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Ask not whether you should mark your fabric, but rather, what you should mark your fabric with!  Whether it be stitch lines, darts or dots, transferring those important pattern markings easily and accurately is key to efficient clothing construction.

In my costume technology class, the first project we're tackling is a corset.  In this structural garment, there not only 16 boning channels to mark, but grommet placements and other notches to transfer.  In fact, it would be just about impossible to construct this corset without the guiding lines.  The question then becomes, how do I accurately transfer the markings from the paper pattern onto the coutil fabric?  

Corset paper pattern with boning channels and markings to transfer.

Luckily, there many tools, both made for the purpose or unintentionally discovered, that can be used to mark fabrics.  In this blog post, I will be sharing my top sewing tips, tricks and tool picks for marking fabrics.  Let's get started...

Fabric Marking Tools

Sewing Pins

Most people reach for pins to hold fabric together, however, they are also useful for indicating placement lines, notches, dots, and the like.  Need to make an adjustment?  Simply pull the temporary marker and re-pin.  

Pros:  Temporary, very easy to adjust, and does not leave a residue. 

Cons:  Temporary, may fall out, and sometimes has to be removed when stitching.

Thread Tacks or Basting 

These temporary stitches may be done by hand or machine.  

Pros:  Much like pinning, thread tacks and basting stitches are temporary and safe for all fabrics.  They leave minimal, if any markings once the stitches are removed, especially when done by hand, and can be seen from both sides of the fabric.  Thread also comes in every color. 

Cons:  Takes time, and will show in seams if not entirely removed.  For instance, if basting with red thread on a white garment, time and care must be taken to remove each piece of visible thread.  

Tailor's Chalk 

Tailor's chalk comes in both squares and triangles, as well as sticks, wheels or even in retractable pencil form.  

Pros:  Time honored tool.  Marks most fabric surfaces, brushes away easily, rarely discolors fabric.  I like to use chalk on wool and silk.  

Cons:  Temporary, and may brush away too easily.  Unless sharped constantly, the lines may be thick and not as accurate.  Chalk breaks easily, and is only available in certain colors.  

Dressmaker's Carbon Paper

(Image source: Sewing Supplies: Dritz Sew 101)

According to the Dritz company article, "Sewing Supplies: Dritz Sew 101" - 
"These tools are used for transferring pattern markings to fabric. To get started, sandwich the tracing paper between your fabric and pattern. Trace along pattern markings using the tracing wheel and the markings will be transferred to your fabric."

Dressmaker's carbon paper must be used with a tracing wheel.  These pigmented sheets, most often available in white, black, red, yellow or blue, have a waxy surface that leaves a faint, colored line with pressure, as explained in the excerpt above.  

Pros:  Great for transferring markings from paper patterns to fabric.  These are the only tool (besides using a powerful light box) that I can think of that allows the user to simply and accurately trace from on top of a paper pattern.  

Cons:  Tracing wheels may be difficult to use, especially on curves, and may lack the control of pencils or pens.  Enough pressure has to be applied, or the colored, dotted lines will not show.  The waxy residue may not always rub out or wash away.  

Pencils, Ink Pens and Markers 

Pencils, ink pens and markers intended for paper may also be used to mark fabric.  However, these markings, especially from ink pens or markers, are usually permanent, and best for mock ups or for use in places that will not be seen.  

Pros:  Convenience (I am guilty of often reaching for mechanical pencils, which allow for very fine markings, rather than other instruments perhaps more suited for fabric...) and familiarity with handling. 

Cons:  Markings are usually permanent, and markers like sharpies tend to bleed into the fabric.  

Fabric Marking Pencils 

There are pencils and pens made specifically for marking fabric.  These include popular water soluble or disappearing ink options like Mark-B-Gone.  I, personally, like the blue (or white) water soluble pencils. 

Pros:  These handle much like their paper counterparts offering precise lines and dots.  The water soluble pencil markings are removable with a damp cloth.

Cons:  They may leave permanent markings or stain fabrics.  Disappearing ink pens tend to dry out and have to be replaced, while water soluble pencils need to be sharped constantly.  Limited color selection. 

 FriXion Erasable Pens 

Though intended for use on paper, these erasable pens are basically magic!  Okay, maybe not magic, but a product of some pretty cool thermo-technology which allows the ink to disappear with friction (heat).  Use an iron to erase the markings, and your freezer to make the lines reappear.  I love my FriXion pens! 

Pros:  These pens are made in a variety of colors, and write on both paper and fabric.  The ink disappears when ironed over, which makes it perfect for marking complicated designs or corset boning channels! 

Cons:  The ink may not completely disappear, and markings may be visible, even after applying heat.  

