My Interview With Maureen Taylor, The Photo Detective

As you probably know if you read my blog on a regular basis, I love making and wearing historical clothing. It’s rather common for me to pull historical clothing out of my closet and wear it to lovely places.

Below, I’m wearing my 1885 summer ensemble at the Lippitt House in Providence, RI. Look at that wallpaper! It’s fantastic! If you’re ever in Providence and the house is open I highly suggest a visit. The details are absolutely stunning and I found the guides to be engaging, knowledgeable, and truly invested in the information they were sharing.

While at the Lippitt House, I met a woman who was incredibly interested in my clothing, how it feels to wear, how I make it, and where my inspiration comes from. She eagerly asked lots of questions and shared about her own fascination with history as well.

I learned that Maureen Taylor is a genealogist and historian who now focuses on photo identification, photograph preservation, and family history through her work as the Photo Detective. In addition to being an engaging person who loves history, she has extensive experience and has had opportunities to share her knowledge in prominent publications. When she asked if I would like to be a guest on her podcast I very readily agreed.

A number of months later and here we are: my interview with Maureen is available for a listen on her podcast! We discuss the 1885 ensemble I was wearing when we met, the 1863 dress I made last fall, and other historical clothing topics as well. Check it out and enjoy!

You can find Maureen Taylor around the internet in these places:

Web Maureen Taylor
Facebook @MaureenPhotoDetective
Instagram @photodetective
Twitter @PhotoDetective

Summary of 2019: Looking Forward To 2020

2020 seemed unattainably far away for a long time, but here we are. As with many others in blog-land, I’m ready to look back on 2019’s achievements and set some goals for the coming year. So, without further ado…

Projects I completed in 2019

January: Sunshine Yellow 1933
&
February: 1930s Hat

February: 1890s Shortcut Dickie

February: 1896 Cycling Ensemble

April: Ikat Print Henrietta Maria

May: Autumn Plaid Dress

June: HSM #6, Mid-19th Century Underclothes

October: HSM #10, 1863 Ball Gown ‘Genevieve’

November: HSM #11, 1920 Deauville Sweater (The Sweater Of Determination)

December: HSM #12, Faux Hair Braid

General Blog News

I updated the blog design pretty substantially in June. And the blog passed 300 followers in 2019! Thank you all for sharing my adventures!

I participated in the Historical Sew Monthly for the seventh year, completing 4 out of 12 challenges. (That’s the same as last year.) I love to participate, but often my sewing doesn’t fit into the challenges which is why I only completed ⅓ of the challenges this year and last.

Additional Opportunities 

I was invited to give 3 historical dressing lectures during the course of 2019.  Each one was an excellent occasion to share my passion for bringing history to life with others! Two of the lectures were about women’s sportswear around the turn of the 20th century (one of these was filmed, and can be seen here, on YouTube) and the third was about African American middle and upper class clothing in Providence, RI around the turn of the 20th century (you can see photos of and information about this event here). The sportswear lectures led to interviews on NPR’s WBUR in Boston (you can listen to it here) as well as Providence’s NBC channel (you can view it here, my segment runs from :55-6:54).

Event Recap

In 2019, I attended 8 balls, 5 other events (teas, picnics, outings etc.), 1 vintage dance performance, and delivered 3 lectures (and 2 interviews). That’s fewer events than last year, but an increase in ‘work’ engagements, so the total stayed consistent. This year was full of many other life adventures as well, which kept me quite busy!

To Do Lists

I intentionally kept last year’s to do list short. And I’m pleased to say that I was done with most of it by May! The only outstanding thing is the 1925 coat… that’s been sitting in my sewing room since last January…

On the ‘maybe’ list from last year, I completed the new 1860s dress (boy did I–it took a long time! 57 hours, if you’re counting…) and made serious progress on the 1884 plaid wool day dress. I’ve also made steady progress on the 1790s stays. I didn’t actually make many modern garments… though I acquired more fabric for them. I guess that should stay on the to-do list!

