Christmas gifts to improve my historical wardrobe

As I get further and further into the hobby (lifestyle?) of living history, I expand into new time periods and learn more about each of them. That fuels my need/want for more accessories, which will improve my historical persona(s). I am so grateful to have friends and family who not only respect my hobby, but also spoil me with gifts at Christmas time.

I received hand knit wool stockings from my mother-in-law; this had been an ongoing project that we had planned. I will finally get to wear these in the spring!

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Although you can’t tell in the picture, they are ridiculously long. They go way above my knee to keep my legs warm!

She also knit me a neck warmer with wool purchased from Suzy the Shepherdess, a local woman who sells wool. This gift was very unexpected, but extremely appreciated because my neck is always cold at events.

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Although hard to tell from the picture, it’s just long enough to cover my shoulders and in the middle, it juts in on each side so it rests smoothly along my neck without gaping. I loved it so much, I started using it immediately Christmas day and my neck stayed very warm!

Lastly,  a friend made and gave me a jewelry box and my m-i-l bought me a necklace from In the Long Run. (Her clothing and jewelry is outstanding).

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I am so excited to use all of these new items at events!!!

Christmas Celebration 2 – Boonesfield

A few years back this was my first living history Christmas event and I loved it. I did not care that I had to drive in a snowstorm or that it was really cold during the day and I basically stayed huddled by the fire for the entirety of the event. This site is beautiful, I love the rolling hills of Missouri, and my friends are wonderfully talented interpreters.

My favorite part about these Christmas programs is bringing history alive for a particular season and purpose.

Here’s the big take away from the event this year. When you and your crew are interpreting in different buildings, it makes everything more believable if your stories intertwine and connect. We all portrayed family (though none of us are actually related). Here’s the run down: my mother and I were in one building, my father was in the tavern, and my parents’ nephew ran the store. While speaking with the public, we then referenced each other. For example, my goal as the daughter of the proprietor of the boarding house was to bring an eldest child’s perspective to the house. (More on this below). The store owner, Mr. C, spoke of how he had the best bed in the house — the one nearest the kitchen heart; and my father spoke of his wife and daughter and their benevolence at this time of year. The public actually picked up on these cues and then asked us questions about our family members because they had already met them or I would ask them if they had met my father and if the person said no, I would encourage them to talk to him. I gave them a way in. This type of interpreting may be the nirvana of living history.

Mrs. B worked in the kitchen, talking about the food preparation and her ancestor’s heritage, which was eye opening for the public because they learned that back in the early 1800s, not everyone celebrated Christmas like we do today. For her, Christmas was all about helping those in need and not about putting up a Christmas tree. We should love our neighbors and ensure their health and safety.

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We had a variety of food — pies, baked goods, fresh fruit. The kitchen looked very homey and had the sense of “I’m in the midst of cooking all this food for the holidays,” which was good because it shouldn’t look like a museum display that no one had touched in years. The house looked lived in.

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Shrewsbury cakes are the best!!

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Our house for the weekend…

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I hung out in the parlor and worked on a sewing project: a new dish cloth for my mother. It was a good conversation piece for myself and the public. My way in: to connect to my mother who was in the room across the hall, I explained how her benevolence toward our neighbors year after year instilled solid values of helping one another and giving back to your community. Even though our “family” did not exchange Christmas presents, I wanted to give back to someone who had inspired me and shaped me to be the person I was and that was my reason for helping my mother with all the cooking and making her something useful for her daily life.

As I explained this to the public, I could see many mothers and fathers nodding their heads and smiling. Another tidbit of information I shared was taken from my own childhood existence and fit beautifully — many times my very own mother would ask me to do one thing for her and then 10 seconds later ask me to do something else. It was frustrating because I did not always know which one was more important to get done first and if I did the wrong thing, I could get in trouble. To make this story relevant to my audience, I ended on a reflective note for the children: when your parents ask you to do something, respect their wishes and complete the task swiftly because you will be rewarded in the end. (Upon hearing these words, I saw lots of parents elbow their children. Hehe).

My set up…

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The tavern…

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They roasted turkey that we then feasted on during the day and at night!

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The men of the tavern…

 

Saturday during the day was gorgeous and I went for my obligatory walk around the grounds…

 

And some more random photos…

 

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Until next year…

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My Regency Spencer Dream Come True

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As I’ve gushed over everyone’s Regency era ensembles, I’ve always yearned for a spencer to call my own. I really adore the short little jacket. Although most of my events are during the summer, when I’m cold, I’m cold and the past winter events I’ve attended, I’ve wished for more wool layers.

