Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Vintage Dilemma

I grew up reading what we in my family called "the white books". They are really a set of books called "My Book House".

photo from

I had fond memories of reading them (at least volumes 1-4). Unfortunately, when my siblings and I grew up, my older brother who got married and had kids first somehow claimed them as a birthright or something and I was a little ticked off. 

Then I got married and I spied a set at an antique shop and drooled over them. They're the same cool vintage 1960s edition we had when I was a child with delightful artwork. My wonderful new husband surprised me and gave them to me for our first Christmas that year. I was so happy I finally had my own set! (Take that big brother!) ;-)

Well, fast forward nearly 8 years and I've still only read in books 1-4. Isn't that silly? I've been trying to declutter, especially our bookshelves and am trying to keep only the books I love and have finally come to the conclusion that I need to get rid of books 5-12. I'd sell them, but they're not worth much.  Then, while I was flipping through the books I came across some of the color artwork and realized, "This stuff is quite stunning!" Then I thought maybe I could cut the artwork out and frame them. I mean, seriously, I will probably never read the books and they're just sitting there.

So my dilemma is... should I destroy books 5-12 to save the lovely artwork and appreciate it or keep the set intact and donate it instead? It's a serious decision because I have learned the hard way that you don't just rush headlong into destroying a book you think you need for a "project" because chances are you might later regret it. Any opinions out there?

1942 McCalls

My husband left two weeks ago to spend 4 months overseas on a temporary job assignment, so things have been a bit crazy with ensuing drama after he left. (like insane car problems, dryer problems, computer problems, etc.) I feel like things are slowly calming down and once the kids were tucked in bed tonight, felt I could finally devote a little love to the blog.

A friend of mine has been graciously letting me borrow her 1940s McCalls women's magazines and boy have they been fun! Here are a couple images from April 1942:

I love this picture of the boys - and I got all giddy with excitement over the ration stamps in the foreground!
(Man, I am some weird kind of geek! haha!)

Hmm! Do you think some of these could still work today?

The whole family is doing "their bit" with a lot of help from Lipton Tea, apparently.

Ooooh! Anyone for a slice of Plum Nut Cake?

And I couldn't leave out the latest fashions.
These dresses are to die for!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Add a Little Trim...

Here's a peek at what I've been adding to my Regency dress. The bottom gathered/rouching (sp?) type trim was inspired by the popularity of trim on the hem of the dresses in the 1810s. Below is a fashion plate with an example.

I'm currently adding another layer of lace to the upper tuck.

I even put some more narrow gathered trim like the skirt hem on my sleeves.
Not sure if that's accurate to the period, but it looks lovely!
Once I'm finished I'll put the dress on and take a few pictures.
Here is a dress with similar trim on the bottom. (ca. 1822)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Are You Smarter Than An Eighth-Grader...?

Are you smarter than an eighth-grader... from 1912?

Most of us might think - yeah, sure. Of course. Especially if you happen to have a college degree.
Well, that's what I thought at first too.

I was talking on the phone with my mom this morning and she excitedly told me about how Bullitt County, Kentucky recently found an 8th grade exam for Bullitt County schools from 1912 and posted it on their website. You can see the exam here and test your knowledge!

So, I took a look and started skimming the Arithmetic. Uuuuhhhh.... Okay, then I moved on to grammar. I'm pretty good at English and spelling and whatnot.... Ooohkay, I couldn't even answer the first question! Moving onto Geography, I did pretty well. That's another strong suit of mine - as long as you don't ask me about modern Eastern Europe, I'm good! Physiology, not bad. Civil Government... eek! And History. I totally thought I would have that one considering my degree is in History, but NOPE! I totally bombed! Aack!

So, what I learned was that in 1912, with my current knowledge, I would not have passed 8th grade. OUCH. That's a sobering thought.

My mom brought up an interesting thought too. She said it was fascinating how the questions were phrased, and also the type of information that was considered important to remember and how that differs from today. They state on their website: "This copy of the Eighth Grade Exam for Bullitt County Schools in 1912 was donated to the museum. We thought you might like to see what the test looked like a hundred years ago. Obviously it tested some things that were more relevant at that time than now, and it should not be used to compare student knowledge then and now." 
I suppose so... but it still gives one pause. :-)

Take the exam and then check possible answers here!

Way to go to Bullitt County, Kentucky for posting such an interesting, interactive piece of their history! Thank you! You're awesome!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Sleeve Update

I have been thrilled with how easily my Regency dress went together. The drawstring look is not the most flattering on me (it poofs out at the belly from the gathers - a really bad place to poof!), but I am happy with it overall. I fixed the sleeves with a gusset-type insert and was so excited that they turned out perfectly and fit so much better! I was even able to get the dress on and off without assistance. Hooray! I'm going to be working on the hem next. I'm thinking of putting in a tuck and then try adding a gathered something at the bottom as the hem needs some weight. To do that I'll need pinking shears though.

