Wednesday, August 24, 2016

"Band Box and Bonnet Boards"- The Making of a Band Box pt. 1

I recently upgraded my sewing room with shelving and all sorts of wonderful functional furniture (thank you, Ikea!) and now that I have all of my lovely shelves, I'd like to have some nice containers to tuck away all of the bits and bobbles that need homes so they can stop cluttering up the open shelves.

I figured this would be a great excuse to make some historical containers in which to keep some of my things. This way, when I need to grab items and take them to an event I won't have to worry about transferring them to an appropriate holder.

I interpret anywhere from 1770- 1840, so ideally I'd like something that spans a couple of decades (easy, right?). This might sound like a tall order, but thankfully there was one option that I could both easily make and could work for the broad span of time in which I might be interpreting.

Enter: the band box.

Buy a Bonnet Box  1804 (The Victoria and Albert Museum)

To be fair- band boxes can have various styles of paper coverings which change with fashion, but the basic concept of a paste or chip board box covered in decorative paper seems to stand the test of time. To that effect, I thought making some bandboxes would be a good idea for storage in my sewing room (both for notions and whatnots, but also even to hold some of my smaller accessory pieces and perhaps even some larger boxes for my bonnets and hats.)

So, I got to work examining extant boxes via my bookshelf and museum collections online, and then set out to make one for myself.

Without special ordering materials, I was only able to purchase chipboard in 12x12 sheets at the nearby Michael's. Hobby Lobby was closed but may have ragboard or chipboard available in larger sheets. I plan on checking at a later date. Otherwise, I'll have to order online if I want to make boxes much larger than the one I am working on now.

Pieces cut out of chipboard and ready for assebly
Bottom of box assembled and ready for covering
I cut a paper pattern for the bottom and top of my box, and then cut the bands which would become the sides.I went for a very basic circle-ish shape for this go, just to keep it simple. After stitching the bands to the base I whipped up some wheat paste and went to covering the bottom of my box.

Just after starch was added
Mixing the starch nicely
Once the paste was removed from the stove.
I haven't stitched the lid, yet, but couldn't wait to paste on my paper covering. The outer is currently drying in my kitchen, and I'm rather happy with how she turned out. I haven't decided if I want to use repro newsprint to finish the inside of (which was very common) or if I'll go with just a plain paper instead. To be honest, the covering of the box with paste and paper was somewhat addictive. (No, really. I'm not sure if I just have a problem or if it's the nature of the beast. But I just want to do it all day. Every day.)

I might try painting/blocking my own decorative paper for a few more of my boxes in the future. I'll be sure to post photos once my box and lid are completely finished. It will be fun to experiment with different shapes and sizes to suit my needs and organize my space. Now I can say I'm being productive even though I'm not sewing a garment! =P

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A Cold and Windy Adventure (and How I Held My Hair High...)

Well, I haven't updated in a while (I'll get to that) and last Saturday I was able to attend a local historical event called The Gathering at Macktown. We have participated in this event in past years, but lately haven't been able to stay for the whole weekend. This has been for a variety of reasons, many of which relate to why I haven't written in a bit, too.

As to the not writing thing- I've been prodigious busy with Master's courses, work, and then getting ready for this summer. If you follow the blog facebook page it's probably old news to you, but I'm very fortunate to have been selected to intern this summer at the Margaret Hunter Shop in Colonial Williamsburg. I'm very excited for the experience, but also have a whole ton of sewing to get finished in preparation. One month before I depart. Yikes!

Anyhow, the trip was chilly, damp, and rather windy. But I didn't let that stop me. 

I made a new hair cushion Saturday morning and dressed my hair.

New Cushion
Almost done

Put a bird on it! Or, in absence of
a bird, a ribbon. It makes everything
better. =)
It was a little messy, but hey- I had to do this on my own, so what do you want? I wore my new neck handkerchief with my gown, even though it wasn't completed finished being hemmed (it was, at least, basted) but if you know me you know that I'm constantly wearing things before they are 100% finished. Because life's too short. 

Cushion, hair, cap. Hankie. 
I'm still figuring out how to work the whole crossover tie in a bow in back thing. It's trickier than it looks. At least for me. If it wasn't tricky for you, just let me live in my own little happy land for awhile before you crush me with your "oh, I didn't think it was that bad" okay?!

