Well, it’s Great to Be Back Here!

It has been quite a long time since I’ve been here. I lost my way when it came to sewing and blogging, etc. Lately though, I’ve been getting back to sewing…A LOT!

The older I get, the more I figure out about things. Not important things, mind you, like what I want to be when I grow up, but other “Important Stuff.”

Letsee, “Important Stuff” I have figured out.

1. Creating “stuff” is very important. I sometimes bounce around on what kind of things I want to create. But the act of creating is very necessary to my sanity. I need the process of coming up with an idea and seeing it through to completion. Which leads us to #2…

2. I am lousy at completing things. I am great at the “hunting and gathering” stage of a project. The finding and searching for just the perfect item, fabric, color, whatever is the thrilling part. Finishing the idea, not so much.

3. The world is not a very classy place. I blame a lot of things on reality tv. So many people are so desperate for that little bit of “fame,” that they go on these shows and act horrible to other people. Which in turn, other people watch and think “This is how _I_ should act, too!” So now we have more people who think they deserve everything for nothing and that they’re always right and any behavior is ok as long as it gets them what they want.

So…what am I going to do aout my “Important Stuff”?

1. I have to set aside time for me to create, simple as that. ha ha ha A full-time job, a husband who wants some of my time, huh, imagine that! A son who still lives at home at 26 who still can make me laugh and is one of the most interested and interesting people I know. Elderly parents, another son who has his own place, AND copes with Asberger’s syndrome, you know how things add up. So where does me time come in? Well, I swear every day I’m going home from work and sewing. Dammit! Yes I AM! Whoever invented the recliner should be taken out and flogged with a comfy blankie and fuzzy socks. All the things that seem to get between me and my sewing room. So, I make a great effort on Tuesday night while my husband teaches NRA classes to kids, to do my sewing.


Back In Black!

Well, it has been a long time since I’ve been here. What a period of time it has been. Besides the 2 funerals I mentioned, I’ve been “realigned” at work, my husband has been sequestered, my oldest had a reoccurrence of his Lyme”s Disease and my youngest has had heart surgery. AMONG other things. WHEW! Enough already! 🙂

Needless to say I lost my creative lust for a while. But it is back with a vengeance.

I’ve gotten back to my black silk. I have been trying to find a little more of the purple brocade because I didn’t get enough the first time. I found some of the same color brocade with the same pattern only its larger. So that will work. I also scored some gorgeous pink striped silk for a ball gown. For $5 a yard!! Woot!

Ok, so I’m really good at shopping for stuff. Getting stuff sewn…not so much! Lol!

But now I’m back. I’ve done the cutting out of the black. Just a fitted bodice of very plain design. My thought is to make purple trim and to tack it on with BHS (Big Honking Stitches) to the bodice. That way if I want to, I can take the purple off and put on different trim. Just like the Original Class did. See! I’m so PC (period correct)! I am making a purple and black striped skirt like in my original fashion plate. I managed to have enough black silk left over to do another skirt in just plain black silk. Because everyone needs a LBD. Alright, so it’s more a Great big hooped black dress, but you get the idea! 🙂

My bodice is lined in white cotton, because that’s what I had on hand. I’m saving the only piece of brown polished cotton I have to line the frock coat I’m doing for my husband. I know…another project. 🙂 I’m only fitting the muslin for the frock coat right now. He has the spiffiest moose printed frock coat right now. You don’t know How tempted I am to just line his coat with the moose fabric. heheh NOT PC I know.

Back to my silk. (Can you tell I get distracted by shiny objects real easily?) I have the silk cut, lined,darted, and I’m putting the piping in right now. This has to be the tiniest piping I’ve ever done. I have been trying to improve my skills every time I do a new project. This time I’m working on smaller stitches and smaller piping. I made this piping over baby weight yarn, so it’s very tiny. I cut bias black silk (not as wide as I should have. I need to remember to cut my bias strips at least 1 1/2″ wide.) I’ve done the neckline, waist and one armsythce. The other arm is pinned but not sewn.

The next step is the sleeves. I’ve cut out an oversized, two-part coat sleeve. I want to do some shirring at the top of the sleeve near the shoulder. I’m thinking doing some real fancy cuffs trimmed in purple to go with them.

Please Just Hang in There, It Will Get Better.




For the second time in less than a month, I am facing the funeral for a young man who killed himself.  My heart is breaking.  The young man was a friend of my son, in fact he thought of him as a little brother.  I watch his pain every day, and I cry when he’s not looking.  He blames himself for not seeing the signs.  I try to tell him that no one saw the signs.  My son has lived through the suicides of 2 friends, and the death of a friend in a motorcycle accident all in the space of one month.



