Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Captain's Steward

Well, here is what I have been working on the past few months! It's hard to believe it is finally over. It was a big project but one that was very fun and rewarding and seeing Blake in his new uniform was the icing on the cake. He makes a terrific steward.

He and David dressed up and we went outside to take a few pictures in the backyard.

They have been good friends for many years. It will be interesting to see how their friendship deepens and ripens with this new relationship in Civil War reenacting. Shiloh 150 will be Blake's first reenactment and let's hope he enjoys it!

I was really nervous about how the frock coat would come out. Frocks are tricksy things with all the layers you need to put into them. The shirt and trousers and waistcoat were pretty standard but I was able to have only one fitting session with Blake and that was when we draped the initial pattern for the frock. In between the draping and the setting of the sleeves (this afternoon) I didn't have a chance to fit him at all. I was so thankful that we were lucky enough to achieve a good fit despite the lack of fittings.

Blake has put so much time and effort into his impression already. He knows more about the stewards role during the 1860's than even David does. He plans to pick up his belt at the reenactment where he can personally try them on to find one that fits well.

I think it will be really fun to reenact with Blake and his lovely wife, Becky this year! The boys love him to death and he is truly like an uncle to them.

And though you have all seen the Captain's new frock coat before, I loved how this picture of him came out so had to include it. The flare of his skirts make me happy. I don't know why, but they do. :) His previous frocks have had pretty straight skirts but I wanted this one to be more flared and flirty and I made Blake's the same way. It doesn't sound manly to have a flirty skirt but seriously, dude, this looks cool.

I'll be seeing my dear Captain off early Wednesday morning. I feel a little prickle when I think of how so many wives saw their own husbands off to far away battlefields during the Civil War. Although David is going for a very different cause - this is a hobby after all - spending time getting his clothes ready, making him a goodie package to take along and mentally knowing that soon he will part from me has helped me to understand a bit better some of the emotions ladies of the 1860's must have felt for their own men as they prepared for them to leave home. Even though I won't be at Shiloh, I feel that I have definitely had some "magic moments" preparing for it.

Godspeed, my boys!


Friday, March 23, 2012

Refashioned Linen Gown

At the beginning of the year a dear blog reader sent me several lovely dresses she thought I might like to remake for myself after seeing my post about my renovated pink 1920's dress. I set them aside for spring but with it being warm out, and with my needing baby-friendly clothes, and with Blake not being able to make it out last night to get his sleeves fitted. . .well. . .I dove in and redid one of the dresses.

This one was a lovely heavy linen sprigged gown. Here it is in its original state. I am a sucker for anything linen and this print is just so sweet. After trying it on it was obvious where I would have to take it in - and up! - so I got my scissors and started snipping away.
Sorry for the extremely unflattering hair-do (David call it the "shitz-tu" look) and the wrinkly gown. I didn't iron it before I took this pic.

I removed the sleeves and raised the shoulders by almost four inches, to bring the bottom of the armhole right up under my arm. (Do this with set in sleeves. Always. You have SO much more range of motion with your arms!) This brought the waistline of the dress up to underbust level. The waist was too big so I shirred the center front and back sections by stitching some elastic to the waistline seam. Voila! Fitted waist but with plenty of room to grow. This left the sides of the skirt smooth, which is more slimming than having a dress gathered all the way around. (Especially if you are using bulky elastic.)

I cut down the neckline into a V. I had to lightly gather it to fit (it gaped otherwise) and bound it with some off white cotton bias tape:

Finally, I reset the sleeves after cutting them down to be short cap sleeves. I toyed with the idea of leaving it sleeveless but decided in the end that a dress with sleeves looks much more finished. At least this particular one.

I love it. It is so comfortably and roomy.

The back neckline was fitted with two long darts from the neck to the waist to prevent gaposis, but there is still plenty of room due to the shirring.

Here is Baby and I at 20 weeks. In a few more weeks we will find out if Little One is a man-child or a woman-child. I personally like not knowing, at least at this point. I feel so much more pleasantly excited that way. In this dress, Baby will have plenty of room to grow!

Thanks to Tiff for this fabulous gown!


Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Feather Pillow

We are coming to the end of the long stretch of 1860's sewing for David and Blake. In less than a week they will be encamped upon the green hills of Tennessee, savoring the smell of campfire-smoke and gunpowder, enjoying the pure spring air and rejoicing, I am sure, in getting away from real life for a little bit to play with other guys. I finished up the last of David's items today. Blake is coming over tonight to get his frock sleeves fitted and then all will be over! I can't wait to get some pics of Blake in his whole outfit. He really looks terribly wonderful, if I do say so myself. ;)

The last project for David was this feather pillow that I cut down from a fluffy feather tick that we have had sitting in the closet the past few years. David has been using a modern pillow up til now but wanted something more authentic for his first national reenactment. I figured I may as well use the feather tick for something. 

