Showing posts from 2012

Accidental Remembrance

Last Saturday I was able to take a trip up to Gettysburg on my own - as in all by myself! I wanted to have a leisurely stroll around Gettysburg, endless wandering through the fabric shops, and to have a nice quiet lunch.

Well, when I drove into town there were Civil War reenactors everywhere! I really had no idea why, but the town was swarming with them. I got to the fabric shop (Needle & Thread) and I finally asked a costumed reenactor what the event was. It turns out that the third weekend in November is Remembrance Day! It was the 149th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address! I felt so stupid. And then I felt panic, because they were going to block off the main street for the parade and how was I going to get back home? The woman suggested I stay for the parade. I called my husband to let him know of my predicament, and he encouraged me to stay and enjoy myself, so I took their advice, found a parking spot in town, and walked around.

I had lunch at the Farnsworth House (delicio…

Corset Update

I had to trim the top of the corset as it was too tall on top and put in new gussets as the old ones were too small. (That's 12 gussets to redo- yuck!) It fits much better now.

If I wasn't an expert in gussets after the last attempt, I certainly am now! Sheesh!

The Timeline of a Floor

We bought our first house back in May of this year - a ca. 1900 farm house perched on a rocky ridge overlooking railroad tracks surrounded by woods on a little under an acre. Slowly, we have been peeling back the layers of this little house to reveal its roots. It was hard to imagine it was built in 1900 with the '80s turquoise carpet, the wood paneled walls and paneled ceilings.
Even before we moved in the carpet in the living room went ASAP only to reveal some vintage 1950s (approx.) linoleum tiles. Not bad. They were better than the nasty carpet. Well, the cold weather started warping the tiles and they were popping off. I'd always wondered if the original wood floor of the house was intact beneath the carpet, tiles, and sub-flooring. So, I ripped off a chunk of the sub-flooring to reveal - the original floorboards!

In a spur of the moment project-minded frenzy my husband took off a large piece of the sub-flooring. What he discovered was pretty awesome. A 1930s linoleum &q…

And It Begins!

I'm finally on my way to making my Regency underpinnings. I'm going to try and do one project a month. November will be the chemise - the garment that goes under the stays. It's a pretty simple pattern and very similar to my 1860s one, except that the Regency one has sleeves. My only dilemma is whether to use cotton or linen. I've always used cotton because it's inexpensive, but I do have some linen I bought especially for underpinnings (a lovely linen/cotton blend!) and I just think the feel would be really nice; even luxurious. Doesn't that sound funny? Linen was so common back then and now - it doesn't get that much notice. Personally I love linen, so I'm kind of leaning toward it...

I've already printed out the pattern (it was a download), taped it all together, cut them out, and copied them onto an interface lining-type fabric so that it will be more sturdy. Now, I just have to cut out the fabric! Yay!

And since this pattern is so simple, I ma…

A Stitch A Day

I'm not very good when it comes to patience in a project. But some things like hand quilting a queen-size quilt force me into that patience and I just have to take it one day at a time.

As I've slowly ventured into making Regency costume, I've realized that I need to take the same approach. See, I have almost 10 years of Civil War reenacting under my belt, albeit it's been about 7 years since I've done any reenacting. Still, I have all the clothes already. If I want to make another dress I already have the patterns and know-how to put it all together. Starting in a different time period (60 years earlier than the Civil War) is literally starting over. The undergarments were different, the cut of bodice, shoes, and how hair was worn is all different. It's pretty overwhelming! It's not something I can just jump into.

I've been following this lovely blog by a fellow mom/blogger/sewer of historical clothing also named Sarah over at Romantic History. She do…


I finally did it! Today I finally joined ALHFAM. What is ALHFAM, you ask? Well from their own website it states: The Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums serves those involved in living historical farms, agricultural museums and outdoor museums of history and folklife. 

