The Twelve Days of Christmas Shopping



Each year around the holidays things get a little crazy as we scramble trying to find the PERFECT gift for those closest to us. We’ve all been there! This year we hope to make things a little easier for you. We’ve scoured the interwebs and the living history community to put together this frankly awesome run down of gifts which should help you check things off your list a little bit quicker. The traditional Twelve Days of Christmas begins on Christmas Day and runs through the Twelfth Night. We thought it’d make more sense to run our Twelve Days before Christmas day, just to ensure you can wrap up that shopping in time. Each day over the next twelve days, we will share with you a handful of gifts that are related to the theme of the day. While we don’t have a partridge in a pear tree on our list we’re certain you’ll find at least one thing to give to your true love.

The Twelve Days of Christmas Shopping

Sewing Enthusiast
All the Pretties
Research Lover
Stocking Stuffers
Homemade with Love
Gear and Gadgets
Practical Gifts for the Living Historian
Gifts for the Fop and Fashionista
Presents for the Littles
In the Kitchen
Top Picks for Gents
Top Picks for Ladies

We can not guarantee that products ordered now will arrive before Christmas Day. Please check with each business before ordering if you need it before the holiday.

Gifts for the Sewing Enthusiast


If you’re surrounded by friends and family who share with you a love and enjoyment for the living history hobby; chances are you know at least one person on your list who’s an avid seamstress or tailor. These gifts have been hand selected by Hayley and me because of how practical and gorgeous (I’m looking at you silk knitted pin ball) they are for sewing no matter your skill level. So here’s your First Day of Christmas Shopping!

A pack or two (or three I mean you can’t ever have too many needles, right?!) of John James Sewing Needles $1.50 from At the Sign of the Golden Scissors 

Photo Credit Heritage Crafts by Jen

Need a place keep some of those needles? How about a custom needle case! These beauties have a special no roll design and a loop to secure them by ribbon to your apron. Your choice of several varieties of wood or brass. $12 and up depending on style from Heritage Crafts by Jen on Etsy.

What about a pretty handsewn housewife made from scraps of reproduction cotton print fabric? It’s the perfect place to keep all of your sewing necessities. $35 from Wm. Booth, Draper or if you prefer the recipient work for it 😉 they also offer a housewife sewing kit with sewing accoutrements at only $23 for the Basic Kit and $43 for the Deluxe Kit.

Don’t forget to stock up on sewing notions from Wm. Booth, Draper when you order your housewife. From tailor’s chalk and thread winders to bone awls and button molds you’re sure to find all of the goodies needed to stuff a stocking fit for a master tailor!

Photo Credit Fashionable Frolick

For all of those times you need to measure something at an event and never have anything on hand, check out these fabulous handmade linen measuring tapes from Fashionable Frolick on Etsy starting at just under $10.

Leave the Fiskars at home and check out these great, affordable dressmakers shears which are perfect for taking to events with you. Great quality and in two sizes, perfect for all your needs. Find them at Burnley & Trowbridge priced at $12 and $16.

Be sure to pick up some thread from Burnley & Trowbridge when you order those scissors. Goodness knows a person can never have too much thread! My personal favorite is their 80/20 fine white linen thread, but their selection is superb!

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

Silk Knitted Pinballs Photo Credit Thyme Untangled

I don’t know about you but anyone who gave me one of these silk knitted pin balls would be my true love! These pinballs are just to die for! I think they are easily my favorite item showcased here today. Not only are they practical they are works of art, with no two ever being the same, based on extant examples located in V & A museum. Pick up an already made pinball for $120 or request a custom design beginning at $140 from Thyme Untangled on Etsy.


Ok so maybe you love your friend, but not quite that much and they still need a period pincushion. Check out these three designs all handmade with custom woven fabric scraps including Linsey-woolsey! These pretty pincushions can be picked up for $35 from Textile Reproductions on Etsy.

Photo Credit Heritage Products

Not crazy on that style and want something with a little bit of storage? Maybe try one of these pretties horn pin cushion boxes from Heritage Products. Each pin cushion box is handmade with a beautiful scrimshaw design and so reasonably priced beginning at $35.

Tired of always searching for your scissors, your needle case, and pins? Anyone who does even a bit of sewing understands the struggle is real. Take advantage of this inevitable event and end frustration for the sewing enthusiast on your list by picking up a custom silver woman’s equipage. It’s essentially a silver leash for all of your tools that will hook right onto your apron or petticoat waistband. Finally no more fishing through pockets and hunting in a crowded sewing box – everything you need is right at your fingertips! Pick one up from K. Walters At the Sign of the Gray Horse on Etsy.