I'm happy with how well the insert is hidden by the pattern.
I also added some of the blue velvet trim to the sleeves. I'm not sure about the look or the placement, so I may or may not keep it there. 

Also, I just found out about a free 1812 event happening east of D.C. at the Riversdale House Museum at the end of August. I think I'll take the kids and go! I don't have Regency outfits for them yet, but do you think people would notice if I put them in their 1860s clothes??? My daughter's Boone dress spans quite a few decades, but my son's outfit is definitely 1860s. I don't have any Regency boys patterns. Any suggestions?

I have also been thinking of redoing my Regency long stays. I think the main problem was that they were too long and that I need to shorten the busk. I would dearly like to take a Burnley & Trowbridge workshop on the 1810 stays... maybe next year if they offer it.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Regency Dresses on Exhibit at the MHS

I must admit that I am not a sign-reader at museum exhibits. Unless it's a topic I'm completely enthralled with, I just look at the artifacts and occasionally skim the reading. This is, at times, unfortunate because I don't get the needed information for pictures I take. I remember looking around for a sign about these dresses, but don't remember seeing much. The first two dresses were in the War of 1812 exhibit, so I'm pretty sure they are from that time period, though I don't know who they belonged to. The last two dresses were from an exhibit on Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, who I believe married Napoleon's brother and was divided between life in Europe and her life in Baltimore.

I'll be putting a selection of photos here, but I put them all up on Flikr - I'm still new to that photo venue, so I hope the link works. Click here to see all the photos.

A lovely printed dress with a ruffle along the bust, high neckline, and long sleeves with a drawstring ruffle sleeve.
The fabric appeared to be a light cotton.

Gorgeous border print!

The back

I took a peek underneath the bodice and look what I found!
It looks like the bodice is gathered as a completely separate piece. I wonder if a different bodice cut is underneath for warmer weather.

A lovely pink and cream striped ballgown.
It might be a silk satin?
Yes, that's The White House burning in the background.

Look at the lace and that woven design!
the back train

Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte gown:

This gown, I believe, is the early 1800s with the train and simple white fabric.
The only detail is on the sleeves.

Gorgeous shawl! I was drooling over this one. The color is just incredible!

Love the sleeve detail.

Simple drawstring back
 Some beautiful Regency paintings:

I love this one of Elizabeth Bonaparte

Stitching History

“Mary Pickersgill Making the Flag.” Oil on canvas by R. McGill Mackall, MdHS, 1976.80.61
Maryland Historical Society

Saturday my family and I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Star Spangled Banner Project at the Maryland Historical Society (MHS) in Baltimore, Maryland. Maryland has the distinct honor of being home to the original Star Spangled Banner flown at Ft. McHenry during the War of 1812 and of being home to Francis Scott Key who penned our National Anthem. In honor of the Flag's upcoming 200th anniversary, the MHS started the Star Spangled Banner Project where they decided to make a reproduction of the original flag that inspired Key to write our anthem. Not only that, but they wanted to complete the replica in the same amount of time it was orginially created by Mary Pickersgill - hand-sewn in 6 weeks! Then, on Defenders Day in September they will be flying the reproduction flag at Ft. McHenry!

To make the flag, MHS used reproduction wool bunting woven by heritage weavers and scores of volunteer master sewers have been busily sewing the flag. The most exciting part is that they had two public sewing days where you could sign up to come and add in your own stitches, which is what we went to participate in yesterday. It was wonderful to see the gigantic pieces of completed flag and to see my 3 and 6 year old kids add in their own stitches (as well as myself and my husband). And to know we will be able to go and see the flag flying with our stitches in it is just so thrilling! It was a once in a lifetime opportunity that we just couldn't pass up!

An interesting thing is that the stars and each stripe are 2 feet tall - which gives you an idea of how big this thing is going to be. The wool bunting was very light and surprisingly cool to the touch. I can't wait to see it waving! (I hope we have good, windy weather!)

The completed parts of the flag laid out on multiple tables. The stars are in the back.

Our son putting in his stitches!

There were a number of sewing stations with volunteers to help and guide you.

After putting in our stitches, we went out into the hall where they had different tables of a few period craft vendors. I got to speak with a very nice woman in Regency clothing who was there with her daughter, also in costume. She works as a chief costumer for a Baltimore arts high school, does costuming for various theatre companies, and volunteers at both Ft. McHenry and the MHS. We had a delightful talk about Regency clothing, where she got her awesome straw bonnet (, what she does for shoes, as most Regency shoes are not very practical!

It was so refreshing and helpful to talk to her as I like doing research, but discussing things with an experienced living, breathing person is so much more fulfilling sometimes!

By the way, I took oodles of pictures of the Regency gowns on exhibit at the MHS which I will put in a separate post. I made some interesting discoveries!