Fall To-Do List

As the seasons change, a list is needed……

  • 2 Fanciful Utility workshops at GCV’s Domestic Skill Symposium 
  • Ag. Fair Projects (shhhh)
  • IMG_7708Re-paper my sewing chest with the really great blue marbleized paper.
  • IMG_7712Figure out how to repair the lining in the cool other chest. Figure out what it  really was.
  • Make an assortment of Winter bonnets
  • Get some Major writing done.
  • Clean the sewing room like I was supposed to over the summer.
  • IMG_7707Make Cali a body and clothing. Make Jo a dress.
  • Make a second shelf for the pottery.
  • Learn to use my new Dremel tool

Okay, so maybe my “fall” list will actually be a “fall and winter” list. 

Published in: on September 1, 2015 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Summer Review

By The Numbers…..

  • 58 pieces of millinery (so far for the year.)
  • Somewhere around 14,000 yards of straw plait
  • 170ish yards of ribbon
  • 600+ hours of sewing, trimming, photographing, corresponding and packaging.
  • ???? trips to the Post Office
  • A dozen sewing boxes
  • 3 secret projects
  • Assorted acquisitions for Fall projects

I’ll talk about the Fall projects soon, with photos.

Published in: on August 31, 2015 at 1:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Snuggly Warm

This week’s shift in weather is telling me it is not too early to start thinking about those cold weather events. They will be here sooner than we thing. After all, doesn’t the fall just fly by way too fast?

Since I frost bit my ears when I was in my teens, making sure people protect their face, head and ears in the cold is important to me. If you have any of these events on your calendar, please make sure you are well prepared for the cold and/or the wind:

  • Remembrance Day
  • Yuletide
  • Christmas Past
  • Dickens Festival

I am ending the summer with offering these few winter bonnets at $100 each. Take a look at my Etsy store for these special deals.

You can also make your own Quilted Winter Bonnet with my E-Pattern. Click below.

Published in: on August 26, 2015 at 5:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

Domestic Skills Symposium at the Genesee Country Village & Museum

The Genesee Country Village has announced their Domestic Skills Symposium for this fall. Please read the invitation below and download this Registration Form:

2015 Domestic Skill Symposium Registration Form

Genesee Country Village & Museum is pleased to announce registration is now open for our 2015 Domestic Skills Symposium!

The Symposium will be held November 7, 2015 at Genesee Country Village in Mumford, NY. We have planned a full schedule of presentations for Saturday, and optional pre- and post-symposium workshops and tours of interest to women and men. Like last year, the Symposium also features a full luncheon composed entirely of delectable 18th and 19th-century period receipts!

Complete details for optional workshops and the Symposium are available on our web site at http://bit.ly/2015Domestic-Skills-Symposium

Please plan to join us!

Deanna Berkemeier

I will be teaching two Fanciful Utility workshops on Sunday:

IMG_7664A Sampler of Pincushions (Limit 15) 

Anna Worden Bauersmith, author of Fanciful Utility, will instruct attendees in making their choice of two or three small period styles of pincushions.  All materials for your chosen designs will be provided and instructions for all designs will be given to each attendee.  Participants should bring: a sewing basket with scissors, thimble, pins, needle, seam ripper, marking pencil/pen and a notepad.

IMG_7666Make a “Pocket of Pockets” (Limit 15)

Using the techniques from Fanciful Utility, make one of the most useful and versatile rolled work pockets.  Also known as a sewing case or housewife, this work pocket is made of period correct fabrics in a row of pockets, bound with ribbon.  Use it to hold your thread winders, flat tools, small scissors, buttons, a cloth measure and still have plenty of room for more. The pocket-of-pockets is rolled or folded up and tied closed with a ribbon.  Participants should bring: a sewing basket with scissors, thimble, pins, needle, seam ripper, marking pencil/pen and a notepad.

2015 Domestic Skill Symposium Registration Form


Published in: on August 24, 2015 at 5:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

Reblog: Sewing on the Go

There are a few blog posts I am going to reblog as a follow-up to last week’s Fanciful Utility Anniversary. 

As interpreters and/or reenactors, we are most often sewing in temporary locations be it a house or shop we are in for a short time, an outdoor demonstration area or a pleasant gathering to catch up on ufos with friends. Having a sewing case that has all the essential tools is, well, essential.

