Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Living History at Ceasars Creek

Back in September I attended a small event at a local historic site with most of the kids. My oldest, David, decided to forgo the prospect of time-travel in favor of going to a metal workers convention with our backyard neighbor, who builds airplanes in his spare time (yes, really!) so I only had to worry about scraping together old clothes for the younger ones. Thankfully, we all had enough of everything to be outfitted appropriately for a very rural type of impression (which is my preference!).

It was a pretty last minute decision for me to go. Since it's fairly local I figured I could always leave if I needed to, at any time, and I surprised myself by really enjoying the experience and staying til the end of the day. It was a gentle, quiet, low-key event and I liked it that way. One of my favorite moments was sitting on the cabin steps with the children and reading passages of the Bible to them while Malachi sewed a button back onto his waistcoat.

Some highlights of the event for me included taking Benjamin and Rose to the outhouse mid-afternoon, and discovering that the woods around us were full of Confederate soldiers. I wasn't expecting that so the genuine feelings of surprise and unease added to a bit of a "period moment", as they say. Benjamin was intrigued by the soldiers and Rosie wanted to run back to the cover of our little camp area behind the cabin as fast as possible.

My darling Benjamin.

Not a period recipe, but "inspired by". I made this with dried figs, orange marmalade,
ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, apple cider and brown sugar.


I also enjoyed taking a long walk through the woods with Malachi and Rose in the evening. The park surrounding the village has lovely trails and we had fun exploring a few of them. On our way we passed many pawpaw trees and Rosie and I sang many repetitions of "Way Down Yonder in the Paw Paw Patch", substituting Rosie's name for "Sweet Little Susie", of course. 😁

She loved going to the water pump near the flower garden to get water. She'd recite:
"Jack and Jill went up a hill to fetch a pail of water. . ."

Rosie took this one! I gave her the camera for a while and let her take whatever pictures she liked.
It's interesting to see the world from her perspective. I love it!

It was nice to visit with a few friends I hadn't seen for a while, and perhaps the best part of the event was meeting a friend I have known online for many years, but had never met in person up til that day. He was passing through the area so stopped in to say hello. I was so surprised and so happy to finally meet him!
A cat someone apparently left at the village! I think he found a good home with some of the volunteers!

Rosie and a little friend - and the cat!

I thought about this event for a long time after it was over and felt a little bit of interest come back for reenacting. I ordered a few new patterns to make the big boys some new garments for next year and I actually have plans to make my ball gown, at last! I'll be going to a dance in a few months so it's time to get this thing made. I bought tickets so yes, I am going to go even if I decide I'd rather not. I received my package with some cotton bobbinett and lace yesterday so now to sort out a bertha design and try to make a decent silk dress out of 5 yards of fabric. 😁 All in good time.

Much love,

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Toadstool Tie Back Boots for Rosie

I made these a few weeks ago but only got pictures of the first version of them. The version that didn't-quite-work, so that I reluctantly tore apart the next day and remade. This time, with much better results! So this is the second version of Rose's green velvet toadstool slippers and I love them so much I want a me-sized pair. 😂 Since making these, though, I haven't sewn anything at all except mending so who knows when I will actually get around to making more.

These are the Twig and Tale Tie Back Boots pattern. I scoured the internet for any free similar pattern but in the end I caved and purchased this one, which was, I think, a good thing. This pattern was just as awesome as the other ones that I have tried and I love supporting a business that promotes upcycling textiles, cutting back on the consumption of paper and ink and creates a sturdy, professional looking garment from the get go. 

Rosie's green slippers were a practice pair so I didn't put a ton of effort into making them special, but I couldn't resist adding a few tiny appliques when she chose an upholstery weight green velveteen for the main fabric. A few scraps from the scrap drawer and some fusible interfacing later, we had toadstools! 

The first version of these were lined in the polka-dot knit left over from her leggings and tunic I made a month or two ago. They also had soles made of leather on the outside and fusible foam and minky on the inside. Soft, comfy but. . .too thick. It made the shoe very small inside and Rosie said her toes felt "stuffy". The pattern instructions, sewing the lining and outer shoe together around the top edge, keeps the lining "floating free" inside the shoe, so that when Rose removed her foot, the lining came out with it. This could have been remedied by a few subtle, firm stitches to attach the lining to the outer, but I decided to try something else.

I love hearing her tell me allllll the colors she sees in a leaf this time of year!
This one had: red, orange, yellow, green, purple and blue in it. 

I deconstructed the first version the next day and made a new lining of plain woven cotton. For the sole I used a single thick piece of wool broadcloth with the leather sole on the outside. After constructing the new lining, I sewed the lining to the outer shoe around the sole, right sides together. When the outer shoe was pulled up around the lining, the soles stayed together. No more lining coming out when Rose took her shoes off! To finish the top edge, I turned down a narrow cuff and topstitched it into place. 

Dirty fingernails after spending an afternoon in the leaves! 😂

The tie back boots are awesome since they are so adjustable and there are no ties to worry about untying and retying every time they are put on or taken off. The fit comes from the semi-permanent tie that goes around the ankle and the fact that the tie is made of stretchy material or elastic - in this case, a bit of polka dot knit scrap cut into a strip. 

While these are more of an around-the-house slipper, the leather soles make them work for outdoor use if the weather is dry. I've seen other versions of these shoes made with material that is meant to be waterproof and can be used for more heavy use outdoors. Maybe someday I will try that! 

I hope you all are having a blessed November. Soon it will be Thanksgiving! I am so enjoying this time of year!

