Monday, September 24, 2007

Vermillion County Civil War Days

My wee little one is ten days old today and every new day (and night) with him brings such amazement and wonder. Did I really carry this perfect little boy around inside of me for nine months? He is so much like his father. His toenails are shaped exactly like big D’s. His hair is dark like D’s, and his hands are perfect matches in miniature.

His brother has pretty much ignored his existence and finds his delight in pulling up on furniture, cabinets, legs and, if I don’t keep the bathroom door shut, the toilet and tub! But he has kissed the new baby three times and has not acted jealous or upset so I think both boys will get along very well when they are older. It’s hard to believe my sweet baby son is almost a year old and already a big brother!

This past weekend D and I took the babies to a Civil War reenactment. We had originally planned to stay the whole weekend but a change of plans allowed us only to go on Saturday for a day trip. The babies were so well behaved and we all had a lot of fun together.

D went last year when I was pregnant with Baby D and I stayed home so he was eager to show me everything. The park is 3,000 acres and covered with beautiful trees, hills, open areas and a large lake. There was a small group of historic buildings constituting a ‘town’, including an old-fashioned grocery, a church, a schoolhouse and a farmhouse complete with a grape arbor. D and I wandered around the town in the afternoon before and after the battle and later that evening he participated in the night firing with our Southern reenacting group, Chesnut Light Artillery, and we both were able to go to the dance at the red barn, courtesy of a very kind Mr. Tim who watched the babies for us!

I didn’t finish the bodices to either of my dresses since I cannot quite yet squeeze into my corset. So, alas, I was a knowing Farb and went corset-less beneath a dress more suited for a teenager. D didn’t mind, however, since he had purchased the bolt of fabric my dress was made of.

One of the most touching experiences was meeting “The Generals” and Gen. Robert E. Lee came over to where I was sitting with the new baby on purpose to see him and it was a “magic moment” for me. The dusky evening, the camp-fire scented breeze, along with the perfumes of dying grasses, the quiet, tender look on his face as he bent over the sleeping infant was so beautiful. D's most memorable moment was seeing Gen. Thomas Jackson serenely sipping a Miller Lite - he still can’t quite get over the oddity of that!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

"Sunday Best" Baby Dresses, Civil War Style

I don’t think I’m going to get all the sewing projects done that I wanted to get done this week! I still have a coat of some sort to make for Baby D, drawers for both babies, and a hood for Baby D. And I must finish up both of their cotton “Saturday” dresses. Baby D’s is a small blue/black/white check and J's is the fabric posted below.

Anyway, I thought I at least could post some pictures of their Sunday dresses since it‘s been a while since I had a post about sewing. When I tried Baby D’s dress on him today I discovered it is a little long so I will need to shorten it with a tuck or two before our event. Luckily, with J’s dress I don’t need to worry about THAT problem. I love making long baby dresses! They just take so much more material that an older babies dress. The only thing I need to worry about there is making sure whoever holds him while he is wearing it does not stand too close to a fire!

Here are some details about each one:

Baby D’s dress:

I made this dress out of some lightweight dark blue wool I had left over from a different project. At least, I thought it was lightweight until I made this dress out of it! I don’t think I could have used a heavier wool and still gotten away with making a dress this small because the weight factor of the wool seems to increase drastically when used on a small scale. The dress was made taking different features from children’s dresses found in the 1850’s and 1860’s section of The Wisconsin Historical Museum site. (

It has a jewel neckline, double short sleeves, a pleated skirt and tucks in the bodice to create a little shaping. The waistband is 1” wide and finished with self fabric piping, as are the arm scyes and neckline. I originally wanted to make this dress with long sleeves but found coat sleeves, in this fabric, on this scale, really hard to make plus the baby did not like having his arms covered. So I simply cut off the coat sleeve to make it shorter and that was the bottom layer of the double sleeves.

I used some red plaid cotton cut on the bias to trim the dress at the sleeves, bodice and hem. I still think the wool is really dark and sober but at least the color livens it up a little.

