Category Archives: 19th century work box

Div III Progress Report: 13 Days To Go!

It’s Wednesday, April 20, and my Div III final meeting is in 13 days. Strictly speaking, since it’s currently nearly midnight, my final meeting is actually in about 12 and a half days. Oh boy.

Today has not been a good day for progress, thanks to innumerable (three? four? five? I’m not even sure, honestly) major technical difficulties, resulting in various delays and deleted progress. Alas. But I finished putting together the base posts for the 1830s straw bonnet with plaid silk ties and white trimmings and 1860s Marie Stewart bonnet of scarlet silk, as well as for the 1950s style petticoat of soft ivory netting and 1950s style petticoat of stiff white netting trimmed with bows, and I wrote up the intro post for the 1950s style net petticoats. I also added a couple more books to the Annotated Bibliography and started on the intro post for the 19th century work box (because I ran across a couple of great pictures that needed to be listed there).

In more corporeal news, yesterday the cerulean blue dye for my 1830s gown arrived in the mail! Or, at least, I arrived at the Lemelson Center to teach my Historical Sewing Techniques for Practical Use class, and Roxy then gave the package, which had previously arrived in the mail, to me. (The dye was among the supplies that were funded by a grant from the wonderful Hampshire College Social Venture Fund, which is run the Lemelson Center.) One of my very talented friends – someone who conveniently has cotton-dyeing expertise – will be helping me to dye 11 yards of semi sheer, satin-striped cotton fabric a nice shade of cerulean blue, so I can make it into a pretty dress. The pretty dress, realistically speaking, will probably not be done before my final meeting, but I fully intend to wear it (along the with enormous 1830s bonnet) for Commencement (also known as graduation) on May 21st.

After work in the morning, I will go by the school post office to pick up my package from, which will contain lots of handy-dandy notions, along with some sky blue cotton broadcloth that was on sale inexpensively, which I will make into a nice vintage-style summer dress, and a yard of stretch cotton sateen in pink and white stripes, which I plan to use to make an experimental modern corset. (But not right now!)

See…while talking about corsetry with my boyfriend the other day (he is surprisingly interested in my obscure areas of research), he suggested that I try making modern corsets, intended for day-to-day use, instead of bras. I’ve talked quite a lot about how – far from considering them mutilating implements of torture foisted on women by the oppressive patriarchy – I find corsets to be in many ways more comfortable than bras. Support that’s structured from the waist up, rather than awkwardly hanging from the shoulders and/or wandering about the ribcage, makes a lot of sense. Therefore, we ended up having a conversation about this hypothetical modern corset that I need to work on designing and building, and I decided to experiment with using cotton stretch sateen, along with 100% cotton sateen (no stretch) to make such a corset. Naturally, when I found this pretty stretch sateen on sale, conveniently in a colorway that would work well with 100% cotton white sateen that I already have, I obviously needed to order it. I’m already planning ahead for the next stage in Stuff I Taught Myself To Do (Or Do Better) During Div III.

I am trying to come to terms with how much less finished stuff there will be at the end of Div III. I’ve been very ambitious all along, and thanks to the foibles of my immune system this semester, and only having one year in which to complete Div III, and needing to sleep, I’m scaling things down from what I had intended. So there are pages on this site that definitely won’t have any garment photos, or sewing progress, for a while (though I do plan on getting to them eventually, some of them probably this summer). But I’m putting them up anyway, because I’ve done a rather absurd quantity of research, and not only is this a good way for me to keep track of my research, but this site also allows me to make my research readily available to others, and I’m hoping that maybe my collection of sources on 18th century greatcoats, or one of the similar posts, would be of use to someone.

Now I just need to whip up an actual rough draft of my what-my-Div-III-is-all-about-and-how-it-works-and-why-it-matters paper. I’m not sure what to call it now that it’s not a “documentation paper,” since I’m now doing most of my documentation online. I’ve been pulling the pieces together and working out the structure for a couple weeks now, but my committee is likely to be quite unhappy about matters if I don’t get a draft to them Very Soon. I’m determined to manage it by Friday. Hopefully they won’t decide that they want major changes a day before my final meeting or anything. But they’re all reasonable people, so I don’t think anything of the sort is likely to happen.

So, tomorrow: picking up supplies, working on my paper, and some sewing. I need to get a paper to my committee, yes, but I also need to sew something in order to feel like I’m making progress.

For the moment…sleep!


Intro: 19th century work box

(and now for a placeholder with a couples tidbits of information…)

Print resources:

Photograph of an extant needlework box, page 201.

Photograph of an extant “Retracting tape measure hand painted in nails and inches on glazed linen tape in bone case. Early 19th century,” page 58.

Intro: 1830s Independent Study Spring 2010

In the spring of 2010, during my second of four semesters at Hampshire, I did an independent study for credit, essentially a pilot study for the research and work I wanted to do for my thesis project. I focused on clothing of a very specific time period, the late 1830s, which had a very distinct aesthetic, transitioning between the Romantic Era 1820s-30s, and the Crinoline Era 1840s-1860s. This is the very beginning of the era of photography, on the cusp of it, really, so the difference in evidence between researching this period and researching even a decade or two later is incredible – more guesswork and extrapolation is required.

But, as I found during my independent study, there is a great deal of information available about the period, it just requires sifting and evaluation and analysis to use. During the independent study, I created the annotated bibliography which grew into the many-tentacled beast currently residing on this site, and I spent a lot of time looking at the strengths, weaknesses, and biases of various kinds of primary and secondary sources, discussing how to use those various sources together to create a full and nuanced picture of a particular period of clothing.

In addition to writing a paper for that independent study, I also sewed several garments and sewing kit tools, constructing everything by hand and as accurately as possible, using natural fibers and primary source instructions. I made a quilted petticoat, a ruffled bustle, a pair of pockets, and for my work box, a velvet pincushion and needle book.