We obtained it when we lived at our last house. Behind the home was an old garage and the landlord mentioned to David he had found a feather mattress in a plastic bag in the top of the garage. He didn't want it so he gave it to David. We used it on top of our bed for a while but eventually took it off when Malachi was born. He slept in our bed with us for the first six months of his life and I was afraid of the fluffiness smothering his tiny body. Since then the feather tick has been in various closets. I was afraid mice may have made houses in it but when we took it out and I opened it up it was still whole and sound. Inside it was stuffed with millions of these tiny, soft feathers:

I used part of the ticking to make a pillow and then began stuffing it with the feathers. I learned two things. One, this is the messiest job I have ever performed. I was liberally covered with little white feathers when I was done, the whole room was covered and there were yet more feathers floating in the air. Two, it takes way more feathers to stuff a pillow than you may think. I used about 3/4 of the feathers in the tick and made just one normal sized pillow! David wanted it stuffed firmly, so I made sure to pack the feathers rather firmly.

Today I made a simple cotton pillow slip for it and Judah graciously allowed me to use his bed to see what the pillow will look like with the wool quilt I have been working on for the past few months. (Which more accurately means I have worked on it for an afternoon or so with long stretches of weeks in between where I did nothing to it). The quilt is just made from  many squares of scrap wool sewn together. I am trying hard to get every other square quilted before David has to leave. It is taking much longer than I thought.

One other recycled project was this kepi cover. The event David is going to is famous for rain so he asked if I may be able to make him a cover with an old oilcloth poncho he was replacing. The oilcloth side had started to crack in several places so I draped a pattern for the cover on David's kepi and cut the shapes out around the cracks. I sewed it together yesterday and I think it will work quite nicely to keep his head dry in the event it rains. (of course, the forecast is for a beautiful stretch of days next week with a very slight chance of rain).

After all this manly sewing I really won't know what to do with myself next week while David is away! I have picnics, fishing trips and hikes planned for me and the boys and so many sewing projects I want to do I don't know where to start! I suppose firstly I will whip up a few new maternity dresses since the weather has been unseasonably warm and I am at the point where I am starting to need things that are looser around the waist. (is it really possible this pregnancy is halfway over already?!) I have sketched a few designs and can't wait to make them a reality with some comfy knit fabrics and some light airy cottons. And I have diapers to make and Easter clothes for the boys to dive into and oh, just so many fun things to look forward to!


Saturday, March 17, 2012

David's Dress Shirt

David is a bit of a shirt-a-holic. No matter how many nice mid-19th century shirts he has, he always has plans for at least two or three more. And when those materialize, he needs more. I suppose it is like me and fabric. I can't complain too much about a husband who collects shirts. At least it is not an expensive obsession and is not morally questionable. And many shirts is consistent with the needs of a man in the 19th century - they are, after all, technically underwear. A fresh one is nice every day. 

His latest shirt is this pleated front dress shirt that he declared he must have for Shiloh. We bought the fabric last month and last week I finished it up. This was my first pleated front shirt and I was happy with how it came out, although there are a few things about it that bug me (the corners of the pleated insert are not perfectly smooth, etc.) 

I finished it late one night, sewing the last buttonholes as we were curled up on the couch downstairs watching the Fess Parker version of Davey Crockett. The children were all asleep by the time the last stitch was sewn and despite the late hour I made David try it on. I told him I deserved that, at least. To see him in it once the labor of making it was over. I was pleased at the transformation the shirt produced in David. He just looks so good in it. It suits him. 

I used the Laughing Moon shirt pattern for this shirt. I started using the pattern a few years ago and I love it. The sizing is great and the instructions are clear. There are a few things I have to change about the pattern to make it appropriate (following the instructions to a T results in a shirt that is definitely post-war) but all in all I would not be without this pattern. I also used the neck stock and cravat pattern to make the black silk cravat. Here David traipses up the driveway with James Longstreet, his faithful companion. 

My only disappointment is that when David wears this shirt under his uniform no one will be able to see it. Alas. 


Thursday, March 15, 2012

I Finished the Hooped Petticoat. . .

and I'm not sure that I really like it. Sigh. It works, but as Anne of Green Gables said of the plain dresses Marilla made for her, lamenting the lack of puff sleeves, it's just not. . .not pretty.

My steels came in early this week and David, who has been home the past fortnight recovering from a tonsillectomy, helped me clip them to the right length to make my 90" hoop. I had to reuse one length of steel from my old cage since 12 yards wasn't *quite* enough to do the five rows of steel required. I put the old steel in the top casing.