Baby J's Dress:

This dress was a lot of fun to make. It is based on a gown from the Wisconsin Historical Museum site that also has short sleeves and a tucked and lace-trimmed bodice. The gown I was using as my inspiration had more tucks on the bodice and no tucks on the skirt, so I compromised and made tucks on the skirt and not so many on the bodice. (besides, I ran out of room on the bodice to make more tucks!)

The sleeves are set in raglan-style and are drawn at the top with a cord threaded through a tuck. A lady had posted an original gown that had a tuck and cord on the sleeves on Mrs. Clark’s Sewing Academy Site ( so I decided to try that out on this dress. I don’t know if what I did is the way the original dress had this done, but I couldn’t tell from the pictures so I guess-timated. I’m happy with how they look anyhow.

This gown was made from an old 100% cotton white sheet. Some parts had rust-colored specks on it so I had to cut around those but was able, in the end, to get the entire dress out of the one sheet.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Fall Peasant-Style Blouse

I look upon this as my Last Maternity Sewing Project - at least for a while. I’ve been pregnant the greater part of the last twenty months with two long pregnancies and one miscarriage and am so much anticipating returning to ‘normal’ sewing projects! This is sorta a versatile style that I can use now in my last weeks and also after the baby comes. Since the fit is obtained through the ties, it can easily be adjusted and since it opens down the front I can use it for nursing.

I started out with Simplicity 7167 for my base. I have had the pattern for a long time and not used it much so I thought it was time it saw the daylight. I had to take up the armscye a little so it would fit around my arm better and I left out the darts so I could put the ties in. I also extended the front a little so it would fit me better. I am not totally happy with the fit of the finished garment because I am so used to fitting things over a corset that I’m not sure how to get a looser-fitting garment to fit! I end up wanting to dart everything to make it smooth and fitted! Lol Too many years of Civil-War-obsessed sewing! I do need to add more buttons to the front now that I see pictures.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Regency Stays & Misc.

My latest sewing interest has been making regency-era short stays. I spent a while last week looking online at period images, pictures of originals, and reproductions that other people have made. I buckled down and drafted my pattern and now my stays are almost done. They are a combination of the two illustrations you see here, as well as some elements being taken from the inspirational work of the ladies from the Sense and Sensibility message board.

I made them more as a practice set of stays than anything super-authentic. I machine sewed mine, and they are made of a layer of cotton twill and lined with plain white cotton. I used ¼” spring steel boning for the front bones and corded some parts with cotton cord (the kind you knit or crochet dishcloths of). The cotton twill actually came from a stiff pair of jeans someone gave me that do not fit, and of course I always have white cotton on hand! I just need to bind the edges later today and make eyelet holes for the straps / top of the front bodice and they are ready to go. If I really like these I will make a more authentic set with either white cotton twill or linen and hand sew everything. For now, these will work nicely.

Monday, July 9, 2007

My White Gown Completed . . .

It is a good thing to finish a project. It is a good thing to have that sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. Furthermore, it is a good thing to be able to put away the ironing board that has stood for two weeks in the bedroom with trim and fabric and my ubiquitous measuring tape draped across it.

I am much happier with this version of Sense and Sensibility’s 1914 Afternoon Dress than I have been with my previous attempts with this pattern. I do believe the key was cutting the bodice in a large size. I plan on making several with nursing access for later this fall when the baby arrives. Success leads to further ambition, you see!

I changed the pattern a little to accommodate my shape, by cutting the bodice a little higher and the skirt with a little extra fullness and with a slight curve at the top, as also stated in a post below. After I had the dress put together I decided to raise the bodice by taking up the shoulder seam 1”. The bodice sat much better afterwards.

