31 August, 2011

Screwed! ... sort of.

Remember yesterday's post, about those scroll frames at A.C. Moore that could pass for period?

Well ... maybe not.

It looks like my initial thoughts about them not having screws were wrong. They do in fact have screws. And wing nuts. Those are definitely not 18thc. I still bought it, because what the heck, right? I am not going down without a fight!

I may be able to get them to work without the screws. I'm going to test a thought I had while thinking about them grocery shopping (usually, all of my best thinking is done in the shower). I think, if I can tie the dowels together in a tight X shape, they could work.

Is that 18thc.? I don't know. Before I do that, my next move is to try and find 18thc. drawings/engravings/paintings of people with a slate frame and see how the dowels were held together; my research yesterday said that one of the books on my library list, 18th Century Embroidery Techniques by Gail Marsh, has engravings of women working at slate frames. I also may find that if I can hold them together with something else--not necessarily a screw, or a tie, but maybe another dowel?--that could pass for period. I can't just try and hide the screws, as I'm going to need to get to the back of the embroidery, and lifting it up would expose the wing nuts.

This is an unexpected but welcome challenge. I may not know a lot about slate frames and embroidery now, but I'll know a little more when I'm finished. And that is really, really cool, and a big bonus to being a serious reenactor. I believe that learning never stops, it should never stop, and why not learn at least a little bit about something new?

Ready? Set? Go!

30 August, 2011

Modern things for the 18thc.

So, after I posted yesterday about my new pocket kit, I read the included instructions, and my heart sank a wee bit. To be able to sew this in a period correct manner (i.e. while in my kit at the historic crafts day), I would need a slate frame. Otherwise, doing it at home on a round hoop is acceptable. Well, I have round hoops (I bought them as a cheap screen-printing method and never used them for that purpose), but what the heck is a slate frame?!

The short answer is it's a type of frame for holding the fabric with tight tension so that the work is done cleanly and precisely. From my quick Google search, it's a fairly advanced and serious method of embroidery (check out the crazy threads!). I am no advanced needleworker, so it seems a bit hardcore for me to order an expensive slate frame for a little pocket. Realistically, how many pockets will I be making? I don't think more than a couple. They're rather expensive, too, and I can't justify the costs (plus shipping) to get one for a single pocket. Then, I had a thought:

What about a modern equivalent that would pass for period?

It makes sense. We modern people do have to use modern accoutrements occasionally in our reenacting, and sometimes we are surprised that a modern thing could pass for 18thc. It doesn't even have to come from a specialty sutler. So, I set out on a quick search before nixing the pocket embroidery anywhere but at home.

If you looked at the link above, it's actually a scroll frame dressed like a slate frame. Hmm, okay. So, I looked for scroll frames at the commercial arts & crafts stores, and hit the motherload on A.C. Moore's site. Most are definitely out of the question, as they include lights and big honkin' screws. But there were a few that caught my eye, and as far as I could tell from the photos there were no screws, and no sewing or tacking down to the frame (which may make it not-period, but we'll see). The scroll frame I looked at is here, and I'll post the photo below.

The dowels have slits in them to keep the fabric taut. I'll have to measure my working space on the pocket to see if 4"x8" is enough, but they also have other sizes if it's bigger.

So, my embroidery-inclined readers, could this pass for period? Or am I doomed to just embroider this pocket at home?

29 August, 2011

Wm. Booth delivers!!

Finally, after waiting what seemed like an eternity (it was 9 days), my bag of goodies from Wm. Booth, Draper arrived in the mail today. Like a kid in a candy store, I ripped into the yellow package to reveal my spoils ...

One pocket kit by my friends Hallie and Sam Larkin
(Sam illustrated these kits from extant examples),
remnant burgundy ribbon for garters & a cap,
silk thread, and 1/2 inch ribbon for my straw hat.

I'm saving the pocket kit for the Minute Man National Historical Park's open house and historic craft day, but I just had to open it up and see all the goodies inside.

The colors are way off, the threads are beautiful!

Methinks I need to find an appropriate basket to carry this all in! Any recommendations, dear readers?

28 August, 2011

What's Under Things? Hidden Colonial Clothing, Part II

As Tropical Storm Irene rages on (our power has flickered and gone out twice, but thankfully came back on!), now is the perfect time to showcase the crème de la crème of What's Under Things? I hope my readers along the eastern seaboard are safe and dry!

27 August, 2011

What's Under Things? Hidden Colonial Clothing, Part I

My apologies, dear readers, for my absence! The procedure on Wednesday went smoothly, and I slept quite a bit. I had to stay off of my feet and when reclining, sleep just happened to come quite easily. Since I had a couple of days off, I'm going to change up the format just a little bit and instead of fly-by posts, talk to you about the exhibit I worked on and am so proud of! Part I begins beneath the jump.

