13 April, 2012

Battle Road 2012: Tomorrow!

I'm in a state of disbelief that tomorrow is Battle Road 2012 at Minute Man National Historic Park. This year is flying by, and before we know it this year's reenacting season will be over.

Tomorrow is my first big reenactment. I'm nervous, and excited, and feel completely unprepared! But it will be fun, the weather is going to be outstanding (which I attribute to me, finally getting to attend!), and I can't wait to get on with it. It will be an early, and long day, but an exciting one, too!

God save the King!

13 March, 2012

Happy 279th Birthday, Johann Zoffany!

Looking back on earlier posts, it seems as if I never posted about Johann Zoffany and the exhibit at the Yale Center for British Art that I went to see before it closed back in February. Zoffany quickly surpassed Copley for me, as an artist, though his clients are the super aristocrats of Europe versus the wealthy in the colonies. Still, Zoffany's level of detail is exquisite, and one could easily scrape off the excess of his clientele and use his works as inspiration for clothing fit for the gentry class here in New England (and if you scrape even more off, probably the middling class).

Thanks to Twitter, I learned that today is Zoffany's birthday (many thanks to the Two Nerdy History Girls for retweeting the Georgian Gentleman's tweet about it), so, many celebrations to Mr. Zoffany! I will raise a toast to him tonight! Below, my favorite painting by him; look at that blue riding habit!

The Drummond Family, ca. 1769. Johann Zoffany. Oil on canvas.
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection. No accession
number given.

06 March, 2012

Fabrics For Sale

Part of building up a fabric stash is parting with fabric you know you'll never use (to make room for more fabrics you will use). I have two fabrics that I know I will not use, so I'd like to offer them to my blogosphere friends before I post them on The Hive.

Both fabrics are lightweight twill weave worsted wools from Burnley and Trowbridge. One is gown length (4.5 yards) of a light blue-gray that is sort of slate like in color; it's an odd color so I will give its new owner the matching prewaxed silk thread. The other is 2.5 yards (petticoat length) of the cinnamon, a photo of it from B&T is below.

The cinnamon lightweight wool from Burnley and Trowbridge.

I would strongly recommend that experienced seamstresses or tailors get these; the twill weave makes these two wools really bouncy, and the blue-gray in particular is a pin vomitter! Last July, when I took my first gown workshop, another participant had the same wool and it dropped pins like crazy. But if you're a beginner and up for a challenge--go for it. You're braver than I!

Both of these fabrics cost $12/yd and I'll break even on them, $54 for the blue-gray and $30 for the cinnamon. I'd ask that buyer pays shipping. And, I will get a photo of the blue-gray tomorrow morning in good light!

04 March, 2012

It's the Weekend: Fly-by Post

Dogs appearing in portraiture, and paintings in general, are known as being a symbol of loyalty and fidelity. Below, Mary and Elizabeth Royall have their pup featured in this oil painting by John Singleton Copley. My own dog (who bears a striking resemblance to many dogs in 18thc. paintings) is currently at the vet hospital for the second time in as many weeks, and looking at dogs in paintings gives me a small piece of comfort. She is definitely a loyal and faithful companion, and if I could bring her to reenactments she would fit in quite well!

Mary and Elizabeth Royall, 1758. Oil on canvas by
John Singleton Copley. Accession #25.49. Currently
on view in the Art of Americas Wing.

02 March, 2012

Do you Pin?

My friend over at Sew18thCentury.com recently wrote a post about Pinterest, and I will absolutely admit that I am a pinning freak. I joined a while ago (at least over a year, I believe!), but never really pinned as much as I do now. Before recently becoming readdicted to the site, I hadn't been on it in months. Then, the department head at work asked if anyone was on Pinterest, and it has exploded throughout the office--and I once again started pinning like mad. Being in a creative field as a graphic designer, it is really helpful to have a great repository of awesome design and art, and Pinterest doesn't disappoint.

Even better, though, museums are getting in on the action and you can see some really great things from their collections! I have an 18th century board and I'm slowly amassing gorgeous things as inspiration. You can follow my board, appropriately titled "Stuck in the 18th Century" here: http://pinterest.com/kbpowers/stuck-in-the-18th-century/

Are you on Pinterest?

22 February, 2012

Combined Panel 1+2 and Worked Eyelet

When I work on my stays, I always start out with the panels on the right side. My boning channel map is of that same side, and if I copy it (almost) directly, then the opposite side tends to be much easier.