I was invited to attend the Christmas program at Boonsefield Village again this year. I thought I was going to crank out a new 1819 dress; however, that did not happen. The week before I woke up Sun morning and was super motivated to make myself that spencer I’ve always wanted. I was especially motivated because the dress I planned to wear was cotton. Although I would be wearing two petticoats, I knew I would need another layer on top to really cover my collarbone.

I did not have a pattern; I just followed this picture. I knew the general shape of the back piece. And back pattern pieces, if I’m drawing them myself, have always been really hard for me to get just right. I thought I would start by using one of my sweaters to trace a jeweled neckline. I knew I wanted it to come right up to my neck because I get cold easily. As I was digging through my clothing, I came across this jacket-thing that I purchased a while back at Kohl’s. I pulled it out on a whim and flipped it over — the back was the *exact* shape I needed!!! The sewing goddesses were smiling on me.

I traced the shape on to my tracing paper. Then I traced the shape of the collar so I could get the right curve on the circle. I just made the edges on the front of the bodice straight, made a little curvey side piece and voila. I was super excited to actually sew something that would have really short side seams. (For a regency gown, from bust to floor, it’s about 50 inches for me).

Here is what my pieces ended up looking like:

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This is one day’s accomplishment. I hemmed and hawed over what fabric to use. The dress I wore was teal, and the only other fabric I had that could possibly work was a mid/dark green color. But it was cotton. I really wanted wool. I realized that I had left over black/grey striped wool from my 18th cent jacket. This was the left over scrap. It might have been 1.5 yards-ish? I played around with the pattern pieces for several hours trying to get them to fit and it *finally* worked. I was so excited (and Mr. H really could not understand why…)

Mock up:

 

Some in process photos….

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I did a box pleat in the back to get it to fit snugly under the bust. It probably was about one inch of fabric that got taken in.

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And the finished product!!!!

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I still had things left to sew when we were driving down and luckily my friend sewed my sleeves on!! If it had not been for her, I would have been very cold. In the original picture, it obviously has a peter pan style collar, which I did not have time to make. That’s still in the plans. I was just going to fold under the edges and finish it, but I did not even have time for that by the time we arrived, so I just pinned on my fur collar and called it good! I also did not have time to sew on my hooks and eyes to keep it closed, so it is just pinned closed. The last thing that needs to be finished is to take a gather/tuck in each sleeve near the elbow. I made the sleeves longer so they would cover most of my hand, but that length was annoying when I actually needed to do stuff, hence my sleeves are rolled up in the above photo. Because the site’s time period was 1819, the bottom of the spencer comes down a bit below my bust, instead of ending right directly beneath my bust.

Overall, I am extremely pleased with this garment. It was very warm. I can’t wait to wear it again! img_20161209_171826496

 

A year to procrastinate – 1840s accessories

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I am insanely jealous of all the bloggers I follow who crank out these amazing garments in what seems to me like just a few weeks time. I don’t know if that’s actually what happens, but regardless, I admire those who are really good at making patterns and sewing and just whipping up these fabulous items. I know I’ve written this before, but school is so soul sucking during the year and over the summer I was so physically drained from the past year that I did not sew anything. Zero. How pathetic. So of course when I have an event (that I know about well in advance), I instantly jump to deadline fear.

Well I had a year — an entire year — to trim my 1840s gown. Did I accomplish anything over the summer? No. When did I start? The week before. I had all these plans and then push came to shove and I could not execute. I think I just don’t know enough about patterning yet to get the pieces to come out the way I envision them. Or my mannequin is really so differently shaped than me that whatever I drape on it looks super weird on my body.

I was stressing mid-week and then I realized that it was more important to fix the placement of my hooks and eyes so my dress actually closes and that it didn’t matter if I got any fancy trim done on the neckline because it would be so cold that I would just wrap a shawl around my shoulders anyway.

Here is the only trimming I finished:

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I found some lace at my local antique store and thought it was pretty. I had just enough for both sleeves.

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I was also pleased with how my hair turned out. I looked at some 1840s fashion plates and whipped this up.

