Friday, September 30, 2011

The Fields of Cloth and Gold Medieval Event

I never had a chance to post photos from our medieval event a few weeks ago since immediately following that event I was plunged into preparing for our 18th century event. So, here are the pictures from the Fields of Cloth and Gold. We had a wonderful time, as always, with this group of people! And yes, Malachi is wearing his hood backwards.

Pausing now to consider this fact as I go through these pictures again, I realize more fully how lucky we are to have connections with people who are like us. There is a brotherhood and sisterhood among those who take up historic crafts and historic pastimes. There is a passion that drives people to don heavy fighting gear and sweat their bums off, behind people who spend hours, months, years, researching and recreating some era of history.

When I tell most people that my hobby is historic fashion I get blank uncomprehending looks, a nervous, quizzical laugh, or (in the case of people who have known me for a long time) a sigh and a rolling of the eyes. "OH. You're still into THAT?" How fun it is to be with others who will discuss the benefit of different fibers for various garments, seam finishes, share new exciting bits of research and talk at length upon the time it took to create a dagged edge for the hem of a woolen hood. It is nice to belong.

Just as with the Colonial Trade Faire in my last post, this event was also held in a perfect location. Camp Wokonda is an old boy scout camp. When I was younger, my dad brought us out here several times, as he had been a young boyscout here back in the 1970's and the place held a lot of memories for him. It is far away from the town or city, heavily wooded with  hills and gullies, and for the event the barony had rented out "the valley", a flat spot between two large hills complete with rustic buildings housing bathrooms, small cabins to sleep in at night and a large dining hall and kitchen. A leaf carpeted path led from one area to the next.

Back further in the woods the path led to the fighting arena, where the boys where enthralled with watching the combat.

I have never seen them sit so still for so long.

Of course, the natural consequence of their viewing led to their own mock fights in the woods, with sticks they  found  by the side of the path.

There were a few other children present, and the boys enjoyed playing with them in front of the dining hall.

David naturally was drawn to the large smokers which were cooking the meat for the feast, to be held later that night. Legs of lamb and beef were pouring forth their fragrant smells, while the menfolk discussed the delicate balancing of flavor achieved through the proper seasonings and methods employed in preparing the meat for cooking.

This young man, in his teens, was so friendly and helpful in keeping an eye on the children. The boys adored him.

This lady practiced juggling on the sloping lawn, much to the delight of the children.

Here two ladies persue the fabrics offered by one of the merchants. This particular merchant had some very nice fabrics for very good prices. The best was the 100% red wool flannel - $6/yard. I mean, $6/yard! That is an insane price.

Here several people make their way to the bardic competition that was held at the old boyscout pow wow site. I fell in love with the clothing of the lady and gentleman you see on the right. I was able to talk to her later and she told me their impression is 1590's Italian. I loved her choice of colors and fabrics. I have never been drawn to 16th century styles as they always seemed too busy and too gaudy for my tastes, but I am rethinking my opinion now!

This is one of my favorite pictures from the event! Little David found a big stump that he climbed up with amazing agility. Perched on top, with his stick and his hood pulled up he looked half-elvish, half-Dunedain.

I made their sleeveless surcotes the week before the event. I am so glad they had them as it was chilly, especially as night fell. I made them with basic rectangular construction with some shaping for the shoulders and armscyes. After much thought (it took me forever to decide to use a plaid wool since finding images of plaid cotes from this period was difficult!) I made them parti-colored, so each quarter of the cote contrasts with the pieces next to it. I used a black wool flannel and a very slightly lighterweight plaid wool for the cotes.

Malachi got a blue linen cote, since his dress is a heavier yellow wool flannel anyhow and he did not really need any extra warmth and I wanted something I could pop in the washer if need be since he is still messy when he eats.

David and I, with our signature "kiss" picture. ;)

Later in the evening we headed down to the creek, only to find it was all dried up. David became enflamed with desire to follow the dry creek bed so we all hiked down into it, (getting covered with cockaburrs in the process) and we found all sorts of interesting things while we were down there. David here is pausing before a large cliff that sloped down into the creek bed.

When we finally crawled back up out of the creek bed and headed back to the dining hall we found dinner nearly ready to be served. We set out our "feast gear", as our bowls, plates, eating utensils and cups are so termed, and David invited several of the fighters to sit with us so we had interesting dinner partners.

The boys did not eat much as they were too excited to sit still and spent most of their time running around with the other children. They missed out! We were served cheese-ale-and-bacon soup, roast leg of lamb with apple and nut salad and roast beef and leeks-and-onions. To top off the evening, one of our dining partners shared some of his homemade mead with us and an assortment of decadent desserts were laid out at the end for the enjoyment of the gathered company.

