I have not been involved in reenacting/living history or historical sewing for as long as some people, but I’ve thrown myself pretty well in to the progressive side of it. For example, I feel I may have indicated in a past entry or two that I can’t not hand sew now if I’m making a garment for the 18th and early 19th century. And now any item that I consider buying must follow period correct specifications. It’s become some what of a mission w/ a little bit of obsession thrown in for good measure.
Anyway, this weekend, I’m attending a first person 48 hr immersion event. It is a small group of people who have decided we will act out/recreate a chapter from the memoirs of Joseph Plumb Martin. Although we are in Illinois, the historic site is Milltown, Pennsylvania. The soldiers are off foraging and doing “man things” all weekend while the ladies will be, well, doing “woman things.”
Over the past week, I’ve been mulling over everything that needs to get done and then I realized that my thoughts fell into three separate categories:
I. Expectations – bad/good and II. Preparations
I. Expectations – bad/troublesome
I’m starting with the not so great first. It’s odd, but I tend to stress over new events. I’m mostly gung-ho excited, but then there is this brief, “what if?” that washes over me and makes me anxious to the point of making my stomach do flips and/or my skin breaking out (not cool).
Because this particular event is near the end of November and I live in the Midwest, I’m mostly worried about freezing. I’ve been to two other cold weather events. I survived and actually I think they acclimated my body to dealing with colder weather. However, I had the option of wearing long underwear. But this weekend is the most progressive/hard core authentic it can get i.e. zero modern anything. I’m pushing myself to the extreme and going to see how it goes. If my upper thighs freeze, it is what it is. Sucks to suck.
And I keep telling myself, if they can do it, so can I. It’s not the end of the world. We are in a stone building. I have no reason to really go outside unless I’m cooking or using the outhouse. Therefore, I think it will give me a good feeling for what it really was like to be a woman and be stuck inside all day. If this is what I am to learn, I only wish I could be doing this for a week or more because that could give me a better gauge of whether or not I could hack it.
Lack of sanitation/running water
Well you’re going to learn way more about me than you probably cared to know. In the past few years, I’ve become a tad OCD about sanitation. I have to wash my hands a lot especially during food prep. Not having this luxury makes me a tad queasy. Though we will have a wash stand, but no running water. Aaaaaahhh!!! Outhouses don’t bother me though. I just want warm water to wash my hands.
II. Expectations – good/excited for
We always have the most delicious food at events. I love it. I crave it when I’m at home in the winter. I have never been disappointed in anything I’ve tried – even oysters – and I don’t eat a lot of seafood (except fresh Lake Superior Whitefish).
Seeing all my dear friends
I think many of us will agree that awesome friends keep us in the hobby. My living history friends have become some of my nearest and dearest friends since I’ve become involved in the hobby. I love having a hobby that brings together like-minded people.
For the majority of events that I’m at, we are in first person. Occasionally we’ll slip into 3rd person depending on the conversation, but 99% of the time, we are awesomely in character. This weekend gives me another opportunity to expand my repertoire and really become someone from that time period.
I will portray the daughter of one of the other ladies who is attending. We’ve been going back and forth over the weekend about what my name should be. Right now it’s between Ella Rose and Abigail. I, however, don’t particularly like Abigail currently because I just finished watching The Crucible and the character of Abigail annoys me (I have some friends named Abby and I don’t hate them, so no offense if anyone who reads this has that name). I also wanted to choose a name that was in my family, but we are Polish and the people we are portraying this weekend are German Pennsylvanians I believe…so, that’s not really working out.