Next year’s ‘definitely’ to do list:

  • That 1925 coat that has been half finished for over a year
  • Finishing the 1884 plaid wool day dress I started in November 2017
  • 1875 petticoat, balyeuse, bodice, and skirt

Next year’s ‘maybe’ to do list:

  • 1875 hat to go with new ensemble
  • 1880s wool mantle
  • 1880s hat to go with plaid wool day dress
  • 1830s cotton day dress
  • The 1790s stays I started in the winter of 2018
  • 1790s petticoat
  • 1790s dress
  • Modern dresses, pants, and skirts (I really should stop acquiring fabric for more until I start actually making these!)

Wishing wonderful adventures to all of us in 2020!

 

Freshening Up The Blog

Wait, what? Is this the blog you were expecting?

Yes, I hope so! I’ve given The Quintessential Clothes Pen a design overhaul! We all change over time and I rather think the blog was overdue for a fresh look. The goal is to have a clean, simple look going forward.

I’ve still got a few small details to work out (I have to remember the little bit of CSS I taught myself a few years ago when I changed some smaller blog settings), but never fear, the content will be the same as it always has been!

Summary Of 2018: Looking Forward To 2019

2019 feels awfully close to 2020 to me… and 2020 sounds like it should still be far away! Luckily, my feelings about how far away a year feels have nothing to do with how much sewing and fun I have in each year! So I’ll leave my feelings aside and recap my sewing adventures from 2018 instead.

To start, projects I completed!

January: Third re-do of 1928 Green Silk Evening Dress (HSM #1)

February: c. 1955 Evening Gown with Queen Of Hearts sash

March: 1934 Metallic Evening Gown

March: c. 1935 Dressing Gown & Slip

July: A New Old(er) Dress

August: 1925 Blue Coral Day Dress (HSM #8)

September: 1925 Lace Cloche

October: Vintage Inspired Book Dress

October: Gave My Old Hoops New Spots

November: A Fortescue Frock

December: 1920s Beaded Bag (HSM #11)

December: 1926 Silver Robe de Style

December: 1896 Black Gaiters

In May and June, I finally posted about my trip to Denmark in 2017 to attend a vintage dance week. That was three separate installments: Part I an introduction to the trip, Part II photos of the events, and Part III documentation of our sightseeing adventures. I also passed along the Mystery Blogger Award and the Liebster Blog Award in June. I appreciate all of my readers and am grateful that you’re interested in sharing my sewing adventures with me! In August, I started a new adventure, #virtualsewingcircle, a livestream of my sewing via Twitch; however, I realized that this format of sharing my sewing did not work for me at this time with my other life activities. I’ve still been plugging away at the projects I announced and I’m still using the hashtag for them on Instagram, but the live sewing is currently on a break. In September, I had the great fortune of going to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Florida, which allowed me to photograph two new dresses seen above. The Fortescue Frock was sewn live on Twitch over the summer and the Vintage Inspired Book Dress was made awhile ago but took me this long to photograph!

I participated in my sixth year of the Historical Sew Monthly in 2018. This year I completed only 4 of 12 challenges since I had a lot of other sewing on my plate that did not count but kept my hands quite busy. Hopefully next year I’ll participate a bit more.

In 2018, I attended 10 balls, 7 other events (teas, picnics, outings etc.), and 4 vintage dance performances. That’s generally in line with my numbers from last year.

Last year’s deinfitely-to-do list was intentionally conservative so I could feel like I actually accomplished it. And… I’m proud to say that it was done by March! Of the things on the ‘maybe’ list, I finished one modern dress, made two more, and made a modern wool skirt. The only one of those that hasn’t made it to the blog is the skirt. I wear it all the time and really need to get photos! It’s a lovely cranberry color!

