Perch, Not Plop

Here I offer a visual survey for wearing a hat during the latter 1850s through the mid 1860s. I broke the images into two sections for those focusing on pre, early, later or post Civil War impressions.

I hope these images will help people determine how to wear their hats. At the same time, they also show that of brim width and crown height do vary but maintain certain aspects such as the ovular construction and curving to the brim.

I will add more images as I acquire or find them. I will be updating the scans of a few of these asap.  (***A few of these are not mine yet. If you are the owner of the image or digital image and wish it removed or cited, please let me know.)


Close ups of how to wear a hat MINE  wheat field b RESCAN ASAP

Herkimer Co. NY – Park or Wheat field

Close ups of how to wear a hat MINE picnicing RESCAN ASAP

Shrewbury River, NJ – Family picnic

Close ups of how to wear a hat MINE baptism RESCAN ASAP

Stereoview “The Christening”

Close ups of how to wear a hat Teen GirlClose ups of how to wear a hat C

Additional links: One – TwoThree

1860. Showing a preference – John Callcott Horsley

Photo cited as Saratoga Springs (but, I’ve never seen the original source or owner.)

I suspect this is a stereoview. If so, I would like to own a copy.

1863ish – 1868ish

Close ups of how to wear a hat Late to post War 2

Close ups of how to wear a hat bAdditional images/links:

Woman on the left (Source unknown)

Published in: on July 27, 2015 at 6:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Summer Millinery

IMG_7341 IMG_7340 IMG_7334 IMG_7333 IMG_7331

Published in: on July 27, 2015 at 5:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

Gifts for….

For those already thinking ahead to their handmade Christmas gift list., here is an excellent excerpt list of presents from Treasures in Needlework; Comprising Instructions in Knitting, Netting, Crochet, Point Lace, Tatting, Braiding, and Embroidery, by Mrs. Warren and Mrs. Pullan. (London, 1855)

If you need more gifting inspiration, be sure to visit GCV tomorrow for their Christmas in July program.

“There are many occasions in life when ladies desire to mark their esteem for a friend by some gift or token; and they are often in the choice of what to give or to work. Hence it is that no question is more frequently asked than, “What will be a suitable present for so-and-so?” or, “What will be the most valuable things I can make for a Fancy Fair?”

In making gifts to individuals, the leading idea is, to assure them of our regard. That the gift is out own production, greatly adds to its value in the estimation of the recipient; and, indeed, there are many circumstances in which, when desiring to show gratitude for kindness, a lady may very properly offer a specimen of her own work, when a purchased gift would either be unsuitable or out of her power. For the same reason, – that it proves the receiver to have been an object of our thought and care, – any article evidently intended for that person only, is more welcome than such as might have been worked for anybody. The following list of articles, suitable for the respective purposes, will be found suggestive:


Braces. – Embroidered on velvet, or worked on canvas, from a Berlin pattern.

Cigar Cases. – Crochet. Velvet, and cloth applique, velvet, or cloth braided. Embroidered or worked in beads.

Slippers. – Braided on cloth, morocco, or velvet; applique cloth and velvet; Berlin work.

Shaving Books, especially useful. – Braided. Worked in beads on canvas. Crochet, colored beads, and white cotton. (washable.)

Smoking Caps. – Velvet braided richly; cloth, velvet and cloth applique. Netted darned, on crochet.

Fronts for Bridles. – Crest embroidered with seed beeds.

Waistcoats. – Braided on cloth or velvet. Embroidered.

Penwipers. – Worked in beads, and fringed. Applique velvet and cloth. Gold thread.



Sermon Cases.

Comforters. Driving Mittens. Scarfs.


Chairs. – Embroidered in applique. Berlin work ditto. Braided ditto.

Sofa Cushions. – Braided or embroidered.

Screens. – Raised cut Berlin work. Berlin work with beads.

Hand Screens. – Netted and darned. Applique. Crochet.


Table Covers. – Cloth, with bead or Berlin borders. Cloth braided.

Set of Dish Mats. – Worked in beads, with initials in the centre; border round; and grounded in clear white beads.

Fancy Mats. – For urns, lamps, &c.

Ottomans. – Braided. Applique, or embroidered.

Footstools. – Berlin or bead work. Braided.

Whatnots. – Braided. Berlin work.

