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!!!

Ruched Buttons

Buttons were mainly decorative through most of the 1800s because fabric had to be saved and clothing was to be cared for and conserved since it was so time consuming and expensive to make.  Instead of using buttonholes on women's clothing which weakened the fabric and could tear out, hooks and eyes were often used.  But that doesn't mean there weren't lots and lots of buttons used for decoration.  Many buttons were covered or crochet'd.  Consider this tutorial when you decide on the buttons of your new dress.  Ruching was a popular decoration at the time and with care you can cover a button that resembles buttons of the Victorian age using this tutorial.

How to Make Your Own Big, Ruched Buttons by Amber Eden of Sew Daily
Click here to read the rest of this tutorial

It's the details that make a project, and I just love a big, ruched, self-covered button for adding some vintage-modern punch to an outfit or accessory.

Here's how you can make your own ruched, self-covered buttons. (Note: You will need to purchase a large button-making kit from your favorite notions store.):
—First, cut out an oval-shaped piece of fabric to cover the button, rather than circular, to allow for the gathering of the fabric. To determine the size, lay the button down on the wrong side of the fabric and mark the center of the button, as well as the side and top edges. Move the button over half a width to each side and mark the curve lines, as shown. Your oval should be a ½-inch larger than one formed by the side, top, and bottom curves.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Virginia Girl in the Civil War


A Virginia Girl in the Civil War, 1861-1865:
Being a Record of the Actual Experiences of the Wife
of a Confederate Officer:

Electronic Edition.    Ed. by Myrta Lockett Avary

"THIS history was told over the tea-cups. One winter, in the South, I had for my neighbor a gentle, little brown-haired lady, who spent many evenings at my fireside, as I at hers, where with bits of needlework in our hands we gossiped away as women will. I discovered in her an unconscious heroine, and her Civil War experiences made ever an interesting topic. Wishing to share with others the reminiscences she gave me, I seek to present them here in her own words. Just as they stand, they are, I believe, unique, possessing at once the charm of romance and the veracity of history. They supply a graphic, if artless, picture of the social life of one of the most interesting and dramatic periods of our national existence."
Read the rest of this electronic book at
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text. Call number E487 .V57 1903 (UNC-CH, Davis Library)
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-CH digitization project, Documenting the American South, or, The Southern Experience in 19th-century America. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mrs.Lincoln's Dressmaker

There was an interesting article on one of my quilting blogs about a free black woman who worked for Mary Todd Lincoln as her personal modiste (dressmaker) and became a good friend.  Jennifer Chiaverini’s latest book, Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker evidently chronicles her life in historical fiction.   The following link gives more historical facts about her.  Although born a slave,  Elizabeth Keckly was educated and worked as a dressmaker among society's elite.  She published an autobiography which can be downloaded for the Kindle.  This primary source, the recent novel and the Internet article might give us some insight into women's lives back then.

Corset Making Seminar Cancelled

The corset making seminar at Ft. Stanton has been cancelled.

Use of Grosgrain Ribbon in Antique Garments

The article below is from Collette patterns weekly newsletter.  You can register for the email at

The use of grosgrain ribbon is common in antique garments.  It is often used as the waistband, covering the top edges of the waist.  It is also found on the hems of skirts to protect against fraying as the skirt touched the ground.  It was much easier to replace a ribbon than to turn the whole skirt when the hem frayed.  It just goes to show...what's old is new again.

Grosgrain (pronounced "grow-grain") is a ribbed, strong and extremely durable plain weave material. While grosgrain fabric used to be common, today it is usually found in the form of nylon, rayon, or silk ribbons. True grosgrain ribbon has telltale scalloped edges.

Of course, grosgrain ribbon can be used to embellish just about anything, but it's also extremely useful due to its strength.

If you're making a skirt with thick fabric, you can reduce bulk around the waist by using grosgrain ribbon as a waist facing. The thin, strong ribbon will stabilize the waist and keep it from stretching out. Not only that, but the ribbing will help the skirt grip your body, keeping it in place while you wear it.
Grosgrain ribbon can also be used along the waistband of dresses and corsets to keep them from stretching out. You can even use it along the hems of shirts and skirts, provided they're fairly straight.

Try it out on your next project!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Madder, Minerals and Indigo: Cotton Dyeing in the 18th and 19th Century

Madder, Minerals and Indigo: Cotton Dyeing in the 18th and 19th Century

This article was found on an interesting website  It deals with the dyes that colored the fabrics of that time period.  It is worth reading to understand the color changes in antique fabrics.
By Kimberly Wulfert, PhD
An important element of any fabric or fiber, old or new, is its cosmetics. This can range from finishes to color to design, all which breathe life and vitality into cloth. This month’s guest columnist is well-known quilt historian Kimberly Wulfert who takes us back into the 18th and 19th centuries for a look at the cotton dyeing process and its evolution from natural to synthetic dyes.
You will probably never look at fabric in the same light again after reading this colorful side of textile history. Prior to the Revolutionary War, America shipped her plentiful supply of raw cotton to Britain, where it was spun, woven, printed and sold back to her as yardage. When the War of Independence was over, the printing industry would establish itself in the northern and eastern states, where it had been previously attempted but unsuccessfully, due to Britain’s ban on sharing textile machinery and know-how with the Colonies.
Our import of cotton fabric, plain and printed, was dramatically reduced, as they knew it would be when we could work our own raw cotton into thread and cloth. The exceptions were high-end fine chintz, Indiennes and toile fabrics, used for bedding, upholstery, draperies and fancy clothing. These continued to be imported from England and France. The 18th century brought the Machine Age and the Industrial Revolution to Europe and America, enabling them to produce more than enough affordable cotton prints by the 1830s.
The inorganic chemicals industry was born mid-18th century bringing a plethora of coloring and assisting agents to the awareness of textile scientists, in the form of mineral dyes, hydrochloric acids, sulphur, chlorine, soda ash, ferrous sulphate and lead acetate. Mineral-based colorants are pigments (insoluble and fix to the surface of the cloth), producing brilliant hues of color that stand out bright and luminescent (picture # 1) when placed next to cotton dyed with organic carbon-based dyes from animals, plants and vegetables.

Monday, February 4, 2013

2013 School of the Victorian Lady at Ft. Concho, March 8-10, 2012

This is the ninth annual School of the Victorian Lady which will be held at Fort Concho Historic Landmark in San Angelo, Texas on March 8-10, 2012.  You can view some of last year's fun at  Participants are encouraged to register early since there will be a limit of 25 participants due to the nature of some of the activities.  Click on the forms below to enlarge and print.  Hope to see you there.