I also have a number of things that I made towards the end of last year but haven’t posted about yet–all made while I was sewing live on Twitch. I couldn’t keep up with photographing all the things I was producing! These include a new Henrietta Maria, a 1933 summer dress and hat, and another modern dress–the Autumn Plaid dress. So one of my goals is to share about those early in 2019. In addition, my definitely-to-do list for 2019 includes:

  • finishing an 1896 cycling ensemble I started at the end of last year
  • finishing a 1925 coat that I announced I would be making at the end of last year

And of course there are maybes. Many of these are the same as last year!

  • a new 1860s evening dress
  • finishing the 1884 plaid wool day dress I started in November 2017
  • 1880s wool mantle
  • sewing the 1790s stays I started in the winter of 2018
  • 1790s petticoat
  • 1790s dress
  • modern dresses, pants, and skirts (I have lots of fabrics and patterns, I just need time…)

Wishing you a very happy new year!
(I think Kreacher wishes us a happy new year, too!)

A Wizarding World Of Harry Potter Vacation

If you’ve been reading the last few posts on the blog, you’ve seen mentions of my visit to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando, which provided the backdrops for the photos I shared of my Book Dress and Fortescue Frock. And if you’ve been following my blog since 2015, you might remember how excited I was to share photos from my visit to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour Harry Potter experience. Well, I’m just as excited to share more photos from my more recent trip to Universal Orlando! Not all of these are strictly clothing related, so I thought they merited their own vacation-recap post.

If you’re not familiar with Harry Potter then I think this post will mostly seem like gibberish, but there are probably still some amusing photos you might enjoy!

First, I have to say that I greatly enjoyed my visit! First, Diagon Alley is shady and cooler than the rest of the park. Second, I loved all the detail that went into the design of the atmosphere, the edibles, the staff costumes, the merchandise, the rides… There were so many things to appreciate in terms of details–you can dial the Ministry Of Magic number in the telephone booth, disappear onto platform 9 ¾, see Kreacher periodically looking out of Grimmauld Place, hear Moaning Myrtle in one of the bathrooms, see amusing wizard ads and signage, watch Celestina Warbeck perform the entirety of A Cauldron Full Of Hot Strong Love, talk to a banking goblin who responds to your questions, send a piece of mail via owl post with a Hogsmeade stamp, see Durmstrang and Beauxbatons students show off their staff drills and ribbon twirling skills… the list goes on and on.

On our very first day in the park we were walking towards Harry-Potter-land (which is at the back of the park) and saw the Mystery Machine from Scooby Doo parked along the road. I’ve enjoyed Scooby Doo since I was a kid so I found it great fun to take photos with the van!

While wandering back through the park sipping pumpkin juice later in the day the van was gone… but there was Scooby Doo, walking down the road! Picture time again! I was amused.

I greatly enjoyed pumpkin juice! I love how the words sound in my head (say it with an emphasis on the consonants) and am always the most intrigued by that edible in the books. Pumpkin juice was delightfully sweet and cold. I don’t know that I would want to drink it all the time, but it was a treat I would definitely have again. On the other hand, butterbeer (which I also tried) was super sweet. I actually didn’t mind the taste as much as I thought I would, not being a fan of cream soda type tastes, but I wasn’t interested in more than a few sips of it. Oh, and pumpkin pasties! We tried one of those, too. That was actually disappointing. Kind of dry and very spiced without being interesting. I’d try making them myself someday, but I wouldn’t want to eat the ones at the park again. There are also special ‘wizard’ beers sold at different shops that I enjoyed tasting. They weren’t particularly special in terms of taste, but it was still fun to try them all!

One thing I thought could have been more interactive and full was Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. There wasn’t a whole lot of merchandise in that store, though it is described as being full and busy. That being said, it was one of the locations with GIANT pygmy puffs, which amused me greatly.

Here’s just one example of another shop window that I was amused by. There are so many shop windows for stores you can’t actually enter. Just imagine if you could enter them all! What fun!

