CWDD Overview of Winter Headwear

The Civil War Digital Digest offers a short overview of winter head wear this morning. They show pumpkin bonnets, quilted bonnets, and some children’s bonnets.


I will be offering an exclusive pattern taken from my original collection in the next couple months. Following the pattern, I will introduce my next book detailing the construction and materials of domestically sewn winter bonnets. This book will be packed full of annotated photographs from my personal collection.

Published in: on September 29, 2016 at 6:45 am  Leave a Comment  

I am really bad about keeping secrets. I’m rather pleased and amazed with myself that I have not blurted the details of my projects for Ag Fair all over the place. I’ve been really, really good. But, I really, really want to share what I’ve been working on. So, I am going to share my materials list, all of them lumped together.

This year’s projects needed:

  • Silk taffeta 
  • Silk velvet
  • Silk thread
  • Silk organza 
  • Silk ribbons 
  • Wool felted
  • Wool batting 
  • Cotton sateen ribbon
  • Cotton velvet 
  • Cotton cording
  • Polished cotton
  • Cotton net
  • Cotton thread
  • Calk pastels
  • Cut steel beads 
  • Straw plait 
  • Wire 
Published in: on September 25, 2016 at 8:05 pm  Comments (1)  

Conversations with Chairs

“Well aren’t you…..”

I spent much of the summer wandering estate sales, yard sales and such looking at chairs, taking pictures of chairs, and, yes, talking with chairs*~. If you ask my husband, he will likely roll his eyes and tell you it was annoying.

Let me first introduce you to the two chairs that have accompanied me to events for the past two decades. They are like old friends.


This plain, somewhat paint splattered chair is quite loved, especially by my bottom. It is essential a chair’s seat be pleasing to the bottom, whether it is layered with petticoats and a wiry cage or lightly draped in minimal layers.  The nearly perfectly shaped seat fits my bottom just right. The front of the seat has a nice curve so it doesn’t cut into the back of my legs when I sit there for an extended period of time.

You may say “but there is a crack down the center!?” Yes, that crack goes all the way through, front to back. Yet, it is quite solid thanks to someone’s supportive work at some point in the past.

This chair sat at my bedroom sewing machine for about a decade, making trips to events when ever needed. Dad used to refer to this as one of my farm chairs. It is quite similar to this side chair, ca 1840-1880, at the Henry Ford Museum. It has a hint of a fan back, though it isn’t really. The seat is much like the shaped solid seats in this pair of thumb back chairs, from 1825. (I am not sure it can be called a thumb back because the top goes all the way across the spindles, rather than having the two shaped sides com all the way up.)


For two decades, this next chair has been the companion to the one above. This is likely the least nineteenth century appropriate of my chairs based on the seat itself. The plain lines just are not quite it. The back is almost a bowback, but not quite.

That said, this chair has some nice advantages. This back, with the center splat, is a nice back for sitting in a corset, with just the right angle and support. One can sit pleasantly in this chair for quite some time.

Until the winters in our very dry carriage house, this was a solid chair. I even stood on it regularly to decorate and hang curtains. As you can see by the bungee cords, the rungs have dried loose. They are being encouraged back into place. I am trying to avoid gluing until it has a more settled environment. As such, this chair may be retired to at home life.

A few chairs were conversational enough to find their way into my car and on their way home with me this summer.


In the last room of a beautiful old barn, that clearly missed having horses*, sat this chair a stylish misfit among later twentieth century companions.  The Hitchock*^ style shape is quite similar to this chair from Harvard’s General Artemas Ward House Museum. Being quite sturdy, giving the illusion of being light weight due to nice balance, and a silly little price tag, it found its way to my car. It has a rope seat that has been treated with some white substance I have yet to identify.This will likely become my painted chair. (It would be great to find a second, similar chair to paint as well for Lily.)

This chair is much like the chair I sat on while demonstrating in the Foster-Tuffs house during the War of 1812 straw demonstration. The height is just about perfect for my quasi-average 5’4″ height, while the back is at a supportive angle. I can comfortably sit, knees at a proper angle without sliding forward/down, nor cutting off good flow to my lower legs. Let me tell you, there is nothing so silly feeling as not being able to keep ones butt in the right spot in a chair, and there is nothing so miserable as the swelling in the feet from sitting three days in a chair that cuts.

