Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Tucks for period dresses

Creating lovely period garments require sewing skills that yeild vintage results.  However, they do not have to be difficult with all the modern techniques that yield the look without the hassle..  Here is an updated video version of making tucks and curved tucks.  The next posting will be examples of period dresses 18850- 1900 that utilize tucks for decorations.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Skirt Lifters

What is this little gadget?
This article tells about a small tool used by ladies to keep trains and dress hems up off the muddy ground.  It is from the FDIM Museum. Located in downtown Los Angeles, the FIDM Museum is devoted to the exhibition and interpretation of dress and textiles.  The blog here is a good way to research and get ideas for your next antique purchase or reproduction dress.
The article is by Joanna Abijaoude. 

A skirt lifter resembles a pair of small tongs, or scissors with padded circular discs instead of blades. The Museum’s example is brass and features a decorative butterfly that sits in between the handles. A small ring at the top would have held a cord, ribbon, or chain to suspend the tool just below the waist. Modern historians refer to the object as a “skirt lifter,” while period sources predominately use the term “dress holder.” Read more at

Example of "skirt lifter in use"
I wonder...would it work on frontier forts for cactus and other "grabby" things?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Secret Life of a Sewing Machine

Many old sewing machines are on display at Living History events because it was around that time period that they became available to most homes. 
This is an older British show on the history and construction of sewing machines.  It is very British and a bit on the slow side but full of interesting information on the history of sewing machines.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A New Use for an Old Craft

For the ladies who attended the Frontier Women's Living History conference last year, this website has a modern trick to use with your knitting jenny, nifty knitter or spool knitter -- whatever you call it.  See the conference information at  for more about the tool.  Then look at this page for jewelry uses for the knitter and pull out your conference tool and get busy.

Speaking of the conference mark your calendars for March 7, 8,9, 2014 for the 10th annual conference.  Surely, to be the best one yet!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Yesterday's Children

Yesterday's Children

Many times, it is the women living historians who are asked to speak at schools or assist with an education day.  Hands on activities for children is what makes the day memorable for them.  The website below tells how to construct corn husk dolls.  Boys can make soldier or farmer dolls so are not as reluctant to participate.

Follow the directions on this site for a craft to engage kids at a school or living history.

Here is a short play to use with the dolls.

Handkerchief Dolls

Another toy that entertained children in the past was the Handkerchief Doll.  Used by resourceful mothers as a quiet toy for children during the long church services, these are also easy to make.  Follow the directions on this website for a simple or elaborate doll. This version can also make a nice keepsake from antique linens.

Button Toys

This toy fascinates boys and girls alike.  Made from simple items from Mother's sewing box they would occupy a child for a long time. View these how-to websites on button toys.  Cardboard circles from pasteboard cartons can also be used.


This period toy illustrates a science concept just beginning to be understood in the 1800s.  This link explains the concept and give examples for creating it.

Another version of this is called Jumping Jill, made with 4 instead of 2 images.  

Corn Cob Dolls

Another toy that has a Native American origin is the corncob doll.  These links provide several different styles. The Legend of the Blue Bonnet has always made me wonder if the special doll that was sacrificed  by the little girl for her people was not a corncob doll. 

The Legend of the Bluebonnet

The Texas fields are covered
With a blanket of deep blue.
But for a little Indian girl,
This would not be true.

Texas land was buried and dry.
Rains just would not come.
Indians danced and prayed for rain,
And beat upon their drums.

The Chief made a proclamation.
He appealed to one and all.
A prized possession must be sacrificed
Before the rains would fall.

The Indian camp was silent,
While each person searched his heart.
But when it came to sacrifice,
With possessions they would not part.

Suddenly a little girl stepped forth,
Holding her blue-clad doll.
She placed it in the roaring fire
and raindrops began to fall.

The rain brought forth the grass,
Among its blades, flowers of blue.
To be a sign for all the time
Of a love so pure and true.
Author Unknown 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

History on Your Face - Common Spectacle Styles

History on Your Face - Common Spectacle Styles Before,
During and After the Civil War, 1835 - 1870
This article is a good look at period eyewear, it's shapes and types.  You can find it by clicking
Period eyewear is always a problem to locate but this article will give you information you can use.  This company looks like they have good recreations of period eyewear.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

How to Machine Bead a Design

I love the look of the 1880's with their lovely beaded design but my eyes couldn't handle such tedious close up work easily.  Threads has a video on using a sewing machine to sew on beads.  This is an interesting trick to keep in your sewing kit.