I keep reminding him that he is loved and to PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE talk to me, his dad, a friend, somebody, anybody if he feels he can’t handle the feelings anymore.

And I’m going to pass the same advice along to everyone reading this.  When you feel yourself being drawn down the dark path, please, please, please talk to someone.  Tell everyone you know what you’re feeling.  Call that help line or hotline, they will talk to you, keep it confident and help you from heading into the dark.  Email me, i’ll listen.


Try to remind yourself.  repeat over and over to yourself…This is just one stage in my life.  It will get better.  Try to find one thing today  that is pretty, funny, beautiful, serene,  Look at it notice the colors, see the beauty.  Everyday find someone or something to pay attention to.  Pet a dog.  Hug your mom. Watch little children fly kites.  Take a walk.   Keep hanging on until this all passes.  And it will pass, I promise.  It will get better.   I’ve been there.  I know what I am talking about.

It will get better.

It will get better.

It will get better.

I promise.

And They’re Off!

Ok, I’m the one who’s off. Ask anyone who knows me! 🙂 I definitely have always been a couple bubbles off plumb my whole life. I could never quite understand what made the “normal” or “popular” people different from me, and why I couldn’t be like them. Feeling like you’re standing outside and looking in the window at everyone else, and never being able to find the door in pretty much describes a lot of my life up to this point.

Now though, I discovered people who share the same interests as me. Suddenly people are admiring my work and asking me how I do things. I feel like doing a Sally Field number, “You like me, You really like me!” heheheh

To get back to the topic of this post….

I did it. I finally did it. I cut out the bodice for my black silk, After ironing all 8 yards of it. Yuck! 😛 Actually,*whispering* I love to iron. I HATE ironing. I don’t want to press anything that needs ironed to wear. Matter of fact, I don’t buy clothes that will need ironed. However, trying to iron 8 yards of slippery silk is a bit of a pain.

But I did it and then came cutting it out. Again, a bit of a pain because it wanted to keep sliding off the table. I’ve started sewing it.

This gown like most of my gowns will be almost entirely hand sewn. I’ve gotten pretty fast at putting together a bodice by hand. It seems I do a much more accurate and detailed job by hand. My machine sewing leaves a lot to be desired.

The only thing I usually sew by machine are the seams in the skirt and attaching the hem facing on the skirt. Mostly because they are just long straight, boring seams. Everything else I do by hand.

Off Topic and Completely Relevant

Last Wednesday I did one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. I went to the viewing for a 23-year-old young man. *sigh* He was a friend of my son from elementary school on. Funny funny kid. He gave me a 4 foot tall penguin named George that I love. Always as polite and courteous as can be to Bob and I. He was always welcome in our home.

That was not always the case for him in other homes. There were a lot of parents who didn’t want their kids around him, felt he was a “bad influence.” Well, he was a wild child, got in fights, talked back, got up to a lot of stupid stunts and actions. Got expelled for assault in middle school. He could be an angry young man.

He definitely RAN WITH SCISSORS. Talented artist, phenomenally talented. Incredible drummer, one of the best you ever heard.

He became a father for the first time at 18, then again 2 years ago, a daughter and a son. Two different girls. The funny part was the three of them got along well. When he was off the drugs.

See, not only was Steve a talented, gifted young man, he walked in the darkness and pain, too. As his mother told me, he fought a lot of demons in his mind. And he turned to heroin to kill the pain. Got addicted, got into trouble, got arrested, spent time in prison, ignored his kids, drove away friends and family. There was a lot of pain. For everyone.

He could be infuriating. You loved him. sometimes you hated yourself for loving him.

I saw him a few weeks before his death. He looked good. My son told me he was clean, had a job, got an apartment, was seeing his kids again. He was doing so good. That’s why this hurts so much, because he was really trying to turn his life around. He was doing so good.

And then last Friday, we heard he had died. No one was quite certain what happened. It was thought it could have been a natural heart attack. Or it was an accidental overdose of heroin. Looked like he back slid once and took too much and died. Now over the weekend, they told us that it looks like it was suicide. They can’t find his art folio anywhere. When they looked where he always kept it, all that was there was a half book of stamps. Did he mail it off to someone? If so, who??? No one knows. They think he planned this out to look like an overdose but that it was intentional.

And do you know what was really odd? After I found out it was an accidental overdose, I was SOOO angry with God. How could God have taken him now?!?? Just when he was getting his act together! He had soo much potential. His life was looking up at last. How could God do this??? I was angry angry angry.

