Book Review: Distaff Sketch Book ~ 1774 -1783

Many of you have been asking me to make another Colonial Dress when I get the chance and I’ve been listening. It got me to thinking of ideas for dresses from that time in history and that made me think of this book in my library. It was a very important resource book when I first started making dresses for Felicity back in 2006. I sewed almost exclusively for Felicity that first year so I made quite a few Colonial dresses. This book helped me tremendously. It has all sorts of little details that are fun to read about. The subtitle of the book is actually, “A Collection of Notes and Sketches on Women’s Dress in America.”

The book itself is just a thin, paperback book consisting of 61 pages. The author and illustrator is Robert Klinger. The publisher is Pioneer Press in Tennessee and the book was published in 1974. The entire book is hand written in cursive and done with pen and ink drawings. The book is packed with lots of information on subjects like aprons, belts, bonnets, capes, hair pins, handbags, pattens, materials, pockets, plus much more!

Okay, so let me show you a few of the illustrations of this book.

Again, if you click on any picture, it will enlarge somewhat.









Now this was interesting…. apparently even in the Colonial days pimples were covered up… but with “patches.” They were worn on the women’s face to cover up scars or anything she didn’t want to be seen. Interesting, huh?


This was one of my favorite pages in the book. It told what the names of the fabrics were called. They had some common names for some of the fabrics we use today; calico, corduroy, gauze, lawn, but some were totally new to me… Linseywoolsey- a cloth of mixed linen and wool. Duffles – a coarse woolen cloth. Barleycorn -checked fabric. Jaconet -soft muslin. Ticklengburg -coarse linen.


The book is very nice for seamstresses but fun for anyone interested in the fashions seen in America from around 1774 to 1783. I give this book 2 thumbs up!

I wish I had some of my Felicity dresses to show you of the ones I made from copying these book illustrations, but sadly, I must have erased my earlier pictures. I have no Polonaises or Caraco jackets to show you. I did however find a few for Elizabeth that were inspired by the book. I hope you enjoy these few…







See you tomorrow,
Blessings, Jeanne

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  1. Kathie Welsh says:

    That post was super interesting!
    Loved the pics and explanations of the Patches…maybe that’s where the face Tattoo idea came from 🙂
    Especially got a kick out of the drawing of the person wearing the double ruffle hat… do you think he was a cross dresser?
    I’ve never seen a sleeve for a dress have a bottom and a top pattern either…was it to make the sleeve fit really snug?
    The red/white with the square neck is my fav…
    If the petticoat pieces I sent whiten up they would be darling under one of your creations!
    Thanks for a nice diversion on a COLD morning!

    • HI Kathie,
      I thought the exact same thing about the “cross dresser” p-e-r-s-o-n, but was too afraid to mention it, but I did think that exact same thing! If you look closely at the picture, there is a hint of cleavage…so….
      Yes, the under sleeves have just a bit of ease in them so they give more around the elbow area. I’ve made several before, but since the AG dolls don’t bend their arms it’s a bit of a useless step and a lot of extra work.
      That red and white one was one of my very favorites too! I found that fabric at a little store on a trip we were on and never could find it anywhere else. It was incredibly soft and delicate and made up into this dress very nicely.
      Blessings, Jeanne

  2. Marilyn Grotzky says:

    I just bought the book. It’s available new and used on Amazon. I was afraid it wouldn’t be. I’ve always wondered how they constructed the backs of several of the dresses. Thanks for sharing. This was super.

    • Thanks Marilyn,
      It is a fun book to look at all the details, isn’t it? Or when you get it you can answer that! I hope you enjoy it.
      I’m not ignoring your email to me about Graces outfit….just a couple of busy days…
      Blessings, Jeanne

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