Monday, June 21, 2010

Jacksonville, IL Civil War Reenactment 2010

The Civil War reenactment in Jacksonville, IL is hailed as one of “the” events in the local area to go to. This year, we did not get to go for the whole weekend since David had to work on Saturday. On Sunday, however, we got up early and we all packed into David’s mothers van to make the two hour drive. We arrived at the site just in time for church service.
Here is my mother in law just before church started.
Being Sunday, the day was far more relaxed than a Saturday. There were less people and less activities to go to. I enjoyed it very much; the laid back atmosphere was calm and peaceful. It was hot, but compared to the heat we experienced last week it was actually really very nice and comfortable, especially in the shade!
I have not been terribly fond of the Jacksonville event in the past. The first year we went (2 years ago) we stayed the whole weekend and were kept up at night by a riotous, drunken party in the camp next to us. Last year we went just for the day but it was terribly hot and I got very sick so we had to leave early. This year was by far nicer than our prior experiences!
It seems that this year I am meeting all kinds of wonderful and interesting people. There was another mother there with two little boys, ages three years and fourteen months and it was so nice to have some other little children present. They were adorable and Malachi enjoyed playing for a bit with the other wee lad.
We did experience a few mishaps. One was the behavior of our beloved first born son. He was very . . .active. Actually, he had a fascination with the stairs on the pavilion and wanted nothing more than to go up and down the stairs for the entire duration of our stay. This would have been fine, but the pavilion was located rather far from our units home base so I could not always be there, and David seemed to assume the pavilion was his personal property and he screamed, cried and even kicked and hit at people who came up “his” stairs. This was, of course, totally unacceptable. He was duly punished by both his father and I, but to no avail.
The second, less lengthy mishap occurred to Judah. His grandma had just bought him a candy stick and we passed by the embalmers on our way back to camp. Judah lagged behind a good deal and once we reached camp and I did not see him with us, I went looking for him. He was indeed on his way to us, but shuffling along at a very slow pace indeed. When I drew closer I saw that his trousers had fallen down around his ankles and he looked at me with a reproachful and pained expression as he shuffled sadly along, much like a prisoner in shackles. We pulled up the trousers and buttoned them anew.
The highlight of the event for me was, though, by far, being able to meet the beautiful Mrs. P from Humble Beginnings! I was thrilled to meet such a lovely kindred spirit.
Her husband graced the company with some fantastic banjo music after the battle. This talented couple added so very much to the whole atmosphere and delight of the event, not only for me but I know that everyone who saw and heard them will come away with a better understanding of history.

David came away in a very good mood. He was thrilled to have been able to fondle two original guns. One was, I think (excuse me if I get the term wrong, I’m working from memory and a limited understanding of firearms) a Burnside Carbine. The other was an Enfield. We ladies talk about fondling fabric. David and our reenacting guys talk with equal passion about fondling guns. :)
Well, this is the last event for us til August. It will be nice to have a two month break, especially during the hot months of summer. This week I need to finish up some outside sewing jobs and turn my attention once more to jobs that need to be done around the house. My bathroom floor needs to be torn up and the new linoleum laid. I have a good understanding of the theory but am concerned about cutting accurately around the sink and the toilet. Actually I think the toilet will have to be removed and a new wax seal put in. I hope once I remove the current sub floor, the original hardwood floor will be in good enough condition to just lay the linoleum over that. Who knows what lurks beneath? The current floor is ceramic tile but the grout has not held so the tiles are “floating” and some are broken and some completely missing.

Then the choice of paint color and trim for the bathroom. Back to work for me!


Sunday, June 20, 2010

1860's Crossover Dress - Finished!

After dragging the construction of this dress out for an insane amount of time, I can now say, it is done. I kept adding to this dress. I will not add to it anymore.

I enjoyed making the variation of the crossover style bodice, and the nice V-neck is cool for hot weather. I had the opportunity to wear this dress for the first time today and although I speculated that some stain or spillage catastrophe would befall it, I escaped with merely a few mud smears, banana mash, and strawberry milkshake sopped into my right sleeve. Oh, and a lot of sweat. It was hot today.

David took these be-mud-smeared, be-banana-mashed and be-strawberry-milkshake-sopped pictures when we got home. Thus the strained and wilted look of all of them. Did I mention it was hot today?

I also finally finished my bonnet so I could wear it with my dress. I actually ended up wearing the bonnet very little. I have decided that I am really not a fashion bonnet girl. I like how they look but I feel so very over done when wearing a fashion bonnet. I am much more comfortable in sunbonnets.

