Posts Tagged ‘sewing’

Quilting refers to the process whereby two layers of fabric and a middle layer of padding are sewn together. It has been used in different contexts for different purposes for centuries. In European history, the quilting method was initially used to make garments warmer and thicker. The earliest examples of quilting patchwork bedspreads in England are dated in the early 1700’s, but patchwork quilting is more commonly associated with American history.

Winona Ryder, in How to Make an American Quilt (1995)

My love-affair with quilting began when I watched the movie, How to Make an American Quilt (1995). The movie follows a young lady, Finn, who visits her grandmother for the summer to consider a marriage proposal from her boyfriend and to finish her masters thesis. She discovers that her grandmother’s quilting group are making her a quilt for her wedding. The theme of the quilt is “Where Love Resides”, and the patchwork comes to represent each of the stories of love from the different ladies who contribute to the quilt.

What I loved most about the concept behind the movie, is that these women weave their lives and their experiences into this quilt, which they then pass on to the next generation. The gift of the quilt becomes a tangible event to represent the passing down of stories, advice, and wisdom from the previous generation. The patchwork becomes a visual representation of these womens’ stories.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I decided that this was something I would like to do for my own children, and now, 14 years later, I am still at it!

My Latest Quilting Project

I have just finished making a small quilt to use in our lounge room as a throw rug. It is actually a “quillow”, which is a quilt that can be turned into a pillow (or in this case, a cushion).

In order to make it cheaper, I decided I would limit myself to using the scraps of material I had left over in my fabric box. One of the problems was that none of it really matched, so in the end I picked a design that would allow me to use two types of matching fabric and make a square out of them. This meant that I ended up with a lot of squares that looked fine on their own. Then, in order to make a more cohesive design, I joined them together on a background of the same material, which helped to “marry” the squares together in the design.

The front of the quilt

Then I embroidered the names of all of our family members on the different squares, as this quilt will sit on our lounge for everyone to use in the colder months of the year.

Embroidery on the quilt

I made a nice square to have as a cushion cover, and sewed it face down on the wrong side of the quilt to form a pocket.

The back of the quilt; you can see at the bottom where I have sewn the "pocket".

The quilt is then folded to fit into the pocket. The pocket is turned inside out to hold the quilt, revealing the decorative square and forming a cushion.

The "quillow" as a cushion

It ended up costing me about $90 AUD for the backing material, the bamboo wadding, and the binding, where I would usually spend about $300 on the materials for a quilt. I am quite pleased with it!

One thing my husband really likes about the “quillow” is that the pocket is also very useful for putting feet into while watching TV, keeping them toasty warm!

My Other Quilts

I have 5 children and have intended to make them all a single-bed patchwork quilt. Unfortunately, I thought it would be so romantic to handstitch them all. I pictured myself by the fire, leaning over my needlework, sewing my life into my childrens’ quilts! The very image of domestic bliss! This ideal ground gradually to a halt when my first quilt for my first son took 9 years to finish, with over 1000 pieces!

My first quilt

My second quilt, for my next daughter, has taken almost 7 years and I am still not finished! I still have 19 squares to put together!

The beginnings of my second quilt

Considering that this “Quillow” took me three days to patch together on the sewing machine, and then two days to machine quilt and bind, I am seriously considering giving up on my romantic ideals of handsewing quilts just so that I will be able to complete all these family heirlooms before I am 80!

Do you like patchwork? Its my cup of tea!

Sources and Relevant Links

How to Make an American Quilt (1995) – the movie

How to make a Quilt – a useful website for beginners

How to make a Quillow – a blog tutorial

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Here are a few different types of ribbon trims that can be used to decorate period hats or costumes.

Plaiting Ribbons

Start with 3 lengths of ribbon about 1cm wide. Pin the three pieces together at one end, as shown in the picture below. (I used sticky tape initially, but it created problems when I ironed the folds of the ribbon!)

Plaiting Ribbon - Step One

Fold the ribbon to form a plait.

Plaiting Ribbon - Step Two

I used an iron to flatten the ribbon and stop it slipping. I then did some small stitches at the junctions of the three ribbons to hold it in place better.

Plaiting Ribbon - Step Three

The resulting length of plaited decorative ribbon can be used just like a normal ribbon to decorate any of your particular projects. Simple, but I think it looks great!

Ribbon Rosette

Use some thick ribbon and sew a loop in one end of the ribbon. My loop lengths were 3cm.

Step One - Sew a loop

Sew a second loop close to the first, leaving some space between the loops. Do not cut the ribbon.

Step Two - Sew a second loop

Continue to sew loops in the same manner. I had 12 loops for my rosette.

Step Three - Lots of loops

Repeat the above steps in a matching or contrasting colour to make an inner layer. For this one, I again made 12 loops but made the loop lengths a bit shorter, at 2cm.

