The Flowering Needlebook

I promise that I did complete the HSM for March on time. But Spring Break and a beach wedding 5 hours from home put crimp in my blogging. So I decided not stress about it, especially since the all important Florida State Assessment starts next week.

I’m still in the throws of binge watching Korean dramas (the¬†latest completed shows are It’s Okay, That’s Love and K-Pop Extreme Survival), thank you Netflix. We’ve exhausted our Netflix K-drama options, so we’re moving on to the online possibilities. So I’m still sticking to handicrafts. Although it would have been better if I had sewn something from my actual stash. Because this is what it looks like right now.


That is a giant stack of fabric that has basically taken over the desk, which is supposed to be a place to work away from work, the desk chair, and embarrassingly, part of the floor. Some of it is straight up fabric from a fabric store and some of it is clothing that I plan on using for fabric.

But I didn’t. I allowed my deep love of Korea to guide my choices. ūüôā

All of that being said, my choice for this month’s challenge was actually inspired by a practical need. A secure place to stick my embroidery needles in between sewing things. I needed to sew something for my grandmother and ended up having to take a scrap of thread, poke my needle through it, and hope it survived the journey in my purse.

I began scouring the best place I know for inspiration. Pinterest. If you’re interested in seeing exactly what images I discovered over the course of my journey you can check out the board I started that is completely dedicated to needlebooks.

This picture was the main source of my inspiration. It comes from ebay from a completed auction, so it’s not the most reliable source. The auction claimed that needle roll was from 1870. That being said, it does match similar needle cases, rolls, and housewife sewing cases.


I didn’t want a giant roll to shove in my purse to carry around. I was looking more for something I could tuck into my purse. Or that would rest comfortably on the arm of the couch or end table. I liked the idea of something that folded book-like and had a ribbon to keep it closed.


I used scraps of fabric from my Rose Red outfit. The red upholstery fabric from the skirt for the outside because it’s the sturdiest of all the fabrics in my stash, white cotton left over from…anything I’ve ever made in white cotton, thread from sewing the Rose Red outfit, and white ribbon left over from the first set of 1860’s undergarments I ever made.



The first thing I did was decide how big I wanted the finished book to be, which is about double the size of a matchbook. Then I embroidered the flowers, the designs for which are based on patterns from a 1917 embroidery pattern book.

embroidery inspiration

Some close up shots of the embroidery, which is, of course, the best part.

DSCN0442 DSCN0441 DSCN0440

Once I finished the embroidery, I folded the fabric so that there would be no fraying edges once I was done, then stitched it into place. I liked the look of the red thread on white, plus the red wouldn’t be noticeable on the outside of the needlebook. The stitches go all the way through to increase the security of the layers staying together because I don’t trust the upholstery fabric to stay put without them. Witness my tiny tiny stitches.



As I was closing up the ends I sewed a white ribbon on each end, although it was of course not quite that simple. The first side that I did I closed up completely before I realized that I needed to sew the ribbon into the end. The entire thing had to be seam ripped open. And of course when I went to sew the other end, I did exactly the same thing. Although I caught it before I had to reach for the seam ripper.

The Challenge: Stashbusting

Fabric: Red upholstery fabric and white cotton.

Pattern: My own design based on historic examples.

Year: Not sure what to date this, it could be as early as 1870s in pattern, but the embroidery patterns are from the 1920s.

Notions: red and green thread, white polyester ribbon

How historically accurate is it?¬†I’m going to give myself 80% on this one. Mostly because of its universal use and the fact that needlebooks of one sort or another have been around since shortly after the invention of needle. I am going to deduct points from myself for the sake of the not completely historically accurate polyester that’s mixed in.

Hours to complete: About 10 hours.

First worn:¬†Not really a worn thing…but as soon as I finished it, all of my embroidery needles went into it.

Total cost: Free, it was entirely made out of left over fabric from former projects.

February Challenge Failed

I started off the month with good intentions. I decided I wanted to crochet something, which honestly was more due to the fact that I started watching a Korean drama (for those interested it was Fated to Love You). It’s pretty easy to watch something and sew, not so easy to read subtitles and sew. You wind up either missing important dialogue or sewing crooked. I can almost crochet in my sleep, so subtitles are easy enough to handle.

