Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Historical Sew Monthly Challenge #3 ~ Protection

For this months challenge the little wool jacket I made for Judah seemed very fitting. I posted about his entire outfit a few weeks ago but here are a few more pictures and details about this simple yet practical garment.

Judah is at that awkward in-between age where he is not a little boy and not yet a young man. In the 1860's he could have still worn tunics or buttoned-together skeleton suits or he could have adopted the styles his father wore. It seems that the more wealthy a family was and the higher their social status, the longer into childhood a boy dressed in younger styles. Lower class families more typically would put their sons into adult styled clothing at earlier ages.

Although I have a general idea of what I want our family impression to be, we are still far from realizing the eventual goal. Still, I knew I wanted to avoid fancier styles and wanted Judah to have some practical clothes that could withstand frequent wear and use and could be dressed up or down as needed with different accessories.

In the mid 19th century a man or boy in shirtsleeves was not considered to be fully dressed. A waistcoat at least, and more often a jacket, too, would be worn over the shirt. In Judah's otherwise mini-adult outfit this jacket still has some features of childhood. This jacket is similar to the adult sack coat style but has a cut away front, rounded edges and closes just at the neck.

It was sewn up really quickly one rainy Saturday afternoon. Judah stood for a quick draping session and a few hours later we had the jacket. It is made of a single layer of light brown wool and is lined in cotton with white cotton lining in the sleeves. The collar is interlined with plain cotton canvas for shaping. I didn't have time to trim it fancily but instead worked some quick topstitching to firm up the edges and for visual appeal.

Judah found it to be very nice on the cool spring morning he wore it to church and again a few days later when he wore it to his first living history demonstration at an elementary school. The lightness of the coat makes it ideal for almost year-round use. Being made of wool, it repels water naturally and offers protection from the sun, from cold and from rain.

He looks cute in it, too!

What the Item is: 
A boys 1860's style jacket
The Challenge: Protection
Fabric/Materials: Wool, cotton for lining and pockets
Pattern: Draped, based on original pattern shapes
Year: 1860's
Notions: Thread, buttons
How Historically Accurate Is It? As best as I could make it. 
Hours to Complete: About 4-5
First Worn: A few weeks ago
Total Cost: All stash stuff, so basically free, but if buying new materials would have cost about $35

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Anne's Other Easter Dress

I hope you all had a truly wonderful Easter! Ours dawned glorious and warm and after church services we spent nearly all the day out of doors, knowing that the next day would be cold and rainy. When the sun is shining, get out in it!

Anne did not wear her pink 1860's gown for Easter. On Saturday I was getting ready to sew on the hook and eyes and she solemnly informed me that she could only wear a white dress to church the next day. She pulled a rather skimpy and sad looking white dress from her closet, a relic of last year when she was (much) shorter and the dress was much newer. She put it on and I was reminded of the scene from the book On the Banks of Plum Creek where Laura and Mary wear their too-short dresses to school and are called long legged snipes.

Luckily, I had a pretty white peasant skirt in my closet. I bought it for half price at the thrift store last year but had never worn it much since, it seems, white is not a practical color to wear around children. It had an elasticized smocked wide waistband and ruffles and ribbons and lace. Anne loved it.

We quickly converted it to a dress by cutting the skirt off the waistband, shortening both, and reattaching. The waistband became the bodice and the skirt was made just long enough to brush the tops of Anne's pink-painted toenails. I used up the pink net to make a petticoat, which was sewn to the skirt, sandwiched between it and a smaller plain innermost petticoat made of cotton. To finish it off, we attached purple ribbon straps and pinned a purple ribbon bow to the front bodice. The remaining purple ribbon we sewed as a header onto some lace from the stash (which came from some beautiful antique curtains a lovely reader sent me several years ago!) which was then sewn onto the skirt.

We added a little purple sweater. On Easter Day, Anne wore a white shirt beneath the dress and soon discarded the sweater as the day grew unseasonably warm.

