Category Archives: Clothing Research

Super Productivity! Kinda.

So first off, an apology. I’ve been searching WordPress and my own brain for ways to do this, but I can’t figure out how to put a .pdf on a blog post. You know, for patterns. I’m stuck. So for now, I must apologize. I want to share some of the patterns I’ve taken but until I can figure out a way to get them here, un-warped and un-wonky, I can’t. ūüė¶

Other than that disappointment, I’ve been sewing like mad. Mad, I tell you! I just haven’t had the time to blog about it. Or take any nice photos.

Since early January, I’ve made:

1 1910s-1920s velvet hat (HSF Challenge #2: Blue)

1 1918 wool skirt

1 1900s cotton & lace corset cover (HSF Challenge #1: Foundations)

1 1910s linen blouse

1 1910s cotton & lace slip

1 1915-1918 wool jacket

1 silk and (oops) polyester ‚ÄúVotes for Women‚ÄĚ yellow rose brooch

1 early/mid 1920s velvet evening gown (HSF Challenge #3: Stashbusting)

1 pair 1930s wool & leather spats

1 late 1920s tennis (style) dress

… and I’ve begun an 1880s-ish corset.

And as always:

1 huge mess

3 small trash bags of scraps

1 medium sized dent in my vintage button & cloth hoard

1 $15 dent in my wallet (you read that right, BOOYAH)

All the 1917-1920 clothes I meant to make for the April HSF challenge, War & Peace, but I was so excited about them I started and finished them way too early. That¬†worked out all right in the end, though, because I wore them for a women’s suffrage play I was in, with the last-minute addition of the Votes for Women brooch.

I made all these with my 1902 Singer, which felt nice, because I was using antique/accurate tools. Yep, I know, nerdy.

And because I’ve been awful at taking photos of my work, here are just the ones I’ve photographed.¬†I’ll get pictures of everything later.

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I am in LOVE with this hat. I usually can’t find something big enough to fit my hair under, so I made it extra big. It’s got that big/loose hat thing that was going on in the teens and twenties, and I can actually put my hair up under it! Yay!

I made the blouse in the photo above from one of my dad’s worn-out 18th century shirts. It was old and threadbare, so I don’t expect the¬†blouse to hold up well. I’ve already popped a few seams¬†– the fibers just fell apart. That being said, I’m surprised at how nicely the shape came out – the pattern was roughly based on one of my modern Gap button shirts. I’m excited to make another, hopefully in a nice batiste, or something that holds up better to drawn-thread work.

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The corset cover (left) was taken right from my original (right), which is just a tad too small for me – not that I’d wear it. I made it from a thrifted tablecloth, mimicking¬†the design of triangular lace¬†appliqu√©s at the neckline. I love it – it’s comfy and even though the materials and my workmanship are awfully crude compared to the original, it’s the best I’ve ever done with a sewing machine, and I’m happy.

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This is my ’20s evening gown. I wanted it to be kind of generic so I could wear it to events. The idea was to make a semi-fitted slip and to drape the velvet on that, but halfway through planning I realized I didn’t have any cloth for the slip. Being on a frenetic sewing high I made it anyway, substituting ribbon for lining. Now it looks like the dress has interior suspenders. It works nicely considering the velvet’s heavy and hot (it was a curtain! Thanks, Laura Ashley), and a lining would just make it more uncomfortable to wear. It drapes fairly well, too, so I don’t consider it a failure. And it’s super comfy!

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The beading came out okay; it looks better hanging than flat, as above. I made the mistake of putting the beads on too tightly, which messed with the straight Deco lines of the pattern I chose. Live and learn.

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This is my late twenties tennis dress. I made it, again, from a thrifted curtain and a few pieces of red bias tape. I like it; it’s very comfy. When I wore it to work with my re-worked¬†cloche and a blazer it became very early-1930s-sportswear-ish. The dress itself is very basic; sleeveless with a V-neck and the skirt has two huge box pleats at the sides.

Now I’m working on a new era: the mid-late Victorian. I’m starting with a basic corset based on an 1880s example, and I’m hoping that, for now, I can get away with the 1860s with it, too. After that comes all the rest of the underpinnings and gowns and hats and shoes and stuff, which will be … challenging. I have one long-term project, a 1900-1920s beaded purse which will take me a year, conservatively, to bead fully. It’s about 40% done right now, and I’m slowly working away at it. Good stuff!


