Monday, September 27, 2010

Vermilion County Civil War Days 2010

This past weekend was one of our favorite fall Civil War events and even though David was feeling rather poorly, we packed up our babies, our gear and Peter, my "brother", ;) and headed out on Friday evening. We set up camp in the dark, David made a good, warm fire and thus our home for the weekend was established.

I have been feeling really bad lately about how the civilian presence in a military camp can really destroy the accurate impression that might otherwise be made. Our medical unit is made of four families and among us there are four children, a young lady, four women and Peter. This time, instead of setting up directly with the hospital, David and I decided to try camping on our own. We had our own fire, we were seperated from the medical location and I think this is a better compromise than having our family right next to the hospital. A tent with a surgeons family, right next to a field hospital just very likely would not have happened. We still visited with our fellow group members and hung out, at times, beneath their hospitable fly, but we were not dwelling among them. :) We will never have an 1860's mindest or way of thinking. We are products of a modern age, even if we resent that. ;) But a baby step forward is progress. Accuracy is a process, not a destination! We will never reach a total level of correctness. But as long as we are making an effort to improve, bit by bit, I think that is commendable. :)

It was a fun event. We did experience a mishap when the temperatures plummeted and the rain began to fall earnestly on Saturday night. Shivering and damp, the children and I just wanted to lay down in our tent and pull up the covers to get warm while David tended the fire. Unfortunately, we forgot to put our fly up over our tent and when we went inside we discovered the roof was leaking. Large puddles had already formed on the boys blankets and cots and our bed was likewise very damp. Having really no other alternative, we decided to go home for the night and come back in the morning. It was a good decision in the end. We got a good nights sleep in a warm, dry house and I was able to dress myself and Malachi in our wool gowns since Sunday was crisp and breezy - and the sheer dress I had originally brought for Sunday would NOT have been suitable!

Danville is a very family friendly event. It is a lovely location and I met some wonderful people. Since our events are very mainstream, one of the best things about them, for me, is meeting new folks. It gives me a good reason to keep coming out. :)

On Sunday there was a demonstration of the Appomattox surrender. I must say, viewing that gave me goosebumps and caused tears to rise in my eyes and course down my face. The gentlemen portraying Lee, Grant and their staff were excellent at what they did. The saddest part was Lee's controlled sadness and pasion as he rose after signing the surrender agreement. The gray and butternut-clad Confederates, war-torn, veteran and filled with respect and love for their commander, lined the road where Lee exited the lawn of the house. His words to them were unforgettable.

I did not, alas, wear my new sunbonnet at all and as a consequence got sunburned. I brought my straw bonnet and was so afraid of it getting crushed, as, in sad and past experience, other fashion bonnets of mine have been. I decided the only safe place for it was on my head. :) Fashion bonnets may be pretty but they really do nothing to preseve one's complexion! I suppose that is an excuse for a repro parasol sometime in the future!

More pictures here: Danville 2010


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Practical Head-ware

I thought about finishing my brown drawn bonnet for use this fall at events. It has only been in progress since February. But I rejected the idea in favor of making a new sunbonnet since I sold the ones I had previously made and was without one entirely. And, gasp, is it not rather *shocking* to go about bare-headed? (although I usually do. . .)

This one is made from Timely Tresses Lucy Amelia Sunbonnet pattern. This is the 3rd one I have made from this pattern and I must say, I do like it very much. It has a pleasant shape that flares from the head instead of encasing it in long vertical lines. The long vertical lines were just not doing it for me, you know. I am not exactly thrilled to see myself in a such a bonnet and be grimly reminded of the long, narrow face of a mule. This pattern is a different. And I do like it. Perhaps this will take care of my preference to wear nothing on my head at all.

The brim is made from a double layer of white and blue striped cotton. The brim is interlined with two layers of cotton flannel, for stiffness and washability and the whole thing is hand quilted for sturdiness and shape. The crown is just one layer of fabric and there is a drawstring adjustment for the neckline and ties at the neck and under the chin.

