Chapeaux in Blue and Velvet 

A band of black velvet highlights the curve of this chapeaux’s brim. Inside, the brim is lined with silk taffeta in a blue and black check. Lush blue satin ribbon ties this bonnet and wraps around the crown, gathered with loops of black velvet. 

The straw plait is entirely hand sewn and blocked. The black velvet ribbon is Hyman Hendler’s Renaissance satin back and the blue satin is his as well. The blue and black check taffeta is 100% silk. Inside the crown is a 100% cotton sateen ribbon. 

Available in my Etsy shop. 

Published in: on February 25, 2017 at 1:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

Adding beads

Note: This post has been updated from its original form thanks to something Beth Chamberlain pointed out.

Among the bandeau and coronet style headdresses speckling museum collections is this black velvet bandeau with black beads from the MET’s collection. Well, numerous pins on Pinterest attribute it to the MET, yet link only to the search page with the connection to the items page broken. I’ve spent hours digging through the collection for it, searching headdress, cap,velvet, coronet, without success.After initially posting about this piece, Beth pointed out that what I thought was two different examples were indeed the same piece – The one attributed to the MET with a broken link was the same as the one from the 2014 Ebay listing when the piece was deaccessioned. I was skeptical at first, then finally convinced when she showed me this photo that allowed the back proportion to be seen clearly.

This bandeau has a very full bow with numerous loops made with inch to maybe and inch and a quarter ribbon. Clusters of round and seed beads alternate – one design has loops of seed beads that are sorta petal like, the other has narrower loops. The loops among the bow combine two size seed beads, the smaller of which may be silver, with tube beads. The foundation is a wire band covered and a black net or buckram like pad at the base of the bow loops.

My example uses inch and a half wide black satin black back velvet wrapped around a wire and batting base. I alternated antique black faceted glass beads with a row of antique black cut steel beads around the crown and in the bow’s loops. This piece used shy of 5 yards of 1 1/2″ satin back velvet ribbon by Hyman Hendler, a strand of antique black cut steel beads, a short strand of antique black glass beads, millinery wire and cotton batting. (I found my single order of beads was enough for only one piece rather than the three I had thought. This makes the beads a rather pricey component.)

I almost forgot: Yes, this is available in my Etsy shop.

(I really wish the bright light did not show every bit of batting fibers coming through the velvet)

Published in: on February 15, 2017 at 7:32 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Touch of Velvet

When I wrote about headdresses in “A Band of Millinette” a few weeks ago I thought maybe I would make a headdress or cap here and there throughout the season. Well, I sorta got carried away. 
Looking at original examples and those in period publications, I find I am drawn to those with structure and form, combined with texture. I love the feel of a good velvet, both visual and tactile. I enjoy the shapes and movement layers of ribbon or feathers can make. I am caught by what beads can do with light.

 I am also finding I prefer refined headdresses that are enhance the wearer rather than overwhelm. I like a headdress that can be put on for dinner and not thought of again until bed time, no fussing or adjusting. 

These last few weeks, I’ve played primarily with velvet and just a bit of lace and beads. With so many ideas dancing around and around in my head and the many materials options, I’ve not only been learning about period techniques, I’ve learned something about myself. With a whole world of materials options at my fingertips via the internet, I can not focus. There are simply too many options which become too many ideas. I enjoy taking the materials in front of me and making them into something more than searching for the materials. But, you are not interested I that. You want to heat about the headdresses.

These first two stem from an original at the Museum of Fine Arts and a couple illustrations. The original is red velvet with three bands, two with lace and a bow on the side. Each of my pieces today have two bands covered in silk/rayon velvet. (The triple is waiting for its beads) While the black one’s bands are even, the red one is graduated, wider at center front. They can easily be worn alone or with a sprig of fresh flowers to one side. 

Next, is a simple black velvet bandeau or coronet. A friend mentioned how much she liked this style. She is right. It is one of my favorites not just for the look but for the ease and versatility of wear. In this piece, the velvet wraps around the base. The bow in back is symmetrical. Similar examples can be found in my pin board. 

