29 February 2012

Leibster Blog Award

I was honored this past weekend when Mrs. C from The Hectic Eclectic awarded me with the Leibster Blog award! Thank you Mrs. C!!

I'm not sure where the award originated, but my understanding is that the Leibster Blog Award recognizes blogs with less than 200 followers and I am to pass along the honor to five other blogs.

Having become quite the costume blog junkie during the last year, it's hard to narrow it down. Here are my nominees...

All The Pretty Dresses - Isabella chronicles antique textiles sales, which I find both fascinating and a helpful source for primary research.  

At the Sign of the Golden Scissors -  Hallie's blog is a treasure trove of helpful research! I'm not sure how many followers she has but I suspect there are more than 200.

Couture Courtesan - Samantha makes beautiful costumes from all eras and I always enjoy seeing photos of the many events she wears them to.

Dames a la Mode - Taylor makes beautiful 18th and early 19th century gowns, and shares her fabulous primary research and resources.
Diary of a Mantua Maker - ColeV's projects are so interesting and admirable (especially her posts on shoe making), but like Hallie's blog I'm not sure how many followers she has.
Fashionable Frolick - Sisters Ashley and Rebecca share their history adventures from costumes to genealogy to historic sites. 

Kleidungum 1800 - The talented author behind Kleidungum 1800 focuses on early 19th century gowns...and fortunately for those of us who don't know German, her posts also offer English translations.

My Vintage Visions - Emily offers more great research and shares her costume creations from many eras.

Picking for Pleasure - Nicole's research is top notch. Her posts are incredibly informative and helpful for those of us who want to become well informed antique shoppers.

Rococo Atelier - Sanna shares more great research, tutorials and her costume recreations, which I find inspiring.

Stay-ing Alive - Abby's presentation about costume blogs at last year's CSA conference inspired me to create my blog. I hope that amidst the chaos of wedding planning (which I can relate to!) she can return to blogging in the near future.

Stuck in the 18th Century - Kristin's blog is another interesting one as she often faces similar challenges to myself as we are both fairly new to sewing...and I am quite looking forward to her posts about the Mercy Bradford cloak.

Teacups Among the Fabric - The author of Teacups creates 18th century impressions for her family, which I admire since I am trying to do the same for my little one.  

Unfortunately I can only pass the award along to five others. As a blog follower I'm most interested in reading about what others are researching--especially primary research. Thus using research as my primary judging criteria, my five winners are:
  1. Dames a la Mode
  2. Fashionable Frolick
  3. My Vintage Visions
  4. Picking for Pleasure
  5. Staying-Alive
Happy Leap Day!

23 February 2012

Toddler Toys

It's safe to say that my toddler's toys have taken over the house. Her love of play and playing is both a joy to watch and her job as she grows. Looking around our plastic collection of Fisher Price and Little Tykes I'm wondering what should I bring to living history events this year to keep her appropriately entertained?

Starting with my go-to resource for questions about 18th century daily life, Daily Life in 18th-Century England, author Kirstin Olsen writes, "Parents...bought toys for their children, including rattles, small tops called tetotums, dolls, wagons, and sports equipment. Children also made up their own amusements. They played hoops, trap-ball, and barley-break. Bad little girls called names and pulled off visitors' wigs; good little girls practiced milking the cow or 'dressed Babies [dolls], acted Visitings, learned to Dance and make Curtsies'" (p.55). She continues by explaining, "Play, in short, was one part mischief, one part organized game, and one part pretending to be an adult--in preparation for courtship, the marriage market, and founding a family of one's own."

Digging into primary sources, I found a few items of inspiration...

Baby Rattly from The Royal Collection, c.1762

The description reads, "This silver filigree rattle was a gift to the infant Prince of Wales from his governess, Lady Charlotte Finch. It was subsequently used by all of George III’s children in the royal nursery." Unfortunately my daughter has grown out of the rattle stage. And I think this example is too formal for 18th century New England.

A quick search of the V&A's collections reveals several dozen examples of toy serving dishes, such as this toy coffee cup...
From Staffordshire, England. Made from salt-glazed stoneware.

