The Traveler’s Shirtwaist…

After I finished the skirt (as detailed in my previous post), I turned my attention to an Edwardian blouse called a shirtwaist. Webster’s defines it as “a woman’s tailored garment (such as a blouse or dress) with details copied from men’s shirts.”

I had already disassembled the remains of my great grandmother Velma’s wedding skirt, which was too damaged to restore. The blouse however, was in nearly perfect condition, with a pleated front, and a stand up collar, and full sleeves gathered at both the shoulder and a lace-edged cuff. I decided not to replicate it, but instead, to lift details from it for a wool version which would match my walking skirt.

I searched for a pattern that echoed the details of this blouse, and that was simple enough to match my sewing skills since I’ve only worked in rectangular construction, and this was my first foray into a tailored garment. An Australian company called Repeated Originals had a pattern that seemed to fit the bill, so I selected their “Blouse pour dame d’un certain age” dating to 1907, which was the same year Velma wore this dress.

The pattern arrived as a 12 page pdf that you download, print and tape together, and then cut out the pattern pieces. The instructions were minimal and probably adequate for a dressmaker who was familiar with this type of garment. But it looked mostly straight forward, so I cut out the pattern pieces and started sizing them. The front was pleated, so adjusting the depth of the pleats would probably fix the sizing. The back was more fitted and was very short (41 cm) so I made it longer and wider to fit my more portly figure. The illustration showed a waistband that was not included in the pattern. A clothier friend confirmed that shirtwaists were often attached to a waistband, sometimes with a peplum, and that there were hooks on the skirt to hold the shirtwaist in place. Moving ahead, I cut a draft bodice from some linen, which seemed to fit pretty well.

I decided to replicate the embroidery from the back of Velma’s blouse onto my own shirtwaist. I don’t know if shirtwaists were embroidered for daywear, but my mission was to carry forward my family history in wearable form, with strict historical accuracy being secondary to my purpose.

I transferred the embroidery pattern by laying Velma’s blouse over a piece of Kraft paper, and used a straight pin to prick around the edges of the embroidery at 1/8″ intervals. I then ‘connected the dots” on the kraft paper with a sharpie, and then traced the design onto a piece of tissue paper which I pinned to the wool of my shirtwaist (a process I learned from Chinese embroidery technique)

My time was limited, so I appliquéd small flower-shaped lace pieces I had gleaned from a thrift store garment, instead of trying to replicate the flowers from Velma’s blouse. I applied soutache by hand for the stems, which worked fairly well and saved me hours of embroidery time. I lined the back panel with a piece of jacquard from my mother’s wedding dress, which made my shirtwaist a multi-generational heritage piece.

I didn’t have enough lace to inset into the shoulders of my shirtwaist, and decided 100 year old lace wouldn’t hold up at that stress point anyway. I did squeak out enough for the body of the collar, shown below and in comparison to Velma’s blouse.

Two lace appliques also hid a gaff I made when I lengthened the back but forgot to lengthen the front sides to match, which also created an unexpected fray point when I tried to turn the hem. Applique work has become one of my favorite “fix-it’ tools.

The sleeves posed another quandary. I had planned to cut the sleeves from the remaining panel of her skirt, to take advantage of the lace chevron detail, but there was too much damage to work around. I also couldn’t figure out how the sleeves from this pattern worked, so I gave up and disassembled something from my closet to get a pattern for a standard set-in sleeve. I turned to YouTube to learn how to convert a standard sleeve into the Bishop’s sleeve that was closer to the one in the pattern illustration.

I shouldn’t call it a Bishop’s Sleeve, for all the swearing that was involved. The YouTube tutorials said to cut the sleeve longer than your wrist, so it would blouse. But it came out too baggy, and the lace panel I had applied got lost in all the fabric. So I tore the sleeve out, moved the lace panel up about 6″, shortened and narrowed the sleeve by about 4″, and terminated it onto a shorter cuff. I reset the first sleeve three times to get the shoulder seam in its proper place. At least the second sleeve went in much faster, since I had made and corrected all of my errors on the first one…

At this point, I also realized that the ‘wool’ I had chosen for this project, was actually a wool-Lycra blend, with just enough stretch that buttonholes for the front placket became a terrifying prospect. I did consider making a placket from silk that would lay under the front placket, which would conceal the buttons and buttonholes and leave the placket unadorned (as shown on Velma’s blouse below).