Similar to the construction above, this one is in black velvet and green velvet. The base black is in a flat cover rather than wrapped, allowing for the green to control the movement. I rather Love the green and black bow in the back. 

With this pale purple velvet I played with an asymmetrical arrangement. I find the placement fun and following many mid nineteenth century illustrations for an asymmetrical look. This purple velvet completes the three velvet ribbons currently offered by Hyman Hendler. I find this one to be the most bodies and the least soft of the bunch. 

Last for today. I am going to call this one a half bandeau. It combines the soft silk/rayon velvet with the satin back velvet ribbon. The sides are beaded with cut glass beads. The back is a tail less bow. The overall look is rather catchy. 

Now, I have to decide which ones to let go in the Etsy shop.… 

Published in: on February 12, 2017 at 5:18 pm  Comments (3)  

Tomato Pin Cushion Myth

img_20160926_203508.jpgIn the past year there have been multiple posts and memes talking about the history of tomato pin cushions originating from tomatoes being a good luck symbol places upon the mantle. Now, there is even a video.

In each case, these are perpetuating a Myth.

Let’s look at the components of the story. The claim includes these points:

  1. Tomato pin cushions originated in the Victorian era.
  2. Tomatoes were seen as good luck
  3. Tomatoes were placed on the mantle or windowsill for good luck.

Let’s start with #3 – To me, this point alone should make someone skeptical of the story. Tomatoes being placed on the mantle or windowsill. Looking at this rationally, a tomato picked from the garden may not yet be ripe. It can be ripened a bit by being placed on the windowsill. At a point a tomato goes from ripe to past ripe to rotting. In some climates or weather combinations this can happen quite quickly. What logical person in any century is going to put a piece of food out to rot? Red flag.

Going back to #1 -Yup. This part is true. But, it is missing a big chunk of the real story.  A number of fruits and vegetables were made into pin cushions and/or velvet decorations during the Victorian era (1837-1901), not just tomatoes. We can see tomatoes, pears, apples, carrots, eggplant, nuts, grapes, berries, etc. made from velvet in the nineteenth century.

Now, with all those other vegetables and fruits being made in velvet form and for pin cushions, why are we looking at the tomato as a symbol of good luck? It simply held popularity longer because it was easier to make, and easier to mass produce.

That brings us to #2 – If you were to do a search in Google Books looking for references to tomatoes along with good luck or good fortune, narrowed to the 19th century, you will find that this connection simply does not exist.

Published in: on February 9, 2017 at 6:00 am  Comments (2)  

Today’s Millinery 

The piece I’ve been working on for the past week was inspired by the turned up shaping I see in some 1760’s hats. 

Published in: on February 7, 2017 at 5:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

Thanks Godey’s


Godey’s Lady’s Book – 1855 – Top February, Bottom December – One a Reticule, One a Work-Basket

On a recent flipping through of the 1855 edition of Godey’s Lady’s Book , I came across first the image of a crochet reticule, the an image of a work-basket. Flipping back and forth, the illustrated similarities were obvious. All I could think was “Thanks Godey’s. This is going to cause some new researcher quite the bit of confusion.”

The directions confirm both the reticule and the work-basket have a cardboard structure. In the case of the reticule, it is covered in crochet satin cord, trimmed in satin ribbon quilled or ruched. The work-basket has a cardboard bottom, that is covered with satin on the exterior, wadded satin on the interior. The sides being a “filet“, which appears to be a chenille covered wire frame. This piece, too, is trimmed with a ruche of quilled ribbon at the top.  Both are lined.

Lady’s Reticule. – Crochet.

(see Plate on page 104.)

Materials. – Fourteen yards cerise satin cord, two and a half yards satin ribbon, three-quarters of an inch wide, to match, yard saranet, a small piece of cardboard, and three skeins of coarse black crochet silk; also two yards of fine cord, gold, cerise, and black.