Here are some of the mobile sewing cases, boxes and baskets we find to be our favorites:

wpid-251064_10150306169812846_1073733_n.jpegLong time readers know how much I like sewing boxes. This is one I made for someone years ago. (I am hoping she will share a current photo of it with her pretty tools inside.) This box has a good size compartment with pincushion, decorated needle pages and a scissors case. (You can find the directions for this case in Fanciful Utility.)

???????????????????Bevin recreated the same case, just a bit bigger. Her box holds just about everything you can imagine. She also has decorated needle pages and a scissors case, plus a pocket for a straight measure.

I have come to  love pockets of pockets or pocket rolls. Originals are found in silks as this one and in cottons of mixed colors as well as variations of the same color set, such as a selection of turkey reds. Pockets can be the same or varied sizes, flat or full. Some are found with needle pages, some with small pincushions. The pockets easily hold thread winders, flat tools, small scissors, buttons, a cloth measure and still have plenty of room for more. This one ties closed with silk ribbons.

???????????????????For small containers that you can turn into sewing boxes, here are a few to consider. Each of these can be used as is or can have a lining with pockets added. The top left is a small oval Shaker box. (ignore the price sticker that I still need to get off the top.) Some examples can be found with a pincushion set into the exterior of the lid. In the upper right is a small basket. This one happens to look like an apple. A basket with a tight weave is nice because you are less likely to have a pin or needle fall through the cracks. In the front is a small pasteboard box covered with paper. You want a durable box. I suggest a squeeze test. If it gives, pass on it. In all of these cases, it is important to have a snug lid that won’t fall off in transit.

Published in: on August 20, 2015 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Reblog: What is in Your Sewing Box?

There are a few blog posts I am going to reblog as a follow-up to last week’s Fanciful Utility Anniversary. 

I was planning to talk about what tools to have in a sewing box/case/basket later this year in the fall. But, there are a few conversations happening now. So, let’s take a look now at what the original cast keeps in their work-box and what we keep in ours.

When looking at what they kept in their work-boxes we can look at extant cases, advice manuals, personal & descriptive literature and paintings. Virginia Mescher has already done a very nice job discussing recommendations from advice manuals and descriptions, while sampling originals in her article “The Case of the Lost Thimble.” I strongly recommend reading that first, before assembling a sewing kit of your own. Interestingly, we don’t see a sewing box or basket in “The Seamstress“, 1858. Bloch’s “The Artist’s Parents, Mr. and Mrs. Bloch in Their Sitting Room“, 1855 shows a nice knitting basket. (Knitters may also be interested in this painting.)

Sewing Box FilledThis is my basic simple sewing box for going to day events where small sewing jobs  may come up or I may have a little back-up cloth project such as making a sewing case, sewing a quilt block or making a set of under-sleeves. In the box from left to right is a bone bodkin, bone stiletto, a metal bodkin, small pair of scissors, thimble, two thread winders and a case of needles. These easily fit into my 4″ box or a rolled sewing case.

???????????????????For events where I plan to be sewing most of the day, I have a basket as well. This basket tends to become a collect-all at events. I like to have:

  • The above items in a rolled case
  • Two pairs of scissors that are also good for cutting fabric, each in their own cases (I tend to loan or bury a pair.)
  • Spools of thread I know I’ll be using. Usually, this is white, natural, black and a couple colors plus a heavier white and maybe a heavier black.
  • Paper and pencil
  • Measures (My fabric one is next to the spool. The metal one is one I still need to date.
  • A few spare buttons (side pockets)
  • Pinball with pins (bouncing around tables at the time of the photo)
  • A small ball of crochet cotton (missing)
  • A small ball of wool (missing)
  • Scrap bits of fabric (pulled for sorting. You can see a couple small pieces and some paste board in a pocket)
  • A Magnet for finding lost needles and pins (missing)
  • Wax
  • Assorted ribbons
  • My emery if I can ever find it again.
  • If I’m going to be working with straw, I bring those scissors, those needles and a cloth for my lap.
  • Yes, those are walnut shells

???????????????????This is Bevin Lynn’s Shaker box dressed as a sewing box.  We live in an area where there were multiple Shaker communities. GCV has and interprets a Shaker building. These oval boxes were available in our area. Trish Watrous Hasenmeuller took time to contact South Union Shaker Village regarding some conflicting views as to the availability of these oval boxes to the public rather than being kept in the Shaker community. Trish writes “They said that the oval boxes were often sold to the public but were usually made in the northern Shaker settlements. They have catalogs of items for sale from the 1870’s that have them. Evidently they didn’t print a catalog in the 1860’s. Tommy Hines, the Executive Director at South Union said: “The northern Shakers both marketed and used the sewing boxes. The oval variety is more common and probably more prevalent in the period.”” (Thank you, Trish)???????????????????

