Friday, June 12, 2009

Summer Sunbonnets & Headgear

Tomorrow we are going for a day to the Civil War reenactment at Billie Creek Village in Rockville, IN. I cannot even begin to describe my excitement. It's been eight years since I have last been there and I wonder - I hope - that my feelings and experience will be similar to what they were when I first went there. It was my very first Civil War reenactment and oh. I can't describe it.

I have been working on bonnets for me and the boys since we were bonnetless. I finally finished them up today so we will be set for tomorrow. I have my corded sheer bonnet from last year but I don't like how it "wilts" around my face as I wear it. So we each got a new one.

Malachi's Sunbonnet:
Malachi got a corded semi-sheer sunbonnet to protect his delicate little head from the sun while yet providing maximum airiness so that he won't get too hot. The bonnet is made from a tan/white stripe cotton I have. I have yards of it left, so it is nice to be using it up. The brim is a rectangle that is folded in half to provide a self facing and the cords are inserted between the layers. I used the peaches n' cream cotton cord and sewed in two rows of 5 cords, then a final row of 3 cords. This stiffens the brim quite nicely. Since it is so small, I think the bonnet will retain the stiffness here and not wilt around Malachi's face.
The inside (all the bonnets have the same inner construction) has the seam between the brim/crown and curtain finished and a drawstring is inserted so that the bonnet can be adjusted at the back of the neck. Judah's Sunbonnet:Judah's sunbonnet is made from a very lightweight cotton twill fabric. This fabric was actually a Ralph Lauren shirt that I got David from a garage sale but it did not quite fit right. So I chopped it up to use for this bonnet. Judah's bonnet is the same style as Malachi's bonnet but it is a good deal bigger (Judah has a big head) and has 15 rows of cording instead of just 12. I put piping between the brim and crown, for sturdiness and visual interest.
My Sunbonnet:I tried something new this year. I have made slatted sunbonnets and corded sunbonnets in the past but have never made a quilted sunbonnet. I have made quilted winter hoods and I liked how the brim retained stiffness without me having to starch it or put slats in it. I read some posts about quilted sunbonnets on the Sewing Academy and then went ahead with mine. I used leftover blue cotton print from one of Malachi's gowns (there wasn't enough left for a pinafore, but just enough for this bonnet - and I mean just enough!) I made the same style as Judah's and Malachi's. The brim and curtain are both rectangles and the crown is a U-shaped piece gathered in.

It is quilted in rows parallel to the brim edge. I didn't try anything fancy since my machine does not have a walking foot and the fabric kept bunching up underneath. I had to take out and redo almost every seam at least twice. It still isn't perfect but I'm hoping no one will get close enough to notice the puckers and uneven rows. Sigh.
I really like how it retains the shape of the brim, even if it is folded or smushed. It springs back into shape immediately. Yeay! The only drawback is that since there is cotton batting in the brim, it IS a bit warmer than a slatted or corded sunbonnet but I'm willing to let that go in favor of its other merits. I can't wait to make a few more!

If I have time tonight I need to get Judah's new pinafore finished up. His dresses barely fit him anymore, though. The waistline sits too high now and the skirts are a bit too short for my liking. I hope they will last until he turns two in September, and then I will put him in tunics. Hopefully by then he will be fully potty trained, as well.

Oh, and I made a new cap for David. The first one I made I didn't quite like since the brim seemed too small and the top too poufy. I know I don't know much about hats or caps for little boys who wear tunics but I did want him to have a hat with a brim to at least help shade his eyes from the sun. He has to have one eye dilated all the time for the next month or so (to strengthen his other eye, which was going "lazy") so he needs a bit of extra protection to keep that eye safe. I really like how this one came out. He looks so cute in it! Now, to keep him to keep it on his head is another thing altogether! It is made from cotton twill and cotton plaid, harvested from a worn out shirt of David's.
I can't wait until tomorrow!! :)

Here is a picture of me as a young teen in my very first "Civil War Dress". It actually was my second dress since I made up a test version of the pattern (Homespun Visiting Dress) in gray and white striped seersucker before I made this one. Anyway, I wore this blue one for the first time to Billie Creek Village. Ah. The birthplace of my love for historic costuming.
Here is my third dress. . .as you can see it is worse than the blue one. I liked it though. A rosebud print gown, with lovely big flowing sleeves and a big skirt, with a fitted bodice? I needed some help with fitting issues, so badly, back then! I have no idea what happened to this dress. The blue one eventually was remade three times and at last sold off when it no longer fit, when I was pregnant with little David. Hopefully I'll have some nice pictures to share after the weekend! Have a lovely one!




