The picture that started it all.

As you may recall, I have written that when I was about 16 years old I sat down at my sewing machine (a Singer treadle passed down from my grandmother), with a bundle of polyester material that fell out of the back of a truck and got stuck under my mother’s car and a photograph of my Great Grandparents.  I was going to create a dress like my Great Grandmother was wearing.  I had no pattern and absolutely no experience sewing historical clothing and had done no research.  I didn’t even have a dress form and basically draped the material over me and figured out how it should go so it would be like my Great Grandmother’s wedding dress.  I couldn’t see all of the skirt so I made it up.  Really, when I think about it, I am amazed at my audacity.  The draping alone boggles my mind!  Heavens, I’d never try that now!  Sometimes it is glorious to see the lack of fear that comes from youth and ignorance!

Alice Maud Preston and Edmund Fleming Watson

According to family tradition, Alice was the daughter of Mr and Mrs. Benjamin Preston and Edmund was the son of Clara Charsly Watson and Edmund Lister Watson.  The family tendency to pass on names became the bane of my father’s youth.  My great-great-grandfather was Edmund Lister and my pictured great-grandfather was Edmund Flemming.  My grandfather was Lister Flemming and my Dad is Lister.  They called my Dad, Lister the Blister in school so he changed his name to his second name and refused to continue with that tradition…much to my brother’s relief I’m sure.  Needless to say, trying to track family information gets complicated when everyone has the same name!  But, it can also help to ensure you have the right Watson family if one of those names shows up!
It is also family tradition that Alice and Edmund were married May 6, 1893 in the Penitentiary Chapel in Stoney Mountain.    Apparently, there was some teasing about this!  Stoney Mountain to this day has one of the main prisons in my province.
The photograph is their wedding photo.  If you look at Alice’s hair it is in a style that I have seen dated at mid to late 80s.  This is not a surprise, Canada was a very young country so they would be behind the States by a couple of years and according to my great-grandfather’s journals, they seemed quite religious and farmers of moderate means.  I’m thinking that hairstyle would have been seen as more conservative and practical.  Alice would have been 17 years old (icky) and Edmund 27 (double icky) if family records are right.  One would assume with her youth that she would be more cutting edge than she was (at least with her hair) so it must have been a case of Canada being behind and them being conservative.  Does anyone have any experience dating dresses based on cut?  I’m wondering if it was cutting edge or simply a tried and true practical pattern.
This photo is in better shape than this scan shows.  My Grandfather had it in his possession (in his dresser drawer) and he passed it on to me one day saying he wanted me to have it as I reminded him of his mother.  I can see it a bit in her eyes I guess….  Anyway, until recently, the photo was in a box in my basement for years so it hasn’t seen a lot of sunlight or other dangers.  I have it up now but I am careful to make sure it stays under glass and turned away from any windows in the room.  If anyone out there has any other suggestions to make sure it remains in such good condition I’d love to hear it.

No adjustments needed.

I tried on my hoops, petticoat and flat shoes to see if the petticoat was too long.  I think it is fine.

Not quite touching the floor

 It could be a hair shorter but I may, on occasion, wear it with heels and I don’t want to be thinking it is too short.  Maybe, after I get the skirt done, I might find it too long (ie hanging out under the skirt).  If that be the case I will shorten it then.  But, for now I think I will hold off.

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programing….

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programing for a special announcement.  Wanda B Victorian is leaving her winter wonderland for a one week vacation in February in Canada’s lovely Victoria, British Columbia.  Victoria is obviously named after Queen Victoria and I think it is vastly appropriate that I will be going to her name sake city while in the throes of creating a dress I wish to wear for her birthday.

This is where Victoria British Columbia is.

Victoria was Established in 1843 as a fort for the Hudson’s Bay Company. Victoria celebrates its British ancestry with double-decker buses, horse-drawn carriages, formal gardens, and tea rooms.

I’ve been to Victoria many times and I LOVE it.  I want to do like my mother does and spend the winters of my retirement years there.  Every time I go there are a few things I must do.  I absolutely must go feed the seals at the marina.  The bait and tackle shop sells bags of fish that you can feed the semi wild seals that hang out there.  They are so cute!  And I must go and see Craigdarroch Castle.  It is a Victorian dream….Sigh.

Isn’t that pretty.