Fun times.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Jubilee Colonial Trade Fair

Thanks so much for the kind words about my 1780's dress! I was truly happy to get a chance to make one, and the event I wore it to did not fail my expectations. It was one of the best events I have ever been to.

This was the 6th year for the annual Colonial Trade Fair at Jubilee. From talking to people at the event, it appears that this is the only event like this in the central Illinois area. Some people I talked to journeyed from hours, even states, away to attend. We were lucky that we live only about a half hour from the park where the event is held. Here are David and Judah and I right before we left home:

It was a slightly chilly, slightly cloudy, windy morning. However, by the time we arrived at the park the skies had cleared and it turned out to be a perfect autumn day.

Right away people came up and introduced themselves. I have never been made to feel more at home by any reenactment group I have ever been acquainted with.

I loved the location, tucked away in a hidden field at the wild and beautiful Jubilee state park. Gold and brown grasses, touched with crimson here and there, the bright blue sky and serene clouds, the trees just starting to turn from their summer green to gold. It was absolutely quiet with no city sounds or sights or smells.

Tucked away in a little hollow in the woods, down a short path, was the Indian Village.

It was my favorite feature of the event. I was fascinated by the dome shaped wigwams, layered thick with handwoven mats and canvases.

One lady was drying pumpkin rings and roasting venison over a small fire. David asked her where she got her spit roaster and she told him how many beaver pelts she had to trade with the French to obtain it. (6)

There was even a deer hanging in a tree nearby, that an Englishman had traded to her earlier in the day.

This beautiful lady was demonstrating the weaving of the thick mats that covered the wigwams. She explained to us that this was a process that women would have started in July and continued til it was too cold to make more.

She talked about the process, and about how the mats were used. The wigwam is covered in three layers of mats. Each winter, the outer layer of mat moves closer to the inside, so the most weather-beaten set of mats are always the inner-most layer. After that, the mats become sleeping mats and once they are too worn even for that, they make good fire starters.

There was a rope strung between trees that displayed the Indians beautiful fur pelts, used for trade.

And a lovely display of grains, vegetables and seeds with hand written labels.

Outside of the woods atop a grassy knoll was Fort Todd, where the British were encamped. David fell into conversation with the artillery officer right away, who was very kind and showed us many interesting things.

He invited us to sit with him in his camp, and Malachi made himself right at home. He is not a bit shy.

While we visited the British, the boys ran and played in the fields near the edge of the woods.

Judah found a feather. It was scraggly and dirty, but he thought it was beautiful.

There was a skirmish that broke out right in front of our eyes! Before we knew what was happening the French and the Indians and longhunters were shooting at the British and Scottish.

Our dear artillery officer silently got his mortar into action and contributed some frightening BOOMS to the scenario.

Here one of the handsomely kilted Scotsmen fires his pistol.

Sadly, one of the soldiers had to be killed by firing squad later, due to him carrying some suspicious information that, it seems, he was going to turn over to the enemy.

We wandered out to the general encampment area after that. Malachi took over my basket and demanded to carry it everywhere.

He came across this gentleman, who portrayed a voyager and described the history of this area of the Illinois river. He and Malachi became very fast friends.

Malachi came to know him as "the nice cookie man" because he passed round a bag of crunchy oatmeal cookies that the boys ate and loved.

Here is a couple we met towards the end of the day, who, it turns out, live just up the road from us! Talk about a small world!

The lady makes beautiful reproduction jewelry and David bought me this pretty pair of earrings as a surprise gift. I was delighted and shall wear these often, not just for reenactments!

And to sum it up, here are my kiddos and their quick-and-dirty 18th century outfits:

David - he wore his yellow twill 1860's short trousers. I sewed twill tape ties to the side to tighten up the fit around his knees, but I think that was unncessary. Since then, I have read that little boys could wear breeches that were loose at the hem, or drawn up with a drawstring. Oh well. Better informed for next time! He wore his linen 14th century shift and the one new item I made for him was his black wool overshirt/smock. It is square cut with a simple slit for the opening and is based on the smock descriptions in Everyday Dress or Rural America 1783-1800. His hat is a green wool felt hat we got for $1 at the thrift store and I pinned it up at the side with a patriotic rosette.

Judah - he wore the same as David, but his hat was the quilted linen hat I made for my 1860s soldiers box that I pinned up into a quickie tricorn style. He wore red wool knitted stockings that I had had made for him a few years ago for reenacting. I was lucky they still fit him! Just barely, but they fit. ;)

Malachi - I did not have ANY time to make Malachi anything new or else I would have made the 18th century childs dress in Costume in Detail for him. He wore his linen medieval shift and his regency drawstring gown and I shut my eyes and hoped for the best. No one seemed to mind his fashion was a little forward for the 1780's and he certainly enjoyed himself fully. I think a wide sash may have helped the look somewhat but I am relieved we at least all had something to wear when I had to throw all this together within a 5 day period! And I was glad he got to wear his regency gown again. It looks so adorable on him and I know by next year it will be too small for him.