We had a lovely time at the reeanctment despite the heat. I hope to do a full post on it tomorrow! In the meantime, my dress is done! I keep telling myself no more 1860's dresses - this makes #7 for my current wardrobe - but sadly I fell away into temptation and bought 10 yards of a pink printed cotton fabric over the weekend. I couldn't help myself. It was only about $4 for all of it at the thrift shop. I also have a dress length of a lovely cotton in fall colors that I have been meaning to make up since last fall and another length of blue and white cotton for a wrapper. I think I need to start wearing 1860's styles for everyday to have excuse to make more dresses. :)

I have been out of the mood for reeancting for so long, my passion is coming back with a vengeance!

Stay cool dear ones!


Friday, June 18, 2010

Because Plaid Begs for Bias

I decided my plaid crossover dress was a little plain as it was. So I added a bias ruffle around the neckline and around the sleeve caps. It isn't much, but I think it definitely finishes off the look very nicely. Plaid is so lovely since you can do so many interesting things with it.On a different note, I heartily apologize to anyone who has recently visited my Historical Clothing Blog - I have been receiving so many spam comments lately with links to terrible sites therein. I will be working on cleaning up and updating that blog over the next week or so and even though I hate to do it, I will be putting all future comments through moderation so hopefully we can keep everything cheerful and pleasant over there. :) I think I will take the whole site offline while I work on it. I have a lot of updating to do and things will probably be crazy and unorganized over there for a little while!

A question for those of you who are interested; do you prefer actual patterns on the site, or would you prefer simple tutorials? I am really afraid that my scanned patterns are not printing out the same for everyone and that the sizing is off.

Finally, check out the new website, Historical Help, by Atlanta Shannon from Bonny Blue! I am so very excited about this site. It looks like it will be a great resource for new female Civil War reenactors.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Billie Creek Village Civil War Days 2010

We headed out to Billie Creek Village in Rockville, IN, Friday afternoon. The forecast called for thunderstorms all weekend but we were blessed to arrive after the rain had passed and we had quite good weather to set up in. It was very warm, but nothing too terrible. Our camp was situated in front of the livery barn, where the medical camp was last year. David and one other gentleman, a very pleasant fellow from Indianapolis, portraying a full surgeon, were the only federal medical people present.

Above: Our little "home away from home" :)

I think this event will go down in infamy as the Event That Was Hot.
Above: David eats cold fried chicken on Friday night after set-up.
After having reenacted for many years, I think that heat is a relative thing. If one puts oneself in the mindset that you will be comfortable in 90 degree weather, wearing multiple layers and long sleeves and a bonnet, it really is actually more comfortable than looking forward to the heat with dread. Thinking of heat as an expected, natural part of things helps tremendously.

Above: Judah and Malachi make acquaintance with the adorable donkeys in the back barnyard on Friday night. They were literally our neighbors for the whole event and Malachi especially fell in love with them. Oh, and Malachi is wearing a tunic because we all wore old clothes for set-up and Malachi has no dresses from last year that still fit, so he wore David's tunic from last year. And yes, they have no shoes on. The boys and I wore no shoes for about 75% of the time we were here.
Still. It wasn't 90 degrees on Saturday. I got up to 96 degrees and to top it off it was humid to the point of excessive dampness in the clothing. There was also no breeze. We were down in a hot little valley and our tent bravely faced the blazing sun all of the morning with no trees to offer shade.

Above: Little David eats cold fried chicken, Friday night.

We listlessly walked about on Saturday morning, while the heat was still bearable. For a while we sat in the shade of a high roofed pavilion and listened to a brass band. From time to time we would take refuge in the general store, which had the wonderful modern conveniences of air conditioning, ice cold drinks in a cooler in the back room, jars of candy sticks, peppermints and gum on the front counter and plenty of chairs to sit in. A gentleman who made hand-crafted mountain dulcimers sat in the center of the room and regaled the assembled company with song and music and stories.

Above: Malachi, David and I. Our little camp area is just to behind us, to the left.
The camps were still and quiet til after lunch when the men began to form for battle. Throngs of spectators came through and made their way to the battlefield at the far end of the village. David went off with the surgeon to attend the wounded and the boys and I scurried down the hot roads as fast as we could in the opposite direction, dodging the Confederate army which marched away singing "Get Out the Way, Old Dan Tucker". I have learned - stay away from crowds when you have small, darting children!
Above: Malachi on the porch of the Governors House.
While the guns roared and the smoke curled up in the hot blue sky we explored the dark, cool buildings in the village. The boys took a liking to the little Governors House and seemed quite at home in it. We went into the church and then we walked down by the creek and put our feet into the water.
Above: Judah stares at a statue in the Catholic church building. He was quite fascinated with this little figure of a man.
Once we tired of that we went back to camp and I filled a bucket with cold water from the pump and the boys played and splashed in that. At last I just liberally doused them with cold water from the pump and removed as much of their clothing as possible. By the end of the day, David and Judah were both in tunics and Malachi in an old tunic of Davids from last year. When it is this hot, health comes before proper authenticity! At least they were in period styles, and the tunics light, short, loose and cool.
Above: David says this is a "spooky" picture of me, in the Governors House.
David, soaked with sweat, dragged himself back to camp after the battle was over. He was shaky so I immediately had us go to the refuge of the air conditioned general store where we sat and had cold drinks and visited.

