Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Ubiquitous "Boone Frock"

In recent need (want, actually, but its more or less the same thing right? Especially when demanded by a rather pampered little three year old girl?) of a quick rendezvous-appropriate dress (for the aforementioned pampered three year old) I remembered often hearing about a simple little shift style dress from experienced ladies who focused on that era of American history. They called it the Boone Frock and the name stuck in my memory.

My interest in this kind of dress grew and waned as my costuming ADD ran its course unchecked throughout the early years of having babies and bringing them out to reenactments. I never made one though. Until now. I actually accomplished the amazing (for me) feat of sewing three of these little dresses within a 24 hour period. Wow! Go, me! 

I found it really hard to find much information about the origin of this dress, though. I wanted to know more! Why was it called a Boone frock? What time period was this style worn in? A little googling revealed that the main pattern for this dress was produced by Period Impressions, one of the older historic pattern companies. 

In their description they claimed that the dress was based on one worn by Daniel Boone's niece but no further information was given. I finally was able to find the real, original Boone Frock dress on the Kentucky Historical Society website. It's so cute!

The description states: 

"Date ca. 1782. This is a child's blue and white dotted cotton dress. It has a drawstring neckline with a tie at the front and the back. The dress is made of four panels of fabric, and the dress has short sleeves. Notes The old card for this artifact reads, "Blue and white dotted dress worn by Betsey Grant, niece of Daniel Boone, as she came with her parents on the journey from North Carolina to Bryan's Station. Daniel Boone's niece wore this dress at the raid of Bryan's Station.""

I'd really like a closer look at this dress. The hem on the sleeves and skirt look machine sewn, to me. What appears to me to be machine hemming could be a few other things, though, so for now I will take their word for it that this is the real ca. 1782 deal. 

I also found a few other similarly styled dresses, all from the same general late 18th/early 19th century period. This one is from the Met Museum, dated to the early 19th century. It has the short sleeved, waistless silhouette although it lacks the fullness of the KHS dress. 

This one is also from the Met: 

This one is from Vintage Textile, also having a waistless design, but with long sleeves that appear to be sewn in underneath short ones. This one is dated to the 1820's. This also  has a drawstring in the neck. 

This one is from the now-unavailable childrens clothing collection from the Wisconsin Historical Society

I made my versions using what I know about early 19th century clothing cut and construction. I don't think my version is an exact replica of any particular dress but it is based very much on rectangular construction and has characteristics that are commonly found on other dresses of the era, including:
  • drawstring neckline
  • shoulder straps that are sewn on instead of cut-on
  • sleeves cut similarly to extant late 18th/early 19th century dresses without the 18th century S-shaped sleeve head
 The one here is Benjamin's, which I made using the leftover fabric from his big brothers new shirt. I took a bunch of photos when making these so eventually will post a tutorial of how I made them. 

The two dress panels are cut as rectangles. The top edges are hemmed narrowly with narrow tape strings running from the sides to a center eyelet, to pull up the fullness. 

The sleeves have the ease taken up at the back with two little pleats. I could have just lightly gathered the sleeve, too, but pleats are quicker. ;)

I'm really happy with how fast these were to make and the size flexibility. Such a useful, practical garment for little ones. I'd love to find out more about this style such as how long this style was worn, if this style spanned classes or was unique to one or the other and what kind of undergarments were worn. 

Now, to make the three year olds new cap and help her bead a necklace to go with her new dress. 


Monday, April 25, 2016

Happy birthday Ulysses Grant! And Rose!

My sweet Rose turned one year old last week. A year ago I had hoped to have a quick recovery following her birth. I planned to visit the Ulysses S. Grant birthplace on my way home from the hopsital, newborn daughter in tow, to enjoy some southern Ohio history and the fellowship of history-lovers as there was a birthday celebration there for our nations 18th president a few days after Rose was born. Instead, that day was spent in the hospital, and somewhere between puking my guts out, nursing a 4 lb infant with a vise-like latch and having another IV put in I vowed that next year I would go! 

And we did!
All my babies!

