Saturday, November 30, 2013

Home-Grown Immersion

All the busy-ness of the fall reenacting season has finally slowed down, and it seems like it will stay that way for the next couple months. That's fine with me. There are plenty of fun things I wish I was doing with friends, but if there's anything I've learned this past year, it's that a little bit goes a long way. So I'm enjoying some weekends actually spent at home, and working on some very awesome commissions for which I've been hired.

But there's really no rest for the wicked, is there? Because two weeks ago, an event I have been planning for the last six months came to fruition. I hosted a day-long first person immersion event for some friends.

For those of you who aren't in the know, "first person" is a style of historical interpretation. First person interpretation is similar to the first person voice in writing - in the case of living history, first person interpreters behave and speak as if they are alive at the time they are portraying. They take on a role - sometimes composite (meaning created from a variety of sources) or sometimes an actual historical person - and interact with patrons and other participants as that person. And a first person immersion event is an event wherein all the attendees do first person interpretation for a set period of time, thus immersing themselves in the period. Through this, spectators and participants can get a feeling of "time travel", and participants often achieve a greater understanding of the time period through a process of experiential archaeology.

Over the past few years, I've been lucky enough to have several opportunities to do first person interpretation, and to try it with some really amazing living historians in amazing surroundings. Last winter, I was talking with some friends about the fact that we don't have a lot of opportunities for those kinds of events and interactions nearby. I argued that you don't need much to do first person interpretation, just a likely setting and a group of people who are committed to following the same set of rules and achieving the same experience by researching and preparing.

Well, that sounds like a dare, doesn't it?

So, I started planning a private first-person immersion event for my friends who either hadn't experienced first person immersion before and wanted to get their toes wet, or who wanted to experience more of it. This is the event we had two weeks ago. I'm pleased to say that by-and-large, it was a massive success, on so many levels.

Here are some pictures, for your enjoyment:

The dining room, with the table set.

Myself and a visiting friend

Discussing the dishes with the cook

The maid setting the table

Enjoying lunch with, apparently, animated conversation

Genteel company!

 That's just a sneak peek. I have more to say about this event, and the process of planning it, for those who are curious and might want to get a glimpse at the planning process. I'm organizing my thoughts, but hope to post it in the next couple days!

Monday, November 18, 2013

And the Winner Is...

Thanks to everyone who entered the drawing! I loved reading your replies - turns out there are a lot of people out there who love Robert Land shoes as much as I do. I'm still ruminating on the name for the car, but greatly enjoyed your suggestions and some of them are real contenders!

I did the drawing last night, but after hosting my own first-person immersion day this weekend I was just too tired to work up a post. Without further ado, the winner of the drawing is...


Congratulations! You can email me via the form on the left-hand side of the blog. Let me know how I can get these to you.

Thanks again to everyone who entered! It was fun, and I'll definitely be doing another one in the future, so keep your eyes peeled!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Inside My Stash

Recently, there's been a lot of talk on my Facebook feed from my reenacting friends regarding organization - and it's timely, because I just recently did a bit of an overhaul on my fabric stash. One of my constant struggles as a sewer is how to keep my sewing area tidy. I live in a fairly small one bedroom apartment - there’s plenty of space for me, but as any sewer knows, fabric stashes and supplies seem to just multiply and take over. I only have two closets, one being the small coat closet (and the vacuum cleaner, ironing board, and brooms live there...oh yeah, along with the coats). There is a decent-sized walk-in closet in the bedroom, the back part of which has become Fabric Narnia. The biggest challenge for any fabric stasher, however, is less about how much space you have, and more about how you effectively utilize it to keep things neat and organized and make the most of what space you have.

This is a pictorial about what I’ve done with my space.

It is bigger than it looks. Trust me.
The upper shelf, with labels.

The bottom, with labels, and some proof that I do wear modern clothes sometimes

I’m not here to tell you how to organize your sewing space, because I’m not an expert. My dining room is a mess most of the time and I’m still figuring out for myself how to keep things organized. Each person is unique and has unique situations, so it would be rather presumptuous of me to prescribe a fix for everyone. However, there is one tip I want to share with you that, in recent conversations, has seemed to be an “ah ha!” moment for several sewing friends. So I share it here, in good health:

Save the bolt.

When you buy fabric, if you’re buying the whole bolt (as many costumers do), ask the cutter if you can keep the bolt. Most of them are happy to give it away, because they usually just throw them away once the fabric is gone. Some of the smaller chains or independent stores will actually let you take home extra bolts, so you can have some for any online fabric purchases. Just be careful that you’re getting the right size bolt - 23” for 44”-wide fabric (shirtings, calicos, some cottons), and 30” bolts or cardboard tubes for apparel yardgoods (silks, wools, some cottons) that are usually 55” or 60” wide.