And then I found out it was probably suicide and I feel so much better. weird, huh? Someone once explained suicide to me as; Sometimes, a person gets caught in the hurting. They wander off into the darkness and pain. With luck and help they find their way back to the light and peace. But sometimes a person gets so lost in the darkness, they can’t get back and they are in such agony and pain, that the only way God has to stop the pain is to bring them home. I like to believe that. I would like to believe Steve is at peace and he’s busy tagging the clouds with his incredible art.

His viewing was the most unusual one I’d ever been to. There were so many kids…ok…young men and women there. And it was obvious that they loved Steve. I never saw so many piercings, tats and gauges in one place. The clothes were so bright and so typical of all of those wonderful, artistic, running with scissors kids. The artists, musicians, skaters, thinkers of great thoughts that society tends to look down their nose at. They were there in droves, supporting each other, holding each other, sharing stories (and believe me there were STORIES).
And what amazed me so much, was Steve’s mom. She held every one of those kids, listened to them, comforted them, told each of them to hang in there, to talk to someone if they needed it. Here was a woman who has just lost her child in a terrible way, and she’s comforting everyone else. I’m not sure I could have functioned like that. Amazing.

Steve-o, I hope you find the peace you couldn’t find here. You will be missed. Rest in Peace.

Telling Them apart…little boy? little girl?

I love old photographs. Especially ones of children. CDVs or carte de vistas, are a wonderful way to take a peek back in time. CDVs are a form of photography from the time of the Civil War and thereabouts. Photography was just coming into its own and was becoming readily available to everyone. During the war especially, it was important to get family pictures done. You were never sure you were going to your brother, husband, son again and this might be the only photo you have of them. Fathers, husbands and sweethearts would have carried a loved one’s picture into battle or dreamed over it in camp.

One thing I have noticed is that a lot of sellers of pictures, or CDVs, are not able to tell apart photos of little boys and little girls. For example, my husband and I were looking through a collection of photos, when the seller remarked that it was odd that she had very few photos of little boys. They were all little girls. I looked at the photos and went down the page “Girl, girl, boy, boy, boy, girl, boy, girl, girl, boy, etc.” The seller was puzzled, “how could you tell that?” So I gave her the crash course in how to tell them apart.

And now I’ll give you a little crash course too.

Unknown little boy

unknown little boy 2

OMG! Don’t you just love these two! I fell in love with them on the Who Were they blog. I’m even thinking of trying to do them in china doll representation. But that’s another day!

Now look at them 2 girls? 2 boys? 1 of each?

Did you say 1 of each? Actually they are brothers..2 boys!

How to tell.. Let’s look at the first little guy. He’s a little older and looks a little more “boyish.” The first thing we need to remember is that little boys of the 1860’s wore dresses at least until they were potty trained, often even longer depending on parents wishes. So don’t be fooled by a dress. Often a boy’s dress would be less frilly, maybe a little more military styling. This dress has a lot of braidwork on it to give a uniform look. Of course those are some lacy drawers he’s wearing.

The other clue that gives away that he’s a boy is his hair. Little boy’s hair is parted on the side, little girl’s in the center.

Now for the other little boy. Wow does he look like a girl, but he’s not! Again, don’t let the dress fool you. Chances are he probably is around potty training age. (Did you notice that his dress is made of the same fabric as his brother’s shirt? Love that!)

The hair..well what can you say, believe it or not that is a very common dressed up little boy hairdo. It’s not unusual to see younger boys in ringlets. And the Dairy Queen Dipsy Doo. It is not unusual to see that hairdo even on grown men. I have not found any explanation for the look, but I’ve seen a lot of CDVs with it in on both boys and men.

So when trying to determine the sex of the child in the picture, you can look at clothes (which granted are not always easy to tell apart) but hair do’s will almost always give it away. Another thing to look at, would be to look for clues in the surroundings. Often children were posed with toys. So if the child is holding a doll, you are guaranteed to be 99.999999% sure it’s a girl. Likewise it there is a boat or drum in the photo, it’s probably a boy.

So I hope that helps you a little in trying to figure out a CDV you’re looking at. Have a great day! Be kind to each other!

Purple Haze

Have you ever tried to find a good purple brocade? Not a sari fabric, not costume fabric…real, honest to goodness, brocade. Especially a black and purple brocade. With a pattern that has wide rows of design. Oh yeah, did I mention it couldn’t be more than $10/yard? Sounds almost impossible.

That’s what I thought, too. I started at the local fabric chains, Jo-Anns and Hancocks fabric. I searched my stash. Nothing.