Ulysses S. Grant was born on April 27, 1822. He grew up in southern Ohio, just across the river from Kentucky, until he was sent to West Point at age 17. Following his graduation he enjoyed a semi successful military career and a string of failures in civilian life before finally achieving his most brilliant success as general during the Civil War. Elected in 1868, his presidency was fraught with scandals and sadly his later years were spent in financial struggle.

His birthplace, though, is serene, quiet and lovely and is located in a tiny town just a few hundred feet from the Ohio river. The little house in which he spent the first few years of his life was later taken around the country on a railroad car, after its most famous former occupant became president. It was later returned to Point Pleasant and is now a museum where the passer-by can enjoy a peek into the early life of Hiram Ulysses Grant. 

Photo courtesy of Battery L, 1st Ohio Light Artillery
It was a very beautiful day to celebrate a birthday. The boys greatly enjoyed the artillery unit and the firing of the cannon. Rose cried after the first shot but was unalarmed after that. Benjamin ran gleefully all over the place and Anne contentedly carried about her basket, her baby and her own special tea cup and saucer that she had carefully packed beneath a lace trimmed handkerchief. 

Benjamin and Anne watch the crew get ready to fire the cannon

Up on the hill, at the Grant Memorial Church, the congregation opened their doors to the reenactors and the public and provided a wonderful lunch. 
Rose tries on her brothers hat! 

Afterwards we enjoyed sitting in the shade on the lawn and visiting before having to pack up later in the afternoon to whisk Malachi home for (yet another!) birthday party. 
Rose plays with Anne's saucer and dolly

I was very proud of how well behaved the kids were. I was a little nervous about taking all six of them out but the older boys were, for the most part, little gentlemen and helped so much in making sure their younger siblings did not stray too far. 

Malachi retrieves a wayward, laughing Benjamin

David has some sensory issues and gets very antsy with anything scratchy
or anything tight around his neck. We decided to use a loose neck cloth
and left his top button undone. He also didn't wear a coat (which is good, since I
didn't have time to finish his anyway!) since the day was so warm. He had a blast
and asked so many questions of the veteran reenactors who were present. He learned
a lot and I was so happy to see him take such an interest in this area of history.
Happy little Benji Boy

No nicely posed picture of the kidlets. But I think I like this one better than
a proper one, anyway!

Judah being silly

Irish twins! I have two 1-year olds for another week! 
Happy birthday dear little one!
I am really excited about doing more events this summer with the kiddos - they love it! Now, though, I plan to take at least a week break from sewing and relax, refocus and make new plans. It's not very long though before the next time out and there are always more things to be made!


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Malachi's Green Plaid 1860's Play Suit

Malachi's outfit is done! He decided on a style over the weekend and on Sunday we made a pattern for the trousers and sewed them and on Tuesday we patterned and sewed the shirt. I finished hemming the sleeves today, made him a quick cap cut down from one of his great-grandfathers shirts and a tie of bright blue silk. 

This outfit is inspired by this image below: 

Malachi is very picky about his clothes. We looked through many, many, many cdv's and fashion plates before he saw a style he liked. Then, when I was making the trousers, he had second thoughts about wearing "puffy pants". He was really  happy when everything was finished and he could try it on, though!

But he still finds the puffy pants amusing. 

The fabric is a heavier cotton and the trousers and shirt are unlined. The shirt is simply trimmed with a bias band of self fabric and a row of silver buttons. 

The trousers are cut very much like a womans drawers, with a shaped yoke at the waist. They open at each hip and I put pockets into the side plackets, since Malachi needs pockets.

Underneath he is wearing a plain white shirt. On hot days I suppose he can take off the outer shirt and just wear the white shirt and trousers. 

I really enjoyed making this! It's the first pattern I've made for a while and it was a fun process, from the mock up to the finishing. Totally fun. 

Since I have a little time I am working on redoing Rose's white dress since it still does (though barely) fit around her little bulgy belly. By moving over the buttons a bit it will work, and I took up the length of the skirt to shorten it from a long dress to a toddler dress. I'm adding a little bit of trim to the bodice to fancify the look somewhat, since she will be wearing it the day after her 1st birthday!