Much love,


Friday, October 25, 2019

A 1980's Gunne Sax Dress

I love Gunne Sax dresses. I remember being a small girl, looking at old photos of my beautiful mother in Gunne Sax-style dresses. I loved the old fashioned appeal. To my young mind, they were exactly right the look for an "olden day" outfit and my little heart coveted a calico gunne sax dress. Then and only then, I thought, would I look like Laura Ingalls. In my teens I discovered eBay and oh! joy of joys! Lots of listings for vintage dresses, both true Gunne Sax (pricey!) and the slightly lower quality, cheaper knock-offs. I purchased several dresses and skirts in my late teens and wore them to death. I didn't attend any dances or proms, since I was homeschooled, but for my 16th birthday my dad took me to see an Andre Rieu concert at the Peoria Civic Center and I dressed in a lovely white lacey Gunne-Sax style dress for the occasion. When I graduated homeschool-highschool in 2004 I wore a white eyelet Gunne Sax dress with petal sleeves and a faux front laced bodice.

Just-turned-18 Sarah in 2004 with friends Adam and Laura

Then in 2005 I got married after a 2 month engagement (yikes. Don't do that, kids) in a purple and white Gunne Sax knock off, after my one and only year of community college (alas, I majorly regret not finishing my program!) and babies started arriving a year later. My new mom body no longer fit into those old, pretty dresses so eventually they were donated to thrift stores or the material repurposed into newly sewn items. 

Fast forward thirteen summers and here we are ,this past September, at the 4-H building at the county fair. On a table in the back were free patterns. (It seems there are always free sewing patterns at these 4-H functions!) I picked a few to take home with me, one a simple shorts and blouse pattern for the girls, one for a 1970s trio of bags and a set of gaiters, and, the shining jewel, a 1980 Gunne Sax pattern!

I was feeling pretty uninspired at the time. I hadn't sewn much all summer, or for that matter all year. I really loved the dress pattern though and thought I'd like to take a slow time of making it. Nothing rushed, nothing with a deadline. I wanted to make it thoroughly and well, and follow the instructions exactly, and buy actual new fabric for the sole purpose of making the dress. I began to think about the dress and look for material when I went out. I had it in mind to make a light colored dress, maybe cream or yellow or pale blue, in a tiny floral print but one day a vision of this dress made up in a somewhat gaudy floral black fabric popped into my head. Um, black? I absolutely did not want a floral black dress. Ew. But the vision would not budge. I sighed, resigned myself to the fact that this is what this dress wanted to be, and went to Hobby Lobby where I bought five yards of this nice, smooth appropriately gaudy black floral fabric. It reminded me at the time of the wallpaper common in ye Olde Days of when I was a child. The pattern called for a lot more fabric but I was fairly sure I could eke it out of 5. I did, but just barely.

The pattern, just one size, was close enough to my measurements that I was sure it would fit. I decided to make it exactly as the pattern was drafted and not try to fit it to my individual body. I cut out all the pieces carefully and began sewing it together. The method of sewing was odd to me, with lots of hems  with raw edges and lots of lace trim, but it looked okay. Once the bodice was put together I put it on and was disappointed with the armholes. They were so low. The bottom of the armholes went basically to boob level. And considering I wasn't wearing a bra, nor do I wear one with the dress, this is *really* low. This not only made raising my arms very difficult, but it made the whole bodice look frumpy. But still, I persevered and made and attached the skirt, which is a lovely gored skirt with a lot of fullness at the hem. I tried it on. It fit. . .kind of.

I didn't feel content with it. Not only were the armscyes ridiculously huge, the bodice itself seemed too long from shoulder to waist. There were weird wrinkles radiating down from the shoulder to mid chest. I didn't like it. It is quite true I could have left the dress as it was and likely no one would have ever noticed anything off about the dress, as it fit about the same as any off the rack dress might. But it bothered me. It didn't sit right. I felt awkward and conspicuous. So. . .

I redid the thing. I disassembled the dress, took the bodice apart, shortened the entire bodice from the shoulders and  reset the sleeves, redid the collar while I was at it, making it a 2 layer collar instead of a single layer (the single layer collar didn't have enough body to hold its shape nicely) and sewed the skirt back on. While I was at it I redid all the previously serged seams with french seams. The dress fit, and felt, much, much nicer when I was done. I put it on, zipped it up, and immediately felt right. This is how the dress was supposed to be!

I cannot describe in words how much I love this dress. 😭 It feels so good to wear. Not just materially, although the fabric has a nice feel, but spiritually, emotionally, it just feels right. I feel like myself. It's easy to put on and move in, doing everything I normally do, without feeling restricted either mentally or physically. It's a glowy dress. Does that make sense? It probably doesn't...but that's ok. I know how it makes me feel, and I like how it makes me feel. I know that this fabric and this style isn't everyones cup of tea, and honestly, before I made it, this was not mine either! I really resisted making this pattern up in this fabric! 😂 I am glad that I didn't put my preconceived aesthetic ideals on this dress and let it develop as it wanted to. It turned out exactly right.

It's definitely not the tight-bodiced Gunne Sax styles that I liked and wore in my youth. With the long sleeves and high neckline, it could be considered almost too modest. But I like it. My mother was 17 in 1980, when this pattern was published. I envision her in my mind, wearing a similar type of dress and feeling as happy as I do now when I put this on. I love that this dress makes me think of my mother, and our shared love of Gunne Sax dresses!

Thank you to Malachi for taking these photos for me, the first day of autumn at one of our favorite nearby places. I brought my Native American style flute with me that day, as I had recently received it, and  it was fun playing it out in the open without other people around to annoy! 😂 Isn't Rosie the sweetest??

Much love,