Crayola's Ultra-Clean Washable Markers 

Much like the FriXion pen hack, these are another one of my favorite sewing secrets.  Intended for children who often color surfaces other than paper, these washable markers are often more "washable" than the water soluble fabric pens or pencils.  They're also way less expensive.  I believe I paid around two dollars for the pack of ten colors, and the fine tips provide very thin and accurate stitch lines.  

Pros:  Low cost, water soluble option that is often visible from both sides of the fabric.  Can also double as paper makers.  

Cons:  Markings may not always wash away, and could bleed or discolor the fabric. 

And that concludes this list of fabric marking tool options!  Whenever using a marking instrument, it is always recommended important to test it on a scrap, before applying it to the final fabric.  

Do you have a favorite fabric marking tool or tip?  Share it below! 

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Today's the last day of winter break, and I thought it fitting to share the one and only project I managed to complete over the holidays...a poinsettia skirt with a vintage vibe:

Poinsettia skirt paired with
a vintage cardigan, fur collar and velvet hat.

I know, it's not much, but it's done and has been worn three times - to dinner, at contra dance and to visit a friend!  I would have loved to share some other exciting projects, but sometimes life has other plans...family comes first.  Plus, there are always other opportunities to sew.  I have big plans for you, 2018!  

For this project, all of the materials came from the stash.  The novelty fabric has large poinsettias with tiny green houses, snow-covered evergreens and a split rail fence.  The combination, for some reason, reminded me of the classic holiday film, White Christmas (1954) - snow, snow, snow!  Even the zipper, which is vintage, probably from another garment as thread remains indicated, interfacing, thread and metal skirt closure were pulled from the stash.  Oh, and the project was stitched on my 1940s Singer featherweight machine.  

The construction could not have been simpler or more straight-forward.  I ripped three panels for volume, seamed and hemmed them.  Then, gathered the skirt onto the waistband, which was stiffened with interfacing.  

I installed the zipper with a lapped seam, then hand whip stitched the inside of the waistband closed.  Lastly, I found a metal skirt closure to finish off the project.

Lapped zipper, outside.
Just imagine that the skirt is closed,
it's slightly too small for the dressform.

Lapped zipper, inside.

Completed Project Shots

The completed skirt, front and back.

Again, I've already worn the skirt for three occasions, and it's definitely well suited for twirling!  Though, I suppose it's time to pack it away until next Christmas...perhaps I'll be able to convince the sister to take a few pictures then.  In the meantime, there are plenty of other projects to work on.  So, thanks for reading, and I hope you'll stop back for more sewing!   

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It's that time again!  Time to look back and reflect upon the past year's accomplishments, and forward to another twelve months of sewing and blogging.

While I may not have been able to post as frequently as I would have liked, it's certainly a pleasure to look back at all that did happen.  Between work at the museum and college classes, sewing projects, travels and other adventures...2017 was quite the year.  So, without further ado, let's start this year in review!

January - I began the year with a new shift, corset and sleeve puffs to go under an 1830s sky blue ball gown.

February - The big project this month was a new cap, half robe and caramel petticoat.

March - Spent a long weekend thanks to several snow days making a new, 1860s sacque coat with a quilted lining.  Also completed an 18th century bum pad and red petticoat, which was the beginnings of a cosplay costume...

April - Made a splash with a first attempt at trashion (trash + fashion), combining water pollution with early-19th century stays.

April also brought the trip of a lifetime with my friend, Kaela!  We went to Williamsburg (life dream come true!), Jamestown and Pittsburgh...met Samantha of The Couture Courtesan blog fame, who is every bit as personable as she is talented...Janea Whitacre(!) and Fiona of Ruffles Not Rifles in the Margaret Hunter Millinery Shop.  Spent time with our good friends - Matt and Megan, Elyse, Elizabeth and her family, and some former Point Park classmates...I still have trouble believing that it all happened!!

To top it all off, I became a member of the Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums (ALHFAM) and the Costume Society of America (CSA).

May - May always means the start of a new museum season!  I returned to my home away from home, the Genesee Country Village & Museum, for a fourth season with a new position as the Interpretation Office Assistant.  Though never fear, Hosmer Dinners and shenanigans with friends and fellow interpreters resumed as usual...

Not much sewing happened this month, but I did become both basic life support/first aid and food safety certified.  Oh, and I completed a lengthy, final art project of 50+ sketchbook pieces:

And, I graduated with an Associates Degree in Liberal Arts!  Certificates and medallions were awarded for cumulative 4.0s.  Here's to the class of 2017, we did it!

(Photograph via: Monroe Community College)

June - Hands down, the 2017 ALHFAM conference was the highlight of the month!  I met soo many new people...great to see some familiar faces too - Elyse, Matt and Megan, and Justin all came up.

June also brought one of my favorite village events, the War of 1812/Jane Austen weekend.  I finished my short stays just in time, and helped my good friend, Rhonda, the dressmaker, set up a really neat mourning display in her dress shop.

