Friday, August 9, 2013

A "quick-and-dirty" work petticoat

I decided to quickly throw together a petticoat this week! I'd already seamed the panels, and today I decided to finish it (because, after all, I'm going to an event tomorrow - and there's nothing quite like last minute sewing!!).

Garment Data:
- Type: Petticoat
- Date made: August 9th, 2013
- Pattern: None. Based on the basic guidelines by Liz Clark
- Fabric: A basic light-weight cotton in brown with thin woven stripes in a plaid/criss-cross
- Trim: None
- Time to finish: not more than a few hours, total! It was machine sewn, mostly freehand without a lot of pinning
- Notes: Don't look too closely at my hems, seams, or waistband! This is a purely functional petticoat. In fact, I found out that I'd pleated it wrong, so the waistband is a bit big - but, again, functional: not worth redoing!

Approximately half-inch pleats. Not measured - I eyeballed them after dividing the skirt into quarters. That way I knew they'd be roughly even, even if I didn't get them exact.

The waistband, half attached. The white is a piece of muslin inside the waistband, to help give it a bit more oomph. Even so, I got some torquing when I sewed it. This could have been avoided if I had taken the time to pin! It would have also made the seam straighter and tidier on the front :D
Shortcuts do show!
Full length view. The back of the dress is clipped in the left side of the hanger, the front of the petticoat, which is flatter and has fewer pleats, is to the right.

The back opening. It has multiple buttons, fairly far in (lots of overlap), because, as noted above, the waistband is actually too large!

Most sincerely yours,
~ Sarah

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Painesville, 2012

Reenactment in Painesville, Ohio, at the Lake County Historical Center! July 14th, 2012 (or 1862, if you prefer!).

Tried to make sure the background was period appropriate!

Back view. The bodice isn't fitting quite right, but I think (hope) that mostly took care of itself with new underpinnings.

The strange juxtaposition of troops marching, hoopskirts, shorts and t-shirts, and kettle corn, with "telegraph" wires?
Working reproduction Gatling - made from the original patent drawings and instructions. The Gatling was barely used during the Civil War - it largely came into use after; versions of this gun are still in use today.

Most sincerely yours,
~ Sarah

The Silk Umbrella

Originally written for the U.S. Civil War Ladies Auxiliary, Inc. newsletter, July 2012

The Silk Umbrella by Sarah Koby

Black silk was the favorite material for piecing out old clothes, because it suited everything… An old black silk skirt with nine flounces was a treasure in our family for nearly two years, and when that store was exhausted, we fell back on the cover of a worn-out silk umbrella. The finest traveling dress I had during the war, was a brown alpaca turned wrong side out, upside down, and trimmed with quillings made of that same umbrella cover. I will venture to say that no umbrella ever served so many purposes or was so thoroughly used up before. The whalebones served to stiffen corsets and the waist of a homespun dress, and the handle was given to a wounded soldier for a walking stick.
By Elzey Hay, from “Dress Under Difficulties: Or Passages from the Blockade Experience of Rebel Women,” published in Godey’s Lady’s Book, July 1866 (and reprinted in excerpt form in Survey of Historic Costume: A History of Western Dress, 4th Ed. By Phyllis G. Tortora & Keith Eubank)

In the south during the civil war, it was very difficult to get new fabrics, so people had to make do with what they had. This autobiographical passage by Elzey Hay shows that it wasn’t just old clothes that people turned to, but that anything and everything might be put to use. It reminds me of the saying “Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do, or Do without!” I’m not certain when this saying originated, but the truism is as valid as ever.
Southern women (or at least well-to-do southern women) began the war with large wardrobes with a high turnover rate – they gave away clothing that they were tired of or felt they had no use for. Later on, as the war progressed, they found that they regretted this, since they ran out of clothing, and what they had had begun to wear out. However, the women learned to make do with what they had. They resewed dresses, and the new styles with less puffy sleeves allowed them to make do with less fabric. Skirts and blouses (instead of dresses) meant that they could also use two different fabrics to make an ensemble if they couldn’t find enough to make it all one fabric. Ladies still tried to be fashionable, as much as they could under the circumstances. If there was a Godey’s Lady’s Book, ladies would flock from miles around to see it, even if it was an old copy.
The silk umbrella is a great example of making every bit count. The silk of the actual rain-cover was used for patching just like the black silk skirt. But then – why throw the rest away? They managed to use the whalebones of the umbrella to keep themselves respectably corseted, and even the handle was given to a soldier who needed a walking stick. But the part I find most interesting is the quillings. These are little curls of fabric used to decorate another piece of fabric. This young lady took the decorations from an old umbrella, and used them to decorate a traveling dress! That’s just marvelous – in the midst of war and hardship, she found the opportunity to keep a little bit of beauty.

Most sincerely yours,
~ Sarah

More possible Civil War hairstyles

Playing around with hair - May 2013.

This is just a rolled and pinned looser style, done right after my hair dried so that I have a lot of fullness and curl. The ribbon/lace thing is based loosely on a Godey's illustration, and could be worn for fancy occasions.

Same style as above, sans decoration.

A hairstyle I found in my Dec. 1862 Godey's.

Trying the style out! I couldn't quite get the figure-8 on the back, though. I really like this style.

Another style I like is having the back braided and coiled, and the front smooth and down over the ears before wrapping around the bun. There is a picture in the book "Dressed for the Photographer" where you can see a lady having this hairstyle (approximately). Here I also braided in a ribbon, for fun!

Same as above, different angle.

Same as above, different angle.

And just for fun, a modern design: a french braid all the way around my head.

Same as above, other side.

