Tuesday, August 23, 2011

An Event at Lake Storey ~ Galesburg Heritage Days

This past weekend was the annual Heritage Days in Galesburg, IL and once more we found ourselves camped on the beautiful wooded shores of Lake Storey for a fun event.

This year was even more fun for me because my friend Laura and her children were able to be there with us and our dear friend Major Gary Jones was also in attendance, whom we have not spent an event with for six  years. There is nothing like catching up with old friends and spending time with new ones.

 All in all the society was very pleasant and the conversation stimulating! We also had the lovely pleasure of the company of the Miss Whitaker's - Brooke has a beautiful blog with her posts detailing her lovely sewing projects as well as a great 1860's hairstyle tutorial. She is such a wonderful young lady, as are her sisters!

The boys were thrilled to have other children to play with. The impression of a child is, I think, one of the best impressions of all. The boys had fun playing with sticks, pretending they were guns and marched around as soldiers going off to battle.

Judah collected leaves and twigs and the discovery of cicada and cicada shells was a passionate pastime for the Small Folk.

Watching them play, I could not help but feel a thrill of realism. The instincts and imagination of a child has not changed one bit in the past 150 years.

Unconciously, these little ones were presenting a far more accurate picture to The Public than many of the best "hardcore" reenactors there. Way to go, kids!

A meandering path led to a pre-1840's rendezvous on the other side of the park. We had fun going over as a group and visiting the camps and merchants. Here Laura, Peter and I pose in the woods on our way to the rendezvous camp.

Laura took this picture of David and I. We may be an "old married couple" now but I think we are still a little bit fond of each other, at least from time to time. :)

Peter stepped out of his comfort zone and civilian bum impression to portray the lowly hospital attendant.

Although he received some good-natured banter for his title of Private Peter (or Private Combs, which is perhaps worse) he performed his duties well and admirably and added so much to the impression of the field hospital. Here he accompanies the surgeon, Ron, back to the field hospital after the battle on Saturday with a wounded Gary.

Soon after his surgery, Gary passed to The Beyond. Here I mourn for my lost brother.

Saturday evening brought a brief but fierce thunderstorm. After it passed the air was much cooled and the humidity diminished. We lit lamps and candles and prepared for the evening dance to be held on the street in front of our camp. While we waited, Mr. Christian Jebb visited our humble abode and delighted the ears of the gathered company with some fine music and singing.

On Sunday, Laura and I set out our display of soldiers comfort items and sat by the path to talk to the spectating public as they went by. Although we did not talk to a very large number of people, we did have the pleasure of talking to some and we have many ideas to expand and improve our activities at the next event. It was so very delightful having this impression to do and to have someone as lovely as Laura to do it with.

Laura looked very fine in her lovely golden-yellow gown. She definitely has "The Look" about her - and this was only her second event! She is amazing! She knows her stuff!

I wore my swiss belt with my sheer crossover gown on Sunday. Here is a picture of Laura and I being silly.

Gary died again on Sunday and David tended to him in his last moments.

We all had a lovely time and are looking forward to the next event that will bring  us all together again. Reenacting folk do become just as dear as real family. Some of the best people in the world, truly. There is such a brotherly and sisterly affection for each other that abounds. It is very pleasing.

More photos here: Galesburg Heritage Days 2011


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Blue Dress Progress

Well, it is just a simple day dress but I am excited about it. It is coming along quite nicely and as of now is all done except for the white collar and cuffs. I wanted to trim the sleeves with self fabric ruching between the upper and lower sleeve but I have absolutely no fabric left over so I think I will just leave it plain. Ruching of a contrast color or even cotton lace just looked like a big thoughtless mistake slapped on when I pinned different options to the dress.

So we will go with plain. I have a big orangey-brown silk bow that I think would look nice pinned at the neck. I love how accessories can dress up a gown. I am not happy with my hoop shape however. It seems to have become very distorted over time (I HAVE been using the same steels for about 8 years now!) and it just looks too big. Even though it is only 108" around at the bottom, the proportions seem off. One side juts out farther than the other one and the front doesn't lie as flat as I want. I need to make a new one over the winter, I think.

I tried it on this morning to make sure of the fit. I am pretty happy with how it fits although, as always, there are a few little things that bug me. Like a bit of wrinkling at the armscye at the back. And the tucks in the bodice at the waist just don't lie perfectly flat. But, that is how things go it seems.

I love the sleeves on this dress. I had only five and a half yards of fabric to make this dress and I knew I'd have to piece the sleeves. I cut a tight fitting upper sleeve and then added a gathered portion below that, so the piecing would look intentional. The sleeves were still a little short, so I had to add yet another piece to the very bottom of the sleeves to extend the length. Then the smallest scraps left were used to make cuffs. All in all though, I think they came out well, despite the piecing !