I found the cutest 1940’s crochet pattern for a giant bow clutch being sold on Etsy by 2ndlookvintage.

pattern pic

So I trotted right out and bought some bright blue cotton crochet thread that various unofficial sources (here and here) assured me was the closest I could get to gimp, the thread the pattern calls for.

I made a few false starts thanks to it being a vintage pattern with directions that I at times had to decipher. After that things went smoothly. The bow looked better and better, my stitches were gratifyingly even, and once I had the stitches memorized I didn’t have to consult the pattern (easing my subtitle reading). It was only once I reached the point where the bow side was finished and I was ready to start that back that I had trouble. For some reason I simply could¬†not get things to turn out in a way that would allow my stitches to line up in the way I feel that they should.

I tried for a week before I gave up in frustration. At that point I couldn’t look¬†or blog about it. I was so excited about the finished product and what lining I was going to put in it. The fact that I couldn’t figure out how to do the “simple” back just made me angry and a little embarrassed.

Now that a little time has passed. I’m a little calmer and able to problem solve my way out of it. I’m just going to make TWO giant bows and stitch the durn things together. So I guess I haven’t really failed so much as it’s still a work in progress.¬†As soon as I finish I’ll post completed pictures.

HSM #1 – The Scandalous Drawers

I’ve been wanting to make a pair of open drawers for a while. Really since I first tried to use the restroom in a corset and hoop skirt.

It sometimes amazes me how completely the mindset of society can change towards something. At one point wearing anything close to your lady parts was considered unhealthy, they apparently need air to discourage unhealthy humors. They were also practical in the sense that¬†wearing a corset pretty much negates any kind of bending at the¬†waist.¬†Underwear as we recognize them didn’t really come about until the early 1920s when “fast women” started getting rid of their corsets and shortening their skirts. Of course my grandmother’s reaction when I talk about open drawers is, “Eww, can you imagine?”

Regardless of my grandmother’s feelings on the subject I made a pair for myself. Partly to get back in the groove of sewing and partly to prove to myself that I could make open drawers despite my miserable failure the last time I tried to make open drawers. This time I decided to keep it safe and just used a pattern that I had forgotten I had. The pattern went together beautifully, although I have a terrible time tucking. After a few disastrous failures I cut them off and moved on. After all, there are several period examples that have no tucks.

CI50_5_6_F                        CI44_48_12b_F

And here are mine. These aren’t really appropriate to model myself, so you’ll have to make do with not so awesome pictures of them lain flat.



The Challenge: Foundations

Fabric: white cotton

Pattern: Laughing Moon Pattern #100

Year: 1860s

Notions: white cotton thread, white cotton twill tape, white cotton eyelet trim

How historically accurate is it? I’d say 90%, it was sewn completely by machine except for handfinishing the inside waist.

Hours to complete: 7-8 hours? Maybe?

First worn: Not yet, but the next reenactment.

Total cost: Felt free to me! Everything came from the stash.

New Year’s Resolution

Clearly, my intentions to keep up with my blogging after school started didn’t happen. I did end up settling into a routine, that routine just didn’t include sewing or blogging apparently. It mostly contained school, sleeping, and eating. A few other things besides school got in the way: the sewing machine started going wonky around Halloween (thankfully only¬†after all the necessary sewing got completely), my stash exploded a bit in such a way that I’ve got to tidy a bit before I can really get any sewing done, and of course the holidays always slows things down. So…my New Year’s resolution is to start back with both blogging and sewing.

My goals are:

  • to get my completed projects from the last year photographed, put up, and at least minimally blogged about.
  • to blog at least twice a month.
  • to complete¬†at least one project a month that comes from my stash, which has mysteriously grown over the past two years or so that I’ve been sewing.¬†I¬†got¬†a little too lucky at a couple of yard sales this year.
  • try to keep up with the Historical Sew Fortnightly Monthly¬†a little more faithfully.

We’ll see how I do.


In the meantime I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and I wish you luck and joy in the coming year!

