Raindrops on roses

Remind you of a song? Well, with the witching hour approaching and being a bit tired, I’m putting aside my planned costume-specific post to take up today’s CoBloWriMo prompt: 5 things that make you happy. So here’s a few quick thoughts on some of my favorite things!


Handsewn eyelets… yep, you read that right! There’s something therapeutic about creating those little circles in a layer (or four) of fabric without breaking any of the woven threads. This example is from an 18th century stays tutorial. Seeing it again almost makes me want to start a new pair of stays. Almost…


Antique & Vintage Costume Books… oh, the hours I can spend poring over their contents and drooling over the illustrations! This yummy example is in my private collection and is a Ladies’ Tailoring sample & sales book from 1909-1910. The fabric swatches are amazing and the designs are super details. Fabulous for eyeing and touching! I’ve been fortunate to come across a few books and magazines from as early as the 1890s to add to my shelves and also have many more digital or repro copies, thanks to Google Books & Ebay. One of my go-to e-books is a 1911 dressmaking guide by Carrie Crane Ingalls. Yes, the first name caught my attention at first but after making many petticoats, underclothes and skirts from her instructions, she won me over with her attention to detail and thorough explanations.


Costume Lovin’ Friends… because of course pretty clothing is best enjoyed in company! Yes, researching, planning, stitching, and wearing a new costume is a wonderful journey and one that I love to be part of but it’s always more fun to grab some friends for an afternoon of shenanigans in costume. Better yet if there’s a road trip and a great meal involved. And while photos always help capture the moment (and would add some extra imagery here) many of my favorite memories were created without a camera in sight and I’m so thankful to have a great group of costuming friends to play with! (Although to be fair, this particular photo is helpful in reminding me to shorten my petticoat 😜)


Sterling silver thimbles… and other old-fashioned sewing tools – I just can’t get enough! They just make me happy to see them on my finger, on a shelf in an antique shop, in my work basket, and yes, even pretty photos on Pinterest. I truly enjoy hand sewing and while costuming full-time several years ago I was often stitching 8+ hours each day. I mastered the art of using a thimble (or at least remembering to use one) and have been partial to sterling thimbles since then. The soft metal warms and better molds to my finger with each wearing… so much so that I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve found myself walking around the house (or out running errands!) with a thimble still stuck on my finger hours after I’ve stopped sewing!

And last but not least:


A cup of Earl Grey tea… yum! Need I say more?

So while raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens are also wonderful, these are a few of MY favorite things!

Back on the (blogging) bandwagon

Isn’t it funny how a small coincidence can have a big impact? After not being particularly active or following the Historical Sew Monthly very closely on facebook, I was in binge reading mode when I saw the following post:

facebook post suggesting idea of coblowrimo

What? An excuse to get back to writing? An excuse to write about costumes? An excuse to meet other like-minded sewists? Yes, please and thank you!

So, here we are on the very eve of day one of CoBloWriMo, or rather a moment into it, and I actually have some plans in place to carry me through at least the next week of writing. Please stay tuned dear readers… it may be a bumpy ride, but at least we’re headed in a forward direction! The next few posts will see me catching up on details from some 2015 and early 2016 completed projects but I’m also hoping to finally get some patterns drafted for sharing, too. Fingers crossed that this motivation continues ;o)

In the meantime, here’s a few sneak peeks of some favorite finished pieces… with details to follow of the related shenanigans in the coming days!

Paper Roses & Other Pretties

It’s been great fun to pull some of my antique clothing collection out and take a closer look lately. I can’t believe I’ve been collecting for 10+ years and that I’ve actually managed to amass a few nice things during that time.  My 1790s bonnet has been particularly fun to discuss and study and it reminds me that I’ve spent time hunting for sources of paper & cloth roses in the past. (You know… for when I get around to reproducing it!)

Here’s a closeup of the bonnet’s original roses:


While hunting through old notes it seems that any suppliers I once found have since ceased to exist. So of course that led to a whole new round of searches for paper, cloth, and velvet flowers.

My current favorite for duplicating the paper roses are the 1 1/4″ mulberry paper roses from Wild Orchid Crafts. While not an exact match they have the right amount of petals and curved petals detail.