24 August, 2011

A little teaser

I've been meaning to write up a blog post on What's Under Things? but the editing of the photos took much longer then I thought it would--it is quite difficult to photograph in a dark museum when you can't take off the plexiglass bonnets or have lights set up! It was also a reminder to not trust what's looking back at you on your LCD screen, I didn't realize just how dark the photos came out! It's a good thing I shot in RAW and use Adobe Lightroom.

By the time this is posted to the masses on Twitter and Facebook I'll be having a minor surgery, so I plan on working on the big post about it when I get home, to post tomorrow. I haven't shaped the blank straw/chip hat yet, either, so that's another thing on my list to do! But, this weekend is all about the printed cotton gown, which is exciting, and I'll be debuting it earlier then I thought, huzzah!

Enjoy these lovely 18th century shoes Pilgrim Hall has in its collection:

This photograph is mine. Please do not take it or use it without permission.

23 August, 2011

How did this get started?

Since I'm a really connected social media maven, I set up a feed to have my blog posts automatically publish from Blogger to Facebook and Twitter (you can follow me on Twitter @kbpowers, I had to lock it down though as I'm beginning a new job search). A friend and follower on Twitter commented on my blog name; because of a trip to the RISD Museum together, I decided to take the plunge and create this blog. Here's his tweet:

How did this come about? Well, I happened to date a painting based solely on the gown the sitter was wearing in the museum's attached historic house. This blew my dear friend's mind! We went around the entire house, looking for 18th century paintings for me to date (and for the record, he's an art historian that says his program never went over this stuff!). Some I got right, others I got wrong, but it was a good experience and training for my 18th century eye.

So, really, I owe this blog all to my dear Anulfo. Sitting on the train in Providence, waiting to go back to Boston, I decided that I would take the plunge. Haven't regretted it yet!

22 August, 2011

Some links for your enjoyment

It may be August, but it's never too early to think about capes in New England: http://bit.ly/ooHu0n

Why yes, you can place that elaborate, ornate gold box on my dresser any time: http://bit.ly/ns1N0U

Costumers and reenactors aren't the only people bringing the 18th century to life: http://bit.ly/o03zAy

A collection of stars on the stomacher, and all over the gown? Yes, please! http://bit.ly/lv7aEv

Mitts for keeping the sun off your forearms (and covering up your tattoos): http://bit.ly/pe44ix

Mind = blown: Stay-lacing cord with a built-in bodkin! *Angels singing*: http://bit.ly/nXrSCg

21 August, 2011

It's the weekend: Fly-by post

Recently, I bought a reproduction fan from The Village Green Clothier. It's purple, and gorgeous, with two different colorways of flowers painted on either side. It's technically a double-sided fan! So, have a peek at a stunning 18th century ivory fan from the MFA Boston.

Ivory fan. French, 18th century. MFA Boston, accession no. 25.551.

20 August, 2011

It's the weekend: Fly-by post

Since I'm on an accessories kick, let's take a look at something most New England women in the 18th century would have worn: a quilted petticoat!

Pink silk satin quilted petticoat; glazed wool lining,
cotton waistband, linen ties. English, about 1780.
MFA Boston, accession no. 28.528b.

19 August, 2011


My blank straw/chip hat from Just Two Tailors arrived in the mail two days ago, and this weekend I plan on shaping it. Silk ribbon has been ordered from Wm. Booth, Draper to decorate it, as well as a pocket embroidery kit by Southcoast Historical. Not sure when that package will arrive, hopefully this weekend, so I can show my haul here. I'm really excited about this pocket; my friend Sam illustrated it based on extant samples in private and museum collections, and she's a very talented illustrator. So talented that her designs have been ripped off! That means you're successful, right?

I've got a very special treat in the works as well. This past Monday I photographed an exhibit I designed for my portfolio, and the curator has given me his blessing to blog about it (he is also a close personal friend, so maybe that had something to do with it). Woohoo! The exhibit is called What's Under Things? Hidden Colonial Clothing, and is focuses on 17th and 18th century underwear (and one 19th century item, a busk)! I did the graphic design for the exhibit (with the exception of the labels) as well as consulted on the layout and flow of the cases. I'm excited to show this exhibit off, I'm very proud of it, and there are some great pieces--like an extant 17th century bodice with provenance to Mayflower passenger Mary Chilton Winslow, and an extant 18th century working class stays. So sweet! The tiny lace stomacher is also a great extant example, even though it looks like a certain type of women's underwear.

What's Under Things? is on display until December 31st, 2011, at Pilgrim Hall Museum in Plymouth, MA. 75 Court Street. Open 9:30 - 4:30 daily.

