Friday, June 27, 2008

Planning a New Dress

Over at the Sense and Sensibility board there have been so many inspiring posts lately by lovely ladies who have made clothing either inspired by vintage garments or from vintage patterns. I am in need of a few new summer dresses, especially since the gowns I wore the last two summes have sadly seen their better days. A few months ago I purchased several patterns intended for summer frocks, including a few of the "Retro" patterns by simplicity. I also have this really amazing 1920's dress pattern from Past Patterns that I've been longing to make the past few years!

Anywoo, I pulled out the "Retro 1930's" pattern I got from Jo Anns earlier today along with some purple fabric a friend gave me. I have exactly the right amount of yardage to make the dress and I think with the way the bodice is shaped it will work very well for a pregnant belly this summer. Of course, I probably won't be showing too much either until later this year, but allowance for a pooch is a good thing. :) Better to loose than too tight, revealing every line and roll and wrinkle! LOL

I can't wait to start on the dress and hope to get a lot done tomorrow. I usually don't use patterns as they require so much adjusting and twinking to get them to fit right but hopefully this one won't give me too many problems! If I have enough fabric left over, since I'm thinking about making the shorter, sleeveless dress (View E), I might make the cute little jacket that goes on top.

And also, thanks to Amber at Fruit of Her Hands, I have been inspired to make bread again. I usually make a recipe that produces 2 loaves but since David does not eat bread all that much I was always having to throw dried out or molded bread away since it did not get eaten and our freezer is too small to store extra loaves. I found a good looking recipe for a basic bread on Allrecipes that only makes one loaf so I tried it today and am really excited about how it came out! It was quick and easy to make and the smells were so good while it was rising and baking!

Finally, I got to see the new baby for the first time this past week. I had had an ultrasound scheduled with my doctor for earlier this week but when I returned home from our reenactment on Sunday a message awaited me on the answering machine, informing me that my doctor had been in a serious motorcylcle accident and it was uncertain as to when he would be able to see his patients again. The doctor who is taking over for him while he recovers I have yet to meet - I hope I will like him better than the original. I had my sonogram at the hospital I plan to deliver at and to my relief the wee one showed up right away on the screen, it's little heart just beating away! It measured exactly at 10 weeks of age so that is a bit earlier than I had thought but I am relieved it is all right and excited that my new due date in late January is just 2 days after my brother's birthday.

I must go rescue a baby who keeps climbing into his brothers crib. I found him today standing on top of his dresser, having pulled from the wall a plaster mold I had made of his and Judah's wee feet back in December and thrown it on the floor! Luckily it did not break, but I must now break HIM of his climbing habit. Unsafe, indeed.



Monday, June 23, 2008

Grierson Days in Jacksonville

A whole week and no posts! I meant to post again before we left for the weekend but was so busy getting everything done that I lacked time to do it. So, to make up for it, a rather lengthy post follows. . .

We left home Friday, a little after the noon hour, and wended our way to Jacksonville. It was a comfortable, two-hour drive and we arrived at the park with plenty of time to find an ideal site to set up camp and get out the tents and the fly to put up before evening fell. David’s mom and her friend Bob came with us and halved the A frame for their dwelling place. She had the west side and he had the east side. After setting up the A frame I was reminded of how much I love it! It is so much easier to put up three poles and stake the sides down that getting out the many poles and ropes that go with setting up our wall tent.

I had never been to the Jacksonville reenactment before. For the past four years or so I have been hearing great things about it and it is supposedly “THE” event to go to around here. I was anticipating a much larger event than we actually experienced but it was better organized than most other reenactments around here and the camps were laid out neatly without the crammed together, haphazard chaotic mess of tents you usually see.