I feel like, well, like I am wearing a tire suspended from my skirts. It is odd since I have always worn a hoop that has even support from the hips downward. Now there is no support at all until just about the knee and there is a flat cylinder shape for about 10". It isn't a wrong shape but just one I am not used to at all.

With a bum pad and a few petticoats I suppose it looks okay. It is consistent with skirt shapes of the period which is, ultimately, all that matters. And it's small and manageable and I feel like I can move in it. And it is very, very lightweight. I think for what I intended it to be, a working class, active impression hoop, it will perform admirably.

Here you can see the hoop "in action" under a plain cotton dress. Forgive the ill fit of this particular dress. I have lost some weight since I made it and yet gained in bosom circumference due to the Child in the Womb so the fit is awkward to say the least. And for some reason I made this dress *really* short waisted. The waistband sits about two inches above the waistband of the hoop and petticoats! But you can get an idea of what the hoop looks like under a dress skirt. I think with a properly fitted dress that has the waist down at the correct height the skirt will look much more domey than triangular. And I really want to make a new corset. While I love this one since it is so comfortable, it really accentuates the shape and size of the bosom instead of compressing it. And it gives a lower bustline than I'd like. I don't think it is as neat and tidy in appearance as one that would more visually diminish the size of the bosom. I think I will make a new one after Baby arrives, later this summer.

Now I must decide if I really want to use this hoop as a base for the lovely green and blue plaid wool I have been dying to make up. I suppose I could just always make the skirts of the dress with a large turnover at the top so when I do make a new, more fashionable hoop for my better dresses I can reset the skirts to fit the new hoop.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Mid-19th Century Hooped Petticoat from Costume in Detail, The Skirt

I have been working away at the guys stuff for Shiloh. Three weeks to go before they leave! We are down to the wire, people. Thankfully everything is done except the stewards frock coat for Blake and pleated bosom shirt for David. Three weeks should be plenty of time to get that done. Sewing on their things has made me eager to get started on my new plaid wool dress. But first things first! My hoop from last year was really unusable. The shape was odd and it was just too large - 110" - and bulky. I decided to make a new hoop and chose the one from Costume in Detail, p. 197. It is a basic rectangular construction petticoat that measure 90" at the hem and has five steel bands set in the bottom half of the skirt. It's not the most fashionable of hoops for the 1860's but I think mine will be very practical and last a long time and be perfect for me at this time in my life of being a mother to young children.

I cut out and sewed the petticoat over the last few days, using some super lightweight striped cotton in my stash. Two panels of fabric didn't quite make 90" so the basic skirt is made of 2 full panels of fabric and 1 skinny panel. The hem will be the casing for the bottom steel and I made four more tucks spaced 2" apart for the other steels.

The skirt is cut slightly longer in the back than in the front to allow for a bum pad to be worn beneath it. This will help give the back thrust that one so often sees in period images. The waist is pleated to a fitted waistband  that's all there is to it! A very simple little thing.
I honestly have no idea why I have such a weird look on my face, but hey! Check out the yellow walls.  I painted the room that will be used for a nursery this week and I am totally loving the new color. It's much sunnier and brighter than it looks in this photo :) 

I found I couldn't reuse the steels from my old hoopskirt so I ordered new steels and hopefully they will be in by next week. I can't wait to see what this looks like all finished!


Saturday, March 3, 2012

Vintage Baby Dress - Progress

The little dress from the vintage 1970's (maybe? I think? There is no copyright date on it) pattern is nearly complete. Keep a lookout for a giveaway post sometime next week! I have fallen in love with this style for a little girls dress. It reminds me of the illustrations in old childrens book from the 30's, 40's and 50's. For me it brings to mind images of a toddling baby picking flowers in a field of buttercups and daisies, or finding bright colored Easter eggs to put into her basket, or sitting on a blanket in a sunny spot with dollies and stuffed toys arranged around a tiny tea set.

A very old book, c. 1880's that I have, properly entitled Selections for Children, has this charming little poem in it that I thought I would share.

Little Brown Hands

Little brown hands! Ah! what in under the sun
Tells us so plainly of mischief and fun?
Always from morning to ev'ning so busy,
Tending the dolly or pulling the pussy.
Ready for dinner? Your little chair stands
Ready as you are, dear little brown hands!

Little brown hands that are pulling the flowers
Tended by mother for hours and hours
What will she say when she chances to see
Rosebuds all crumpled as these seem to be?
Darling, that merry smile nothing withstands - 
Pluck away, pluck away, little brown hands!

Little brown hands! How at grace they are crossed;
Grace said and over, how quick they are tossed!
Little brown hands that are busy all day,
Getting so healthful and tanned at their play;
Dearer than titles, or honors, or lands
Dearer than all things - little brown hands!

May all of our children have busy little brown hands!