Back in 2007 my husband and I were going to school and I was expecting our first child. The semester that he was due, I did an online class, my History capstone course (research + a huge paper), and an independent reading study. I worked with one of my history professors, Jay Anderson - a long-time living history guru (who is also considered the "father of living history") and is author of Time Machine: The World of Living History. I chose the books I wanted to read (including his of course) and he approved them along with suggesting I read Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz. (An excellent read!) He also suggested -more like ordered- that I join ALHFAM. Of course I wanted to, …

War of 1812

How is it that almost an entire year has gone by without me realizing it was the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812?! I recently got an e-mail from the Maryland Historical Society talking about some special bus tours they have going on in honor of the occasion. (It's so awesome to live in a state that was actually around during the War of 1812! I'm from Indiana which didn't become a state until 1816.)

Totally by happenstance, I read a book a few weeks ago that was set against the backdrop of that war. It's called Once on This Island by Gloria Whelan. It was a wonderful story! If you'd like to celebrate this special anniversary in any small way, this book would be a great way to do it.

I found this awesome website that specializes in historical naval fiction which you can search by time period.

I'm sure there have been plenty of anniversary reenacting events around the state and it's such a shame that I've missed them all! But... now that I've done…

The "Old-Fashioned" Days

I was just having a conversation with my 5-year-old son. He was asking me if the "old-fashioned" days were real. I reassured him that they were. Then I explained about the spinning wheel I'm borrowing from a friend and how in the "old-fashioned" days they used that to spin wool, to weave into cloth, and then made their clothes. It was a long process! 
Then my son asked, "Was it black and white back then?"

hahahaha! I couldn't help laughing at that and he laughed right along with me.

I then had to explain about old cameras that made movies black and white and old TVs that didn't have the technology to show color, and of course old-fashioned days were in color! Haha!

This reminded me of a wonderful book I found at a thrift shop called "The Olden Days" by Joe Mathieu. The author used Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, MA to model the book after. The illustrations are beautiful, colorful, and detailed and clearly show how things were…

From the Archives

We've been a bit busy around here with my in-laws coming to visit from Utah and attending the Mother Earth News Fair, which was a blast! Now that things have calmed down, I thought I'd share the newest installment of "From the Archives".

Make Do And Mend Keeping Family and Home Afloat On War Rations
I happened to get this using an Amazon gift card for my birthday. Yay! I got a companion book to this that I'll post at a later time. You have no idea how ridiculously giddy I was upon opening this book...

Make Do And Mend is a collection of reproduced instruction leaflets published by the British government to help people deal with fabric rationing. It is the perfect little book of tips and tricks for mending, knitting, altering, caring for, and in general, helping you make the clothing you had last as long as it could.

I have already skimmed most of the book and found lots of tips I could use today in repairing my family's clothing. Skills like darning and patching…

It's Finished!!

I've finished my corset! Hooray! There are a couple places that need some hand tacking, but other than that, it's wearable!

Yesterday was my birthday and I asked my husband if we could go up to Gettysburg again. I needed to go to the shops to get some supplies for my corset. So, we decided we'd bring our bikes and bike trailer up too. What a fun way to spend my birthday! We loaded up the kids and bikes and a picnic lunch and drove the hour to Gettysburg.

We had a fun time riding our bikes around the monuments and having our picnic. We even chatted with a few people at a Civil War encampment. I have to say that I felt completely joyful riding around. Riding bikes is so much faster which is wonderful as everything is so far apart. But also, I felt so much closer to the place - feeling the wind on my face, smelling the grass and earth and being close to the sense of history that walking or driving in a car can't give in the same way. *sigh!*

Anyway, we got caught in a hug…

Progress of the Regency Corset

The past couple days I have been working hard on my Regency 1810s corset. Yippee! Having a double of myself would have come in handy, but my husband was able to help hold the corset in the back so I could see how it was fitting. It has been years since I've made a corset for myself, so I don't expect this corset to be perfect.

I've been pleased with how it's turned out so far! I impressed myself by how quickly I learned how to properly put gussets in, which was strangely satisfying. I had 24 to put in altogether, so I am quite the expert now! Ha! My corset is composed of 3 layers - gold silk cover, a thick and sturdy cotton drill for the inner lining, and a white linen for the outer lining. I was worried about the linen. It is very strong, but also very flexible. I think the other stiffer layers should keep it in check though.

Right now, however, I'm at a stand still. I need metal boning to put in at the seams and center back. It's nothing a trip to Gettysburg…

Homemade Dress Form!

