Monday, May 17, 2010

Naper Settlement Civil War Days

We got back late last night from our first overnight event of the year and we had a great time. It is rather like waking up from a beautiful dream to leave a fun event and return to the daily grind. Not that the daily grind is terrible, but it is often, for me, like coming back to earth after soaring for a bit above it. I was very glad to feel such disappointment though. It means my passion for living history and reenacting is returning. I am emerging from The Slump.

The reason I didn't enjoy coming home and returning my thoughts to what needs to be done here is because I have been swamped with sewing lately. I told David last night that I will finish what current projects for other people I have but after that I will not take on any new jobs (unless *very* particular friends or family!) :) so I can focus more on my home and family. If any of you dear ladies are full time employees as well as wives and mothers. . .well, my hat goes off to you! Working even part-time on sewing jobs the past few months has been hard to juggle with housework and taking care of the boys. It was so nice to get a few days break from all that and just have fun this weekend.

This was our first year attending the event in Naper Settlement. We went with our Confederate unit, Chesnut Light Artillery and we will definitely be going back next year. The event is, for us, way up north, near Chicago. We usually do not do such northern events but the drive was really not bad (a bit over two hours) and despite a seeming southern/central IL prejudice against nothern IL (often referred to locally as The Great State of Chicago - you have to understand our interesting state politics to understand the bitterness -) I have never been with friendlier or more helpful people in my life.

The event is held in the grounds of a pretty historic town, representing the early settlement which is now the city of Naperville. We didn't get to see all the historical buildings they had there since there were just so many and we didn't have time to go through or look at each one, but we were encamped right next to the church. There was also a schoolhouse, a meeting house, several little shop buildings, a post-office, several homes (including a timber log home) some out buildings and a reconstructed fort. Vendors included the typical sutlers, a wet plate photographer, a pewter smith (is there a certain name for that?) and a shoe shiner. I met some absolutely fabulous ladies who are fellow members of The Sewing Academy. It was one of the highlights of my weekend to talk with them a bit and oh! I was so inspired by all their various lovely clothing to upgrade my own things and make new things. . .it was a visual feast. :) I do not get out very often to talk with other ladies/mothers so it was also wonderful to just visit. Another highlight was talking with a navy guy about navy uniforms and practices. I do think I have a new passion in naval clothing. :) The above photo is of a gentleman I had the pleasure of visiting with for a bit early on Saturday morning. The quilt in the picture is one that he made depicting a wedding quilt made by four girls - one the bride, and three friends of the bride. To do this, the gentleman made this quilt with four different styles of piecing/quilting. Each block is different. He had many other beautiful quilts that he had made, including sanitary commision pattern quilts and a jaw dropping family album quilt that had the names of his personal family (going back hundreds of year!) appliqued onto squares and sewn to a tree motif. When a person in the tree died, he said, their name was moved out of the tree into the graveyard, which was borders round about.
Next to the quilting gentlemans camp was a large Victorian mansion. It had many porches and stairs which the boys loved to play on. Here is Judah on one of the porches. I was so thankful I made their wool coats and brought them. Usually by this time in May it is hot and summer like but we have been experiencing rather cool and wet weather lately. Excuse the little modern red plastic car Judah is holding. :P We went to McDonalds on Friday night to eat after we set up camp and he got this in his happy meal and refused to part with it.
Here is Malachi on the porch with his poor little scuffed toe boots. I don't have a picture of David on the porch. He ran from the camera most of the time.
Here is me on the porch. This is my new red dress which I wore for the first time this weekend. It is a basic gathered style (with the gathers put in as tucks instead) and a V neck for summer wear. I had some problems with the bodice pulling which got worse as the day went on. I wondered if I had made the bodice too tight when I remade it. However, I at last concluded it was my corset (also new) which stretched a bit over the weekend. Hopefully my corset is done stretching. I don't want to keep having to adjust it while I wear it. It is embarassing to have a gapping bodice. This dress was really a practice run on a sleeve style I want to do with my sheer (yes, that same pink and gray plaid sheer I was working on last summer!) I like the fullness of the bishop sleeve but I think the frill at the shoulder ought to be a little wider and cut on the bias so it will drape better. The fabric is red cotton with a small overall white print that David got me for Christmas. I wasn't sure about using the small overall print since most prints of the time were geometrically spaced on the fabric but I did find a few examples of similar prints on the Reproduction Fabric website. And, there *is* actually a repeat in my print though it is hard to tell unless you look at it from a distance.
One of the homes had a beautiful garden around it. Here is a picture from inside of the garden looking out to the village green where the Confederate troops were drilling.
David, ever passionate about growing tomatoes, studies the tomato plants.
We contrived to get a picture of me with all three of my boy-O's. They aren't all looking the same direction and Malachi is indiscreetly inserting his finger into his nose, but, well, at least we are all together. Here, Judah walks towards the post office building across the village green.Back in camp, the boys had lunch. Our weekend of going without a cooler went well. We have gone for day trips just bringing non refrigerated food before but never a whole weekend since David has often wanted "real" cooked food for breakfast, like steak and eggs. This time, however, he was tired of hauling the cooler and trying to keep it hidden within the tent. He was tired of buying ice for it and dealing with soggy food when the ice melted. We brought cinnamon rolls, two loaves of bread, smoked sausage, two blocks of hard cheese (called "Irish Cheese" in our local stores), strawberries, grapes (out of season, I know, so not a terribly authentic choice to bring), molasses cookies, nuts, one dozen hard boiled eggs, unpeeled, and water and jugs of tea to drink. It worked very well and I had no dishes to do, no food to cook and clean up was just brushing off the crumbs! We did not starve and were quite satisfied. Dinner was provided on Saturday night in the church basement. Beef stew, rolls and butter and pie. I can't believe how helpful the food servers were - three ladies helped fill and carry plates for the boys and yet another lady assisted me up the stairway by holding up my skirts so I would not trip!Mr. I-Don't-Want-To-Take-A-Nap. Here a fabulous group demonstrates a lawn party. It was great talking to these talented folks. We even got to talk with a real, honest-to-goodness English gentleman from London.
Later we took the boys to the petting zoo. They so enjoyed seeing the animals and petting them. I pray that someday soon we may be able to get some animals, nothing fancy, just some chickens and perhaps a few goats to start off with. Here is Malachi on Sunday morning. This little green plaid dress was one that Judah wore last year. I can't believe Malachi is big enough to wear it! And I can't believe Judah was small enough to wear it just one year ago! David and I before church service. Judah and Malachi look out over the Confederate camp.David. Mr. I-Don't-Want-To-Take-A-Nap; Sunday afternoon. I had quite a time getting Malachi to take a nap after lunch on Sunday. He was desperately tired but he didn't think so. While I sat on the edge of the bed and sang little songs to the baby, little David came in and leaned on my knee. Two little spectator girls, perhaps ages 8 and 10, peeked in through the door. They smiled. I smiled. Little David went up to them, very close, looked up full into their face and deliberately exclaimed, "Cat Poop!" They looked startled, backed off, and little David, satisfied with his vocal prowess, returned to my knee.
The guys on the gun.
Our camp. David. This is the first shirt I made him using the LM Victorian Mens Shirt pattern. I made a few adjustments per instructions on the Sewing Academy to the pattern to make it period correct (since overall, the pattern style is post-war) and it has a removable, button on white collar. I like the way it looks on him though he is not used to such a collar.
Now the inevitable laundry, pressing and putting away for next time. Billie Creek Village is in another month, and my goal is to have my sheer finished for that as well as my new straw bonnet, which needs to be finished and trimmed. I got it in the mail last week from Pam at Mrs. Parkers Millinery and my goodness, she does exquisite work! I hope my trimming and finishing can do her bonnet justice!



