Friday, July 11, 2014

Coldwater, Veils, and Gettysburg!

It has been a while since I posted last. Somehow now that summer's here I'm busier than ever! Anyhow, the weekend of May 24th-25th, I was planning on going to Greenfield Village. Last minute, I heard of a reenactment in Coldwater and decided to go there instead, seeing as how I'd been to GFV before. I don't have a lot of pictures, but it was a nice reenactment. Certainly smaller than GFV, but there were several interesting things about it, including the mourning talk we went to and the large amount of artillery present for such a small reenactment. If you've never been to it, consider it recommended! :)
Mourning veil
Fashion veil

I finished a veil for my bonnet the night before and tried it out that day. I am pleased to report that it works splendidly! While bonnet veils are most commonly thought of as mourning veils, such as the one on the right, ladies also used fashion veils (left) for modesty and to keep the sun off their faces. They work rather like sunglasses do today. I didn't feel like I was squinting in the sun at any point during the day. Mission accomplished! Plus, it was just fun to wear. I think veils add a bit of mystery and intrigue to the wearer.

While I am hardly an expert on the matter, it is my understanding that mourning veils are thicker and generally opaque from the outside whereas fashion veils are quite see through and often have a decorative lace edge on them. Fashion veils are often semi-circular or crescent shaped while mourning veils are square or rectangular.

The veil in the picture on the left is an original that was being sold on ebay a while back and the one I based my own veil off. I found some dotted tulle at the fabric store and some black lace and carefully basted the two together.

I wasn't sure how sewing the veil to my bonnet would work, and if the veil didn't work well, I wouldn't want it on all day, so I ended up using straight pins to pin in to the brim of my bonnet, which worked well. It's quite fun to wear!

And one more inspiration picture, just because. :)

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In June, my family took a much-awaited trip out to Gettysburg! I have been wanting to go for a few years now, so I was very excited to go! I finished sewing a dress for Mom in the car on the way out (nothing like procrastination! ;) ), so she and I both wore our period clothing while touring the battlefield. It certainly makes the past come alive - to be in the very place where so much conflict and terror took place wearing the same clothes the citizens of Gettysburg would have worn... I highly recommend it!

Some of the lovely painted buildings in town.

That three-story brick building was the one that Abraham Lincoln slept in the night before he gave his famous address in Gettysburg.

To see the sheer number of graves at the Gettysburg National Cemetery was quite sobering. The picture below shows maybe only a twentieth of the graves there.

The above picture was, if I remember correctly, at Little Round Top, somewhere along the left-most flank of the Union Army the second day of the battle. Colonel Chamberlain was in command of the troops.

The view from the top of Little Round Top. 

Looking up towards Little Round Top. Now imagine that you are an infantryman wearing a wool uniform in the summer heat and you have to climb up there to take the hill while carrying your knapsack on your back and your rifle in your hands. And to top it all off, there are men holed up at the top shooting down on you as you climbed.

 Look familiar?
(Not my picture!)

Monument to the Pennsylvanian troops...

...With a great but very windy view up top!

An original oxidized cannon

This picture shows the 'High Water Mark' of the Confederacy. On the third and final day of the battle of Gettysburg, the Union troops held their position behind the stone wall. While the Confederate forces broke over the wall a few times, the Union ultimately held their ground.

The edge of the forest, a mile away, was where the Confederates started their charge.

Mom and myself. Doesn't she look great? :)

Also while we were in Gettysburg, we stopped by the Jennie Wade house. Jennie Wade was the only civilian to be killed during the battle of Gettysburg. Her sister with a recently born daughter, along with their mother and Jennie stayed in this house as the battle raged on outside. One morning Jennie was kneading bread for the soldiers when a bullet passed through two wooden doors and struck her in the heart, killing her instantly. 

There were still bullet holes in the bricks, both inside and outside. In the picture below you can see some in the mantle above the fireplace.

Jennie Wade is on the right in this picture. 

All in all, it was a fun trip. I enjoyed it all, but I think my favorite part was seeing Little Round Top. We watched the movie Gettysburg before we left, so everyone knew what had happened where. Coldwater  is the only reenactment I've been to this year, so I am looking forward to Charlton Park in two more weeks! I'll definitely be there Sunday, not sure about Saturday yet. Until then, dear readers, have a fabulous summer! :)

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Fashions That Should Have Stayed in Style

Fashions come and go with time - that's just the way it is. Some things can stay in fashion for decades while others come in and out of fashion in a season. The following are some fashions that I find interesting. One or two of them I still wear. Remember, all the pictures can be clicked on if you want to view them larger.

