Monday, September 29, 2008

Vermillion County Civil War Days

Back from a lovely weekend! It is, on reflection, a bit of a let-down in some ways to come back to "real life" after an event. There is the unpacking, the inevitable things that need mending or fixing, the laundry, the cleaning of other supplies. On the other hand, it is incredibly precious to have the memories, the talking-over of the weekend with a Beloved Husband, the friendships that were formed or strengthened, the good feeling of satisfaction and comfort in knowing there are other like-minded folks out there who hold dear the same values and the same interests and the same way of life.

We were blessed with wonderful weather. The nights were not terribly cold and the days pleasantly warm. The boys only wore their wool gowns for a few hours Sunday morning before having to be changed into their summer dresses!
Saturday greeted us with awakening very early to head over to the event, since David was forced to remake our new rope bed Friday afternoon/evening due to some warping issues with the lumber we intially used. Rather than set up very late at night we decided to go to the event Saturday morning. It was a compromise; we didn't want to miss the first evening there but by staying home we were able to relax a little and watch the debate between Sen. McCain/That Rat Obama and awoke refreshed for the weekend.

Our camping location was right next to a beautiful geometrically laid out raised herb garden. The smells that wafted into our tent were absolutely delightful! There were all the common herbs as well as flowers and tomatos and David brought over a handful of what he said were hops, to show me. He said they give flavor to some sort of alcoholic beverage. They had a very strong scent indeed!
Little David enjoyed walking the intersecting pathways and it was pleasant to have him so interested in an area so close to our camp. Katie, the little granddaughter of our hospital steward, played with the babies and followed little David where'ere he went.
We brought a wood and canvas frame cot for the babies to sleep on this weekend. It was an experiment for us. I was not sure if they would do well with an open bed since they are accustomed to sleeping in their cribs, or on the ground in a puppy pile at events but they did very well with the cot and I was glad to have them up off of the ground. Judah slept at one end and David at the other, with their feet in the middle. David enjoyed the cot since it was so narrow and snug and took advantage of that for a nap Saturday afternoon.
Judah and I, while David napped, were invited to participate in the fashion show, held in a gorgeous wood gazebo. We had lemonade and cookies and waited in the cool shade with the other ladies until we were called up. Juhah flirted shamelessly with all the ladies and had his picture taken for the local newspaper. The next day we got a copy and his picture was on the front page, along with the inner location of the article! His picture was also the largest photo in the article. :) This time, the news reporter did NOT botch up what I told her and I was altogether very satisfied with how the article was written. Much better than last year at Princeton. In the afternoon I spent a great deal of time at the farmhouse that was a street over from our medical camp. There was a pretty arbor covered in shady vines that the boys played beneath and a large yard fenced in where they could run and play without me having to worry about them running off. It was nice to sit on the porch and talk to the passer-bys as I felt it was a more fitting location for me than the medical encampment. I was able to pretend I was the mistress of the home with my children and the army was moving through my town, the battle taking place a few fields away. It is nice when events have atual historical buildings so such a thing is an option to portray. Katie gave little David a green balloon, which he Dearly Loved.
The photographer was not at the event so we asked a reenacting gentleman to take a picture of us as a family. It is not nearly what we wanted or had in mind but at least it is all of us together! :) We think the photographer will be at our final event in three more weeks since it is close to his actual location and we plan on getting our photo done there. (and yes, I do need to make a longer collar for my blue dress, and no, I don't plan on wearing this one for the pic! Yikes!) :) It does work VERY well though for keeping signs of Baby Smudge from disfiguring my gown since the dark colors are so very practical.
On Sunday morning we awoke early. While David helped open the church building I took the boys for a walk before services started. My dad let me use this little wagon to pull the boys in. It is not period correct and we have to paint over the "radio flyer" words but it was hugely helpful to me and a better option than our double stroller. The boys enjoyed riding in it as well! Hopefully over the winter we can get a period correct wagon made for the boys. It is almost necessary to have, especially since I will have the new baby next season. Just prior to services, David had the privilege of ringing the bell to call the worshipers together. He rang it twelve times, once for each disciple. (although on reflection it could also have been once for each tribe of Israel?) The service was quiet, sober, yet full of joy and gladness. David and I both felt that this was the first time in a very long while that we have actually worshipped, as a body with other believers, in a church setting. Since leaving our old church (for many different reasons) earlier this year and off-and-on atttending a different nearby church we have not felt so settled nor so happy to be in a place. The preacher gave out the gospel fully and with no restraint. To hear again of the love our Lord has for us was humbling and convicting.