But even that seemed daunting, and it left the front too plain, and I reminded myself that I wasn’t making a replica of Velma’s blouse. So I sewed non-functioning buttons onto the front of the placket, and I used hooks and eyes underneath as the actual closures. I moved those three times before I got them right.

The end result was a shirtwaist with a very pretty back, and a front I planned to let hang tunic style, after trials of mounting it onto a waistband made me look like a sack of potatoes. I ultimately added a small decorative brooch in front to cinch it in, which tricks the eye into seeing a peplum.

I have now deviated enough from the original pattern that I’m not sure I can call it a proper shirtwaist. But In spite of the trials, errors, and design deviations, I’m happy with my new traveling ensemble. I hope to get more photos aboard the Alamosa Car on the Silverton-Durango steam train in a couple of weeks…

The Traveler’s New Clothes…

It’s been awhile. Too long perhaps, since last I traveled or made The Maker any new things.

The last long distance trip I took was to Chicago in 2018. Now that COVID-19 has become more nuisance than threat, I am breaking my travel-fast with a trip to Historic Colorado next month, you can see the initial plans for that excursion at Daveno Travels.

As I discovered during my trip to Morocco, “Dressing the Part, is Half the Fun…”

You will find posts about Cebolla and Gunnison on this site. My great grandparents, Harry Carpenter and Velma Eastman were married in Gunnison. Her wedding dress has been sitting in a plain cardboard box in the bottom of my closet, simply labeled “Velma Eastman, 1908.” The gown, along with a family history I am compiling, became the impetus for this trip. I booked a seat on a narrow gauge steam train running from Silverton to Durango, in one of the cars that had been restored to its original 1880s condition, and also booked rooms in historic hotels at either end. The train belongs to the same D&RG Line that ran in front of my family’s hunting and fishing lodge back in 1910. So how could I embark on this journey and not do so in period-inspired traveling clothes?

After Googling “Women’s Wear 1890-1910” I settled on the end of this time period so I could leave my bustle and corset at home. A search of my closet yielded a few pieces that loosely translated to the era, including a pleat-front blouse, and another with a lace collar and lace insets on the sleeves. I found a collarless pin-striped cotton shirt for $5 at a thrift store, and added new buttons and soutache to a vest I already had. I fashioned an undergarment from the top of a dress, whose skirt had already become hats awhile back. Boots, hats, a paisley shawl and jewelry were also waiting for me in my closet, along with a couple of other passable walking skirts not shown here.

I pulled the skirt to Velma’s wedding dress out of its box and found it was badly stained and torn. A piece was missing that I surmise may have become a child’s a christening gown. Upon removing the skirt from its waistband, I found a straight length of batiste with inset lace and pleating, instead of the gored pieces I was expecting. I spent a weekend repairing the pleats and the lace from two 100″ panels of this century-old textile.

This weekend, I stitched the lace to some grey wool from my recycled textiles stash, and added soutache between the pleats to tone down the high contrast between the white batiste and the darker wool and to further stabilize the wedding lace. I had intended to make a 1908 era walking skirt but ended up with more of a dirndl. The waist is elastic in a striped silk casing, and I ran lace along the inside of the hem because I’m fond of that additional detail. I also inset pockets because every traveling woman needs pockets.

But in an attempt to use the full length of lace, the skirt swamped me. So I removed a 16″ panel, which became a drawstring bag; a fun little side project that used up some decorative odds and ends. I’m all about finding a use for everything, even if it means my projects are over-ornamented both inside and out…

Next up – the rest of Velma’s wedding skirt, combined with a piece of shirt-weight pearl grey wool from my stash, reworked into a shirtwaist to match my 1908/dirndl skirt…

The Sportsmen’s Hotel in Cebolla

Photos and text are from our family archives unless otherwise noted. This photo has a notation on the back: “Mr. Harry Carpenter, from Dad, Jan. 21, 1917.

“Probably the best known resort was Sportsmen’s Hotel at Cebolla Creek and Gunnison River, founded by J.J. Carpenter in 1882.

David Primus, from the Digitization Project on Facebook

The town of Gunnison, Colorado was founded in 1874 during the Colorado Silver Rush. Gunnison became a smelting, railroad and supply town, with chief exports of coal and cattle. Several communities sprung up nearby, including the town of Cebolla, named after a wild onion that grew in the area.