This ladder back or slat chair sat at the edge of an estate sale tent, the tent where they placed all the ‘special’ items. When I inquired, I was quoted just the right price. The whole length of the driveway, I had every intention of passing it along. By the time I made it across the road and it was loaded into the car, we had bonded. By the time we were home, I became attached.

The wood is just beautiful with such a nice patina. Do you see the seat?!?! It is done so nicely. I highly doubt it is original. Whoever rewove the seat did an amazing job. The funny thing is, it is shorter than my other chairs by just a few inches. So, it isn’t even ideal for sitting for me. This may end up being an at home chair.

I am looking to learn more  about the back of this chair. The vertical pieces curve/splay out slightly. They also have just a bit of shaping, rather than going straight up like we see in Shaker ladder back chairs.

Several chairs I talked with did not come home with me. I simply do not need that many chairs, nor do we have space for chairs not in use.



What does a collector of patent folding chairs take to living history events to sit on?

Not patent folding chairs. These are to look pretty and fill an obsession (as well as an over full storage closet.) In our house there are chairs you sit on and chairs you look at. Never the two shall intermix.


Of the spectrum of patent folding chairs, only a small number were produced during the Civil War. Of those, even fewer were made for the civilian market. That small selection was intended for use in the parlor (some were produced specifically as deck chairs), making them highly unlikely to be the chair a refugee or fleeing family would choose to take with them. In the instances of civilian, domestic recreation where a civilian marketed pre-1864 design would be appropriate , I feel accurately constructed reproductions are a better choice over an original folding chair.

What do I look for in a chair?

  • The visual/artistic lines of the first half of the nineteenth century. I rather love federal lines.
  • Construction appropriate to the first half of the century.
  • Solid wood and construction. A chair that does not wiggle.
  • A seat that is not going to split. It is an unusual and somewhat disorienting feeling when a seat splits beneath you. It is a swaying as though the earth has given way.
  • A price tag under $20.



Recommended Library Requests:

Primary References


*~ I want to say I have not spent much time thinking about or reading up on furniture details since Dad died. Furniture was very much his area. Therefore this is very much a dabbled only, daughter of a furniture lover’s perspective, not a well researched furniture perspective.

* I later found out my mother’s horse, Goldie, came from this barn before I was born.

*^A note about Hitchock style chairs – There are original chairs of the first half of the nineteenth century and revival chairs of the mid twentieth century. The latter are good options for events as they are not antiques, yet closely resemble the originals in style and construction.

Published in: on September 21, 2016 at 6:20 pm  Comments (1)  

When Strawberries become Radishes

Generally, we like to share our pretty successes, to show off our most recent beautiful creations, to fill our posts with fabulous photos of fabulous work.

This post….. not so much.

A couple weeks back, I was looking at the Premium Book for the Agricultural Society Fair. I thought it would be nice to enter a simple needlework pincushion, set in one of the silver rings I have. I had the wool left from the now missing spring pin ball.I wanted a design that would play off of the round cushion. This pin ball, with its four faded strawberries caught my eye. I thought with my blue and grey threads, the berries would look more like raspberries. I rather like raspberries.

The needlework took a couple nights, sewing before bed. I worked each quadrant separately to get the shape of the berries right. The embroidery was the easy part. Getting the depth and fullness of the core was the fussy part. 4 times fussy.

In the end, the pincushion stuffed….. I was not happy. The berries looked more like radishes. I found that rather humorous. That was not the problem. The problem was how white showed through the black stitches. I hadn’t figured for the stitches pulling away from each other when wrapped around the dome of the pincushion. I just do not like the look.



I think I want to find a different ring, a wider one that will allow the needlework to lay flatter, not pulling the stitches apart. I will be keeping my eye out for a 3″ wide, 1-1.5″ deep ring to make the change.




Published in: on September 20, 2016 at 5:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

Corded Pin Ball

Every now and then, we need a whee little project. This corded pin ball was just that. 

