Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Prince Edward Island Annals

Prince Edward Island

As many of you have undoubtedly surmised from our Facebook updates, we've just concluded a 12-day tour of Prince Edward Island.  This trip was the culmination of 18 years of collective dreaming and reminiscing on behalf of the two of us and our parents.  In 1994, our family made the two-day drive up to Canada and took the ferry across the Northumberland Strait to PEI, in search of one of our literary heroes, Lucy Maud Montgomery, and the magical world she describes in her books.  As anyone who has visited PEI can attest, the island's "spirit of place" swiftly casts its spell; we fell in love and ended up visiting the two following summers as well.

After that, life got in the way, as it does, and eighteen years have passed, but in that intervening time, each of us held the special memories of those three summers in a sort of sacred place, and we always talked about going back "one day."  Last summer, we finally decided that "one day" had come at last, and with gleeful anticipation, we began planning and dreaming all over again, so grateful to be given the chance once again to return and experience our memories once more as a family.

Prince Edward Island

Much has changed on PEI in the last 18 years, and much has stayed the same, but it's still one of the most beautiful places we've ever visited.  Over the next couple of weeks, we'll share a tour of our favorite bits of the Island - LOTS of pictures, lots of history, lots of literature, lots of breathtaking landscapes and seascapes, and even a bit of fashion here and there!  So make a cup of tea, sit back, relax, and enjoy some vicarious armchair traveling as we transport you to Prince Edward Island...

Prince Edward Island

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Great Fabric De-Stashing - Now Available on Etsy!

We've just done a massive - and I mean massive - purge of the fabric cabinet and have listed all of the de-stashed treasures in our Shop on Etsy, hoping to find someone who can give them a new home!

All of these fabrics are out of print; many are vintage, some are a bit more recent.  Some of the prints are reproductions, others strongly representative of period motifs, colors, and styles, but all quite acceptable for use in historical clothing and costumes.  Most are 18th century, with a couple of 19th century options thrown in for the fun of it.  :-)  The only reason we've decided to part with all of this is because the stash has gotten WAY out of control and needed some serious taming.  That, and we needed an excuse to buy more fabric and no excuse works better than having room in the cabinet for it!

So if you're in the mood to add something new to your stash (and help us make a bit more room in ours!), check out our new fabric department!

Here's a sample of some of the prints now newly available.  We hope you find something that captures your fancy!





Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Threaded Bliss

Reproduction Cotton Print Shortgown
from the collection of the Chester County Historical Society,

reproduction printed short gown, 1780-1790

The pattern: This shorgown is reproduced almost exactly from an extant garment in the collection of the Chester County Historical Society.  A scaled pattern and several photos are included on pages 23-25 of Sharon Burnston's Fitting and Proper.  Another photo can be seen on page 142 in Cloth and Costume 1750-1800.  Unfortunately, I can't find any pictures of it online, so you'll have to refer to these printed sources to compare mine to the original!

I made only two changes when reproducing the original.  The body of the original shortgown is fully lined in an off-white linen, with the ends of the sleeves lined in a linen printed with brown flowers.  I elected not to fully line the body of mine because the fabric is a little bit heavier than usual, and I plan to use this primarily for summer camp wear, when the least amount of fabric layers one has on, the better!  I did line/face the ends of the sleeves in a reproduction printed cotton, however.

The only other change I made was to eliminate the two sets of pleats on either side of the front of the shortgown, which were used to help tailor the shape a bit in front.  This is a feature that you don't normally see on shortgowns, so I felt completely justified in omitting it.  Because of the weight of the fabric, I found that these pleats just added some awkward-looking, unnecessary bulk to my stomach area just below the waistline where they flared out.  This being hardly desirable, and since such pleats aren't at all necessary to shaping the garment, and especially considering that it will always be worn under an apron to hold it in place, I instead simply followed the curve of the neckline of the original and the fit worked out beautifully.

reproduction printed short gown, 1780-1790

Construction details: I started out by scaling up the pattern of the original and cutting out the basic outline.  Because the shortgown is cut from a single piece of fabric, and because the pattern of this fabric has a defined direction, I followed the original in choosing to have the design "upside down" in the front and "rightside up" in the back.

reproduction printed short gown, 1780-1790
Cutting out the basic outline from a single piece of fabric folded into quarters.