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Over Easter break, I randomly came across a muff in an antique store. Originally I thought it was beaver, but now we think it may be mink. Either way, I finally got to use it at an event!! My other item that was finally finished for this event was my quilted hood (all I needed to do was sew on the ties to each side). (Ignore my modern purse strap in this photo….totally forgot I had it on).

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Christmas Celebration 1 – Macktown

This is the second year the Ox Bow Tavern and Black Horse Inn came together to educate people about Christmas in the 1840s. We occupied one of the historic buildings – the Whitman Store on one end and the tavern/house on the other. The store was originally a log building before the stone one was built. Stephen Mack had a trading post located in his side yard before he built his house and Whitman had his log trading post.

At our event, William Whitman, store owner, was reading from A Visit from St. Nick  to the children. In the house section, we had a children’s activity of making paper Christmas ornaments.

In both buildings, our greenery decorations were simple because decorating giant trees was not popular back then, and we wanted to convey this concept to the public. It was really nice to teach people about Christmas traditions from the time period and to have them connect it to their modern day traditions. The event was just from 12 – 3:30 p.m., one day only, but was a really nice way to start to bring in the Christmas season. The public enjoyed their time on site, viewing the buildings, hearing stories and making a craft.

The store…

 

 

 

 

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Inside the house…

 

 

The young M and I had matching American Duchess boots!!!

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Fort Meigs – August 2016

It is my goal to attend as many living history events as I can at historical sites. I love historical buildings and architecture. I may or may not have mentioned in the past that when I was young, I would sit by the fireplace, cozy and warm, reading The Field Guide to American Houses. For fun. Yup. That was me at 13.

Back in the beginning of August the NTWA and BAR had a combined event at Fort Meigs, Perrysburg, OH, just outside of Toledo (which is an hour or so south of where I used to live in MI. Weird.)

At this event, I followed the 4th Connecticut as their petty sutler. We stayed in one of the blockhouses. It was awesome.

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Because I was the only one able to sneak pictures….this was the only picture of me. Taken by me. 🙂

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Although it was sultry during the day, I thoroughly enjoyed the trek and location. It was worth it.

 

 

Packing and staying organized for events

In order to be well dressed and enjoy an event, it is imperative that things are packed ahead of time and well organized in various transportation devices. Some people have amazing closets and rooms dedicated to all of their living history clothing and accessories. I am not that fortunate so things get stowed here and there. In the last few years, Mr. H’s angst surrounding clutter has forced me to keep my items tidy and out of view. To help others, I thought I would post about my organizational tips when you have a busy schedule and you are running from one event to the next.

Upon returning from an event…

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  1. Wash towels, aprons, socks, fichus and undergarments immediately when you get home. I don’t know about you, but even at events in the early spring or late fall, my chemise tends to get moist and feel icky by Sun afternoon. My mother instilled in me a healthy fear of mildew on soiled garments. Though they are just “things” I can’t stand the thought of having to replaces hundreds of dollars worth of goods just because I was too lazy to wash them right away. If I get home super late from an event and literally don’t have time to wait the full hour and a half for the wash and drying to be complete, I hang up my items on my clothesline on my screened porch so they can at least air dry. I then wash them the next day. I’ve washed fichus by hand in a large bowl as well as on the gentle cycle in the machine. I use the mesh bag and just throw them in — no problem.

2. Fold clean items right away. While some wrinkles don’t both me, I have realized that if I don’t fold my newly cleaned items — especially my hand towels — they will get lost in a pile of clean laundry and/or Mr. H will attempt to do a good deed, and fold them and put them somewhere where they don’t belong and then that will snowball into bad times the day I’m supposed to leave for my next event.

3. Air out smokey items. I can’t wash my cloak or wool petticoats, so up on the clothesline they go for a few days.

4. Spot clean items you don’t intend to put in the washer. Sure you can throw linen and cotton items in the washer, however, that means I would have to iron them. I’m really not all that into ironing. I would have made a terrible domestic goddess even in the last century. But anywho, at an event in Sept I got black smudges on my nice blue and white striped linen jacket. I was not pleased. (While dirt on your historical clothing makes them look “authentic,” I can’t imagine most middle class people traipsed around in nasty dirty clothing unless it was their dirty work dress for really intense cleaning days). I usually use Mrs. Myers dish soap or a bar of handmade lavender soap. Lavender has excellent cleaning and sanitizing properties naturally, so that’s my top choice. I put a little soap on a wash cloth and dab and press, but don’t rub or smear. Then I rinse the item under cold water and hang to dry and press if necessary. I spot clean Sun or Mon night if possible. The longer it sits, the worse.

