Friday, June 29, 2012

The 18thC Bug Strikes Again!

This summer, I've been volunteering at a local museum and working with their exhibits group. We just finished our newest exhibit, which focuses on the First Ladies. For the opening last night, they had a few costumed interpreters dressed like first ladies, and I was asked to be Abigail Adams! (Coincidentally my favorite first lady... :D) A lovely woman whom I know from both the museum and reenacting lent me a complete 18thC outfit, including underpinnings and a silk dress she made, and *drumroll* a cap, fichu, pearl wedding necklace, and earrings THAT WERE ALL ORIGINAL PIECES FROM THE 1770s!!!!! I was so excited I almost passed out. In this awesome ensemble, I wandered around the museum and told visitors about my famous husband and son, and my time in the White House. My family and a friend even came to see me! All in all, it was a wonderful evening.

Chilling with my pals Martha Washington and Dolley Madison
Photo Credit: John McKay at the Plymouth Canton Patch
(To see the rest of the article, go here.)

But now...

My pining after my very own 18thC outfit has grown to become unbearable. I went to the custom corset pattern generator (link!) earlier, which I've had in the back of my mind for some time now, and made myself a pattern for stays. They're a little early for Rev War, but should do the trick of squashing me flat as a board without too much trouble or the cost of another pattern. I then found a piece of fabric that was exactly the right size and weight in my stash, which was left over from making my Civil War reticule. Destiny? I think so. It's a lovely thick teal moiree, which I think will look stunning with the white binding I'm planning. I am lining the stays with the ticking fabric that I recently found in the JoAnn's remnant bin. (At about $6 for 3/4 yard, I couldn't resist. I have a longstanding love affair with ticking fabric, and no idea why.) I knew it would come in handy--it's a bit sturdier than most cottons, and I expect it to wear up decently well. I may still have to stick a layer of canvas in to thicken it up--we'll see! Now to raid my sewing stash for every inch of boning I have, and I'll be off! This will be verrrry interesting, as I've never attempted a corset or stays of any type before. I guess I have to start somewhere, and this looks easier than the Victorian corset that's also on my sewing list!

The pattern cut out on the fold.
No, the ticking stripe color does not match the teal.
No, this does not bother me.

They do not call me "She-who-starts-189-projects-at-once-and-thus-finishes-them-all-very-slowly" for nothing. (Well, if anyone did, it would be warranted anyhow...) In my defense, I'm over half done with my patriotic apron star appliques, and got a good chunk of the hemming done earlier. I still plan to have it done for Hastings, as well as my new hat! The new stays will be more of a side project, for when I'm not busy with Civil War sewing.

One last bit of news: I am currently in the middle of a giant Horatio Hornblower binge, having been introduced to it by a friend. So good! Highly recommended. I like it even better then Sharpe, though they're both great Napoleonic Wars dramas.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Appliques and Straw Wrangling

I had a lot of time to sew in the car during my recent trip, but only utilized a fraction of it. (Partially due to darkness, partially due to the overriding desire to read instead.) Still, I got a bit done on my new apron! The appliques are well underway, and the waistband together with the skirt pleated in, and ready for buttons. I'm quite happy with it so far!

So... many... stars...
(I decided to go with 11)

Thousands of tiiiiiny little stitches!

As fond as I am of my straw bonnet, I've been wanting a cute little '60s straw hat for some time. I finally found a straw hat at a consignment store and liked the weave, but it was waaaaay off shape-wise. Too tall, brim flipped up, and a little bulged out at the top--not good! So I took scissors to it, and am now pretty happy with the shape for my 1860s impression.

[Disclaimer: I have no idea what I'm doing with hats, so this very likely is the wrong way to go about such an operation.]

The original, after it had been cut and relieved
of its... colorful fabric band and floral arrangement.

I cut the top off, flipped it upside down to fix the curve, and moved it down to make the crown shorter.

In progress! [Note: it did not fit well during this stage.]

I then trimmed the excess off of the bottom and bound it. At that point it was getting close, but still misbehaving as the seam was rather... poufy. 

Mmm, not quite right.

I then hit it with a steaming iron, attempted to tack the seam to the inside of the crown to fix the issue, and voila!

Aha! I steamed it with the iron a little more
after this, and now it is nice and flat-ish.

Now, at long last, I have a nice little 1860s straw hat to keep the sun off of my face. I still have to add ties, wire it, and trim it, but hey, that's the fun part, right?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

I'm Back... From a History Trip!

I've been failing pretty hard at posting recently, but I've been extremely busy!

I just recently got back from an awesome trip out east with my family. We visited Washington DC, where I enjoyed re-visiting the Capital, LOC, Supreme Court, etc. along with the Smithsonians. (Look for a future post on famous coats!!)

The Library of Congress, where I could read forever and ever and ever.

On our way back to Michigan, we stopped at Harper's Ferry, which was awesome. The area also includes numerous battlefields, most notably Bolivar Heights, from where Stonewall Jackson captured Harper's Ferry in September of 1862. The lower town is much smaller than it was in the 1860s (what a change, right?!) but has been charmingly maintained to a mid-Victorian feel.

Entering 'Downtown'

John Brown's improvised fort, from his famous 1859 raid.

Finally, the best part: also on the way back, the family humored me by stopping for a day and a half at...


I'd been wanting to visit the battlefield for some time now, and finally the day came! It was very quiet and peaceful while we were there, especially on Friday evening. The setting sun turned everything orange, and it was gorgeous beyond words. It was very moving to be at a place where so many fought and died for their principles, and I can definitely rank it at the top of the sites I've seen. I still have to get back out to Gettysburg and Manassas and Jamestown and Williamsburg and Boston and Charleston and Savannah and a hundred other things, but another trip to Antietam will definitely happen sooner or later.

 The infamous 'Bloody Lane'

The town of Sharpsburg is still very small and very un-commercialized--it's pretty much the anti-Gettysburg. As that stood, I appreciated that they kept the area quiet and respectful instead of building it up, although that has its place too. They're starting to gear up for their 150th in September... I wish I could go, but school will prevent it :*(

Next up... progress on the patriotic apron, and some new millinery!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Apron Project, and Delayed Posts

I won't be around for the next week or so, which means that my posting has been/will be interrupted/delayed.

In the meantime, here is my new project that I am starting work on:

All cut out and ready to sew!

It's a patriotic apron to look like the 1st National Confederate flag. I'm patterning it off of an original, which I mentioned in a previous post. I have the stars all drawn on to the white linen, so they just have to be cut out and appliqued on to the blue (which is a little lighter than it looks here). I decided to box pleat it, departing from the original. I like the result better on my frame, though... it was looking a little odd before! I'm excited to have this done, and hope to sport it at Hastings in July.

Have a great week!