Old Photos

I went out into the frigid coldness, just to get out and do something, and wound up at an antique mall. Oops. I came back with a stack of 1880s-1920s photographs for very little. Huzzah! So here they are. All except one are undated, with no notes at all. So have fun imagining who these people were.

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This woman is just so fabulous – the anti-flapper. I love her (tiny!) shoes, with the added, contrasting strap, and her long necklace, a nod to one fashion of the day, and a stereotype decades later. Her hat is just too cool, too – I think it’s got a wire frame, you can make it out under the brim. She’s here to tell us that not everybody was a skinny jitterbugging flapper, and that’s awesome. This photo is dated July 4, 1923 – if she is¬†about 60 years old here, she was a baby during the Civil War. Think of the things she saw.

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I dare you to find a photo of stronger, more independent, capable looking women. I love them – a range of ages, possibly¬†all related, probably sometime between 1919 and 1923-ish. The two younger women have dresses to die for – look at the sitting woman’s sleeves. Ugh. Want.¬†What I really like is the variation in fashion here. Take off those thick-rimmed¬†glasses for the portrait? Nope. Crazy flapper eye makeup? Nope. Bobbed hair? Nah, I’m just going to wrap my 4 feet of Gibson Girl leftovers around my head in a braid (see the two younger women) – or just keep wearing my ca. 1905 poufy thing (the seated older woman). This undated photo is one of my favorites. I want to high-five them all.

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That mustache. Oh my gosh, that mustache. First came the ‘stache, then the ‘stache grew a man as a support system, so it could wear awesome ties and generally be the definition of ‘dapper’. Undated, but taken in a photography studio in Wilmington, DE.

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This poor woman looks like she’s drowning in her own dress. Mid-1890s, taken in Wilmington, DE.

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He shot the sheriff, but he didn’t shoot the deputy … haha. If I had half a chance I’d wear that jacket of his. How cool is that contrasting binding? Undated, from Wilmington, DE.

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She’s so pretty. If you look closely, you can see she has a little tiny watch pocket on the front of her dress, and a little tiny watch in it. Probably early 1890s, from Wilmington, DE.

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Probably from the 1890s – I think this might be a second photo of the poor woman who was being suffocated by her dress, above. Wilmington, DE.

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Wilmington, DE, probably 1880s-1900. This is one tough looking woman.

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Aww, a little baby, looking kind of lost propped up on that big chair. This photo’s also from Wilmington, DE, but as baby’s clothing isn’t easily date-able, I have no idea when it’s from. Sometime between the 1880s and 1910s, at the most.


Jumps 2.0

I had nothing going on this past weekend, so I cranked out my new jumps.

I machine-sewed them, which went against my new habit of hand sewing everything … but I wanted to spend more time fitting and experimenting with a new pattern then putzing with hand sewing. I’m reacting against my last stays experience: I spent a looong time hand sewing those and¬†they¬†came out very well made, but don’t fit so well.

I saved the pattern for these, so I’ll make a second, hand-sewn pair later. I want to make the second pair in white cotton and embroider them, like the original. Mine are made from about 1.5 yards of bulky cotton/linen canvas in a drab tan/olive color. I used steel¬†boning and some nice waxed cotton cord for the stay lace.

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The plan, based on a pair of 1780s-90s jumps at Colonial Williamsburg, probably worn by¬†Ann Van Rensselaer in New York. These jumps aren’t on the CW website anymore (!?!?!) but they’re in What Clothes Reveal, by Linda Baumgarten, page 211.¬†

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“cut here”

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The front part boned, and the back part chalked out.

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Ironing the ends over to sew the back pieces in.

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Handmade eyelets in between ugly machine-sewn channels. 

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On my desk, almost finished!

So right now they’re pretty much finished. They went together very quickly, and the design¬†is flattering and doesn’t use up¬†a huge amount of materials. I’ll see if I can get some nicer pictures of them soon.

 


Tomorrow = 20 days

I didn’t expect to be so busy with school this month, so writing a blog post had to be delayed. But I’ve been sewing for short amounts of time every so often, and I’ve gotten a lot¬†more done!

1) The bodiced/un-bodiced petticoat hasn’t been altered yet; I guess I got bored,

2) My printed blue cotton dress is now¬†finished; I added hooks & eyes to the back (not my original plan, and not how the original closed, but now it’s wearable),

3) I made a nice white linen chemisette with cotton lace trim,

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I eyeballed this from the earliest, simplest, documented chemisette I could find. It’s probably most accurate for 1800-1815. The collar doesn’t really fall the way the original did. I really wanted a dorset button for the closure under the collar, but I couldn’t find my button¬†stash at the time. If I find it I’ll upgrade from this mismatched hook & eye.