I also threw on my Therese, which was actually a poor choice. The wind was so bad I could scarce keep it on my head even when pinned into my cushion.

A rare moment inside a tent where it
was calmer sailing. I wish I would have
 taken a picture with the cap underneath.
It was prettier I think.

From behind with
hood down.
Love the green silk! (It's from B&T.)

My hood isn't *technically* all the way finished yet, either. But I couldn't resist the opportunity to try it out. I am working on finishing all of my UFOs before June, so we'll see how far I can get. I have to say that my hair held up really well. I used a mix of my own pomatum and some from Abby via Heirloom Haircare. Same with the powder (a mix). She doesn't carry as many varieties as Alicia at LBCC but I particularly like that the powder isn't lavender scented (as I'm not a very huge fan of the smell of lavender.)

I will be getting around to an official review soon, but here's a look at how my hair held up over the course of the day and the ride home.)
Not bad, eh? A couple of whispies from my bottom rolls but
still mostly in place.
Overall, we had a really nice time and even though we weren't able to stay for supper (baby Cora was ready to get out of the weather!) we were able to see friends and socialize at least a little bit.

Thankfully, spring courses are over and I will only have one four week class to worry about while I am away at my internship. We have one event which I will be able to actually attend for the whole weekend, have no homework, and be free of any obligation before I leave in June. I'm actually very excited at the prospect. I'm going to sleep in, dress my hair, sew some trim, and not feel a bit guilty about it. I can't wait. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Military History Fest- Review

About three weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend Military History Fest as a speaker presenting on entering the hobby of living history. With the help of two very good friends, the presentation went really well and it was exciting to see the number of attendees who were first period living historians seeking help getting started.

Me. Talking. Kind of like every candid picture
of me ever. At least my hands are kind of

Of course, no Military History Fest is complete without shopping, friends, and fun at the ball (of which there was plenty). Once the school year starts, I kind of end up in my own little introvert cave of exhaustion, so it was very nice to connect with friends that I haven't gotten to see in awhile. Not only was Alicia of LBCC there, but so was Julie from The Fat Reenactress (who totally rocked a sweet nineteen-teens era ensemble at the ball.)

I was also super excited this year because Alix was able to come and she brought baby Cora with her. It was Cora's first event, and she definitely stole the show by being her cute little baby self! They didn't get to stay for the ball, but we had a blast hanging out while we could.
She's the cutest thing. Ever. Seriously. 
I picked up quite a bit of goodies- including some striped cotton for Regency and some awesome silk taffeta for I don't know what yet.

I really like shopping the Vogue selection at MHF. 
On the upside, I was able to wear my "bib front" gown from a previous B&T workshop for the ball Saturday night. I even wore some vintage kid opera gloves and a shawl, but only got pictures of the gown before the ball while we were in the hotel room. I forgot to grab my phone to take snapshots during the event itself.

Nat said I looked grumpy in this one
but I was trying for the gentle smile. 
The required selfie. Because. =)

Apart from getting snowed in on Sunday (from the big blizzard that hit late Saturday night through Monday in the early hours), it was a very good weekend. Even the blizzard wasn't that bad. We were able to hunker down at friend's house nearby and stay off of the roads (many of which were closed, anyhow.)

Unfortunately I don't have any good pictures of the dancing (which is probably for the best), but I do have a picture of our car in the snow.

It was pretty crazy out there. 
Most importantly, we made it home safely (albeit a day later than planned). School was cancelled for that Monday, so that was a boon. And we had a blast. For what more can a girl ask?

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Living History 101 at Military History Fest

I've been quiet on the blog the last few weeks, but I've got quite a bit going on outside of the blog that's taking up my blogging time. Apart from work being crazy (our library is finally open! Hooray!) and starting my 1830/40s wardrobe, I'm preparing to give a presentation at an indoor event this coming weekend. The event information is here if you're interested in checking it out. (Maybe you want to come to my presentation so I have an audience! 10am Saturday- 1/31. Be there, eh?)

I'm presenting a discussion on the basics of getting started in living history. The goal of the talk is to help the newcomer to the hobby or the veteran starting a new time period figure out where to start the fairly large undertaking of beginning living history. Because let's face it: it's not always easy and so many of us made so many expensive missteps along the way.