A Corded Pincushionimg_20160915_135422.jpg

Cut out two round pieces of linen. Sew them together, and stuff them with bran, so as to form a round ball. Begin on the very center of each side, and with a large needle lay coarse thread or cotton all across down to the middle of the pincushion where the binding is to come. These threads must spread out from the centre in every direction like rays; the space between them widening of course as it descends. Make them very even, and do not allow them to be loose or slack. Then take a needle threaded with sewing silk or fine crewel, and, beginning at the centre from which all the coarse cotton threads diverge, (they may be called cords) work the pincushion all round by passing the needle twice under each cord, taking the stitches very close, even, and regular, and completely covering with the sewing silk both the cords and the space between them. The stitches, of course, become gradually longer as you go down towards the seam that divides the two sides of the pincushion. Supposing that you begin with pink silk, you may, after a few rounds, take another colour, for instance green, then yellow, then blue, and then brown. In this manner your pincushion will be handsomely striped, and the cords will give it a very pretty appearance, if evenly laid and well0covered. When both sides are finished, cover the seam with a binding of dark-coloured ribbon, and put on a strin and bow of the same. Always begin and fasten off in a place that is afterwards to be worked over. (The American Girl’s Book, 1831)

A close example to the directions is this original corded pin ball on Pinterest from Ebay,  made with three colors of silk thread. The center top appears to have seven or eight rows circling. The following rings look to have three to five rows of threads.The middle is covered with a decorated silk ribbon like many other pin balls.

A play on the ball shape, the only corded pin cushion I have found so far in a museum collection, is this pin cushion from the Hudson River Valley Heritage collection. This colorful ball is made with at least seven silk colors. Instead of being a true ball shape, the equator cinches in with a simple green silk ribbon around it.

This pinned pin ball may or may not be a corded ball. It may just be woven. Disappointingly, the listing was removed from Ruby Lane. So, we can not see other photos. I have a couple addition examples, including reproductions, on a pin board.

My first corded pin ball or pincushion came at the end of the summer when a set of silk threads popped up on one of the FB sales sites. It had two different color blues in two different thicknesses. I chose the thinner thread, alternating between colors over a ball made petals, not circles.

20160826_112808.jpgThe petal construction had the advantage of marking the sections of the ball, helping keep the cords straight and spaced. It would have been good to mark the center of each segment. The wool stuffing felt firm when I was working on it. But, it seems to have softened over the weeks. I like the thin threads. They make a nice smooth line. I like the wider sections of color, but do not like the middle where I alternated colors. Keeping the rows even as I decreased was difficult. I think it would be better to start at each pole and work towards the equator. I suspect, that is the true reason some have ribbons.


Published in: on September 18, 2016 at 8:15 pm  Comments (1)  

“It was so, so cold”

This morning I woke up to a new video at Not Your Mommas History called “Best Worst Reenactment Ever.” Thank you Cheyney for sparking memories and a laugh this morning!

It just so happens that this morning was rather chilly compared to the last several weeks. I already was a bit chilled. So, every time she mentioned how cold it was, I was cold and colder. I also kept remembering various “best worst” event happenings.

Please laugh your way through these, as I do now.

Cold? Early on in my reenacting, I did a fall event at Granger Homestead in Canandaigua, NY. This event was a Thursday through Sunday event, the last weekend of September. My tent mate and I were so careful about trying to bring accurate things, bedding included. Keep in mind we were two new to this teens. Well, that first night, it got so, so cold. Our little bit of accurate bedding, ie a couple cotton quilts each, just wasn’t cutting it. It was Cold!  After a few hours, we gave up. The town happened to have a 24 hour Walmart. (this is back when Walmart was new, 24 hours was unheard of and I actually was willing to go to Walmart.) We got up, found my car and headed to the store where we each bought sleeping bags. I know, awful. It was Cold! We got back and went to sleep. Come morning, I awoke to find my contacts were frozen in their case. It was Cold!