4) I’ve gotten about¬†halfway done with that 1760s waistcoat I began a little while back,

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It’s wrinkly and saggy on my tiny hanger, but look at that wool. It’s black with a white diaper pattern woven in, and it’s gorgeous. The rest of the waistcoat is made from some of the nicest linen I’ve ever found. I’m really excited for how it’s turning out!

5) because I wanted a cool hat, I made a small, green linen calash,

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I dyed linen green, and I chucked a¬†spool of linen thread in the dye too – but of course it didn’t take color¬†so well, so I had to Sharpie the thread darker later. And I didn’t take enough photos of the process, but the body of the calash is basically a rectangle with a number of metal bones running through it, and the ends of that are gathered to a binding. The back is a teardrop shape, boned, and the calash body is gathered to that.

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Finished! It’s not perfect but it’s cool. It turned out a little too small; the ridges touch the top of my head. I also made it too long, so I had to add thread stops inside to keep it from extending fully. Right now it has icky polyester ribbons, but I want to get some nice silk ones for it soon.

6) and because I don’t know when to stop, I decided that I need a nice comfy pair of half-boned 1780s stays. They’d be better for the events I do, which involve setting up displays and then sitting for hours¬†on end – something my fully boned 1740s/60s stays aren’t so nice for. I haven’t taken scissors to cloth yet, though, I’m still thinking about how to do those. Later.

 

And finally, a¬†tiny life hack. I needed to shape and pad out this mannequin a lot to photograph¬†my¬†1880s bodice, and my epiphany was to use old shoulder pads. I pinned them to the mannequin making sure the pin heads were flush. They really helped puff out the tails. I’m thinking of making some ‘for real’, with nice cotton and fiberfill.

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Jazz Age Costuming!

For the Jazz Age Lawn Party in August! Yay!!

It’s a huge 1920s-themed lawn party on Governor’s Island, NYC! It’s going to be awesome! Before it happens, though,¬†I have costuming to do: possibly up to five dresses and¬†maybe some hats.

I have two 1920s dresses I’ll be drawing construction details & patterns from, and one early 1930s ensemble that I may use as well.

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My 1920s feed sack dress, with two types of lace trim – it’s made from¬†a fairly simple pattern and has a very 1920s look.

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My early 1920s cotton dress. It’s difficult to see the form and drape without a mannequin, but it’s got some great pleating details.

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My early 1930s sailor dress set Рa little more form-fitting, and so summery. Again, pretty icky without a mannequin. 

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This hat is from the 1970s and doesn’t bear much resemblance to many 1920s hats – but it does look a lot like the hats worn in the 1970s version of The Great Gatsby.¬†

So I have some pale green cloth I may use for either a whole dress or just some trim, and I have a handful of assorted old lace I might use too. I’m going to get some cloth for more dresses soon. There are a lot of straw hats out there right now that look very 1920s, so I think I’m covered for hats. I also have a great old paper parasol with a hand-painted, vaguely Asian pattern that may suit well. I’ll see how far I get before mid-August!


When in Rome …

I’ve seen a lot recently about Regency and Empire clothing, and so here’s my addition: this past weekend, I decided that I was going to finally finish my late 1790s-1800 outfit. Here’s what I got done in a three-day weekend:

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Shoes! A dress! And a real live corset! Yay! But no stockings yet.

Shoes:

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I came across these awesomely ridiculous pointy-toe 1980s shoes a few months ago, and have wanted to remake them into 1790s¬†shoes since then. My inspiration were mainly the blue and black shoes second from the¬†the top of American Duchess’s blog post,¬†here, which suited the toe and heel shape as well as giving me a bold design to disguise all the faded marks on the toe.

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In progress. I had to move the mid-foot seam back to the heel a little, since I couldn’t get my needle through the layers at the ball of the foot.

They were so much easier to remake than other shoes because I didn’t have to cover the toe, and because of the the sling-back design. I sewed leather to the heel, then folded it up and sewed it to the slingback. Pretty simple. I painted the toe and heel with nail polish (which looks like patent leather when it’s dried) and tacked a silk ruffle and bow to the front of each, and voila!

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They’re not perfect, but I’m pretty pleased. The paint job is a bit crude. They’re certainly garish enough.

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They really need binding around the top edge and down the seam at the back of the heel, but right now my fingers hurt from trying to sew these things, so binding will¬†come later. Another thing I’d like to do is paint the front of the heel brown, to look a little more like a sole.