Band Boxes Photo Credit Kitty’s Calash

Alright so you’ve spoiled your friend with sewing goodies now what better way to store them all than with a handmade painted band box. Kitty Calash on Etsy offers band boxes in a variety of styles and sizes sure to fit your needs and all made using historical techniques. Boxes start at $12.50 for a small band box.

We sure hope you’ve enjoyed the first day of our Twelve Days of Christmas Shopping, follow along because tomorrow we’ll cover gifts that are shiny, sparkly, and oh so pretty!

The Great Fabric Post of 2017


Note From the Editor: When I sat down and began writing this piece I intended it to be a basic guide, the starting point for someone new to the hobby or this time period in particular. As I was sifting through my research it became clear to me that I could easily expand each topic discussed in the following post as its own blog post chock full of important details on the how’s and whys. At a later date we may choose to expand on fabrics in much greater detail but for now this basic rundown on the what’s and the where’s will have to suffice. 

Hey all! Welcome back after that brief Turkey Day break, we’re ready to get back into our Thrifty Reenactress blog series with our final post before we begin working on actually putting together our basic women’s kit. Today we’re going to be talking about fabric and notions, or the stuff you need to make a thing. In our last post we talked about patterns and some ways you can cut corners and still turn out a great piece that will meet authenticity standards set for a majority of events. This post is going to cover what types of fabric you should be looking at with some specifics on weights, fiber content, and drape. We will also discuss prints and why scale and color matters when looking at pretty fabrics. Finally we’ll close with tips on buying fabric online, in store, and in some unusual locations like Goodwill and IKEA. So let’s jump right in!

Fabric, you can’t make anything on your wish list without having at least a scrap of it lying around. As you begin brainstorming for your new 18th century wardrobe the first thing you need to consider is Who are You? The majority of us will fall into the realm of middle class and lower class, from tradesmen to servants and everything in between. As a general rule of thumb a persona based in these two classes should shy away from silk except for in small accessories like a handkerchief, mitts, or a bonnet. A silk gown would be quite out of place for someone like a cook or laundress. We’ll save our discussion on the secondhand clothing market for another day 🙂 It should go without saying that fibers should be all natural meaning no polyester or other manmade fibers. The most current research is showing that wool was king in the 18th century and that we should have a larger quantity of people wearing wool than other fabrics such as cotton. Linen seems to be second most common and then lastly cotton. We won’t discuss blends too much like Linsey- Woolsey because there are yet to be any affordable sources for the material but natural fiber blends did commonly exist at this time.

Wool was one of the most common fabrics being worn in the 18th century. Made from the fleece of sheep it is sturdy, readily available, and could be woven into a variety of weights and patterns. Unlike linen, wool takes dye color better meaning the sky’s the limit on color choices. Weights can vary from light tropical weight wool that’s silky to the touch or heavier broadcloths suitable for cloaks and redingotes. When considering wool fabrics you may see words such as worsted and woolen being used to describe the material. Worsted wools are combed to remove the short fibers and are tighter spun with the long fibers lying parallel together creating a stronger and smoother fabric. Woolens are carded back and forth to create an airy and plush springy fiber when spun, creating a fuzzy looking fabric when woven. Gowns, petticoats and jackets can all be made from worsted wools in almost any color and can also have stripes or cross bars. For cooler weather events shifts, under petticoats, and quilted waistcoats could all be made with wool flannel to add extra warmth. We recommend looking at the large selection of wool available at Wm. Booth, Draper and Burnley & Trowbridge. Order samples and familiarize yourself with their various weights and textures and refer back to them when considering wool for your garments.

Linen fabric is most commonly woven from flax plants, but also sometimes from hemp. It is a sturdy and strong fiber commonly used to make undergarments because of its ability to withstand the harsh washing practices of the time. Linen comes in a variety of weights from handkerchief weight perfect for caps and shifts to heavy weights more suitable for bed tickings and sacks. Unlike wool, linen doesn’t take dyes very well and was rarely found in shades other than blues, browns, and whites. Striped and check linens were quite common and even stamped linens were seen. When considering linen for a gown it seems that stripes were the most common fabric used, a large selection of medium weight striped linen can be found at Wm. Booth, Draper. For undergarments you should be considering handkerchief or lightweight bleached or natural linen. A common way to save some money in the 18th century when making clothing was to make a shift body out of a cheap, unbleached linen and then using the fine handkerchief weight linen for the sleeves which could be seen peeking out of gown sleeves. Hayley will talk more about this money saving hack in her post on shifts later this week.