Most sincerely yours,
~ Sarah

Slat Bonnet

In May I decided to make a slat bonnet so that I would have something to keep the sun off my face (my straw bonnet is pretty - even if it still needs work for accuracy - but doesn't do much against the sun).
The choice of the brown fabric was very much dependant on the fact that I don't have many pieces of cotton in my stash that were big enough! (At least, without being plain white.)

Garment Data:
- Type: Slat Bonnet
- Date made: May 2013
- Pattern: Liz Clark's:, specifically:
- Fabric: A basic cotton "calico" bought from JoAnn Fabrics as fat quarters. I used two. I recommend not piecing it this way, since you get odd seams and it's not quite as long as I'd like it, though it does work. Also, cardboard was used for the slats.
- Trim: None
- Time to finish: 2 days (with breaks!!!)
- Notes: A fun and simple project! I really liked it and will be playing with variations in the future. Specifically, a lighter color so it's not quite as hot in the sun. But also just for fun!

Bonnet in the piecing and cutting stage.

The basic bonnet shape, cut out and marked. There is a fold along the top, so the whole thing is doubled. Once assembled, the far edge (fold) runs along the top of the head, the head will face the left, and the curve on the right follows the back of the head/neck.

I had enough fabric, barely, but not in the right shape, hence the seam at the fold, plus the seam you can see vertically down the middle of the picture. This seam will end up across the bottom of the back of the bonnet.

I'm making progress. The facing is attached (this is the part that I will see on the inside, when I have the bonnet on). The bonnet is hemmed all the way around, and you can see I've started to sew the channels for the slats.

The facing is the white part. This is on the inside of the bonnet, around my face. Note that this means that the brown fabric you see is the back/reverse (wrong sides) of the patterned bonnet fabric. You can actually tell in this picture that my pieces were probably from different dye lots! I promise, they look the same on the right sides. Hopefully they'll fade the same in the sun *fingers crossed*. (NOTE: It appears find in the sun!)

Starting the channels.

They are 1 inch wide, and will not go all the way down on either side of my face, rather, should stop near my chin. These channels will be filled with cardboard, and stiffen the brim of the bonnet.

Close up of one of the channels. The left is the brim edge, the right is where the bonnet goes on to cover my head. This channel will have a 1 inch x 8 inch (or so) piece of cardboard slid into it. Eventually the whole brim will just be channels like this, to create "stripes" of stiff brim.
Cutting the strips to make ties. 1.5 inches wide, and it turns out I only needed 4, each 17 inches long.

The slat channels are done!

A close-up of the slat channels. There are 21. (NOTE: I've now decided this was probably too many. I could take out a slat or two on each side and it would be fine. In fact, it would probably echo less without them over my ears!)

Slat channels with measuring tape for scale. 1 inch wide, approximately.
The strips ironed in quarters lengthwise, ready to sew into ties.

Some cardboard, to make the slats with (in this case, cereal boxes and some random other pieces I found - not the heavy corrugated stuff).
 It's coming together!! I'll just sew the channels shut with a big basting-type stitch (so the cardboard can be removed if I need to wash the bonnet), and then I'll attach the ties.

Cardboard cut into slats to slide into the channels.

You can see how the cardboard+channels gives a nice stiff brim (inside).

Cardboard+channels giving a nice stiff brim (outside).
It's done! Here is the finished bonnet!

The "curtain" in the back. You can see how poofing over my hair is pulling it upward, making the curtain shorter. This won't be a problem if I'm wearing a dress with a small neckline, but I'd still like to lengthen it.

A better back shot of the bonnet as a whole.
Flat view. Again, you can see that the sides under the slats are quite long, but you can also see how the back isn't long enough.

Silly! But it shows how deep the brim is, and how the sun stands no chance against me and my sewing skillz. Muah hah hah!

Side view. You'll notice (as in the pic where you can see my face) that there are two sets of ties: One across the back of my head, which adjusts the fit and how far forward the brim sits, and the ties under my chin, which just keep the thing on my head.

Back view again. In this one my hair isn't up (you can kinda see the tail of my braid peeking out), so the curtain doesn't look as drastically short. My hair will usually be up, though.

For next time, I'd make the back (curtain) longer, and probably make the sides shorter (that hang down on either side). This is simple to do (just an adjustment of some measurements). The reason the curtain in the back looks so short is that the fabric has to puff out over the back of my head, and that uses more fabric than I expected. I followed the pattern as it was, this time, but now I know what to adjust! I fully plan to make a lighter colored bonnet in the near future - and when I do so, I won't work with scraps and remnants, so I'll have more flexibility to play with the pattern.

Most sincerely yours,
~ Sarah

A Ball!

By February 2013 I had gotten my "ball" gown ready enough to wear. I'd been to a few reenactments (Summer 2012 - posts will follow at some point!), and was excited to hear about the Grand Military Ball in Canton, Ohio. (Edited to add: the ball is called the Ohio Regimental Military Ball [SK 2/17/2014])
I didn't get many great pictures (and I'm only posting my own photos on here unless specially noted), but I'll share what I have!

Me in my hotel room before stepping downstairs for the dance.
I did end up adjusting the hoops after the ball, since I noticed that my foot kept hooking the bottom one.

Back view. I made the ribbon hairpiece based loosely on an illustration in Godey's.
My hair was braided and coiled on the back of my head, and covered my ears (as you can see in the previous picture). I also had ringlets coming down the back, but you can't see them because they are obscured by ribbons and lace!

LOTS of people!

With LOTS of pretty dresses!

The dancing was similar to Contra dancing.
We did Reels, and circle dances, and waltzes; we did dances where you switched partners as well as dances where you stayed with one.

Most sincerely yours,
~ Sarah