Time away from technology
It’s rather ironic that as I type this on my laptop to post on the internet while I watch Mr. H play video games, I’m excited about getting away from all of it for two days. I am constantly bombarded with emails all day long – upwards of 50 per day. It’s too much. Why can’t you just call me? OR walk down the hall and tell me to my face? I will admit that I love connecting with historical sewers and living historians on facebook and reading their blogs because it is a wealth of information. Truly having so much research/advice at our fingertips does wonders for improving your knowledge. However, the day to day realities of living in a digital world is so exhausting that at the end of the day, I just want to be outside or in a cozy room talking face to face with people who matter to me. My phone will be shut off Fri night around 8 p.m. once I text Mr. H that I have safely arrived at the site. I won’t turn it back on until I sit in my car to head home and I call Mr. H to tell him I’m leaving.
My dad is an architect. The majority of my family’s library are books about architecture, interior decorating, and home repair. My preferred lazy reading was pulling the book, A Field Guide to American Houses off the shelf and memorizing the various architectural subtleties between an Italianate and a Second Empire so when we drove around through old neighborhoods I could point out the differences. Therefore, the fact that I get to stay overnight and live in a building from the 1830s is beyond a dream. (I currently live in an old home). But this historic building is somehow different. We get to stay there and come together as a family and it’s just amazing. And besides, a solid stone house is way better than a tent in wind/rain/snow.
Two weeks ago I found out about this event. I didn’t think much of it. Suddenly over the weekend I have to make/acquire all of these items. I had put off finishing my new wool jacket/short gown because I figured I was done for the season and why rush? Well, now I am rushing. Though I won’t stress myself out over it because if I don’t have to go outside, I won’t. The lining is mostly sewed together, but it does not help that I’m taking 45 min to write this entry when I should be sewing.
I also decided over the weekend that I should finally get around to making myself some linen bags to carry my stuff in. I’m saving my money to buy a portmanteau and have a friend make some wooden boxes for me. But hey, why not sew a giant rectangle by hand in a few days because you don’t have a million other things to do – right?
Paring down the fluff
You tend to acquire a lot of stuff with this hobby. And for some events, even though it is only two days, you think, yep I need ALL of my stuff. All 10 petticoats, both jackets, a cloak (even though the forecast is 70+), and five different colored stockings (because one pair might get wet or a friend may need to borrow some). For this event, I literally only need what I can carry – literally in one to two loads – and only my warmest clothes. That’s it. And this brings me to my next point.
Realizing what you don’t have
When you acquire a lot of stuff, and then you go to the extreme (weather or immersion), you realize quickly what you don’t have. For me? Zero period correct wool blankets or coverlets, mittens, hat, scarf, wool stockings. How do I not have this stuff?! Luckily, my other friends have extras and are helping me out. Sweet.
An immersion event taken from a particular chapter of a memoir or diary requires that you read said chapter and become fairly knowledgeable about the people, places, and time period. Reading takes a bit of time to digest (take notes, memorize, reread) and I can’t very well read and sew at the same time. Grrrr. But learning new stuff is fun!
The lady in charge also gave us some things to consider:
“To get yourself in the period, research happenings in Pennsylvania in November 1777. What battles have already happened. How is the war going? Who is winning? Think about your own situation such as how long you have lived in Milltown? There is a back and forth concerning the name of the town. Some call it Milltown and others want to call it Downingsville. Think about what you would be doing during the day and be engaged in the activity. Cleaning chores, sewing in the morning, knitting in the afternoon. Visiting neighbors if you think it safe. What is your family history? How long have you lived in the colonies? Where is your family from? How many children do you have, those of us who are married? What might your future plans be? Moving west into Ohio country or Kentucky country? What about Indians? What if the British come back? Where are your foods hidden?”
Leaving for the weekend before a major holiday
I have company arriving on Wed afternoon. I will be gone all weekend. Mr. H will be tidying by his lonesome. I’ve already cleaned a fair amount last weekend (dusting, vacuuming, etc) and when I return I will just need to tidy and put away all my period clothing/stuff before everyone arrives. Being out of town can be stressful before people arrive, but I’m determined to make it work!
Only a few more days to go! I can’t wait to see what this new experience will bring. The next post will be a first person (from the viewpoint of my character) account of the weekend, with a follow-up reflection of did the event meet/exceed my expectations.