It's our hope (I am thankful to have the support and experience of a few other hobby members to make this presentation happen) that the information we present will be meaningful and helpful to our audience. We know we're probably not going to get to cover every single thing, but we do hope to cover the big things and the basics to get people off to a good start (and hopefully help prevent them from stumbling into some of those same missteps we did when we took our first teetering steps forward.)

Here's hoping it is well received and we have a good weekend. I always look forward to a fun weekend of hanging out with my friends from all sorts of time periods. I'll try to take lots of pictures so I can report back next Sunday. I plan on debuting my finally finished Italian gown Saturday morning and want to finally get some nice pictures of it.

Until then, I tide you over with a recent photo of #Devilcat (a.k.a. Stanley.)

He likes it better when I stay home,
so sleeps on my clothes to prevent me from

Thursday, January 1, 2015

"The Object of the New Year..." or 2014 in Review and 2015 in Hopefullness not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective.

While 2014 has had its challenges and set backs, it has also had its beautiful moments and encouragements. It was a year like so many others, with its firsts and lasts, its pros and cons. I am proud of the fact that I had twice as many posts as I did the year before. I may not post ultra regularly, but it is a habit which I am making more habitual. 

I'm not really one for resolutions, but the new year does provide a rather convenient time to think about potential opportunities for improvement and positive change. It's also a nice time to look to what is ahead (or what could be ahead, if you want it to be.)  

For my own part, I am excited for so many good things ahead which seem to be coming to fruition in 2015. After being closed for near half of the school year for sorely needed renovations, my library has its grand re-opening next Monday. While it made it unmanageable for my husband and I to attend New Orleans or Waterloo this year, my graduate school program will be wrapping up soon (pending my decision as to which certificates I want to pursue) and my husband has declared a major of study in which he is very happy. 

Sewing wise, my historical arena is being broadened as I tackle two new eras in clothing this year.(Yikes! In conjunction with all of my other sewing for the 18th century, now I'm adding 16th century for my high school's madrigal program and 1830s/40s for a local historical site!) So much sewing in my future. 

I'm also doing some things for myself this year. I want to be better about holding myself accountable and (as cheesy as it sounds) being more like Christ. I want to be able to speak truth but with more grace. I want to cultivate humility.

I also have a list a mile high of projects for this year. I know I probably won't get them all done, but I also know that lists help me organize myself and give me a record of what my ideal outcome would be. I'd also like to participate as much as possible in the Dreamstress' Historical Sew Monthly. My goal? Probably to get half of these actually finished. So here are some things you might see from me in 2015:

     ~ [Finally finished] Italian Gown
     ~ Duchess of Gordon Polonaise
     ~ New Small Clothes for the Nate
     ~ New Regimental for Nate's 18 c. 4th Foot grenadier uniform (HSM April)
     ~ 1840s undergarments (corset, corded petticoat, shift) (HSM June)
     ~ 1780s stays (new pair)
     ~ 1760s stays (new pair) (HSM January) 
     ~ 16th century kirtle and smock (still need to determine decade)
     ~ Nate's 18th c. sailor getup 
     ~ Baby clothes for Cora (my new niece! She's super cute!) 
     ~ 18th c caps (HSM March)
     ~ Wider range of 18th c. hair rollers/pads (HSM March)
     ~ 18th c Mitts for summer and winter (HSM July)
     ~ Finish 18th c ruffled apron (HSM July)
     ~ Finish 18th c ruffled petticoat to go with Italian gown

Other stuff may pop up, too, but I'm really hoping to start knocking some of these things off of my list before adding too much more. A girl can dream, eh?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

"When I Was Alone and Had Time to Reflect..." (or a First Person Immersion Event- Afterthoughts and Intimate Confessions...)

This post has been long in the making.  Mostly because it was end of semester earlier this month, but also because I have something pretty personal that I'll be sharing with you all.  It's personal and maybe a little bit uncomfortable, and it's taken me a bit to feel brave enough to post it.

So to ease into the topic, first, I'd like to reflect on some other things from my weekend and then I'll get to the really personal bits (with an option for you all to skip it if you wish- because I care about you and your level of comfort reading my posts.)

General Thoughts and Reflections on the Immersion Experience

For the sake of not repeating a lot of the same reflections, check out Catherine's reflection post. She basically said everything I would have on the accounts of women and the domestic sphere.

One thing I would like to see in the future is maybe a longer event. That would be something, now wouldn't it? A week long immersion event. And yet, I don't know if I would be able to stay immersed for that long and not be completely exhausted.

