Project Planning for the New Year

As someone who spent a decade as a high school teacher, long term planning is apart of my DNA.  And even if I hadn’t spent years in the profession, my personality definitely lends itself to organization and lots of templates….except in my sewing studio.  That looks a hot mess most of the time!  Creativity doesn’t always lend itself to order, however, I have found that planning out projects has been vital to not only accomplishing my goals, but feeling focused.  Whether I need to complete a gown by a certain date, remember to try a new technique on an item, or take advantage of a fabric sale because I know I will have a need for it, being organized is so helpful!

I find that many naturally feel this way around the New Year.  And while I still feel that my “new year” always begins around September (once a teacher, always a teacher), I find my creative juices practically explode come January.  So in case this sounds like you, I have decided to share with you all the templates I use when planning not only a projects, but also for the year as a whole.  I added a few instructions as well!

I usually try to plan a few gowns (at least one from a new time period), repair any worn undergarments, and then make sure that I have left enough space to take on any custom orders or stock items that are needed.

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Historical Winter Recipes

I love to bake…I even enjoy cooking dinners most nights of the week!  😉

However, when it comes to reenacting, I have had very limited experience, as I tend to focus and highlight sewing and fashion.  Over the summer, however, I was able to connect with the Foodways Historian at my local museum and just watch her in action.  While there is most definitely a method and way to cook over fire, it is also surprisingly simple.  Precaution must be taken when cooking near an open flame and when touching and handling the tools, but anyone who has a little knowledge of baking and cooking will see the similarities of modern and historical food preparation.

Today I have collected a few recipes perfect for cold, chilly days and the holiday season.   While these are unlike recipes we see today, I;m sure those of your who like a challenge and figuring out puzzles, will enjoy these 19th century recipes!

Scotch Short Cake Recipe: Leslie, Eliza. Miss Leslie’s Lady’s New Receipt book 3rd ed.

Philadelphia: A Hart. Late Carey &Hart. 1850

 

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My Favorite Things

Today I want to share with you a few of my favorite things that help make my sewing and reenacting just a little bit easier.  For the most part, these items are simple in nature, inexpensive and relatively easy to find.  But don’t let their simplistic nature fool you, all these are immeasurable in their usefulness!  I have also done my best to link each item mentioned.  I hope you enjoy!

PART ONE – My Favorite Sewing Things

  1.  Moldable Ruler
  2. Mary Ellen’s Best Press
  3. Fiskars Thread Snip Scissors
  4. Fiskars Sharpener
  5. Thimble
  6. Dritz Small Iron
  7. Wrist Pincushion

PART TWO – My Favorite Reenacting Things

1. . Basket

2. Notebook

3.  Stockings

4. Fleece Leggings

5. Quilted Petticoat

6. Shawl – I used this pattern.

7. Handwarmers

 

As I mentioned above, none of these items are all that fancy.  But I have found them to be true workhorses and my go to items.  As you begin to build your own sewing and reenacting tool kits, take note of what works and doesn’t work.  And while we always want to be as accurate as possible, sometimes a little modern cheat can make a difference between freezing or enjoying your event!

😉

 


Laundry Tips and Tricks

Laundry is just one of those things that will always exist.  Always has and always will.  It has really only been the past two hundred years or so that the method of doing laundry has changed.  With the invention of the mangle, washboard, and eventually, the washing machine, that act of laundering has become easier and easier.

For those of you interested in 19th century laundry practices and reenactments, you are in luck.  There are a few extra tools to make the job easier then the 18th century or earlier.  In today’s post I am going to share a simple set up I did at a local museum, a few primary sources for more specifics, and some ways to keep your historical wardrobe clean.

Over the past summer, I put together a small laundry demonstration for visitors on simple ways to do laundry in the 19th century.  I had a few buckets, some wooden dowels (agitators), soap, and some water I fetched from the pump quite a few yards away!  I even was able to have our bread oven baker heat up some water (which on a hot summer day was a blessing so I wouldn’t have to start the wood stove inside the house I work out of) to help dissolve the soap.  It was interesting to hear peoples reactions ranging from interest, disdain, and surprise that there wasn’t more to it.  And I think that last observation is a great one on two counts – first, laundry didn’t always mean harsh chemicals, boiling cauldrons of water, and yards of clothesline  –  second, putting together a quick display for my museum (and any reenactment or vent for that matter) doesn’t have to be some complicated affair.    Also, grass bleaching white cotton is the best way to take your muddy looking garments from bleh to almost brand new!  Warm sun and green grass, who knew!?!