We set up near the federal surgeon and had friendly neighbors in blue to our East. To our West was a cavalry unit that definitely was the unpleasant part of our sojourn. Everyone in that unit had a decidedly modern appearance, attitude and conversation and it seemed the women and children only dressed in quasi-period clothing for the battle and then changed back into modern clothing for the rest of the time. It was a little distracting but not nearly so much as the fact that the unit had a loud drunken party on Saturday night that lasted well into the wee hours of the morning. The bawdy talk and obnoxious laughter and shouting that seemed amplified to a great degree kept both David and I awake and miserable most of the night.

The next day David complained to the Union commander and he said he would speak to them about it, but that they were celebrating their 10th anniversary as a unit. Later that same day we talked to our friendly neighbors to the East and they said that that particular unit has a drunken party every year.

They were supposedly celebrating their 10th year”. David said to one soldier.
Yes, they were.” was the reply. “Last year they were celebrating their 9th.”

There were signs everywhere stating that alcohol was prohibited! If we go back again next year, I told David I will *not* camp near that unit again!

The other unpleasant part was that we were set up very near the main road that goes through Jacksonville. Motorcycles, sirens and many, many train whistles spotted the night. During the day it wasn’t as noticeable but at night it kept us awake and startled wee Judah from his slumber on more than one occasion. On the other, far side of the park the Confederate camp enjoyed comparative peace and tranquility. I was very envious of their ideal situation. Sigh.
Despite the less than ideal neighbors to the West and the main road behind us it was a beautiful park and we had very pleasant weather. I heartily enjoyed being able to cook for my family over a fire, do dishes and haul water. At most events of late I have had really nothing to do besides watching the children and it was an enjoyable break to be able to fill up my idle moments with manual activity.

Little David was upset the first night but by Saturday morning was used to his new temporary home and found great pleasure in walking around the tent, looking beneath it, and exploring inside of it. He also enjoyed visiting Bob’s tent where a bamboo mat was spread on the floor. He couldn’t get over the feeling of that beneath his darling little toes!

Judah most enjoyed the food, the striped candy stick one of the sutlers gave him, and splashing in the water in the metal tub for his nightly baths.
On Saturday I walked with David up to the center part of the park. He lined up for pay call and much to my astonishment each soldier received five gold colored dollars in a small muslin sack. I can’t imagine how much money the organizers put out to be able to do that for each soldier! It was interesting to watch since I have never seen that done at an event before.
My mother in law and I went to the fashion show, held in the hospitable shade of several trees with an ornate gazebo beyond with punch and cookies for the ladies. I was startled but flattered when a lady approached me and asked me to be in the fashion show with the babies! This has been my 2nd fashion show ever! And the second one in less than a month!
After the fashion show we went to sit near the edge of the battlefield. Soon after the start two ladies in a federal cavalry unit fell off of their horses almost simultaneously. For a minute it was unsure if it was part of a staged stunt, or if it was real. At last the battle was halted and those who had medical training rushed out to make sure if the ladies were all right. One lady was hurt worse than the other was motionless on the ground. An ambulance was called and she was taken away to the hospital, later reported to have had a stage 2 concussion but otherwise all right.
The second lady was borne away on the federal surgeons stretcher.

As I watched David direct the stretcher bearers to the wounded lady my eyes filled with tears as they rushed to her. This situation was not a play act for the amusement of the crowd and enjoyment of the participants. It was real. They carried her off the field and to a place where another ambulance later came to pick her up. She was awake, conscious and moving but had to be checked out just in case. She was later released from the hospital with only bruises and scratches.

As I watched all this I was filled with a wonder as to why people reenact the Civil War. I do not reenact because of the battles, I do it because I enjoy dressing in period clothing and trying to experience a little what a lady and mother of the time might have felt as she cared for her family in a way so foreign to modern sensibilities. (or should I say, modern insensibilities). Yes, the battles that are reenacted are for the most part safe. But it is a little odd to see men rushing towards each other, firing at each other, with huge smiles on their faces, laughing, talking to each other. Was this the way the war really was? The way the whole atmosphere changed when those two ladies were hurt was chilling. What if men really were shooting at each other to kill each other? What then? Why do men make a play act out of something so horrible? Why do people come out to watch it and cheer and clap? Would the veterans who actually fought in this war appreciate the way their sacred sacrifice is being remembered?