My grandmother’s grandfather, J.J. Carpenter, settled in Cebolla sometime after 1878. He built his first lodge across the river, and later (around 1903) rebuilt it on the other side of the river, to be nearer the Denver & Rio Grande (D&RG) Railroad which had linked Gunnison to Grand Junction in 1883. According to my grandmother, “there was also a wagon road leading west to Sapinero and east to Gunnison, though most travel was by train.”

That building would come to be known as the Sportsman’s Lodge, Sportsmen’s Hotel, and later, as Carpenter’s Fishing Lodge. J.J.’s son Harry, and Harry’s wife Velma Eastman, continued to live there after they married in November 1907. Their daughter – my grandmother Mildred – was born there in September the following year, and recounts from her later childhood that “I used to wash dishes at Gram’s hotel [the Sportsman’s Lodge] for a nickel, and then spent it for a Hershey candy bar, so Gram got her dishes done pretty cheap.” My grandmother also went to school there with 7 other children, in one of the tourist cabins that was converted for schooling during the winter. After Mildred married, she and her husband worked there for awhile in the 1920’s.

My mother was born in Kelso, Washington in 1930, but was raised in Cebolla for her first few years. “My earliest childhood memory was when I must have been two or three years of age. I was pushing my great-grandmother in a swing… It may have been my great grandmother Carpenter [J.J.’s wife Louise Wiseman-Carpenter] or possibly my great aunt Maude Carpenter Darlington.”

The Homestead Act of 1862 allowed people to gain legal title to 160 acres of public land by paying a $10 filing fee, clearing and improving the land, and living on it for five years. J.J.’s first Land Patent, issued on November 11, 1904 was for 80 acres. He expanded his claim by an additional 160 acres with a second Land Patent on July 1, 1908 (Homestead Certificate No. 38, signed by President Roosevelt.)

In the April 17, 1894 edition of The Salida Mail, there was a notice that a “new post office established at Cebolla, Gunnison County – Jacob J. Carpenter, postmaster.” My grandmother told me that the train left a mail bag there at noon and again at 4 PM when the train returned. She also recounted how tiresome it was to fetch the mail twice a day from the train.

J.J. Carpenter marketed his establishment to fly fishermen and big game hunters across the United States. He showed his guests the best places for fly fishing, while his twin sons – Howard and Harry – led hunting parties into the hills to hunt deer, elk and mountain sheep. One of our family stories claims that at least one of those hunting parties included Buffalo Bill Cody. I asked my grandmother if she remembered anything about that, but she said “Nellie [her sister] and I were always sent outside to play. Grampa didn’t want us disturbing the guests.” We also have a family theory as to the demise of Howard Carpenter, as told to my grandmother by her father Harry.

Postcards from my family collection

And, there was a bear, rescued by J.J. who found her as an orphaned cub and brought her back to his hotel as a pet. Guests would feed her beer from a baby bottle and the bear gained nationwide fame. Published stories list the bear’s name as Maude, but the hand written note on the back of this photo from my collection notes the name as “Nellie Bear.”

“Nellie Bear” on her post, waiting for the train to arrive. The lodge guest cabins are in the background.
My Great Grandmother, Velma Eastman-Carpenter (Harry’s wife) playing with Nellie as a cub.

Montrose Daily Press, February 3, 1913: Nellie, pet bear to J.J. Carpenter, is dead and the entire town mourns … “The town of Cebolla gave Nellie a funeral that attained the proportions of unanimous display of public grief. A handsome stone monument will mark the bear’s grave.”

The D&RG stopped serving Cebolla in either 1933 or 1954 (depending on the source), and Cebolla, along with the nearby towns of Iola and Sapinero, were submerged by the Mesa Reservoir in 1961. In September 2022, I went to Colorado to look for the marker at the reservoir, and was thrilled to find that the building had been moved before the valley was flooded, and is now an apartment building on the edge of Gunnison.