By the end of the 18th century cotton and cotton printed fabrics were finally becoming an affordable option in the New World. We’ll spare you the history lesson on cotton processing since others have talked about it at length all across the web, but know for our intents and purposes it’s finally an option for gowns and other outer garments! Plain white cotton printed with a single color design was a popular choice amongst the working class, Burnley & Trowbridge have a wonderful selection of single color prints perfect for gowns, jackets, and bedgowns. Speaking of printed fabrics I think we need to take a moment to discuss what makes a print appropriate for our time period. First look at the overall design, most printed cottons were floral designs emulating expensive silk brocades. They often included European flowers like roses and carnations worked into traditional Indian motifs over a white background. More popular amongst the working class were simple sprigged designs which required minimal worked compared to most printed fabrics. Most modern chintzes and toiles found at chain fabric stores are incorrect for 18th Century use. Another important thing to consider is the scale of the print. Larger scaled prints were often reserved for upholstery and curtains, generally not clothing, an exception is the large scaled prints seen on gowns in the first half of the century. A recent trend has taken hold of making gowns from Waverly curtains found at Lowes and Home Depot. They have great color and the print design is correct for the 18th Century however the scale of the print makes them more suitable for drapes and upholstery projects rather than gowns. When considering authenticity it is our opinion that while the Curtain Gown is a great way to cut costs we don’t believe it is appropriate for a living history setting. However we have found some ways to save money while still having those pretty fabrics that will be better suited for an event where authenticity plays an important factor.

As we’ve mentioned in the previous paragraphs Wm. Booth, Draper and. Burnley & Trowbridge are some of our favorite resources for purchasing fabrics. We also recommend Renaissance Fabrics, Reproduction Fabrics, Liberty Linens, 96 District Fabrics, and Dutch Fabrics. These retailers are all top of the line and cater towards costumers and reproduction fabric enthusiasts. These are the guys you want to save your pennies up for and splurge on when you’re making that gotta have piece. In the grand scheme of things their prices are very reasonable and are worth the investment but we realize that not everyone can afford $12+ yard for fabric. For discounted linen prices we recommend specifically their medium weight linen IL019. They also offer a handkerchief weight linen at 3.5 oz which while we haven’t had the chance to try personally it has been recommended by others. For discounted wools we occasionally see stuff come up on eBay and Etsy but thus far we wholeheartedly recommend Burnley & Trowbridge or Wm. Booth, Draper as the most reliable and affordable options for wool. They have done the research and are presenting the closest wool that you can get to what was used in the 18th century. The only other retailers I’d recommend considering would be Kochan & Phillips (K&P) sold through Najecki Reproductions but their stuff will definitely cost you. The previous recommendations are mostly online retailers, and unless you run into them at an event you’re more than likely going to have to ask for a sample swatch if you’re unfamiliar with the material before making a purchase.

If you’re one of those people who like to feel and handle a fabric before committing to a purchase you may consider saving your pennies and hitting up a Trade Fair where a speciality vendor will be in attendance. These are most often held over the winter and early spring months and can be found online at Facebook and retailers individual event schedules. If you prefer to try your hand at sourcing material from a chain fabric store we recommend shopping sales, clipping coupons, and paying attention to fiber content labels. Unfortunately not every fabric is labeled correctly and in some cases the law allows up to 2% other fibers be included in a fabric blend without being labeled. I find that bringing a lighter and asking a clerk to do a burn test can sometimes help me decide between fabrics if I’m uncertain on blend content. Right now at JoAnns and most other chain stores it is nearly impossible to find 100% linen, especially at a rate that’s less than what you’ll find online. Most of their linen now comes in a linen rayon blend which isn’t terrible – rayon being a man made fabric from natural cellulose fibers it won’t melt to your skin like polyester or nylon but at their asking price you’re just better off getting it elsewhere. Occasionally you can find great deals on remnant and clearance linen so it never hurts to look. Generally speaking stay away from their quilting cotton prints, most of them are more suited for 19th Century garments. Likewise avoid any of the upholstery weight toiles and chintzes, while the design may be correct or really close the weight of the material will vastly affect the drape and overall look of the finished garment.

