Saturday, July 30, 2016

1860's Light French Corset - Finished!

I plowed through the construction on this thing over the last couple of days. I'll be travelling soon to pick up my four oldest children and I was determined to not leave this unfinished. Actually, it went together pretty fast with only a few mishaps.

Mainly, I freaked out about half way through putting it together. I thought I forgot to add seam allowances to the pattern pieces and I was afraid it would turn out too small. So I sewed the remaining seams with the smallest allowance possible and hoped to God it would somewhat fit at the end.

Well, I shouldn't have done that. I now have a smaller than desirable lacing gap. So, if it stretches much with wear I may have to start anew. But I hope this works for a while because I really love it!

I wore my old corset to Perryville last week for one last hurrah and at the end of the day thought that it really hadn't been too terrible and maybe I was stupid for wanting to make a new one. But after I finished the new corset I tried the old one on to compare and there is just no comparison.

The new corset is much more curvy with a much higher and smaller waistline. It just fits. The last one did fit. Or I thought it did, when I made it. I mean, it did?! Right? It looked okay. I loved it last year when I made it. But I guess a few pounds weight loss can radically change things? I haven't even lost all that much but whatever. I love the new one. I've loved gussets for a long time but now I'm loving gores again.

It's small and lightweight and the shape is much better for the 1860's. I probably will have to refit my dress bodice but that's not a big deal. Plus that gives me an excuse for a new dress!

My other reason for wanting to finish this corset today is so I can submit it for the July challenge for the Historical Sew Monthly. This months challenge is monochrome. Below are the details:

Challenge #7: Monochrome.

What the item is: 1860's Light French Corset from Corsets and Crinolines

The Challenge: Monochrome

Fabric/Materials: White cotton twill, steel busk and zip ties for boning. Long cotton skate laces for lacing.

Pattern: Light French Corset from C&C

Year: 1860

Notions: Thread, busk, zip ties, laces, lace for trim

How historically accurate is it? As best as I could make it. It is mostly machine sewn with some hand finishing. The zip ties are obviously inaccurate but are a substitute for whalebone.

Hours to complete: About 8

First worn: Today for pictures. Next week for a living history.

Total cost: Fabric: about $1 worth. Busk: $6. Zip ties: $5 Laces: $3

Monday, July 25, 2016

Visit to Perryville Battlefield State Park

With the oldest four children away at camp it seems like less work, somehow, to pack up just two and take a little roadtrip. (It isn't really much less work!) Though the day was hot and humid a nice drive through grassy countryside beneath a wide blue sky seemed just the thing. So we went! It was my first time visiting an actual Civil War battlefield and for me it was quite special.

Perryville surprised me by being a small town in the middle of nowhere. The town has some beautiful historic buildings but our destination was the battlefield state park outside of town. We stopped first at a white home set back from the road. 
The Dye House was used as headquarters by Confederate General Buckner during the battle of Perryville, which took place on October 8, 1862. It was also used as a hospital and it is said that the floorboards upstairs are still blood stained from the casualties that were brought there. 

Intellectually I do not believe in the existence of ghosts but I will not deny that I have, many times, felt things that indicate a very real and active unseen spiritual world. The Dye House is reportedly quite haunted and I was interested to see if I could feel anything odd about the place. 

I didn't, really. Or at least, nothing more than one would expect at any site of suffering and pain. It was very, very still and seemed empty and sad. From the upstairs windows I sensed a feeling of quiet watchfulness but when we returned to the house again later that day the feeling had gone. No one was watching us that time. 

We continued on to the actual park and visited the museum and enjoyed a brief air conditioned respite from the oppressively humid heat. Outside cheerful zinnias bobbed in the breeze and caught Rose's attention. She loves flowers. 

We visited the Confederate cemetery. The federal soldiers who died here were temporarily buried on the field before being moved to permanent cemeteries. The Confederates were left here and most were unidentified when they were buried. 

The babies great-great-great-great grandfather, John Garner, was with the 123rd Illinois and fought here on this battlefield. It was a bit surreal to see the actual area where the 123rd fought. John Garner was 46 when the War started and despite his older age he quickly enlisted in the 123rd Illinois. After being sent home due to sickness he enlisted with the 62nd Illinois and served til the end of the war. John Garner survived the war and died in 1899, beloved by friends and family. During the battle of Perryville, John was 48 years old. 

The lady in the museum handed us a map for a driving tour of the park. She said she wasn't giving out the walking trail maps that day since it was just too hot! The first stop on our driving tour was the top of a hill where federal forces trained their artillery on Confederates on the opposite hill. 

It was quite a view. Central Kentucky is so beautiful.

The next place we stopped was here. We walked down a little ways before going back to the vehicle. It was about 2 o clock in the afternoon and just so abominably hot. 5 minutes in the hot sun was enough. While here, the lack of water sources really struck me forcibly. Besides the rather small Doctors Creek that cut through one edge of the park, I didn't see any other water. Everything was so hot, so dry. The heat radiated in waves off of everything. 

After the driving tour we headed back to town for cold drinks and snacks and then came back to the park to enjoy it on a more personal level. You cannot really know a place til you have walked it, laid on it, and let it get to know you. 

On top of the hill where the 123rd was forced back to retreat, we spread a blanket and enjoyed the breeze and shade. Rose and Benjamin enjoyed their cups of lemonade and m&m's, too. 

We sat there for a while. I'm not sure how long. Time didn't seem to matter anymore. 

When the sun got lower we slowly walked down the hill, the hill that the 123rd had retreated up over 150 years ago. The sunlight pooled goldenly and it seemed as if we walked in a dream. 

And here, I somehow knew, was where John Garner had been. While Benjamin played with sticks and Rose plucked at the wildflowers I stood very still. 