We spent a very happy afternoon at the river, where a light breeze came through the trees and ruffled curls and dress skirts. The boys looked for rocks and fossils along the shore.

Christ is risen!

Much love,

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Working on Anne's Easter Dress

. . .and trying to convince myself that it's okay to not do stroked gathers at the waist. I want to, but realistically I do not have time to do them before Sunday.

I wanted to make Anne a frilly and fluffy 1950's style dress for Easter and bought yards and yards of pink netting for a fluffy petticoat. However, she begged me instead to make her a dress to wear over her hoopskirt and she picked out some delicate pink fabric and we got to work.

The fabric is a very sheer and lightweight cotton that I got almost 5 years ago, before Anne was even thought of. It was originally meant to become a regency gown but, as often happens, plans change. It's not quite correct for the 1860's as the print is not as regular as it should be. It is, however, certainly a double pink and Anne is all about pink!

We looked through many cdv images and Anne was very specific in the style she wanted. A "big neck" (she hates "chokey" necklines) and "plain long sleeves" and "a big skirt". I wanted to do short sleeves but she would have none of it. So, long it is!

So far we have the bodice sewed together and the skirt hem and tucks done. Now I need to do all the hand finishing of the bodice and then attach the skirt to the waist. Then attach fasteners.

Luckily, Rose is of a perfect size to fit into Anne's Easter dress from 3 Easters ago, so I do not need to make her a new gown. She looks just as cute as Anne did!
It needs a good pressing, but it fits!
Sweet Baby Anne 3 years ago!

Hopefully we will get this done in time for Easter!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

New Clothes for Judah

It is Spring here! What beauties, what glories, what miracles! Last year I was too busy moving and settling in and having a preemie baby to really sit and watch new life unfold here in these hills. It was a cold, wet, late spring last year anyhow, and the locals say that it was an unusually harsh winter. This year I am, as Anne Shirley would say, thrilling to every sight and sound and smell of spring.

I love the warm southerly wind, I love the trees misting over with green and I love the flurry of bird song and the twinkle of robins wings high in the branches. Such a busy time of year! The babies love spending every moment they can out-of-doors and letting the sun soak into their pale winter skin. Already they are getting roses in their cheeks. Little Rose curls her toes into the grass. Soon, she will take her first toddling steps upon this good, good earth and thus new horizons will open up to her. She is growing so fast.  

The weeks are slipping by and next month is our first living history event. Crunch time! I still have two children to completely outfit and Anne's dress needs to be finished. The past few weeks I've been working on Judah's new clothes. His dad asked him to accompany him to a school demonstration and Judah was all too happy to oblige. He gets two days off of school out of the deal, new clothes, and the superiority of talking to children older than he is! How could he refuse? ;) 

At 8 years old, during the 1860's he could have worn a skeleton suit or could have started to adopt menswear styles. We decided to go with the lower-class look of menswear attire but the style of coat is distinctly young boy. I was working with a limited amount of wool and this style coat was perfect for the yardage I had. 
Judah's coat style was mostly inspired by this one.
We changed the collar a bit, relocated the pocket to the waist (and made two of them)
and omitted the trim. 

The shirt is the smallest size of the Laughing Moon Men's Victorian and Edwardian Shirts pattern and the trousers the smallest size of Past Patterns Light Summer Trousers. I had to shorten both the trouser pattern and the shirt pattern but otherwise they are man sized. . .I can't believe my little boy is so big! Everything is a little bit roomy but I hope they will fit him this year and perhaps next year, too.  

He needs a little waistcoat but I didn't have time to sew one up for him this time. Once everyone else has their bare necessities I can go back and make additional garments as needed. It is a lot more work than I am used to to outfit six kids!

He wore his new outfit to church today. He was kind of uncomfortable with the unlined wool trousers at first but told me that he has become used to them. 


Friday, March 11, 2016

Historical Food Fortnightly Challenge #5 ~ Roasts

Out of the many recipes in the Hospital Stewards Manual there was only ONE that mentioned roasting a fowl. It was vaguely described in a paragraph that also detailed grilling a bird and sort of disappointed me. It sounded very bland and went something like this: Rub the prepared fowl with butter, roast.

