Friday, October 30, 2009

The Busk

This week has gone by far too quickly. I feel that I have not been able to get much accomplished and at times feel guilty about that. Although the boys are now over their almost-three-week-long sickness, I still am fighting it and I am getting tired of being sick! David keeps urging me to go to the doctor but I do not want to; my mother recently sent me a list of herbs and vitamins and food recipes that are supposed to help cure and ward off sickness so I'm going to give several of those suggestions a try. I don't like doctors. I do not trust doctors. Tey are all urging for the H1NI vaccination and I am very much against the idea. I am not in a mood to be pressured.

Anyway, this week I've been obsessing about my 1820s stays. I thought I had them finished, but after a few days it began to bother me that I did not get the "lift and the seperate" look. Here is a fashion plate from 1823 - notice the very noticeable seperate look the bosom has:
I was not getting that look. I took the 3 bones out of the center of my stays and corded the sides of the "busk pocket" in the center front, although at the time I had no intention of ever using a busk. It supported me but did not give me a seperate look at all. I posted about my problem on the Sense and Sensibility message board and received several suggestions and encouragement to try a busk - so I did! The effect was immediate and happy. I got The Look. I also felt much more supported since the busk is very stiff and holds up the gusset "cup" in which each bust lies.

I used an old paint stick for my trial run and yesterday David made me a new one. This one was also a paint stick which he picked up at a hardware store yesterday. (He got several actually; they were free). The ones he got were much thicker than the one I used as a trial run. They were printed on one side with lettering and there was a curved in handle shape at the bottom. He carved it down so the width of the paint stick measured the width of the curved-in handle so the finished busk is all one width. He sanded the edges smooth and sanded off the lettering. He did a very nice job with it. It is just a tad too long but he has promised to cut it down to the proper length for me this evening. I love him so. :) A wife certainly knows she is loved when her husband is willing to make a busk for her!

I made an opening at the top of my stays so I can slip the busk in from the top. It does not go all the way down the front of the stays but stops about 2" or so short of the bottom edge. This is so it does not jab me between the legs when I sit down while wearing it. For a very good overview of busks, an excellent article was written by Jenny La Fleur.
In other sewing news, I've been lazy. But I did finish my pink 1820's dress by sewing on the hook and eyes this afternoon. I also made a cloak earlier this week, 18th century style. It is a trial run made of poly blend plaid but it is warm and I have been using it a lot in the rain and damp we have been having. I also drafted a pattern for a set of 1790's stays for use under my regency drawstring gowns. The short stays I made a few years ago no longer fit the way I want them to. I've always admired the 1790's stays that Katherine made, and when Lauren also made a similar set I decided I had to try this style too! So far I've just made one quick mock up and traced the pattern out but I hope to get a good chunk of work done on these next week, if not have them finished by then.
And finally, did I mention we have rain?! I glimpsed out the window today and realize we have a lake. Wild geese have been pausing here for rest and water all day long; as one flock goes out another comes in. They are now swimming the bean field that was harvested last week. It is very comfortable and cozy to hear their cries and bellows. What a busy little watering place we have right now!



Tuesday, October 20, 2009

1820's Stays Finished Photos

As promised, here are some pictures of my finished stays. I am so relieved that so far they seem to fit; now it is a matter of seeing how well they will hold up with day-to-day use!

Here is a front view. I have a waist! :) Yay! I love my babies but I do not love what the munchkins did to my waistline. Flab, excess mushy flesh, excess softness, lovely little wrinkly silvery lines from which someone so inclined could read fortunes, permanently embedded upon my lower belly. Nothing majorly horrid, but still, it bothers me. Thankfully, there is such a thing as a corset. I don't think any amount of sit ups or twists will give me back my nice defined BC waist (which I didn't appreciate when I had it. I still thought I was fat, even then). But a corset will. It actually does not really take many inches off my waist but it firms up the torso and just redistributes everything into a nice shape. And it downsizes the look of the bosom. I'm soooo thrilled!!!
Back view. Compared to my 1860's gored corset, this one is very lightly boned. Yet it still provides the support I need and is extremely comfortable, just like it is giving me a gentle hug. There are three bones down the center front of the corset to take the place of the more period-correct busk (which I did not use), a bone radiating down from the outside of each bust gusset and one bone radiating up from the inside of the hip gusset. Then there are bones on either side of the back eyelets. The spring in the back is not even so I will have to work on that. Either I need to tighten the top or loosen the bottom to get a more uniform space.
A closer view of the shape from the side. The one thing this corset doesn't do is provide the "divide" factor so desirable in regency corsets. I think a period correct straight busk would have helped but honestly, there is no space between to have anything straight to divide! :( I content myself with thinking that these stays are for later than regency dresses anyway. I still like the overall shape and think it will work perfectly for what I need.
Now that this is done, I need some chemises. For these pictures I used a mid-19th century style since my one drawstring regency chemise currently needs new drawstrings.