I believe that I finished the DNA dress and over-hoop petticoat this month...as well as this beribboned, frilly cap:

July - Fashion Fun Camp, year two, happened, and, like the first time, there is just nothing better than sharing the passion with the next generation!  (Or getting to play dress up every day ;)

Speaking of passions, thanks to Deanna and others at the museum, I had the opportunity to write about another passion - the Chinese soldiers of the American Civil War.  The article was published on the Genesee Country Village & Museum Blog, here: That These Dead Shall Not Have Died in Vain.

Corporal Joseph Pierce
(Photograph via: Public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

August - This month brought the honor of making the wedding veil for Allison and Stephen's wedding:

As well as two, other, fun projects...the online CoBloWriMo, which is 100 bloggers strong on Facebook.  And the other, well, it's still a secret, but here's a hint:

A secret project!
(Photograph courtesy of Ruby Foote,
GCV&M photographer)

My family and I finished the summer with a trip down to Memphis.  In our sightseeing, we explored several museums as well as Millionaire’s Row - definitely recommended!

September - Blogging sort of disappeared this month, but for good reason...I started school again at Kent State University!

With seven classes, there wasn't much time for personal sewing :(  But, I did complete a muslin skirt for "Basic Costume Construction" -

October - Sarah (A new friend?  Technically we already met once in person at the village, and online, but now it's official haha!) and I explored Hale Farms on a much-needed 1860s adventure.  Ginny (our blog's traveling doll) received a new dress for the occasion:

As for school projects, I finished an Edwardian picture hat for the historical millinery class:

November - Lots of traveling this month, including making it to GCV&M's 4th annual Domestic Symposium and the "Undressed" exhibit at The Frick!  Class projects included finishing a pair of plaid pajamas and a 19-teens wool felt hat with an upturned brim.

December - Traveling seems to be the reoccurring theme this year...after the semester concluded, I spent some time with a dear friend, Lauren, in Pittsburgh before heading home.  Not before handing in several end of semester projects including a striped top, floral skort, "period bodice," and sampler of millinery trimmings:

The last sewing project for the year was a vintage style Christmas skirt, perfect for ringing in the New Year with family in Tennessee.  (Just for fun, we tallied our travels...in total, it was an 10 state year for me - NY, PA, OH, WV, MD, VA, NC, GA, TN & AR - yippee!)

And that concludes the 2017 year in review!  Shout out to you for making it all the way to the end ;)  I'd like to thank everyone, most dearly and sincerely, for reading and encouraging my sewing adventures.  Each and every "like," comment and follow here (and on Facebook) has meant so much to me – your continued support keeps me sewing!  May your needle always be sharp, and your fabric stash overflowing!

Cheers 2018, and may we make every minute count!

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The air is silent save where stirs
A bugling breeze among the firs;
The virgin world in white array
Waits for the bridegroom kiss of day.

It is - too cold outside!  But Maria, the sister and photographer, and I bundled up to brave the cold, on Christmas Eve no less.  A little ways away there's a lovely, family-owned and operated Christmas tree farm: the Freckleton's Tree Farm that we stopped by for a winter's walk and photographs.  We chatted with the owner and retired professor, Mr. Freckleton, for a good half hour, and he could not have been more friendly and kind.  He even sent us on our way with a recommended reading list.  So, if you live in the area, make sure to visit them next year to pick out your perfect Christmas tree!  

If you've been following us on Facebook, you may also be wondering about the other Christmas project that I had been working on...It's been placed on hold for now (perhaps 'till next December?), and, instead, I had fun pulling together this outfit from the closet.  It's a combination of mid-19th century and vintage items with a maybe-not-so-period skirt - the "ish" in the title - but was warm and oh so fun to twirl in.  Also, it gave me the opportunity to wear my 1860s sacque coat for the first time.  Made from a forest green wool with a fully quilted, silk interior, and trimmed with black silk bias strips, you can read all about the past project here: Forest Green Sacque Coat.  

The Inspiration 

I blame the hat and this picture entirely: 

Ice Skating Attire, from the Palmetto Soldiers Relief Society
(Image via: Pinterest)

As soon as I laid eyes on those furry hats, I knew exactly what I'd wear!  I paired the forest green sacque coat (hiding a white body or shirt that I made years ago and will never see the camera!) with two 18th-century style petticoats (red fabric? and brown linen).  These were worn over a mid-19th century chemise, striped stockings, drawers, corset, under-petticoat, large bum roll, and red, flannel petticoat for warmth.  Then, the vintage fur collar, hat and hatpin, gloves, and me-made muff completed the historical skating inspired look.  [Please note: this outfit was historically inspired, and not intended to be historically accurate]

Winter walking ready!

