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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.

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 #1 – Make Do and Mend – The Striped Berry Hat

Better late than never.

I originally intended to redo a dress for my sister. Something that turned into a more monstrous project than I was originally anticipating. Also it’s hard to do fittings with no access to my sister, which is slowing the process down.

So instead I decided to go ahead and cross another project I’ve been meaning to do off of my list. A hat, because no real lady would ever¬†be caught outside without the proper head covering.

I am at heart a very thrifty girl who also enjoys being crafty. It was a hard choice between the many lovely types of hats. But really, I’m not sure how well a bonnet will look on my oval shaped face. Plus I just really like the look of the leghorn hats.

leghorn2 leghorn

I’ve read a couple blog posts about people who have taken straw hats from a big box craft store and remade them into history appropriate hats. After a bit of searching for how to’s I found a marvelously helpful post by the Semptress¬†on how to reblock a straw hat.

So I took a basic straw hat. Really nothing fancy. One that looked just like this one. This is where the made do part comes in because I’m just making do with craft store supplies, which may be stretching the definition of the challenge.

straw hat

I didn’t have any specialized supplies (which may prove to be my undoing). I used my head as the shaping block and put up my hair in a style that is similar to the one I usually wear to reenactments.

I got a giant bowl of warm water and started dipping the brim into the water. It didn’t get wet immediately, so I went around a couple of times. The crown needed¬†to stretch a little bigger¬†to fit my head better, so I stuck the top of the hat in. Basically I dunked the whole thing in, getting the brim wetter than the rest, because that was the part that I wanted to shape most. Then shook off the excess water and plopped the whole thing down directly on my head. After that I ran and got a towl to mop up my drips. I don’t always think ahead. ūüôā

The leghorn style was fairly easy for me to shape. I gently pressed the crown the hat down onto my head, stretching it to fit comfortably. Then I shaped the brim so that it hung down over my forehead in front and down over my next in back. Afterwards I sat and watched three episodes of Doctor Who with my mom. By the time we were done the hat was dry enough I felt I could safely leave it hanging on an upside down vase, my hat rest of choice.

I bought a remnant of this lovely striped fabric, the maroon color almost perfectly matches my new dress. I cut two three-inch strips, put the right sides together, sewed the long edges, and turned it right side out again.


Then came the difficult process of figuring out what to do with my ridiculously long piece of fabric ribbon.


In the end I decided to take my inspiration from this photo.

leghorn 3

The fabric ribbon got put into a V in the front and meets at the back, where it trails down in two streamers.

And…TA DA!!! My first finished hat!


From the back!


Now it’s on my head!!!


The Challenge: Make Do and Mend

Fabric: 6 inches of striped cotton

Pattern: None, just me fooling around.

Year:¬†early 1860’s

Notions: black thread, dark red berries, and a straw hat

How historically accurate is it? I’d say about a 6. From what I’ve been able to determine they don’t make straw hats the same anymore, modern hats have a much wider and coarser band of straw braid. The berries are modern, which I’m sure is made through some fancy, nonhistorically accurate process. Otherwise the design is accurate to the time period.

Hours to complete: About 15 minutes to shape, 3 hours for my reformed hat to dry, and 1 hour to trim.

First worn: Not yet, I plan on wearing it to Olustee next month.

Total cost: This one comes in at under $10. The hat cost about $3, two bunches of berries on Christmas sale were $1, and the fabric was a remnant I bought for $3 and change.

Jumping In With Both Feet

I’ve been a blog lurker for about a year and a half now. You know, one of those people who reads but rarely, if ever, comments on a multitude of blogs. Last year, a bunch of the bloggers I enjoy participated in the Historical Sew Fortnightly. I myself have been only sewing for about two years or so, mostly self taught with a heap of help from the internet and the afore mentioned blogs. When I learned there was going to be a Historical Sew Fortnightly 2014, I decided I had to participate.

The story behind how I started sewing is a bit of a saga and fairly boring. The short version is I love ballroom dancing, but live in a tiny town in North Florida, where my dance options are my living room or traveling at least an hour one way. Then I learned that part of the upcoming Olustee Civil War reenactment was a ball, at which there would be dancing. Combine dancing with an excuse to wear a costume and I was thrilled. My sister had worn a hoop skirted “Southern Bell” dress for a violin performance a few years before so I borrowed her skirt, a hoop, paired it with a shirt, some white gloves and called it a day. Looking back I cringe inside just a little bit because it looks as if I’m a time traveler and somehow misplaced my bustle. Looking around me that night I knew that I would have to do better next year.

Of course, life got in the way and I’m a terrible procrastinator (as I speak this blog post is a way for me to procrastinate doing some cooking). So the next thing I knew it was almost time for the Olustee battle again. So I ran out, bought myself yards of blue cotton fabric, a pattern, and thread. Then made my mother show me how to get started.

The next year I was slightly better dressed. My hoop was more…hoopy and my skirt was just a plain navy blue, but I felt better about my appearance at the time. My shirt was still about 20 years too early and I felt like someone’s maiden aunt, but things were improving.

After Olustee was finished, is when I really began to get serious. I got online, did some research, and started blog lurking. That original blue skirt now possesses its own row of black velvet ribbon and has a matching jacket, as well as a full set of underclothes (including a corset). The jacket is unlined and has plastic boning, but as it was my first real sewing experience, I’m still pretty satisfied with how it turned out. Someday I may replace the plastic bones with metal ones, but I’m terrible about going back to “fix” things. This is the dress that I wore to the 2013 Olustee Festival and which my sister will probably be wearing this year, since she doesn’t have a day dress.

I’m almost finished with my second 1860’s dress, which is a lovely maroon and is made out of a heavy broadcloth. Which will hopefully be warm on a cold day, I bought the fabric right after last year’s battle, when the wind was strong and everyone almost froze. The actual sewing on the dress is finished, all I have left are the fiddly bits like trim and hooks. I have to admit the fiddly bits are my least favorite part, I love the research, figuring out how to adjust a pattern to fit the picture in my head, and the actual construction. Even figuring out where to place the trim is fine. But the actual hand sewing that my imagination and slight perfectionist streak requires of me, makes it the part that takes the longest. The maroon dress has two tops, a jacket and an evening bodice. They’ll take about a week or so to trim, but because it’s the fiddly part of the process I’m having a hard time getting motivated to finish it. Which is not awesome because my goal between now and early February (when Olustee is held) is to finish my dress, rework/redo the bodice for an evening gown my sister purchased, and figure something out for my mom to wear. Oh, and I want to make a hat for myself, sew some gloves, remake a fan, and finish crocheting a shawl for my mom. Needless to say, something is going to be pushed to the bottom of the list and probably not done until after February.

Looking back over this post, I realize that wasn’t really a “short” version. You should be warned, I’m an English teacher with a passion for words and I enjoy writing. So despite my attempts to stay on topic and to the point, you may find a bit of purposeful rambling in my posts.