I love how fast this pattern works up - both quilted bonnets I have made from this pattern have taken just one day to complete. The corded one (with over 25 rows of cording if I recall correctly) took just two afternoons. I don't usually use patterns but this is definitely a keeper!

Fall is surely here and this weekend we are off to another event. If I try very hard I may succeed in being a good girl and keeping my bonnet on when out and about!


Thursday, September 16, 2010

1850's Plaid Gown, Sleeves, Collar and Skirt

Some of you may remember the royal blue satin-and-velvet ballgown I made earlier this year for my friend Nona. Nona is just the loveliest person to work with in costuming. She is thorough in her planning, she knows exactly what she wants and she doesn't complain about being fitted. :)

After her ball gown was finished Nona brought me the Simplicity 3727 pattern along with a beautiful blue and green cotton plaid. She loved the style and the fabric was exactly what she had in mind. She told me to take my time and not rush with this dress since she did not need it right away.

Finally - after five months! - I am starting on this dress. I hope to have it done so Nona can use it next weekend at our next Civil War event. I am rather glad I did not make it earlier this year since it is working up to be quite visually heavy - more appropriate for cooler weather than warm.

Simplicity 3727 is a pattern based on an original dress from the Wisconsin Historical Society. It is more of an 1850's style than a true Civil War (1861-1865) style, but even so, this style is really far more appropraite than most gowns seen at events around here. ;) And Nona is a bit older, so perhaps this may have been a style she would have liked and would have continued using in the period. I have made 2 other dresses from this pattern for other people, but this is the first one I am making in a natural fiber! *bliss* Synthetics just do NOT work well for mid-19th century sewing!

The fabric is a 100% cotton plaid in dark royal blue and emerald green. Nona looks very nice in these rich, clear, dark colors. The trimming is black cotton fringe and black velvet ribbon. The ribbon is made from bias strips of velvet yardage, which was a lot more economical than purchasing ready-to-use velvet ribbon. I just "eyeballed" the strips but tried to keep them at about 3/4" wide. The sleeves are partially open, and instead of the fringe trimming the edges of this opening, Nona opted for black cord frogs to close this opening decoratively. Matchings frogs will be used as decoration on the bodice. The lower sleeve is lined with black cotton sateen and the upper sleeve with plain white cotton.

The sleeves are really very rich and heavy looking. I love the contrast of texture and mood between the sleeves and the undersleeves. The undersleeves are quite light and dainty and have a very feminine pointed cuff, which I love, and are trimmed with very dainty lace. They close at the wrist with a buttohole and shell button.

The collar is also of light white cotton and trimmed with the same lace. Here you can see how large the collar is. This definitely dates the dress to the 50's. By the 60's, the collars were much more narrow. I still have to slip stitch the bias band to cover the seam allowance on this collar, then it will be ready to baste into the neckline of the basque once that is finished.

No pics of the skirt - but its just a plain old rectangular paneled skirt with the typical hem facing and waistband. :) This weekend Nona will be coming over to get fitted for the basque. Hopefully we won't run into any snags and I can get some pictures of Nona wearing this gown next weekend!


Monday, September 6, 2010

Havana Civil War Dance

David, Peter and I had a great time at the Havana dance this past Saturday evening. The weather was cool and crisp and breezy. We had a small group, but it was delightful and even more so when the spectators came on the dance floor and joined in with us.

For the first time in a long time, I got to actually dance more than one or two dances! I was even able to learn a few new ones, due to some lovley people who were willing to take us more inexperienced folk under their wing. This was because the boy-o's were left with grandmama and I did not have to chase them around. Though I was grateful for some "grown up" time, I did miss them terribly and was very glad to see them again when I got home. David enjoyed himself immensely and thinks we ought to attend dance practice twice a month and have someone watch the boys while we do that. I don't know. I have very very rarely ever been away from the boys since they were born. I think they would be fine to be away from us for a few hours every other week - but would I?
For more pictures, you can go here.

Have a lovely Labor Day!