Wednesday, January 16, 2013

DIY History

I love the name of this very cool project my step-mom told me about - DIY History. It's a project out of the University of Iowa transcribing cookbooks, diaries, and letters. Anyone can participate. You don't have to have a history degree or be affiliated with the university either. It's a fun and easy way to be involved with history even if you don't have a lot of time and especially if you're at home a lot like me or have a lot of free time with access to the internet. Give it a try! They still need lots of help!

Another way to be involved with history is another very important project - indexing. Indexing is where thousands of volunteers transcribe documents such as census records, immigration records, military records, etc. to be free and searchable online. Documents like these are especially used by those doing genealogy research about their ancestors. Making them available online makes it a whole lot easier for those doing the searching and you can help! I just found out that they now have an indexing app for your mobile device!

Being involved in projects like these and doing my own genealogy research helps me feel like I'm keeping a finger on the pulse of the history community even if I can't volunteer or work in museums right now. Being at home with my kids is really important at this point in our lives, but that doesn't mean I can't help volunteer in my beloved history community!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Treasures! and From the Archives: "The Common Cause"

Here's the link for this video.

A friend of mine told me of this amazing bookstore that I would love to visit in the next big town over from us. So, on Saturday I went to check it out. Her recommendation was right on - it was used/antique book heaven! I spent a happy half hour or more wandering the aisles full of that lovely dusty old book smell and also spending a great deal of time in the awesome World Wars section. (of course!)

I was thrilled to find a few treasures! One is called Our Mother's War: American Women at Home and at the Front During World War II. This is right up my alley! It's about a true story of a woman who discovers journals and letters of her mother's who served in the Red Cross in the Pacific during WWII and from there the journalist author (Emily Yellin) goes on a journey to find what life was like for the women of her mother's generation.

My next two treasures no doubt sound very dry - a pamphlet called "The Common Cause - Britain's Part in the Great War" and the Sahara-worthy dry Handbook of Federal World War Agencies and Their Records 1917-1921 from the National Archives. Don't they sound thrilling?! Actually both of them had me feeling clammy like all books do from WWI or II that have to do with the British or American home fronts. haha!

From their titles, they aren't obviously home front material, but buried halfway into the British pamphlet it starts talking about food production (yay!), women's war work with a few examples of their uniforms, how the boys and girls were helping, and how the whole family is doing "their bit".
It also had this little gem of a picture:
I just love the humongous loaf of bread!
The uber-dry Handbook from the National Archives is actually, I feel, one of the most valuable things that I found (for $5 no less!). The reason is because the book is a list of nearly all the government agencies that were operational during WWI along with a description of their function. Finding a comprehensive list like this is nearly impossible from my experience and now I actually own a copy! I was most especially thrilled to find the section on the Food Administration and all that it was responsible for. This type of information is surprisingly elusive! And then the icing on the cake was to find that the book was published in 1943 and the Foreword that explains that the purpose of this Handbook was actually to use as research for the current war (WWII) in how things were done in the previous war. This is huge for me, because I've been doing research into that very topic and haven't been able to find anything that comes right out and says that until now. Hooray!! What a find!

Finally, on the back of the pamphlet is a list of a whole bunch of other WWI documents including "The Woman's Part" by L. K. Yates and "Women of the War" by Hon. Mrs. Francis MacLaren. I actually found "The Woman's Part" online through for free and through for free on the kindle. I also found that amazing war video above narrated by First Lady Roosevelt. How cool that these things are available online!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Colonial Projects

I posted this in my homesteading blog, but I thought I'd post it here as well.

We homeschool, and right now my son and I are doing a unit on the American Colonists. We started reading about the Jamestown settlement and now we're reading about the Mayflower. As a historian, I am very careful about what we read when it comes to history. History is a tricky thing because primary sources are often very biased, and reading secondary sources can be even worse! It is very difficult to find neutral accounts of history, so sometimes it proves to be rather difficult to find just the right books to read. (Don't even get me started on Christopher Columbus!) For now we're using Mayflower 1620: A New Look at a Pilgrim Voyage done by the Plymouth Plantation. We will also be taking a look at 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving also done by the Plymouth Plantation. Their books look very impressive, with photos of reenactments of the events, and I love that they really seek to bring an equal point of view from the Wampanoag people.

