Saturday, July 11, 2009

Oh dear! How quickly time flies. It's been far too long since my last post.

I mostly haven't posted anything because I really haven't been sewing anything. I moved across state, and it took me fully a month before I felt like I knew where all my stuff was hiding among the boxes and bags. Doesn't make for good sewing conditions - I need to feel organized to sew.

But here's what I have been working on:

I'm making a carpet bag for my mom. A lady in my reenacting club created a pattern and kit for a carpet bag. My sister and I pitched in together to get a kit for my mom for mothers day. Two months on, I'm still working on it. Hey, we hit a couple snags. I'm working on it as fast as I can! Mom is being very patient and insists that it's fun to watch the construction of it. The outside is all done - I just need to finish the lining and part of the frame needs to be fixed.

I'm also making a silk bodice to go with my ballgown skirt. The fabric is the same light blue taffeta, and the trim is the same dark blue bias strips, pleated. The inspiration for the bodice is this:

I love those open-style coat sleeves - here's a weird fact about me, I hate hate hate long sleeves. I am on the tall side, and my gangly arms are always too long for anything. I hate moving my arms and feeling like they are restricted by the length of my sleeves. But I think that making the coat sleeves more open and shorter, with undersleeves, might help.

I've also been inspired by the trim on this dress:

I have some buttons that are almost the same as those; and I love that pleated ribbon. I think it would be simple but attractive. As for the sleeves, I'm not sure whether I'll follow that picture of Mrs. Custer up there, or do something else...I've always admired those dresses that have the military-inspired chevrons on the the sleeves, but I'm not sure how well that would translate in pleated ribbon, or if that'll be too many chevrons on one bodice.

The construction of the main bodice is almost's amazing how quickly things go together once you've made a few dresses! This will be my fourth dress, and everything is so much easier. The hooks and eyes are being sewn on as we speak. Next up is finishing the neckline and bottom with piping. Then...onto drafting the sleeves! Which I am only slightly nervous about...

Did I mention I need this bodice done in less than a month? I want to wear it one of the days we spend at Fort Snelling, which is hosting a Civil War Weekend at the beginning of August. We're doing dance demonstrations and a Temperance play, in which yours truly plays the daughter of a drunkard who pleads with him to come home from the tavern. Must practice melodramatic swooning...

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Ball Report - Finally!

Whew! This has been a long time in the coming! I blame that on a few things: First, as soon as the ball/dinner were over, I got rehired for another long-term sub position. So life suddenly got busy again. Secondly, I got a week long case of stomach flu/food poisoning at the beginning of April, and I feel like I'm STILL one step behind the game. April always seems to be a busy month, doesn't it? Anyhoo, here's the deal with the ball/dinner.

I've been a member of my reenacting club for 8 years, and I've been to many hops and dances, but this was the first ball I attended in style. The majority of my reenacting experience has been hindered by several circumstances: I've been away (Duluth and Ireland), I've been broke (college has a way of doing that), or I've been both. For the big Winter Weekend that my club throws each year, I've either had speech team (either participating or coaching), been studying abroad, or my sister was getting married (nothing clogs up your weekend like being maid of honor!). It just never seemed to work out.

So. Now that I've gotten back into reenacting, progressed to the advanced dances, and had the money to blow on the stuff, I knew I was going to attend this ball with bells on. I started sewing my ballgown last autumn, working on it through the winter, tweaking and sewing and fitting. Anyone close to me knows I have been plotting and scheming and dreaming on this since January - and earlier.

The weekend started with a dance lesson on Friday. I found myself being an "example" a few times - in a good way, of course. It was nice - I've never really considered myself a good dancer, but my skills have really improved and practice really does make perfect. It was nice to meet a lot of new people too, and just have some silly fun.

Then it was the big day! One of the coolest parts of the evening was getting dressed in the dressing room. Everyone "oo"ed and "ahh"ed over each others' dresses. I felt like I was going to prom or getting married - I had so many ladies lacing my bodice and fluffing my skirt and fixing my trim. It was a physical transformation into the past.

Afterward, everyone trickled upstairs to the ballroom. The entrance to the ballroom was decorated with Greek columns and ivy, since the theme of the evening was "Aphrodite's Festival". The ballroom itself was decorated with tracings of Greek gods and goddesses, and their symbols. At the head of the room, there was an "altar" to Aphrodite, with a recreation of her birth. At the foot, there was a backdrop of Greek ruins, and a living statue, where one could take one's photograph.

There were 20 dances - 20!! I won't list them all - this write-up is half for posterity anyway and I've saved my dance card. I believe I danced eleven. My favorite of the night was the spanish waltz and the waltz redowa - the first is a reel-type dance that is just elegant and easy. The second is a variation on a waltz that involves hopping and sliding, rather than fluid motions, and presents a bit more of a challenge. I also enjoyed the triplet gallop quadrille - a set dance that is very very fast (just about 2 minutes for three figures and choruses) and involves a game of chicken with the couple opposite. I mostly enjoyed it because my set had a lot of fun dancers who knew the set really well - and my partner particularly enjoyed the "chicken" part, which was half-fun and half-terrifying!