The first object of our discussion I think would be very handy. Have you ever found yourself on the way to church or the prom with your beautifully styled hair but the weather requires a hat? Of course that is out of the question, because there is not much worse than arriving with your hair smashed into disarray. But on the other hand, it's too cold and windy to go without. Enter in the calash.

Calashes were rumored to have started being worn by Georgianna, Duchess of Devonshire in 1765. Every now and then I'll see and elderly lady wearing a modern plastic version of a calash (I think they call them a rain bonnet), but they just don't have the same appeal as their historical counterparts. 

As you can see in the picture on the left, calashes were collapsable. Once out of the weather, they were quickly folded up and stored until needed again. I'm not really sure when or why they went out of style. It perhaps had something to do with their habit of catching gusts of wind. This definitely requires future investigation.

A muff of incredible size
Detail from 'Winter 1882'
The second item on our list is a muff. Muffs are made from a tube of fur, open on the ends for your hands, and often with some sort of lining on the inside. Occasionally the fur will be covered by fabric, but I think that leaving the fur uncovered is the more common way to make them. 

On the right is a cartoon of a muff. On the left is a much more practically sized muff.

My own muff (which I made from Butterick 5265) is very nice. It has a cotton lining on the inside, a layer of batting and an outside layer of dark brown faux fur. It is extremely warm, even, I dare say, warmer than mittens or gloves. I would love to try making one out of real fur sometime.

Chatelaines are the next item I will talk about. Before skirts had pockets (at least external ones), ladies didn't have anywhere to put all the handy little things they wanted to carry around with them. A chatelaine clips or pins onto your belt or waistband and have several clips from which to hang your accessories. The tops can range from relatively plain or ornate.

Chatelaines may hold such things as a pencil and tiny notebook, a thimble, thread and a needle, a watch, a perfume bottle, and keys, to name a few. What you carried on your chatelaine depended on who you were (a housekeeper would have different items than an upper-class lady) and if your chatelaine was used for decoration or function.

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That's all I have for you today. It's been a while since my last post, but hopefully now that summer is here I'll have more free time. I am greatly looking forward to Greenfield Village in two more weeks! I hope to see some of you there!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

February update

It has been almost a month since I posted last. College has kept me very busy and I haven't found much time for sewing lately. As you may remember, in January I posted a list of things I hoped to get done over the year. It took me until February, but I finished something on the list:

Another flannel petticoat!
 I don't care for hemming, so instead I scalloped the bottom edge of it. I have no idea if that was a period correct way for finishing period undergarment hems or not, but no one will see it anyways. ;)

Another project I've been working on lately (also not on my list) is a skirt for modern wear.

I have found that in our cold winter this year, a skirt and four petticoats will keep you even warmer than a pair of pants will. In reality, the skirt is a shade or two darker than in the picture. This skirt is paused at the hemming stage.

In January, I also finished a good portion of a new pair of split drawers for reenacting. 

There are three pairs of tucks on the legs - two decorative and one functional. I need to look up how to hand stitch buttonholes because the waistband on them is thick and I don't want to risk damaging my machine. Plus, I would just like to learn. 

Recently, I purchased a new dress! It has short sleeves, with detachable long sleeves. I'm planning on first wearing it to the Kalamazoo Living History show in March.

The second picture better shows the color of it. It has mother of pearl buttons down the front which are non-functional, a hook and eye closure and cute little puff sleeves! I'm excited to wear it.

That's about all that's new with me. While college has kept me busy, I am finding it interesting. One of the required books to read is Copper Country Journal, by Henry Hobart, a schoolteacher in Michigan's Upper Peninsula during the Civil War. While he doesn't talk overly about events happening in the war, it's a good look at life then. I highly recommend it.

I hope you are all well. Is anyone planning on going to the Living History show in Kalamazoo, March 15th and 16th?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Starch. The magical liquid that makes collars stand up, petticoats fluff, and under sleeves crinkle. In this case, it was my petticoats that took the plunge. I decided after reading again and again how magically stiff starch makes things (petticoats that stand up on their own?!) to try my hand at starching. None of the store spray-on starch for me, no thank you! I have heard (never tried it myself) that the store starch isn't stiff enough for historical uses. Mia, from An Aspiring Homemaker posted her recipe, so I tried that. I'll let you travel over to her blog to read the finer details.