And here is my handsome hubby. :) He wore his breeches, shirt and waistcoat from his regency ensemble since there really is not a great deal of difference between 1780's breeches/waistcoats/shirts and 1800's breeches/waistcoats/shirts. His tail coat would have been somewhat too fashion forward though, so we had to make him a new coat. I contemplated making him a quick wool frock coat but realized that I really would not have time for that to do it properly. So we decided on a fringed linen hunting shirt. These were worn by many of the men at the event so David did not feel out of place. I only got one row of fringe on the coat instead of the 2 rows I wanted to do, but I simply ran out of time. We sewed up his straw hat into a tricorn style and he was all set. I love this color brown on him. I think he is so cute. ;)

We really can't wait until next year and plan on making this event a regular one for us. We had to skip out on a Civil War event we usually do to go to this one, but we all agreed, it was worth it! :D


Sunday, September 25, 2011

1780's Printed Cotton Gown.

We have been planning to go to the Jubilee Colonial Trade Fair for a while, but it wasn't until Monday we decided that we were going to dress up for it instead of just wearing our modern clothes. So, after years and years and years of thinking about making an 18th century dress, I finally did it. We had a marvelous time at the fair and I will have pictures to share of the event but in the meantime,  here are a few of my finished dress. 

We decided to go for a 1780's look since the years being portrayed at the fair spanned 1750-1790. Since I didn't have much time to make clothes for us, I wanted David to be able to use the breeches and shirt and waistcoat he already has; the ones he wore to the Jane Austen festival this past summer. I have always liked the 1780's so it wasn't very hard for me to decide on the 1780's. :) 

The dress is a simple round gown, with a 2 piece back and a front bodice that wraps around to the meet the curved back seams. I have always thought these dresses would be hard to fit, but I was surprised to find it wasn't hard at all. The pattern for the dress I draped over my stays. As the day wore on, I did find that I started to get a few wrinkles across the abdomen. I think it is because I was wearing my full-gathered 1860's petticoats underneath this dress which made the abdomen protrude in the front a bit instead of lying flat. If I had flatter-fronted petticoats, I think the dress would not have wrinkled as much. The dress closes with pins. 

I love the long, fitted sleeves of this decade so much. I drafted the sleeve based on a diagram in Everyday Dress of Rural America: 1783-1800 by Meredith Wright and fine tuned the fit with a few mock ups. The way the sleeve is cut puts the lower arm on the bias so you can get a really tight fit on the arm that is still comfortable to wear. The back of the sleeve is very tall to fit into the very cut-away armscye on the back bodice. This gives a ton of flexibility in movement and is very comfortable to wear. 

The skirt is 3 rectangular panels of fabric pleated to fit. The gown has a drop or apron front to the skirt, and the bodice closes over that. The skirt is longer in the back than in the front. I hemmed the dress to be just above the floor but found that it was really too long when I wore it whilst walking through grassy fields. On hard, level surfaces the length is okay. 

I didn't have any time at all to make any fun accessories for the dress so had to make do with repurposed items from the other eras I do. I wore my cotton voile kerchief tucked into the neckline and refashioned my 1860's neck bow to wear pinned on the bodice. I tied a black ribbon on my neck earlier in the day but found it distracting so took it off after a while. I used my new paisley wool shawl from Aldridge Clothiers. I wasn't sure if paisley shawls were worn in the 1780's but some quick google searches turned up statements that paisley shawls were popular fashion accessories from 1780-1870 so I decided to use it and I'm glad I did, as it was chilly! I wore my 1860's bum pad under the dress. I think next time I would like to make a larger bum pad that curves around onto the hips to give more side fullness to the skirts. I basted some white cotton lace to the ends of the sleeves. I don't know if the lace is correct (I'm guessing it's too "chunky" and square) but it gave a nice visual look from a little distance. I love touches of white on an otherwise, plain, dark dress. :) 

My one grave embarassment of the day was my hair. :( I was too ambitious, I suppose, and attempted to do my hair in a poufy frizzy, curly "hedgehog" style following an online tutorial. However, although the style looked nice after I finished it, it almost immediately began deflating and flopping and my curls went from tight to loose and I just looked disheveled and unkempt by the time the day was over. : / I was *so* mortified. Next time I will definitely go for a different hairstyle and will make a proper cap to cover up my head. 

All in all it was a hugely fun experience and I am a total fan of 1780's styles! I can't wait for opportunities to wear this dress again!