...and this toy tea set.
Toy teapot and cover, c.1780
English soft-paste porcelain painted with blue enamel. 

While my toddler has taken a great interest in playing with her plastic kitchen toys and cooking pretend food for us to eat, she's too young to play with anything breakable like this.

It seems that we often find animals in children's portraits, such as birds or squirrels or dogs.

Two Children and Their Spaniel, by William Reed c.1790
Twins Henry & Charles Tebay, at the age of one and a half years old, 
by their mother Catherine Tebay, inscribed, signed and dated 1793.
Also from Philadelphia antiques dealer Elle Shushan Fine Miniature Portraits.

My little one is almost the same age as the Tebay twins...is it too much of a stretch for her to play with a stuffed animal, such as a sheep?

When it comes to real toys, Historical Folk Toys sells many kits and games and books, but most are too mature for her. (She still wants to taste many of her toys.) I also met a sutler last fall, Calf Pasture Woodworks, who sells wooden toys that might be good for her to play with in a few years.

As for toys she can use right now, Old Salem Museums & Gardens in South Carolina offers this set of leather balls ($20) that she could kick and throw and chase.
She has Plimoth Plantation's Poppet ($29), a colonial-looking rag doll. It's far from her favorite baby doll, but looks semi appropriate for our era.
My daughter plays with her "poppet" while toddling in her first pair of stays.

While there are always wooden spoons, I'd love to hear suggestions from others about toddler-friendly toys. The more goodies I can find, the better chance I'll have that she will extend her love of play into the world of living history.

16 February 2012

Eye on Eyelets


I think it's safe to say that I'm nearly at the home stretch on finishing my stays. Despite making countless errors such as...

...realizing that, though I had completed the boning channels for these panels, the channels were facing the wrong direction. I don't want my stays to give me the wrong shape so...
A spoonful of linen thread.

...I ripped out the channels and restitched them. I then realized that I needed to remove the channel in the center of the front lacing panels because...
...I did not leave enough room for the eyelets. Duh!
It was then finally time to begin breathing life into the shapeless panels and move onto something fun, like the eyelets. 
Four of my completed panels, boned with reed.
The center back panels, boned and easy eyelets made.
Left front panel.
However making the eyelets on the front panels is proving to be terribly difficult.
Detail of eyelets on left front panel.
The three eyelets pictured above look OK from the front...
Inside view of eyelets on left front panel. Yuck!!
...but from the back it's an awful mess! Especially compared to....
Inside detail of center back panel eyelets.
...the much cleaner appearance of the inside eyelets on the center back panel. I'm having issues with the very silky fashion fabric slipping. Should I redo them? If I don't, will these messy whip stitches protect the fabric from the stress of lacing and wearing stays on a regular basis--or will it ruin the whole panel and eventually need to be replaced?

In trying to answer these questions, I've found a few originals online.
Augusta Auctions, stays 1775-1785
Augusta Auctions, late 18th century stays
Detail of eyelets....they're so perfect!
While the photos are fascinating, I can't find any that show eyelets from the inside. I guess I need to keep my eye on the eyelets as I continue to sew them--and keep on researching.

15 February 2012

Winter Warmth

It's quite late. Our furnace broke. Waiting the four hour window for the service person to arrive (hopefully by 3am) in a chilly house has me wondering about staying warm during winter in the 18th century. My light (and late) research revealed the following...

The description of the Connecticut Historical Society wool quilted petticoat (Accession Number 1959.54.2) describes that it is, "interlined with undyed wool wadding and backed by an undyed, plain-woven wool, possibly homespun." This must have been helpful to keep warm, but it had to be drafty. 

Dale Taylor, author of The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in Colonial America: From 1607-1783, writes, "Worn-out clothes were cut up for patches, used to make CHAR-CLOTH for lighting fires or, if linen or cotton, sold to papermakers" (p107). That helps answer questions about starting a fire.

In the book, Daily Life in 18th Century England, regarding houses for the poor, Kirstin Olsen writes, "Cottages were heated with scavenged sticks, and beds were warmed, if at all, with hot bricks wrapped in flannel" (p93).