Doyleys., – The set – bread, cheese, and table doyleys – worked in broderie and chain stitch.


Netted Curtains.


Point-Lace Collars, Chemisettes, Handkerchiefs, &c.

Embroidered Ditto.

Handkerchief Case or Box. – On satin, embroidered or braided in delicate colours.

Glove Box. – Worked In beads. Initials in centre; grounded with white beads.

Slippers. – Braided or embroidered.

Workbaskets. – Netted and darned, or darned on filet, or crochet.

Carriage bags. – Braided. Worked in Berlin work or beads.

Purses. – Netted or darned, or crochet; delicate colours, as pink and silver.

Porte-Monnair, or Note Case. – Crest or monogram in centre, grounded in beads.

Embroidered Aprons. – Worked in Brodierie-en-lacet. Braided, or embroidered.

Toilet Cushions. – Crochet or netting.

Reticules. – Darned netting; or embroidery.


Infants’ Caps. – Point lace, crochet, or embroidery.

Frocks. – Ditto.

Quilts. – Crochet. Bead borders with motto, and drop fringe. Crest in the centre.

Pincushions. – Crochet, or embroidered satin.

Blankets. – Knitted with white wool, in double kitting, – a real “blessing to mothers.”

These are a few of the leading and most useful presents. They are equally appropriate as offerings to a Fancy Fair.”

Published in: on July 24, 2015 at 8:11 am  Leave a Comment  

Why Straw Millinery?

A month ago or so, I said I would write about why I prefer straw millinery over the many other historical crafts/arts I’ve dabbled in. Since WordPress alerted me the other day that I had written my 1,000th post, I thought this would be appropriate for my 1,001st post.  

Why Straw Millinery?

To me, a plait of straw is simultaneously three things. It is the plant. It is employment and opportunity for women. It is art in a potential state.

The straw itself.

The plant, though most commonly rye for millinery purposes, symbolizes wheat for me. Wheat is a combination of fine lines and stunning curves when you look at a single blade with its shaft and seed. In mass, wheat has this most beautiful golden color mixing its many shades. At certain times of year, when the sun is just right, it glows, shifting the rays of sun in a way that is almost surreal. The effect is calming, centering and helps me feel connected to the earth around me.

The meaning of wheat goes far deeper for me though. Blades of wheat can be found on my Grandparent’s headstone as well as on Grandpa’s coffin. For as long as I remember, Grandpa had a thing for wheat. He had a small field on the south side of the farm house when I was little. After Grandpa died, wheat became a symbol though Grandma of Grandpa. Grandpa wheat and Grandma daisies.

The employment of women.

Every time I look at a plait of straw, be it an extant piece or a new piece, I can not help but wonder about the hands who plaited the straw. One would think with all our mechanical advances, that straw would be plaited all by machine now. The plait shows that is not the case as every so often I find a woman’s hair braided into the plait. Some hairs are thick and black, some are fine and light brown. These findings just reinforce the connection between straw and women’s employment for centuries now.

William Holman Hunt, Tuscan girl plaiting straw, 1869

Women in New England through New York, as well as in England and elsewhere in Europe, plaited straw, often with the aid of their young children, then sewed plait into bonnets and hats. This cottage industry brought money into rural and small town homes. In some cases, it was additional money, while in other cases it was survival money.

The employment of women follows up the straw industry from plant to plait to bonnet. In the millinery shops, we find both female proprietors and female apprentices. In each proprietor and apprentice we find hope; hope for independence, hope for security.

Ah, the art of it.

Curves of strawThere is something about how natural straw can be manipulated that fascinates me. Each plait, whether whole or split, narrow or wide, has its own rules on how it will curve, bend, and hold its shape. If you have followed my work recently, you know I love curves. With straw plait a curve isn’t simply a single curve, it is multiple curves and a single curve all at once, developed with each length of plait curving and each strand of straw inside the plait curving as well. With these curves the earth plant becomes fluid, almost water like. Yes, that is what I see when I really get into a straw piece.

I may tweak this in the future. But, this is why in a nut shell. 

Published in: on July 22, 2015 at 5:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Little Brims of the 1860s

I just can’t decide if I like those little brims I am seeing on some hats of the 1860s. They aren’t just little, they are little little. They are not functional. They are not wide enough to add shape to. (you know me, I like curves.)