A few images from a simple laundry demonstration I did early in 2021.  I used a goat’s milk blended lye soap (gentler on the hands) to clean white undergarments and then sun bleached them on the grass.  I also create a potato starch (recipe for this was taken from the Working Woman’s Guide) to starch the petticoats when dry…to middling success! 🙂

My knowledge on 19th century laundry practices is no way as in-depth as my knowledge on fashion and sewing.  However, I have compiled a few primary and secondary sources to help guide those of you who are thinking of dabbling in a bit of garment cleaning.

Sources and Information on 19th Century Laundry

Article on Technology and Laundry

The Work Woman’s Guide By A Lady, 1838  *

White Clothing and Victorian Laundry

Looking for some more modern tips and tricks to keep your historical wardrobe clean?  Read on!

  1.  My #1 rule when it comes to any historical garment is to never wash it in a modern washing machine.  It will reek havoc on your hand stitching, gathers, pleats, etc.  Especially as modern garments do not have serged edges, fraying can be a major concern.
  2. Hand wash or spot clean as needed.
  3. Line dry and lay flat your garments make sure to give them a gentle shake and slight shift during the drying time.  This will ensure they dry evenly and as wrinkle free as possible.
  4. Use a wrinkle release spray.  I use this on my petticoats and skirts, especially on the areas where I sit.  Then I just hang up to let gravity do its thing.  You can get a natural organic
  5. If you have silk which has had mud on it, do not wash.  Instead t let the mud dry and beat it off rug beater style.
  6. Use a mild soap when hand washing to avoid bleeding staining on delicate fabrics.
  7. Let the weather and location help dictate what you wear to avoid damages to delicate fabrics – also, choosing natural toned fabrics (brown, grey, etc) for outdoor events will also be helpful in disguising mud.

Looking to create your own Laundress?  Make sure and check out the Working Woman’s Gown Sewing Course in the Classes section of the Membership!

Happy Laundering!


Accessories of the 19th Century

A few weeks ago, a subscriber asked for some ideas on what to include in her 1860’s ensemble as the “finishing touches.”  I shared some accessories examples and realized that this would be a fabulous topic for a post highlighting the whole century!

Much like today, accessories are both useful and fashionable.  And they also differ for each individual.  So unless you are portraying a specific individual or social class, feel free to let you current view of accessories guide you in your journey for historical ones.  For example, I am a very minimalist person.  I have a few outfits, wear my hair in a few simple ways, and prefer simple studs or hoops for the extent of my jewelry.  I find that I continue this same viewpoint in my living history wardrobe as well.  One pair of earrings, one pair of shoes, and three dresses I alternate based on weather and event.  However, I have a friend who believes options are the only way to live and has secured quite the historical accessory inventory.  Whatever your style and tastes, there is a look and piece for you!

I have divided the century up into the following categories: Regency (1800-1820), Victorian Goth and Romanticism (1840-1856), Age of the Hoop (1856-1866), Age of the Bustle (1870-1890).  I included a brief overview of the fashion seen during each time period to help “set the scene” so to speak.  I also believe the best way to find out what was worn is by looking at original photographs, paintings, and fashion plates.  Therefore I have included a lot of images!  Click on any image to expand.  Enjoy! 🙂

Regency Era

Light, airy, and often figure forming styles are complimented with equally dainty chemisettes, caps, and shawls.  Jewelry ranged from pearls, fine jewels, and pendants.

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Handsewing 101

Before the invention of the sewing machine, hand sewing was the only method used  to construct garments.  There are various styles, techniques, and types of hand stitches used to do and create different things.  While many of us (especially for those sewing items 1850’s and on) use the sewing machine for the majority of our projects, there are still many parts that need to be sewn by hand.  I have created four little videos showing you the most commonly used stitches in historical sewing….two of which I use on every single gown I make.  

Note** I am left handed – and as such the angle may seem strange to you.  Simply hold the needle in your dominant hand, and follow the verbal instructions to create each stitch.

The Running Stitch

 

The Back Stitch

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Recreating the Look – 1810-1890

Today’s post came about in a rather unexpected way.   About a month ago, a member reached out and asked for my help in finding sewing patterns to create an entire outfit.  They were unsure the best place to start and how to look at a sewing pattern and figure out if it could be used to create a specific item.  After spending a bit of time looking, I was able to find a variety of patterns and with great success!

They found this so helpful that I thought I would do the same thing for all members!  I found four images from the 19th century and found as many patterns as I could to recreate the entire look (minus hair.)  While there are a few specific patterns I have personally never used, I am very familiar with all the companies chosen and have been quite pleased.  A few patterns and courses from this membership have also been linked below  The patterns range in skill from moderate beginner to more advanced.  I also included patterns for undergarments to make sure that you are able to to achieve the proper look for each outfit.  Feel free to reach out with any questions you may have! 🙂

Now on to the looks!

 

1805 – Regency Era

A lovely day gown which features elbow length sleeves, gathered v-neckline, a cap with veil, and reticule.

1810’s Fashion Plate

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