The grilling instructions called for seasoning with salt and pepper after cooking so I added that to my recipe, too. I just can't imagine a chicken would be very tasty with no seasoning at all. At least the chickens one can buy for a few dollars at the grocery store in these modern times.

I bought a small whole chicken and after rinsing it and patting it dry I stuck it in a large cast iron skillet and rubbed it all over with melted butter. It went into the oven for about an hour and a half.

I took it out when the skin was golden brown and crackling. It didn't look too bad.

I transferred the chicken to a platter to rest for about twenty minutes while I cooked up some rice (also from a recipe in The Stewards Manual) and cooked the pan drippings into a gravy with a little flour and milk.

We cut up some coarse bread and had the rice and chicken for dinner. The kids liked it. It was very bland, certainly, but it was filling and comforting. I imagine this would be a welcome dish for a hospital patient. The many many recipes for soups, puddings, teas and broths seem to indicate that a soft diet was the norm among most of those who were convalescing in hospitals. A nice cut of chicken would have seemed like a feast after a diet of soft things.

The cat got the carcass last night and he must have shared it with friends as it was gone this morning. That $5 chicken fed us all well. I may have to cook these more often!


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Historical Sew Monthly Challenge #2 ~ Tucks and Pleating

The challenge for February was Tucks and Pleating.

I love pleating and I love tucking so thought that this would be pretty easy to do. I wanted to make a dress for both Anne and Benjamin and utilize tucks for skirt decor and pleating to control the fullness at the waist. As it turned out I didn't have time to get Anne's dress done (a bad cold swept through all of us and my poor girlie was laid low with an ear infection) but I did get Benjamin's dress finished!

This is actually a pattern I made for Judah back when he was a little guy. I think this pattern is seven years old and I was so happy to find I still had it, tucked away with all my other patterns. It saved me a lot of time with draping and I could get to work quickly.
Judah's dress from way back when. Seven years ago! Wow. Time flies!

I did modify it for Benjamin by lengthening the bodice a little. I eased the bodice to a piped edge, then pleated on the skirt. I tried it on him and it looked bad. So bad. After seeing how bad it looked I swore off sewing for the rest of the year. That resolution lasted a day or two and then I sighed, picked up the dress, ripped it apart and resewed it. This time I shortened the bodice, added a piped waistband and repleated the skirt into tinier pleats. I tucked the bodice to fit instead of easing it and I sewed down the tucks for about an inch above the waistband for a more tailored appearance. 

The adjustments worked beautifully and I could not be happier with the end result! To be sure, the dress *just* fits him now and I am pretty sure I'll be making him something new before the season is up, but at this point I'm just glad to have successfully completed this. We have an event late next month and if he is able to wear it for that I will be well pleased. 

The fabric is a lovely lightweight but tightly woven yellow and black plaid cotton. I bought this years ago before Benjamin was born thinking it would make a nice shirt for David. He wasn't terribly fond of the bright yellow so it sat on my shelf for a long time. Yellow is Benjamin's color so it was perfect for this project. I have a little bit of the fabric left.  Just enough for a light jacket to go over this dress. In late April the weather may be cool (or hot) so layers are always good. 

We went outside and down the hill to the creek on this lovely day and Benjamin had fun splashing in puddles, chasing the cat and beating the ground with sticks. I tried to get some good pictures of his face but he never likes to have his picture taken so it was hard to do. Here are some of our better ones. 


What the item is: A basic mid 19th century childs dress

The Challenge: Tucks and Pleats

Fabric/Materials: cotton

Pattern: my own

Year: late 1850's-mid 1860's

Notions: thread, two buttons

How historically accurate is it? quite. 

Hours to complete: about 6 if you count the initial failed attempt

First worn: today for pictures

Total cost: fabric was stash, but it was super cheap when I bought it. So, maybe $7-$10?