So where else can you source materials that isn’t a fabric store? Hayley’s favorite place to search for deals is at local thrift stores. She’s found entire lengths of worsted wools and cotton voiles perfect for costuming needs. Her favorite trick is to search for linen sun dresses or white linen trousers which can make perfect handkerchiefs, caps, and shift sleeves. One white sundress could easily produce a cap and two shift sleeves at a fraction of the cost you’d need to purchase from a retailer. Vintage linen tablecloths and bed sets can also be great finds at thrift stores or estate sales. Right now my favorite places to find fabric is through IKEA. They offer a range of printed duvet sets that are a reproduction of 18th Century prints which are the perfect scale for gowns another outer garments. I recently purchased the LJUSÖGA king size set for 39.99 and it contains yards of printed fabric for a fraction of the cost of ordering from a fabric store. If your heart is set on a printed garment an IKEA set is the way to go. Check out the 18th Century Notebook for more information on IKEA prints and the various gowns that have been made with them. I also LOVE Etsy and the wonderful Indian blockprint fabrics that can be found. They require a little bit of training of the eye to pick out correct prints but many of these fabrics cost only $5 a yard and sew up like a dream making wonderful late 18th century gowns.

So there you have it folks! Selecting a fabric is by far the most important part of the sewing process. We hope that with our little post here we can help make your life a little easier by pointing you in the right direction. If cost is your biggest concern we highly recommend saving up for a good quality material because it will last and wear better than something of lesser quality. Please tell us in the comments below if we missed anything and what is your favorite trick to save money on fabric!


Patterns on a Budget


Ok so you’ve this crazy idea in your head that you want to jump into the world of 18th Century living history as an actual participant, but where do you begin? Well before you fire up the Way-Back Machine let’s start at the beginning: patterns. For the purpose of the Thirfty Reenactress series we’re only going to cover in detail specific patterns for a basic woman’s kit including a shift, stays, petticoats, bedgown, apron, pockets, cap, and handkerchief. In this post we’ll share some valuable (read: free) resources that you should look into when expanding beyond your basic garments. So let’s begin!

The Library
This seems like a no brainer but you’d be surprised at how easily forgotten the local library can be in this new digital age of information. So why is the library so great? Costly costuming books! Some of our favorite historical fashion titles can fetch a pretty penny when purchased online, if they’re even still available in print. There is no better way to access these amazing sources of information than by checking them out at the library. Most of our favorites include detailed descriptions and patterns to replicate period styles straight from extant pieces around the world, just waiting to be scaled up to your measurements!

Some specific titles you should search for?
Arnold, Janet, Patterns of Fashion; Englishwomen’s Dresses c.1660-1860 (London, 1964)
Baumgarten, Linda and John Watson, Costume Close-Up: Clothing Construction and Pattern 1750-1790 (Williamsburg, 1999)
Bradfield, Nancy, Costume in Detail 1730-1930 (London 1981)
Burnston, Sharon, Fitting & Proper: 18th Century Clothing from the Collection of the Chester County Historical Society (Texas, 1998)
Waugh, Norah, Corsets and Crinolines (London, 1972)
Waugh, Norah, The Cut of Women’s Clothes 1600-1930 (London, 1987)

The World Wide Web
Everyone knows that you can find anything you want on the internet with just a few keystrokes, but often times the tedium of sifting through search results can be overwhelming. We’ve come to love Pinterest when searching for inspiration from extant garments and when wanting a quick result for simple tutorials on things like a petticoat or a basic cap. In addition to the multitude of magnificent DIY tutorials shared by costume bloggers we are lucky to find so many period sources for patterns, like Diderot’s Encyclopedia and Instructions for Cutting Out Apparel for the Poor.

Tutorials and Free Patterns

Commercial Patterns
While most living historians shy away from recommending commercial patterns from the Big Three: McCalls, Simplicity, and Vogue, we think they can sometimes be used as a good starting point for basic garments when an individual lacks the confidence to tackle scaling up a gridded pattern and doesn’t have time nor the money to get their hands on a better pattern. Recently Simplicity has released multiple patterns designed by American Duchess who has conveniently provided a PDF booklet on her blog that outlines simple hacks to create a more historically accurate garment from the patterns. While we don’t advocate for their use as our top pick patterns, between their frequent sale price of .99¢ at JoAnn’s Fabrics and the PDF of hacks, we think they can be a great alternative for getting someone into an event and gaining more skill and confidence with sewing historical garments. When looking for patterns specifically designed with historical authenticity in mind we find that searching on Etsy can sometimes pull up new, uncut patterns for less than can be found at other retailers. Typically we’ve noticed that Mill Farms Patterns and Kanniks Korner Patterns can be less costly than others. On the other hand the more expensive patterns put out by Larkin & Smith, running about $20 per pattern, tend to include better construction photos and explanations based on the latest research as well as including tutorials on making other basic items needed such as an apron, petticoat, and handkerchief. So for example you can purchase their 1770s English bedgown pattern for $18 and you will have a manual detailing how to make a bedgown, petticoat, handkerchief, and apron – almost everything you need for a basic kit, well worth the investment.