With the crochet silk work on the end of the satin cord thus:  * 1 sc over the cord, 1 ch, *; repeat until half a yard is done, then close it round, and work on it, holding the satin cord in, * 1 sc, 1 ch, * all round, until the whole of the cord is used; then cover a bit of card-board three inches wide, and long enough to fit the bag, with sarsnet on both sides; and put a piece of silk at the top, with runnings for strings. The silk, as well as the lower part of the bag, should be lined, and a quilling of ribbon of ribbon put at the top and bottom of the crochet work, to finish it. Box-plaiting is the best way of doing this ribbon, and the fancy cord is run in the centre, to hide the stitches.

Parisian Work-basket.

A Christmas Gift.

(See Blue Plate in front of Book.)

Materials. –  A single strip of filet* forms the sides of the basket, the wires of which must be previously covered by chenille, twisted closely round them. To the outside of this the filet is sewed at the top and bottom, and the ends joined at one of the wires. A piece of card-board, covered with silk on one side, and with wadded satin on the other, forms the bottom. A fancy cord, of a color to correspond with those of the embroidery, covers the sewing of filet; and a ruche of quilled ribbon, with a gold thread laid on in the centre, trims the top.

This is a good time to talk about wording – In modern conversation, we often use the word “reticule” to mean the equivalant of a modern carryall purse. This causes some confusion about what a purse is and what a bag is. A purse has a specific purpose. A purse carries coin money A Universal and Critical Dictionary of the English Language in 1850 defines a “reticule” as “A small work-bag, or net; reticle. – in a telescope, a net-work dividing the field of view into a series of small, equal squares.” and a “reticle” as “a small net; a bag; a reticule.” A reticule/reticle is a small bag for carrying things*. A work-bag has a specific purpose. A work-bag carries sewing and needle-work items.

Looking at the dictionary definition, we could surmise that the above reticule is actually a work-bag.


*As a bag for carrying, reticules were an accessory of popularity in the Regency era when skirts were slim. In the 1840s and 1850s, skirts had long since regained their volume, making room for pockets, both as a separate accessory and attached directly to skirts. The need, even the desire for a reticule subsided.


Published in: on January 30, 2017 at 1:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Ribbon Blog Update and Top Ten

First – Ribbon Blog Update

Did you know there is an off shoot of this blog that focuses just on Ribbons?   There is.

This weekend a friend asked me where to find a particular piece I wrote on ribbons. Her question caused me to open the ribbon blog that is an off-shoot of this one. Ack! It was a mess to make sense of on my tablet.

After seeing that…. I did a massive update with significant rearranging. The first page readers will now see is a table of contents. My hopes is this will work more like a mobile, interactive book, that people can consult as they need.

Find the site here:

Millinery Ribbons – 19th Century Swatch-book


Second – A Question

This question sorta stems from last week’s post about running out of space. I would like to make a page for new readers, highlighting the top ten “Must read” posts and pages.

What posts or pages do you wish everyone would read?

Add your must read favorites to the comments below.

Published in: on January 23, 2017 at 5:00 am  Comments (3)  

Decisions Must Be Made

IMG_0021editIn 2009 I transitioned from my old “Geocities” website to this WordPress blog platform. Eight years and 1,300+ posts later…. I am almost out of space.

A decision must be made regarding the future of my writing. The options are:

  • Wrap this blog up as I use up the rest of the space. (I think that would be about halfway through 2017.)
  • Delete early posts and generally write less.
  • Move to another free blog address, or
  • Start a new blog with a different spin, a new chapter of sorts.
  • Pay for the upgraded version of WordPress. This would allow for enhanced features including videos. (Please know I am currently not making any money off of what I write, neither here nor for any magazines.)

What will help me in my decision:

  • What have been your favorite blog posts or types of blog posts? What haven’t you liked so much?
  • Do you read just what is current, or do  you go back and read older posts?
  • What do you want to see more of?
Published in: on January 20, 2017 at 6:00 am  Comments (12)  

Following the Coiffures

One of the nifty things that emerge as you spend more time researching though original texts, is how rampant “borrowing,” “rewriting,” and downright plagiarism were in the nineteenth century. This can be seen in manufacturing articles (often with accelerated gloating), news accounts (as it does today), and fashion accounts. My recent post “A Band of Millinette” took note of a head dress appearing in two American publications with slight variations. I thought it would be informative and a bit of fun to show how this and its sister coiffures developed or mutated from the popular European publications to American publications.

