Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving Trip

My husband and I had a chance to travel to my small hometown in northwest New Mexico this holiday weekend.

We drove through snow and slush in northern Arizona, experienced cold, howling winds, got a small bit of shopping done (Yea! for a large cutting mat at 50% off!), walked through the local musuem, enjoyed yummy cherry shakes from Blake's Lota-Burger and generally had a grand time.

I was so grateful of the time for this vacation as I haven't been "home" for a holiday in three years.

In the museum I found school photos of my grandfather and great aunt. Fabulous! It's kinda cool when you have such family history and connections with a community. I found out that my great-grandfather was mayor in 1946-48! I had no idea.

As was mentioned in the November eZine article, photos are a great primary source to study fashions and hairstyles from the past. The above photographs are such snapshots in time.

I hope all who celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday had a good day. We all have many things to be thankful for.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Jane Austen Festivals

I always crash/take time off from my sewing room whenever I finish a big project. Well, I recently finished two (the 1830s green silk Wives & Daughters Picnic dress and my new 1862 Widow's dress).

But now that it's been a couple weeks from the Moorpark event, my mind has been going again on projects I'd like to do. Despite my love of 1870s bustle fashions, I have more Regency costumes in my closet.

So in updating the Resources page with numerous online merchants and research sites, I ran across this blog on a Jane Austen Festival - in Australia. For those of you down there, if you attend next April - PLEASE send updates and pictures!

I would so love to attend myself. However, I think my first large scale Jane Austen Festival will be in Bath, UK.

...Then again, my brain has been tossing around a few ideas to implement on this side of the world in California.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Widow's Weeds - Bonnet & Veil

I was just so pleased with the bonnet project! My friend Bridget led me to Just Two Tailors for straw forms and told me to spray paint the form black before trimming out.

I love the shape of their high brim bonnet and how it sits around my small head (as opposed to the styrofoam head).

However, after painting, my sewing needle and then later hat pin would flake off the paint. When all the sewing was finished I had to go back and touch up those parts of natural straw that were showing through. Perhaps I should have used a primer first.

I lined the inside with chiffon (really important so your hair doesn't get caught in the straw) and added the silk curtain. Then I made up two rows of folded silk taffeta that was 1/2" pleated and tacked along the inside edge of the brim. I might go back and add a ribbon or silk rose/flower to the center inside brim when I decide to "progress" into 2nd mourning.

The embroidered veil was also a recent find on eBay (gotta love that site). In October there were quite a few black veils up for auction. I snagged this narrow one. You should have seen the rinse water in the sink! Yuck. But at least it cleaned up well and most of the smell is gone. I used a drop of Woolite to wash it.

Soon I headed to Acme Notions and ordered their 5" black ball hat pins. While there, I found 3" pins that worked perfectly in attaching the veil to the bonnet.

I do believe the solid black bonnet and veil stamp this as a deep mourning widow's costume. I will definitely be wearing it again at future events.

Widow's Weeds - The Undersleeves

Because I wanted to introduce Mrs Minton as a new (3 mo. old) widow, I wanted the correct first-year mourning black undersleeves.

I used the dress coat sleeve pattern and made adjustments as given in the Undersleeve mini-report to create appropriate undersleeves.

The upper portion and narrow cuff is black sateen (again, from my stash) with silk chiffon for the lower part. Can I just say how I hate sewing with silk chiffon?! Probably one reason I'm known as the Cotton Girl as cottons stay put - silk chiffon likes to go explore every centimeter of my table and machine.

For the Moorpark event I was lazy and just safety pinned them to the bodice. I will go back and add tie ribbons.

I like undersleeves as 1) they are ever so appropriate for this era and 2) they just look fabulous rolled up and over with the dress sleeves when you are working and washing dishes.

Widow's Weeds - The Dress

The day after I thought up my new widow character I got busy searching for fabrics and accessories and studying as many CDVs and existing mourning wear I could find in a short amount of time. It was a very quick two weeks to get everything designed, lined up, ordered, purchased, shipped and collected. Many thanks go to my friend Bridget for her fabulous links to online vendors.

My new character, Mrs Minton, is of the lower working class (owns a small apple farm), so I was definitely not making the dress in silk. To keep cool in the hot California weather, I decided on a sheer dress fabric with a black cut-down bodice lining and petticoat in linen so the whole dress would pull very black.

After the black sheer striped fabric I ordered from Kay Gnagey failed to appear in her store, she quickly refunded my order where I took the funds over to Beverly's Fabrics and bought the last 8 yards of black striped sheer. It was just enough for I put four panels into the skirt.

The petticoat linen was ordered from, took 10 days to arrive, then showed up as a charcoal gray black not black black. I have an embroidered black linen dress in my closet I made a few years ago that is black black. That's what I expected. I was so disappointed.

So back to Beverly's for 1 yard solid black cotton for the bodice lining. I resolved myself to use the linen for the petticoat as my character has been in mourning before (for children) and the linen has "faded" over time.

For the design, because I was using cotton and making this dress quickly, I pulled out my well-fitted pattern used for my green sheer dress. But instead of gathered sleeves, I used the coat sleeve from Simplicity 4551 . I took my fitted lining and cut down the neckline a bit more mimicking the CDVs I found.