 Craigdarroch was built between 1887-1890 for Robert Dunsmuir, a Scottish immigrant who made his fortune from Vancouver Island coal.  The son, James, had some “issues” with his mother and didn’t get the house after she died.  He didn’t suffer though.  He built this….

Hatley Park

 Hatley Park was built in 1908 and was a 40 room mansion.  I have never been Hatley Park so it is on my to-do list for this trip.  It only has a few of the rooms open to the public so it shouldn’t take long.  Also on my to-do list.  Merchies (a coffee dessert place that is to DIE FOR).  Buchart Gardens…I haven’t been there yet either but I have been meaning to.  I’d like to do high tea at the Empress Hotel but that may be out.  To much culture and too much money may send Mr Victorian (the name is a misnomer.  He is Mr Contemporary really) over the deep end.  This lady is highly excited!


Replaced lost fan…

I had this lovely feather fan that I wanted to use with my 1895 dinner gown but it got lost in the vortex that is my home…likely my car keys with the command start is right next to it.  They haven’t turned up and so I decided to go out and buy a new fan at least.  (I wish a command start fob was as easy to replace as a fan.)

I didn’t find a feather fan but I found a package of paper fans (four in all).  The paper got all warped so they don’t close well but I don’t like the paper any way.  I’m thinking I will rip that paper off and put on some other paper.  You know what would be awesome?  Find a lovely fan at the Met site ( like the one below) and try to get it to print out full size and use that. 

1840-70 fan. Metropolitan Museum

Anyway, with there being four in the package I can try my hand at a few and it wont be a loss if they bomb.  It was only a couple of dollars for the whole package.

As a back up for my current project, I thought I should have a sure thing, so I invested a few more dollars and bought this one…

How did my sultry look turn into cross-eyes?

The fabric is a nasty polyester but the plastic part tries to be pretty.  May be if I have success replacing the paper on the other fans I will get brave and try replacing the fabric on this one.  In the mean time…if you don’t look too close, the colors are good.

My patterns didn’t come.  Poopy.  So, this weekend, the plan is to try on my new corset, hoops, shoes, and petticoat to see if I need to shorten the petticoat.  I’m planning on digging out some facts about my great grand parents so I can do a post about the photo I used as inspiration for the dress I made when I was 16.  I’m also toying with the idea of digging that dress out and getting some photos of it.  Egads… big job.  I might like to go to my favorite Victorian museum…I’ve been toying with volunteering there…if they’ll take someone who doesn’t speak French (English and French are our national languages so many places require that you speak both.)  And finally, I have a half a plan to dismantle my first underbust corset and make it smaller.  It is better made than the one I have that currently fits.  The trouble is I can lace it grommet to grommet and by mearly sucking in I can spin it back to front.  That is too loose.  I’d like to pitch the one I am currently using.  It was cheaply made and the bones are working their way through the fabric and attempting to disembowel me.  A poorly made corset is just as uncomfortable as a poorly made bra!

Petticoat done…I think.

I’ve got my petticoat done now.  There is a possibility it is too long.  I’ll put it and my hoops on and try a couple of pairs of shoes and see.  If it is to long I will sew in a fold/ruffle thus getting the right length and perhaps adding to the poof of the skirt.  I used Truly Victorian’s free downloadable pattern.

I just printed it up....

 I cut my material per instructions…except I forgot to measure if my material was as wide as the instructions and ended up with one piece I did not need…Unless I grew to 7 feet tall.  Anyway, I’ll use that piece for something else.  I sewed all the pieces into tubes.

I sewed on a bit of lace.

 Then I pinned the lower tier on with lots of little pleats and sewed it down.

Ruffle added

 Then I added on the waist band which I had sewed so there would be a hole for the string.

All those ugly fraying ends went inside the waist band

 Once the band was on, I whip stitched the inside seam, pressed it, added on the string and put it on Trudy.

Done...but a bit long?

 Not a great photo…lots of shadows that makes it looks like it isn’t in the correct bell shape.  You’ll have to take my word for it.


Let me down gently.

So I planned on this mega extravaganza detailing my fabulous new-to-me buttonholer. 

A button holer from the 50s


When reading the manual all looked like a perfect match then I began assembly….

The plate that protects the feeder teeth was missing its screw.

Have no fear…the hubby is a horder of such things and we found an adequate substitute.  But, then…

The hole on the holer is higher than the hole on my presser....say that 10 times fast!

