24 July 2013

Crazy Common Mullein

Common Mullein
The last few weeks as I've been driving to / from work I've noticed a roadside weed that's sprouted like mad (it's seriously huge) and has bloomed a funny yellow flower. And I've noticed it almost everywhere. Having a new interest in gardening, I had to figure out what it is.

Thanks to Google Images, I determined that it's Common Mullein (verbascum thapsus). On a government website, I read that it was, "brought over from Europe by settlers, it was used as a medicinal herb, as a remedy for coughs and diarrhea and a respiratory stimulant for the lungs when smoked." I couldn't help but wonder if this weed has an 18th century connection?

After a bit of searching I learned that...

Common mullein is referenced in ancient Greek literature.

 I guess that makes it an "heirloom" weed? 

 A little lore.

 I like the idea of the "Quaker rouge" but I'm not sure I believe it.

A primary source that proves it was actually here along the East Coast.

Here are a few photos of common mullein from the Rhode Island roadside...

Major mullein!

Excited about my discovery, I told my husband what I had learned and he said, "Ah that's not weird?" I don't think it's weird, I'm not going to make tea or dye clothes with it. This research further illustrates that the influences of the 18th century are all around us (as I've referenced in previous posts here and here). Have you noticed any common mullein in your area?

10 July 2013

Curtain-Along: Under Petticoat

After two quick afternoons of sewing, I'm proud to say that my Curtain-Along contribution is complete! (If you're not familiar with the Curtain-Along, click here.) Everyone is making gowns, which I admire and all look great, but I wanted to do something different. "Sew" I chose to create an embroidered under petticoat.

Crewel embroidered petticoat, 18th century

Mid-18th century petticoat, Vermont, linen plain weave with wool embroidery

Mid-18th century New England petticoat, linen and cotton ground with wool embroidery.

Knowing that there are oodles of examples of beautifully embroidered under petticoat borders such as....

Crewel work petticoat border, 18th century New England. Linen ground with wool embroidery and worsted wool tape.
MFA Accession Number 50.3123

Petticoat border, New England 1758. Linen plain weave with wool embroidery.

Petticoat border, 1758, Ipswich, MA. Linen plain weave with wool embroidery.

...I used these as inspiration when curtain shopping. I searched online and found beautifully embroidered fabrics curtains like:

Pottery Barn Margarite Embroidered Drape, starts at $129 a panel.

Ballard Designs Crewel Embroidered Drape. This is no longer available but the sale/clearance price was $100 per panel.

I wasn't willing to pay anything close to that amount. It seems to defeat the purposes of Jen's initial inspiration of the curtain fabric being similar to the reproduction fabric, yet much cheaper. Thanks to Etsy I eventually found a vintage pair of valences.

Made from, most likely, a polyester yarn, the embroidery is done in chain stitches, which is accurate, and the design seems relatively 18th century in inspiration. The fabric on a Joann's-type osnaburg. At $25 it's a good fit.
 A detail of the embroidery.

There's a great embroidered under petticoat from the UK National Trust that's all pieced together, which I used as my curtain-along inspiration / documentation:
Petticoat 1740-1760, linen and cotton
National Trust Collections Inventory Number 814614.8

Initially I thought I would unpick all the machine stitching and sew the whole thing by hand.
Given the time consuming nature of unpicking machine stitches, I bagged that.

I sewed the valences together; and then I sewed the valences to three pieces of a beige linen fabric--all on the sewing machine. (This is a big accomplishment for me as I'm much better versed in hand sewing.)
Since this project is more costume-like than reproduction-like, I decided to keep the rod pocket seams so the valences retain their "curtainness". I pleated the waist and whip stitched the tape in place...

...and before I knew it, it was done!

A peek at the inside.

Some day I'll make a reproduction embroidered under petticoat with beautiful images. In the mean time, since students often ask about the many layers of 18th century clothing, this makes a great talking point.