But maybe I will start a dress first. I am going to try on my current 1820's dress to see if it fits well over the stays. If it does, I will use the pattern I used for that as a base and tweak it to suit me. I think I will start off with a very simple and plain basic 1820's style dress, perhaps something along the lines of this one:

Monday, October 19, 2009

Dollinger Farm Reenactment & David's 3rd Birthday

On Saturday we went for the day to the last reenactment of the season - no more til April! Saturday was also David's 3rd birthday so we packed the children up early in the morning and spent the day at Dollinger Farm. Due to the cold, we did not stay the whole weekend as we did not want to keep the boys out overnight.
It is a pretty place for an event and although in the past I haven't liked this particular event due to the commercial atmosphere, I enjoyed myself very much. It was such a pretty day, it warmed up a bit in the early afternoon, and it was nice to meet some new people, including a lovely lady who introduced herself to me as having been to my blog before! (It was a joy to meet you! I hope we and our little ones can visit again at future reenactments!)
Here are some pictures from the day.
One of the generals wives. She had a beautiful knitted bonnet that I'd love to copy and a gorgeous wool dress. I have seen her at other reenactments but did not really get to meet her until this one, due to my having to keep an eye on the children most of the time and having little opportunity for visiting.
Malachi eats a candy stick. Once we arrived we first browsed through the sutler area. There were some very nice ones, and at one we got the boys candy sticks in hopes of them settling down if they had something sweet to suck on. Malachi had a lemon flavored one and thoroughly enjoyed it. Of course, he was completely sticky before he was finished but a damp cloth cleaned him up just fine. We brought a cold lunch of smoked sausage, bread, cheese and grapes. Here Malachi pauses mid-chew to allow me to take his picture. In passing, I made this striped coat for him when he was four months old and prayed it would last him through the season. And. . .it did! Just barely, but he squeezed into it one final time. He seems to have had a growth spurt since our last event. He had to wear Judah's wool dress from last year and Judah's strapped petti that Judah wore this summer. I'm glad I had the bigger things to put him in, or else I don't know if we could have gone! But geez, why do kids grow so fast?? This is the last time the older boys will wear their clothes too. The bodices and hems on their shirts and trousers are a bit too short, already. And I just made these things five or six weeks ago!After our picnic lunch the boys wanted to explore. Just beyond the camp was an open area, fringing off into woods and a deep ravine. The boys were fascinated by the ravine and tried several times to slither down into it. I did not blame them for their curiousity. When I was growing up, wooded ravines were some of my favorite places to play!
Here Malachi sits in the high grass and looks for tasty leaves to chew on. A fuzzy caterpillar offered a most tempting sample of snack but I rescued it just before it fell victim to a most untimely and unfortunate death.
David. The last time we were at this event we were newlyweds and he posed in almost the same exact spot for a picture. Then, he had a sutler made uniform. This time, it is one I got to make.
I wore my black wool dress since I didn't get to wear it much this year, just once in February to the Abraham Lincoln Birthday ball. Plus it helped against the chill. Hoorah for wool! It is the best, most versatile fiber ever.
Before the battle we decided to walk a bit and visit. I carried Malachi and the older boys walked with David. They even held hands. They just started doing that lately and I think it is so adorable!David and I. I wanted a picture with my birthday boy but he wouldn't look at the camera! Oh well!
David and Judah on their way down the hill to the sutler area. My favorite sutler was called Mother of Purl and she had a wonderful assortment of wool yarns. I got some lovely blue-green heathered wool yarn to make the boys some mittens. It's a good thing we did not have a lot of extra money to spend or I would have spent it all there!
I used my wool shawl as a makeshift sling. It helped so much. Malachi does get very heavy, especially when he naps. David tied the shawl behind me and just behind my shoulder and we were able to adjust the tightness to support Malachi's little bum and his back. This is almost certainly the last event where Malachi will be small enough to carry around and to be considered a baby.:( Next year he will be walking and definitely a toddler.
One great impression was the priest who went about on the field administering last rites. Oh wow, that was an awesome impression. Here he is after the battle talking to a confederate soldier.
We got to meet some other people as well. These guys did a fabulous job with their impression as refugees. It was thrilling to see! Fabulous, fabulous job.
Here is David and Judah. Poor Judah. He did get quite cold. I tied my shawl around his head and he kept it on. Something he would not normally do. Note the man bending over by the tree on the left hand side. He had a beautiful repro guitar with gut strings and it had such a beautiful sound to it. I would love to get one someday!One thing I definitely learned this weekend is that I need to get the Past Patterns overalls pattern for David. I saw two gentleman wearing overalls from the pattern and they looked fabulous. Heck, I saw so many gorgeous civilian clothing items I'd love to make for David. One man had a beautiful yellow and black plaid frock coat that I especially liked. For, you see, since I have decided to go old-fashioned in my wardrobe David has joined me in my endeavors and has decided he wants to dress that way as well. So waistcoats, trousers, shirts, frocks, sack coats and overalls are in my future! Whew. I'm thrilled though, truly! David looks so much more natural in his period clothing than in modern stuff and he says he finds it much more comfortable. He is such a hard size to fit (a 2X Tall with a very long torso) so making our own clothes at home will be much better and more economical in the long run. And it is always more fun to dress old fashioned when you have someone to do it with you. :)