I then double-checked that the original neckline shape would work on my body and, once concluding that it would, I carefully cut it out in both the front and back.  The sleeve facings were then pieced on, as per the original.

reproduction printed short gown, 1780-1790
The turned-back sleeve facings in a contrasting fabric,
a feature copied directly from the original.

Because I elected not to line my shortgown, the two side seams are finished with tiny flat-felled seams, a feature I copied from an unlined extant shortgown from the same collection, found on pages 20-22 in Fitting and Proper.

reproduction printed short gown, 1780-1790
Matched stripes in the side seams!

reproduction printed short gown, 1780-1790
The interior side seam, flat-felled to protect it from wear.

Next, the back pleats were set in and top-stitched, just as in the original, and the sleeve facings folded under and slipstitched down into place inside.

reproduction printed short gown, 1780-1790
Back of the shortgown...

reproduction printed short gown, 1780-1790
...with two sets of pleats top-stitched into place.

reproduction printed short gown, 1780-1790
Back pleating detail.

Finally, the neckline, center front, and hem edges were finished with a narrow hem.  A facing strip covers the raw edge of the center-back where the pleats are turned in, another detail copied from the unlined shortgown.

reproduction printed short gown, 1780-1790
A facing strip covers the interior back neckline and helps secure the back pleats.

reproduction printed short gown, 1780-1790

reproduction printed short gown, 1780-1790
The interior of the unlined shortgown.

Further construction details on this shortgown can be found in Claudia Kidwell's article, "Short Gowns," which appeared in Dress: The Journal of the Costume Society of America, volume 4 (1978), pp. 30-65.

reproduction printed short gown, 1780-1790

The fabric: Duran Textiles reproduced the original textile in the document size and colorway (they call it "Daisy"), and when I discovered that Wm Booth, Draper was adding it to their stock, of course I just had to take advantage of the opportunity and use it to do a true reproduction piece.  The print itself is lovely and I always appreciate access to true reproduction textiles.  It is a little pricey, but since I only needed a 1.25 yards, it ended up being quite reasonable.

reproduction printed short gown, 1780-1790

The sleeves of the original shortgown were lined in linen printed with a simple, stylized pattern of brown flowers.  Luckily, I had a small piece of a reproduction brown print (on cotton) done by Windham several years ago, which was a perfect approximation for this project.  I love the way it looks against the stripes of the primary textile.

reproduction printed short gown, 1780-1790

Finishing the look: I apologize that the "model" pictures for this project aren't very interesting!  I wore this for the first time a couple of days ago when doing a cooking demonstration at a local state park, and we were so busy talking and working all day long that I didn't have a chance to get any pictures taken until the very end of the day.  As soon as I get some more exciting "pretty" shots, I'll be sure to add them!

reproduction printed short gown, 1780-1790

For the school program, I paired the shortgown with a brown linen petticoat and a blue/yellow/natural cross-barred linen apron - the perfect outfit to wear while working around fire, soot, grease, and dirt all day long in the heat of a sunny late-spring day!  It's worn, as always, over my fully-boned stays, a shift, and a linen underpetticoat.  Forgive all the wrinkles - that's what happens after 6 hours of hard work bending and lifting and working over a fire!  :-)

reproduction printed short gown, 1780-1790
If you'd like to see larger versions of any of the pictures, just click on them to access the full size.  Additional photos can be found in this project's flickr set.

Friday, April 25, 2014

A chance to add something new to your reenacting wardrobe!

For those of you in need of a new wardrobe for the campaign season, we currently have listed on Ebay three of our earliest 18th century creations.

The first is Ashley's first "Costume Close-up jacket," the first completely hand-sewn jacket I ever made, and the first project I created using a scaled-up pattern from an original garment.  For more on the jacket's fabric and construction details, check out its previous Threaded Bliss posts here and here.  Clicking on the image below will bring you to the current Ebay listing, which includes condition and measurement details.