I would say this is 8″-10″ on the longest side.  (Suddenly wishing I would have measure these.) Bevin has lined the box as well as the lid. In her box, we find a pincushion, measure rolled in a bag, thimble in a pocket, wax, thread winders, tailor’s chalk, a bodkin, small container and little bits of thread. In the lid she has a pincushion, scissors pocket and needle pages.

???????????????????This next box, also Bevin’s, is a pasteboard box covered in period decorative paper and lined with period printed paper. This box has multiple levels. Inside the lid fits a large pincushion, decoratively embroidered. This has ribbon loops to make removal easy. ???????????????????Inside the box, a blue velvet covered tray holds a number of tools with ribbon loops. We see a fish needle-case, a bone bodkin, a bone stiletto and a seam-ripper. This tray sits inside the base of the box on top of divided compartments inside. As with the lid, ribbon loops help to lift the tray out.  In the compartments we can see a small balloon bag, tailor’s chalk, a thimble, bees wax, a shell case, thread, rigs, a pencil, a measure in a bag and a thread winder.

I’m hoping to have one more sewing kit to share soon.

I am also adding a post for Sewing on the Go.

Edit to add: Be sure to catch Liz’s “Fitting Out a Sewing Box”

Published in: on August 19, 2015 at 9:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Reblog: Shell Pincushions


There are a few blog posts I am going to reblog as a follow-up to last week’s Fanciful Utility Anniversary. 

You know how certain items make you just a bit more excited than other at antique shows? You know how some of them cause you to let out an accidental “squeee!” that may be just a bit embarrassing afterward?

Well, this little seashell pincushion was one of those items. Of course the photo had to come out awful and blurry. This little pincushion was simultaneously a fond childhood memory in the seashells, a fun flashback to Pioneer Day Camp in the theorem, and a tangent curiosity as a researched for Fanciful Utility. Oh, it was also a little over $100, out of my pin-money price range at the time.

I findb pincushions interesting. I find what I’ll call “mixed media” pincushions fascinating. There are many kinds of mixed media pincushions. You likely already saw the post on why I have walnut shells in my sewing basket. Then there are little baskets with pincushions inside, tins with pincushionas inside or on the lids, small band or pasteboard boxes with pincushions on the lid. Pincushions and needle-books made from seashells can be found in girl’s activity books of the 19th century such as these from The Girl’s Own Toymaker.

We still see an assortment of original shell pincushions around. The most common exterior fabric is velvet, either in a single color or in a white/ivory/cream with either theorem painting (a type of stenciling) or painting. I have yet to determine how common it was for the shells to be an exact match or just a close match or just the same size.

This trio has unadorned velvet for each pincushion.

This is a beautiful example of theorem on a shell pincushion. (This Etsy seller happens to have some incredible original pincushions if you are looking.)

These are swoon worthy painted seashell pincushions.

My shell pincushions:

wpid-2015-04-12-15.32.57-1.jpg.jpegHere are my first two shell pincushions drying. I used the method from A Girl’s Own Toymaker of a cotton inside covered with the velvet on the face and glued in place. I have them tied with thread to secure them while they dry. I anxiously wait to see how well they stick after work tomorrow (well tonight if this goes live in the morning.)

I picked the brown velvet for the larger pair because that shell has a brown in the dips of the scallops. I picked the blue velvet for the red and blue shell to bring out the blue in the shell.wpid-2015-04-12-15.33.08-1.jpg.jpeg

I have a special shell supplier who I am grateful to for my assorted pretties. I definitely need more velvet pieces. I need a natural white to do some theorem or painting. I am really looking forward to doing some of the painting. There are a few smaller shells in the set. Those who know me, know I love playing with pieces on a smaller scale.

