An 1869-1870 Work Dress

Some time ago, I was asked to help at Rock Creek Station for the Oregon Trail Day that is put on for 4th graders studying Nebraska History.  Rock Creek Station is a place where there was a bridge over a river for travelers on the Oregon trail, was a Pony Express Station for a time, a stage coach station for a while, and of course, where Wild Bill Hickok killed his first man.

I did not have a dress both appropriate to the era of the Oregon Trail and suitable for working outside demonstrating spinning and weaving, so I decided to make one.  (Both of the dresses I have appropriate for the range of years the Oregon Trail was in use are fancy.)  My friend Marna very kindly drafted a pattern for me off an original dress she had, and I proceeded to scale it up to my size (the original wearer was very short– maybe 4’8″), and adjust it to fit.  I also ordered in a dark calico with a bright paisley pattern appropriate to the 1860’s.  I decided to go with a more 1860’s aesthetic over all, rather than 1870’s, so I would be able to wear it at Stuhr Museum in the 1860’s cabin as well.

Basically, I sewed it with Victorian speed sewing techniques– which you’ll have to take my word for, because I didn’t really take pictures as I went.  The neck, sleeves, and cuffs are piped, and the cuffs are sewn in such a way that the facing flips to the outside, finishing the edge and making a decorative band all at once.  The flounce on the skirt is sewn with a bias band on the outside, machine stitched down, finishing the seam and creating reinforcement all at once.  The hem is machine done– pretty much everything but the neckline facing and hooks and eyes are done by machine.  This is how the original was done– as soon as our ancestors had sewing machines, they used them as much as they could!

1860's Dress Collar

The Collar

Oh yeah– I made a bonnet too.  It’s appropriately historically awful, but a real wonderful thing to have on your head in the sun.  Verdict: these may look rather horrible, but they need to come back.  This one is corded in bands, and then starched within an inch of its life.  Starch is an absolute must.

The Ugly 1860's Corded Bonnet

The Ugly Bonnet

I didn’t get many pictures when I was at Rock Creek Station back in September, but I did go out with my husband later and get some really good photos at the park.

All Ready for Work, 1860's Dress

All Ready for Work

But I'm Reading Tennyson Instead

But I’m Reading Tennyson Instead

I wore my sontag too, for pictures, and a plain pleated apron.  The apron has a good deal of grime already worn into the bottom of the hem.

I picked Tennyson’s Poems to carry as a prop because I read a book in high school about a pioneer girl in Nebraska, and she memorized a poem by Tennyson– “The Eagle”.  It seemed appropriate.

Oh, Tennyson. . . 1860's Work Dress

Oh, Tennyson. . .

I'm reading about Lady Claire, I think. 1860's Work Dress

I’m reading about Lady Claire, I think.

A Good Close Shot to Show the Pleats

A Good Close Shot to Show the Pleats

Relaxing in the Leaves

Relaxing in the Leaves

Side View, 1860's Work Dress

Side View

Back View, 1860's Work Dress

Back View

This is where I pause to enumerate my historical undies, because almost none of them are correct for this time, but I made it work.  1860’s Chemise and Drawers, 1890’s Corded Corset, 1840’s Bustle Pad, 1840’s starched petticoats.  I really long for a small hoop, after my day at Rock Creek.

The Park is Alive, With the Sound of Music!

The Park is Alive, With the Sound of Music!

Running Through the Greenwood

Running Through the Greenwood

My dear husband had me running and running all over to get a good shot of me running.  I usually look ridiculous when I run.  I am just not a runner.  But I like this shot.  It shows how much mobility you do have in a corset and long skirt.

It just so happened that this fit into the Heirlooms and Heritage Challenge for The Historical Sew Monthly, so here are the details!

What the item is: Late 1860’s Work Dress

The Challenge: Heirlooms and Heritage

Pattern: Drafted off an original in the collection of Marna Davis, greatly enlarged because the original was for a tiny lady.

Year: 1868-ish.

Fabric: 7 yards of cotton calico.

Notions: Thread, hooks and eyes.

How historically accurate is it? I did everything the way the original was made. This is probably 95%, accounting for fabric made in a modern way.

Hours to complete: 20

First worn: For an Oregon Trail day at Rock Creek Station, doing spinning and weaving demos for fourth graders.

Total cost: $36 for fabric, $5 for hooks and eyes. $41 total.