This piece from the MET is a pretty good example of what I mean. See, very little brim. The ribbon, which I like, is wider than the brim.

MET Collection

This is another example. Again, very little brim. At some point, someone tried to add a little curve to the front and the back. I’m not sure if that was original or not. (I’m not sure that ribbon was original.)

MET Collection

Of course, with this weird indecision on whether I like this little brim or not, I am very tempted to make one. I happen to have a crown started that is tempting me a bit too much.

Published in: on July 21, 2015 at 1:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

Pork Pie Hats

IMG_7297IMG_7298This weekend at the museum I ran short on straw. So, I opted to change direction on the hat I was working on and make a pork pie hat. I had just the right amount of straw left for that. (I had declared it my first pork pie. But, yesterday, I realized I made a small hat last month that technically is also a pork pie.)

My pork pie hat is 18.5″ around the interior crown. I find this wants to perch on my head that is 22.5″ today. (I am convinced it changes between 21.5″ and 22.5″ depending on the day and hair.) It feels higher than the hats of the same size crown with wider brim. I find that interesting. It is a very different feel than the other hats I’ve made.

There was a lot of discussion of pork pie hats in Civil War era discussion groups a year or so ago. Looking at CW era CDVs, I’m noticing most of the small hats I’m seeing being called pork pies are technically Toques as they have no brim. Pork pies have a small curled up brim.This later 1860s image shows a nice pork pie hat.  Several images show hats with wider curved up brims, the curve having a band of over an inch, ( this cdv. is a good example.) I don’t know whether these would technically be pork pies or not.

Here are some Pork Pie Hats from 1860 through 1890 (I do not think all of the dating on these is correct). The hats are cited as women’s, girl’s and boy’s hats. You’ll notice a variety of ways of decorating them. Binding the curved up brim edge seems to be fairly common through all three decades. Examples below show both velvet and lace being used. Sadly, measurements are not given in each case.

Listed as a boy’s hat in the LACMA collection.

pork pie hat in cdv - Copy

From the MET collection – 1870s

From the MET collection – Listed as 1880s

From the MET collection – Listed as 1868

Published in: on July 21, 2015 at 1:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

That Which Sucks

Today is day two of the Genesee Country Village’s Civil War reenactment.

And… I am home. Not there. Home.

This in a word, Sucks.

Yesterday started wet, sticky, hot and gross. But, I thought I was doing okay. Sure, I was red. But, I am always red.

I drank water the way I was supposed to. I had a few little pickles the way I was supposed to. I ate light like I was supposed to. I stayed out of the sun like I was supposed to. Really, the only times I was in the sun was from the car to the office, from the office to the Millinery, one run to the bathroom with the umbrella, then from the millinery to the office, then to the car.

Photo: Ruby Foote, July 18, 2015 GCV.

Photo: Ruby Foote, July 18, 2015 GCV.

Long, TMI story cut short – Sometime late morning I caught myself looking out the window jealously at those who could walk in the sun without issue. Then I started noticing I was seeing floaties. Then I started getting just a bit of that twang in the side of my head. I ignored it. Told myself I was fine. Put on a smile and kept drinking water. I think that is roughly when Ruby took this photo (right.)

I think this was the start of my downward slope though I didn’t really realize it. By the time the battle came, let’s just say the stomach was displeased and I was too stubborn to say anything.

Drink, breath, smile. Drink, breath, smile.

It was the walk out to the car that hit me. Wham. The stomach was saying “screw you”. The head was saying I only had minute to get home.

At home, the clothes piled on the floor, I went into the shower.

I really wish that was the end of the story. But, no. My body was cooling down. My head was heating up. My face was bright red. My whole head and face felt like it was burning up. It was like I had spent the whole day in the sun and got the lobster sunburn all over again. But, I hadn’t. The only time I didn’t have the parasol or umbrella was first thing in the morning and from the car into the house, which is mostly tree covered.

This is the part that is all a jumble. There was lots of pain. Crying in the bathroom. Crying in the bedroom. Some of it was the pain. I ended up finally falling asleep with my head packed in ice packs.

So, now, here it is mid-morning. I had to call the museum to let them know I’m not coming. That was after about an hour of my clothes in front of me, trying to decide what to do. I knew health wise I shouldn’t go. But, they are counting on me being there. I Hate feeling like I can’t be counted on.  My stuff is all there. Others are expecting me to be there.