The heat increased and the humidity only became more pressing. Once the majority of the spectators left, the soldiers in the camps stripped down to their drawers and some put on modern clothing. I was exhausted so laid down on the bed in our tent and must have slept a little while. David was wonderful. He watched the boys for me and sat in that hot fenced in barnyard watching them play so I could rest! When I woke up I saw David walking by the door of the tent and he knocked over a chair, and Malachi, who was just behind him, got hit full in the face with the chair. His nose immediately started spurting blood and stayed bloody for quite a few minutes. I rose from the bed, liberally soaked in sweat and with a blinding head-ache. When David carried Malachi in to me and I saw his poor little tear and blood stained face I burst into tears. David was very concerned since I wouldn't stop crying so he wanted us to go to the general store again, but when we got there we discovered it had been closed. I held Malachi in my arms and noticed my new sheer dress was spattered with blood. With the heat and thick air more suffocating than ever, and heat-rash appearing on the boys legs, we decided to strike camp and come home.
It was early evening. It took us about forty minutes to get everything packed and into the car. As we worked quickly, clouds rolled in from the west and the smell of rain rushed into that hot valley. As I pulled stakes from the tent loops, the first drops began to fall. I hurried as fast as I could to get the canvas folded up - oh my, I think I had an unnatural obsession with that canvas at the time! It was all I thought of. The canvas must not get wet. Even though I normally cannot lift the folded wall tent easily, I picked it up as if it were a feather and ran with it to the car, where David put it inside. Just as he did so, cracks of thunder split the sky and it began to rain and a swift cold wind blew. "Where are my children?" I cried in terror. The three little wet figures ran to us through the wall of rain, their hair plastered against their skin and rain running down their faces.

Just as the storm broke in full earnest, we pulled out. Soon we were on the highway headed towards home. It rained and rained and rained. David and I were too tired to talk much but he relaxed as the air cooled down. We felt oh, so bad, to leave the event early but it was probably the best thing we could have done. When we reached home the boys had a quick bath and were put into bed with fans blowing upon them, and we all slept soundly til late the next morning.
It wasn't really a disappointing event. We did have fun, though it was so hot. Our disappointment lay in our having to leave, but we really did not have another good option. Malachi's little pink dress is hung away, never having had the opportunity to be worn (it was to be saved for Sunday church service) so he did not fall into a mud puddle while wearing it. On the other hand, David did fall flat on his face in a mud puddle literally fifteen minutes after I dressed him, early in the morning, in his brand new tunic! I had to rub the mud stains with homemade soap and rinse it well in the water pump. While it dried (which took a long while, due to the humidity) he had to wear his long sleeve dark blue tunic with the sleeves rolled up. I got to wear my pink plaid sheer for the first time, but honestly, it was just so hot I really did not feel more comfortable in it than I did the previous evening in my heavier weight, fully lined cotton bodice.
I met some wonderful people and visited anew with old friends, in a place dearer to me than almost any spot on earth - for it was here that I first was exposed to a grand thing called Civil War Reenacting. It was here that, year by year, I saved my money and bought patterns, a hoop skirt and then debuted my first Civil War outfit as a young teen, thrilling to all the sights and sounds and smells around me in this beautiful little spot.
Here's to next year! :P

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Round #1 - Short Sleeve Tunics

I know I'm posting far more often than usual this week, but, well, blogging in the morning helps give me a break from the sewing I have been rushing to get done. :)

Today I want to share my spur-of-the-moment sewing project from yesterday; tunics for David and Judah.
I made them both long sleeve, loose, roomy tunics earlier this year, intending to have them wear them all season. However, we are off to a reenactment this weekend and the forecast is for thunderstorms and hot temperatures (though all week, the forecasted temp has steadily dropped) and I decided to make them short sleeve tunics. I had an extra day to sew- so why not?
I wanted to make these tunics in plaid, like the image below, but wasn't sure exactly how to go about making a bias plaid tunic so I made these in a printed cotton instead. I tried a new tunic style this time. Instead of my usual A-line tunics, these have seperate bodice and skirt portions sewn to a waistband. I was inspired by the images of this darling little tunic found on eBay last month and posted about over at The Sewing Academy:
I did shorten the sleeves on my tunics some. Of course, my material is not sheer so you cannot see the tucks like you can on the original. Really, the tucks were a waste of time since due to the print of the fabric you cannot even really tell that they are there.