The nice part about these events is the opportunity to meet new people and see old friends. I saw a lot of people I don't get to see often, and got to catch up. In particular were some girls I rarely get to see, along with one of my "husbands" from last summer.

Also enjoyable is the opportunity to practice proper manners. It's nice to have a gentleman ask for a dance as the honor that it is; to bow and curtsy; to be escorted and treated with respect. I can understand why some would find it stifling - I find it a refreshing change of pace. At these balls, it is proper for a gentleman to ask for the honor of a dance beforehand, then come and fetch you. It's highly rude for gentlemen who know the sets to sit out while ladies who want to dance are left as "wallflowers" (the actual source of the term!). Yet, there were plenty of gentlemen there who knew the dances, and didn't dance. There were also some who only danced with one lady all night - also a big faux pas in the 1860s. I would have preferred if there'd been some etiquette instruction - but I don't know that it would have helped. Either way, I really only sat out the dances I didn't enjoy.

There were some games played involving Greek philosophy and mythology. The refreshments were lovely - ginger lemonade (made by yours truly!) and raspberry shrub, along with oranges, chocolates and nuts.

I'm not gonna lie - one of the highlights of the night was the Spanish Waltz with a handsome young soldier who told me my new dress was "beautiful". Melt into a puddle of goo, anyone?

The dancing ended just after midnight, but I honestly thought I could have danced all night - pardon me, Eliza Doolittle. I felt like the Bennets after the ball at in Meryton - "And I was so admired! There was nothing like it!" I really felt like a princess - everyone told me I looked "radiant" and "stunning", and one lady even said I looked like I walked right out of Godey's - which is high praise in my book!

The dinner was the next weekend, and was also Greek themed. The style was a transition style - somewhere between the grand banqueting style of A la Francais and the plated style of A la Russe. The tables were arranged in a u-shape, with a huge centerpiece in the middle of them (which I made).

I will not bore you with all 14 courses. Yes, that's right. 14 courses. Granted, the courses are very small, but still. My favorites were the crown roast lamb (which was beautifully presented by the chef), the roast beef with artichokes and pine nuts, the Copenhagen (not the tobacco! a really rich pastry), pistachio birds nests and the ouzo sorbet. It was simply to die for!

I'll post pictures later. I think this post has gotten long enough!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Pretty Pretty Princess

We here out on the prairie have been hit with a blizzard. Last night, on the NOAA website, they announced a blizzard warning - not a winter storm, a BLIZZARD. When you hear that, you know you're going to be hit hard. So far it hasn't looked too bad outside. But the wind is blowing furiously. We've been advised not to go outside, and of course I am one to obey orders, so I've stayed in my pajamas all day, snuggled up on the couch.

It seemed the perfect day to get some sewing done. I fixed the hem facing on the skirt of my ballgown. It was bunching a little funny. I'm afraid I'll have to eventually undo the skirt and redo it - I've lost some weight recently and thankfully I've just been able to take in the waistband at this point, but I'm afraid things will need to be rebalanced.

I have no pictures - all pictures right now would be with the auto-timer on my rinky-dink Kodak Easyshare, and wouldn't do justice to how beautiful the gown really is. So when it is all done, and I'm all dressed up for the ball, I will have someone take some photos.

With Kind Regards,


Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Welcome to my little corner of the world!

I started reenacting almost 9 years ago. But my obsession with history began far, far earlier. For as long as I could remember, I've been in love with history. When I was little, I learned to read early, and my favorite books were those which were historical in nature - the American Girl series, the Little House Books, Anne of Green Gables. Anything historical, I was interested in it. I learned a lot of handcrafts early on, because it made me feel like a pioneer girl.

When I was in middle school, I started volunteering at a historical site nearby. That gave me some of my history fix - but the customer service aspect was a real downer - people were always getting in the way of my history high.

In 8th grade, I went with my class trip to Washington DC. The last day, we drove down to Williamsburg, VA and I got to spend a day in Colonial Williamsburg. I can pinpoint this as the moment that I was sort of reborn - there were people there, pretending like they were back in time! The buildings were historical! They were working with recreated tools! It was like a historical mecca - everyone there was just as enthusiastic about history as I was! But Williamsburg was located on the East Coast - and I really didn't know about anything near where I was. I figured I would attend college out east, in order to gain access to that kind of environment.

Fast forward a few years, one of the last summers I spent volunteering at the historic site. I saw a program put on by my current club about fashion in the mid 19th century. Things started clicking into place in my mind - it was living history, going on right in my neighborhood. I signed up immediately, though it took me almost a year to get up the nerve to attend a meeting.

That was that. It took a long time for my feet to hit the floor - through high school, through college, and into my first year out of college, I didn't really have the time or money to put into living history. Now that I'm a bit more settled, this past year has featured a rededication of my efforts towards living history.

My goals in living history are several. First, I want to educate myself, through research and constant questioning of what I know, or think I know. My second goal is to educate others, the public and my fellow living historians, by sharing what I know. Thirdly, I want to experience what it was truly like to live back in time, and have a ton of fun doing it.

So, to mark my new era in living history, I've started this blog, to track my research, projects, acquistions, and of course, all the events I attend. I hope you'll join me!

With Kind Regards,