After the service the reenactors mingled in the churchyard. David spoke with the President and the President's "staff".
There was not much on the schedule for the afternoon but David and Maj. Ron, the surgeon, planned a small scenario for a pre-battle demonstration. David gathered up a few willing victims and worked on his wounds. Meanwhile, I examined the medical instruments, papers and medicines laid out.
At last the crowd had gathered and before them three men had puss cleaned from their wounds. (speaking of which, the "puss" used is really tapioca pudding. Judah saw his daddy using the puddy to make a wound and was unhappy because he could not eat it!) We headed up to the battle after that but I soon had to take the boys to a more shady location. We spent a while in the pleasant tranquility of the school yard and David explored the edge of the woods while Judah amused himself with the crunchy leaves that had fallen. A functional outhouse was in the schoolyard and was much preferable to the porta-potties since not many people thought to use them.
And thus - we packed up in the afternoon and in the glory of the setting sun came home again.



Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Getting Ready for Danville

This weekend the event I have looked forward to all year is taking place. For any of you dear readers who have been with me for a while, you will remember Danville as the reenactment Judah first went to, when he was eight days old. It is a beautiful, romantic spot with an atmosphere of tranquility, peacefulness and history. A little cemetary is tucked away in one corner and the rest of the acreage (which is large) is filled with billowing grasses, trees, meadows, darling little wild things and some old, historic buildings lining a dusty central street. A sweet white church broods quietly beneath a few large shade trees.
Just a few days and we will be there!
I have been working on finishing up some projects for our reenacting attire. I finished my sontag last week and was so delighted to have actually succssfully completed this that I have been addicted to knitting ever since! I braided cords of six strands of the yarn I used (it looks a little orangey in these photos, but is a deep, blood red) and made yarn tassels to finish it off. It is actually a bit large for me, I think, but that leaves growing room for new Baby and me! I got some pretty white checked sheer cotton a few days ago to make a knitting apron with. I can't wait to use it at an event! Now to find some period correct knitting needles. . .
To use up leftover bits of yarn I decided to knit up a sortie cap and see what I could see with that pattern. I found a link to the pattern from The Sewing Academy. The original calls for much lighter weight yarn and smaller needles than I used (I just used the size 7 needles I used for the sontag and sport weight yarn) but it came out exactly the right size for me. I can't imagine going any smaller with the yarn/needles without having to increase the stitch number. . .maybe I have a larger head than most women did 140 years ago? I originally did the bows and ties in green but after David mentioning that I looked patriotic to either Mexico or Italy I changed them out for blue ribbons. Now it looks patriotic to the United States, and I can wear it as a symbol of patriotism to either the Southern or Northern flag, depending on what "side" David is on. :)
I got Judah's coat finished from the Godey's diagram I drew up for a "boys cloak". It has only three pieces and since I left off the collar and used only the back and front piece I thought it would be easy to put together. However, I found the batwing type sleeve very awkward to sew into the front and even harder to hem. I at last gave up trying and just bound the raw edge with strips of brown velveteen, which I also put around the front and bottom of the coat. I trimmed it similarly to Judah's wool dress with the same wool I used for his hood. I still have little David's to make before Friday and I am NOT looking foward to it. I keep putting it off! I'll be glad when I'm done!
I also finally put the skirt back on my blue print dress. I really wanted to make up my new cotton print that David got me for Danville but didn't want to be rushed with it since I want to try a new style for the bodice (with tucks at the shoulder) so I took his suggestion and just redid my blue dress. I cut a new shape for the neck (shallow v, instead of jewel) for a more flattering line. The new neckline thus necessitated a new collar and this time I tried a bit of embroidery at the corners. I used a tiny chain stitch and satin stitch for a flower-like thing with two leaves. Okay, so they didn't come out the greatest, and they are not the same size! But the only one close enough to me to notice that will be my husband and he doesn't notice little things like that, thank God! :) (don't worry, the fabric beneath the collar is not one of my civil war gowns! It's just the skirt of the dress I happen to be wearing today).
I gauged on the skirt instead of setting it in pleats. I put on a new hem facing. I also had to fix the gathers on the sleeves (they were copied from an 1840's dress) and trimmed the last row of gathering with some double face satin ribbon. The dress looks much better now and I am looking forward to finally being able to wear it again - this time with the skirt on properly and not backwards! It is just a cheapy cotton print I picked up at a discount store last spring for .88 a yard but I do like it because it doesn't show dirt very much and so far has held up really well to wearing.
I also made myself a hood, but I'm not sure if I like it very well. I lined it in white silk and quilted it in red, so every little mistake shows up very clearly! And the silk wanted to stretch out and I sewed a few puckers into the quilting which bothers me greatly. Sigh. That is another reason why I made the sortie cap!