Because I was completely exhausted when I got home. Partly, I think this was due to the fact that I was interpreting a young woman rather different from myself and this was more challenging. I had to think differently, act differently, and be natural doing it. I didn't want to end up a caricature. While I am generally a well read and outspoken woman, I was carefully trying not to let my 21st century education get in the way of her 18th century mind. I think some of this mental fatigue would be eased by becoming more comfortable with the persona, but I think there will always be some amount present in these situations.

I was pretty happy with myself in terms of maintaining immersion through the weekend- both in the sense of my persona and the items I used. I think this made the experience fairly rich and rewarding for me and it is certainly one I would like to repeat.

However, I have a small confession to make of a rather indelicate and intimate nature. I'm giving you fair warning that you may want to just skip ahead if you are not prepared to enter into a not very much talked about territory. Skip this next bit if you are at all squeamish about woman bits.  

Sunday, December 14, 2014

"...An Action Worth Recording."

A most verbose accounting of 36 hours in the life of Miss Christina Irwin (with an unfortunate lack of images to accompany) 

December 24th

Tomorrow is Christmas Day. Aunt and Uncle are come from their tavern in the Welch mountains while Mother and Father are away tending to my sister who is due to deliver her first child any day now. I am glad for the company of my Mother's family as if they had not come my sister and I would have been compelled to travel with my parents for the birth. It is not that Miriam and I would not have enjoyed seeing our sister and the new babe, but our sister's home is not quite so suited to the number of inhabitants as would be pressed upon her with our arrival.

Therefore, Aunt and Uncle have come for Christmas time while Mother and Father have gone 'til twelfth night.

The weather has been prodigious cold of late and the ground is blanketed with snow resembling a patched coverlet- holes of green and brown worn through the white flannel. Perhaps more snow will come tomorrow to offer mending. Until then, I am to bed. I have said my goodnights and said my prayers, and now 'tis time to snuff the candle well and say good even to my bed.

December 25

I awoke this morning first to the indelicate call of my bladder (the scandal!). After ignoring it (as I am wont to do) and returning to slumber I awoke secondly to my dearest Aunt rousing us from rest. There was frost on the windows and sleep in my eyes, but Miriam and I arose and dressed with morning chores in mind. Thankfully, breakfast had already been started. In honor of the season, I swept the floor instead of leaving it to Miriam. I can be a kindly sister when I wish it.

After some porridge for breakfast my sister and I dressed for the day. Both in our blue gowns. Miriam's being more of a periwinkle while mine was more of an indigo. We tidied the kitchen and helped Aunt with the dishes and were preparing for a walk into town when there was a knock upon the door. I couldn't imagine that someone might have been calling with news of my sister and her babe. Had all gone well? Uncle announced that he saw soldiers coming up the road and that this could very well be them.

Uncle could not beat me to the door. Soldiers were even more exciting than my sister's new baby!
There were four soldiers at the door, for the most part youngish in appearance. They were led by the eldest amongst them- a shorter man with dark hair and kind but mischievous eyes. I would find out later in the day that not only was he the most senior in age of the foursome but also in rank (which was unfortunate as it was not his handsomeness which was objectionable, but rather his age.) There was one or two pleasing specimens in attendance, however, and Miriam and I decided for which of them we would set our caps when Uncle sent us into the larder to gather the vegetables and return with a dram of whiskey for each man. I wish I had dressed in a better gown for this morning, as I would have liked to have made a finer impression on one of the gentleman soldiers in particular. I did try to politely encourage him with subtle nods. Only time will tell if he was receptive  to my interest.

As all good things must eventually end so did this visit. However, seeing as Miriam and I had just been on our way for a walk and so kindly offered to show the gentleman to their next destination. I will admit to something naughty as this point, dearest reader. I did instigate a bit of mischief myself as we sent them on their way. The family who occupied the farm just down the road outside of town had last spring done me a grievous injury by repeating ill spirited  words regarding my character that dissuaded a potential suitor from deeming me a suitable choice for courtship. In reflection, while there may have been some truth to the words (that I was not maturely enough situated for marriage, too flighty to be suitable, a notorious gossip and flirt) it was not well done of them to repeat these things to others when they were not better acquainted with my situation. This bad deed did find me again later in the even; but I am committed to chronicling this day in the order it happened so must leave this scene for its own part.

