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!

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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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‘Mystery Blogger’ Award

Thank you to Kelly, who writes the blog Seam Racer, for recently nominating this blog for a ‘Mystery Blogger’ award! It’s so lovely to be chosen for this type of award. It’s amazing that we can ‘meet’ people via the internet who share our interests, isn’t it?

The Mystery Blogger Award is an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging, and they do it with so much love and passion.” Created by: Okoto Enigma

These awards generally have rules and questions associated with them. The ‘Mystery Blogger’ award rules are:

  • Thank whoever nominated you and include a link to their blog
  • Tell your readers three things about yourself
  • Answer the questions from the person who nominated you
  • Nominate 10-20 bloggers you feel deserve the award
  • Ask your nominees 5 questions of your choice, with one weird or funny one
  • Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog

Three things about me:

#1: This first one is easy, because it turns out that Kelly and I have a shared interest that I didn’t know about until I read her post about the award. Manual transmission cars? Yes please! While Kelly’s interests are more focused on sports cars, I prefer sporty sedans. A car that will get up and go is how I like to roll (literally, haha)… Like Kelly, I also enjoy being the first person to reach the speed limit after a red light. It’s fun to be part of the small percentage of Americans who drive a manual transmission and even more fun to surprise people by being an American woman who drives a manual transmission.

#2: I’m rather contrary sometimes, as people who know me well will attest, and I rather enjoy being surprising in my contrary-ness sometimes as well. As stated above, people are often surprised when they first see the car I drive–a bright red manual transmission sport sedan. I’ve asked but have yet to get a good answer as to what they think I should be driving instead… but it’s not that!

#3: I’m an introvert and sometimes get overwhelmed by being around too many people.


Kelly asked the following questions as well:

What everyday tool could you not live without? Hm… A tool? I think a hair comb! I do not want to begin to imagine how horribly full of knots my hair would be without one!

Do you have a preferred heel height for your shoes? 2″-3″ is my preferred height for heels. For everyday wear, though, flats are my friends!

What is next on your “bucket list”? Oh dear, I don’t really have a well-thought-out bucket list. Going to visit Ireland is pretty high on my list of things to do, though, so we’ll count that.

Who makes you laugh the most? Friends–I am so grateful to have good ones that I enjoy spending time and going on ridiculous adventures with.

Is there a pet that you wish you could have?…no limit! I would love to have a bear (particularly a polar bear) or a penguin for a pet! Both of those pose problems though… smell, fleas, claws, needing cold and space…


I would like to nominate the following blogs for the ‘Mystery Blogger’ award. You are all inspiring! It’s such a treat to keep up with your blogging adventures and information.

A Sartorial Statement

Beauty From Ashes

The Dreamstress

Dressed In Time

Kleidung Um 1800

Miss Victory Violet

Mode De Lis

The Modern Mantua Maker

Plaid Petticoats

Rococo Atelier

The Shadow Of My Hand

Teacups In The Garden

My questions to you are:

  • If you had a time machine, where would you take it to first and why?
  • What do you do to combat the blues on a rainy day?
  • Where would you like to travel next? Near or far…
  • What is your favorite sewing tool?
  • What name would you give to a combination of a zucchini and an asparagus?

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Summary of 2017: Looking Forward To 2018

It’s that time of year: to reflect on last year and think ahead about this year. It’s helpful to look back and see my accomplishments as a group. I seem to always make more things than I remember having worked on in that year!

Projects I completed in 2017:

January: 19th Century Brown Silk Petticoat (HSM #1)

January: My Favorite Winter Things Skirt

February: 1927 Blush Sparkle Dress

March: A Chemisette (HSM #3)

April: Orange Boven Hat (HSM #4)

May: 1814 Orange Boven Pelisse

June: 1817 Gold Regency Duchess Dress

July: 1904 Anne Ensemble

August: Happy Clover Dress

September: 1933 Evening Gown

September: 1943 Mauve Print Dress

October: 1850s Chenille Headdress

November: 1933 Dress & Hat In Green & Gold (HSM #10)

November: 1830s Sleeve Puffs (HSM #11)

November: Skirt Puffer

In February I was honored to be awarded the Liebster Blog Award by Plaid Petticoats! In August, I was excited to be able to take a fantastic trip to Denmark focused on learning 19th century dancing and including multiple balls. I haven’t posted about that trip yet… but I hope to early in 2018!

I participated in my fifth year of the Historical Sew Monthly. This year I completed 5 challenges. It was a busy year in other ways, so I feel happy about my completion of those 5 challenges.

In terms of events this year, I attended 11 balls, 10 other events (teas, picnics, outings etc.), and 2 vintage dance performances, for a total of 23 events (plus all that dance practice I had in Denmark!). Not quite as busy as other years, but respectable when I consider all the other life things that happened this year as well!

Looking at last year’s ‘definitely do’ list, I’m pleased to report that I exceeded my goals by not only making all the things on the list but actually exceeding it by altering two Regency dresses instead of just one. There were 8 things on the ‘maybe’ list and I completed 4 of them, though not all of those have had pictures taken yet.

For 2018, my  ‘definitely do’ list is unusually short:

  • update my 1928 green evening dress to fit better with less hassle
  • make a 1950s-British-royal-inspired Queen of Hearts sash

On the other hand, the ‘maybe’ list feels extensive, probably due to the lack of projects on the ‘definitely do’ list:

  • 1884 plaid wool day dress
  • 1880s wool mantle
  • 1790s stays
  • 1790s petticoat
  • 1790s dress
  • finishing a modern floral cotton summer dress
  • as many as four modern dresses
  • vintage inspired winter wool skirts

I’m looking forward to another year of research, sewing, spending time with old friends, and hopefully making some new friends, too! I hope for sunshine for all of us in 2018.

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