Here are several other images that served as inspiration:

Detail from a painting
(Image via: Ruby Lane Vintage, Pinterest)

Winter fantasy featured on the Dreamstress' "Rate the Dress"
(Image via: The Dreamstress)
You'll notice in several of the pictures later that I draped a brown scarf over my hat to match the ice skater on the left (above).  

Skating ensemble, c.1863–67
(Image source: The MET)

Someday I'd love to make a proper skating ensemble...

Central Park, Winter - The Skating Pond, c.1862
 Painting by Charles Parsons, Lithographed by Lyman W. Atwater
(Image source: The MET)

Completed Project Shots

A million thanks to Maria, my sister and photographer, for all her time and talents.  Without her, and her willingness to freeze with me, none of these photo shoots would be possible. *All photographs courtesy of Maria M.* 

The air is silent save where stirs
A bugling breeze among the firs;
The virgin world in white array
Waits for the bridegroom kiss of day;
All heaven blooms rarely in the east
Where skies are silvery and fleeced,
And o'er the orient hills made glad
The morning comes in wonder clad;
Oh, 'tis a time most fit to see
How beautiful the dawn can be!

Wide, sparkling fields snow-vestured lie
Beneath a blue, unshadowed sky;
A glistening splendor crowns the woods
And bosky, whistling solitudes;
In hemlock glen and reedy mere
The tang of frost is sharp and clear;
Life hath a jollity and zest,
A poignancy made manifest;
Laughter and courage have their way
At noontide of a winter's day.

Faint music rings in wold and dell,
The tinkling of a distant bell,
Where homestead lights with friendly glow
Glimmer across the drifted snow;
Beyond a valley dim and far
Lit by an occidental star,
Tall pines the marge of day beset
Like many a slender minaret,
Whence priest-like winds on crystal air
Summon the reverent world to prayer.

Poem is "A Winter Day" by Lucy Maud Montgomery.

Bonus: Outtakes of me twirling around in the snow!

Happy Holidays! 

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Recently, I've received several private messages, asking for suggestions for Christmas gifts or affordable "stocking stuffers" that my historical or reenactor friends might enjoy.  While I do believe that nothing beats homemade, handmade is the other way to go for giving a memorable, one-of-a-kind gift. Whether it's big or small, costs money or time, remember that it's always the thought that counts!

And speaking of thought, consider supporting your local (or online), hard-working small businesses and artisans who could really use your support this time of year.  While I do not wish to come off as "preachy" here, I was just reminded of how important that extra sale can be to an artisan for their family and holiday season.  With that spirit, a handmade gift will mean a lot to both creator and receiver, alike, and all of your reenacting friends and families will thank you.

(Photograph courtesy of Judy J.)

So, with Christmas close upon us, and gift-giving certainly on the mind, please enjoy this sew-phisticated guide to gift giving for your historical friends:  
(Note: * indicates small businesses or individual artisans that I have purchased from in the past)

Fabric & Ribbons

One can never have too much fabric, or trim on a bonnet or cap!  Just a yard or two of a sheer cotton, linen or silk would make a pretty cap, chemisette or fichu, neckerscarf, cuff and collar set, cravat, or accessory of any kind.  Consider smaller cuts for needle books, pin cushions, and sewing pretties, or splurge on a larger length for a garment.

Altay Store (Photograph by Stephen S.)

*Burnely and Trowbridge – Cottons, silks, wools and linens.  Don't forget that they also carry neck-handkerchiefs, stockings and sewing accessories!

*William Booth, Draper - Fine fabrics, notions and accessories.

*Chestnut Bay Quilting - My near and very dear local quilt shop with a whole room dedicate to repro fabrics folks!

*Ensembles of the Past - Silks, silks and more silks.

*Renaissance Fabrics - A little bit of everything including silks, wools, linens and cottons, and anything else in between.


One should not clothe the body and neglect the head!  Make an investment that will last for years and many reenacting seasons to come.

*Anna Warden Bauersmith – Our local celebrity and accomplished milliner who is every bit as personable as she is talented.  Throughout the year, you'll find fashionable straw bonnets and winter hoods for you and your doll, pincushions - strawberries, walnuts, seashells - and sewing accessories of all kinds, patterns and books.  She is also the author of Fanciful Utility, which makes a wonderful gift, hint, hint!
Have lots of friends?  Make sure to check out Anna's buy three, get the fourth free promotion here: Pin Cushion Sale!!!  That's three pin cushions, emeries and/or ornaments for your friends, and one for yourself too!

*Timely Tresses – A one-stop-shop for ribbons, flowers, and everything bonnets!

Southern Serendipity - Beribboned hairnets (these are a definite want!), acorn earrings and flowered ornaments of all kinds. 

Virigil’s Fine Goods – They have caps...ruffly caps...need I say more?!

LBCC Historical Apothecary (Litttle Bits) - Everything, and I mean everything, you need to pamper them (or yourself)!  