I’m editing this last whiny medical bit down to say I’m going to talk to my doctor this week. I figure those who know, know.

Now that I have let my fingers run on and on and on, thank you for listening.

On the upside, I have a new pinking machine thanks to Janet at the Button Baron.

Published in: on July 19, 2015 at 10:08 am  Comments (8)  

2015 Decorated Millinery Gallery

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Published in: on July 15, 2015 at 11:10 am  Leave a Comment  

This Summer’s Millinery: With a Feather Plume

I finally made a hat for those that love feather plumes. (currently available on Etsy)IMG_7252 IMG_7261 IMG_7262 IMG_7263 IMG_7268 IMG_7270

Published in: on July 15, 2015 at 10:41 am  Leave a Comment  

Guest Post – A New Hat – A Blank Canvas

I was so excited to see that Darline finished her hat as the original I worked from, I asked her to write about her hat for the blog. She did an amazing job replicating the zig-zag ribbon of the original. Thank you, Darline, for taking the time to share with us.


Anna’s fingers had barely left her keyboard after posting a small straw hat, when I snapped it up.  I had been researching straw hats – how, when and where they would be worn in the early 1860s – and now I owned a lovely little replica.



IMG_6522When it arrived and I was happily trying it on, I thought of the original hat with the brown ribbon in a zig-zag pattern as a strong contender for the inspiration for finishing this hat.  Then, I set it aside and looked at even more images.  In the end, the zig-zag pattern spoke to me: make me.  What I love about it is the simplicity of the design – yet it isn’t just about slapping ribbon on a brim, it has a definite scale to it.  I also liked that, while it stands alone, it could support further embellishment to change the look.

11403435_10207275409512333_3161409465518962941_nI had a “further embellishment” in my sewing room, just waiting for a home.  In the marketplace at the 2015 Civilian Symposium in March, I purchased a bunch of creamy yellow flowers with fabric “stems,” tied with a pale green velvet ribbon.  Holding the bunch at the back of the hat, I decided this would be my first “further embellishment.”

The ribbon on the original hat is taffeta, but I chose to use some lovely double faced silk ribbon from my stash (purchased because I loved the color, also waiting for a home in my 1860s wardrobe).  I began by enlarging and printing the image of the original hat to guide my work.  Observing the symmetry of the zig-zag design, I loosely pinned the ribbon to my hat (pinning on the edge of the ribbon straight down through the hat).  Satisfied that I had the layout correct, I started by securing the front “V” then worked my way down each side, careful to follow the ridges of the straw at the top and bottom of the folds to make the design even.  It was “fiddly” work, hiding the stitches.  I brought the thread up and hid it under the ribbon to the next place it was to be secured.

11742844_10207275407992295_8077854782703727550_nBefore trimming the ribbon ends at the back, I thought about how I would stop it from fraying.  Somewhere, I had seen a treatment on an original piece, where the ribbon end was turned back to a point, and held with a simple embroidery stitch.  I decided to use this technique on my ribbon.  I brought the edge of the ribbon to a point right sides together and stitched, then carefully turned it right side out and pressed it flat, making a nice little point.  I used sewing thread to make five little petal stitches, securing the end of the ribbon.  What I like about it is, it provides a little bit of weight to the end of the ribbon and finishes it unobtrusively.

Anna gave me some guidance on the placement of the ribbons that would tie under my hair.  Done!  I tried it on and loved it.  Now for the further embellishment!

After trying various ribbon loops and placement options, I settled on a plan.  I just wasn’t sure about the stems hanging down.  I like how amazingly real they look and also liked them as a design element.  But I needed some input – lose them, trim them???  So I decided to add the flowers and ribbon, and then post it on a couple of Facebook groups and see what others thought.  The amazing folks on the Civilian Civil War Closet didn’t let me down, and I soon had plenty of guidance!  When Anna chimed in, encouraging me to try trimming the stems, I did so.  As soon as I trimmed the first stem, I could see that was the answer.  I took about three inches off and trimmed them on an angle, since that is how I would cut real flowers.  The scale seemed right, and I’m very happy with my new hat!

Published in: on July 14, 2015 at 11:06 am  Leave a Comment  

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