Anyway, I also found some fun books on Colonial crafts. I was surprised with how many I found! Our first project was knotting a fishing net, because fish was a very important part of their diet. My son is still learning how to tie knots, so I helped him a lot, but it turned out really well, I think!

The cool thing about this project is that it could be applied in so many ways - for the fishing for food aspect, a religious context with Jesus and the apostles who were fishermen, for studying jobs or industries, etc. It was actually pretty simple to make too! We found the project in Projects About Colonial Life by Marian Broida in the Hands-On History series. I think some of the other crafts in there are a little pointless, but I'm picky when it comes to crafts, so that's really just me. Check it out!

A New Little Sewing Corner

I finally sat down last night with a needle and thread to continue work on my Regency chemise. I've decided that it will be my project for the Challenge #1 (a project ending in the year __13) for The Dreamstress' Historical Fortnightly Sew. I have been looking for opportunities to improve my hand sewing, so this will be a perfect project. My hand sewing leaves much to be desired, but at least I'm improving in being able to sew a straight line! I really need to learn some new stitches and historical sewing vocab too.

Also, I ordered something very exciting! Or rather somethings. I went on ebay and found a few original 1940s dress patterns and got them! I have 3 total, I think, maybe 4 and I got a little girls pattern too so I can try my hand at a few dresses for my daughter. I absolutely adore WWII era (it was my first history love), especially the fashion. One of the patterns is in my size, the rest I'll need to adjust. That will be a fun experiment! I'll get some pictures of the patterns up soon. My biggest worry is finding period fabrics and prints, etc. I haven't studied the fabrics of the time too closely, so that will be another project.

So, I went to the thrift store in town yesterday and I found an intriguing large bundle of white fabric for $4. It looked like cotton, so I got it. When I got home, I unraveled it and I had scored 10.5 yards of 36" muslin!!! Oh yeah! I couldn't believe it. What a find for $4! I'm pretty thrilled about that. :-)

On another topic, we've been in a fit of rearranging the house lately. We only bought our house and moved in last May so rearranging is bound to happen as you settle in. One interesting development was that we cleaned out the  upstairs closet for my sewing things and the little nook between the closet and the bathroom is where my sewing desk is now! There's a large window right there overlooking the woods, so it's a pretty view, but that is going to be very interesting sewing in a little corner. I hope I don't get too claustrophobic.

You can see the gate where we keep out our daughter. She is notorious for being extra, extra curious in the bathroom. We have to keep tabs on her! The closet on the right is where my sewing things will go, but before we can do that we need to do some plaster repair work. *sigh* That's what comes with an older house!

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Historical Sewing Challenge

Happy New Year! Sorry for the long silence. Holidays will do that to ya!

I heard about this interesting challenge called "The Historical Sew Fortnightly" over at The Dreamstress. Every two weeks there is a different themed challenge regarding sewing a historical item of clothing, accessory, etc. Challenge #0 started two weeks before the end of the year. The theme was "Starting Simply" and to just do a simple project. I was a bit late and posted my project yesterday.

Here it is! It's supposed to be a round, corded reticule.
It was an experiment, which is my way of justifying why it didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped.

Pretty fabric!
What is it?: It's a corded round reticule for the Regency period. 
The Challenge: Starting Simple. 
Fabric: An embroidered cotton/poly blend outer, gold silk lining (remember my gold corset? Same silk!), gold generic tassel, and floral embroidered cream-colored ribbon. 
Pattern: I totally winged it on this one. Sketchy measuring at best and fudging when it didn't work out. 
Year: Made to be used for Regency-era things.
How historically accurate is it? Umm... Well, the only one I've seen was the one that I saw in the Jennifer Ehle/Colin Firth "Pride & Prejudice" movie. Lydia is carrying a round corded reticule when she's leaving (or arriving?) Longbourn with her new husband, Wickham. I thought it was a fascinating reticule and wanted to try and make one. I haven't found any pictures of historical ones exactly like this, so it was really just an experiment.
Hours to complete: 3 hours
First worn: Haven't used it yet!
Total cost: about $12. The outer fabric was normally $30/yard, but I got this scrap out of the remnant bin 1/2 off so it only cost me about $8. Bonus! Then I bought ribbon and the tassel. Already had the silk.

Challenge #1 is supposed to be a garment dating from a __13 date be it 1613, 1813 or 1913. I have no clue what I'm going to do and I haven't even started. I better find something quick! I'd really like to make a bonnet, but I suppose I could just get started on a dress that I already have the pattern for.