Tip of the Iceberg

January 8th, 2013

I’m cleaning and organizing my sewing room/studio. And boy is it a gargantuan task. There are things here that have been hoarded for generations. Literally. I’m letting a lot of things move along (think purple polyester knitted fabric from the 1970s and piles of neon eyelash yarn). There are also some amazing treasures that I’d forgotten I had.

autograph book

This autograph book belonged to my great-grandmother, Carrie Daugherty, neé Yonker. It’s fragile pages are filled with ornately penned poems and remembrances, some dated as early as 1879. I can recall sitting in my own grandmother’s sewing room, watching her turn the pages and listening to family stories.

The same box also contained a wealth of photographs from the first half of the 20th century, lots of old letters, and a bible that belonged to my great-grandmother’s great-aunt (born in 1812), bearing an inscription dated 1832.

Of course, the bulk of what I’m sorting through is fabric, yarn, and various needlework tools. Oh, and a fair slice of my grandmother’s wardrobe from 1930s through 1970s. But that’s another post entirely.

Ironing It Out

January 4th, 2013

I spent the bulk of last night ironing what seemed an endless pile of recently washed cotton yardage. I rubbed and steamed and pressed until my arm was ready to fall off. And unlike this smiling model, I was neither perfectly coiffed nor smiling by the time I finished.

On the other hand, I’ve only had my own washing machine for a year now (after a decade of NYC apartment-imposed laudromatting), and I still get a little giddy every time I use it, even if it means more ironing. Plus it’s fun to dream about all the things you’re going to sew while prepping the fabric. At least that’s what I kept telling myself…

Ironing Advertisement Picture

And yeah, me and my lightweight Rowenta know it could have been worse:

“Ironing.—This has, through all time, been a wearisome, worrying process, at times, in the experience of all. The day has, I hope, nearly gone by, when “good fires” will be kindled and kept up, (perhaps through a whole day, while the thermometer ranges at 90,) just that a family ironing may be accomplished. In cities, where we have gas, an elastic tube is introduced into a flat iron made for the purpose ; and at a cost of about four cents an hour, we have a perpetually heated flat iron. For those who have not gas, an equally pleasant spirit iron, with a wick lit by alcohol, performs the labour. They are for sale at Wilcox’s, 273 Chestnut st. The cost is about $6.”

What I Know, Or, Hints on the Daily Duties of a Housekeeper, Elizabeth Nicholson, 1856, Philadelphia

Don’t tell my current iron (which has been my staunch ally lo these many years), but I’m actually about to retire it to the laundry room. A dear friend and lifelong seamstress recently astonished me by passing along her professional steam iron, complete with external water tank. What a generous gift! I need to install a ceiling hook before I can start using it though.

I’d Walk a Mile…

December 10th, 2012

Actually, I’d walk a lot further than that for one of these babies:

Nilfisk Vacuum

That’s right, a genuine Nilfisk textile vac, with HEPA filter, variable speed motor, and an accessory pack of micro attachments. Price tag: about $2,000.

I sincerely doubt that Santa is going to put one under my tree. Sigh.

Introducing Handsewn History

September 1st, 2012

I’d like to say that my recent erratic blogging is due entirely to the creation of my spiffy new website, Handsewn History. But truth be told, I just started working on it a few days ago. So I can’t really use it for an excuse. But it’s still pretty neat. Or at least, it will be, once I begin adding content. Mostly in the form of online handsewing lessons and information about the social history of handsewing in the mid-19th century (when it gasped its last before being virtually replaced by the sewing machine).

Handsewn History Screenshot

Circa will remain as a personal blog, where I can ramble endlessly about things which no one (usually myself included) thinks particularly interesting. And I swear on my spinning wheel I’ll start updating a little more often…

Missing, Again

August 11th, 2012

Oh boy, I’ve done it again. Abandoned my poor blog in a fit of over commitment to the “real” world. So what’s my excuse this time? Don’t worry, I’ve got lots of them.

But for the moment at least, I shan’t bother you with messy details. Instead, here are some snapshots of my environs…




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