Colonial Williamsburg

The second item on offer is Ashley's sea green fitted-back gown.  Like the jacket, this garment, too, represents multiple firsts for us.  This was the first gown I'd sewn completely by hand, and this was the first petticoat Ashley ever completed by hand.  This is also the first gown I draped from start to finish.  I'd purchased the fabric on sale, and Ashley fell in love with the color and wanted it, so I decided it was time for an experiment.  I started pinning and folding and cutting and pleating and trimming, and taught myself to drape in the process, and she ended up with this gown, which remained her favorite for years.  The original post on it can be found here, and the picture below will link you to the Ebay listing.  Measurements and condition details can be found there.


The third item is another gown, the first I ever made completely by hand for myself.  It's made of a beautiful medium-weight dark indigo wool that has a lovely heavy drape to it that helps give the gown an ideal period shape.  I wore this gown only once (to what was probably the hottest reenactment we've ever been to) and realized only long after the fact that I never even got a picture of myself wearing it, which is why it never got its own Threaded Bliss treatment.  Ah well, that makes it perfect to pass on to someone else, who will be able at long last to give it an identity.  :-)  The listing is linked through the picture below.


If you'd like any additional details or pictures of any of these items, please let us know and we'll be happy to share them.  We very much hope these will go to good homes and be used and loved for many years to come!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

"Millinery Through Time" Conference: Day Four: The Wokshop Day

The fourth and final day of the "Millinery Through Time" conference was an option day consisting of a selection of workshops on various millinery items or accessories.  With eight to pick from and each being offered at the same time, you can imagine what a difficult time we had making our final choices!

In the end, we both opted to take Jay Howlett's workshop in felt hat basics.  We were thrilled to have the opportunity to make hats for our in-progress riding habits, and with appropriate, accurate felt hats for ladies being nearly impossible to come by, we simply couldn't pass up this chance to learn how to make our own.

CW Millinery Through Time conference - felt hat workshop
Our felt hat blanks at the start of the workshop.

To save some time on the workshop day itself, we had each forwarded our individual head measurements to Mr Howlett so that he could prepare custom-sized hat blanks for us before we arrived.  Though our basic hat shape was already done, he began the workshop by demonstrating the techniques he used to block our blanks, sharing some tricks of the trade and explaining some thrifty methods we could use to achieve the same process for ourselves.  We talked about period felt hats - materials, descriptions, terms for the parts of the hat itself - and then proceeded to learn how to line our hats to help protect the felt from hair oils, powders, and sweat (hey, they're for riding, after all!).

CW Millinery Through Time conference - felt hat workshop
Demonstrating how to re-size the crown of the hat.

Once we'd all finished stitching in our linen linings, we examined a large collection of period images and discussed the differences in styles in hats that were seen across the last half of the eighteenth century.  Once we'd each selected our personal favorite style, Mr Howlett set to work helping us to capture it on our own hat, showing us how to trim and finish the brim, and how to steam and shape it to match our respective sources.  Finally, we talked briefly about trim options and various techniques for attaching that trim.  Let's just say it involves lots and lots and lots of feathers!  :-)

CW Millinery Through Time conference - felt hat workshop
Adjusting the size of the brim to match the style of a period image.

CW Millinery Through Time conference - felt hat workshop
My hat beginning to take shape!

CW Millinery Through Time conference - felt hat workshop
Ashley's hat beginning to look like it's inspiration image.

We both left so excited to have our hats so close to being finished, and newly-motivated to get back to work on our riding habits.  We're very much looking forward to seeing how our looks pull together from head to toe.  So now...back to those waistcoats and jackets!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Recreating the Wedding of Pocahontas and John Rolfe

In honor of the 400th anniversary of the wedding of Pocahontas and John Rolfe, Historic Jamestowne is hosting a number of special events.  Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to attend a reenactment of their wedding ceremony at Jamestowne Island.  It was the perfect day for a wedding, with the sun shining bright over the James River.  I'd never been to the site before, and had some time prior the ceremony to explore before the big event, so there's more to come on that in my next post.  But back to the wedding...!

A crowd was very quickly building up around the ceremony stage, so I found a spot off to the side and waited excitedly with the others.  We were entertained with a few tunes from two musicians, followed by an introduction by Abigail Schumann.  She set the scene by explaining how at the Jamestown Church "about the fifth of April" in 1614, the union of Pocahontas and John Rolfe marked the beginning of a peaceful period between the English settlers and Powhatan.