Want to know more about Theorem Painting? I suggest this article.

ADD: http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/objects/213551/Pin_Cushion

Published in: on August 18, 2015 at 4:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

Fanciful Utility Anniversary – Pin Cushions

aWomen of the nineteenth century made pin cushions out of a seemingly endless assortment of items. We can find them made of scrap fabrics, ribbon, shells, dolls, baskets, metal rings, walnut shells, and so many other endless bits.

Children’s and girls’ books are specked with directions on how to pin cushions from found items. This seashell pin cushion is one example.


We also find pin cushions in lady’s magazines. (be sure not to confuse toilet pin cushions with sewing pin cushions.) This emery cushion in a walnut shell is one example. Emery was used to remove the build up on needles.  w1IMG_7508 Every sewing case needs a pin cushion, at least one pin cushion, that suits the sewers needs. Finding the right pin cushion takes some self analysis and potentially some trial and error.

Depending on my project, I am ‘pluck and plopper’. I am also a pin sorter who is particular on which pins I want for what. When I am ‘plucking and plopping’, I need a pin cushion that is not going to move and lots of surface space I don’t need to look at. A heavy bottom helps as well since I am not always working on a flat surface or able to pay much attention to my pin cushion as my work needs my attention. A large, weighted cushion is very helpful in these situations. When I am working on something that I want particular pins for, be it fine, sharp pins or silk or color pins for marking, I like pin cushions with sorting areas or segments. This could be color sections of the fabric or sides of a cushion. The metal pin cushion to the right in the photo is good for this for me. In the modern world, it is my tomato stuck inside a small piece of pottery. When I am on the go, I want a little pin cushion I can deeply sink my pins into so they don’t go astray. The two ribbon pin cushions in the left of the photo are good for this.

*** For the upcoming Domestic Skill Conference at Genesee Country Village, I will be offering a pin cushion sampler class. ***

Looking for your own copy of Fanciful Utility? 

Click HERE to go ESC Publishing.

Remember to check out the special Anniversary kits on Etsy

Published in: on August 15, 2015 at 9:00 am  Comments (1)  

Fanciful Utility Anniversary – Printable

wpid-2015-08-14-10.03.46-1.jpg.jpegHere is a useful printable: Sewing needle packet labels.. These are scanned from antique packets in my collection I’ve included directions for the two ways these packets are folded as well as label and packet measurements.

Sewing Needle Labels to Print and Fill Your FanU Case

*note: These are direct scans. Some were on the packets angled.


wpid-2015-08-14-10.04.30-1.jpg.jpegEach of these packets can be made of black paper slightly lighter than writing paper and the label printed on white paper.

  • Print your labels on white printer paper. Cut them to the size indicated on the print out.
  • Cut the black paper using the dimensions accompanying each label – 3 times the width and 3 times the length. ie – if the folded packet is 1″x1.5″, cut the black paper 3″x4.5″
  • Fold the black paper in thirds lengthwise. Fold the paper in thirds width wise.
  • Looking at the placement chart and the notes with each label, glue the label in the corresponding location on the exterior. Use either a brush or small glue stick for the best control.
  • You can also cut a second piece of black paper, slightly smaller to fit inside the outer paper to help hold your needles.


Looking for your own copy of Fanciful Utility? 

Click HERE to go ESC Publishing.

Remember to check out the special Anniversary kits on Etsy

Published in: on August 14, 2015 at 9:00 am  Comments (2)  

Fanciful Utility “Fill Your Case” Anniversary Event

Today for the the “Fill Your Case” Event, I have some useful PDFs you can print and put in your sewing case.

Basic Sewing Booklet from Eliza Leslie’s Lady’s House-Book 1850Basic Sewing Booklet from Eliza Leslies Ladys House Book 1850

Mini Booklet Sewing GuideMini Booklet Gather Gauge Button Guide

Mini Booklet Gather Gauge Button GuideMini Booklet Basic SewingDirections for folding the two mini booklets:

Mini Booklet Directions images

Looking for your own copy of Fanciful Utility? 

Click HERE to go ESC Publishing.

Remember to check out the special Anniversary kits on Etsy

Published in: on August 13, 2015 at 5:00 pm  Comments (1)  

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