Friday, October 16, 2009

1820's Stays and Mechanics Cap

This week we have all been afflicted by a sickness, which, if not the flu, comes quite close to it. Big David came down with it on Monday and it has trickled down to the rest of us, bit by bit. That, with the dreary cold weather we've been having has kept us all indoors a good deal.

I've been working this week on my 1820's stays, which I have to finish before I can fit a dress bodice over them. I have four new dress lengths of fabric just waiting to be made into 20's style dresses and I can't wait to cut into them and make some pretty new frocks.
The First Day (Tuesday) I cut them out and sewed all the main pieces together. The Second Day I attached the gussets together and sewed the boning channels and inserted the boning. The Third Day I bound all the edges with homemade bias made from the lining fabric and today I finally finished up all the hand made lacing holes. So they are done, laying out on the bed and waiting for laces. They are of two layers; the outer layer is cotton twill and the inner layer white striped cotton.
I haven't tried them on since the mock up stage so I hope they fit well and don't need any alterations. I decided to just bone them instead of doing cording since I need the extra support and it is so much quicker to sew a boning channel and slip a bone in than to laboriously sew rows and rows of cords which would, probably, have to be done by hand to look nice. For my historically-inspired clothing I have decided that if it can be seen from the outside I will sew it by hand but if not, I will do it with a straight stitch on the machine. Probably Historically Sinful, I know, but it works for me for these every day wear sort of clothes. (A living history event would be totally different). Stays are underwear and thusly will not be viewable by the majority of humankind. Exceptions are my own family, but they don't care or even notice hand stitched seams vs. machine stitched seams. (In passing, it is a very prideful thing when your 2 year old son correctly indentifies and names "eyelets" "bones" and "stays" and takes great interest in "helping" poke eyelet holes in fabric with a knitting needle.)

David has asked a few times lately for a mechanics cap so today I finally made one for him. Where he works it is often cold and the guys he works with wear those stretchy knitted "beanie" type caps. David doesn't like that look and so has been wearing a leather slouch hat but it is bulky and gets in his way. He wanted something warm, practical and washable. This one is made from an outer layer of lightweight navy blue cotton twill that matches his work uniforms, the twill is flatlined with thick flannel and the whole cap is lined with black cotton sateen. The brim is stiffened with a layer of cotton batting and bound around the edge, for stability. Here a pumpkin David got from our garden models it - it just happened to be the right size!
And an inside view:
Not much else is note worthy, except for the fact that today Malachi is nine months old, he is starting to wean (*weeps*) and as of yesterday he has begun to stand by himself for quite lengthy amounts of time. No steps yet, though! But he is *extremely* proud of himself for standing alone. And for drinking out of a "real" cup (he tried a sippy once and hated it but does well with a certain little tin cup that is just his size) from which he partakes of milk, juice and water with habit and regulation.


Saturday, October 3, 2009

1820's Marigold Ball Gown

Has anyone seen this dress from Vintage Textile? I am in love! If I had not firmly decided on the 1820's as my very favorite fashion era before this time, this dress would definitely have decided for me! Can you imagine wearing such an exquisite piece?!