Corset:

I started this corset¬†almost two years ago! I didn’t have a pattern for it;¬†I drafted it by wrapping the cotton around me and marking where I thought darts would be nice. Then I ran out of thread, wound up busy with work and school, lost interest and/or forgot about it.

So, this weekend, I picked it up again and finished it in a few hours. Booyah. It’s not super accurate, but it’s 100% hand sewn and gives the correct shape though it doesn’t have a busk yet. It’s corded a little, and it’s got four¬†pieces of boning – that’s it. It’s a bit too long to sit comfortably in. I think I can take the front up a little, but I’m just so pleased that it’s finally wearable that I don’t want to sew it anymore.

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I had an awful, awful experience when I was sewing this corset. I was holding a mug of hot coffee when I sat on the couch, and accidentally sat on the corset, and accidentally sat on a HUGE steel pin I had holding the busk channel together. It was traumatizing, and I know I’ve watched that scene in an old cartoon somewhere. I wound up with coffee scalds on my legs and a welt that made sitting a little uncomfortable for a day. I will never sit on a couch without checking first again …

Dress:

My¬†goal was to make an unlined, very light dress. I’ve seen a few Regency and Empire gowns, and am always struck at how deconstructed they are compared to 1770s and 80s clothing. So I avoided my 1812 dress pattern with puffy lined sleeves, and started from scratch: no pattern, no lining, and 100% hand sewing. I draped it on myself, which went better than I expected.

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The air conditioning dial and me.

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It needs a little more Grecian Bend for the late 1790s. I’m getting there.

My design inspiration was mainly this dress, with the sleeves de-poofed¬†a little because I wanted to go for a slightly earlier look.¬†I’ve seen a lot of neoclassical gowns that close with two tiny ties or drawstrings in the back, but that doesn’t work well if you line the bodice and have bulky machine seams. I had to line the back of my¬†bodice to help hold the weight of the skirt. Then the back didn’t quite close. Nothing uglier than corset laces sticking out of the bodice.

I came up with a kind-of solution that I’ve seen on one original: an inner flap to cover the crack where the bodice sides didn’t meet. Since this new solution doesn’t completely work (every time I move my arms it pops open again) I’ll add a third tie in the center and that should fix things. I hope.

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Ew! Still ugly!

Reticule:

Still in progress, but so far I’m super happy with the effect of the hand-sewn linen embroidery on linen. I’m going to make it a flat-bottomed bag shape, gathered with a drawstring at the top, and lined in cream silk.

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Beginnings.

And now, since I can’t seem to find a living history group in the NYC metro area, the first¬†time I may get to wear these will be in January or February. Boo.

But, on a better note, I have two awesome costumey events coming up in the summer & fall, so I’ll be sewing for those¬†soon. Yay!

 


Packing the Collection

One of the things that kept me from collecting antique clothing early on was that I didn’t know how to store it. I remember passing up an 1870s bustle dress for $25 because of this reason.

Yes. I am kicking myself for that one.

I’ve been doing some research since then. It’s still daunting to store old clothing, but there are ways to do it. Here’s my basic battle plan.

1) Plastic Boxes

Check out any museum storage company like Talas or Gaylords, and you’ll see corrugated plastic storage boxes. They fold together, have loose-fitting lids, and seem very simple for the high price tag – especially since you can use ordinary¬†plastic tubs. It’s not as simple as going to WalMart and buying any tub, however.

If a plastic is marked #2, #4, or #5, it’s “safe” meaning it doesn’t degrade under UV rays or leech too much icky stuff. Museum storage boxes are usually made from either #5 (which is polypropylene) or a mixture of polypropylene and polyethylene.

Clear (not tinted) Sterilite tubs are made from polypropylene (#5) and are acid-free, which makes them a good choice. The Container Store carries a line of clear polypropylene tubs as well, which are just as good. Rubbermaid tubs are a different story. The Rubbermaid website doesn’t quite say what theirs are made of.

Avoid Dresser Drawer Syndrome; use shallow tubs for storing flat clothing. It’s easier to find things, keeps less weight on the pieces on the bottom and creates fewer creases.

Clothing needs some air circulation. I have no real solution for this, but I sometimes leave tub lids slightly off. I put small desiccant packs directly in the tub, in case any excess moisture is sealed in when I close the lid. It helps to pack clothing in paper; crumpled, it keeps the layers of cloth separated and allows a little air to move. I also try to check the clothing regularly.