This is a heritage piece because Rock Creek Station and the Oregon Trail are a big part of my state’s (Nebraska) history. Also, my dad’s ancestors came to Nebraska in the 1850’s, so it is possible one of them might have worn such a dress.

And for the bonnet, which fit under the Brown Challenge:

What the item is: Corded Bonnet

The Challenge: Brown

Fabric: 100% cotton fabric, 1 yard

Pattern: The Godey’s 1850’s corded bonnet pattern, plus tips from the Sewing Academy and my own alterations from pictures of originals of the 1860’s.

Year: 1860’s

Notions: Thread, twill tape, starch.

How historically accurate is it? 85% I don’t know. It’s the right shape, but the fabric is a little iffy. But it was $3 a yard at Walmart so. . .

Hours to complete: Five. There is lots of cording. Then it took 7 hours to dry after starching.

First worn: For an Oregon Trail day at Rock Creek Station, at which I taught fourth graders about spinning and weaving.

Total cost: $6, if I bought it all for project. Some was stash.

Running Towards the Camera

Running Towards the Camera

Thanks for reading, and as always, let me know if you have any questions!



Kelsey and Philip’s Amazing Swedish Adventure!

We’re going to folk school in Sweden for a year.  We will be attending Sätergläntan Folk School in Dalarna, where Philip will be studying blacksmithing and woodworking and I will be studying weaving and spinning.  We decided now would be a good time, as we don’t have children yet and are still young.  When we come back, we hope to open a folk school of our own, where we will have classes and workshops on traditional Scandinavian skills and crafts and dancing.  Of course, we plan to stop in Norway on the way to Sweden to visit Philip’s relatives and attend some dance events.  (I might possibly get a chance to work in a bunad shop for a week too!)

Now for the answers to the questions I know you’re asking:

Yes, this is real.

No, we don’t have all the plans made yet.

No, we don’t have our visa/all our funding/plans yet.  It’s a work in progress.  We just decided this at the end of November.  We haven’t even gotten our official acceptance to the school yet.

Yes, we are applying for grants and scholarships galore.

Yes, we are working on the Swedish language.

Even though we are saving as much money as we can, and applying for grants and scholarships, we may still need more money.  If you feel like helping us, we have a GoFundMe page set up to raise money for our trip.  Depending on how much money you give us, there are different awesome thank-you gifts like bone dice, drinking horns, and gift cards to my store!

Oh, and if you donate a lot, I’ll handknit you a pair of socks.   🙂

The link is here:

If you want to donate to our cause and help our dreams come true, we would greatly appreciate it.  If you want to donate and don’t want to go through GoFundMe, just shoot me an e-mail at kelsey dot seamstress at yahoo dot com.   You’ll still get the same thank-you gifts.

Philip and Me at the Nordic Ball 2013

Philip and Me at the Nordic Ball 2013

If you can’t give us any money, we would still greatly appreciate your prayers and well wishes!  Thanks so much!  Tack så mycket!


Published in: on February 5, 2014 at 12:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

I Knit a Sweater!

Well, I knit two sweaters this past year.  The first one was a nice little cotton-linen number.  It was my first sweater ever.  (Yes, I’ve been knitting for ten years, and just finally knit a sweater.)


Then for Christmas, I decided I wanted to knit at least some of my gifts.  This means I knit exactly one.  But, it was another sweater!!!


This is my darling sister in law, Lauren, with the Fleurette Sweater I knit her.  You can find the pattern for free on Ravelry!  I knit it with a merino-bamboo-silk blend yarn in a deep magenta.

Later I’ll show you my latest nålbinding project, a pair of mittens.  Until then, it’s back to sewing!  It’s always all about the dresses here!

Published in: on January 3, 2013 at 11:39 am  Leave a Comment  
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Just Jumping on the Meme Bandwagon, Thank-you Very Much. . .

I made a meme picture.  It pretty much sums up what I do at the shop.

What I Think I Do Yarn Shop

What I Think I Do Yarn Shop

I just thought I would share.  Have a nice day!

Published in: on February 15, 2012 at 8:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

My Shop!

Just a quick post.  I don’t usually do short posts like this, but I have to show you:

My Store Shelves

My Store Shelves

I’m unpacking and setting up my shop!  Yay!!!

If there is anything on those shelves that greatly confuses you, if you go here: , you’ll probably be able to figure out what is what.

Thanks for reading!

Published in: on November 30, 2011 at 7:24 pm  Comments (2)  


It is time for me to finally post about my nalbinding endeavors!  Now, this is my third nalbinding project, but this is the only one I have managed to take pictures of or post about.  And this project, I’m doing from scratch.