The story behind the Sportsmen’s Hotel and the dynastic family who operated continues to fascinate me. The Carpenters appear to have been well known in Gunnison society. The following clippings as well as those I will present in future posts, give a glimpse into their activities deemed important enough to chronicle in the daily news. [Sourced from]

  • Dubois Chronicle, April 21, 1894: The West Denver lode, owned by J.J. Carpenter, is the extension of the Pride of Denver on the west. A tunnel is now being driven to work the lode…assays run from $7-$10 in gold at the moment.
  • Gunnison News Champion, January 19, 1906: J.J. Carpenter and sons are working 5 men at their saw mill, cutting railroad timbers. Sportsmen’s Lodge now has 12 bear dogs and plans to add 2 more – giving him “the finest pack of bear dogs in the state”.
  • Gunnison News-Champion, February 23, 1906: New cabins are being built at Sportsmen’s Hotel – cabins will reach over the water so guests can fish off their porch or lie in bed and fish out the window.
  • Gunnison News-Champion, July 14, 1905: An advertisement for the Sportsmen’s Hotel, “Rates $2 per day!”
  • Gunnison News-Champion, March 15, 1907: Mrs. Carpenter was left in North Carolina with her aging parents – she has malaria – J.J. returns to Sportsman’s to prepare for a big bear hung on March 25 with Ches. Gates, son of New York multi-millionaire John Gates. They’ll take 20 horses and 26 dogs to Crystal River. Harry and Howard [Carpenter] will go as guides. It’s the Gates’ second trip.
  • Gunnison News-Champion, July 1, 1910: J.J. Carpenter says he’s expecting a big crowd on the Fourth. Sportsmen’s Hotel is doing better business this year. “River clear, fly fishing good, some fine catches being made.” Among the newcomers at the hotel are Guy U. Hardy from Canon City, Mr. Douglass from Denver, and Mr. Baldwin of Denver. All are enjoying meals prepared by the new Scotch cook.
  • Gunnison News-Champion, February 9, 1912: J.J. Carpenter anticipates a business trip to Denver this week.
  • Gunnison News-Champion, October 11, 1912: Harold Carpenter [son of J.J.] is missing – was to marry a Montrose girl. [I will include additional news articles in a subsequent post specific to Harold.]
  • Gunnison News-Champion, August 15, 1913: J.J. Carpenter is in Denver this week with a carload of cattle.
  • Gunnison News-Champion, May 14, 1916: Garages to house 8 autos are added to Sportsman’s Hotel.
  • Gunnison News-Champion, February 11, 1916: 30 inches of snow in Cebolla, J.J. Carpenter’s barn roof collapses. His wife returns after her recent operation.
  • Gunnison News-Champion, March 23, 1923: J.J. Carpenter changes the name of his famous tourist home from Sportsmen’s Hotel to the Carpenter Fishing Resort.
  • Gunnison News-Champion, April 27, 1923: J.J. Carpenter celebrates his 71st birthday [at the Carpenter Fishing Resort].

The following comments were left on my original post at Daveno Historica (a family histories blog). I have edited some comments for clarity.

  1. Lee Carpenter(March 15, 2021) The bears name was Nellie. They left it alone too long and the bear malled one of the hands that fed it so they shot it. I have the original picture of the tack room with the eagle and the stuffed kitty. My great grandfather [Earl John Carpenter, Sr.] killed that mountain lion with a bowie knife at 13 years old. Earl John Carpenter Sr. married Dottie Dillie. They had 3 children: my grandfather Earl John Carpenter Jr. and my two aunts, Charlotte, and Betty. I have Howard’s pocket watch.

augustphoenixhats (March 15, 2021)

That is sad about Nellie, I had not heard that story. Cool story about the mountain lion. I have several photos of that, it looks like they moved it around for various photo opps.

