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.