So I went back to where I should have started….The PA Fabric Outlet in Lemoyne. The place I found my black silk. With my 50% off coupon firmly in hand, I started my quest through the racks, stacks and bins. And in the back of the store, there it was! A purple and black brocade that was and is STUNNING! It is actually liturgical brocade that is used to make church vestments, stoles, etc. They had probably 20 rolls of various color combinations. Red/Gold, dark purple/gray/silver, lavender/white, red/black, white/gold, unbelievably gorgeous colors and designs!


AND! It was $7.99 a yard BEFORE my 50% off coupon. $3.99 a YARD! I got 2 yards of that and 2 yards of a red and green reversible print for a vest for my husband and 2 yards of a lavender and white, not sure what for. 🙂 It has already found a home in my stash. Last I saw of it, it had burrowed into the stacks of fancy fabrics,built a nest, made itself comfortable and I’ll probably never see it again. I have many fabrics living happy lives on those shelves that know I will never sew with them because there simply is not enough time in the world to use all my fabrics. Especially, since I KNOW I will add to my stash as soon as payday rolls around.

Now, to work up the nerve to cut my fabric. 🙂

This entry was posted on March 12, 2013. 2 Comments

Black and Purple? Really?

Why do some things stick in our minds?  Especially if they don’t make sense.  I’m not a purple person.  I’m not even sure I actually own any purple clothes.  So, why do I want a black and purple Civil War day dress?

Well, I have the black silk.  Next I had to decide on a style.  I was aimlessly flipping through some fashion prints online.  And THERE IT WAS!!!


TAAA!  DAAAAAAAAAAA!  My dress in black and purple!


Look at that dress.  I love the purple bands set into the skirt.  The belt with the curved ends looks like it should be fun to try to copy.  A closer look at the purple shows it to be a brocade with the pattern cut to fit in the bands.


Now begins  the challenge of finding such a purple brocade….the hunt is on!



And So the Journey Begins…

The reason I decided to start this blog was to record the journey from the birth of an idea of a dress to completion (hopefully)   As we make the journey together, I hope to share my love of historical sewing and all things collectible.

This journey actually started probably 10 or more years ago.  That is when I found 8 yards of wonderful, drapey, smooth black silk on the $1.99 table at tthe PA Fabric Outlet in Lemoyne.  When the lady went to cut it, she argued with me that the fabric should never have been on that table.  But the cardboard tube had $1.99 stickers inside, so I stood my ground.  Less than $20 for 8 yards of 60″ wide silk.  Woo hoo!

Well, I bought all they had.  And then promptly got cold feet about cutting it.  And then I went off the tracks with my sewing, etc.  So the silk went into a box, and into storagge.

There it stayed until I got back to sewing Civil War gowns again last year.  Out came the silk again and back came the cold feet.

First I sewed a cotton work dress entirely by hand.  Next how about some undies and petticoats.  Then I took a class from the Genteel Arts on drafting a fitted bodice.  BTW, I highly recommend taking a class from Carolann or someone on how to draft your own personal fitted bodice pattern.  I’ve gotten rid of my Big 4 patterns and only use the one I drafted in class.  The fit is SO much better!

But any how– needless to say– I’ve put off sewing my black silk dress.  I did decide that I didn’t want to do a mourning dress.  I wanted a good black dress spiced up with a good vibrant color.  I ran through a lot of combinations :  black & red, black & blue, black & lime green, but my first thought; and the one I kept coming back to was black & purple.  Which is odd because I really don’t wear purple at all.

Now a little period piece of the Little Black Dress…

from The Philosophy of Housekeeping

Joseph Bardwell Lyman, 1869

“If a lady can have but one silk dress in a series of years, she will find a black silk will be of more use to her than any other color. Black is becoming to every complexion, and a black silk may be worn at a wedding, a party, a funeral, or to church. It is nowhere out of taste except in the kitchen. It may be made gay with bright trimmings, or severe with those of the same color. It can be worn with hat and wrappings of every hue and is never out of fashion.

If the silk is figured, let the figure be small, the same on both sides, with no up or down to it; so that when worn at the bottom it can be turned upside-down, and when soiled outside, it can be turned inside out. Be careful, too, that the figure is well woven in, and no long threads left on the surface. These will catch in everything, and be soon worn off or frayed out so that no care or skill can restore a new appearance to the dress. If the silk be plain, let it be of excellent quality, not stiff and inflexible, but soft and pliable,  and, when pulled in bias folds, easily returned to its former shape.”

Next time…the journey stops in fashion plates and Godey prints