Saturday, June 12, 2010

Reproduction Horsehair Bonnet

In preparation for a small series that I'll be doing over the next few weeks on trimming a straw bonnet, I'd like to show you a reproduction horsehair bonnet that I trimmed several years ago.

For quite some time I've been looking forward to introducing you to the work of my friend, Beverly Lister. Beverly has been in the millinery business for many years, faithfully recreating bonnets of the Civil War era. This lovely horsehair form was made by Beverly. I need to brag a little bit about her excellent craftsmanship - she is an excellent bonnet maker, her work is top notch, and her reproductions look just like the real thing. She's also a lovely person to work with. Using a set of your head measurements, Beverly creates a bonnet form to fit your unique measurements and to the style and straw color of your choice. Beverly even dyes the straw herself. Generally, the customer will have Beverly trim the bonnet as well, but for customers who want to do their own bonnet trims, she sells the straw forms.

In the near future I will do some posts exclusively on Beverly's bonnets, but, should you wish to aquire information directly from the source, I leave you with Beverly's contact information.

Beverly Lister
Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Currently I am working on the curtain for my newest straw bonnet. Here you can see the curtain of the horsehair bonnet. This curtain is gathered at the top and has a 3/4" ruffle. The curtain has two layers or curtains. Olive green silk taffeta trims the edges of the curtains. At the bottom of each edge runs a tiny wire - about the weight of wire in wired ribbon. The wire is sewn into the narrow rolled hem of the curtain. The bottom curtain is lined in white cotton netting. The interior of the bonnet is also lined in cotton netting (black for this black bonnet). Original bonnets were often lined inside to keep the hair from catching on the straw of the bonnet. Bonnet curtains could also be pleated to the outside edge of the bonnet. More details and pictures to follow as I trim my newest bonnet.

Here you may notice that the flowers sit apart from the top edge of the bonnet. What is that about, you may ask. Often bonnets had a piece of straw braid sewn across the inside that fit securely to the head. Troube with your bonnet always falling back on your head? This piece of straw braid helps to hold the bonnet in place, as it sits more snuggly against the head. The trim can also be sewn to this piece of straw braid, as was done here. When worn, the flowers rest against the top inside of the bonnet, so you cannot tell that this piece of straw braid is there.

Original bonnets often had delicate white or ivory lace gathered or pleated and stitched inside the edges of the bonnet.

Functional utility ties - narrow cotton or silk ribbon - were sewn into the bonnet. These were the ties that really kept the bonnet securely tied. The silk ribbon ties were more decorative, often very wide ribbon. Sometimes these decorative ties were not even tied, but left to hang. When bonnet ribbons were tied they were tied in a bow directly under the chin - not to the side.

Please let me know if there are any specific questions that you have that I can answer in my next installments on Bonnets!
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  1. Many thanks, Lindsey, for the information on Beverly! I don't fit in the standard bonnet form (too small for me) and as a result my bonnets just don't make me totally happy. I've been trying to find a source for a bonnet that would actually fit me!

    Interesting about the additional piece of straw braid; I had never heard that. Perhaps that is what is meant by the "bandeau" that often shows up in fashion descriptions of new bonnets!

  2. Very Pretty :-)

    Even though bonnets are not my usual "play things" i would love to make one. Very interesting about how they sat!



  3. June, 2014: Is this blog still active? Thank you, Sarah A., Maine

  4. Yes! I just took a little break, but I'm back!