Judah posed for some pictures last night. He is wearing modern shorts beneath the tunic but the tunic skirts cover them so it appears he is wearing nothing beneath! Actually, when David first saw Judah in this tunic he asked me why I had made him a dress!
For some reason Judah reminds me of a Jedi in this picture.
Sarah: "Judah, say "The force be with you."

Judah, proudly: "The fork beneath you!"

The bias tunics are in the works but won't get done for this weekend. Hopefully for the weekend-after-next, though.



Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Scalloped Baby Dress - Done!

Yay! It's done! I finished it yesterday. I did realize after I sewed the band on that the original has the band attached much more closely to the hem. . .sigh.
The scallops ended up taking only about an hour and a half to do. Not as bad as I thought. For some reason this picture is pretty washed out - the first picture is closest to the real color of the fabric. Now, I'm preparing myself for the inevitable reality that the first time Malachi wears this, within the first half hour, he will spill something on it or fall into a mud puddle.



Monday, June 7, 2010

Cable Tie Corset & Pink Baby Dress

For those of you who have inquired about my purely cable tied corset, here, at last, are a few pictures of how the front opening works.
This corset has cable ties and hook and eyes instead of a steel clasp busk. I made this corset in this manner so I could more easily nurse Malachi last year. Cable ties are more flexible than the steel used for busks so it was much more comfortable to get everything in position for a feeding. :) Even though cable ties are not as stiff as a steel busk, I still got a good shape with this corset and felt very supported. And I have worn this poor corset a lot. My new blue corset has a steel busk but is otherwise indentical to this pink one. The only difference I notice is that the shape of the bust in the blue corset has a lifted and seperate look to it (kind of reminiscent of regency era styles) and the pink corset has a bit lower bustline, and is more of a monobosom look. Actually, either look is appropriate to the Civil War era and can be documented in extant photographs.
Then, just as today, there were different styles of corests (today we have bras) that gave subtle differences to the shape of the person wearing them. To put in the front bones, I stitched the two layers of the corset together (a pink linen layer and a white twill layer, treated as one at the other seams) to create a casing for the front bones. I slid them in and then bound the top and bottom of the corset. To finish it off, I sewed hook and eyes to the inside of the corset, alinging the curved edge of the eyes and the curved edge of the hooks with the front edge. This way the corset closes edge to edge. There is a tiny little gap between the edges when the corset is worn, but that is normal. Steel busks often have a little gap between the edges too.

I am whittling away at my sewing list for this weekend. Today I cut out Malachi's new pink dress and so far have the basic dress sewn together. I still need to face the waistband, stitch the hem, and add a button and buttonholes to the neck and waist. The skirt will be trimmed with a narrow scalloped band bound in self fabric bias, just like the sleeves.
Did I mention I really don't like binding scallops?! WHAT was I thinking? At least I had good practice when I made my 18th century stays earlier this year and had to bind all those tabs by hand! Malachi's dress is inspired by this original dress that was on eBay a few years ago. This dress was also my inspiration for David and Judah's matching blue and white striped dresses I made two years ago. I really love the graceful little scallops. It is an adorable trim feature that I usually don't see on repro clothes, and, well, I like doing out-of-the-ordinary things. :)
That is also the reason why I am making Malachi a pink dress. Some of you may be asking why on earth I would put my baby boy in a pink dress. It seems there is a trend among reenactors to put their baby boys in more "boyish" colors or styles. I personally think this is way overthought and overdone. Did every mother of a baby boy try to make her baby more "manly" dresses in the 1860's? Obviously not. There is nothing wrong with a baby boy wearing a hunter green and navy blue plaid trimmed with military inspired red braid, but on the other hand, there is nothing wrong with a baby boy wearing a sheer white gown trimmed with ruffles and lace and tucks and insertion and embroidery. Or for that matter, a pink dress. Also, I've found no evidence thatpink was considered a girly color in the 1860's. In fact, at times it seems pink was actually thought more of as a boy color. I have seen several toddler boy dresses from the period that are varying shades of pink. Third, this style and color of dress would not be considered odd in the 1860's period, but is odd to modern people in this day and age. I have tried in the past to put my boys in more "manly" colors and prints and plaids but everyone still always thinks they are girls anyway.
So, let them think that! Malachi gets a pink dress this year. He looks great in this color and when I told him today that I was going to make him a new dress from this fabric, he squealed and scurried away with the yardage in his arms and I had quite a time making him give it back to me! In fact, when I found this fabric a few months ago Malachi was the one who pulled it off the table into the cart. I asked David what he thought, he shrugged and said it was a good color for him and that was the end of the conversation.

