round, while the brim is quite wide. It may or may not have shape to it.

Standing upon the rock, a woman with braids looping by her ears, holds a hat with an oval crown that may have flat sides, and a moderately wide brim. The brim appears to have the slightest curve down.

Additional Information


Looking at the upcoming Christie’s auctions, I came across Frederick Ifold’s A Day at the Beach. This painting, or another version, appears to have also been called At the English Coast. The 1858 painting has several woman and children depicted with straw hats and bonnets.

To the left, a woman wrapped in a green paisley is wearing a straw bonnet trimmed in white or cream. The bonnet appears to have fring or lace draped from the bavolet as well as brim decoration.

In the center middle ground, we see a woman and child sitting upon a what may be a boat or short wall. She appears to be in what may be a bathing costume with a light color skirt and blue sacque. Her darker brown straw hat has a moderate, domed crown and curved brim with lace draped around the edge.

Children play in the sand in the foreground, the four girls each with hats, three being straw.

*Another painting in the same sale that may be of interest for the same era is George E. Tunson’s The Embarkation.


I find William Powell Firth’s 1859 Life at the Sea-Side (Ramsgate Sands) to be an interesting and frustrating image. There appears to be numerous scans and photos of this painting on the internet of vastly varying quality and color tone. It seems it is a painting that must be seen in person – with a magnifying glass – and utter silence.

The vast majority of the women in the painting appear to be wearing bonnets rather than hats. Many look like they are straw, but I would not say it is the majority. A number of parasols and umbrellas speckle the painting. 12 by my count. The brown one left of center reads as an umbrella in size compared to the others. Some women wear shawls, including the woman to the far right who has a border plaid shawl in blue with brown and gold. The chairs I see are not folding chairs.

To the far left along the shore line, there are three people with what appears to be a calash style visor on their straw bonnets. The black seems to fold out reaching forward of the brim to shade the eyes. A similar piece is seen just to the right of center on a green bonnet and a bonnet of undetermined color. I know I have seen one of these in a collection before. I am trying to recall where.


Eugène Boudin enjoyed painting and drawing seaside scenes. Among his work are several pieces of Trouville, such as Beach Scene at Trouville, 1863, which support a variety of millinery, hinting at both hats in bonnets. A further investigation of his work may tell more about the head-wear as well as attire and culture. (I do suspect that with the number of whome wrapping their shawls rather fully around themselves in some paintings (right) and the wind shown in others, that few ventured into the water in this area.) The National Gallery of Art has a nice article about him with a sampling of work. Many other pieces come up in a web search (I rather like the ones at sunset.) It is tempting to order a book.


I have a few on my evolving Pinterest board for “Seaside, Watering places, and Watercure.”


Published in: on March 16, 2017 at 4:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

Tonight’s Millinery 

I have been working on a unique bonnet during this wild weather we’ve been having in Western New York. The inspiration for this piece is an 1882 bonnet in the MET collection. 

This bonnet has a crown that dips on the sides, causing the brim to curve significantly. This is a very different construction concept compared to the 1850s and 1860s hats I make. 

This bonnet is currently not available for sale. I want to decorate it for a contest. I just have to decide how closely I want to be to the original and how closely I can be considering the matching silk and ribbon. 

Published in: on March 15, 2017 at 7:36 pm  Comments (2)  

Announcing the 2017 Spring Sew Along – A Rolled Sewing Case

At long last, the 2017 Spring Sew Along is here!
Join us in making a Rolled Sewing Case with an Exclusive Tin Tube made by the craftsman at the Genesee Country Village and Museum.

This rolled sewing case, also called a housewife or huswife, unrolls to reveal a hollow base which can hold spools of thread. The hollow section of this sewing case is large enough to hold period correct spools of thread. When I tested mine, I found it held three small wooden spools, two large wooden spools or one Coats and Clark with one Guttenburg spool.

Using techniques from Fanciful Utility, you choose whether to add a pocket, scissors pocket, needle-pages or other period correct storage spaces to your sewing case.

The base of this sewing case is a hand crafted tin tube and ends made by the tinsmiths at the Genesee Country Village and Museum. The tin tubes are available exclusively through the Genesee Country Village and Museum’s Crafts in the Village program for a donation of $5 each, plus $7.15 Priority shipping. Send requests and donation with shipping to: ATTN Deanna Berkemeier; Genesee Country Village and Museum; 1410 Flint Hill Road; Mumford, NY 14511. Please make check or money orders out to Genesee Country Village with Crafts in the Village in the memo line. Locals can email dberkemeier at GCV dot org to arrange pickup at. 

Please order by March 31st so we can all begin our Sew Along together in April. 

Comment below or message Anna that you will be participating. You may also wish to join the Fanciful Utility Sew Along group on Facebook.

img_20170310_162242.jpgRecommended materials (dimensions given with leeway for cutting.)

  • Your copy of Fanciful Utility
  • Tin Tube Kit from GCVM
  • Exterior material: Leather, oil cloth, painted canvas, wool, tapestry  – 6″ by 12″
  • Interior fabric: Silk taffeta, quilt weight cotton or tropical wool (also for end caps) – 6″by 14″
  • Interior pockets: Silk, leather, cotton as desired
  • Hand full of wool batting
  • 2 yards of 5/8″ cotton sateen ribbon img_20170310_163346.jpg
  • Thin cotton or wool batting. Felted wool will also work. – 6″by 12″
  • Wool flannel or felted wool for needle pages


Published in: on March 14, 2017 at 3:49 pm  Comments (18)  

Wind Storm Hat, aka Tonight’s Millinery 

Wednesday we had quite the wind storm wreak havoc on our area. The hurricane force winds knocked out the power in homes throughout several countries. Here, our hundred year old trees held right while neighbors trees snap, power lines ripped from their homes and roofs crushed in. Our town and one adjacent were told not to go outside and banned from travel. I sewed by window light. 

Here is Windy, a Regency era hat with a tapered crown and narrow brim. The crown measures 21″ inside. Being round, it fits comfortably on my head in a couple different ways. Tilted further back, centered over a high bun feels very natural. The crown is 5 1/2″ tall. The brim 10″ across. 

I still need to get it up in the Etsy shop. This is one of those hats I both really like for myself and would enjoy decorating. Thus some delay. EDIT: Now available in the shop. 

Reference images:

On the far right, 1803


A bit taller. I think this is 1815. 

Published in: on March 10, 2017 at 10:38 pm  Comments (2)  

Beth’s Bobbins Reviews From Field to Fashion

Hop over to Beth’s Bobbins to read her Review of From Field to Fashion.

Thank you, Beth, for the review.

From Field to Fashion is available in my Etsy Shop.


Published in: on March 7, 2017 at 6:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Tonight’s Millinery 

This fashionable Civil War era straw hat is ideal for a promenade about town. 

The shallow, oval crown is favored by this with average to small head. The three inch wide brim dips forward and back.  

This hat is available in my Etsy shop.

Published in: on March 6, 2017 at 6:35 pm  Comments (4)