Jewelry & Accessories

A beaded butterfly "trembler" for a bonnet
made by Kristen of the Victorian Needle. 

Victorian Needle - Gorgeous hand beaded work and jewelry.  Have you seen her bracelets and beaded "tremblers" - amazing!  Having met Kristen twice now, I can personally attest to the quality of her work (I simply cannot thank her enough for the beautiful butterfly!) and she's super sweet too.
Don't miss her most recent post: 85+ MORE Gift Ideas for the History Lover for more reenactor holiday gift ideas!

*Dames a la Mode – All of the reproduction jewelry and vintage ribbons!

Sign of the Grey Horse -  The site for reproduction and historically inspired jewelry, all of the proceeds go to a great cause too.

In the Long Run -  Very pretty, very affordable reproduction jewelry, get your pocketbook ready...

Creative Cockades – They're fun, historical, and a petersham rosette belt would certainly brighten up an ensemble! 


Photograph of GCV's dressmaker with Lauren of American Duchess.
(Photograph borrowed from Rhonda B.)

American Duchess – SHOES, SHOES, SHOES!  And buckles, stockings and their new book: The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking.

*Originals by Kay - The one-stop-shop for quality ready made clothing and fashionable accessories.  They also have fabrics, patterns, jewelry, headwear and outerwear.

*Fashions Revisited - Oh so many pretty caps, and other ready made items.  I've purchased many pairs of stockings from them at the annual 1812 Event at the Genesee Country Village & Museum.

Hand Stitches in Time - Starter kits, undergarments and corded petticoats.

Barnyard Biddy - I met Jamie once, and she was very kind.  You can find reproduction winter hoods and knitted goods in her shop.

Patterns & Books

Library (Photograph by Maria M.)

*The Sewing Academy -  Everyone needs a copy of Elizabeth Stewart Clark's The Dressmaker’s Guide by their side.  You can also find patterns for young ones and cloth dolls here.

*The Old Petticoat Shop - Books, patterns, and online classes of all kinds.

*Past Patterns - A staple in historical clothing patterns.  Just make sure that if you're gifting someone a pattern, it's in their size and not yours ;)

Larkin & Smith - For all of your 18th century and stay-making needs.

*Redthreaded - Corsets, stays and custom foundation patterns.

Historic Dolls

Reproduction Dolls - The source for reproduction china head dolls and their miniature clothing and accessories.

Talbott & Co. Heritage Goods - They carry a wide variety of handmade, early to mid-19th century items, including wallpaper band boxes, marbled notebooks and cloth dolls.

*Pixie Faire - Not the most historical, but oh so fun!  Patterns of all kinds for American Girl and other 18" dolls.  Link leads to their "historically inspired" line of patterns.

Happy Holiday Shopping!

(Photograph credit: Ruby Foote, GCV&M photographer)

What's on your historical "wish list" this season?  Share your list with us, or add your favorite shop suggestion in the comments below.  We'd love to hear from you!

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It's that time of year again, my friends and dear blog readers!  Wherever you are, and however you choose to celebrate, I wish you and your loved ones a very happy and blessed Thanksgiving Day.

I recently came across this lovely, little, lyrical piece titled "Thanksgiving Time" by Langston Hughes, who's always a favorite, and thought it both fitting and proper to share today: 

When the night winds whistle through the trees 
and blow the crisp brown leaves a-crackling down,
When the autumn moon is big and yellow-orange and round,
When old Jack Frost is sparkling on the ground,
It's Thanksgiving Time!

When the pantry jars are full of mince-meat 
and the shelves are laden with sweet spices for a cake,
When the butcher man sends up a turkey nice and fat to bake,
When the stores are crammed with everything ingenious cooks can make,
It's Thanksgiving Time!

When the gales of coming winter outside your window howl,
When the air is sharp and cheery so it drives away your scowl,
When one's appetite craves turkey and will have no other fowl,
It's Thanksgiving Time!

A Happy Thanksgiving to all!
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"A long, long sleep, a famous sleep
That makes no show for dawn
By stretch of limb or stir of lid, —
An independent one."
- Emily Dickinson, Poem 139

A Happy and Spooktacular Halloween to all!  Since I was unable to finish my fancy dress costume this year, I thought it very appropriate to finally share this long-awaited, 1860s photo shoot that Maria, sister and photographer, and I did last August, before I left for college.  All of the construction details for the dress and petticoat can be found here: Inside & Out: DNA Dress and Hoop, and the fancy dress cap here: Lace on My Clothes & Bows on My Caps.  

In the photographs, my dress is worn over a mid-19th century chemise, drawers, under-petticoat, small support pad and 90" cage with two tucked petticoats to smooth the silhouette.  A large, striped, silk cravat bow, silk belt with a mother of pear buckle, and beribboned, fancy dress cap complete the look.  