HSF #14 – The Bobby Soxer Plaid Skirt

My contributions to the Historical Sew Fortnightly are sporadic at best. This summer has been much busier than I originally intended. Which means I did a lot of awesome things but not as much sewing as I wanted. And what sewing did get done, wasn’t faithfully blogged about. School starts back in a few weeks, which may slow down the sewing but improve the blogging.

I still need pictures for Challenge 13 and a non challenge sewing project, but they’re coming I promise.

For now, I’ve got Challenge 14 photographed and ready to be posted.

I mentioned a while ago that I had gotten some amazing fabric for cheap at a local thrift store. Now you finally get to see some of it. One of the fabric lengths was a¬†33″ x 1.7 yd piece of black and white plaid. I paid $2 for it, so technically it could also count for the Under $10 Challenge. However I actually made a dress specifically for that challenge with another $2 thrift store fabric purchase.

I had a cute vintage pattern in my collection that I bought at the same thrift store for $0.50. As you can clearly see from the oxfords this was designed to appeal to the young bobby soxer, a term that started to circulate in the early 1940s. Perhaps even the beginner sewer who was trying to prepare her wardrobe for her college days. The pattern also features the option for a “slide fastener” with no directions or snaps and hooks with very detailed instructions. Clearly the pattern maker wasn’t completely on board with the whole zipper thing yet. There is an ebay guide to helping date Simplicity patterns that match up with my guessed dating.


The only problem was that it was a pattern that was 7″ too small in the waist. That and the fact that the original pattern didn’t have any fabric measurements listed on the envelope for if you only wanted to make the skirt. The closest I could get was the jacket and the skirt together, which for the pattern size (the too small one) required about 3.5 yds of fabric. But being the daring and adventurous person that I am, I decided, what the heck. I’ll start cutting and see what happens. As I cut, I added 0.6″ to each seam, crossing my fingers that my math skills were accurate.

I lucked out and I had just enough fabric to squeeze out a skirt. This is how much fabric I had left over after I was done.

for blog 3

I originally wanted to do pattern matching so that my skirt looked more like some of the ones I found online.

f171877f60ee3bb20cad4b82c57b5b20 c6919aa63fb37e95f9844dd4aecc359a

I especially loved the inverted V skirts. But I comforted myself that there were skirts that had plaids on the straight and more restrained pleats.304761c215e0896ae71bbbeca28582dc


Here’s my version. I almost had enough to get inverted pleats going, but if it was going to actually fit my body, I had to let it go.

for blog 2

The only change I made to the original pattern was that I didn’t follow the instructions on how to construct the waistband, because honestly it didn’t really make sense. I debated how I wanted to sew it and decided I liked how it looked with black bias tape.

for blog 1

The Challenge: Paisley and Plaid

Fabric: Black and white plaid of¬†mystery fiber content, but based on the itchiness of the fabric there’s at least some wool in it.

Pattern: Simplicity Printed Pattern 1740

Year: 1944ish

Notions: black thread, black bias tape, a green zipper, 2 hooks and eyes, and one snap

How historically accurate is it?¬†The zipper is plastic so that takes some out, but I’d say 80%.

Hours to complete: 13 hours?

First worn:¬†For pictures, it’s still reaching up into the 100s here in sunny Florida, so a skirt with wool in it just isn’t something I can wear practically right now. But it will certainly get wear come fall/winter.

Total cost: $2 for fabric, $2 for a zipper, and I already had snaps, hooks and eyes, and thread.

HSF #7 – The Long Delayed Beret

I had such a difficult time deciding on this challenge. So I just put it off. And then it took forever for me to get around to getting pictures taken. Because it’s summer in July…in Florida.

My hope was that I would find an ideal hat I could crochet. I had terrible luck finding a pattern I was happy with that was within the right time frame.

Finally, I decided to just go with a children’s pattern, enlarged to fit an adult.

The pattern I finally settled on is a charming children’s tam o’shanter.

tam o shanter


Then I found several charming pictures online of some other ladies who decided it was a charming thing to put on their head.

1920's with tam o s

about 1927 Age about 18 years old   Estimate born 1909  3 years



So I found myself some cute bright blue cotton crochet thread and got to work. I decided start off with working the pattern exactly as described, then I could make any changes as I went along.