  1. Anonymous(April 11, 2021) Hi Lee, my name is Lynn Carpenter Cadrin and I am related to you! My great grandfather was Lloyd DeVere, one of your great grandfather’s older brothers. I am fortunate to still have my uncle George living… I believe that is Howard, that is the watch chain hanging out of his pocket. I have that watch.
  2. Justin Wean(August 24, 2021) Hi! I’m Justin Wean. I am related to both of you. Betty Carpenter is my Mema. I am so fascinated by both the Carpenter and Devere sides of this family. My father is Gregory John Wean. Son of Betty Maude Carpenter and Frank Peter Wean Jr.
  3. Claudia (December 30, 2021) Hello, J.J. Carpenter was the brother of my great grandmother Sue Carpenter Childs (one of the siblings that stayed in Mitchell County NC). I have been reading the news articles about Howard’s death and the inquest once his remains were found. Several news articles mentioned that J.J. had mentioned who he thought had killed Howard. Do you know who that was?
    1. augustphoenixhats (December 31, 2021) My grandmother was told by her father, Harry (twin to Howard) that it was the priest who went with Howard on that hunting trip. Two men left but only the priest came back. She also said that her family left the Catholic church and became Episcopalian after that. I have not yet confirmed the story.
    1. doveoysterachilles90645(March 1, 2022) I found where the priest, Father O”Farrell, died from a crushed skull in 1923. He was late for a wedding, driving fast after a New Years Eve Party. A sketch of him accompanied the article. He was young and nice looking. I also found written that Howard’s fiancee, Anna Landry, was a part time housekeeper for Father O’Farrell.
    2. augustphoenixhats (March 2, 2022) I had also heard there was some connection between Anna and Father O’Farrell that hinted at the priest’s jealousy of Howard regarding Anna. Thank you for this information.

New Product at The Mercantile…

We are pleased to welcome Marie Cooley and her “Tarot of the Tailors” to the August Phoenix Mercantile!

This lovely Tarot deck, designed and crafted by Marie Cooley is now advertised in our online shop and is available for purchase directly from Marie via PayPal. You may contact her at The Fitting Room at the email address listed in the following announcement.

“Twenty years ago, give or take, my Husband and I created the Tarot of the Tailor: a fortune telling deck for Creative people, especially sewers. They were designed as gifts for our friends and made by hand. They proved to be very popular, and the opportunity presented itself to have the deck professionally printed. I have been selling them ever since, as an adjunct to my corset making business.”

“Each deck contains 22 picture cards (with a blank of course to let you create your own or replace the one the dog ate). A booklet is included to help interpret each image to give insight for the reader to ‘read’ the future and ‘give advice’ for the creative person – all in the spirt of fun and games!”

“The cards come wrapped by hand, and tied with string to make a nice gift presentation.”

Gunnison 1918…

Some readers may recognize this article from Daveno Historica – a blog I set up during the COVID-19 pandemic to record my family and personal histories. I am planning to close that blog by Spring 2023. Posts for Gunnison and the Sportsmen’s Hotel are moving here.  I plan to preserve the family histories and personal memoirs in bound format under the title: “The Matriarch Diaries” sometime in the next 5 years.

March 11, 2020 was a tumultuous day here in Seattle, WA, the nation’s epicenter for COVID19. At 9:30 AM Pacific time, the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus to be a global pandemic. At 11 AM, Governor Inslee took steps towards viral containment in three counties in Washington State by banning groups of more than 250 people from assembling; encouraging schools to develop contingency plans; reminding people to wash their hands and practice social distancing. Those of us over the age of 60 or with underlying medical conditions are following recommendations to hunker down at home. Wish us luck…

History is full of stories about cities that sequestered themselves during times of plague. In recent history, one of those cities was Gunnison, Colorado, which “declared a quarantine against all the world” during the Spanish Influenza pandemic of 1918.

My grandmother’s family lived in Gunnison – my grandmother recounts having smallpox there in 1917. The following year, the family moved to nearby Jack’s Cabin, (which her notes record as Jack’O Cabin Valley). I don’t know if the intention was to protect the family by moving to an isolated area in the county, or if her father was simply following an offer of work on Jim Spann’s farm. My grandmother was 10 years old and may not have even been aware of the pandemic, in spite of the Spann family being quarantined after they visited Denver for Thanksgiving in November 1918. According to the Gunnison County Times, Mrs. Laurel Spann [possibly Bill’s wife] later succumbed, and is thought to be the first flu-related death in Gunnison County that year.

My grandmother, Mildred Carpenter, and Bill Spann at his farm in Jack Cabin Valley, circa 1918-20
(Photo from my family archives)

Gunnison sat at a highway junction and train stop between Denver and other major Colorado cities, which put them at heightened risk [not unlike Seattle, WA being a major port for both air and sea travel]. At a time when many nearby towns suffered consequences through their inaction, Gunnison’s early containment measures via “protective sequestration” resulted in zero deaths during the first wave of the pandemic. The Guardian News, US edition, published an excellent story which you can read here.