Initially, four coiffures or head-dresses appeared together in La Mode Illustree, published in Paris. Within half a year, they were published individually, in abbreviated form and with redrawn, possibly repeatedly so, illustrations in American publications.

A simplified timeline is such:

  • January 1862 – La Mode Illustree
  • February 1862 – Der Bazar
  • April 1862 – Frank Leslie’s Magazine
  • June and July 1862 – Peterson’s Magazine

Looking more closely, this is what we see (I encourage you to click on each publication or thumbnail image to go to the magazine and see the illustrations and descriptions in full.):

La Mode Illustree (Paris) – January, 1862

The Coiffure Esmeralda and Coiffure Narissa appear together in the January 1862 edition on page 31. The Coiffure Narissa has two illustrations, an exterior and an interior. The Esmeralda has a single illustration and a description that begins on the proceeding page. This page also has the descriptions of the Esmeralda and Narissa, as well as the coiffure Alice. An interior illustration for the Alice appears on page 34, along with interior and exterior illustrations for the coiffure Isabella. On the following page, we find the exterior for the Alice.


Der Bazar – February 1862

The coiffure Esmeralda appears on page 36 as an illustration and  the description on the preceding page.

The Coiffure Narrissa appears on page 39 with two illustrations (front (#29)and back(#30)) The lines in the front illustration are crisp, showing the box pleats and where they are stitched to the base, as well as the two colors, black and pink, and the shaping of the bows. Accompanying this is the coiffure Alice, with exterior and interior illustrations. There are subtle changes to the illustrations indicating that they are redrawn.



Frank Leslie’s MagazineApril, 1862

The Coiffure Isabella begins the April edition on page 369 with both an exterior illustration and an interior illustration. The Coiffure Esmeralda appears in illustration on page 380. The descriptions for both appear on page 379. These descriptions appear abbreviated to me, which they excuse:

Nos. 1 and 2. – The Coiffure Isabella is composed of a circlet of black velvet, confined at the back by a jet ornament with pendants. A deep fall of rich black lace conceals the hair behind, while a series of magnificent white plumes are intertwined with the circlet. That is this beautiful head-dress may be more intelligible to those of our readers who may desire to make one than a verbal description could render it, we give also an interior view of it, which will be found of material assistance in facilitating it arrangement.

No. 3. Coiffure Esmeralda. This head-dress is of black velvet, gracefully twisted so as to encircle the head. It terminates into a simple knot, with ends behind, while in the centre, in front, is a bow of velvet, with long gilt or silver pendants. This head-dress is very readily made, and will, we think, be found useful by our fair readers, as it is always difficult to find head-dresses suitable for demi-toilette.

The Esmeralda illustration, while redrawn, does retain the tail length and angle of the end cut. We can see some of the construction, including the millinette, which is omitted from the description.


Peterson’s MagazineJune and July 1862

The Esmeralda Head-dress and the Nerissa Head-dress appear in the Peterson’s Magazine in June and July of 1862. The Nerissa appears as an illustration with description on page 494 and 495. The illustration appears to have left out some detail in my opinion. The illustration, redrawn, does not have the definition nor detail guiding construction as I feel the European illustrations have. While some of this may have been lost in digitization, I feel much of this is due to the illustration itself. The Esmeralda Head-dress appears on page 69 of the July 1862 edition. It is accompanied by a single, narrow column of description. This is a redrawn illustration with shorter tails of ribbon compared to the Der Bazar and Le Mode versions. The diagonal cut is also to a lesser degree. The overall illustration is set wider, more circular than ovular.


Published in: on January 17, 2017 at 1:00 am  Leave a Comment  

First Bonnet of 2017

Here is the first bonnet of 2017. 

I thought it appropriate to make a bonnet that can be worn by those with modest, work class impressions; a bonnet that can span most of the Civil War era years. This bonnet has a round brim with a moderate rise. 

Find this bonnet in my Etsy shop.

Published in: on January 16, 2017 at 12:14 pm  Comments (2)