Making costumes for yourself by yourself can be a little tricky. I have memories of sewing a costume, trying it on, taking it off, sewing some more, and all the while dodging pins and half the time having to sew in my corset! Not very fun, but at least I had great posture! haha! However, considering the Regency corset only laces in the back and does not open in the front like my Civil War corset, I would be forced to sew my dress bodices in my corset without the luxury of unhooking it for a breather. Not good!
So, I have been doing research and looking around at various dress forms and man are they expensive! Even on sale at $99, it's a boatload of money for, what a lot of reviews feel are, expensive pieces of plastic junk. I was starting to get discouraged until I stumbled upon the most wonderful thing. I was more than thrilled to find a very nice tutorial for...

...making your own dress form from paper tape!!!

So cheap! So easy! So awesome!!!

Here is the tutorial. I can't w…

Gold Corset?

So I've been holding off making my corset because I wanted to have some good silk for the outside of the corset. However, I've spent all of my pocket money on other fabrics and need to wait until payday. Well, I was reorganizing my fabric and setting aside my historical fabrics when I found some gold silk I had acquired a long time ago. I do believe I have enough to make a corset! The only thing, is that I was planning on purchasing some white silk. This gold stuff is really a dark, almost brassy gold. (see below) How will this look through a white Regency dress?! Will I need a corset cover of some kind? I want to be resourceful and thrifty and use what I have, but dark gold? Hmm... I'll have to think about this one.

Corset or no corset from this stuff? What do you think?

Gettysburg & A Fabric PARADISE!

We are very blessed in that Gettysburg is only an hour away! We took a family trip there on Saturday and it was a nice visit. We mostly just walked around the town, had a picnic lunch, and visited the Soldier's National Cemetery. No battlefields or museums or anything. Relaxed and free. We only spent money on the gas! I love trips like that.

Well, in my online searches for period accurate fabric for my Regency dresses I found a fabric shop in Gettysburg that caters to reenactors called the Needle & Thread. So.... while we were there I asked a lady in a costume shop where it was and she was able to tell me (of course!). And after we were done walking around, we took a little detour out of town to the fabric shop. Boy, was it worth the trip!

This store was in a medium-sized warehouse type building and it was chock full of historically accurate (1860s mostly) cotton prints, sheer cottons (swoon!), silks, cotton velveteens, one entire row dedicated to linens (unheard of!), and tw…

Boone Frock & Cap

I finally started into some historical clothing sewing. It was a bittersweet experience. It felt so good to do sewing that was so familiar to me that I didn't even need instructions. The bitter part was that I couldn't help thinking of my historical sewing mentor, Suzanne, and how much I missed her. I kept thinking I should call her up to tell her about my latest projects but then I would remember that she's passed away. It was difficult, but like I said, it was bittersweet.

I decided to start small and sew a dress for my daughter. I've had these children's Civil War clothing patterns for something like 10 years and never had children to use them for. I even had fabric I had purchased as a single, childless teenager for my future children which is what I used for her dress. How insightful of me! It's not the prettiest fabric, but I didn't have to go out and buy it, so that was great!

So, I decided to make a Boone Frock for my daughter. It's an 18th cent…


My husband and I went to an English Country dance last night. It was so much fun! It was my husband's first time going and he was a little reluctant at first, mostly because it was a new thing, but he admitted to having a good time and I think he did pretty well too for a first timer! (For me it was only my second time.) I was very happy that they taught one of the dances that you see in Pride & Prejudice - the one where Elizabeth and Darcy dance together. I recognized the tune and it's such a pretty dance. It's so much fun to actually do it myself!

I have started collecting patterns and some material. Ever since I did Civil War reenacting I have never thrown away a piece of wool, linen, or silk that came my way. I'm very glad for that! Some of it will really come in handy.

So far, for my Regency-style costumes, I have gotten patterns for my underthings, Spencer jacket, and dress from And I recently just ordered a corset pattern and a wooden busk …

Trimming an Old Gown

This blue day dress was one of my later ones in my Civil War reenacting time. I really like how the shape of it turned out and it fit me surprisingly well (except for that right shoulder maybe) considering I didn't have a dress form or anything.