After stirring in the corn starch, waiting for the water to boil, stirring the settling corn starch mixture, waiting for the water to boil, stirring, waiting, etc, I was finally able to add it together. I stirred it for longer than the recipe said, maybe three minutes, because it said to stir until it started to thicken, which it didn't seem to be doing. Eventually I just said "good enough" and waited for it to cool. I set it outside on the porch for an unknown length of time until it cooled to the point where I could almost stick my hands into it. I dipped my two petticoats and wrung them out.

I have read that the best way to dry your damp petticoats is to hang them over an overturned trash can, as it will give them the best shape. It being winter, and myself not having a trash can, I crossed two hangers over each other in a sort of 'X' shape and nestled that inside my petticoats while drying to get them to fluff out a bit. Corn starch will stick to itself while wet, so it's best to try and keep the fabric as much apart as you can.

I dried my petticoats overnight, and they were still a bit damp in the creases and in the ruffle on my one petticoat, so I hung them by the fireplace for an hour or so until they were fully dry. It took me a few days, but I eventually ironed them (first spraying them lightly with water.) A few days to get around to ironing them, that is, not a few days to iron them... ;) The ironing created a smooth, almost glassy finish to them, which feels very nice.


Was it all worth it? Do my petticoats actually stand up, or is that a thing of myth? Take a look for yourself.

Here is a picture of the result (pre-ironing):

They do stand up! Or rather, did. After I wore them for a day they've relaxed a bit. They no longer stand up by themselves, but they still do give that nice crinkling/swishing sound when I walk.

As you probably remember from my last post, I have a sewing wish-list that I'm trying to get done by the end of the year. I haven't progressed much on it so far, I only have my next pair of drawers cut out. I have, however added something else to the list.

Ta-da! From what I've been able to figure out, it's from the last 1950's to early 1960's. I'm going to make the middle version but in black. Black dresses are easily dressed up or down and they go with almost anything, accessory-wise. I am hoping to get my crinoline re-made before I start on this dress. Foundations first! :)

As for my blue medieval dress, I am debating if I should hem it with a facing or not. I also might put a baleyeuse on it, though just a small one, as they're not really period-correct for the medieval times. You can click to read more about baleyeuses here. I do want something to keep my train from getting dirty. The alternative would be to create a very long hem facing which would be harder to keep clean, as you would have to unstitch it for cleaning as opposed to unbuttoning it and throwing it in the washer like with a baleyeuse.

Hope you're staying warm!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Sewing Goals for 2014

Happy New Year!

I thought I would put down my sewing goals for 2014, then at the end of the year, we'll see how many I finished.

  • First on my list: finish my blue medieval dress! All that needs to be done is to hem it, since I was able to sew the trim on last week when the power was out. Any tips for hemming a dress with a train?

  • Start and finish my blue wool 1900's swimsuit.

  • Start and finish my 1860's work dress...

  • ...and make an apron for it!

  • Make more petticoats! One can never have too many petticoats. I have three right now - two cotton I wear over my hoops and one flannel that I've only worn in wintertime. My goal is to make at least two more before reenacting season starts in May.

  • Make another chemise and another pair of split drawers. Because it's just silly to have more dresses than you have undergarments. :)

  • Make a corded petticoat for myself and starch it for ultimate stiffness! Also, I'm working on starching my current petticoats, but it requires a trip to the store to buy more corn starch.

  • I also have several yards of the fabric on the right. I was thinking of making a turn-of-the-century skirt out of it like the blue one in the picture on the left, but I may end up making a simple pleated skirt. I haven't had any luck finding a pattern so far and I don't think I'm talented enough to drape a pattern yet.

  • I also want to make a ruffled petticoat. Right now I wear two plain petticoats over my hoops, but I think it would look better if I added a ruffled one too. Now just to get enough white fabric... 

  • Speaking of big skirts,  number nine on my list is to remake a crinoline that I received for free. It's a size 4, which is most definitely not my size. I think I can mess around with it to make it work, however. Add a yoke perhaps, or lower the waistband. Which brings me to number ten:

  • A poodle skirt! What can I say? I've loved poodle skirts for a long time. Though if I make myself a poodle skirt, I think I'm going to have to have a pair of saddleback shoes to wear with it...

I think that's everything. I'm sure that I'll add more things to the list as the year goes on. So many time periods, so little time... My list leaves me at a total of thirteen projects. One sewing project a month sounds more than do-able!