The wedding party filed down the center aisle to the front stage for the ceremony.  While the ministers were reciting the wedding vows, the other members of the wedding party offered their own insight to the union.  It was especially fun to see the wedding jacket that was made for the event by the Colonial Williamsburg Costume Design Center staff, with help with several volunteers.  The jacket, which is based on this extant picture in the V&A, is entirely hand-embroidered in black linen thread and features stylized designs based on the plants and animals that populated the Jamestown region during the early seventeenth century.

Below are a few photos from the ceremony:

Historic Jamestowne
The wedding party begins walking down the aisle.

Historic Jamestowne
Pocahontas, as portrayed by Wendy Taylor

Historic Jamestowne
Another view of the beautiful wedding jacket.

Historic Jamestowne
Members of the wedding party behind John Rolfe.

Historic Jamestowne
Pocahontas and John Rolfe

Historic Jamestowne
The happy couple!

Historic Jamestowne

A lovely summary about the history of the marriage and the story behind this special project can be found here on Colonial Williamsburg's page.  You can see video of the event at the link as well.
If you'd like to see additional in-progress and close-up pictures of Pocahontas's incredible jacket, Burnley and Trowbridge posted several sets of photos on their facebook page.  Futher information can also be found on Colonial Williamsburg's "wedding jacket" page.  And as always, you can find more of my photos in our flickr set!

Friday, April 4, 2014

"Millinery Through Time" Conference: Day Three

Day Three of the "Millinery Through Time" conference maintained the trend of impressive and inspiring presentations.  Paper after paper, lecture after lecture continued to introduce some pretty incredible research.  The range of topics alone was staggering, and I only wish it could have lasted another day (or two or five) because there was just so much good stuff to soak up in such a short amount of time!

The talks before lunch spanned topics that included everything from early American shoe-makers' labels to an overview of the popular fashion for turbans at the turn of the nineteenth century.  The morning saw two stand-out moments for me, however, the first of which was Mela Hoyt-Heydon's consideration of the use of artificial flowers in eighteenth-century millinery.  As fascinating as that is, what really made her talk so prodigiously awesome was that she then proceeded not only to discuss how these flowers were made in the period, but also how those historical methods can be reproduced today.  I think the entire auditorium was just in awe, and I left fully motivated to go forth and make flowers in abundance!  This made me (and probably everyone else who hadn't signed up!) really, really wish I'd elected to do Mela's velvet flower workshop scheduled for the following day... ;-)

The other notable paper from the morning was CW apprentice Abby Cox's exploration of the westward "expansion" of the millinery and dress-making trades at the beginning of the nineteenth century.  Using information culled from city directories, she literally mapped the growth and change of the fashion trades in a completely novel way.  Her approach was intriguing and highly original, using physical landscapes and spatial readings to document how "millinery" and "the milliner" evolved, simultaneously expanding and contracting her business to meet shifting socio-economic and fashion trends.

After lunch, we continued our chronological movement forward into the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  Samantha McCarty (of Couture Courtesan) presented an inquiry into a long-overlooked and under-researched area of Civil War-era clothing: mourning millinery and accessories.  As the "visible signs of sorrow," mourning collars, cuffs, and bonnets, specific fabrics and colors all occupied a broad (and lucrative) spectrum of the fashion industry.  In an age when clothing was "read" and interpreted as an outward expression of an individual's place in society, tiny details like those distinguished by Samantha spoke volumes.  She's hinted that there's a mountain of additional research left to pursue, and I know I, for one, am most eager to hear more!

Then it was on to the final panels on the conference schedule.  From a study of the life and career of a single, enterprising milliner in turn-of-the-century Newfoundland, to a consideration of the millinery trade in Ontario, to a glamorous overview of the distinctive, defining style of American millinery in the years surrounding WWII, to a first-hand glimpse into the career of modern-day milliner-artist Ignatius Creegan, each of the speakers that contributed to the concluding afternoon helped to round out the incredible range of scholarly contributions on millinery and fashion history that we'd experienced over the course of the two previous days.  I sincerely hope that it won't take another sixty years before we get the opportunity to do this again!  If this conference confirmed anything for me, it's the sheer wealth of untapped information left to be uncovered in the study of historical fashion.

Many thanks to all who contributed their knowledge, skills, and time to make this conference such a rare and special treat!