Both of the above photos are of mourning wear - black collars indicate this. Both dresses are of sheer fabric with a cut-down lining you can see.

My four-paneled skirt was fully cartridge pleated to twill tape that was then tacked inside the bodice waistband. The 5" deep hem is finished with 1/2" bias tape to help with wear.

I made a plain belt in silk taffeta and made a buckle from a metal finding found on eBay. Belts were SO popular in the 1860s and you don't see too many of them at events. I love the belt.

As seen in many period photographs, I found a bit of 3" flat lace in my stash and darted it up to fit the neckline of the finished dress. I finished it with bias tape and tacked it inside the bodice. My brooch was another lucky find on eBay. It looks like jet but is really plastic, possibly from the mid-20th Century.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Widow Project - Introducing Mrs Minton

On the way home from the Wives & Daughters Picnic in September, the Gemini in me decided to create a new character for Civil War events. I'm normally Mrs Rosbrugh from Maryland who's from a well-to-do upper middle class family with her husband off to fight for the North.

Lily, who manages members with our group, wants to see us expand into more class portrayals with a distinct separation of those with and without money. As we develop our first person impressions, the clothes we wear, how we talk and interact, and even personal possessions reflect those characters who would have lived in the early 1860s.

So as a complete change from the monied Mrs Rosbrugh, I created Mrs Minton - a woman who's recently had her oldest son run off to find his father in the military, her youngest daughter die, then hearing word that her husband died a few days after a bloody battle. She is Southern, being born and raised near the town in North Carolina.

Mrs Minton owns but a small apple orchard just outside of town and Oak Street. Without help to keep her field and any income, she approaches Mrs Cressman at the Johnson Oak Inn to become a parlor maid, working for food and possibly a bit of money.

I wanted to really make a contrast between my two characters. Mrs Minton debuted last Sunday at the Moorpark Reenactment. It will take another appearance or two for the rest of the town to get to know her and to become familiar with my new impression as we develop new scenarios and interactions.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Pictures from Sara's Birthday Vegas Trip

Relaxing in the Jacuzzi at South Point (technically on the Strip but about 2-3 miles South of it) where we stayed for our first night.
The accommodations were very nice and new, but the customer service kind of stunk.
If you are there at a meal time, their Buffet was amazing (and so was their pool and jacuzzi)!

The next two nights, we lived it up at the MGM Grand - the Lion Habitat was so cool.

This moving and talking tree was inside the lobby of the Bellagio as part of their Fall decorations. The decorations were so beautiful - definitely a must see.

My very special dinner and "birthday cake" (Bananas Foster) at the Rain Forest Cafe.

Me and my hunny after the Cirque du Soleil show Mystere.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Moorpark Encampment

Thanks to all who came by Oak Street to say hi. Quite a number of you visited!

Saturday was fabulous weather that brought bright sunshine, constant battle maneuvers, an opportunity for a REAL tintype photograph (with my husband's unit the 2nd Vermont Volunteers), a blazing fire sunset, lively dancing and terrific conversation.

Sunday morning blew in with a vengeance with strong, cold gusts threatening to make our flys into sails. We could have floated to Death Valley if we had wanted to! And the dirt that came with it - yikes! I'm still finding black dirt in my skin crevices.

Apparently our camp on the main pedestrian road became the wind blocker to the entire encampment. Walk 200 yards and you were in the warm sun with only the slightest breeze.

Here is a video taken by Jessi Selleh for the Ventura County Star.

Much of the video shows our Oak Street and activities. You can hear the wind whistling in the background.

If you catch me dressed in all black, stay tuned for a post of my new secret project that I debuted on Sunday of the event.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Moorpark Reenactment this weekend

Hi all!

Sorry for the late post, but I wanted to let those of you in the So. California area that the largest Civil War reenactment in California is this weekend (Nov. 8 and 9) in Moorpark (Ventura Co.).

My civilian group, Historical Citizens Assoc., will be there with a full set up. Our members portray residents and business workers on Oak Street (in the walnut grove to be specific).

If you are in the area, or just want a day trip to the 1860s, please come out. And if you do, please come find me around the Johnson Oak Inn. I would love to meet you!

aka Mrs. Rosbrugh or Elizabeth while at camp

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Where have all the pockets gone?

I'm usually the only one at my work to get dressed up for Halloween. Since I work for a small business, the owners don't mind my "unusual" clothes as long as my work isn't hindered by them. (In the summers I'll sometimes wear my 1920s dresses and hats.)

So for this Halloween I decided to wear a Civil War dress but with only my corded petticoat for support as my office is quite small. (Please remember to wear proper drawers with your corded petticoat so your legs are not irritated by the cording. :-)

Well, wouldn't you know it? As I was getting dressed on Friday morning I realized my smallish, black modern purse just didn't go with my lovely 1863 navy dress. And for some reason, with each new Civil War skirt I make I seem to completely forget about adding one or more pockets in the seams. I don't even make a oh-so-period watch pocket. Argh...

Will I ever learn that pockets in 1860s skirts are invaluable to carry modern necessities? Help! Anyone have any ideas on how I can memorize this important construction step?