Friday, October 25, 2013

Outdoor and Groups Pictures

Period photographs are such fun to look at.  Many of them are, of course, portraits taken by photographers in studios.  They are great for studying dress details and hairstyles.  I have just found a photo album of outdoor shots which are marvelous for study.  Look at these on this page.  There are many outdoor shots.
Think of the story this picture can tell.

This one tells about the fun at Ft. Griffin, October  2013

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Fort Griffin Living History, October 11-12. 2013

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Be a History Detective

You can take the teacher out of the classroom but they still are looking for ways to better engage the students in learning...go figure.  Even after nearly five years, I still look at websites with an eye to how they would motivate kids.  I found this one on a newsletter I receive and just couldn't resist it because it makes students think about history and how it relates to them.  For those of you still in  teaching, this is something for your classroom.  Even if you aren't in a formal classroom setting, look at this to help you improve your Living History impression.

Be a History Detective offers two online interactive posters that show students how to work like historians. “Doing History is Like Solving a Mystery” is an interactive poster for elementary school students. The poster uses images with notes to guide students through the process of developing good research questions and recording their ideas. “History is an Argument About the Past” is an interactive poster for middle school and high school students. The poster walks students through identifying primary and secondary sources of information and using that information to create an argument.
Click Here to Access Free Elementary Poster
Click Here to Access Free Secondary Poster

Plus: Use the Civil War Interactive Poster to begin a conversation with students about what we know about the past and especially about our nation’s most deadly conflict, the Civil War.

Click Here to Access Free Civil War Poster

Connect Ideas in Historic Documents

Imagination and vision played critical roles in the creative act of forming a
self-governing United States of America. The Library of Congress’s
Creating the United States website offers an opportunity for students
to learn in a fresh new way how the founding documents that emerged
 from this period were forged out of insight, invention and creativity,
as well as collaboration and much compromise. The site features three
interactives that invite students to connect particular phrases and ideas
set down in the Declaration of Independence, the United States
Constitution and the Bill of Rights with the texts that preceded these
historic documents.
Click Here to Visit Website
Click Here to Access Free Interactives

Subscribe to newsletter :

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Men's shirt tutorial

This blog has a tutorial for a men's pioneer shirt tutorial using two ready made shirts.  It is an interesting concept and with a little modification (no elastic in the sleeve) would probably work nicely for a shirt which would probably be covered by a vest anyway.
Read the tutorial here.
You can also create a PDF of the page to save it on your computer by using

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Creative Heirloom Buttons

This article from Threads talks about vintage buttons and additional ways to make them.

In "Make Your Own Heirloom Buttons", Threads #169, Nancy Nehring explained how to create four heirloom button styles: the Dorset crosswheel, the lace shirtwaist, the cord toggle, and the cord monkey's fist. The article introduced the basic processes for making the traditional versions of these four buttons. The variations shown here add interest to your heirloom buttons.


How to Bead a Motif Using a Template

How to Bead a Motif Using a Template
Beautifully beaded motifs can be applied to any garment. This type of embellishment can quickly transform an otherwise uninteresting look to a uniquely distinctive one.   Read more at

Look at additional pictures of this lovely piece from


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Ft. Chadbourne 2013 Remembered

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A sheer dress!  A cool dress?

I have always wanted a sheer dress for those Texas events that turn out to be in the 100s.
However, sewing sheer fabrics is sheer @#$%.  They ravel, seams show, and hemming is a nightmare.  Below is an article from Colleterie on sewing tips for sheer fabrics.  Who knows I might just get brave enough to attempt a sheer dress--if I can find the right fabric...make the correct undergarments... and so on.