  1. I love your sunbonnets! Hope you have fun at the reenactment!

  2. Those bonnets are beautiful, and look so authentic. And I love those pictures of you in previous dresses. Those last two look like paintings, Sarah! If I didn't "know you" and no one said that they were photos, I would have believed them to be paintings. So lovely. So feminine.

  3. Beautiful work! I love bonnets. Did you just come up with your own pattern? I'm intimidated by that, I'm afraid I'd mess up the back of the head.

    I agree with Cheri; those last two photos do look like paintings. They (and you!) are beautiful.

  4. The bonnets are lovely.I didn't notice anything amiss with yours. I don't think anyone else will.

    Those last two photos of you are so lovely! I also agree that they look like paintings. You have a very sweet face.

  5. Sarah Jane, May you have the best time this week-end.
    Your dresses are lovely. So glad you have captured memories in pictures.
    Hope we get to see pictures of your fun week-end.
    Blessings to you,

  6. I love the sunbonnets! And I have to agree with everyone else, those last two photos are absolutely beautiful.

    I'm glad you caught little David's "lazy" eye so early! My younger brother (also a David, actually!) had the same thing, but we didn't catch it until he was almost 7 - he had to wear thick glasses and an eye patch for several years.

  7. I like how you share what you make. I might try a quilted bonnet sometime. What is wrong with the rosebud dress? I think it is pretty! And the pose by the window is nice. Wishing you a fun re-enactment.

  8. Hope you have a lovely time this weekend! The bonnets and hat look great, you did a wonderful job. ;-)


  9. Sarah Jane,

    You do beautiful work! It is such a pleasure for me to stop by and see such garments made with wonderful detail.

    Thank you so much for sharing your talent with all of us. It is a treat to the eyes ;)


    lady m

  10. Oh, Sarah, I can't wait to hear about and see pictures of your weekend! Your posts always make me feel so nostalgic.

  11. P.S.

    I just bought my second bonnet last weekend. That makes a total of three that I have. I wish so badly to be able to wear them!!! We don't have any re-enactments around here, though, so I must be satisfied with them residing in my bedroom as decoration. :(

  12. Zebu, I use my bonnets as decorations too! :) I figure they might as well do "double duty" so I have them hung in various spots around the house. I hang the boys little dresses and undies in my sewing room on the walls. It keeps them from being smushed in the closet and I like how it looks. :) Each boy has his own hook for his undies, and another hook for his dresses. Keeps them well organized, too.

    Thank you all for your nice comments about my olden day pictures. :) I can't believe it has been so long since these were taken. My previous 14-year-old self thanks you, too. Back then I was in the "I'm ugly, I'm fat, no boy will ever like me" stage. :)

    Nicole, the problem with the rosebud dress was not so much the style (the pattern is great) but the fabric I used. Darted bodices and open pagoda sleeves are best suited to wools or silks, from what I've learned since I made this dress. But, I figured in my mind back then that if I wanted a fashionable sleeve and a darted bodice and all I had was a cotton print, then I would have gone for it. Oh, and I should have been wearing a white collar and undersleeves too. :) I had them, but didn't wear them for the picture for some reason.

    Jenny, yes, the bonnets are so basic there really is no need to get a pattern. One thing I've found is that there really is no such thing as a right, exact pattern shape for sunbonnets. If you get the general silhouette you are going for and use period shapes for your pattern pieces, the size can be whatever you like and whatever looks good on you and what works best for the purpose you will be wearing it for. They are soooo easy to make, do try it! :)

    Gillian, the doctor did suggest a patch but ended up prescribing these drops that dilate his eye, since we all knew there was no way he'd keep a patch on! He's been seeing the eye specialist since he was six months old since he had congenital nystagmus as an infant. He's grown out of that now but now we have this lazy eye issue to deal with. He goes back in July to see how he's doing. I hope his eye will be strenthened enough by then so we don't have to dilate his other eye anymore.

    Thanks again to you all of you for your nice words!

  13. I love all of your bonnets! I made one from a modern patern for my youngest that lasted 2 years and it is now time for a new one. Are you sure that it is that easy to just come up with it yourself?!? You are so talented!
    Hope your weekend was great!

  14. Just a suggestion but instead of cotton batting in the brim try using a piece of felt. It is a little lighter than the batting but gives you the same effect and is a little easier to quit.


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!