It turned out that I didn’t actually need to make any changes to the pattern. It nicely worked up a beret that fits my head. For anyone else who wants to make this pattern, I don’t have an unusually small, childish head. Just a normal sized one.

revised for blog1


revised for blog2

I was told by my fashion consultant/photographer (otherwise known as my sister) that the hat looked silly with all my hair up, so I left it down ala Mary Pickford. See, my proof.


The Challenge: Tops and Toes

Fabric: blue cotton thread

Pattern:¬†Tam O’Shanter Pattern¬†from¬†Woolco Knitting and Croching Manual¬†

Year: 1916

Notions:¬†it’s not exactly a notion, but I crocheted with a size 2 crochet needle

How historically accurate is it?:¬†Very, the only non accurate part of this project is that I used modern thread. So I’m going to give myself 100%.

Hours to complete:¬†I’d say about 20 hours.

First worn: For pictures, but this hat will definitely get wearing this fall/winter.

Total cost: About $6, this pattern took three balls of thread.


HSF #11 – The Feedsack Dress

I’ve been having a lot of trouble trying to come up with something for the past few challenges. But I bought an awesome pattern that I was super anxious to try out.


So I’ve been looking for an excuse to make it for this challenge. I finally stumbled across the idea of using feedsack imitation fabric.¬†I’ll be the first to admit that the term “feedsack dress” brings forth mental images of something along the lines of this.

Feed-Sack-dresses photo

The reality isn’t quite so unfashionable.


You may be asking yourself, what do feedsacks have to do with politics. The short answer is The Stock Market Crash that led to the Great Depression, which is all tied up in politics and what the government did do or wasn’t able to do to prevent the whole thing from happening.

Now, back in the day (the Great Depression day in case you were wondering) sacks for everything from flour to salt to animal feed were put into cloth sacks.

flour-sacsWhen the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl hit, wives started looking for frugal ways to save money for silly things like food. Women had been using feedsack fabric for things like hand towels and dishrags all along. At some point someone realized they had a source of fabric, that wasn’t exactly free, but it came with something they were already buying. And since they were cutting corners, like the clothing budget, there are really only so many dishrags one family needs when you’ve got kids growing out of their clothes and holes growing in your own. So women started using the fabric for clothing.¬†Then the flour, salt, animal feed, etc. companies realized that women were using their sacks as fabric. So they began putting prints on their sacks, hoping to influence purchasing based on which print a woman liked better. I’ve also read the theory that it was also to persuade buyer loyalty until enough of the fabric was bought to make something…like a dress.

1940s-ration-fashion-the-feedsack-dressFor more information about feedsack fashion, there’s a great post on Appalachian History.

My¬†next step was to find a pattern that was reminiscent of feedsack cloth. That was in my stash, because I’m trying to maintain my budget for summer traveling.

I did find some colors/patterns that are similar to a quilting cotton I originally purchased with the intention of making a nightgown or bathrobe. But who needs another nightgown? Not me! I’d rather have a summery cotton dress!

Feedsack fabric examples:

fabric fabric2 fabric3


The Challenge: The Politics of Fashion

Fabric: pink and aqua quilting cotton

Pattern: Marian Martin 9957

Year:¬†I’ve found this pattern advertised in a 1939 newspaper, so that’s the year I’m going with.

Notions: pink thread, pink invisible zipper

How historically accurate is it? As accurate as possible without having real actual feedsack cloth available, except for the zipper which I needed so that I could get it to fit. 70%?

Hours to complete:¬†…5 hours…8 hours…again with the not being able to keep track of the time.

First worn: Last week, to a visit to my grandmother. She enjoys seeing my finished projects.

Total cost:¬†It’s been a while since I bought this fabric, but I’d say a total of about $20.

DSCN0353I did actually manage to finish the dress on time for the challenge. And the post was mostly finished as well. My ability to take pictures in a timely manner to add to the post is what tripped me up.


HSF #10 – The Rose Red Upholstery Skirt

I managed to almost make this challenge on time. Much closer at least.

I’ll confess that the art part of this challenge was difficult for me. I very much twisted this challenge to suit my needs. So I found a few paintings that more or less correspond to my project. To be quite honest, I’m ready to move on. To start on some fun summery dresses and things I can wear in my real life.