Another cold event was a similar time of year, in Ohio, also early on in my reenacting career. I can’t remember the name of the place. It was a small event, partly in a park and partly in a ‘field’ that recently had been overgrown brush with saplings growing. Well, that recent culled and cut habitat had been the home to a great many six and eight legged critters, some of which were quite large and hairy. FYI, I do not do bugs and spiders! To add to the fun, I had the brilliant idea of taking a friend to the event. Now, of course, I wanted to make sure the friend was comfortable and had a good time. I gave her my good wooden and canvas cot, along with my sleeping bag and blankets. I borrowed an aluminum cot from someone else and had a bed spread. Anyone who has had the “luxury” of sleeping on a modern aluminum cot with its colorful nylon canvas knows these things suck up and radiate cold, while having zero protection from moisture. They are the harbingers of a bad night’s sleep. So, when the temperatures dropped, no plummeted, from the pretty sunny, late summer day, to fridged, cold, damp…. I curled up the best I could wrapped in my otherwise comfy blanket, attempting to sleep as I shivered all night. Come morning, I “awoke” as best I could having not actually slept, with every muscle tight and cramped, and to find the cold triggered my otherwise like clock-work cycle. I think this was my all time suckiest night’s sleep at an event ever.

The mention of the fire….. Oh, what memory this one brings back.

Fast forward several years and several learning curves from the events above. I believe this was the summer of 2003, Alexander, NY. This field event happened to fall just prior to the start of Girl Scout camp I think. Kitty and I were both attending. It had rained a good deal Friday making the ground pretty saturated. I don’t recall anything eventful about setting up the tent other than the discussion of the straw. I saw the straw as a fire hazard and allergen. Yet, the ground was so wet, it was also good for soaking up the wet. We opted for straw. The tent set up, it was time to turn our attentions to dinner and a fire pit. Just about this time, the sky opened up starting the night’s drenching. It rained and rained. Having both built a great many fires in all sorts of weather at the previous summer long camp session, we had a solid fire pit building plan. Multiple layers and a ditch to move off the water. Within about a 20 minutes, we dug a beautiful pit that was going to nicely hold a fire despite the pouring rain. We were also covered, caked with mud. Luckily, there were automated showers at the other end of the field. Off we went to clean up, planning to start the fire when we got back. We came back to find someone did not think our fire pit was big enough and had re-dug to a single layer and tried to start a failed fire inside. Basically, were were looking at a mud pit and soaked wood. We re-dug the fire pit as best we could. We repeated the mud removal. This time when we returned, we found that those who needed fire had either gone to dinner or borrowed a braisure for their dinner. Oh, did I mention our dinner didn’t actually need to be cooked? (This may have been the beginning of “I do not cook”.) This event was also the one of the “straw spat”, mini-tart claiming, and the “leaving early.” I’ll let Kitty chime in if she wants to share about that last part.

Hmmm. I suppose out of 20ish years, those are the worsts on my list. Well, other than heat exhaustion, a broken foot and last year’s sun incident. But those are less humorous. I think that is pretty good.

btw, I can now sleep comfortably in the coldest of weather

Oh, the exploding car battery! A couple years after the above Granger event, I was demonstrating a Lady’s Aid Society. This meant two tents, and the most “stuff” I brought to an event up until then. I artfully packed the little Dodge Shadow I had in college. I was rather proud of myself. I set both tents up, and dressed them nicely. As I didn’t own tables yet, I decided a few straw bales would serve. I hopped in my car and drove to the back of the parking area where the straw was. I turned off the car. I piled four or six bales on top of the trunk and roof. I got back in the car. Turned the key. Kapow…sisssssss…. smoke….. Jaw dropped. I got out of the car. Popped the hood and just stared at the pieces of battery that were EVERY WHERE. I walked back up to the camp area to find our unit leader, Frank Cutler, to get my straw moved. I also needed my phone to call AAA. I was surprisingly calm at this point. A couple of the men, Frank and Rick included, came back to see the car. Well, this is when I learned how bad, or actually how potentially bad this was. It was described in detail how some of those battery pieces could have come through the dash of the car and impaled me. I think I was still pretty calm, considering. The tow truck came. He hooked up the car. I gave  him directions to where I wanted him to take the car. He looked at me funny, and asked “aren’t you coming with your car?” I pointed to my two, not small tents, and explained those are my responsibility for the weekend. I deal with the car on Monday. Off he went with the car. That weekend also happened to have a tornado warning that resulted in collapsed tents (not mine). Come Sunday, I found I couldn’t fit as much in my Dad’s truck as I did in my little car. Go figure. The car turned out just fine with a new, non-exploding battery inside.