Completed Project Shots

First and foremost, I must thank my talented sister and photographer, Maria, for all her time and attention to the details!  Without her, none of these photo shoots would be possible, and for that, among many other reasons, I am overwhelmingly grateful.  Here's to her, and for allowing me to share her work!  *All photographs courtesy of Maria M.* 

Because I could not stop for Death —
He kindly stopped for me —
The Carriage held but just Ourselves —
And Immortality.

We slowly drove — He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility —

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess — in the Ring —
We passed the fields of Gazing Grain —
We passed the Setting Sun —

Or rather — He passed Us —
The Dews drew quivering and chill —
For only Gossamer, my Gown —
My Tippet — only Tulle —

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground —
The Roof was scarcely visible —
The Cornice — in the Ground —

Since then — ’tis Centuries — and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses’ Heads
Were toward Eternity —

Poem is "Because I Could Not Stop for Death" by Emily Dickinson.

Mount Hope Cemetery 

Before ending this post, I'd like to highlight and give a little background on the location of our shoot.  This may sound slightly morbid to some, but I personally find cemeteries not only historically significant, but incredibly peaceful places to walk around and collect my thoughts.  I have spent many afternoons wandering around Rochester's Mount Hope Cemetery, quietly reflecting and exploring the 200 acres and 14 miles of roads, hills and valleys, and paying respects to the 350,000 sleeping for eternity.  

The Gatehouse, 1874.

Described in the following introduction, by the Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery, the nonprofit organization devoted to the preservation, restoration and public appreciation of the culturally significant site:
"Dedicated in 1838 in Rochester NY, Mount Hope is America's first municipal Victorian cemetery.  Set in a picturesque landscape shaped by retreating glaciers, the cemetery features more than 80 mausoleums, soaring Egyptian obelisks, winged angels of mercy, a Florentine cast-iron fountain, two stone chapels in Gothic Revival style, a Moorish gazebo, and infinitely varied tombstones marking 350,000 graves across 196 acres." - The Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery

One of two chapels and original crematory, 1862.

In terms of history, Mount Hope Cemetery truly offers something for everyone.  From Rochester and Erie Canal history, to Victorian symbolism and architecture, the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, Jewish and African-American history, many notable leaders, inventors, prominent families, artists, architects, abolitionists and women's rights activists were laid to rest there.  

Perhaps among the most famous are Susan B. Anthony:

Fredrick Douglas:

Nathaniel Rochester and family: 

As well as dozens of others, including Daisy Marquis Jones, Alexander Milliner, George Washington's drummer boy, Dr. Charles T. Lunsford, the first African American physician in Rochester, the children of Buffalo Bill Cody, and William, and later Hannah Carter, the first buried on the site:

Veterans of all the major American wars are represented, including specific Civil, Spanish-American and World War I sections and a D.A.R. monument.  

Row by row in the Civil War plot.

And, finally, you'll find several of the families from the houses preserved at the Genesee Country Village & Museum: 

Rebecca A. Fitzhugh, wife of Dr. Fredrick F. Backus, of the
Livingston-Backus House (at the Genesee Country Village & Museum)

Dr. Frederick F. Backus, prominent Rochester physician and politician.

The services at Mount Hope Cemetery go beyond burials, offering many opportunities to volunteer in landscaping, gardening, and gravestone maintenance and repair.  Under the generous care of the Friends of Mount Hope Cemetery and donors, free genealogical research, public lectures and tours, and printed works, including several books and a quarterly newsletter, titled the Epitaph, are available.  So, if you're ever in Rochester, make sure to visit my favorite local cemetery and historical treasure! 

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Do my eyes deceive me or can it really be August 31st already?  Where did this month go?  It seemed like just a day ago that we were writing our introductions for the CoBloWriMo (Costume Blog Writing Month) - a fun blogging challenge offering 31 daily prompts for the month of August - and suddenly here we are at the end.  I suppose now's a good time to kick back and reflect...

CoBloWriMo, Prompt 31 - Reflection

In looking back at this month of blogging, while I was unable to be as active as I had hoped, it was such a pleasure reading others' responses and lurking on the CoBloWriMo Facebook Page.  I discovered several new costume blogs to follow, as well as enjoyed the month of posts from more familiar, favorite bloggers. 

One of the reasons I was so eager to participate was that the prompts held us somewhat accountable for daily writing and simply hitting that "publish" button.  I really liked having a guiding prompt to point us in the right direction and focus on a specific topic, while still allowing freedom for interpretation.  Sometimes just figuring out what to write about is half the battle of blogging.  

Another plus for participating that I may have mentioned before is the opportunity (and motivation) to share posts that may have otherwise gone unwritten.  Or at least work on some of those UFOs (UnFinished Objects) just sitting in the drafts queue.  My goal at the beginning had been to write at least 10 times, and, having technically responded to 11 of the challenges, including this one, I am happy with the results.  

