Friday, January 30, 2015


For many years I have loved costume history. When I was a young teen, my sister Heather worked at a living history museum, and I had my first taste of recreating historical fashion. Sadly, though, it wasn't until a couple of years ago that I finally learned how to sew. I've been trying to make up for lost time!

Last year I discovered the Historical Sew Fortnightly and joined the group. See: for more information. At that point, and for several years the challenges had been fortnightly. For various reasons, one of them being moving house from Glasgow back to Utah, I was only able to complete two of the challenges! Which is appalling. This year, however, I am determined to complete them all. And I'm off to a good start: I completed the first challenge today: a chemisette.

One of the challenges I attempted last year was a chemisette, which I tried to hand-draft from the example below. It wasn't a complete success - mostly as it was rushed and not large enough. This year I used a pattern from Sense and Sensibility.

My first chemisette attempt.

A chemisette is a wee under-garment worn under a dress (though, intriguingly over a dress too sometimes). It has been seen in fashion throughout history. The one I chose to make is suitable for 1800-1820, but they were used all throughout the 1800s. The 20th century even had an equivalent - the dicky!

An extant example of a chemisette

A chemisette over the dress.

My chemisette completed today.

Under my Regency gown.

Under my 1830s dress.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Cats of Glasgow

With Miller in June 2014.

Recently a tabby cat well known in the West End, especially by students of the University of Glasgow, died. He was a venerable old fellow of eighteen years named Miller. He was well loved by those who walked by. I myself always saw him on Hillhead Street. Apparently he was named the Adam Smith cat, as he was often seen hanging about that building.

During my four year stay in Glasgow, though, I was cheered by many cats in the West End. There was a wee black cat that used to meet me on my way to work early in the morning. He would greet me and follow me part of the way there. As I had left my own feline back in the states, it was very cheering to have these encounters with Scottish cats. So, in honour of Miller, I thought I would dedicate this post to them. 

A wee Scottish Fold! 

This rare beauty was always a delight to see!

A close-up.

This lovely ginger tabby was always hanging about at my church. 

The exotic one again, seen above. 

A black cat seen on Great Western Road.

This tortoise-shell I only encountered once.

This black cat is the one who often met me on my way to work.

I was grateful to be able to have some nice cat friends in Glasgow. They often cheered my days! 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

St Mungo: My Favourite Celtic Saint

An embroidery piece I'm working on of St Mungo

Even before I moved to Glasgow in September 2010, I had heard of that city's patron saint. My sister and I had discovered a charming mystery series set in Glasgow in the 15th century. I recommend it - the author is Pat McIntosh. However, as soon as one is in Glasgow, St Mungo is ever present - on the sides of buildings, on bridges, everywhere you turn the Glasgow city coat of arms is seen, and therefore, the symbols of St Mungo's miracles. 

In honour of his feast day, which is today, I thought I'd focus a post on the life of this saint. 

A figure of St Mungo in the Memorial Chapel on the University of Glasgow campus. 

According to his hagiography, Saint Mungo (or Kentigern, as he's officially known) was born to a noble woman who was raped by a man dressed up as a woman, as she did not want to marry. Her father banished her by throwing her down a hill (as they lived in a hill fort it is assumed). Some say it might be Traprain Law on the east coast of Scotland. After this she was put out to sea, in hopes that she would not survive. When she reached the shore, however, she was taken in by St Serf, and when Kentigern was born, Serf brought him up.

The plaques below the ladies bear the Glasgow city seal. 
While still a youth, he performed two of his best known miracles. St Serf had a pet robin which was killed by a group of boys. Mungo brought it back to life, much to the delight of St Serf. The other miracle happened when Mungo was set to guard the fires and keep them alight. The other boys, in a fit of jealousy, put out all the fires. Mungo lit a hazel branch and kept it burning through the night.
A beautiful statue of Mungo above the entrance to the Kelvingrove Museum.
My favourite of the miracles concerns the queen of the local king at that time who went to Mungo for help. She had been having an affair with one of the king's men, and had given her lover a ring. The king had taken this ring from the man and thrown it into the river. He then demanded the ring from his wife, else he would put her to death. She took this plight to the saint and he instructed that a salmon be fished out of the river and upon cutting it open, they would find the ring inside. And so it proved to be, and queen was spared. I've always found it intriguing that he assisted a woman in such circumstances.

St Mungo's tomb in the cathedral.
 Of course, many stories from a saint's hagiography are complete fiction. And Mungo's Life does not have the advantage that others have, of being penned shortly after his death. The two that we have (one of which is only a fragment) were penned during the time that Glasgow was being promoted as the religious centre in Strathclyde area of Scotland. 

On the side of a house inside the Botanic Gardens.
In an article by Alan MacQuarrie published in The Innes Review, these later accounts of Mungo's life are discussed, as well as earlier sources that were available to the authors, but which are lost to us. He also tries to pick out which elements of Mungo's life might actually be true. Though it is difficult to discover which is truth and which is fantasy, it is fascinating to see how the stories of St Mungo's life have inspired not only the people of Glasgow, but people all around the world. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Goals for the New Year

Growing up, I feel that New Years resolutions were always regarded as a sort-of joke. One didn't really intend to keep them. One year, thanks to my good friend Rachel, and my flat-mate at the time, I was pretty successful at keeping those pesky resolutions. This year I decided to call them goals, and suddenly it seemed quite an exciting prospect for the New Year.

One of my goals was to start a new blog. Whilst I was living in Scotland, I kept a blog, ostensibly to keep my family in America informed of my goings-on. But I found that I really looked forward to doing it, and it was a good record for myself of my glorious time in Scotland.

I graduated last year with a MA in archaeology. At this point in my life I am not using that degree. But I thought I could use this blog to discuss the archaeological and historical things which interest me, as well as any historic needlework projects I might be working on. Archaeology has often been described as a magpie-like profession, as it gleans things from many other disciplines: science, history and philosophy to name a few. As this blog will be a little bit of everything, I thought it apt to borrow the magpie comparison.

Thank you for reading, and Happy New Year to you all!