Merry Christmas!

American Seamstress Christmas


Thread Review

I recently went looking for some metallic-ish thread for a project that is mentally in the works. I stumbled upon Gilt Sylke Twist! You can buy this thread in 23 m spools from various different stores; however I bought mine from Hedgehog Handworks. My original intention was to twist it with Soie d’Alger silk thread and make a lucet cord out of it. It came out horrible (mostly operator error) and much thicker than I really wanted so I tried the Gilt Sylke Twist on it’s own. Let me tell you this thread makes an awesome cord! The resulting cord is very thin; only a few millimeters in diameter. T

You do have to be careful with it; the metallic twist can break and its generally a bit difficult to pull through. Just make sure your tension is a little on the loose side so that it doesn’t snag badly.

(The camera is zoomed in. The cord is much smaller in person.)

Cord 2

Without flash


With flash

With flash

Thinking about Art. Part 2: A Song, a Painting, and a Poem

When I was younger (in my early to mid teens) I spent quite a bit of time at concerts. Because I lived in the Adirondacks I became extremely fond of the area’s folk music especially Dan Duggan and Peggy Lynn. One of my favorite songs that they played was Crossing the Bar which can be found on their Jamcrackers CD with Dan Berggren, another north country musician.

[After some recent research in an attempt to find a recording of this to show others, I determined that the music was written by Rani Arbo of the group “Salamander Crossing” in 1998. Here is a recording of Salamander Crossing performing this song with the lyrics displayed.]

But wait, you say. Isn’t that a Tennyson poem?

Bear with me here.

A few years later I was in an art museum and found this painting.

Lumber Schooners at Evening on Penobscot Bay (1863) by Fitz Henry Lane. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons. Located at the National Gallery of Art.

Lumber Schooners at Evening on Penobscot Bay (1863) by Fitz Henry Lane. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons. Located at the National Gallery of Art.

It struck me as the physical manifestation of the song that I knew so well.

It didn’t click until years later that it was a Tennyson poem. (Retrieved from the Poetry Foundation.)

It also didn’t click until I was much older what this poem was really about. As a young naïve child I merely thought this was a poem about someone going on a long journey. It didn’t occur to me that this poem discussed that ultimate journey. To this day I think that it is the most beautiful depiction of death I have come across. And I still think the painting depicts the words perfectly, even with my updated understanding of the song’s contents.

Life means so little without the beauty of art. It evokes emotions felt and lives lived hard yet well. Art comes in many forms and genres and can be viewed differently by each person who comes upon it. Art can be intertwined with other, seemingly unrelated, pieces. It connects people across time and space, and across social and economical divides. Take the time to appreciate art in all it’s mediums, from a song on an iPod to a painting in a museum, to a painted rock in a park.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The following excerpt is from George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation, 3 October 1789. Retrieved from the George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress.

“Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be– That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks–for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation–for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war–for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed–for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted–for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.”

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Thinking about Art. Part 1: What Art Means to Me

I admit, I have always taken art for granted.

I extensively studied music when I was younger and naively assumed that it would always be there as long as I had a piano available. (Spoiler alert: you actually have to USE the piano for it to work.) Adult life has a way of rearranging priorities and I continuously allow work and school to get in the way of my creative time until I notice myself slowly sinking into a black pit of despair.

Confession: In an attempt to reinvigorate my musical-ness I have acquired:

  • 1 Hammered Dulcimer (truthfully I already owned that)
  • 2 Guitars
  • 1 Harp
  • 1 Dobro
  • 1 Bodhran
  • 1 Mandolin
  • 1 Ukulele
  • Bones
  • Spoons
  • 2 pennywhistles
  • Piano (a pretty decent digital piano)

None of which I actually play. Ever.

And that truly saddens me. I need art. Art makes me feel human, joyful, and alive. My sanity level would increase exponentially if I actually took only 30 minutes a day to make music. I’d be less snappy and more patient. I’d be less pessimistic and less mood swing-y. I’d feel less tired and wrung out all the time.

Sewing does fill the void somewhat. But I don’t take the time to do that either!

I look at what other’s are sewing or listen to a group like The Piano Guys (check out their version of What Makes You Beautiful by One Direction) and I get mad, depressed, and frustrated because I don’t feel like I’m doing those things I’m meant to do. I make a resolution to fix myself and sew/play music/make something pretty every day and that lasts for about a week until I start giving excuses why I never have enough time to do it.

Those excuses are pure @#*(@$& and I know that. There is also plenty of time in the evening. I’ve calculated it. And yet I still don’t exercise my art.

If anyone has a brilliant idea on how to break that cycle DO tell.

Whether your artistic medium is paint, pencil, fabric, words, an instrument NEVER take it for granted. And do your best to never let it play second fiddle (pun intended) to all the other demands of life.

Girl’s Gown Pictures

I FINALLY got around to taking pictures of my sister’s kit.

Caveat: I’ve taken these pictures on a woman’s (albeit a small woman) dress form. My sister is 11. The clothes fit but not particularly well on this dress form so please ignore any oddities that are a result of this.


A break from our regularly scheduled programming

I know this is a sewing blog and sort of a reenacting blog, however  I need something else to talk about on occasion. This is really for several reasons.