Tips for Sewing Sheer Garments from Colleterie

Sewing with slippery or sheer fabric can be daunting if you’ve never tried it. Just like anything, though, all it takes is a bit of know-how and practice to get it just right. Here are a few pointers we’ve put together to help you out.
  • Use a spray stabilizer or starch to stiffen the fabric before cutting.
  • Heavy pattern weights spread across the fabric will keep it from slipping around.
  • Place tissue paper beneath the fabric to help keep slipping at a minimum.
  • Silk pins are the best pins for the job. They have thin shafts and very sharp points which keep them from snagging the woven threads.
  • Pin frequently along a seam.
  • Sew using the correct type of needle and thread for the job. You’ll most likely need a thin needle and an all-purpose thread.
  • French seams are the best for sheer fabrics as they encompass the raw edges and look professional.
  • Sew a simple hem with the fabric folded over twice and stitched in place, or a rolled hem, which is perfect for thin, sheer fabrics.
Visit this page for more sewing tips and sign up for their email sewing tips.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Smithsonian Article on Mary Lincoln's Seamstress

In Feburary 2013, I posted a link to memoirs of Elizabeth Keckley, who was a former slave that became Mary Todd Lincoln's seamstress and confident.  The memoirs give us a look into that period of time and the feelings of women throughout the War, from both sides of society.  The link above takes you to a Smithsonian blog with more information in a Q and A format.  Hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

More Trims---Re-creating the pleated edging

Here is another great tutorial from Threads.  The pleated edge was found on an old pillow cover.
Click the dress picture to see a period example of similar trim at the bottom of the skirt.
From the article:
I recently found this embroidered cushion cover at a flea market. I bought it because I liked the edge trim around the outside of the piece, and wanted to figure out how to reproduce it.

Follow along for the results!
Check out these articles for more information on trims.
Trims, Trims, and More Trims 
How to make Soutache Loops

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Forgotten Faces and Long Ago Places

While traveling the information superhighway this weekend, I found this blog of period photographs.  This blog makes good reading and reference for researching fashion of the 1860-1890s.  It contains excellent pictures and descriptions. A collection of vintage photography and "orphan" photographs showcasing the past.  I love the hat on this young lady.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Alternative Button Closures

An excellent article on creating frogs and chinese buttons can
Alternative Button Closures. This is an article from 1938 by
Mary Brooks Pickens which has good illustrations for construction
of these frogs.
which has a lovely selection of Victorian Dress style pictures.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Carnegie: Civil War Post

Carnegie: Civil War Post

The Captain Thomas Espy Post was a meeting place for Civil War union soldiers that sat untouched for more than 50-years. This time capsule and American treasure tucked away on the top floor of the Carnegie Library and Music Hall in Carnegie, Pennsylvania has been painstakingly restored and now re-opened.

Take a tour of this little know piece of Civil War history.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Free Online Digital Photo Identification Class and More

This came through one of my newsletters and looks like it would be worth participating in if you can, especially the "Identifying 19th century photos" and "Personal Digital Archiving".

Period photos help us understand the people and situations of that time and be more accurate in our portrayals. Click on the links to register for the classes which do not require you to be a member of the organization. 

Free Classes from Amigos for Preservation Week

President Obama once wrote, "Part of America's genius has always been its ability to absorb newcomers, to forge a national identity out of the disparate lot that arrived on our shores." The memories and treasures of individuals, families, and communities are essential to the record of this process. They contribute to our understanding of history and its participants just as collections in libraries, museums, and archives do. Preservation Week, "Pass It On!" will take place April 22 - 26 for local institutions across the country to celebrate with preservation-themed events in their own communities.
Sponsored by the American Library Association and partners that include the Library of Congress, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, The American Institute for Conservation, Heritage Preservation, and the Society of American Archivists, Preservation Week will highlight collections of all kinds, and suggest simple steps to help you make sure your treasures and memories last a lifetime and are passed on to future generations.
Amigos Imaging and Preservation Field Service (IPS) will be offering a series of free webinars to celebrate Preservation Week. Each one-hour webinar will focus on a different preservation topic. "These webinars will give a brief overview of a topic but more importantly, they connect people to the services that the Imaging & Preservation Service can provide to others," says Gina Minks, IPS Manager. "I hope everyone takes advantage of this opportunity!"
Monday, April 22
What is a Preservation Site Survey?
1:30 - 2:30 p.m. CDT
Complete class description and online registration for this session.
Tuesday, April 23
Environmental Monitoring With Hobo Dataloggers
1:30 - 2:30 p.m. CDT
Complete class description and online registration for this session.
Wednesday, April 24
Digital Preservation @ Your Library: You Can Do This!
1:30 - 2:30 p.m. CDT
Complete class description and online registration for this session.
Thursday, April 25
Identifying 19th Century Photographs
1:30 - 2:30 p.m. CDT
Complete class description and online registration for this session.
Friday, April 26
Personal Digital Archiving
1:30 - 2:30 p.m. CDT
Complete class description and online registration for this session.
For more Preservation Week information, go to the Preservation Week Web site. To register for classes, visit the Amigos Training Schedule.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Ft. McKavett West Texas Heritage Days