For the lavender velvet forget-me-nots, I’m leaning towards the navy velvet bunches from Doll Artist’s Workshop. The diameter and velvety-ness is great but I haven’t found a good color match and there’s an extra petal. I’m tempted to try ordering one of creamier colors to see if they’d take to being hand colored. Vintage (via etsy or the like) is probably the better way to go and a quick search brought up a few viable options.

The cloth roses, which are probably linen, have been the most troublesome to find a reproduction source for. Based on what little I know about milinery roses – it’s likely that punches similar to those used for the paper flowers were used on sized linen.

I’m liking this YouTube video as rose-making tutorial:

It has a rather clever technique using a basic cookie cutter shape for the template. I’m now wondering if some of the heavy-duty scrapbooking punches would work if the linen was lightweight enough… And of course if it had been spray starched to within an inch of its life! Hmm… Some fabric rose crafting is in my future I think!

Cameras, costumes, and craziness, oh my!

It’s approaching midnight once again but as I write tonight, I’m in picturesque Frazer, PA for the 2nd Dress University conference. The conference ended with a wonderful Tiaras & Jampagne Party a few short hours ago and now I’m enjoying a few minutes to reflect on all I’ve learned and seen since Friday evening. Oh… and also putting my feet up and enjoying not wearing uncomfortable period shoes for a change!

One of the amusing (and ironic) things for me this time is that I didn’t wear a single new costume all weekend. All that sewing I had done on the elizabethan/tudor smock & coif… no showing yet! I decided that the kirtle needed some more work so those lovely new linen items stayed packed away. Instead I spent time in 1770’s dress, regency dress, 1825-ish dress and 1840-ish dress… none of which I’m particularly drawn to but I just happened to have plenty to wear!


A bit bedraggled by the end of the day – but still a fun dress to wear. 1825-ish cotton/silk blend gown based on an extant example at the Andover (MA) Historical Society

Not surprisingly, what was much more fun was seeing what everyone else was wearing… and that of course resulted in some serious costume envy! Seeing all the amazing bustle dresses reminded me that yes, I really do need to try some 1870s & 1880s fun very soon. And B.C.’s parasol class… stunning! Never mind the vintage lovelies that she was wearing – all those parasols were also drool worthy – and her tutorial for recovering them was so easy to follow that I can’t wait to get started.

One of the last sessions today had G.S. & M.D. presenting some costume-shot related camera tutorials and I doubt I’m alone in saying that some of the tips and techniques are mind-blowing and easy-to-do all at the same time.  I often borrow my dad’s Canon Rebel XSi and sitting in on the presentation today made me much more comfortable with the camera. It even prompted me to find a quick video spelling out which buttons are which on my particular model:

I admit I need to practice more (a lot more!) but it was fun taking the camera off ‘auto’ and trying some different settings even if it was just an hour or two of afternoon wanderings and then again at the party.

The clock keeps rushing to twelve and I’m in need of some sleep so this mantua maker won’t be staying up much past midnight tonight! Thanks to V.A. for organizing the conference and the Shenanigan Society Ladies for a great time once again. Look forward to more merriment in the coming month…

A picture worth 1000 words


Not sure which is mote out of place - shoes, chicken, or linen shirt?

Then again…. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder! Yesterday was a gorgeous sunny day and I spent the early evening sewing an 1820’s shirt while sitting on the patio. And yes, that is a chicken sitting beside me.

I’ve always had house cats and while cats are notorious for wanting to lay in the middle of sewing projects, fabric and patterns… I’ve never personally had cats that did any of those things. The tagline for my business was even “at the sign of the two cats” because my two girls were sweet and always around but never in the middle of things.

Enter the chickens. Yes, we have a lap chicken…. That’s Tomasina, our black Minorca hen, sleeping on the chair next to me. She tried to climb into the midst of the white linen shirt but I was having no part of that! I’m not sure what we did to end up with a pet chicken that needs to be in the middle of what we’re working on… but it certainly makes for some interesting photo ops!

Oh, and the shirt did get finished. but only after the chickens were put back in their coop and I moved the sewing indoors!

A new page… from an old book!

It’s midnight… or a bit past, and that’s a good a time as any to get this started! I’m working backward through my costuming projects to get dress diaries and the like back up online. With any luck, some new projects will be forthcoming as well. Let’s see where this endeavor leads, shall we?