I say "almost" because a few of my panels have been modified--this panel is no exception. If you look closely, you'll see that the left side of the panel has a channel, an odd gap, and two more channels. That was me goofing up; I didn't make sure my map was the same size as my actual panel and the diagonal channels should have been longer. Oops! Since I have a limited amount of steel and an even shorter window of time to get these done, I am not redoing them. Instead, I will just mirror that mistake onto the left panel. Then it's on purpose. :)

My stays will have shoulder straps so I did an eyelet up top. It got a bit small with the threads but overall I'm happy with it. Our modern eyelets look incredibly neat next to an extant pair, some of those are so sloppy! I rather like working the eyelets, but next time I'm cutting more thread and/or using a shorter needle. Trying to bury the knot was not fun with the needle I'm using (long, for the thick, coarse linen), and coupled with very little excess made for a difficult time.

Three panels, a bunch of eyelets, shoulder straps, boning, and binding left!

20 February, 2012

18thc. Gown Workshop Recap

I'm still working on my post about the "Mercy Bradford" cloak at Pilgrim Hall, but watermarking the photos is taking a while when real life gets in the way! Instead, while fresh in my mind, I'll give a recap of the gown workshop I attended this weekend put on by The Hive at Minute Man National Historical Park.

This was the second gown workshop I've been to that was put on by Hive instructors Miss Hallie and Miss Stephanie. The first one I went to was back in July 2011, when I did my printed cotton gown. I was wholly unprepared for that one; they are not kidding when they say it is a very intense weekend! Back in July I knew nothing, had really never sewn anything, and was a ball of anxiety. I know a little bit more now, and though I am not as close to completion as some of my workshop peers, I have no anxiety at all, whether about the workshop or my gown. I'm still pretty darn slow at sewing, but that will speed up with practice.

So, for the first time, I worked with silk. I had purchased this goooorgeous yellow silk taffeta from Hallie when she was clearing out some of her stash, and it's a great silk for a beginner to work with. It's not slippery, it takes a finger press really well, and it's just plain ol' pretty. The first time I pulled it out at the workshop there were some gasps, and lots of, "It's like a ray of sunshine!" comments. My silk doesn't hold a candle to the drooooooool-worthy red silk damask another participant brought; no one wanted to stand too close to it for fear of drooling on it. Seriously!

I think one of my favorite parts about these workshops is drooling over everyone's fabric (in addition to getting to handle an extant gown that is used for study). I'm becoming a fabric whore and as someone who is very tactile, working with textiles is just a pleasurable experience (when I go clothes shopping, I have to touch every. single. thing.). Everyone is always willing to chat about where they got it, how much they paid, "Of course you can touch it!" One lady had a really nice ivory linen and looks so good on her.

The way this workshop was run was different than last July, as Hallie and Steph are always learning something new and what works and doesn't work in terms of workshop flow. In July, we started with sleeves and over the course of the first day, we were fit to a pattern this. This time around, all of the fittings were done prior to the workshop, and sleeves were homework. I really liked this format better; by the time day 1 is complete, you feel confident enough to go home and make your sleeves. When day 2 rolls around, all that's left is to attach the sleeves and gown skirts; after that, you're done (unless you didn't hem, then you have to hem the skirts). Things may change for the next workshop, but I really enjoyed it this way!

So, where am I on my gown? Well, not quite as close as my fellow "mantuamakers" but WAY ahead of where I was last July. When I left the workshop for the second day in July, I only had the center back panel done. It was lined, with the en fourreau pleats stitched down, and ... that was it. This time around, I have all of that PLUS the two front bodices on! The lining still needs to be whipped in but that's an easy step. I have one sleeve done and am working on the next. First, though, I need to finish my stays.

All in all, I cannot recommend this type of workshop enough. Every item you sew should teach you something, and I've come away with more knowledge than I did the last time. I am comfortable enough with starting another gown on my own (I know, can you believe it?!). Most importantly, it seems to have finally stuck in my head that it's just fabric. There was no anxiety this weekend (well, there was, due to a dog medical emergency but it was completely unrelated to the workshop), and if I keep stressing myself out over this stuff, it's not going to be fun anymore. It took me nearly all day to cut out the pieces out for my printed cotton--and I had 11 yards of it, so if I made a mistake, no biggie, right?--but my yellow silk, that I had only 5.5 yards of, one hour. That is a mega improvement! My title of "Queen of Anxiety" is quickly leaving me, and I couldn't be more proud of that one single accomplishment.

My new mantra is "Keep Calm and Carry On." I will keep calm, and carry on, in all situations. Now, I must go sew my stays, as that gun to my head is getting awfully close ...

18 January, 2012

Twelfth Night Wrap-up, and More Projects

Every time I log into Blogger and see that I have more followers, even after not blogging for several works, it gives me the urge to write. So, thank you to the many new followers for joining, and I will certainly do my best to continue posting!

This past Friday evening was the Sudbury Twelfth Night colonial ball; it was held at the Wayside Inn, in Sudbury, MA, and it was my first ball! I have yet to see any photos that include me, but when I get them I will be sure to post them. I wore my printed cotton gown (since it's the only gown I own!), with a hip roll and I added silk ribbons and brass buttons to polonaise it in the back. The wig looked amazing, my dear friend Miss Liz did such an amazing job with it and I am eternally grateful to her for taking the time to simultaneously style it and explain how she was styling it (not to mention purchasing it and the accessories to help make it big, as well as to decorate it). It was a huge compliment when a local, well-known wig maker told me that he loved my hair, it certainly gave me a bit more bounce in my step!