So, stay tuned! Some great stuff coming up!

18 August, 2011

A New Project in the Works!

I am quite excited to announce my involvement in an enormous undertaking of research, garment creation, and sewing, to culminate in a garden party and muster day next summer, at the Minute Man National Historical Park! It's the perfect opportunity to really be "stuck" in the 18th century, and immerse myself in truly learning the techniques of period sewing (not to mention, be able to use the years of research methodology classes and examine primary sources!).

I'm the newcomer in all of this (sewing-wise, that is), so my hope is that I'll remind others what it's like to be a neophyte again, maybe a teeny bit over their head, and also to inspire other newcomers to just take the plunge! I'm finding, and I've been told, that breaking into this hobby is hard for a woman; I hope that after this project is completed, a few more will join the ranks.

The project is called the "Crazy Concord Chicks" and you can read all about it on our blog. There are 10+ people in this project, and we all have our own standalone pages that get pushed to the main blog. My section is the "Younger Set," with another young lady. We're thinking we need to be the "little rich girls" that get dressed up and sort of emulate the "HEYDAY! Is this my DAUGHTER ANNE!" satire.

And have no fear, this fledgling blog is not going anywhere. I'll be crossposting from the Crazy Concord Chicks, as well as documenting the process for whatever gown I end up choosing. Lots of work, yes, but this is going to be so much fun!

"HEYDAY! Is this my DAUGHTER ANNE!" linked from "A Catalogue of 18th-Century British Mezzotint Satires in North American Collections." By F.E. Adams, 1773. Found in two collections: New York Public Library (B1970.3.970) and Lewis Walpole Library (779.10.11.1).

17 August, 2011

Sweetest thing, maybe ever.

Mark Hutter, tailor for Colonial Williamsburg, grants his daughter's wish for a birthday ride around town in a gorgeous 18th century carriage.

Visit the Two Nerdy History Girls for the picture!

16 August, 2011

Ready, set, SLEEVES! Part 2

The sleeve has been cut out of the fashion fabric and is ready to be put together.

15 August, 2011

Ready, set, SLEEVES! Part 1

A few days ago, I finally got around to redoing the sleeves for my first ever 18th century gown. I'm now 99% done with them; all that's left is to hem them (and add cuffs, but that's an embellishment, so I'm not counting them). I'm going to wait to do that, though, until after they are attached to the bodice. They are still a bit big on me, but I'm actually okay with that, because then I'll have room to move with poof-y shift sleeves in them.

Below the jump is part 1 of the process with the left sleeve. This is fairly picture heavy and a bit long, so my apologies (and why I split it up)!

14 August, 2011

12 August, 2011

All in the sleeves.

For a beginner, setting sleeves into the armscye of a gown is tricky business. Or, so I've been told, as the gown I'm currently working on has no sleeves attached. This is due to my lack of confidence as a new sewer, the fact that I have to have every stitch perfectly in its place (hi, I'm a neurotic perfectionist, nice to meet you), I'm more of a tortoise than a hare in my work, and that I panicked--a lot--over the course of a weekend gown workshop. Had I not sat up until 12:30/1 am, frantically texting friends that had a clue about what I was doing and searching the internet for help, and instead just sewed, well, my gown would have been a heckuva lot closer to complete than it is now. Coupling that with the fact that I was going on vacation a few days after the workshop and probably wouldn't touch the gown until after I got back, not much has been done to it. But this is good news, because now I can document the steps completed and those that are forthcoming, both in the name of research and so that in the future, I will know what the heck I'm doing.

11 August, 2011

In the beginning ...

There was a dress. Not just any dress, but an 18th century gown. Based on an original in the Kyoto Costume Institute, it was a pink, yellow and green crossbarred silk taffeta robe a la français.

I wore that dress nearly two years ago to the day.

It was the beginning of a head-first plunge into living history, reenacting, learning about sewing, garments, gown construction. I was hooked, bitten by this gown, by the stays that transformed my body, by my suddenly small waist and huge, false hips, by the feeling of wearing the past. I am still giddy over that gown.

Now, two years later, I've embarked on a journey to learn how to hand sew in the period technique, how to construct my own 18th century wardrobe, and soak up as much knowledge and information and education that my brain can absorb. How fortunate am I to have my own 18th century Fairy Godmother, who has taken me under her wing and began my 18th century education the right way? And for the introduction to her through a friend and professional colleague (who has always believed in me, no matter what ridiculous direction I happen to throw myself into); it truly made me believe in fate.

And so, this is the beginning. Bring band aids.
Me, August 2009. Gown by the amazing
Hallie Larkin, my 18thc. Fairy Godmother,
to whom I owe my 18thc. obsession to.
Photo by Ed Nute.