Saturday evening we drove a few miles away from the park to a beautiful old dance hall with a luxurious surrounding porch for the ball. The floor was a glossy wood one - no gym floors this time! The dance mistress had on a beautiful sheer gown and the live music was rendered beautifully from the musicians. We stayed only for a little while since the babies were fussy but I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and look upon it as the highlight of the weekend. It was truly a “magic moment” for me to be there in that beautiful place!

On Sunday we went to the outdoor church service, ate lunch, watched the battle and then packed up and came home. David and I got to spend a little time alone together before the battle as his mom offered to take the babies for a little while and Bob napped under the shade of the fly. It is so unusual to be with David without the little ones around! We walked around the park and sat at a table to listen to a gentleman who played banjo and guitar sing some songs of the period.

My overall feelings about this event are mixed. I enjoyed some of the activities that went on but didn’t enjoy other aspects of it, such as the location, some of the people, most of the sutler wares and the food stands that sold hot dogs and pepsi and funnel cakes.
David’s thoughts are that we will only go back if he goes as part of his medical unit (we went independent this year) or his artillery unit.
There are other events around here that we enjoy much more and that do not have any of the unpleasant things that we experienced here.
So thus, we are home. And looking forward to our next event, rather than looking behind us at this one.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Almost Done

I can't wait for David to get home tonight! I'm absolutely starving and I've decided to make Corn Dogs for dinner. The thought of corndogs struck me as I sat sewing on the big bed, window open, listening to the neighborly sounds of the evening and the smell of someone cooking hotdogs outside.

We were going to have chicken. But, we can save that for a different day. I have the most fantastic recipe for crunchy, sweet, salty, unhealthy and utmost fattening corndogs. The last time I made them was last year so I think once in a while it is okay to splurge and have something absolutely delicious without worrying about what it's doing to your body! :)

I got most of my mother in laws dress done today. I still have the hooks and eyes left to attach and the skirt needs to be turned over at the waist, pleated, and whipped on to the bodice. And then the whole thing must be hemmed. But that won't take long and for the most part the dress is done.

It came out pretty much as I had imagined. I did add some bias ruching on the sleeves. I thought it might be a little much on the bodice since my mother in law is well endowed and doesn't really need any more emphasis on what's already there. She has a lovely, womanly figure that doesn't need enhancing in any way!

I decided to make open undersleeves for the warm weather of central IL during the summer months. They will make it much cooler for her and when autumn arrives we can switch out the open undersleeves for closed cuffed sleeves and perhaps change the white bows for black ones, to make it more in keeping with the particular season. I don't know if "seasons" were something followed by fashion in the 1860's or not, but to me it makes sense to wear darker colors in the cooler months just for practical reasons.

I made the collar of the same lace as the undersleeves. I had to work with a straight piece of lace to make a curved shape collar so I made a paper pattern for the collar using the bodice and laid out the edge of the lace against the edge of the pattern. Then I pinned up the excess at the neckline in tiny darts and sewed them down, trimmed them and pressed them open. The entire thing was well starched and I sewed it to a bias band and basted it into the neck of the dress. Finally, I tied a bow out of the white silk and pinned it at the neck, to see what the effect would be. Thoughts: The bow is a little droopy and wimpy looking. I don't know how to stiffen up the silk anymore since it is a slippery silk. For this weekend it will have to work but after that I might make a new bow and sew it into a tube and turn and press it, with an interlining of white cotton to make it have more body. Then I'll make the new bow from that.
All right corndogs, here I come. . .



Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A Cap At Last

We talked of the new cap all day; what gowns it would suit; whether a certain bow was not rather too coquettish for a woman of Miss Pole’s age. ‘No longer young’, as she called herself, after a little struggle with the words, though at sixty-five she need not have blushed as if she were telling a falsehood. But at last the cap was put away, and with a wrench we turned our thoughts from the subject.”

With the advent of this years reenactment in Jacksonville looming closely in the future, and with my mother in law having decided to come with us this year and her in need of a new gown for Sunday - well, with all that, I have been busy all this day with thinking about what to make her and how it should look and how it will suit her.

Nothing is quite so delightful as musing over the wretched pleasures of fashion. This color, and that style, and this bit of trim here, and that bit of lace there. Even though the fashions in question have been dead these 145 years (or more!) they must have some merit if they can keep me so preoccupied even in this modern time!

Although we decided today on making a new bodice to my mother in law’s purple flounced skirt I couldn’t find the front bodice pattern when I looked at the patterns I had draped on her a few months ago. She is going to bring over her cotton day dress so I can trace the front of it and make up a new pattern for the new bodice but in the meantime I’ve been working on a cap.
While cap hunting I found several illustrations of caps on ladies, both appearing to be young and old, from the 1850’s onward. All looked similar in that there was no noticeable height to the crown and width seemed emphasized more than length. I suppose, to correspond to the wide, flat hairstyles of the day.
She is of the right age to wear caps, and I am so glad! Today I made my very first one as a practice cap, just to see if I could get the shape right. I cut out an elongated diamond shape from the striped cotton I made my corded bonnet of and for trim I just sewed on a row of wide lace at the edges, tucked a little so it would lay flat. Then I covered the row of stitching with a row of narrow cotton lace. Finally, I made three bows out of some dark green ribbon and tacked them on three of the points. So simple! So easy!

I decided to go with this style of cap since even though her new bodice will be the “Muslin Body” from 1857, I will update her look a bit with an up-to-date cap from an 1861 illustration. This same shape I saw in some illustrations from the 1850’s as well. So it seems anywhere from the late 1850’s - early 1860’s is an okay time for this style of cap. In the book Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell there are numerous mentions of caps. It seems that even if a lady wore an older style gown she put great importance on having a fashionable cap each year!
This was also one of the simplest shapes I saw in the illustrations. Some of the caps are so covered with lace and ribbon you don’t know WHAT the shape is, under all that frou frou!
I’m selling this one and will make hers the same style but with peach colored ribbon instead of the green. I don’t have any fiber appropriate lace for it though. . .I’m not sure if I’ll just use the synthetic lace or go with a narrow cotton lace edged ruffle instead. I don’t know of anywhere to get real lace that wide.
Anyway, at last I got to make a cap. It was delightful.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

A Tear Dress for The Pow Wow

This weekend is the annual pow wow at the Grand Village of the Kickapoo. For some reason it is not a highly publicized event, even though it is only about ten miles from here on a gorgeous stretch of hilly land with wild grasses, flowers and a herd of buffalo. Back when it was a public park David and I often used to go there and enjoy the peace and solitude. At night the stars glittered in an endless bowl above us - as far as we could see, nothing could obstruct the view. Unfortunately the park was sold a few years ago and is no longer public and the pow wow was in jeopardy, but at last the new owners agreed to still allow the gathering of the tribes each year, in June, as before.

No native blood flows through my European veins, but David’s great-great grandmother was a Cherokee lady. I still often protest that I have no native blood when he talks about “our people” but he insists that since I am married to him, and we are united and one, that I am just as much Cherokee as he is. In a way, I suppose he is right.

Two years ago we planned on attending the pow wow together. David wanted to show me the various goods that people sold there and wanted to go ‘in dress’. I desperately tried to research what I could in the few weeks I had before the event to try to get an idea of what accurate Cherokee dress would have been like. My findings were not satisfactory to me. It turns out, there is no accurate dress for Cherokee heritage, at least accurate to the historical fact of things.
This grated annoyingly upon me, but I had to accept that unless I wished to dress in ancient Cherokee dress I would have to make a Tear Dress, which is the accepted “Traditional Dress” of Cherokee women. Since I did not have the resources to gather skins to make a thigh length, sleeveless shift and had neither bark nor other plant fiber to weave into a fringed skirt I went to Wal-Mart and bought 4 yards of a cranberry colored calico.