There was a thickness of invisible shadows, it seemed. We weren't quite in 1862 but we were close. Close enough to know that what happened here wasn't very long ago at all. 

The one slightly odd thing we experienced happened as we were leaving and we crossed the bridge on our way back up to the parking lot. Rose turned to go back across the bridge again and Benjamin screamed with horror and panic and tried to grab and drag her back across. She would have none of it, though, so I had to go pick her up and carry her so Benjamin would settle down. He was quite happy to trot back up the hill after that!

We had a wonderful time even though it was so hot. If we could stand going down to Perryville in our period attire on the hottest day of summer I think we can do anything! haha. I'd love to go back again and take the other kids. I think from now on it will be a favorite destination. 


Monday, July 18, 2016

Living History in July

I can't believe it's already been a week since Heritage Village. It took two days for laundry, mending, ironing and putting away this last week. Before next time I need to make Benjamin a new gown and set of unders. He's shot up since early spring and is getting tall and skinny.

It was truly a pleasure to get out once more and get to see some more local history, renew acquaintances and make new friends. That's something very cool about reenacting - reenactors seem to be pretty much the same no matter where you are. I am so happy to be part of such a diverse yet friendly and passionate community. You know how you hear that music is a language the whole world speaks? A love for history is like that, too. A deep respect and appreciation of where you came from and how far you've come.

I loved to see the kids have such a great time exploring, asking questions and absorbing everything around them. The older boys vividly remember often going to "the tent place" (their toddler term for reenactments) but it's still pretty new to the younger set. Little David, now almost 10, was the least enthusiastic about going. Since he was diagnosed with a mild form of autism a few years ago I have tried to be more sensitive to his personal preferences and his desire for predictable routine and structure. He also doesn't really enjoy wearing all the period style clothes.

He's too little to leave home by himself though so he had to come. And after a little while he was very glad that he did! He discovered a train station and although its been many years now since he has been obsessed with trains he still loves them and soon was enjoying himself hugely exploring the length of (inactive) track in front of the station and the hand car. Later, he rolled up his trousers and discarded his stockings and shoes to wade in the creek with a bunch of other kids.

Judah is almost nine but seems much older - he often gets mistaken for a sixth grader.

He loved being responsible enough to run little errands for me, visit the sutlers and shop for trinkets (he coveted a dagger most passionately, but we decided he was a bit young for such a knife) and enjoyed playing games with other children.

Judah took this picture of a macaw that a lady brought to the event. Judah got to hold it
three times, he said, and now he wants a macaw. 
Macaws are too expensive, I told him. So he's going to get one when he's an
adult, he decided. The kid loves birds. 
He was a cheerful and willing help with the two babies and never tired of running after little Benjamin when he'd stray too far ahead or making Rose laugh.

Malachi was full of fire about the infantry and I had to constantly answer his questions about when he'll be old enough to get a rifle and become a "soldier".

His insatiable curiosity and deep regret that he is still, after all, only seven really struck me as we walked together and I listened to him talking.

How many mothers had sons who similarly desired to go off and join the army during the 1860's? Now, in 2016, reenacting is a fun hobby but back then the Civil War was so real and terrible. We do not reenact a fun era of history.

The horror, weariness, despair, and intense suffering our historic counterparts experienced is not present in living history today. I cannot imagine the choking fear a mother would have felt when thinking about her sons leaving home and taking up the life of a soldier.

Little Anne danced and twirled her way through the day, chasing butterflies, talking to everyone she encountered and helping me with little tasks with great pride.

She helped me pack the lunch baskets the day before and at noon carefully helped carry them to our picnicking spot to hand out food to her brothers and sister.

 Even though she helped me make the meat pasties, she decided they weren't good. For them we cooked up a big pork roast and shredded it and cooked it again with onions, grated carrots and a little apple juice. We filled circles of pastry with the meat mixture and after glazing them with an egg white we baked them til brown.

Wrapped in wax paper they made a nice portable lunch along with hard boiled eggs and a jar of pickles. Anne ate the eggs and pickles.

Benjamin enjoyed running everywhere, finding sticks and rocks and going up and down stairs into the various historic buildings.

Like his older brothers were at his age he was extremely fond of the fire pits and he loved going close to them and exclaiming "Hot! Hot!"

He was really very good. In the afternoon he lay down and rested with Rose and then watched the progression of ants in the dirt with great interest.

Although he was mistaken for a girl several times he did not mind. He got to meet a gentleman portraying our beloved General Grant and the good General spoke kindly to him and called him by name.

Little Rose also enjoyed herself, perhaps too much as she was too excited to take her after noon nap. While she allowed me to carry her from place to place, as soon as we were stationary she had to wiggle down and explore for herself by crawling everywhere. She batted her eyelashes and smiled flirtatiously with her toothy grin at everyone, many of whom stopped to talk to her or asked to take her picture. At lunch she devoured a whole pie on her own, and two eggs.

During the battle I was apprehensive about how she would take the artillery fire but I was proud to see she did not even flinch.

She disinterestedly gazed at the field of battle, crawled over to a nearby tree and happily started scratching in the dirt with a stick. Her little white dress was completely covered in mud by the time we went home but she was happy and exhausted. Thankfully, bleach does wonders (there's a good reason baby clothes back then were often white!) and the little white gown is back to a pristine state of cleanliness. It's uncertain though if it will fit her for much longer. She's a little peanut right now but she seems to have hit a growth spurt lately.

I had a wonderful time and am really happy to be part of such a great group of people. The good folks of the 48th Ohio are hospitable, funny and so kind and are so wonderful with the children. I'm so very much looking forward to a new chapter of events with them!

We live right in the middle of what was, in the pre-1860's, a large abolitionist center and a frequent stop on the Underground Railroad. What a lot of history! I am only starting to discover just how much.