Kitty Callaway will serve you now…

This summer I had the opportunity to interpret the dressmaker’s shoppe at Boonefield Village in St. Louis, MO. Usually I am in the tavern / inn cooking food all day. A new building is always a treat.

First, this little building was bright and airy and had lovely colors inside, which contributed to a cheerfulness not always felt near a darker hearth.

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The first room right as you enter, I tried to set up like an office / reception area where if you were a customer looking to have a dress made, you could begin your experience by looking at fashion plates.

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I wanted my “customers” (public) to have an immediate visual of the fashions of the time. Although I was interpreting a shoppe in a big city like St. Louis (because this type of shoppe did not exist in a small frontier village), I wanted them to know that women still cared about fashions abroad and the newest styles. I also wanted them to see how fashions changed just slightly from the 1780s to the 1820s, but my focus was on 1819. I arranged the fashion plates chronologically from left to right and when I greeted customers, I asked them which style most intrigued them or what colors they liked the most. This then allowed for more opportunities for them to ask questions about the particular style or how a dress was constructed.

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Me working on mending a pair of men’s trousers

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I had lots of fabric spread around the store as well as some garments in progress and undergarments from the previous era and the current era. As always, customers enjoyed trying on stays.

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My work table in the center of the room for ease of movement during the cutting and sewing process; my sitting area in the corner for when I need a little rest.

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Luckily I had two of my own dresses to display. Some people asked to try them on, which was fun. I wish I had had mannequins or some other way to display these dresses so that it was a little more visually appealing.

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Overall, this was a very good experience. I love sewing and talking about clothing. There’s so much information to share that it’s always neat to see what people latch on to within the first few minutes of a conversation and how long they stay and chat with you.

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Grand Portage 2017

I finally committed to attending this event and it was wonderful. It was my first event on the shores of western Lake Superior. (I spent every summer on the eastern shores at my cottage at Whitefish Point Michigan, the site of the first lighthouse on Lake Superior). There is something magical and powerful about this lake. Furthermore, to stand on the ground where the actual people stood when they met to trade goods at the end of the season before winter set in was also awe inspiring. I was too enamored with the entire experience to take many photos, but I managed to snag a few.

The Grand Hall:

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Fog in the trees after a Lake Superior late summer storm:

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The partner and clerk in the Grand Hall

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A walk through the woods:

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Me by the lake!!

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Looking out across the water…IMG_20170811_151011032

1790’s Ensemble

I have envied the other living historians and historical seamstresses who have made the white gown. Of all the historical clothing I lust after on a constant basis, this soft, white flowing ephemeral gown, to me, is the most beautiful.

This ensemble was made for an event in August 2017 at Grand Portage, Minnesota for the recreation of the meeting of fur trappers, traders, American Indians at the actual site of the gathering.

The ensemble is two pieces: the white gown and an open robe.

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Battle of Short Hills NJ – June 2017

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Summer began with an event near the end of June. My group, the 4th Connecticut, had the pleasure of attending a large event in Clarks, NJ — the Battle of Short Hills. It was an excellent event, though a tad warm and with some heavy rain Friday night. One nice aspect of the event was that the Continental camp was far away from the British (as in, we couldn’t even see each other). Oh and there were ponies.

The best part of the event was that several women, whom I had never met, joined forces to present an awesome petty sutler impression and serve the men and other interpreters fresh produce, tobacco, meat pies, cheese, soap, bread, and switchel just to name a few.

Considering that we coordinated all our efforts over social media, we had an excellent spread and kicked interpretation butt!

Here are some photos:

Your petty sutlers

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Meat pies and pickled cucumbers

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The 4th Connecticut!

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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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