  1. WOW Sarah!!!! I was so impressed that you all were able to do the whole weekend without a modern cooler. Our family wants to do this at our next event at the Gettysburg Fourth of July event coming up! My sister and my mother really want to and so do I, but my dad is still not sure! :)

    We shall see what happens! I am going to post a few pictures of our first event of the season, which was 2 weekends ago, this week. We had a lovely time! You all seemed to have a great impression and a lovely time too! despite the no napping for him on sunday! :)

    I love the new dress too! I did not even notice it was pulling in the bodice.

    In Christ,

  2. Wonderful!!! You look stunning. I love your red gown, it really makes your eyes sparkle. The boys are so handsome too.

  3. What fun! Good for you all for being able to go without a cooler. It is amazing what foods are available that can keep so well(especially if it isn't hot!).
    Your dress is lovely! You look so lovely in that first picture of it:-)

    I wish my family was into this kind of thing..but I think they are not(and I don't think I have the sewing skills it takes).

    And David's comment to the little girls is so funny! Such a little boy ;-)

    Have a lovely week my dear! Writing to you soon:-)

    Lots of love,

  4. Dear Sarah, As always I'm horribly impressed by everything! I didn't notice any tugging with the red dress, but I know what it feels like when you know it's there, even if no one else can see it. I hope you get it figured out so you can enjoy that lovely gown!

    I received your package in the mail (before it started raining, blessedly). I'm so excited to get started in the next day or two. I hope I can pull off something half as lovely and accurate as you! Our first event will be Pittsfield the first weekend of June, followed by Jacksonville the 3rd. Will you still be excited to meet us even if I look totally "farby"?