The 150th Gettysburg is coming up next year and it's been on my mind. The last time I went to the 135th Gettysburg at 16 I lived in Indiana and it was quite the drive! Now, 15 years later I live only an hour away. Even though I don't reenact anymore, the hobby has been calling to me. 15 years ago I committed to going to the 150th anniversary event and now that I live so close, I really have no excuse and I would regret it if I didn't go. And if I didn't go in costume, well I would regret that even more. 
So, I thought it wouldn't hurt to finally add the trim I'd been planning to add all this time. Just in case... 2 kids later, I actually don't know if it even still fits. So, I might need to make a new dress anyw…

From the Archives: Instruction Manual for American Soldiers

I have a plethora of research that I've accumulated over the years which I'd love to share. It's just sitting there anyway. Someday soon I'd like to make something of it in the form of a few published papers or articles, but in the meantime my blog forum will have to do. So, occasionally I'll be posting things "from the archives" which will be interesting tidbits of history that I've uncovered through my research.

Starting with:

I saw this book at the Bodleian Library giftshop at the University of Oxford in England when I was on a study abroad to London. I didn't buy it though.

And I kept thinking about it. Regretting that I hadn't bought it.

Then, merely a week before we were due to fly home I used my last remaining train pass punches to take the train from London to Oxford just to buy this book. It may seem silly, but to me as a historian who is fascinated with American/British relations during WWII it was a must!

Instructions for American Se…

The Shopping Challenge for Historical Costume Makers

Finding authentic or authentic-looking fabrics, ribbons, etc. for historical costumes is quite the challenge especially if you only have big-box stores like JoAnn's to go to. Doing adequate research and even keeping a fabric journal can help. Some things you will need to find online, but you can make do with a trip to JoAnn's or Hancock's if you know what to look for and where to look for it. I found this article from to be a great help, especially for beginners:

You'll also see on the right side of her page a place to sign up using your e-mail address to receive a free copy of "7 Strategies for Creating Realistic Historical Clothing from Chain Fabric Stores". It comes as a .pdf file and I found it quite helpful, even with some experience under my belt!

It's A...

A bodkin is indeed used for lacing, in particular for lacing up a corset, as shown in the picture above. A bodkin has other uses, though. It can be used for making your own sashes or fabric ties (Think of a fabric "tube" - when you fold a long, narrow piece of cloth in half lengthwise, sew down the edge and then you insert the bodkin into the end, thread through the end and pull it through to turn the fabric tube inside out. This is very difficult to do without a bodkin. I've used safety pins before and it takes forever!)

A bodkin is a very useful tool indeed!

Thanks for all (2) who guessed! haha! :-)
According to a bodkin is:

asmall,pointedinstrumentformakingholesincloth,leather,etc. alongpinshapedinstrumentusedbywomentofastenupthe hair. ablunt, needlelikeinstrumentfordrawingtape,cord,etc.,throughaloop,hem,orthelike.

What IS it?

Have you ever been to a museum and seen a displayed artifact that you had no idea what it could be used for? I love seeing these "history mysteries" and trying to guess what they'd be used for. Then I read the item's description to see how close I was. Usually I'm way off.

Well, I thought it would be fun to periodically feature an historical artifact that has an unusual name or is itself unusual.

Today's History Mystery feature is:

What is it? (And not just what it does, but what it's called!)

Leave your guesses below in the comments!

Fabric Diary

Be sure to check my "Historical Threads" tab! I've added some more pictures.

Following in the footsteps of my mentor, Suzanne, I started keeping a fabric diary. I got a regular desk journal and stapled fabrics into it as I made different Civil War dresses. I am so glad I did this! It is one of my most treasured keepsakes. Many of the fabrics in my journal I no longer have even scraps of.

If you're really into historical costumes, keeping a fabric journal is a great way to preserve scraps of not only all the clothing you make, but of period-appropriate fabrics that you find at the store or online to use for reference. (You could even print off examples from websites like Reproduction Fabrics to paste in your diary.)

Here are pictures of my own fabric diary from my years of Civil War reenacting. I'll be adding to it as I make new Regency gowns.