Friday, April 15, 2016

Laughing Moon #107 Men's Victorian and Edwardian Shirts for David

Laughing Moon has some really great patterns, whether you are new to historic costuming or very experienced. I bought their Men's Victorian & Edwardian shirt pattern a while ago and with a few modifications to make the design appropriate for Civil War era this pattern has been a lifesaver.

Early period shirts were cut on the sqaure, with each piece being being a square, rectangle or triangle. This method of cutting was very economical and this style of shirt was worn, little changed, over hundreds of years. By the time of the 1860's, mens shirts were starting to be cut differently so the fit was closer to the body. The tailored style shirt, or French style, was in vogue! This cut is still used today for mens dress shirts.

The mid 19th century saw the shirts undergo a transition from the strictly sqaure cut style to the curved seam french style. Shirts could have a number of features from both styles.

To adapt this pattern to represent a common 1860's style I made the following modifications to the LM pattern:

  • Cut the side seam as a straight seam instead of curved to fit the body
  • Cut the sleeve cuffs as rectangles instead of with shaped edges
  • Used the sleeve seam to make the sleeve placket instead of slashing and binding a placket
  • Cut the bottom of the shirt square instead of with rounded edges
  • Gathered the shirt back all the way across the lower edge of the yoke instead of dividing the fullness into two sections of gathers
It's hard to believe my lil guys are so old now - David will be ten this year and he was happy to get a "shirt like Daddy". Both he and Judah got shirts made in the smallest size the pattern offers. I shortened the length a little and the shirts hit my guys about knee length. The sleeves are a little long but otherwise the fit is pretty darn good! I'm happy! 

The fabric is a really awesome cotton shirting in black and white checks. Wow, I love this fabric. It was great to work with. David picked it out at a local antique & quilting shop and it was worth every penny we paid. I need to go back and buy the rest of this. 

We made his trousers and cap last week so all we have to do is make him a jacket and he will be ready to take on the world of the 1860's. Our first event is a week away so I'm feeling a little pressured - Malachi's outfit is last and there are so many things I'd like to make if I have any extra time. A new dress for Rose is *almost* a necessity since her long white gown of infancy is not so long anymore and the buttons strain over her chubby little frame. I guess she could squeeze into it for one last time but if I can get a few hours of free time in before next week after Malachi's stuff is done. . .well. . .fingers crossed. 


Monday, April 4, 2016

Anne's 1860's Double Pink Gown

Anne finally decided that she had had enough of wearing her white dress from Easter over the course of last week. (thankfully, white is easily bleachable. Anne is not afraid to do anything in a dress.) Yesterday she donned her little drawers and hoop skirted undies and we hooked up the back of her dress. Yes, finally, six months after starting her undergarments, her dress is complete!

Judah decided to "dress up" too. I was pleased. Nothing gives recreated historic styles that realistic look quicker than being worn and lived in.

We spent the afternoon wandering a wooded trail and came across a little cemetery set into the hillside, accessible only by walking. 

There were only a few family names. Many with specific ages, several of little children. One little girl, Nancy Hartman, was just 1 year and 9 months when she passed on. It was quite sad. Her sister lived til 7 years of age, and a brother slept quietly on the other side of their parents. His age was not discernible as the stone had broken and had been set back into the ground, obscuring the place where his age was carved.

A bright little creek bubbled and tumbled over rocks, hugging the hill around the cemetery. We stumbled through some yellow flowers and found a little rocky beach where the children threw stones into the water and splashed with sticks. 

Anne wore Benjamins blue sunbonnet yesterday as I haven't had the opportunity to make her her own, yet. I think she has adopted this one. She was very unwilling to part with it when we got home and she changed into her nightdress. I suppose Benjamin will get a new bonnet or perhaps a hat - that is, if he is willing to keep anything at all on his head! 

It was a truly beautiful afternoon - spring is so lovely here! 
Yep, that is mud on the skirt, already!

I wanted to get a picture of just Anne's dress. She was upset that I made her put down her dolly and take off her bonnet but here are the best garment view pictures we got. I think the style suits her, plain though it be! 

She has a little bit of room for growing. With luck, this will last her til fall. Then someday, it will belong to Rose.