Step Four - The same in a contrasting colour

Hand sew the first layer of the rosette to a patch of buckram or stiff interfacing, arranging the loops around in a circle as you go.

Step Five - Arrange loops and sew in place

Hand sew the second layer of the rosette in a similar way.

Step Six - Sew the second layer

For the middle, gather one side of a piece of ribbon and pull the threads to form a tight circle.

Step Seven - One edge of ribbon gathered to form a circle

Hand sew it to the middle of the circle to cover the exposed buckram, making sure your stitches are small and close to invisible.

Ribbon Rosette - finished!

Ribbon Flowers

Using some thin ribbon (2mm wide), wind it around a rectangular piece of paper. The width of the paper will be the length of the petals. You can wind another length of ribbon of a contrasting colour  over the top for a two-toned effect, if you desire.

Step One - Wind ribbon around a piece of rectangular paper

Lay another length of the same or contrasting ribbon along one edge and sew through all thicknesses.

Step Two - Sew a piece of ribbon along one edge

Then rip the paper out from underneath. This will be a bit fiddly, and you will leave some paper behind.

Step Three - Rip the paper out

Pull the ribbon rings around in a circle and hand sew to a piece of buckram or stiff interfacing.

Step Four - Hand sew to a stiff backing

Sew a button to the middle of the flower to hide the exposed centre. You may also need to trim the stiff backing so it is not visible from the front.

Step Five - Sew a button to the middle

This is a two-toned flower that I made for a bonnet recently. Here I have used a covered button for the centre instead, so it matches the bonnet material.

Two-toned Ribbon Flower on a Poke Bonnet

Related Posts

How to make a Regency Poke Bonnet in Ten Steps

Sources and Relevant Links

From the Neck Up: An Illustrated Guide to Hatmaking, by Denise Dreher – I discovered these trims in this book.

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The poke bonnet was fashionable at the beginning of the 19th century, and consisted of a small crown and wide brim to shade the face. From 1830 through to the 1840s, the shape of the brim became more tubular in shape and increased in size until the wearers face was only visible from directly in front.

A French satire print on the poke bonnet in the 1810's; "Les Invisibles en Tete-a-Tete". The bonnets were called "invisibles" in France because the face of the wearer was virtually concealed except from the front.

The Gentleman’s Magazine proposed (tongue-in-cheek) the formation of a Female Convocation or Parliament in order “to regulate dress in all its changes and varieties” (1807). The author drew several comparisons between the all-male Parliament and its female counterpart, with particular mention of the poke-bonnet.

Men may act very perversely in questions of peace or war, but there would be little room for animosity in discussing the height of a turban, or the colour of a shawl; men may be warm on extending the militia, or increasing the army, but there would be more liberality in puckering a handkerchief, or gathering up a petticoat; in enacting a poke-bonnet, or proposing an amendment in the straw-hat bill; I have no doubt, indeed, that all the members would be so duly impressed with a sense of the importance of their office, as to discuss with most becoming temper, the dimensions of the square bust, the curvature of ringlets, the necessity of indispensibles, the side over which the veil is to fall, and the manner in which the dress should be broached on the shoulder, with every other circumstance of equal importance to captivate and conquer.

The Gentleman’s Magazine, Volume 100, January, 1807.

My Poke Bonnet

The materials you will need are: 

  • A straw hat (from a craft shop or second-hand shop)
  • Material for the crown
  • Material for the lining (chiffon, fine netting, silk or lace)
  • Ribbon or bias binding, to bind the edges of the hat
  • A small amount of cheap, thin craft ribbon
  • Ribbon, lace, or feathers, to trim or decorate bonnet
  • Thread, scissors, needle, pins, safety pin, sewing machine.

Step One

Begin by bending the straw hat in half to decide on the shape you want for your bonnet, and then cut the hat in half. My straw hat was quite small, only 25 cms in diameter.

Step Two

Bind the edges of the hat with bias binding or ribbon, using a needle and thread.

Step Three

Gather the lining material about 1cm from the selvedge edge. I used a thin voile, similar to chiffon, with a selvedge edge that was 1 metre long. Measure the width of the brim, from the brim edge to the base of the crown, and do a second line of gathering stitch that same distance from your first line of gathering stitch. You can see from the photo below that my two lines of gathering are approximately the width of the brim.

Step Four

Hand stitch the first line of gathering stitch to the binding on the inner edge of the brim, using a simple running stitch.

The second line of gathering stitching should rest along the base of the crown of the hat. Pull the gathering threads tighter to fit. You can attach this line of gathering to the base of the crown with a hot glue gun or some hand stitches, but I left it loose.

Step Five

The lining will now have a lot of fullness inside the hat. Trim it level with the bottom edge of the straw hat, and then bind the raw edge by hand sewing another piece of bias binding or ribbon along it to prevent fraying.