This spring, my mom washed an Icelandic lamb fleece for me, one from one of our brown and white spotted sheep.  It is BEAUTIFUL:

Icelandic Lamb Fleece

Icelandic Lamb Fleece!

See how it nearly has ringlets, and how the locks just shine?

So, since nalbinding is kindof a Viking/ Ancient Scandinavian craft, I thought, well, I should do this whole project the Viking way!  So, I began to comb the fleece, in small bunches, combing from root end to tip end, and discarding all the short fibers and bits with matted-in vegetable matter.  Once the wool was combed, I pulled it gently off the comb, drafting it into a smooth, long bunch of wool, also known as “top”, ready for spinning, and began spinning with my drop spindle.

Spindle and Combs

Spindle and Combs

You can see here I am currently using a set of Louet double-row mini-combs, but I can’t wait until the day I can try a pair of Indigo Hound Viking combs.  I’ve heard people say the Viking combs are really sharp, but they seem like they would be very sturdy, and they look decidedly more traditional than the  Louet combs.  (Nice as they are.)  I am also using my favorite trusty drop spindle, which is a very traditional spindle, made all of wood.  (I liked this spindle so much, I had a woodworker make some for me for my store.  They really spin nice, with just enough weight in the whorl to keep spinning smoothly all the way to the floor.)

After quite a while of spinning, I was able to fill my drop spindle to the point where I couldn’t actually spin any more yarn onto it, so I decided to wind the yarn onto my niddy noddy and “kill” the yarn.

Viking-Style Niddy Noddy

Viking-Style Niddy Noddy

Yes, I know, this niddy noddy is put together weird.  Well, due to my love of all things Viking, when I got an Ashford niddy noddy early this spring, I put it together with the two arms parallel to each other, rather than perpendicular like a modern niddy noddy, to reflect this Viking Age find:

REAL Viking Niddy Noddy

REAL Viking Niddy Noddy

Then I skeined the yarn. . .

Icelandic Wool Yarn

Icelandic Wool Yarn

. . . and wound it into a ball.

Then I was ready to start nalbinding.

Halfway through my first pair of nalbinding socks, I picked up a neat book in Sweden called “Soma, Nala, Binda” which has a wonderful diagram near the back on how to assemble a nalbinding sock.  Here is that diagram, to better explain to you how I am doing this:

Swedish Book, Swedish Words

Swedish Book, Swedish Words

Actually, that probably doesn’t explain much.

The best way to start a nalbinding sock is to start with an oval for the toes and work your way up until just by the heel, at which point you stop, leave a tail hanging, and nalbind a circle for the heel.  Once you are done with that, you sew the two together– half of the heel and half of the foot, and then proceed to nalbind around for the cuff of the sock.  Once you have reached the desired height of the sock, you end off, and your sock is done!

Of course, there is a little more to it than that, but that is the basic method.  Here is what I have so far on the socks I am making for my brother, Kyle:

Nalbinding in Progress

Nalbinding in Progress

Close-up of the Stitches

Close-up of the Stitches

Here is a close-up of the stiches.  So far I have only just gotten to the point where I stop adding more stitches and start fitting the sock back to the foot.  As I work more on these socks, I plan to post more pictures of my progress.

If you want to do some nalbinding yourself, you can buy needles and yarn here: and I recommend this website ( for very good instructions and illustrations for a variety of stitches.

Til next time!


Published in: on November 8, 2011 at 8:47 pm  Comments (2)  

Honors Thesis Fashion Show

Yep, just what it sounds like.  At this year’s Medieval and Renaissance Studies Celebration I had a fashion show featuring clothing from early medieval Sweden based on the research I did for my honors thesis.  It was a blast, and it was good to finally have my clothing done and know I am nearly done with my thesis work!

We started off the afternoon with everyone changing into their clothing.  It was a bit of an adventure, as most of my models had never worn such clothing before.  As different as some of it is, I don’t blame them.  To top things off, the men’s clothing was made for my little brother Kyle, so before all this began I had to find men small enough to wear that.  Now, Kyle is 5’8″ by now, but he’s still pretty wiry and thin at this point in his life.  So I recruited three friends of mine to wear the men’s clothes, Thomas, Chris, and Austin, and Karen and Jessica to wear the women’s clothes.

Getting changed was a flurry of questions of “how do I put this on?” and “what is this?” and making sure each person had the right jewelry for each costume and that each costume fit right.  It was a bit confusing, but in the end everyone looked great, had the right size shoes, and we had plenty of time for some outdoor photos.

