Saturday, November 24, 2012

Accidental Remembrance

Last Saturday I was able to take a trip up to Gettysburg on my own - as in all by myself! I wanted to have a leisurely stroll around Gettysburg, endless wandering through the fabric shops, and to have a nice quiet lunch.

Well, when I drove into town there were Civil War reenactors everywhere! I really had no idea why, but the town was swarming with them. I got to the fabric shop (Needle & Thread) and I finally asked a costumed reenactor what the event was. It turns out that the third weekend in November is Remembrance Day! It was the 149th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address! I felt so stupid. And then I felt panic, because they were going to block off the main street for the parade and how was I going to get back home? The woman suggested I stay for the parade. I called my husband to let him know of my predicament, and he encouraged me to stay and enjoy myself, so I took their advice, found a parking spot in town, and walked around.

I had lunch at the Farnsworth House (delicious!), went to the Abraham's Lady shop and then watched the parade. I was amused to see not just one, but two Abraham Lincolns in the parade, one looking more true-to-life than the other. I was also standing near a group of elderly Confederate reenactors who tipped their hats to all the ladies in the parade, stood at attention for every flag (Union and regimental), and shouted hello to "Mr. Lincoln". It was quite amusing! It was also quite cold, so I was glad to eventually get back to my car, and head back to the fabric shop to look around some more.

I felt pretty silly not remembering Remembrance Day, but felt even worse when the next day a friend of mine told me that Steven Spielberg had been there to give the keynote speech in honor of his new movie "Lincoln"! Dang it!

Ah well. Next year is the big 150th anyway. I'll have to make it up for that and bring my family. Watching a parade by yourself is pretty lonely. So much for my alone time!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Corset Update

I had to trim the top of the corset as it was too tall on top and put in new gussets as the old ones were too small. (That's 12 gussets to redo- yuck!) It fits much better now.

If I wasn't an expert in gussets after the last attempt, I certainly am now! Sheesh!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Timeline of a Floor

We bought our first house back in May of this year - a ca. 1900 farm house perched on a rocky ridge overlooking railroad tracks surrounded by woods on a little under an acre. Slowly, we have been peeling back the layers of this little house to reveal its roots. It was hard to imagine it was built in 1900 with the '80s turquoise carpet, the wood paneled walls and paneled ceilings.

Even before we moved in the carpet in the living room went ASAP only to reveal some vintage 1950s (approx.) linoleum tiles. Not bad. They were better than the nasty carpet. Well, the cold weather started warping the tiles and they were popping off. I'd always wondered if the original wood floor of the house was intact beneath the carpet, tiles, and sub-flooring. So, I ripped off a chunk of the sub-flooring to reveal - the original floorboards!

In a spur of the moment project-minded frenzy my husband took off a large piece of the sub-flooring. What he discovered was pretty awesome. A 1930s linoleum "carpet" was covering the original wood flooring. How awesome is that?! And now, the entire timeline of our house's floor is exposed (minus the nasty carpet I unceremoniously ripped out and deposited unfeelingly on our front porch.)

Have you ever noticed that different feeling you get when you walk into an historical home or old school house? Your footsteps echo on the floorboards with a satisfying "plunk plunk" and your nostrils fill with that dusty, woody, smoky smell. You take a deep breath and you know you're smelling history? That's exactly what it feels like for me on that small square of exposed original floor boards. Just that small spot of floor changes the entire feel of the house. Like the true soul of the house is finally there for everyone to see. It's amazing the relief it gives me. I knew it was there, waiting to be discovered.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

And It Begins!

My interface fabric pattern for the chemise

I'm finally on my way to making my Regency underpinnings. I'm going to try and do one project a month. November will be the chemise - the garment that goes under the stays. It's a pretty simple pattern and very similar to my 1860s one, except that the Regency one has sleeves. My only dilemma is whether to use cotton or linen. I've always used cotton because it's inexpensive, but I do have some linen I bought especially for underpinnings (a lovely linen/cotton blend!) and I just think the feel would be really nice; even luxurious. Doesn't that sound funny? Linen was so common back then and now - it doesn't get that much notice. Personally I love linen, so I'm kind of leaning toward it...

I've already printed out the pattern (it was a download), taped it all together, cut them out, and copied them onto an interface lining-type fabric so that it will be more sturdy. Now, I just have to cut out the fabric! Yay!

And since this pattern is so simple, I may be lucky enough to start my short stays this month too. I might need another trip to Gettysburg for some boning (oh darn!) unless I get ambitious and do quilting on it instead. I'd like to try another technique to expand my skills and quilting is cheaper... And it's not like I need the "extra" support or anything. Ha!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Stitch A Day

Dolly Madison saving the painting of Washington before the British came to burn down the White House!
I just watched a documentary on Dolly Madison and she is my new favorite historical heroine!
Not to mention she lived during the Regency (Federal for Americans) period!