I do hope the photographer comes to Danville. He was there last year but I checked his schedule and he doesn't have this event listed! :( He is, by the way, Steve Ingram from The Tintypist. He does wonderful, amazing work.

God bless all of you and may you have a lovely rest of the week!


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Toddler Hoods, Pattern, and Giveaway

With it falling into the very low 50's at night around here and staying pretty chilly throughout the day I have been getting back into my make-hood mode so my babies are warm enough at our fall events. So, that is what I've been doing the past few days!

I loved the opera hood from the website but thought that it wouldn't work the best for the boys since it was so roomy and there was too much area for wind passage around their little heads. I decided to make a jumble of all my favorite practical features from a few different original hoods (including the shape of the curtain from the hood) and came up with a pattern that I am very happy with for the little ones!

Both boys hoods are made of an outer layer of wool, and inner layer of cotton (I didn't really feel like using silk for the inside of theirs - I know it will get filthy!) and an in-between layer of heavy wool. I didn't use wool batting because it was too puffy for me and I had a bunch of heavy sky-blue wool someone gave us that I had no use for. It worked perfectly as an insulating layer. I know these hoods are warm, because after having them on the boys for a few minutes I took them off and inside the hood was very warm from their trapped body heat. Yay!
I made Judah's of brown and blue and white plaid wool with brown lining, and Davids of the same red wool I used for trimming his dress, with yellow lining. I quilted the front half of the brim on the machine to give the edge a little stability and for decorative interest.
So - a few scraps of material, a few hours, and there ya go. A practical, useful accessory for chilly autumnal temperatures for the little ones! For anyone who wants to make their own, I scanned the pattern I drew out. These pattern pieces fit on a sheet of computer paper, so just print full size.
Then today I wanted to see what this hood would look like made in an adult sized version so I sized up the pattern a bit and made a ladies hood in the same style. And, I am offering the finished hood as my first bloggy giveaway! Below are the links to the pattern peices (just tape together along squiggly lines for the brim and curtain pieces, they are labeled A and B).

I have wanted to do a giveaway for so long, but had a difficult time thinking of something to make that anyone would like. Sure, I knew what *I* liked but it seems most other giveaways have to do with something cute and crafty or vintagey like aprons. I just have no talent in those areas. But, at last, I am taking the plunge. To enter the drawing leave a comment in the comment box (for those of you who do not have google accounts to sign into blogger with, email me at david_sarahmeister @ mchsi . com (omit spaces) to let me know you would like to be entered) and a random winner will be selected on Sep. 30th in honor of David and my 3rd wedding anniversary! :)

The hood is made from a cranberry-plum wool, lined with the silk I made my silk dress from earlier this year, and has an inner layer of wool flannel which is quilted to the silk in the brim. The ties are of the same silk.

All for today! Must go think about what to make for supper time. Spaghetti and the yummy eggplant dish from Tilly's blog sounds pretty good. . .



Friday, September 12, 2008

David's Dress

At long last these little gowns are coming together. I wish I had not procrastinated so much with them. Since I had a slow start I had slow progress and today finished David's dress with a very slow finale. WHY did it take me two and a half hours to sew on the little bit of bodice and sleeve trim? I wanted to put a band on the skirt but I don't think I will do that now. Once I have everything else finished and done I might go back to add it. We'll see.