Step Six

For the crown of the hat, fold your piece of material (mine measured 45 cms x 60cms) lengthwise to form a rectangle. If you would like a more gathered crown, make your rectangle longer; alternatively, make it shorter if you would like an ungathered crown. In order to have a decently gathered crown, the length of your folded rectangle would need to be at least 2 times the circumference of the base of the crown of the hat.

Sew the short ends of the rectangle together to form a tube, leaving a small section (0.5 cms) unstitched closest to the folded edge. This will enable it to be gathered with ribbon in the next step.

Step Seven

Using a safety pin, thread a thin piece of craft ribbon inside the folded edges of the seam, so it comes out the other side. (It’s kind of like threading elastic in a waistband, except there is no casing for the ribbon. Not having a casing enables you to tightly close the crown.)

Then you can pull it tight and knot it so it forms the top of the bonnet.

Step Eight

If your crown is very loose on the straw hat, it will need to be gathered to fit. In order to hide the raw edge, you can either turn it under and sew it (as I did), or bind the edges with bias binding, ribbon or a long strip of fabric.

Step Nine

Sew two lines of gathering stitches and adjust the gathers to fit the base of the crown.

Pull it down over the base of the brim (where the nape of the neck would be) so it holds the hat in a bonnet shape. (Try it on at this stage, just to make sure it will fit your head!) Then, using a basic running stitch to attach the crown, hand sew through all layers.

Step Ten

Decorate the bonnet with ribbon, lace, feathers or other trims as you wish.

I used a craft straw hat that was 25 cms in diameter (designed for a doll, I imagine), so it was not large enough for me! The Intended Recipient, my youngest daughter, was duly impressed!

A poke bonnet, with pleated green taffeta


  • Buy a thimble!! I bled all over my bonnet several times!
  • Use a foam head, as it will help you decide how best to shape your bonnet.
  • Melt the ends of any ribbon with a match or cigarette lighter, which will stop them fraying everywhere. (Don’t set your bonnet alight though!)
  • The more “invisible” your hand stitching, the better the result.
  • Have fun creating!

    Bonnet detail, with a ribbon flower

I made these bonnets by following a tutorial given by The Oregon Regency Society. The author also gives alternative ways to construct a bonnet for those who are not sewers, and has another tutorial on making a Regency stovepipe bonnet.

I love historical fashions! They are my cup of tea!

Related Posts

How to use Ribbon to make Decorative Trim

An 18th Century Reproduction of a Sacque-back dress

Dress-ups for a Baby

Sources and Relevant Links

How to make a Regency Poke Bonnet, by The Oregon Regency Society

From the Neck Up: An Illustrated Guide to Hatmaking, By Denise Dreher – This is a great book on the different techniques required for successful millinery, and also includes a basic pattern guide to the various fashions in hats through history.

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The deliberation required for deciding what to write for one’s first ever post, in one’s first ever blog, is, in one word, excruciating! In the end, I decided to write about something I love: 18th century costumes.

Being a keen sewer – ever since my mother first sat me at the sewing machine at aged 6 – as well as a keen historian, the natural progression to making historical costumes appeared to make sense.

Today I am going to share a reproduction of a sacque-back dress from the 1770’s.

When you make a costume, it is important to have the correct undergarments before you begin, or else the finished result does not look as historically accurate. So this means firstly reproducing the undergarments; in this case, the corset and panniers (hip attachments).

Corset and panniers from the 1770’s

This corset is not the type that was worn in the 1770’s, but is more similar to those worn in 1850’s. However, the corset has been made to perform a similar function of the corsets from that era, as the front contains an embroidered stomacher that shows through to the outside. (There is also a convenient piece of lace gathered to conceal some cleavage, as this type of corset was made to reach the nipple-line and no higher, therefore showing much more cleavage than I felt comfortable with. In hindsight, it would have been a good idea to make a chemise to go under the corset…)

The panniers are accurate to this era, and are made of calico and boning.

The outer garments consist of a petticoat as an underskirt, and a sacque-back outerdress. The dress attaches to the corset with large hooks and eyes at the front, and then laces up at the back (hidden under the sac).

A sacque-back dress of the 1770’s

Sacque-back dress Back

The back view of the “sack”


Close up of the Bodice

I got many of the details of this dress from pictures and drawings that I could gather from original dresses from the period. This was back “in the day” when the internet was not quite as abundant in resources as it is today! I then used these pictures and descriptions to draft my own patterns.

As this costume was made to go dancing at balls, I made several adjustments to the bodice to help me feel more comfortable! For this reason the bodice is cut much more like a modern bodice. For one of my first “proper” historical costumes (i.e. a costume that wasn’t made for a school production!), I was very proud of it.

I hope you enjoyed looking!

Related Posts

How to Make a Regency Poke Bonnet in Ten Steps

How to use Ribbon to make Decorative Trims

Dress-ups for a Baby

Relevant Links

There seems to be a range of different patterns available to purchase on the internet if you are interested in making historical costumes. Here is a link to only one of many sites.

18th Century patterns

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