CW Era Hats – Symmetry vs Asymmetry

I was asked about a few millinery related things in the past migraine infused week. Here is one quick look at symmetry and asymmetry in straw hats of the Civil War era. (Please note: This does not break down the location of trim by yearly or seasonal fashion.)



Image Sources:

MET, MFA, Peterson’s Magazine, assorted pins on Pinterest.

Published in: on March 6, 2017 at 6:00 am  Comments (1)  

Today’s Millinery 

This Civil War era bonnet is ideal for a working class impression. 

This bonnet will best fit an average to small head. The cheek tabs turns in slightly, and will hold the bonnet to your head at your neck like originals. 

As with my other straw millinery, this bonnet is entirely hand sewn. 

This bonnet is available in my Etsy shop. 

Published in: on March 5, 2017 at 10:30 am  Comments (2)  

A Couple More Bandeaus 

A red and black.

A couple quick shots of me wearing it.

An all red.

Published in: on February 27, 2017 at 9:20 pm  Comments (1)  

Today’s Millinery 

Tonight I finished a Civil War era straw hat. This hat has just a hint of curve to the brim. It is blocked with an antique crown and brim block. 

I’ve decided this crown block needs a name to make it easier for patrons to find their favorites. This one will be called Delia, as I happen to be watching Angel and think this shape would fit Cordelia nicely. The Delia crown is 21.5″ in circumference, 6.5″ wide and 7.5″ front to back. This will nicely fit those with an average to large head or those who prefer the feel of a rounder crown. *Remember, this era hat is worn higher on the head compared to where we are accustom to for modern wear. 

This hat is available in my Etsy shop.

Published in: on February 27, 2017 at 7:46 pm  Comments (4)  

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