  5. So glad I stumbled across your blog. I'm very impressed with your wisdom at such a young age. God Bless You.

    I am the author of a Civil War novel, and would be honored to send you a copy. Its themes are honor, integrity, and everlasting love. (Shades of Gray).

  6. Jenny, of course I would still be excited to see you! I don't care if you are wearing a trash bag, a calico drawstring dress and mob cap or something totally modern. :) And you are NOT a farb. I know your outfit will be fine, no matter what it is, because you have a desire to learn how they did things then and use those same techniques now. We are ALL learning ALL the time and research a year from now might show the current reenacting fad is totally wrong. . .it is all a journey. :) Bit by bit we creep forward, but we all have to start somewhere!

  7. P.S. I confess I did something knowingly wrong and was "farby" Saturday evening of the event. I was so hot and tired and sore I took off my dress and corset and went around in my petticoats and chemise (I had a plaid work petticoat on) and my wool mantle. . . and modern moccasin slippers. :P

  8. Jessica, thank you for your very kind words! I am *so* honored to have a Civil War author leave a comment on my blog! Wow! I would love to read the novel you have written; do you have website? Have a wonderful evening!

  9. I'm glad you had a lovely time at a lovely place!

  10. Sarah,
    I have been reading and enjoying your blog for awhile now and I am always blown away and so impressed with your sewing talents. And to get so much done with three little ones to look after.

    I love your red dress, the color looks lovely on you and your boys are adorable. Again, I'm amazed at how you get all those outfits made and how wonderful they look(including your husband's), just amazing.

    I was wondering if I could write you through email about some questions I have about reenactments, if you aren't too busy of course? My email is


  11. I had to laugh at your "Mr. No-Nap" comments. We just got back from an event in New Market, VA and trying to get my kids to nap was a joke! We slept in the basement of one of the historic buildings and I tried to get them to rest in the afternoon, with no luck! Made for very tired kiddos later in the day, but they went to bed early and slept really well! Love you photos and report of the event! Your blog is a joy!
    Jess Craig

  12. Oh dear, where do I begin?!?!

    I love your red dress, it is so fabulous. Not only is red a great color on you, the sleeves are so pretty!
    The boys' coats and all so darling. I need to make a few of those!
    The location - I know jealousy is not a good trait, but I am jealous of that fabulous little town. How wonderful to have it close and be able to use it!
    And the quilting! I boy, I would have loved to touch and caress that quilt! It looks similar to the Dear Jane patterns. I love love love quilting and now I dream about mid 1800 quilting styles in my sleep!
    What a great weekend you must have had, thanks for sharing and taking such great pictures. The gardens look gorgeous too - I can not get over how GREEN it is there!

  13. Both of your dresses are beautiful, Sarah. Thanks for taking me on a "wish-I-could-be-there" tour...for now, I reinact through you!

  14. Sarah, once again a very enjoyable post! I love looking at all your photos of these events and your new red dress is beautiful!

    (I had to laugh... I've been watching Dancing with the Stars this spring and this past Monday they did little montages with the backgrounds of all the stars... and when Evan Lysacek said he grew up in Naperville I thought "Now that sounds very familiar. Where have I heard that name before?" Then I came back here tonight and realised that I'd read this post right before I watched the show!)

  15. The red dress is stunning! It looks like you had a wonderful weekend and I am so impressed with you going without a cooler! You are a great inspiration to do all that with the little ones too!

  16. Sarah,

    The picture of you and your children is so tender and wonderful.

    I love your red dress; I can see myself in it quite well. The cut is modest yet femine, and I love anything that denotes a pioneer. I realize that you are not reenacting the pioneers, but they were during the same time.

    Thank you for sharing your beauties with us. :0)

  17. Ooohhh, Evan Lysacek? He is the skater dude, right? :) I love my hubby and of course think he is the handsomest guy in the world, but Evan Lysacek comes *close* to being *almost* as handsome as David. :)

    Zebu thank you! I love the pioneer era too! It is my first love and when I was little my greatest dream was to be just like Laura Ingalls and wear a sunbonnet and ride in a covered wagon. :) Laura Ingalls was born just post-war, so I feel like I'm in the time when her Ma was a young lady and I love the scenes in the book Little House in the Big Woods where Laura talks about watching her aunts dress for a dance and describes their clothing, including hoop skirts! Also in Farmer Boy, where Alice wears hoops even while she works in the field, and Mother has to pull her wide hoop skirts through the door when she brings food in to the table!

  18. I too love Laura Ingalls! In fact, I just finished "These Happy Golden Years". I can't tell you how many times I have read them over the years. I, like you, love how they describe their dresses. In the book just finished, they were making Mary’s dresses and then Laura’s wedding clothes. She did such a great job describing them. It makes one want to wear the clothes; how wonderful that you do re-enacting!


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!