doing things the victorian way

Answer Me This


Could anyone tell me what these are? I found them amongst my grandmother’s things and I know the hooks are steel with the fancier handle being ivory. I’m thinking, probably, hooks for lacing shoes or, possibly, tambour embroidery but the hooks themselves seem too big. Any information would be awesome!


Stupid Corsets and Pretty Pockets

I was really hoping to have my corset finished by the 3rd Historical Sew Fortnightly challenge deadline today but, alas, it’s been a bitch. The problem, I believe, is that my measurements don’t necessarily reflect my body shape and, thus, lots of wrinkles. I’m going to rip all of the good bits out, redraft it and start fresh with only a single layer and external boning. Hopefully, that will work a lot better and be a bit easier on my sewing machine.

I’m saving that for another  day, however, when I’ve got a bit of patience back. For now, I’m working on the next challenge, which is “Embellish.” I prefer Victorian garb but I’ve  become a bit enamored with 18th century pockets. I just hate carrying around a bag and since pockets in the 18th century were external accoutrement tied onto the clothing as opposed to carried, it works well for me. Plus, I needed a new sit-in-front-of-the-television project.

I’ve designed everything myself so I couldn’t say exactly how historically accurate it will end up being but the Danish Flower  Thread is beautiful so it will have that going for it. The pencil lines throughout the drawing are just a way to keep track of what needs to be done each day to finish by deadline. It’s going to be a tight race.

Victorian Hair Care

I really don’t understand America’s obsession with daily hair washing.  I blame it on ad campaigns and ignorance mostly but it makes me a bit angry. It irks me in particular when people assume that, pre-WWI, everyone walked around with greasy, smelly hair (and also that everyone smelled in general, but that’s a different post). Our society is so much healthier now, isn’t it?

Let me dish out some science here – the scalp and body only produce as much oil as it needs to be healthy. The reason modern folks “need” to wash their hair everyday is because they wash their hair everyday. Your scalp is just trying to fight back. The more you strip the oil, the more oil your body produces in order to compensate. I only wash my hair once a month, and even then without any soap, and it looks perfectly fine. In fact, it’s incredibly healthy, shiny, and soft because I’m not damaging it on a daily basis. It also grows like a fiend. I know it sounds gross by modern standards but I’ve even had several beauticians ask me what my secret is. Seriously, stop spending so much money on hair care products and just stop washing it so often. You can thank me later.*

All right, lecture over. On to Victorian Hair Care!

rosemarySoap was incredibly harsh back in olden times and the average person didn’t have the luxury of running water. That meant hauling and heating water to bathe and, as someone who does that, I can attest that it’s a big pain in the ass. So, at the very least by necessity, washing hair didn’t happen often. Instead, there were many remedies and solutions to keep hair looking healthy and I’ve listed just a few of the healthier treatments below.

  • To Strength Hair and Improve Growth – A handful of box (buxus sempervirens) leaves added to a pint of boiling water. Infuse until cold, drain liquid and add to it several drops of alcohol to preserve. If box leaves are unavailable, add instead one ounce black tea.
  • For Dandruff – Beat thoroughly one egg yolk, one pint of rain-water, and one ounce of rosemary spirit. Use warm and massage into scalp repeatedly.
  • To Wash – Boil one pint of water with a handful of bran and a dash of white soap, and wash with this solution once every two weeks. Next, rub a beaten egg yolk into scalp and let it remain for several minutes before rinsing with warm water.
  • To Maintain Healthy Hair – Brush 100 strokes twice a day, being sure to maintain a clean hair brush by washing it in warm water and bicarbonate of soda.
  • In Between Washes  – Add five sprigs of fresh rosemary to a pot of boiling water. Infuse until cold, drain liquid and add several drops of alcohol to preserve. Rinse hair weekly with mixture, being sure to massage scalp.
  • To Prevent Hair Loss – Steep six ounces of boxwood shavings in twelve ounces of alcohol, at room temperature, for two weeks. Strain and add two ounces of rosemary spirits and two ounces of spirit of nutmeg. Rub into scalp morning and night.
  • To Soften Hair – Beat four egg whites until frothy and apply to the roots of hair, leaving to dry. Wash clean with equal parts rum and rose water.
  • For Growth-Inducing Pomade – Boil half a pound of green southern wood, a pint and a half of sweet oil, and half a pint of port wine. Strain and add two ounces of bear’s grease.

I haven’t tried all of these nor, perhaps, should anyone but I can attest to using both egg and rosemary. Rosemary has natural astringent properties and, in between washes, I regularly use it on my scalp to keep oil at bay and promote growth. I also wash my brush every other day and brush my hair often, as the action helps redistribute the oils throughout the hair – a natural conditioner.

* Note: It’s really hard to wean yourself off of daily washing, I know. If you’d like to give it a try, I suggest lengthening the time between washing as opposed to going cold turkey. When going cold turkey, your scalp doesn’t realize you’ve stopped abusing it and, thus, it still produces the same amount of oil. Try, instead, to wash every other day for a week, every three days for the next week, every four days, et cetera. Your scalp will rapidly adjust and you won’t have to worry about going to school or work looking like a 50’s greaser.

More Corset Progress


prepped to add the boning

Well, after much struggle, I’m ready to add the boning to my first corset. Given that I drafted the pattern myself and didn’t make a muslin before hand, it’s turned out damned decent. I did have to rip a bunch of seams and redraft them but all mistakes are an opportunity to learn, I suppose.

Now, to just keep everything from shifting horribly while I sew the channels. Each channel will be hand-sewn as will the binding so who knows when it will be finished. I was hoping by Monday, to have it done in time for the third deadline of Historical Sew Fortnightly, but that’s likely a pipe dream. So long as I eventually finish it, I’ll be happy.

Corset Progress


hand stitching around the busk