I'm trying very hard to remember that "thou shalt not covet".


Friday, October 2, 2009

Wooly Warm Winter Caps

I actually made these caps a few days ago but only now am getting around to posting about them. For one thing, I am very much out-of-the-mood for sewing anything from the 1860's right now. And for another, it has been quite chilly here lately which has put me in the mood for baking and making soupish things and certainly not in the mood for sewing or taking pictures or posting about anything sewing related.

But what must be, must be. I can't have my little boys having red ear tips and chilly little heads! Having a family has impressed upon me the fact that sewing is no longer always an enjoyable hobby and past time. . .it is a necessary thing. And necessary things aren't always necessarily fun. But they are worthwhile. As the esteemed General Robert Lee said:

"Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more. You should never wish to do less."

Our final event of the year is at the end of the month and is always, always cold. We camp atop a windy, tall hill and last time we went were constantly fighting the stiff breeze and the chill. If it is too cold I will not even try to take the boys; if it is medium-ly cold and damp David said we shall just go for the day and if it is nice, so be it! But we must be prepared!

I have found it hard to find anything that gives me information about what little boys wore to keep warm in the 1860's. I only came across one hat that appears to be styled for warmth: and one picture that shows two little boys wearing what appear to be similar styles of hat. At times I have wished the boys could go back in dresses and the accessories that go with them for this event. Warm quilted hoods are just so much warmer than a skimpy cap.

At any rate, I went with what I could find and made up this little cap. I made two, of course, each exactly like the other. Judah is the only child who currently submits to being photographed without weeping and knashing of teeth so he kindly let me put his hat on him so I can show you! Little David's cap differs in the trim - Judah's has no trim and little Davids has a row of baby blue rick rack around the top of the bias band and around the edge of the earflaps. I don't know if I like it and I might take it off but at least for now we can tell whos is whos.
The top portion is an oval cut to fit the head. The band is cut at the top to fit the circumference of the oval and is flared a little at the bottom to sit well on the head. The bias brim is just a strip of bias, doubled and sewn. The earflaps were attached to the bias band. Tape ties were sewn to the end of those. I used leftover Hainsworth wool broadcloth for the main portion of the caps. The insides are lined with plain dark green cotton and the earflaps are lined with matching blue velveteen. The plaid wool was cut from an old wool skirt I got from a thrift store last year. Hopefully these will keep their little ears warm enough! On a similar note of keeping warm, but a totally different topic, I am currently agonizing over what to do for my cold-weather wardrobe. I have almost nothing to wear for the fall/winter season (3 pregnancies in quick succession does take a toll on the condition of your wardrobe!) and am not sure what I should do about it. David gave me a sum of money and told me to get what I need and that he doesn't want to hear me complaining about my clothes until spring. Now, what should I do?

I could go to Goodwill and get a good amount of things relatively cheaply. But I've done that before and they just don't last and it's incredibly hard to find things I really like, that fit and that flatter my figure. I went and got a bunch of things back in May/June and already they are falling apart. On the other hand, clothes I make myself from decent quality material last. I still have skirts and a few dresses I made before I had any children at all that still wear very well and look almost as good as new. I wouldn't be able to make as many outfits as I could buy at Goodwill but wouldn't it be better to have something that will last and look well than to have an assortment of things that will fall apart after a few months?

Then the agonizing choice of what to make! I cut out a pattern today for a modern simplicity blouse. A peasant style, something I think I like. But after thinking about it more I realize I don't like most of the things about the pattern. The neckline is too low, the sleeves are barely existent, the opening is unattractice and would need to be altered. It would be a very impractical choice if I want to dress to keep myself warm. So I put the pattern away. I don't know if I will ever use it.
Why couldn't I dress like I truly want to? What I'd love is to make a few flannel petticoats, flannel drawers and some plain gusseted chemises with a drawstring neckline. Then a corded stay with straps and a few nice, well-made and nicely fitted 1820's style gowns in good fabrics with a few dark figured aprons to wear over them for housework and home life. A pelisse in brown wool with a pink lining for a coat and a quilted bonnet.
But would I dare? I could. But because of all the fabric I'd have to get. . .would I be content and happy with three or four dresses until next spring? It would be so easy to go and get some denim skirts and long sleeved tees and sweaters from the thrift shop but I know in the end I would not be happy with them.
What are your favorites and must-haves for keeping warm in cold weather?
And is it possible to find a pretty pair of house slippers? Our wood floors get so cold!