This is in the Magical Menagerie. Mr. Q visited the park without me while I was in Denmark in 2017 (I was sad, especially because he doesn’t particularly care about Harry Potter or know any details, but I was in Denmark so I couldn’t really complain!). He brought me back an owl from the middle shelf, which I call my House Owl, because it was a belated housewarming present and it’s like a house elf…! (You know, I don’t think you could buy a stuffed house elf anywhere. Surprising, because it seems like the sort of thing you might find in Knockturn Alley, perhaps…) All of these owls are characters in the books. I think the top one is Draco Malfoy’s Eagle Owl, the brown one is the Weasley’s old owl Errol, the grey one (my House Owl) is Ron’s owl Pigwideon, and the bottom one is of course Harry’s snowy owl Hedwig. Some if not all of the Hedwig’s are backpacks, which is super amusing and cute but seems like it would get grimy awfully fast!

In addition to the shelving full of owls, pygmy puffs, etc. the Magical Menagerie was a fun place to look around because the gallery around the top was full of moving animals of various different sorts. Here’s the shop from the outside. Cheers!

Just to one side of this shop is Gringotts. I like roller coasters, so I found this ride to be great fun. Oh and that dragon on top of the bank? He breathes real fire about every 10 minutes. It was hot when you were standing under it! And oh dear, but it was amusing when people didn’t realize it would be happening and were sitting on the steps of the bank…

Just near there is Hagrid’s motorbike, which you can actually sit on and fiddle with. Could you actually ride it sideways? Probably not, but I was amused.

Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade are actually in two different parks. To get between them we could walk or take the Hogwarts Express. Of course we did both!

Wandering through the parks allowed us to happen upon things like Scooby Doo and the Mystery Machine, as well as a Greek themed restaurant that made for a lovely spot to get lunch one day. We also passed through Dr. Seuss-land. I meant to get pictures with the Truffula trees, but didn’t when we were passing through and then forgot. (I am the Lorax! I speak for the trees!) Maybe next time. I did get photos of other amusing things though. They gave the topiaries faces and hair!

We also took the Hogwarts Express both directions. When you take the Hogwarts Express from London (Diagon Alley) they’ve engineered the queue so that people appear to actually disappear into the wall at Platform 9 ¾! It’s really neat! And we were there on a weekday when there wasn’t a line, so we could go back and forth and amuse ourselves! After getting on to the platform there are many more things to look at. Here’s Hedwig, who blinks and turns her head.

And here’s the Hogwarts Express after arriving in Hogsmeade. I’m hard to spot, but I’m near the engine in this photo.

Arriving in Hogsmeade. Brrr! (Not really, it was still 90 degrees!)

A required photo of the castle! I really enjoyed the castle ride (again, I like roller coasters)! …except for the spiders! I closed my eyes for that part, because I do not like spiders.

The snowman (who never melts, of course!) has his own owl! And robe, hat and scarf! I was very amused!

Hogsmeade is where Owl Post is located. There’s a whole shop for it, with owls in the nooks that hoot and move.

You have to go outside to get your Hogsmeade stamp. Here I am writing a postcard to a friend with a snowy owl looking on. I might have also written a postcard to myself…! Even out here there are owls in the rafters that hoot, turn their heads, and move their wings.

Back in London, there is a Knight Bus near the telephone booth where you can phone the Ministry of Magic. Here I am, sticking out my wand hand (sans wand, so clearly I wasn’t the one who summoned the Knight Bus, but oh well!).

And one more shop photo, from Madame Malkin’s. This mirror would say snarky things as people walked by. It reminds me of the Mirror of Erised, which I enjoy the idea of. What do you see in the Mirror of Erised?

Thanks for enjoying my vacation with me!

Announcing A New Adventure #virtualsewingcircle

I’m going to try something new. At least, it feels quite new to me, inhabiting as I often do the historically clothed past. I am starting live streams of my sewing projects: a virtual sewing circle hosted by me, TheQuinnPen!