I should highlight some of the lessons or learning curves from above:

  • Aluminum cots are evil. It is better to create a pallet or sleep on the ground than to bother with one of these.
  • Wool bedding and layers are your friend. I am all about layering for sleep –  a wool rug under the bed/cot, a wool blanket draped over the bed/cot that reaches the ground/floor on either side (within an inch if the ground is wet), cotton or linen sheets, cotton blanket/quilt (or two), a wool blanket/quilt or two on top. The wool carpet keeps moisture from coming up. The bottom wool blanket traps warmth under you. The top wool layer keeps moisture from coming down.
  • Proper night clothes can make a world of difference. On the truly freezing nights, for me this means a long thicker linen night dress, flannel drawers, wool stockings (that eventually get kicked off), a bed jacket in wool and a night cap.
  • Put your contacts case and deodorant under your pillow while you sleep. I also suggest putting your next day’s chemise and drawers in bed with you as well.
  • Don’t leave your shoes/boots on damp ground.
  • Bring food that doesn’t need to be cooked.
Published in: on September 12, 2016 at 6:45 am  Comments (1)  

Today’s Millinery 

Since I had this hat almost finished yesterday, it is technically the last hat of my summer season. (Don’t worry, a couple of you are still getting pieces.) 

This hat has a nearly round 21.75″ crown and narrow brim. One side is slightly higher than the other. I’m blaming elves overnight playing with the block. I left the narrow brim flat, as it looks rather sharp and makes this a versatile hat. It can be shaped as the edge is wired. 

Published in: on August 29, 2016 at 5:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

Pirates and Parrots 

Thanks to a combination of layed emotional stress and the wonders of Facebook’s “events near me” we found ourselves at a small, one day Pirate event. 

This event, with its quick whit and crass humor emphasized how I am very much not quick, nor whitty and, I am sure I missed much of the humor. I do have to say they had some great hats. 

You are probably wondering why I am telling you about this event. 


We were watching the raising of the colors, each hand painted. The band of pirates rolled into an impromptu scene about the name of their ship. (That quick whit I mentioned) A family with a three year old pink fleece parrot came by. Of course the pirates caught sight of the parrot with great excitement. The whee little parrot was hesitate, as a whee little parrot ought to be. The band of pirates backed away, redirecting, as one pirate softly addressed the wild parrot. From about ten feet away, she quietly asked “may I” of the parrot, coming halfway down to the parrot’s height. With the half smile and nod, the pirate approached the parrot. She did not come straight on. She kneeled down, to the side of the parrot, about a wing span away. She continued to talk with the whee parrot , the parrot responding . She likely gave that whee parrot a memory she will hold for many years. 

This approach to a young visitor was so nicely done on both the group and individual level. When I talked with the pirate afterward, I expected to hear she was an early childhood or special education teacher. Neither was the case. She has just done this for a long time.

And… I just accidentally pressed the publish button. I owe you the photo of the the pirate and parrot. 

Published in: on August 28, 2016 at 7:29 pm  Comments (1)  

Fall To Do List

Yes, technically autumn does not start until later in September. But, as I am on a NY school schedule, my summer is coming to and end, school and fall starting. This means a shift in how much time I have to sew and what I will be working on. This is what I have in mind right now:

  • Line and fill the Shaker style sewing boxes
  • Build a tray and tlc the sewing box we picked up
  • The fuzzy Ag Fair project 
  • The hodge-podge Ag Fair project 
  • Finish the miser purse
  • Doll millinery 
  • A certain white bonnet
  • The small one’s straw hat
  • Put a major dent in the wool stash for winter millinery 
  • Utilitarian apron for straw demos that will hold straw as I sew. (May become a winter/spring project) 
  • Find homes for the doll shoes
  • Alter my corset like I should have in July. 

Btw, this switch means the sewing room has to be re organized and re tidied for the fall focus. 

Published in: on August 28, 2016 at 10:28 am  Leave a Comment  

Today’s Millinery 

This copper straw plait has just a hint of red in the brown. This cap style bonnet fits close to your head, with the brim just reaching the hairline on some. I edged the brim with braided plait and a loop on top. 

It is wired around the brim and blocked. It is ready for you to line and decorate as you like. 
Available in my Etsy shop.

Published in: on August 26, 2016 at 11:48 am  Leave a Comment