2) Padded Hangers

There are a billion tutorials on building your own padded hangers out on the internets, so I’m just here to say “do it”. Padded hangers are incredible for supporting clothing, they keep the insides of the garment apart for better air circulation, and they reduce creasing and wrinkling. So just do it, unless the garment isn’t stable enough for hanging. That’s an educated decision that will have to be made multiple times for each garment. Because the passage of time. And because gravity.

I use unbleached cotton muslin, thick plastic hangers (WalMart), and fiberfill. I get fiberfill at WalMart by buying cheap pillows for a few dollars apiece. It’s¬†cheaper than the craft isle and it’s the same stuff(ing). Also comes in a handy storage bag. And another life hack: throw the pillow in the washing machine before you use it.¬†Voila, clean fiberfill.

Another great thing to do is to add supports to the garment itself to keep stress off the shoulders. Carefully sew white (or unbleached) cotton loops to the bottom curve of an arms eye seam or at a waistline seam; sewing through all the layers of fabric. Make the loops short enough to just support the weight of the garment when they are placed over a hanger.

5 3) Garment Bags

Garment bags are so easy! Buy unbleached cotton muslin, and cut a width that’s five or so¬†inches wider than a hanger’s width. Fold it in half and sew up the tube, then just sew the top together, leaving a small hole in the center. I like to use the woven edges¬†for the lower hemline and the upper seam, and for the vertical seam I use the cut edges. It saves time sewing them up.

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Homemade custom garment bags: a large one for a 1930s sailor dress, and a small one for a 1920s swimsuit. I try to save muslin this way.

Some clothing can’t handle the friction and pulling that putting a garment bag on creates, so these can also be made to button up the front. Instead of the vertical seam, hem each cut edge. Add loops or buttonholes to one side and buttons to the other. Just make sure there’s an overlap so you can’t see much of the garment inside. It all needs to be covered.

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If I’m keeping one piece in the same bag for a while, I tack tags on the bag so I don’t have to open it to see what’s inside.

4) Humidity Control

I went on Amamzon.com and bought a gallon of orange-indicating desiccant beads. They’re much safer than the blue-indicating variety, and on Amazon, they’re many times cheaper than museum storage companies.

Talas offers a great system of desiccant beads in little tins that look like Altoids¬†containers with holes in the lids – I didn’t want to use actual Altoids containers for fear that they would rust, so I bought some food-storage plastic containers. Being meant for food storage means they are (or should) be made from a stable plastic like polypropylene. I dumped a handful of beads into those, punched some holes in the lids, and snapped the lids on. They work great, and don’t rust.

5)  Support (Hose)

Use cheap stockings (tights, hose, whatever you call them; the thin nylon things), stuffed with fiberfill, for temporary support. Like, if you’re trying to bulk out a little dress form, or if you’re working on a more permanent storage support but need a temporary one immediately. I went to WalMart recently and picked up a bunch of short knee-high type stockings for $.33 each. Stuffed and wadded into balls, they’re been great for keeping the toes of shoes¬†supported. They also make good shoulder supports for those tops with puffed sleeves – pin them onto your dress form. Just remember, the fibers in the stockings will break down after a while. Try not to use them for long.

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1972 Converse which have been pretty much destroyed. Stockings stuffed with fiberfill have helped get them back into a normal shape after having been flattened. It would be silly to use a good support in these before they’re cleaned, so I’m using the disposable stockings and fiberfill for now.

6) A Note of Importance

One note about cotton muslin: WASH IT FIRST. Also AIR DRY it. Fabric comes coated in a sizing, like¬†starch, for a better hand. I’ve gotten chemical burns from washing¬†cheap cotton and getting the sizing on my hands. Not all sizing is this bad, but this is not stuff you want touching your antique clothing.

So wash your cotton, and if it smells like anything other than fresh water or¬†your detergent when it comes out, wash it again. The best bet is to wash the cotton with soap¬†meant for washing antique clothing, but if you’re on a budget like I am, just make sure to get all the sizing out of the cotton with your own detergent. Air drying means you won’t be putting additional softeners and perfumes in it, which can transfer to the clothing.

7,854.413 1/3) Random Linky Links

Museum Textiles Services: a company that does archival storage consulting. They have some tips for storing textiles on this page and this page.

Talas: while they’re still kinda expensive, they’re a little cheaper than some other companies.

Gaylord: they carry everything you never thought you needed. I love to browse this site and drool over shelving and tissue paper. Please tell me I’m not the only person who does this.