Of the 31 daily prompts, I successfully completed the following: 

Prompt 3 - Extant Garment (kicking off the series on extant garments that I had been wanting to write for over a year - score!)

Prompt 12 - Garment
Prompt 13 - Pro Tip

Prompt 16 - Small Project
Prompt 19 - Ornament
Prompt 23 - Made for Yourself (This post was shared by American Duchess on Facebook...squeeeee!)

Prompt 31 - Reflection, which is this post!

I did have posts planned for all 31 of the days, but I guess now this means more content to look forward to in the future...

Speaking of the future, if things get a little quiet here again, there is a reason...until the next post, let's just say, "Hello from Ohio!"  

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"For the hair of a woman is her glory
It weaveth all of secret and renown
Through all chivalry and mystery and story
The glory of a woman and her crown."
- G. K. Cesterton, "The Crown of Women"

Woman seen from the back, ca. 1862,
by Onésipe Aguado de las Marismas.
(Image source: MET Museum, 2005.100.1)

Rather than begin a whole new blog post for today's prompt, I decided to finish the one I had started for challenge number 19 - ornament of the CoBloWriMo (Costume Blog Writing Month).  By definition, an ornament is an accessory, article, decoration or detail used to beautify the appearance of what it is added to or a part of to make it more attractive.  A great example is a decorative hair comb, much like those that were popular during the late 1850s and early 1860s when the hairstyles were worn low at the back of the head and neck.

The following image depicts a variety of mid-19th century hairstyles dressed with back combs from contemporary sources:

Victorian hair dressing with ornamental combs.
(Image source: Pinterest)

Now all I need is a similar statement piece to complete my historical updos!

Lots of hair!
Many thanks to Allison for her hairdressing talents and the picture.

Prompt 19 - Ornament

When I was studying some of extant garments in the Point Park costume collection, I came across a plastic bag of what turned out to be eight, decorative hair combs at the bottom of one of the costume boxes.  At the time, and still not knowing much about dating hair ornaments, all I was able to do was jot down their dimensions and snap a few pictures.  I am hoping that through sharing them today, the experts out there will be able to shed some light on the specifics.

A bag of decorative hair combs that I found in the Point Park collection.

Comb Number One

The first comb that I pulled out unfortunately was in two pieces and missing a tooth.  About seven inches at its widest, this comb with its spiraled details would have been quite the statement piece in its time.  Notice the numbers written on the back of this comb as well as those to come, this was a deaccessioned item from another collection and probably a donation to the university.  

Front of the comb with a unique, spiraled edge.

Back of the comb.

Comb Number Two

The second comb is just as lovely and even more intricate than the first.  The curve of its delicately carved top extends into the four teeth of the comb.  From top to bottom, it measures about 6.5 inches.  This also appears to be a deaccessioned collection piece probably donated to the university.

Front of the comb.

Back of the comb.

Comb Number Three

This comb is fun and in perfect condition! 

Front of the comb, notice the gentle curve from side to side.

Back of the comb.

Comb Four

Another wavy-shaped comb with a gentle curve from side to side.  This one, sadly, appears to be missing four parts or whole teeth.  You'll also notice two former accession numbers this time.  

Front of the comb.

Back of the comb.  Notice the two, different accession numbers.

Comb Number Five & Six

These two combs appear more functional and utilitarian than decorative in purpose.  The first, (on the left) rounded comb has a tag identifying it as 1860s to 1870s.  The second, "u-shaped" accessory (on the right) looks more like a large hair pin to me.

Comb fronts.

Comb Number Seven

I am labeling the comb with the five teeth at the bottom of the picture as number seven.  Unfortunately, it appears that I only snapped the one picture of it.  From side to side, it's a little over five inches in width and has a slight arch.  The discoloration on the left most tooth is actually a former museum's accession number.

Front of comb number seven (on the bottom).

Comb Number Eight

Last but not least, this comb is an interesting piece.  It is missing four teeth, and the metallic plating is flaking off.  Also a little over five inches at its widest, it probably was quite a grand hair ornament in its time.   

Front of the comb.

Detail shot.  Notice the flaking silver plating.

Back of the comb.

One of my favorite parts of participating in the CoBloWriMo (Costume Blog Writing Month) has definitely been the opportunity (and motivation) to share posts that may have otherwise gone unwritten.  I'm not really sure when I would have written about these combs, had it not been for the perfect, timely "ornament" prompt.  Again, if anyone can contribute any more information and dating for the combs above, please feel free to leave a comment in the box below.  You're also welcome to reach out to us through our Facebook page, where your "likes" and "follows" keep us going.  We appreciate your time and thank you for reading!  