And yes, of course, the cap. I am really loving this cap. I hadn't even combed my hair yet this morning and I didn't feel like doing my hair in an 1860s style just to take some pics to critique the fit. The cap came in perfectly handy for hiding Abominable Hair. Excuse the fact I have on no petticoats, no shoes, etc. etc. And no bum pad, either, so the skirts droop in the back.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Finishing Up and Getting Ready

Thank you for your kind words about the soldiers package! I am really very excited about this and hope that this weekend will go smoothly as far as the impression goes. It is always an uncertain thing to start a new impression, especially when you have three little ones to keep an eye on at the same time and especially when you are at a mainstream event where The Spectating Public desires to walk around and look and talk. One must decide for oneself if the impression will be more of an authentic rendering of a period correct activity in first person, or more of a display, talk and inform type thing. Judah broke in the quilted hat this weekend when we went picnicking and walking in the woods. He could not find his little black wool cap and refused to wear his "tent place clothes" without a hat of some sort! He thought the quilted a hat a very satisfactory substitute for his cap but informed me that he likes his cap better because the "wind does not blow it off". The quilted hat was a few sizes too big! ;)

I am still getting items ready for the package and am also working on those inevitable last-minute projects that come up before an event. Since my old gowns do not fit me very well I decided last week to try to make a new one. I have been working on it briefly every day and so far I have the bodice completed and the skirt pleated and ready to attach to the bodice. This will be an everyday, common, wash dress. The fabric is a very lightweight blue cotton printed with a feathery vine pattern in white. It reminds me a lot of my very first reenacting dress which was also a blue and white print!

You can see how the bodice and skirt are two separate elements. The bottom edge of the bodice is completely finished with a faced, piped waistband and the top edge of the skirt is turned under and then pleated to fit the waist. The next step is attaching the pleated edge of the skirt to the waistband with a close whipstitch, whipping the pleats to the underside of the bottom piped edge of the waistband. Then I will need to hem the skirt, add hook and eyes and make a white collar and cuffs.

Peter is going with as as a hospital attendant and was over this weekend for a final fitting for his new trousers. The trousers are not the regulation sky blue but are a civilian style in the same brownish-yellow cotton twill I made David's regency breeches from. I used Past Patterns Light Summer Trouser pattern for these and was happy with how they came out, although I wish Peter had provided me with better measurements, as the final trousers are a bit baggy. Better too big than too small, though! And yes, he is wearing a modern t shirt in these pics since he left his other shirts at home when he came over this weekend. We won't let  him be that farby in real life, I promise. :)

He was willing to pose for a few photos outside. I still need to hem the trousers to the correct length (he told me he "thought" he was a 36" inseam, but when I measured him after he tried these on it came out to a 28" inseam. .. sigh. . .) But we are getting there.

I also made breakfast caps for my friend Laura and I with the last scraps left over from my regency ballgown. The swiss dot makes such a cute cap, I think! I found a pale pink silk handkerchief at the thrift store this weekend to cut into strips and hem for ribbon to decorate the cap. It will be nice to have for early mornings at events when I wear my wrapper to make sure the fire is ready to cook breakfast. I hate having to get up extra early to rush and wash up, dress completely and do my hair without waking the children. It is so much easier to put on a few petticoats, tie a wrapper and put a cap on over hastily-smoothed and pinned hair!

I also have a shirt yet to make for our friend Gary, and a number of various size bags to contain oatmeal, rice, beans, coffee and peanuts for our own consumption this weekend. The week before an event is always a busy time!


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Items for a Soldiers Comfort Bag

My friend Laura and I decided that it was time to get an impression together and to have something to do at an event other than chase our children around all day. We both have read the excellent article by Virginia Mescher about "Comforts from Home" and decided that we would try to put together a soldiers care package. We have been working on things prior to our upcoming event and while at the event we will be displaying the items we have already made and work on additional ones. I am super excited about doing this and have had a lot of fun lately making a few items to go into the care package I'm putting together.

My theory is that once this package is complete, I will find a humble soldier-reenactor to give it to and then will start over again. It adds an interesting element for me as I work on these items for someone whom I do not know; it makes it more real to me. There are instances of women during the American Civil War who made care packages to be distributed to soldiers and they had no idea who these men might be. One instance, cited in the above mentioned article, depicts a young girl who sent a pair of socks for a soldier with a note including instructions that if the beneficiary was already married, to please swap the socks she made with another soldier who was not already married!