The construction of the Tear Dress is interesting. (pronounced “Tear” as in “Let me tear this in two” rather than “Tear” as in “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes”. ) I made my dress following the article and instructions from The People’s Path website. The Tear Dress was created in 1968 for a young lady who was Miss Indian America. Although the style of this dress has definite historical roots there is nothing to indicate it was a chosen or preferred style for Cherokee ladies after white domination. In fact, most Cherokees dressed as white people and followed current fashion lines and lived, for all appearances, as white people.

So, the tear dress was made and later adopted as traditional dress in order to avoid the embarrassment of NOT having a traditional costume. The Tear Dress was adopted for women and the similarly styled Ribbon Shirt for men and children.

Every piece of this garment is a rectangle. (Or, supposed to be.) Based on advice and opinions from the article I used as my main instruction for creating this dress I made the yoke with fitted shoulders to avoid a large fold of fabric under the arms and I cut the collar in a curved shape, using the collar pattern piece from Folkwears Gibson Girl Blouse. Otherwise, everything else is a rectangle or square. The pieces are gathered and sewn to each other, with the ruffled area created by gathering sticking up as a decorative appearance. The trim is supposed to be applique bands but ribbon is often used. I decided to forgo both the applique and ribbon and used some lace instead. Hey, it’s not historically accurate anyway. And I like lace. :)

The dress can be made full length or mid calf length. I chose to go with the shorter length for practicality. This shorter length was also described as being more flattering to younger, more slender women (and alas, I was slender back then, even though pregnant with little David), and longer ones were supposed to be more flattering on more generously proportioned ladies.
Well, after my research and speed sewing we ended up not going to the pow wow that year. The reason was because the park had just sold and the pow wow had been cancelled. But now it appears I will finally have a chance to wear this to where it was originally intended to be worn, and I pulled out this old dress today and pressed it and got it ready for this weekend. Thankfully it still fits since the only restrictive area is the waistband, which still can squeeze my squish able flesh in enough to make it look all right. I plan on making a white petticoat with eyelet trim to wear underneath it.

For shoes, I found these knee-length moccasins my mother in law gave me last year. A thrift store find, they fit almost right, being just a bit too large. That can be remedied with thick socks and with some of David’s mink oil to freshen them up and some tightening of the stitches around the toe area they will work nicely. Apparently the shorter ankle length moccasin was more common among the Eastern Woodland people but the shorter moccasins I have need resewed since I wore them to death back in my college days.

I have two sashes I am thinking of wearing. Original Cherokee sashes were woven in a method called finger weaving. I have two woven-ish sashes although they look nothing like finger woven ones. One is coarse and kinda vintage 1970’s looking (hey, that would tie in with the First Cherokee Tear Dress though!) with beads.
The other one is a plain cream colored sash with fringe. The thing going for this one is that it is longer than the first one and is more comfortable to wear.
For a hair do I think I’ll pull back my own hair in a bun and wear my Civil War hairpiece, just uncoiling the braided bun into a single long braid, pinned it over my own hair. Original Cherokee ladies (pre White Domination) had long hair “clubbed up in ribbons” so maybe I will wind a ribbon around the braid to decorate it up a little.

Babies shall wear their Civil War gowns, David wants to go in Confederate uniform since during the Civil War there was a regiment of Cherokee men who fought for the southern cause, but I am trying to convince him to wear a ribbon shirt. He objects, strongly, saying they are “fairy looking” (otherwise girly looking).

Anyway, hopefully it won’t be too hot! Well, this ended up a long-winded post. Alas.