The idea was suggested to me by Mr. Q, who pointed out that I already sew often, so why not share the process in addition to the finished garments? Following that idea, I’ll be sewing as I usually do, explaining my steps as I go along and discussing any tips or tricks that might be relevant along the way.

The platform I’ll be using is Twitch, where you can watch, ask questions, learn something new, teach me something new, share your own tips, make progress sewing your own garment with good company, or even sew the same garment that I am in a sew-along fashion!

After each live stream I’ll share photos of my sewing progress on Instagram with #virtualsewingcircle. Share your own progress made during the live stream as well, using the same hashtag!

You can join me on the following schedule beginning this Saturday, July 7.

Wednesdays 8pm-9:30pm EST
Fridays 8pm-9:30pm EST
Saturdays 2pm-4pm EST

As you can see, my upcoming projects are modern and vintage dresses for which I’ve got some really fun, summery fabrics and lovely patterns lined up! I’ll be talking about all sorts of things while sewing these dresses: methods of marking fabric, printing and assembling patterns at home, gathering, side seam pockets, and different methods of hemming, just to name a few!

Remember the fabrics from my recent post about stash additions? Two of those stripes and one of those patterned fabrics are part of the plan for my upcoming project list!

Join my virtual sewing circle! I look forward to seeing you this Saturday July 7 at 2pm. Friendly conversation and familiar voices from the blog will be incredibly welcome!

(Thanks most certainly need to go out to Mr. Q, for excellent technical support, and LRS, for amazing moral support and query help.)

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Much Delayed Leibster Blog Award

My last post about the Mystery Blogger Award reminded me of a related post that has been sitting in my drafts folder for over a year. I’ve meant to complete it even though I’m quite delayed, especially as I mentioned needing to finish it in my Summary of 2017! So finally, I would like to say that I am honored to have been nominated for the Leibster Blog Award at Plaid Petticoats last February!

This award has the following rules:

  • Answer the questions asked by the person who nominated you
  • Nominate 11 blogs who have less than 200 followers for the award
  • Ask questions of the blogs you nominate

First, my answers to the questions I was asked:

How did you start making historical garments? I’ve always been fascinated by history, so as soon as I learned to sew garments I was curious about historical ones. I had the amazing encouragement of mentors who knew more than I did and encouraged me to explore my love of history and historical clothing.

What is your favorite part of blogging? It’s great to connect with others (across the world, which is so neat!) who have similar interests. I also appreciate the blog as a place to document for myself what I’ve made and the process, materials, etc. for different projects.

Describe a time you struggled with a historical project. What did you learn from the experience? Well, I’ve had an 1880s bustle skirt on my dress form for over six months. I’ve played with the draping of the pieces a few times but only recently come up with something I really, truly like. The lesson is that sometimes you just have to let a project sit when it’s frustrating you and come back to it later. Luckily this project has no deadline!

If money and restoration were no object, what piece of historical technology would you love to try using? I would really love to ride in all the different types of carriages and traps from the 19th century. There is such variety and I’m sure there are nuances about how each type felt to ride in that you wouldn’t really know without experiencing them.

Do you watch or listen to anything while you sew? If so, what is your favorite background?  I listen to Disney music if I want something to sing along to. If I’m not at the sewing machine, I like to watch Star Trek. The costumes don’t change much so if I’m not looking at the screen I won’t miss too much and I’ve seen all the episodes before so I never feel like I’m going to miss something.


I would like to nominate the following blogs for this award:

All The Pretty Dresses

Atelier Nostalgia

Flashback Summer

In The Long Run

It’s All Frosting

Miss Hendrie’s Workbook

Polka Polish

Seam Racer

Vintage Gal

I actually really love all the questions I was asked, so I would like to ask my nominees to answer the same questions I’ve just answered.

1. How did you start making historical garments?
2. What is your favorite part of blogging?
3. Describe a time you struggled with a historical project. What did you learn from the experience?
4. If money and restoration were no object, what piece of historical technology would you love to try using?
5. Do you watch or listen to anything while you sew? If so, what is your favorite background?

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