Pink is really such a nice color for boys! Little David's first reenacting dress was pink. Here is a photo of him wearing it three years ago. I was terribly proud of this little gown and of my little boy wearing it. :) Ah. Nothing like being a first time mama going to your first reenactment with Baby! It is one of the most pride-inducing activites to engage in. :P

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Middle Week

Today it is Wednesday which to me is always a day of reflection and planning. It is a good time in the week to pause and make note of what has been accomplished and to plan what to do for the remaining time before The Weekend. I do not have much planned beyond finishing up my two sheer dresses for our next reenactment and starting Malachi's double pink gown. It is nice to have a slower pace this week after our last few hectic ones - but at least I did get the painting done last week! Time to sit and read books with the boys, have picnics in the yard, weed the flower beds and watch the garden grow. Speaking of our garden, our plants seem to now be established enough to take a picture of. So, here is our little plot of earth:We do not have everything planted yet that we want to plant. The reason? Rain. Abundances of rain. It has been too wet to plant much lately so that is why my green beans and squash are not yet in. Beyond that, we do have sweet corn, two varities of potatoes, peas (which did not all come up) :( tomatoes (Davids passion), peppers, broccoli, onions and cantaloupe. In another spot, we have pumpkins. I also have sunflowers in various spots coming up and doing very well and in the front flower beds I have seven varieties of herbs. Already harvested was our spring crop of lettuce and radishes. We will plant those again in the fall. Our gardening endeavors are not huge, but for us this is the biggest garden venture we've mutally shared. David already has plans for expanding the garden next year and he desires to get some grape vines, raspberry plants and strawberry plants. If he had his way, we'd have no yard left because everything would be taken up for planting! :)

It is pleasant to work in the garden with David and the boys. The boys have seen the plants grow from the very beginning and Judah helped me plant the peas when those went in. Malachi thinks he can hoe and rake in the garden so often does. Judah helps pull weeds (and sometimes plants) :P and little David runs about between the rows singing a little made-up song about it being his garden. From our different places in the garden David and I look at each other and smile, then go back to our work. A mutual striving towards a specific goal. Is not that what marriage and family is? Helping each other, working together, and together seeing the profit of our labors?

Over the weekend we went to a Nature Center and Wildlife Sanctuary just across the river. It is a beautiful little spot and the boys enjoyed the nature displays inside the building there and then hiking the trails in the hills beyond. My twenty-fourth birthday was last Thursday and so David asked me what I wanted to do for it. A pre-1840 rendezvous we had wanted to go to turned out to have been held the previous weekend so I asked if we could go to the Nature Center instead.
So many memories rushed upon me as we walked these dear, familiar trails! This spot was one my father often took my siblings and I to when we were younger. I would imagine that he still takes my younger siblings there as he did when I was still at home. I felt as though the Sarah's of the past were next to every tree, in the shadows of the hills and fallen logs. I could almost hear my brother Jacob's voice as we passed places so full of pleasant times past. How often we pretended we were Civil War-era sharpshooters on those hills! How we ran ahead of the others and hid ourselves in the brush, waiting for them to pass by. :) Those times were really not so long ago at all. This time, my own little ones were wide eyed and wondering. They saw a blue bird, squirrels, wild turkeys and many daddy long-legs. They begged to climb up the hills and go down them. The big boys walked on ahead and I tagged along behind with Malachi, who stopped every few feet to scratch in the gravel with a stick.
How sobering to think that this time of life will go by so fast. What happens today will be our memories for tomorrow. That thought makes me pause often and reflect on how I spend my time and what I say and do - I want my family to have pleasant memories, not sorrowful or painful or bitter ones. I am so thankful to my father for giving me the memories of past trips to this Wildlife Sanctuary. Times when he could have been getting something done at home, but he decided that his family was more important and chores and to-do lists could wait. Would, in future years, we really care if a menial household task was done on a speficic certain day? Would we remember? Or would we remember better times spent as a family enjoying the beauty of nature?
Well I'm off to fix breakfast. I was awake much of last night due to violent storms surging through the area and it always seems that if I am awake at night, I am absolutely starving the next morning. At least the storms have cooled off this area. Everything is wet, but the air is crisp and clean.