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Today's post is all about the making of the DNA dress, a striped, 1860s cotton day dress, and over-hoop petticoat.  This also is the perfect project for prompt number 23 - made for yourself for the CoBloWriMo (Costume Blog Writing Month).

The DNA Dress!

The Inspiration

Two years ago, I bought this fabric on a whim from a destash on Facebook.  At the time, I was in need of a mid-century work dress, and the fabric just spoke to me, demanding to be made into my first 1860s day dress.  I finally started and finished the project this past May.  (Maria, the sister and photographer, and I did do a photo shoot for this dress, which I have been meaning to share for months...stay tuned!)

The fabric design resembled the double helix...and the DNA dress was born!

I looked at a variety of extant garments and other period sources for inspiration.  Taking a cue from similar striped dresses, I played up the directional print as much as possible.  This marvelous day dress from the Graceful Lady has coat sleeves, a contrasting horizontal waistband, and self-trim at the cuffs:

Civil War Era cotton day dress.
(Image source: The Graceful Lady)

Another extant example that I liked was this simple calico work dress.  It too has a horizontal waistband for contrast.  

Calico work dress, 1860s.
(Image source: Old Sacramento Living History Program)

Back waist detail of the calico work dress, 1860s.
(Image source: Old Sacramento Living History Program)

In my design, I also added a cap sleeve to echo the horizontal waistband.  One of my favorite parts of this project was seeing the 2D costume rendering become a 3D garment.  Nothing is more satisfying than that! 

Costume rendering of ink, watercolor and watercolor pencil.

Completed dress, accessorized with a white collar and large silk bow.

The Dress

Constructing the dress was not without its own challenges, but I am overly pleased that it no longer felt difficult.  For the pattern, I used the most recent version of my bodice block along with the coat sleeves from Laughing Moon's Pattern #111 - Ladies' Early 1860's Day Dress.  The cap sleeves were drafted following the directions in The Dressmaker’s Guide, an absolute must-have sewing resource, and the skirt was made from four, 45" ripped panels.  The interior seams are machine stitched, with hand stitched finishings, facings, and gauging. 

Rather than dealing with the usual, three-piece back and curved seams, I tried a one-piece back with a 1/8" curved tuck detail, which was then basted to the lining.  

A one piece back with 1/8" curved tuck details.

The front-opening bodice is fully flat lined with cotton muslin, while the coat sleeves are unlined.  A piped facing finishes the neckline and is also applied at the armscyes.  Each front side has two darts and 11 metal hooks (9 on the bodice, 2 on the waistband) with corresponding thread eyes for closures.  

The bodice closes with 11 metal hooks and thread eyes.

To keep the neckline neat and tidy, a white collar whip stitched to a twill tape band is basted at the neck.

Another of my favorite features is the accessories, especially the large, striped silk cravat! 

The large, silk cravat bow completes the look.

To play with the directional fabric, I cut the cap sleeves and waistband horizontally, and the coat sleeves, bodice and skirt vertically.  The cap sleeves are lined with the same cotton as the hem facing to give them more body, while the coat sleeves are finished with a generous, cotton muslin facing. 

Playing with stripes!
Notice the piping at the armscye and cap sleeve details. 

The cap sleeves are lined with a dark cotton.

The coat sleeves are finished with a hem facing.

Lastly, the skirt was balanced for a 90" hoop and gauged by hand.  In addition to the fabric waistband, I added a heavy duty 1" twill tape band at the waist, and whipped the pleats through all three layers.  I was concerned about the weight of four panels on the bodice, but in the future would not add the twill tape again.  A wide, dark cotton hem facing protects the skirt from dirt.

Detail of the gauged skirt interior with a heavy duty 1" twill tape
added to the waistband for stability.  

Hand-stitched hem facing.

The Petticoat 

Previously, I was just using my 1850s petticoats over the 90" cage crinoline, however, they were neither wide nor long enough to do the job properly.  So, I made an over-the-hoop, 180" cotton muslin petticoat.  The skirt is balanced and gauged to fit the waistband.  It features a deep hem and two 1/2" tucks, and closes with a single button.  

The 180" petticoat is gauged to a 25" waistband.

The full petticoat features a deep hem and two 1/2" tucks.

In the future, I should really make a second hoop petticoat, though for right now, I am still cheating with an earlier one underneath...the next petticoat will have a lot more tucks.  I am seeing either three sets of five tucks, or three sets of three tucks depending on how patient I am feeling.  But for the time being, I am content with the one.  

Completed Project Shots

The petticoat is shown worn over a Regency shift, mid-century drawers, corset, under-petticoat, small support, and 90" cage crinoline. 

And finally, one picture of the completed DNA dress ensemble taken at the Genesee Country Village & Museum.  Make sure to follow us for the full photo shoot of this project coming either later this month or the next!  

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