American Duchess Hacks

In the following posts we’ll cover each garment of the basic working woman’s kit and include a specific pattern or tutorial that we believe is the best you can get with little to no money. We will also be sure to share our favorite patterns, where to get them, and why we think they are worth the investment. Stay tuned for next week’s post on shopping for fabric while on a budget. We’ll be talking about things like fiber content and weight, prints and why scale and color matters, and what are some good ways (and not so good ways) to save money on fabric.


Contest Time!


Alright the moment you’ve been waiting for, the contest details!

So those of you who have been faithful followers in the costuming blogosphere may be familiar with the various forms of sewing challenges that spring up, like the Historical Sew Fortnightly which challenged readers to create a themed piece each fortnight. We’ve decided to borrow from that idea to create our own sewing challenge that will follow along with our Thrifty Reenactress blog series.

The Details
Each reader will be challenged to create a basic working woman’s wardrobe on a budget using the tips and tricks we post each week. The challenge will follow our Thrifty Reenactress series spanning 12 weeks with a two week break over the holidays. We will share one post each week with the contest winners being announced at the end of the series and a total of three awesome prizes to giveaway!

Join In!
To participate and be eligible for entry into our contest you must send us a picture of the project included with a little blurb documenting the cost of the project, materials and patterns used, and your favorite money saving tip. Share this information on our Facebook page by either tagging us or directly sharing in the comments. Another great way to guarantee an entry is by tagging us on Instagram! We encourage you to share your experience by blogging about it but that’s not required for this challenge. For each project you submit, your name is entered into the drawing for a prize. So the more projects you sew along with us and share, the more chances you have at winning one of our awesome prizes!

DesignAn example of how you can document your sewing project!

  • The Rules
    Each project must be a new project, you cannot document and share a project that hasn’t been made within the past 30 days.
  • The project must meet fabric guidelines as shared in an upcoming post. The goal is to create an affordable AND historically accurate garment, not just to save pennies.
  • You may use a sewing machine for long seams but please hand finish all visible seams. While we recognize not everyone can (or wants to) hand sew an entire garment, we are striving for historically accurate pieces that will pass the higher authenticity standards being promoted within the hobby.
  • There is no limit to how many entries you may have. If you sew and document two shifts and three petticoats, that would be five entries.

The Prizes
We have three wonderful prizes for our contestants, they are as follows:
A custom hand sewn, fine linen cap sewn using all period techniques and trimmed to taste. Valued at $65

A lady’s hair dressing set which includes a jar of scented pomatum, a box of scented hair powder, a boar bristle brush, a large powder brush, and a set of hair pins. Valued at $65

A ladies sewing kit which includes a custom honeybee pinball, an 18th Century fabric housewife, a set of straight pins, a beeswax cake, and some linen thread. Valued at $65


The Thrifty Reenactress


Hi guys, so today marks the start of our first official blog series “Building a Basic Kit on a Budget”. As most of us are wrapping up the event season we often begin to reflect on our kit, selling off the things we no longer want and prioritizing what needs to be made before the following season kicks off. This is also the time of year when we most encourage newbies to jump in and start sewing. Hayley and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to talk about how to get a basic kit for a lower class woman in the 18th century while working with a budget, because we all know between family and home obligations there’s not always as much money in our fabric fund as we’d like.

Follow along on our blog series as we cover budget friendly pattern options using some of our favorite resources (can you say free?!) as well as some more unconventional ways to source fabric and notions. We will go through each piece required in a working woman’s kit and show you exactly how we were able to save pennies without skimping on authenticity. By the end of the series, if you have followed our tips and guidelines, you should have a fully functioning kit that will meet authenticity standards for the vast majority of 18th Century events giving you a great solid foundation to build upon.

And if the idea of saving money isn’t enough of a reason to follow along over the next few weeks we’re pretty certain a chance to win some great prizes like a custom hand sewn fine linen cap or a complete lady’s hair dressing set might encourage you to subscribe. Stay tuned as we plan to announce the full contest details and prizes later on in the week.