Photo credit: The Guardian News, US edition

This article from the Gunnison Country Times recounts that the pandemic hit the US in January 1918, and by October there were 78 deaths in Denver, and 9,000 reported cases throughout Colorado. On October 18th, Gunnison city officials closed schools and churches, and banned both public and private gatherings. On November 1st, they quarantined the entire town, erecting barricades on roads, sequestering visitors, and arresting violators for the next four months. Nearby towns took similar actions but not soon enough. The town of Silverton – thinking it had no cases – took no action at all, and between October – December 1918, suffered 125 deaths and 833 reported cases.

A train and passengers, just east of Gunnison, CO. Photo credit: Gunnison Country Times

As a result of Gunnison’s isolation, deaths and illnesses were minimal and occurred only after a second wave of flu hit, after city officials lifted the quarantine in mid -February 1919. That action resulted in 58 reported cases and only a handful of deaths. Statewide, nearly 8,000 people died out of 49,000 reported cases.

Gunnison served as partial inspiration for the novel The Last Town on Earth” by Thomas Mullen, which coincidentally, is set in my home state of Washington.

My grandmother and her family survived the pandemic, and remained at Jacks Cabin until about 1924, when they moved back to Gunnison so she and her sister could attend high school.

Mildred and Nella Carpenter, from my family archives

A Timeout …

I’m taking a timeout from hatmaking as I upgrade my technology and web presence.

Here I am with my first Smartphone (which is smarter than me so I’m trying to figure it out), which will allow me to post to Instagram (which I’m also trying to figure out), and Reddit (which is yet another thing I’m trying to figure out). So. Much. Figuring Out To Do…

Instagram will replace Pinterest, which will remain as an archive. Reddit already gives me more traffic than Twitter, although my feed there is not yet hat-oriented – I’m working on that… Find my own version of Everything Everywhere All At Once on my newly revised Contacts Page.

It’s a virtual triumvirate of upgrades, filled with rabbit holes. But Granada ShopCat reached out as if to say: “It’s OK Mom, you’ll find your way eventually.”

A Tribute to the ShopCats

I set creative work aside for the last little while, to spend time with and care for Toledo, my Black ShopCat. His brother Granada and I said goodbye to him last week.

Toledo and his brother were named after cities I had visited in Spain. Toledo was my doorbell and my protector. He was fascinated by many things, including my ruler and rotary cutter which nearly cost him toes on more than one occasion. He was as inquisitive as any cat I’ve ever owned. He joins Odin, his ancestor ShopCat, as one of the immortal felines on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge.

Make a Statement!

At the turn of 2022 I decided to try my hand at creating art pieces that are not hats. Now you can “Make A Statement” with a piece or two from my new collection, which will range from jewelry to home furnishings, to wearables, perhaps even puppets!

Here are the Statement Pieces I have created so far. The Tea and Coffee Cozies are lined with insulated bags that my groceries are delivered in. All pieces are made from recycled materials and items from my decades-old stash of miscellany. These one-of-a-kinds are now available in my online store under the #StatementPieces tag:

Works “other than hats” are not a new thing for me. The photos below show examples of previous custom works. Some of you may recognize the cushions as knock-offs from my hat designs. The embellished clothing at the bottom of this gallery were from a project I delivered last year.

Make your own Statement with something uniquely handcrafted!

Art is Love : )

A Hatter’s Year: 2021 …

Simply a photo essay of the projects I completed this year. Not all projects were hats…

Sensing a Trend …

“I see a red door and I want it painted black…”

from “Paint it Black” by the Rolling Stones

Black and red, black and grey, black on black. It’s been a trend this year. When customers aren’t ordering blacks and reds, I’m gravitating to that color combination by choice or by habit.

So, here’s a collection of my Gothic color palette from the past few months. Those shown with masks are custom orders that have been shipped. Others are on their way to holiday art shows at Brookfield Gallery, Peters Valley Gallery, and Uncommon Threads — a new (for me) show where you will find me in the Boutique Artist listings.

If you see something here that you might like, give me a shout. I can probably make something similar for you, black and red optional : ) As a reminder, nearly everything you see here has been made from rescued textiles and found objects, with the exception of the two black-on-black hats, whose materials were supplied by my patrons in order to meet their exact specifications.