There’s the painting that I referenced in my last post. This and the following one are more or less is about the bodice and shirt.



rose red inspiration2


I used this picture to help me decide where to put the hem of the skirt.


rose red inspiration

Look at that red! It’s so close to my chosen fabric.

rose red inspiration4

Besides the super heavy (a.k.a. difficult) upholstery fabric I used, this was a pretty basic skirt. I followed the pattern pieces exactly, didn’t use interfacing, and used hooks instead of a zipper. The waistband proved unwieldy going through my sewing machine (the three layers of upholstery fabric almost didn’t fit under the presser foot) so I’ve definitely sewn straighter lines before. Otherwise it went together quickly and easily.

With only a week left of the school year, things have been busy. A school dance, field trips, project grading, a talent show, end of the year grades, and Florida Folk Festival all conspired to delay any sewing projects.

The finished project with everything put together.



From the front I look a bit thick waisted, mostly because I once again made something that laces so that it meets in the middle. And then lost weight.

The Challenge: Art

Fabric:¬†dark red upholstery fabric, there’s most certainly unnatural fiber content

Pattern: Simplicity 3809

Year: 1500ish

Notions: size three hooks and eyes, red heavy duty thread

How historically accurate is it? The skirt follows the rest of this outfit, which means not very.

Hours to complete: About 5?

First worn: For pictures today, but I plan on wearing for real at the next Renaissance Faire.

Total cost: The fabric cost me about $40, the thread about $3, and the hooks came from the stash.

The Mama Africa Hippie Skirt

I haven’t had a chance post about this skirt yet. I made it last weekend for the best music festival in the South, the Florida Folk Festival. It’s full of hippies who like folk music, good folk music, and quirky food vendors. Every year I discover something wonderful. One year it was contra dancing. Another year it was the fabulous Jamaican lady who serves the best ginger beer I’ve ever tasted.¬†Last¬†year it was the fact that I actually¬†do¬†like folk music beside Simon and Garfunkel. This year I found several new bands to love (The Currys, Belle and the Band, and Laney Jones and the Lively Spirits) and a rice bowl with cranberries in it.

I didn’t really take any pictures of the actual festival, but I did manage to get my sister to snap a crappy cell phone picture of me in the skirt.


I found the fabric in a local opportunity store. And paid a whopping $1. Here’s a picture with the price tag as proof. I had just enough fabric to eke out a skirt. I had two tiny triangles left when I finished, they were maybe two inches at their widest.



I used this pattern, because honestly I love the gathers. Obviously I didn’t make the whole dress, just the skirt.


HSF #9 – The Rose Red Wench Shirt

This is the second delayed posting thanks to FCAT. Also I had to further delay posting due to an injury due to my clumsiness. I fell, twisting my ankle this weekend, which meant that any pictures I wanted had to wait until I could put weight on my foot again.

I used the same Simplicity pattern for the shirt as I did for the bodice. Although I modified the pattern. I used view A but I didn’t put in any of the¬†elastic. Without the elastic, the sleeves were gigantic so I trimmed about an inch and a half off from the seams and then increased the seam allowance to one and a fourth inch. And still you can see how billowy the sleeves are. I completely ignored the wrist hem instructions, sewed eyelet onto it, put a gathered seam, and handstitched a thin black braid over the eyelet/sleeve seam.


I again ignored the instructions for the elastic, this time in the neckline, because despite the fact this is only kind of historical I wasn’t quite willing to put elastic into a garment that was supposed to be historical. I did follow the directions and used bias tape as the casing for the cording.


It turned out kind of wench-y/pirate-y. However it’s pretty awesome. A more grown up version of the original inspiration illustration.


The sleeves are gigantic, so I’ll probably be using them as a pattern for Civil War undersleeves. They’re a much more satisfying volume than my previous efforts.

The Challenge: Black & White

Fabric: white cotton

Pattern: Simplicity 3809

Year: 1500ish

Notions: white thread, white cording, white bias tape

How historically accurate is it?¬†Eh, maybe a bit more than the bodice, but not by much. So…let’s say 40%.

Hours to complete: 3 hours?

First worn: For pictures, but for real at the next Renaissance Faire

Total cost: a total of maybe $25, they eyelet was the most expensive because I used stash for everything else