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Felicity the sewing cat

Songs for Felicity

Being a confirmed crazy cat lady I sing to my cat.  She doesn’t appreciate it (if you heard me sing you wouldn’t appreciate it either).

Felicity the sewing cat

Doesn’t stop me though.

Obviously I customise the songs just for Miss Fiss.

Felicity the sewing cat

Sometimes I croon the old hits:

I will be your hero kitty

I will feed you all the food

I will cud-dle you forever

You can catch my mice for me

Sometimes I get carried away with the possibilities of a really bad pun, and update the newest chart topper:

17 inch frame, RATs along her back
When she calls your name, you know she’s wanting snacks…

She told me she was out of food,
but when I checked her bowl it was all a ruse…

She told me she wanted pets,
but when I touched her tum all I got was bites…

We don’t talk about gatto, meow meow meow…

Oh, we don’t talk about gatto…


Felicity the sewing cat

(look at that magnificently unimpressed face.  She’s so adorably offended).

And then sometimes I go back to the old classics:

Furry tum, my little love

Furry tum I say

Fuzzy paws, my little love

I’m going to kiss them all day

Nose as pink as a summers rose

Eyes of changeable green

She’s the darling of my heart

Even when she’s mean

Some come here to get all the pets

Some come here to play

Some come here to get all the pets

I come for cuddles all day

(do I sing that second verse to her when she bites me, yes I do)

Felicity the sewing cat

What do you sing to your pets?

The Extant Kilbirnie Skirt: a ca. 1915 skirt

The Scroop Patterns Kilbirnie Skirt pattern is based on an extant ca. 1915 skirt in my collection.  Let’s take a close look at all the details of the skirt, from fabric to making.

Scroop Patterns Kilbirnie Skirt

The skirt is in very poor condition, but features a classic shape for the mid-1910s, with just enough design differences to make it interesting, and construction techniques that are absolutely typical of the era.  This made it the perfect candidate for a pattern.

Image shows an antique skirt made of very lightweight white cotton with purple stripes.

I found the skirt in an antique store in Richmond, Nelson.  The store sourced antiques from both New Zealand and Europe.  I inquired about the provenance when I bought it, and they were pretty sure it had come from a NZ estate lot, but weren’t absolutely certain.

There’s nothing in the extant Kilbirnie Skirt to give any further clues to where it’s from.  Western fashion in the 1910s was universal rather than regional.  Fashion plates, clothing catalogues, and pattern magazines from the US, Canada, Europe and NZ newspapers in the mid-1910s all show skirts with very similar designs, and very similar fabrics.

Eaton's Catalogue, Spring Summer 1917 pg 108

So the skirt could have been made anywhere, but I do know some things about the maker, and who wore it.

The skirt was homemade by an inexpert seamstress.  The seams wobble, the hem is decidedly amateur, and the belt application and hook/eye and dome/snap finishes are quite rough.

The extant skirt the Scroop Kilbirnie Skirt pattern is based on

It was made for a petite woman, possibly a teenager. It has a 26”/66cm waist, and is 32”/81cm from waist to hem.

The extant skirt the Scroop Kilbirnie Skirt pattern is based on

The hem is 6” deep.

38” was the most common finished length mentioned in mid 1910s skirt patterns and ready-made skirts.  The deep 6” hem would have been an easy way to shorten a skirt to fit a petite woman.

Rather than replicating the short length, the Kilbirnie Skirt pattern has a finished length  of 38” based on other 1910s patterns in my colleciton.

So the skirt was made at home, for a small woman or teen.  It was also made for summer wear.  It’s made from  a very lightweight cotton fabric with a slightly open tabby weave and a slightly crisp hand.  The fabric is softer than an organdie, but crisper than a voile.

The extant skirt the Scroop Kilbirnie Skirt pattern is based on

The fabric has a pattern of muted purple stripes with small flowers in shades of orange or yellow scattered over them. The dye used for the floral patterning was fugitive, and has almost entirely faded away. It is possible that the stripes were originally black and have faded to purple.

There are numerous mends and patches on the skirt – see the mend on the lower mid-left of the photo above.  The mends look contemporaneous with the skirt: something like this might have been worn as home wear well into the 20s, especially in rural areas.

The extant skirt the Scroop Kilbirnie Skirt pattern is based on


One of the pockets has lost the cording that pulls in the gathers, and it hangs loose from the skirt – happily this, combined with the ability to measure the stripes to calculate size in the skirt, helped me to get the dimensions of the pockets exactly right.

The extant skirt the Scroop Kilbirnie Skirt pattern is based on

Note how low the pockets are on the skirt: halfway between the waist and hem.  The seamstress didn’t consider the height of her wearer, and just followed the pattern exactly as it was.

What else?  The skirt is primarily machine sewn, but the interior belt and fasteners are sewn on by hand.  This is typical of 1910s construction, where most everyday garments were machine sewn whenever possible.

The extant skirt the Scroop Kilbirnie Skirt pattern is based on

The belting is commercially made, with short lengths of baleen in a woven casing.  Similar belting could have been bought at any haberdashery in the 1910s.

No attempt has been made to place the boning symmetrically on the body and a quick tuck has been taken in one end, to facilitate sewing the fasteners on in a good position relative to a piece of bone.