I tried the gown on him this morning and it is a bit big. I draped the bodice pattern on him but forgot to take into account I draped it over his overalls/shirt and so it is a bit large. Not terribly so, but he definitely has growth room and the skirt is a bit long. That is fine, since if it still fits him next spring I can shorten it (if it needs it) and combine it with some short pants for a cute outfit - but oh, the pain of putting my baby boy into trousers! How can he have grown up so fast?
The trim placement was inspired by a little dress from the Wisconsin Museum of History digital collection of childrens dresses. The original dress had the trim at the front farther apart, to accomodate buttons for a front opening and it had two rows of trim on the diagnal line of sleeve trim and two rows on the skirt.

I used bias strips of a red and navy plaid wool for the trim. I think that was one reason why I had some difficulty getting the trim on. That wool wanted to stretch every which way and would not stay pressed, not matter what I did! I thought the red plaid would look cheery and boyish combined with the gray-green wool flannel.

Judah's trim will be a bit different and will be of a blue and white plaid cotton. The cotton should be easier to stitch on than the wool was!

Hopefully I'll get his done tomorrow!



Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Reenactment at Elk Farm, Deer Grove

We returned last evening from another reenactment. It was much pleasanter to spend our holiday that way than to stay home and deal with the modern life of many people drinking, cooking out and having visitors here in town. Who would not prefer a few nights beneath a sky so clear and brilliant that the more you looked into it, the more you could see? Who would not love the wild and lonely beauty of the fields stretching west, the northern hills crested with pines, the bugling calls of the male elk from, at times, just yards away? Sandy Pine Elk Farm is, undoubtedly, a tourist attraction. The reenactment is held every Labor Day weekend to increase traffic to the farm and interest in the products offered. There are the typical touristy things like the gift shop with pie and fudge and elk meat and native American-inspired clothing and jewerly. There is the corn maze and the play area and hay rack rides and baby goats in a pen. But it is still a beautiful place and after the tourists had gone it was very nice to just sit in the evening and enjoy oneself. The sunsets could not be improved upon, and we had a perfect view. This was the 3rd year of the event, and there were more reenactors including a federal unit to help create a small "battle" on Saturday and Sunday for the spectators. The first year it was just our artillery unit. We did not go last year, since I was so close to having Judah. It was quite warm during the day and cool at night. Judah somehow always made his way into bed with David and I each night. On our last night there, little David started crying despondently in the middle of the night. It was dark and I couldn't see him and assumed he would go back to sleep presently so did not get him up from his little bed. At last, after a few minutes of inconsolable sobbing I felt for his wee, warm little body and he was not in the tent! He had rolled right off of his bed and outside beneath the side of the tent and was sitting by the tent, not knowing where he was or where we were! As soon as I scooped him up and put him back in his bed he went right to sleep. As we were coming home yesterday we stopped at an orchard and got some apple cider. This particular cider is the very best cider we have found in the area and even though it is a bit expensive, it is worth the extra cost for the amazing flavor and texture. It's a good thing we don't live closer to the orchard, or else we would buy cider every week until apple season is over! :) Now I have my typical after-event laundry to get caught up on. For some reason Elk Farm is always the DIRTIEST event to go to. Perhaps it is because we are in an elk pasture and there is longish grass and elk droppings about. I tried going with just one dress this weekend and it got filthy at the hem, and my petticoats are dirty to my knees! I'm going to try a new soaking stain solution my mom told me about - color-safe bleach and cascade dishwash detergent, mixed. She said she used it on my brothers (who works for a landscaper) socks and things and stains she thought would never come out came out. I can't wait to try it. Especially considering that the dress I wore was the new striped one I made last month for Freeport! I was hoping to keep it nice for a while. Next year I vow to make a dark wool work dress with a very small hoop and a dark work petticoat to wear so I needn't worry so much about getting my things dirty. Wool wears so well and cleans up so nicely.
My week is going to be off since David just went back to work today, and it feels like Monday! Hope you all had a safe and blessed Labor Day weekend,