Once items are clean and the next event is rapidly approaching…

5. Gather items the weekend before. The last few years, I’ve decreased how many events I attend in Sept because the start of the school year is insane and after an extreme bout of illness because of not enough sleep and sharing cups with people who were sick, I told myself no more. Therefore, I’m at an every three weekend or so schedule of events in the fall. It’s much better for my stress levels. As a result, I have the luxury of packing my items the weekend before. The school week is just too nuts and I’m too focused on my 200 some kids with lesson plans and grading. I take an hour or two to repack everything and put it all by the door in the corner, so when Friday rolls around, I can throw everything in the car and be on the road.

6. Pack like items together. In the past, I just kind of threw items in whatever container held them best. Fine. It got the job done. However, when I needed the items in a hurry at an event, I wasted time trying to remember where I put stuff. Now I have certain bags or baskets that always carry the same items.

For example, my market wallet is for my cold weather accessories (yes I take them to all events, year round because I get cold at night time) and my stockings and fichus.

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7. On toiletries. I do not have a period appropriate way to transport my toiletries, so right now I just have a tote bag that I schlep to the bathroom early in the a.m. or late at night when none of the public will see me. Within the tote bag, I have a lot of smaller drawstring bags that hold all my necessary items; including a ziploc bag full of sanitary supplies. You never know who might need what when. I also keep period glasses in their own case and an extra glasses case in my toiletry bag since I wear my contacts all weekend. (Before, I kept my glasses cases in a different basket which I never took with me into the bathroom and that was a pain). Lastly, stock lots of plastic grocery bags for wet items. I’m kind of ocd and like to use a fresh wash cloth every time I wash my face. After using it, I can either throw it in the bag or take the extra time to walk to my car (depending on how far of a walk it is) and spread it out in there so it can dry.

8. Folding jackets/petticoats. Because I’m usually not cramming my clothing into vacuum sealed bags, I loosely fold items and they fit better into their basket or bag. Here is how I fold my jackets to obtain the smallest size and the least amount of wrinkles.

 

9. Pack clothing in the order in which you put it on. I learned this in girl scouts! For camp, we used to pack each day’s clothing in it’s own separate plastic bag and put the clothing in the order that you wear it so the first thing you put on is your underwear and socks, so those go on top.

I purchased a big basket at a local antique store. This carries my stays, all of my jackets, petticoats, and chemises. Here is the order I put things in the basket: starting on the bottom: gown, apron, two jackets, pockets, petticoats, stays, and the chemise goes on top because I will put that on first. Usually there is room on the sides for a few miscellaneous items like a mug or a cap or a journal.

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10. For the other accessories and random items. Everyone has those material culture items that are part of your persona. All the “extras” go in a basket, and my caps go on top because I don’t want them to get crushed.

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11. Modern items. I hate to be unprepared. I never know what I might need. An extra pair of wool socks at night? My winter hat? If I’m not at a 1st person immersion event, I have a few stock items I always bring because you just never know…I hand sewed a medium/large-ish bag of fairly heavy linen. I can quickly shove this bag under a bed or just keep it in the tent. The public usually will not rummage through things like this, they just peer in the tent and go “oh cool.”

 

12. Pack only what you can carry. This was another Girl Scout rule for our troop. It did force me to be fiercely independent too. While I will never stop a gentleman from helping me carry items to or from my car, I am happy that I can do it myself. My market bag slings over my shoulder and if it has soft items, can also be shoved down the side of the basket. My larger linen bag can be slung over a shoulder; my little square basket goes on one arm and that leaves a hand and hip free to carry the large basket. Obviously, depending on the event and what other food/drink items I bring, I will make multiple trips to the car, which I’m fine with. But I try to keep all my items contained and easy to transport.

At least when I go to an event. Packing on Sun when I need to get home to cook dinner or wash items and I’m hot and tired….it’s just throw everything in the car where ever and go.

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Great Antique Find #2: A Beaver Muff

At the same antique store that I found the late Victorian bodice, I also found this beaver muff when I was only on the lookout for animal fur collars! Though it’s hard to tell in these photos, it’s about the size of my cat.

I have no idea how to even date an item like this. I don’t particularly care what era it’s from, I love it.

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And for size reference next to the cat…

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(She says there is something funny about this “animal”)