I did not get an underdress made but in the pictures in this post am wearing a full length white slip beneath the dress. It provides the modesty I need and for some reason I just DO NOT WANT to make an underdress. I suppose I do not wish my time and energy wasted on something that won’t really be seen! :)

I made the sash out of some silky greenish/silver fabric of unknown fiber content that I have been hoarding several years. When I made the sash last week it fit perfectly but now the bottom snap keeps coming undone. Can I really grow THAT fast? It is discouraging but I have some white silk I can use to make a longer, tie-back sash that should fit throughout the remainder of this pregnancy. This baby is carrying so much higher at this point that Baby D did and it is definitely affecting the way things fit.

So, there you have it. It is done.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

I Am Become a Blogger. . .and What a Project

Alas, I have sucumbed to modern social practices, and have begun a journey into that mysterious and not altogether pleasant-sounding arena of bloggerism. Perhaps my mental justification for that is
1. Bloggers, based on an article in yesterdays' newspaper, can be viewed the same as Journalists, and being a Journalist is a noble and note-worthy practice.
2. I desire a way to share myself, my family and my loves and interests with those I care for (and for those who care to come!) and this is the easiest, cheapest, and most practical way to do that, considering my family and friends are mostly long distances from my 'umble dwelling place.
3. My friend Alex has a blog and I want to have one too. I might be twenty-one, but the old childhood oft'heard phrase of "hey, I want one too" still holds true for me, at least in some respects.

So, there my justifications. And to proceed. . .

I plan on using this blog to share the joys and trials of motherhood for the benefit of my family and friends who wish to track Little David's progress and new accomplishments, and to also share my love of historical sewing and living history. Here I plan on posting pictures of new projects and descriptions of events I attend, as well as sometimes muse, either boringly or not, and to sometimes share a recipe I have thought peculiarly good. I also often succumb to the desire to write poetry - whether good or not, you can be the judge - and so be warned, my creative writings might be found here in later days.

Tonight I am going to post some pictures of one of my 'recent' projects. I completed the main project last summer, but since then have twitted with it and adjusted it to suit the tastes of my beloved but finicky husband. I don't have many photos of more recent projects, so this is what you get for now!

The project was a Jr. Officer's uniform for my husbands Federal Asst. Surgeon impression. The construction of the frock coat, military vest and trousers was a labor of love (although I was mostly in a bad mood the entire time I worked on it, owing to the fact I was seven months pregnant and it was in the blazing heat of mid August when I had to make all this in less than a week, due to my own procrastination). The pattern for the vest was draped on David with muslin to create his own customized pattern, and for the remainder of his ensemble I used Period Impressions Jr. Officers Frock Coat pattern and Period Impressions Civilian Trouser pattern.


David wanted "dog ear" or flap pockets on his trousers, and gold piping down the leg seam. We purchased his wool from County Cloth and the metallic cording from Quartermaster Shop. The staff officer buttons we also purchased from Quartermaster Shop. (

I had to re-draw most of the frock coat pattern to fit David correctly. I also had to adjust the back pocket flaps and redraw the shape, as well as make the back pocket flaps have only 2 buttons per flap instead of 3. I also *should* have made a muslin of the sleeves first, since they were far too large for the armscyes and needed to be gently gathered to fit, resulting in a slightly "poofy" sleeve that annoys David to this day. Because of the way the sleeve is cut, I cannot take this fullness out and David will have to live with it until we make a new Frock coat for him. I also had to make my own pattern piece for the 2" wide cuff that goes on the end of the sleeve.

Casting the inadequate instuctions to the wind, I put together the coat based on photos we saw of originals and documented reproductions. The coat is fully lined with black cotton in the main body and white muslin in the sleeves and is padded and quilted with wool and interfaced with light buckram for smooth shaping in the chest area. I had to remake the coat a total of 4 times before it reached our combined standards, but at last it is as good as I can get it, and my husband does look nice in it, if I do say so myself.

Well, that is all for this evening. The baby is asleep on the floor in front of the fan and needs to be put to bed in his crib. It is so hot and muggy tonight but we are supposed to get thunderstorms that will hopefully cool things down. Yay!!

Good night all!