The first item I made was a quilted cloth hat. I have wanted an excuse to make a hat like this for the past six years or so. David has never wanted one because it would not fit into any of his impressions. From what I have been able to research about these hats, they were worn by those who were not able to afford a nice felt hat and are documentable to western Confederates, as well as slaves. I came across one picture that depicts a federal unit with a man wearing what appears to be a quilted brim hat on the Authentic Campaigner forum. There are several merchants and private tailors who have made reproductions of several different styles of quilted hats.

This hat was inspired by a quilted cloth hat given to Robert E. Lee, photographs of which are in the book Echoes of Glory - Arms and Equipment of the Confederacy. Even though David does not want this hat to wear for himself he was willing to be a head model so I could drape a pattern for the hat directly on his head. The finished hat fits him quite nicely so at least I know this hat ought to fit correctly and is right in proportion to be worn on an average head.

It is made of natural undyed linen and is interlined with heavy white linen. I chose to use linen for comforts sake if this hat is to be worn in the summer. The brim and crown are quilted with close stitches in doubled gray cotton thread and the crown is lined in plaid cotton. The brim is bound with black cotton and the band is the same black cotton. The pattern for the hat was quite simple - four squat triangular sections for the crown and a big circle with a hole in the middle for the brim. The quilting is what gives the hat body and shape. By easing the edge of the brim with a gathering stitch I was able to shape the brim to approximate the popular rocking chair brim shape of the period. The whole project worked up very quickly. I started the hat one afternoon and finished it by mid-morning the next day.

I also made a simple housewife, which is nothing more than a roll-up sewing kit, made of scraps of cotton. It has two pockets inside for holding items like thread, buttons, scissors, patches and yarn and a needlebook made of scraps of wool for needles and pins.

The tobacco pouch is inspired by one in EoG and is a simple rounded drawstring bag lined with tightly woven taffeta to prevent the tobacco from drying out. I added a bit of embellishment with an appliqued heart, just like the original that inspired this one.

I plan to make a few handkerchiefs (big enough to be knotted around the neck as neckerchiefs, if so desired) and put together a stationery kit with paper, envelopes and stamps. I also want to bake a liquor-laden, fruit-laden cake. I dried some onions from our garden and made candied lemon peel that will potentially be included in the cake if David does not eat all of it first! I know these jars are not period correct, but I am hoping to find some more passable ones at the thrift or antique shops this weekend. They be expensive though. But who knows? I'm sure I can find something!

I want to find some period recipes for candy, and dry a big bag of apple slices. Of course, perishable foods made for  the display of our comfort bags will probably be eaten before too long so they won't go bad but I will continue working on building up my stock of non-perishable items. I'd love to make some slippers and a fancy smoking cap and get a few repro novels and make a checker game to add to my package. Laura has already made a beautiful tic tac toe set for her package!


Friday, August 5, 2011

1860's Wrapper - The Pajama Pants and T-Shirt of the Mid-19th Century

Since making my own wrapper last year I have come to love this versatile garment. I truly don't know how I got along without one. It is just so handy since, with it's adjustable drawstring waist in the lining and loose belted front, I can wear it with or without a corset, with or without a hoop, for set up or tear down at events, for cooking, for early morning activities at events where I have no yet had time to get properly dressed. A wrapper is a fantastic item to have and I was so pleased when my friend Laura agreed to let me make one for her.

This one is made in the same style as my green striped wrapper - that is, one that looks like a dress from the back and the sides but has a loose fitting front that is cut all in one piece - the skirt and bodice are not separate. The excess fullness in the front is pleated into the shoulder and the waist is loosely fitted with a tie belt - so, it is very very flexible in sizing. There is a semi fitted lining inside the wrapper that fastens separately from the outside layer.

I didn't trim my wrapper very much and wanted to trim this one to look more wrapper-like. Many extant wrappers of the 1860's are very loud - almost gaudily so - so, although I didn't want something clownish looking I did decide to go for loud trim.

I used bands of an orangey-brown cotton for wide swaths of color on the skirt, and a smaller scaled version for the full bishop sleeves. The buttons down the front are purely decorative and are made by gathering circles of the cotton over metal washers. The full length opening on a wrapper make it distinctive from an ordinary, common dress which usually opened only to the waist or to just below the waist.

It is the popular thought, based on current research, that wrappers were used mainly as private, in-home attire for relaxed, casual occasions and sometimes for use as a working dress for hard manual labor. Wrappers exist in everything from the humblest cotton to fancy silks with expensive trim. The wrapper spanned social class and found a useful, functional place in the wardrobe of many women from many geographical, cultural and social backgrounds.

Hopefully this one will be useful to Laura in her reenacting journey and I hope she has as much fun wearing it as I had making it!