The best part of the whole evening was just enjoying the company of my friends; I really felt like I've become a reenactor, and am not some 21st century gal just playing dress up in reproductions of old clothes. That feeling was validated when Miss Hallie told me how beautiful I looked, and how I was really carrying myself correctly, and actually wearing the clothes. We both agreed that I had come a very long way from the first time I tried her gowns on, posing like someone was taking my photos for Facebook or Myspace! I am just in awe of my friends, they are amazing people and I truly adore them and appreciate all of their help with my newbie questions. You guys know who you are!

In addition to Twelfth Night, that weekend was also the kick-off of the new Hive season! Prior to the Sunday Hive, I enrolled in a shirt workshop for that Saturday, and had a great time learning some very helpful new tricks. Eventually, my rectangles and squares of fabric will become a riding habit shirt; it is similar to a man's shirt but shorter. It is also giving me the skills and know-how to finally make a shift (I was positively delighted when my $20 cotton muslin shift that I purchased a few days before an event over the summer started ripping at the center back of the neck on Sunday morning!); I'm using a teeny needle and trying to make incredibly small backstitches: every thread of the linen is a backstitch. So yes, very teeny! And loads of stitches per inch. I will be photographing some of the seams eventually, I just hope they appear as it's white-on-white! One helpful trick I learned was pulling threads to create a cutting guide; I have a terrible time trying to cut straight and now that I know how to pull a linen thread across the warp and weft, I will no longer have crooked cuts!

Sunday's Hive was a great first session, and I was asked to speak in one of the sessions. That is totally a Really Big Deal and I was honored to speak in the session called Using Props as Interpretive Tools. I gave a newbie's perspective on how you can use your clothing as your prop, and the research that has gone into the garment as well. I spoke after one of the NPS Park Rangers, who is an award-winning interpreter and does this daily (he is also the hubby of my good friend 'Mrs. Derby,' aka Miss Em). Those were some big shoes to fill, and I could certainly see why he's won awards! When Minute Man opens back up again to reenactors volunteering at the various houses, I will be volunteering with 'Mr. Derby' and soaking up all of his knowledge.

I'm still working on my stays (albeit incredibly slowly; did I mention I have a tight deadline to finish them, too?), and need to blog about the Mercy Bradford Cloak Mystery. Miss Hallie examined the cloak with me and answered all of the questions I had about the cloak as a garment; I still have to do the genealogical research to see if we have a Bradford or Brewster descendant. How I wish I could ask the donor!

Speaking of the museum, I'm busy working on their next big exhibit that is opening February 1st and will be up until December 31st, called Written, Printed, & Drawn: Rarities from Plymouth's Past. It's all maps, rare documents, and rare books, and promises to be a great show. There will even be a small section dedicated to the War of 1812! I've already created the 6'x6.5' vinyl banner and sent that off to the printer and we're working on the text panels. I was given loads of creative freedom and we are having a fabulous time working on them. I'm so excited for the show to open up!

12 January, 2012

Back to blogging, part deux!

Oh, real life, why must you get in the way?! I've had so much to do lately that blogging has had to take a back seat, though I've been doing a lot related to the 18thc. and history in general.

In addition to the list I posted last time, I have a few more things to blog about, including making a foam bust for a 17thc. bodice (so cool!) and how I am finally, truly, finishing my printed cotton gown! The Twelfth Night Ball tomorrow evening put on by the Sudbury companies has been my main motivation, and I still have to finish hemming my self petticoat; I have, though, put on cuffs (I don't think they are particularly good, though) as well as added buttons and silk ribbon so I can polonaise the gown. It looks great polonaised, and I'm really surprised that this very light fabric folds and drapes so nicely when done up!

I'll leave you with a photo of the wig I'm wearing tomorrow night, before the decorations were added. A good friend showed me how to style it, and it looks SO GOOD on. Hooray!

12 December, 2011

Back to blogging

Ah, I am so sorry for my absence of late! I have been so busy with work and finishing up graduate school, but I plan on blogging much more now that grad school is FINISHED! I owe you all ...

  • the Mercy Bradford cloak mystery
  • the creation of my own short cloaks, and how I messed them up
  • how I will be fixing my short cloak
  • STAYS!!!!!! I am making my own pair of stays!
  • new fabric in the stash
  • my dress form!
Quite a bit to catch up on. I will get through that list, promise! Let's cross one off now; here are my yellow stays on my brand new dress form!

She needs some padding to get to my measurements but otherwise, she wears my printed cotton gown proudly. :P