I'm not very good when it comes to patience in a project. But some things like hand quilting a queen-size quilt force me into that patience and I just have to take it one day at a time.

As I've slowly ventured into making Regency costume, I've realized that I need to take the same approach. See, I have almost 10 years of Civil War reenacting under my belt, albeit it's been about 7 years since I've done any reenacting. Still, I have all the clothes already. If I want to make another dress I already have the patterns and know-how to put it all together. Starting in a different time period (60 years earlier than the Civil War) is literally starting over. The undergarments were different, the cut of bodice, shoes, and how hair was worn is all different. It's pretty overwhelming! It's not something I can just jump into.

I've been following this lovely blog by a fellow mom/blogger/sewer of historical clothing also named Sarah over at Romantic History. She doesn't know it, but she's been such an inspiration to me! She's embarked on a goal of sewing one Regency clothing garment every month. For October she just finished a wool Spencer jacket. When I discovered her goal, I was so excited! Taking it one month at a time is something I can do. Breaking it up into manageable bits makes the task of building a whole new historical wardrobe not quite as overwhelming.

So! For the next few months I'm going to be focusing on the undergarments. I will also be making another corset - some short stays this time - that should prove fitting dresses while wearing it to be much easier than the long corset. I have this lovely cream and tan striped linen that will be the outside layer of the short stays that I picked up as a remnant at the fabric store. Hooray!

Then, once the undergarments are complete I will make one dress, and then focus like the dickens on getting some 1860s clothing made for my family in anticipation of the 150th anniversary of Gettysburg. It has been a goal of mine to go ever since I went as a 16 year old to the 135th anniversary event and even though I don't reenact anymore, I would always regret it if we didn't go - in costume!

Saturday, November 3, 2012


I finally did it! Today I finally joined ALHFAM. What is ALHFAM, you ask? Well from their own website it states: The Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums serves those involved in living historical farms, agricultural museums and outdoor museums of history and folklife. 

Back in 2007 my husband and I were going to school and I was expecting our first child. The semester that he was due, I did an online class, my History capstone course (research + a huge paper), and an independent reading study. I worked with one of my history professors, Jay Anderson - a long-time living history guru (who is also considered the "father of living history") and is author of Time Machine: The World of Living History. I chose the books I wanted to read (including his of course) and he approved them along with suggesting I read Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz. (An excellent read!) He also suggested -more like ordered- that I join ALHFAM. Of course I wanted to, but the membership fee, however modest, was a bit much for us as college students with a baby on the way. So, I never did and he never knew. Mwahahahaha!

Of course, I always regretted it. ALHFAM is the go-to organization if you have anything at all to do with living history. I have years of working in living history under my belt, so it was really natural that I should join. Also, since moving out to Maryland I've felt a little out of touch with living history stuff. In Indiana, where I'm from, I knew where everything was and actively participated in what was near me. Out here, it's amazing how difficult it has been to find living history reenactors, museums, anything. It's so ridiculous! Anyway, visiting ALHFAM's website made it easier to find those places and it turns out there is a living history museum (at least they have some volunteer costumed interpreters) only 1/2 an hour away. Yippee! There are a lot of museums out here, I just don't happen to be lucky enough to live close to many of the super cool living history ones.

Anyway, I hope Dr. Anderson will be proud of me that I finally joined after all this time. I feel connected to the history community once again! And for a historian, that feels awesome.

Also, in my quest to be more connected I called the local county historical society to see about volunteering. I love calling historical places and telling them I want to volunteer. They get so giddy, especially when they hear about my experience. heehee! I don't say that to brag, but it's because I totally understand where they're coming from. Volunteers are their lifeblood. Running a museum is not easy, especially in a down economy. So, when they get someone wanting to volunteer with tons of history/museum related skills they nearly faint, they feel so lucky! Even though I'm a stay-at-home-mom, I want to be able to use my skills, use my degree, and if I can't do that in an actual paid job, then I am more than happy to donate my skills to a worthy historical cause, because I know how tough it is in the museum world. And I won't lie. I love the feeling that my lifetime-worth of history/museum skills are so valued to someone! Also, while in some career fields, volunteering doesn't look that impressive; but in my field, it looks awesome. I'm able to keep my resume up to scratch by volunteering just in case I need to go out and look for a job some day. So, really, it's mutually beneficial.

If you're lucky enough to live close to a museum, historical house, or historical society, I suggest you volunteer some time! I know that museums everywhere adore their volunteers, and not only that but you get to surround yourself with history and have a lot of fun with other history-loving people!