In upper class homes, "Shortly before bedtime, a servant would light a fire in the fireplace and place a warming pan--a lidded pan filled with coals--in the bed itself" (Olsen, p89). I could use that tonight.
Winter, published October 1st 1762, Lewis Walepole Library Accession Number 762.10.01.01+  
The description for this print reads, "An old man in a fur hat and a fur-trimmed coat sits in front of a fireplace. In the foreground, his daughter kneels in front of fire using bellows to keep it going. In the background, his young son offers his father a bowl of steeming broth."

I don't have a fireplace...but I did get a Snuggie for Christmas.

11 February 2012

Continuing the Adventures in Crewel Embroidering

Earlier this winter I started embroidering a stomacher. Though I ended up ripping out a few flowers and leaves because I didn't like the color scheme, it has been slowly moving forward.

According to Winterthur's  American Crewelwork: Stitches of the 17th and 18th Centuries, "The work of the average needlewoman of Colonial times shows only three or four stitches in any one piece" (p2). So far I've used five stitches:
  • Slip stitch (my favorite)
  • New England laid stitch
  • Fishbone stitch
  • Trellis couching
  • Long / short stitch

Originally I had outlined this flower at the center with backstitches. It looked bare so ripped out those stitches and filled it in.
For the leaves, I tried to use two to three shades of green so they are more colorful and 18th century looking.

I also tried the long / short stitch, which I think turned out pretty well.
The authors of American Crewelwork write, "One characteristic of American work is the lack of wool showing on the reverse side. Where one finds much long and short, satin and heavy filling stitches on English work, the Colonists used stitches sparing of the wools: Couching, Flat and simple filling stitches." (p3)
The back (pictured above) reveals that my technique is more English as I am not very economical with using the wool.
A peek at the back of the embroidered berries.
However when I stitched the berries, I had a very limited among of the cranberry colored wool. To maximize the amount of berries that were the same color, I was more American in my approach--which you can see above.

One flower I have avoided was one of the first ones that I ripped. (I didn't like the colors.) As you can faintly see on the petal near the stem, I accidentally cut the fabric. Oops!! (I wish there were fabric band-aids.)

I must admit I'm a little frustrated with this project. I keep second guessing my color and stitch choices...does the palette look too modern in its coordinating scheme? Are the approrpiate stitches used in the appropriate places? I can't find comps online that I can review closely to attempt to answer these questions. While I have seen a few exhibits recently that would help answer my questions, I can't remember the details well enough.

I wish I could stop at Elizabeth Phillips school in Providence, RI where she instructed young ladies in, "all Kinds of Embroidery, and other Needle Work". I'm sure she could help.
Providence Gazette June 11, 1774
American Crewelwork describes the differences between English and American crewel embroidery design and execution, "English work is usually more professionally done, while the great charm of the surviving American examples is in the free interpretation and inventiveness" (p3).

I guess I shouldn't stress so much. I do have a little one who is always willing to help select colors.
My little helper, 16 months, wears my embroidery hoop as a necklace.

03 February 2012

What's of Pinterest?

I have to confess that I've gone pin crazy.

No, not those pins.

Pinterest crazy. For those new to the app, it's like the social bookmarking site Delicious.com but more visually compelling. I'm finding that Pintrest is an invaluable resource to better organize and review extant garments and other 18th century resources. But unlike Delicious, pinners can't bookmark every site--only sites with images.

For example, my Pinterest page has a file organizing links to fabric swatches. Looking at the samples next to each other helps to better study design similarities (or difference) and, best of all, shop online for similar fabrics.

Plus I've found fun things like...
Recognize this reproduction gown? It's made from paper!

...the work of Isabelle de Borchgrave who recreates amazing items for museums.

My folders are currently organized by gowns, petticoats, accessories, children's garments, shoes, etc. If you're on Pinterest, check it out and pin away. If you're not on the site but need an invite just email me (sew18thcentiry @ gmail.com).

Happy pinning!