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow

Thanks to John Cobb for sharing his pictures of the Ft.
McKavett 2013 West Texas Heritage Daysfor this movie.
Thanks also to all Living Historians who traveled
such a
distance to bring the fort to life.











































Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Godey's Ladies Books on the Net

If you want to look for period needlework patterns and antique literature here are few links that are just recently scanned for download.  More and more of 19th century books are coming online.  They are public domain for the most part but did you know that clothing designers often get inspiration from antique patterns?  If you find public domain scans that are available for download, I would recommend you save them for reference on your own computer.  They may not be there tomorrow.
The Online Book Page



Godey's Lady's Book

Godey's Lady's Book was an American women's magazine published in the 19th century.

Publication History

Godey's Lady's Book began in 1830 as The Lady's Book. "Godey's" was added to the title around 1840. It was also known as "Godey's Magazine", using that name exclusively in its last few years. It ceased publication in 1898, and was absorbed by The Puritan.

Persistent Archives of Complete Issues

_______________________________________________________________________________________________  Many early patterns for crochet, embroidery and knitting  Another searchable database of Godeys

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Corset Making Seminar reset for April 20, 3013

Corset Making Seminar

Victoria Davis is hosting a Corset-Making Seminar at Ft. Stanton on Saturday, Apr. 20. She will bring examples of corset styles from 1855 to 1910. Also provided will be patterns for an 1855-1865 corset, 1880s corset, and a 1909 corset that you can copy.


The focus of the seminar will be to cut out and properly fit a muslin model for your corset, supplies and techniques needed to build a good-fitting corset.


A good-fitting corset provides the proper foundation to support your outer garments and is a "Must" for the serious living history presenter (the only exception would be someone portraying either a Mexican (remember, this was part of Mexico until 1855) or a subsistence farmer.


Supplies for this seminar are simple: wax paper or parchment to copy your chosen corset, a yard of scrap cotton fabric or muslin, thread, and a portable sewing machine, if you have one to bring. There is no fee to attend this seminar. We will begin at 10:00 a.m.


If you are coming from out of town, the old nurses' quarters are available for us to stay in. Just bring your bedding (and cot). There are in-door plumbing facilities!!

Please RSVP to so we can plan accordingly 

Ft. Stanton is located in Ft. Stanton, NM 




Frontier Women Living History Association Conference

Frontier Women Living History Association
9th Annual Conference
Fort Concho Historic Landmark, San Angelo, TX
March 8-10, 2012

The 9th annual Frontier Women'sLiving History conference was a great success.  There were about 26 ladies attending from such far away places as Kansas, New Mexico, Louisiana as well as Texas. We were thrilled that the Ft. Larned, Kansas,  and Uvalde, Texas ladies could be with us again this year.  We welcomed two new ladies, one from Alamagordo, New Mexico and
another from Fort Worth, Texas.  We were especially glad to welcome back, Joan from Louisiana, after a year's hiatus due to medical issues. It was wonderful to have all the ladies back together again for a great learning and fun experience.
 Friday evening featured an early meet and greet with a lace making
session taught by Arnie Graboski, our yarn expert. The annual bazzar came to life at this time, filling two rooms.  There were tea cups, shawls, wraps, and other needle work by Arnie.  Ann had sontags, woolen bonnets, leather journals and bags.  Kathy, Jo and Joan had beautiful period needlework, covers for water bottles, baby shoes, hairnets and other interesting things.  Jere had her carefully researched period earrings and other jewelry. Shopping was and proves to still be a popular pastime for ladies. 