I tend to mark the end of the bolt with information about the fabric - where I bought it, when I bought it, how much I purchased it for, and how many yards. If you have the original bolt, you can then also see the fiber content and care instructions, otherwise you may want to mark this on the replacement bolt. Then, it can be stored in the method most convenient for you - on a shelf, in a bin, stacked in the closet, etc. I keep these lined up vertically on the wire shelf in my closet.

I do the same thing with the cardboard tubes used for silks - and you can still get these at fabric stores as well. That way, the silk can be stored upright, unfolded, crease free. They sit in the corner of my closet, waiting to be turned into something beautiful, but I could see them situated on a shelf somewhere if floor space were at a premium…

Anyway, I hope that's been helpful, or at least interesting! Don't forget that I'm doing a giveaway here - you should all go enter it! Even if you haven't commented before! Even if we don't know each other! I love making new friends!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Few of My Favorite Things (and a giveaway!)

I hope you're all enjoying the slow settling of fall into winter! Here in Minnesota, it has gotten pretty chilly, and I'm cuddled up with sweatpants, slippers and a mug of tea right now. This is probably my favorite time of year, for a lot of reasons, the cuddling-up-slippers-and-tea part being part of it. I like feeling as if the whole world is being covered up with a blanket, and up here in the frozen north, that blanket is white, and it comes pretty quickly. We've already had our first snow accumulation for the season!

With all of that, I get in the holiday mood pretty early up here. I love everything about Christmas, so that's not a hardship for me. I also work in retail, and we've been talking about the holiday season since the last one ended, so there's no escaping. I was thinking just yesterday that I ought to haul out my tree so that I have plenty of time to set up and decorate. And I may or may not have enjoyed some Christmas songs already. Don't judge.

Another reason why I like this time of year is because it's when I was born! I celebrated another anniversary of my birth last Monday. In honor of that, my trusty Subaru Outback, which hauled me and my gear to so many adventures and reenactments, decided to end its long and storied life in a blaze of glory. So, for my birthday, I got a "new" car (a 2010 Subaru Forester, with the same amount of cargo space as the Late Great Outback - more adventures!) and a heap of debt.

Yeah, but isn't she purdy?

I also got a family heirloom from my grandmother (a cigarette box she was given for a wedding present, with the admonition not to take up smoking), a gift certificate to my favorite antique shop (transferware ahoy!) and lots of other nice things.

I'm actually not very attached to things - or at least I try not to be. For the past year's holidays (Christmas and birthday, to be precise), I have asked my relatives not to purchase me gifts, and to instead donate their money that they would have spent on me to a charity of their choice, or to spend it on their own children or grandchildren. I don't need things - I have plenty of them, and they're not so important in the long-run.

HOWEVER - I am a reenactor, so I like shiny pretty things, and I definitely have my own list of my "favorite things". In honor of my birthday and the glimmer of the holidays on the horizon, here's a few things you may be tempted to put on your wish list*.

A Valise from Merrick's Custom Leather.
 I have been drooling over these puppies for some time. If one of you wanted to send me one, I wouldn't complain.

Image from Merrick's Custom Leather

Fabric from Renaissance Fabrics.
So many drool-worthy fabrics on this site! The changeable taffetas are to die for, and would make some very cool quilted bonnets or a stunning ballgown.

Shoes from Robert Land.
Do I even have to explain? A pair of walking shoes. The end.

Image from Robert Land Historical Shoes

This Dress, and This Crown. It's on my list of to-sews for some day, and maybe one day I'll be wealthy enough to have a replica of that crown (a girl can dream, right?). Many of you probably know why, but I plan to explain fully in a future post...

Empress Eugenie of France by Franz Xavier Winterhalter honor of my birthday and the start of the holiday season, I'm doing a giveaway! It's my first ever giveaway! I've got two things to send to a lucky reader...

 A decorated hairnet of brown and white plaid ribbon on a black net, plus a paper punch book marker, both made by yours truly! The book marker was made for a fancy fair (and sorry southern friends, I don't have a Dixie book marker stashed away - this girl bleeds Union). The hairnet is meant to be worn indoors, at home or at a social occasion indoors, and with a nice dress - it's no substitute for a bonnet, and isn't suited to manual labor but it looks swell on an at-home middle class impression!

To enter the drawing, simply respond below and answer one or more of the following questions. Make sure you leave your name so I can contact you!

  • Do you have any reenacting "shinies" on your wish list? What are they?
  • What are you particularly thankful for as this year draws to a close?
  • What events are you planning to attend this winter?
  • What should I name the new car? Bonus points for historical reference, and keep in mind that she's a girl.

I'll draw for the winner on November 17th! Good luck!

*None of these businesses offered me any compensation for these mentions. If they find out about it and want to send me something as a belated birthday gift, I wouldn't turn it down. Wink wink.