  1. I don’t sew a lot or particularly fast anymore so projects to discuss are a bit few and far apart
  2. I don’t go to a large number of events a year
  3. If I don’t write regularly I will simply cease to write at all
  4. If I write only about clothes and costuming I’ll end up frustrated because I’ll want stuff I can’t have (see #1)
  5. Topics such as research skills, history, art, and culture are close enough to historical sewing and reenacting to justify discussing them (or so I think)

So over time I’m going to develop some series of posts not directly related to sewing.

First up: Thinking About Art Female Dick Tracy

Why am I choosing to talk about art?

Each seamstress/reenactor/musician/artists/author/dancer/PowerPoint drafter is creating art in their own way. It’s easy to get lost in the mechanics of completing a gown, an event, a written work, or a presentation that we tend to lose sight of the creative process and the creative mind. Art and beauty can be found in unlikely places and daily lives tend to make us forget to look.

Disclaimer: I am not an art major or “creative” major of any kind. My degrees are in Geology and Library Science (hence the future discussions on research) so I cannot claim to be an expert in the world of art or creativity. I’m not going to academically analyze paintings or anything along those lines. I’m simply going to talk about various types of art in the realm of creative thinking and creative processes as someone who can’t lived without it.

I hope you enjoy.

PS. Points to whomever knows the inspiration for the image!


18th Century Newspapers

I had one of those brilliant ideas that make me sound like a lunatic the other day. I had a hankering for an 18th century newspaper that was individualized for my particular Regiment. The idea came about because I wanted to have a runaway advertisement for one of our children in an effort to get people more involved.

Here’s a sampling of what I came up with:

Maryland Gazette Repro

I’m rather proud of the final product if I do say so myself. I used snippets from actual books of the time as well as from the actual newspaper closest to the date I wanted to portray. On the back I included some event specific information and a recipe. The result is interesting, education, and practically helpful.

If you are interested in making your own newspapers you have some options.


Colonial Williamsburg provides freely accessible scanned pages of the Virginia Gazette (all three of them!) from 1730 to 1780. The one downside is that some of the scans are hard or impossible to read. is a subscription based website that is associated with Subscription costs $79.95 a year or $7.95 a month. For the 18th century they do not have a huge selection; however the scans are very good quality. If you’re a Civil War reenactor you have MANY more options on this site. The newspapers available for the 18th century are:

  • Virginia Gazette beginning in 1736
  • Pennsylvania Gazette beginning in 1728
  • Pennsylvania Packet from 1771-1790
  • Freeman’s Journal or the North American Intelligencer from 1781-1792
  • Maryland Gazette beginning in 1745

The Walden Font Co. makes an excellent Caslon font package called the Minuteman Printshop. If you make 18th century documents for your group I highly recommend that you invest in this font. It contains three Caslon fonts, two Webster fonts, bullets, historical signatures, borders, and more. If the $49.95 turns you off (though it’s totally worth it!) than they also offer a one font package called Old State House.

Design programs

I have completely fallen in love with Microsoft PowerPoint. It allows you to do all sorts of cool things with photos and designs without paying big bucks for fancy software. You can turn on “Gridlines” and “Guides” under “View” to help you line up graphics and text boxes. When you’re done tweaking things to your liking, safe the file as a PDF and it’s ready to print!


If you’re like me, you don’t have an office quality printer sitting in your living room. Office Depot allows you to order prints online. You can print simple jobs right at your local store and pick them up an hour or two later. You can also order them from the big Office Depot in the sky and have them mail you the finished job. The second option gives you access to better printing paper and other options that your local store might not be able to do. If you choose the second option, Office Depot will actually call you and verify everything in your order as well as ask any questions they may have.


18th Century Children

I haven’t had the time to write much of a post in the last week or so and as of right this minute, I still don’t really have the time or energy to write something profound. So I’m going to take the lazy way out and point you to a page I DID write in the last week.

In an effort to help reenactors, specifically reenactors in my own Regiment, I’ve been slowly working on a website to assist them with research. The following link is to one of the most recent pages: Children’s Basics. If you have a child and don’t know where to start with acquiring clothing for them, this page is a good place to start.

Pattern Review

As you may have guessed from my last post, my current project is a set of clothes for my 11-year-old sister! Because I have never made a child’s gown and M lives in New York, I needed a pattern. There are a couple of patterns out there for children gowns and 18th Century Girl’s Gown by Mill Farm Patterns (Designed by Sharon Ann Burnston) is the most commonly used. But I want to talk about a new pattern on the market. Hallie Larkin and Stephanie Smith have been working hard on their new line of patterns and I wanted to try them out. You can buy this pattern on their website At the Sign of the Golden Scissors.

Girl's Gown Pattern

Larkin & Smith market their patterns as a workshop in an envelope and this is exactly what you get. I have used various different 18th Century patterns for other clothing items including Kannik’s Korner, Mill Farm, and JP Ryan. I have also attended a workshop at Burnley and Trowbridge. I have also used books with scaled patterns.

I have found that it is unequivocally easier to make 18th century clothing using the original techniques!

That means no pattern, no sewing machine, no modern sewing techniques. Unfortunately, not everyone has the time or can afford to go to every workshop that comes down the pike.

The solution is Larkin & Smith patterns.

The pattern contains the minimal number of pieces needed to create the garment which is refreshing when it comes to a pattern. I mean, do I really need a piece of paper to cut out a rectangle? I just need the dimensions! The included packet walks the user through construction using hand techniques (although some machine tricks are included). The instructions are easy to understand and the result is wonderful. I highly recommend this pattern if you have a reenacting child.