 The next morning,  Mitch Baird presented an enlightening talk on the Texas Historical Commission plans for Living History events and information on the tax benefits for living history volunteers.  On Sunday, he also presented some historical documents from Ft. Griffin, including a newly acquired letter from a soldier stationed at Ft. Griffin to his family which was full of everyday frontier life chatter. 
Donna Hector instructed the ladies in the use of a beautiful handmade loom called by many names...spool knitter, knitting nobby, knitting Nellie.  Each lady got to take one of these lovely looms home with here.  Arnie lent us Lucets and showed us how to make a cord for lacing and tying.  In America, the technique dates back to the Colonial period when garments were laced rather than buttoned.  The next presentation was by Beverly Reeves who introduced us to ribbon embroidery.  Each lady made a needle case for those indispensable sewing tools.  Sally Wolfe of Ft. Concho entertained and informed us with information on tips, tricks and shortcuts of putting together a living history impression. Sally was a volunteer coordinator for the Ft. Bliss Museum and responsible for clothing and educating its many volunteers.  She amused us her stories and her hard-learned tricks.  Lunch was a delicious affair prepared by Sharon Baird with recipes from our Italian immigrant pioneers.  Before the tea, door prizes were chosen.  The door prizes, donated by the participants, included books of historical interest, a corn husk bride doll, antique metal items from Clyde Prince's collection, and lots of other interesting and beautiful items.  Each lady was thrilled with her prize.    Cheri Miller and Sara Reeves organized another delicious tea. 
All the ladies dressed in their finery and were served tea and delicious cookies made by the Uvalde ladies, the recipes of which were at least 125 years old.  One cookie recipe was made to accompany a long trip west because it remained good for several weeks.  (Do cookies remain in your house for more than a few days?  Not mine!) We hope to have the recipes and will post them here.

Sunday morning dawned bright and cheery with all clocks springing forward...some with more enthusiasm than others.  We meet for wonderful instruction on the use of period writing instruments and period penmanship by Sharon Baird.  We practiced our period penmanship copying from antique documents.  India ink stained fingers were the decoration of the day.  Finally, it was time to begin the long wagon rides to our respective forts and homes.  Another wonderful conference fades into history with friends and memories to be remembered with fondness.

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Technique for Sewing with Raw Silk

Making garments out of some types of woven garments is a challenge...especially with loosely woven raw silks.  Check out this page for information on how to stabilize the seams of these challenge fabrics whose threads unravel before you can even get them near the sewing machine.

From the article:
Recently, I purchased some raw silk for a spring jacket, even though I knew that it was problematic to sew. The issue with this kind of silk is with raveling – the seam allowances practically jump apart once you cut.
Here's an example of what I'm talking about. To demonstrate what happens, I just cut this piece out, and shook it gently for a few seconds. Look at the raveling! It's a nosebleed to sew!
I did a little experimenting before I began, and figured out this trick to keep the seam allowances intact. Know that this will use a little more fabric in cutting, but the results will be worth the fabric you'll waste in preparing the garment sections.
After placing your pattern onto the fabric, thread trace the cutting lines through both layers of fabric, leaving large thread loops above the fabric. Here's a close-up of the loops of the thread tracing.

See what to do next at

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Stepping Out of the 19th Century

I sometimes tell people I have a foot over 3 centuries.  I love the history of the1800's American West, I've lived the 1900s and survived,  and now I struggle to keep up with the changes of the 21st century.  However, I really to appreciate the technology we have these days.  When the Internet gave us a library of information in our homes, I thought I had found heaven.  Now, I have found some good benefits of technology that I want to share with you. This covers mainly the here and now...

Free Books for Kindle and other Ereaders
There are, of course, many out of copyright books that are available for downloading for free including Godey's Lady's Books, Petersons and Arthur Home Journal.  Check out these sites for books before 1910.  Great way to get a glimpse into the Victorian era home life and fashion.

Antique Pattern Library
Project Gutenberg

For contemporary books, I just found this site which has free downloads for Kindle.  If you don't have a Kindle, you can download the app to use on your phone, computer or other reading device. 

** Pixil of Ink
Many Books
Feedbooks (Western Novels such as Zane Grey)
Free Kindle books (lots)
   Set up an daily email subscription here

Happy Reading!!!