 Note fancy red pen pointing to annoying problem…sigh.  So no button holes for me.

On the upside…the corset fits over the girls.  I think my next one will be a size smaller because the lacing is done up grommet to grommet.  But, for now I’m happy with it.  I’m not sure I want to do this…

Well they fit.


The new old….

With me and WordPress being on two different timezones I don’t know if I missed a day or not.  Let us just say I’m 12s later with my post than I usually am. 

While I was dealing with life two new old things showed up.  (What I mean by that is reproductions or new to me.)  First, my new corset arrived!  Yeah, I haven’t tried it on yet but that is the plan in the next couple of hours.  (Please God…let the girls fit in there!)

I ordered this beauty from UK Corsets and it arrived!

 Only difference is mine has polka dots.  It will remain to be seen if I dare taking a photo of me in it.  Perhaps, once I have all the proper undies sewn I will.

And I got this link from Truly Victorian sharing info on their new pattern for an 1861 evening gown.  I like it but I don’t know if my middle-aged arms could pull the little puff sleeves off.  I may have to just enjoy seeing it on younger slimmer girls!

Well, there’s my better late than never post.  I’ll be back later for my regularly scheduled post.  I’m hoping I will have had a good practice run with my old new buttonholer.

Finished my 1850s mitts

My project for the weekend was a set of mitts. I used the pattern from Butterick.  See the link for information.

I chose view A which is a fingerless mitt.  I followed the pattern exactly except I shortened them.  I seemed the pattern would make mitts that go half way up the arm and I wanted them to stop just past the wrist.

My material was a find at the second-hand store I mentioned yesterday. 

Lace doily and spools of ribbon and lace.


It is definitely synthetic fibers but I liked the weight and thickness better than any natural fiber laces I had seen.  So the next step was to cut out the pieces with the shortening I mentioned before.

The palm part before cutting the thumb gussets.


The thumbs cut out.

So then I sewed the pieces together and hemmed the top edges.  The bottom edge I left because I liked the scallops and they were not likely to fray.  It went together very easily!


 It was “done” but it wasn’t exciting.  The length up the arm was fine so my decision to shorten the pattern was good but the length from the thumb to the fingers was too short.  And dare I say the whole thing was boring.

That's better!

A little lace and ribbon and it is much better.  Ignore the non authentic blue finger nails! 

There is a chance I wont get here tomorrow.  Life….Anyway, don’t abandon me, my small group of followers…I will be back Tuesday. 


I love garage sales, flea markets and thrift shops. (Yet another joy I learned from my Grandma.)  Today I stopped off at one of my favorites because I needed a winter hat.  I found the hat and two shirts and I also scored some good costuming loot!  I was careful to only pick up what I needed for my current project…my 1850s Victoria Day Tea Dress.

About 6 meters of this material. It is going to become my shawl.

I have no idea of fiber content but it looks and feels right!

Some shiny sheer stuff that may or may not go into a cap.

Ribbon and lace for possible cap.

I haven’t decided about the cap.  In my mind, I am going to tea at someone elses home.  That means I would be dressing for the carriage ride to the other home.  Shawl, reticule, parasol and bonnet.  Once I got to the home those things would get taken by the butler or the maid.  Now what is on my head?  Would I put on a cap?  Would I have the cap under the bonnet…that doesn’t seem right.  Would it just be my hair with some ribbons?  Would a woman in the 1850s go to a tea with a shawl, reticule, parasol and CAP and no bonnet?  Anyone out there know for sure?  I’m thinking the correct thing for that type of occasion is a bonnet with hair done up with ribbons underneath.

Anyway I do know I’d have some little mitts at least.

Okay, so I didn't stick to my "only what I need" plan...

 When I saw this I thought what an awesome petticoat or under skirt that will be!  There isn’t enough for an 1850’s skirt but it would be for an 1890-1910 sized skirt.  I just saw all that embroidery and I had to have it!

And finally, I kind of need this but kind of don’t…

A buttonholer from the 50s

It looks like it has all its parts and the instruction book and original box came with it.  The original price is on there too…$11.00.   I paid $3.00.   I’m hoping that it will fit on my 1950s Singer and that it works.  (Crossing fingers).  You know I seem to remember using one of these before.  I bet dear old granny had one…or may be mom did.

Tonight, the plan is to start my mitts and read my instruction manual so that tomorrow I can either post on my new buttonholer or that I finished my mitts.