Timeline of Fashion

Timeline of Fashion

Here we have a timeline of Swedish clothing, from left to right.  850’s, 950’s, and 1150’s.  Yes, I know I skipped a century, but I wanted to show a clear difference while still showing that things were somewhat similar.

For the 850’s you probably recognize both costumes.  On the far left we have Thomas in Kyle’s old Viking Kit.  Next we have Jessica in her normal kit with a pale green linen overdress under her apron dress, which is a more Swedish feature.  Norwegians seemed to tend to have just the underdress and apron dress, which is what Jessica usually wears, but we made her look like an early Swede for this!

Next we have Chris in Swedish Men’s clothing from the 950’s.  By this point most men of any wealth at all in Sweden wore baggy pants and shorter tunics to show off their baggy pants.  Chris here has Kyle’s new Viking Kit on, complete with baggy pants and a short tunic and undertunic.  The undertunic is edged with Faeroese  cording and has a button and closure made of the same cording at the neckline.  The blue wool tunic is edged with red and tan tablet weaving in a fretwork pattern around the collar and cuffs.  He’s also wearing my new belt pouch and belt.  I’m next, wearing my Swedish Viking Woman’s Kit from the 950’s.  I have a pleated white linen underdress, a blue linen overdress with embroidery on the collar, cuffs, and hem in a pattern from the Oseberg ship. (Norwegian, I know, but as it’s a simple variation of a herringbone stitch, it’s something that could have been used throughout Scandinavia.)  Over that, I have my red wool apron dress, fastened with  twin tortoise brooches and two strings of beads.  I also have a tablet-woven belt holding a knife made by my friend Chris Andrews, and nalbinding socks and leather turnshoes.

Next, we have Austin in a cavalry outfit from the 1150’s, just at the time of the Second Crusade.  He wears brown wool pants, a long-sleeved linen undertunic and a sleeveless red linen overtunic.  In addition, he wears a narrow belt and a antler-handled pattern-forged knife, also made by Chris Andrews.  It was quite common at this point in history to have detachable sleeves on overgarments for practicality in warm weather.  Karen, last in the line, has similar sleeves on her dress, which is based on some of the garments from Herjolfnes and extant sources such as manuscripts.  As we have very little evidence for clothing from Sweden in this time frame, a lot of it is speculation.  Her dress consists of a loose white linen underdress and a blue linen overdress with short sleeves, with lacing up the sides to fit it to her body.  It’s a lot longer than the Viking dresses, but it is still a work dress– that was just the style.





After we got done taking photos, we had the fashion show, in which I related all of the above information about the costumes.  I also won a prize from the Medieval and Renaissance Studies Department for third place essay for my Honors Thesis.  It was quite an honor!

The following weekend, I went home and my brother Kyle and I did a photo shoot with him wearing some of his costumes and riding our horse, Rose.  Rose is a sweet grey Mustang, and while she has a brand, it is difficult to see because of her color.  First, we took pictures with him in his Medieval Kit.

The Warrior Goes Riding!

The Warrior Goes Riding!

Among other things, we learned that while that style of tunic works perfectly for riding, tight pants like that do not!  He managed to completely split out the crotch of his pants beyond repair, first time he wore them!  This led us to our next revelation:  Baggy pants are great for riding!  Carvings from Sweden in the Viking age often shows men riding horses while wearing baggy pants and short tunics, yet that often seems to be overlooked.  Once we were done taking pictures of Kyle in his Medieval clothes on Rosie, he changed into his Viking clothes, and my, what a rich-looking jarl he was!

Viking Warrior!

Viking Warrior!

"You wanna mess with me?"

"You wanna mess with me?"

About the only problem we had for this photo shoot was not having a proper saddle.  As we seem to have a shortage of Viking Style saddles, we used a modern English saddle.  It’s close enough, and looked better than any one of our western saddles would have.  We also used a plain English bridle.  Before we started taking pictures, I was riding Rose for a bit and I fell off. . .

Overall, however, the shoot was a success!  I now have many wonderful pictures of all of my different costumes modeled properly!  A big thanks to everyone who agreed to wear these clothes and pose in front of the camera for me!

Viking Kyle

Viking Kyle

Oh, protect us!!!

Oh, protect us!!!

Women Defending the Men

Women Defending the Men

Published in: on May 10, 2011 at 5:58 pm  Comments (10)  
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