No attempt has been made to place the boning symmetrically on the body. and  

All the fasteners are made of brass.

And that’s it.  One very simple, very modest skirt, which by its very simplicity tells us so much about its era, and who made and wore it.

The extant skirt the Scroop Kilbirnie Skirt pattern is based on

Scroop Patterns Kilbirnie Skirt

An Edwardian wrapper

An Edwardian Wrapper

I’ve always been wildly envious of costumers who post about historical retreat events that include opportunities to swan about in glamorous undress.  Whether it’s 18th century banyans, Victorian tea gowns, or Edwardian wrappers, there’s something so delicious about actually wearing historical deshabille for the purpose it would have been worn for in period.

So when we planned our 2021 historical retreat I suggested that we should definitely include early 20th century undress in our dress planning.  It would be really easy, because we all at the very least had gorgeous vintage kimono thanks to the kimono shop that used to be in Wellington.

I had slightly more ambitious plans.  I have this fabulous 1908 wrapper pattern in my stash:

An Edwardian wrapper

The perfect excuse to make it!

What is a Wrapper?

Wrappers were looser, more informal dresses that women wore in their own home, either to relax or do housework. They would be acceptable attire for an invalid, or for the lady of the house to wear to breakfast or dinner with family and very close friends.

In elegant fabrics they overlapped with tea gowns in use and social status (I have an 1890s sewing pattern for a ‘wrapper or tea gown’). In simple fabrics they were ‘scrub’ attire, for housecleaning.    

Wrappers were a definite step up in formality from a bathrobe or kimono, but weren’t generally meant to be worn outside the house. Miss Cornelia wears a ‘chocolate brown wrapper scattered with huge pink roses’ on her first visit to Anne in ‘Anne’s House of Dreams’. Mongomery makes it clear this is highly unusual, highlighting that Anne instantly likes her, despite ‘certain oddities of attire’ and that ‘nobody but Miss Cornelia would have come to make a call’ in such a garment.    

The extravagant design of my wrapper, ‘in empire line’, with its wide sleeves and full skirt, means it wouldn’t really be practical as anything but a very elegant garment.

Wrappers could be worn with or without a corset, depending on the formality of the occasion (I’m sure Miss Cornelia was wearing one with hers!

The Fabric and Construction:

What to make my wrapper out of?  Sometimes I know exactly what fabric to pair with what pattern, and sometimes I’m totally at a loss.

I had a rummage through my stash, and decided I definitely didn’t feel like trying a pattern out for the first time in silk charmeuse.  I was a bit stumped, and then remembered this fabric:

An Edwardian wrapper

It’s a weird piece of cotton sheeting with three large embroidered cutwork motifs at one end.  I’d picked it up at Fabric-a-Brac Wellington, thinking it was embroidered all over, and then discovered how strange it was.  As far as I can guess it was meant to be a duvet cover:

An Edwardian wrapper

I had a play with the pattern pieces, and they just fit perfectly.  It was meant to be!  But what a dull, uninspiring colour…

Well, I can fix that!

An Edwardian wrapper

Definitely not dull and inspiring any more!  I was aiming for a very soft, muted pink-purple, but sometimes you get vivid orchid when you want dusty mauve…

An Edwardian wrapper

With very careful cutting I was able to get two large motifs on the front of the skirt.  I cut out the third large motif, and appliqued it to the back sweep of the skirt:

An Edwardian wrapper

I got slightly carried away on the bodice and sleeves, and just kept inserting lace, using all the lace techniques that are covered in the Scroop Patterns Ettie Petticoat pattern.

An Edwardian wrapper

An Edwardian wrapper

And the end result?

An Edwardian wrapper

So worth it!  I’m ecstatic about the end result!

An Edwardian wrapper

So comfortable!  So swooshy!

An Edwardian wrapper

And the best part?  If you look very closely at the side seams, you can see it has pockets!

An Edwardian wrapper

I wore this basically every day of the retreat.  Swan into breakfast in it, change into it for a lazy afternoon, put it on after dinner to hang out. It’s the ideal garment!

An Edwardian wrapper

It can even be worn with or without a corset.

An Edwardian wrapper

It was the only properly new make for the historical weekend, but I think it’s the perfect one.

It also fits the Historical Sew Monthly 2021 ‘Purple’ challenge (obviously!)

The Challenge: Purple (May): Make something in any shade of purple.

Material:  A 2m x 2m piece of cotton sheeting

Pattern:  An original 1907-8 pattern

Year:  1907-8

Notions:  Insertion lace, dye, thread.

How historically accurate is it?  The fabric isn’t 100% accurate, but it’s not terribly inaccurate, and the construction techniques are spot on.

Hours to complete:  6ish hours.

First worn: For our historical retreate, October 2021

Total cost: Fabric was $6, dye was $2 (an op shop bargain), lace would probably have been around $7, so $15 all up.

An Edwardian wrapper

Cute story to wrap this post up. (haha).    

I showed my parents these photos in our weekly video chat, and explained to my dad what a ‘wrapper’ was.    

He thought about it for a while, and then said “well, if you made a wrapper….what’s your rap name?’    

Me: Ummm…I don’t know! Maybe ‘Lil Stitch’?    

Him (triumphantly): Lil Stitch? Obviously you’d be Scroop Dog!