The soldiers carried on towards the farm house while Miriam and I returned home. Refreshed from our walk and newly excited with the prospect of seeing the soldiers again (the corporal did ask me to call upon Mrs. Smith in whose home they were staying if I should wish to aid the cause by mending some items in sore need of repair) we decided we should begin to freshen our appearance. Thus, we dressed our hair prettily and freshly powdered it before donning new ribbons with our caps. Shortly after this, I paid a call on Mrs. Smith regarding the mending and extended the invitation for her and her two daughters to visit us later in the afternoon for refreshments. Although they are Friends and do not observe Christmas I thought it would be nice to spend some time with the ladies as they are nearer the age of my sister and myself than most in our town.

As Mr. Smith was to make a visit to see my Uncle he was kind enough to walk with me back to my home. A more understanding man does not exist, in my mind. Upon hearing the plight thrust upon me at the fault of my father Mr. Smith and I were in league to catch the eye of a certain soldier from earlier this morning. You would perhaps find yourself sympathetic to my plight, dear reader, if I would but share it with you. Here stand the facts of the situation which has caused me such distress and left me in desperation to find a kind young man to take me to wife.

My father, bless him, is a good man. Being a good man he wishes his daughters to be married with homes and children of our own. Truly I should like a husband of my own. I should enjoy nothing more than to spend the remainder of my days with a man whom I love and respect. My father, however, has plans to marry me to our neighbor Mr. Jones (a man whose pungent odor, if not excessive  years makes him an ill candidate for my affections.) 

Well, Mr. Smith was kind enough to hatch a plot with me which might bring the young gentleman into my company. Mr. Smith agreed to, nay suggested, that he could accidentally leave his mittens behind and send the young soldier to retrieve them. Mr. Smith could outdo any mama at trying to match her daughter up with a handsome man.

Well, Mr. Smith visited with Uncle and then we sat down to dinner. Aunt had prepared a wonderful soup. Unfortunately the topic of conversation turned to a sour note as Aunt took me to task for being too forward in my behavior earlier this morning. She and my uncle tried to convince me of the merits of an arranged match but were unsuccessful. Our dinner was not quite finished when a knock (a most timely knock, might I add) sounded at the door.

What followed was a flurry of activity and commotion as guest after guest arrived over the next hour at least. First a group of soldiers come to compensate my uncle for our earlier contributions. Then Mr. Martin to retrieve Mr. Smith's gloves. Then the Smith ladies. It was all most exciting. I did try to take my aunt's concerns to heart. Perhaps most significant for me was the moment when, upon handing Mr. Martin his shrub, our fingers ever so briefly touched. I did orchestrate this to be sure, but it was a welcome chance which I hope did not go unnoticed by the gentleman as well. I was happy also to show Mrs. Smith's eldest daughter, Ella, some new taffeta recently had for a bonnet. She and I take a particular interest in fashion so I knew she would appreciate the economy with which I acquired the length.

Mrs. Smith invited us to her home later in the evening for a social visit, perhaps to take their minds off of the soldiers being there. This fact was even more incentive for me to press my aunt to accept. After all of our company had left, we cleaned up the table and tidied the home. Then Miriam and I went to change for our visit to the Smiths. I wanted to be sure we presented ourselves to our best advantage, so I wore a gown cut in the latest fashion of a beautiful spotted, flower'd cotton and Miriam wore my second nicest yellow striped cotton. Thankfully, we are at a point in our growth where we may share our gowns with little adjustment needed. She looked handsome, indeed.

We all walked together to the Smiths as it was already dark and Aunt settled herself in with the Mrs. Smith and her daughters while we quietly slipped into the back room with Uncle where all of the gentleman were. What a lovely time was had. The corporal arranged it such that Mr. Martin was seated next to myself (clever man, indeed, regardless of his age!) The evening was filled with songs and merriment and was overall very pleasant indeed. Uncle overindulged in rum and if Aunt could have seen his machinations to engage for myself the affections of Mr. Martin perhaps she would not have taken me to task so during our dinner. He was so tippled he could barely make the walk back home. But we said our farewells and made the walk nonetheless, with Uncle leaning on Aunt's arm all the way.

He went directly to bed while Aunt, Miriam, and I stayed awake to recall the events of the evening. I even lit a candle to record the events of today before I could forget all of the exciting details. I am to bed momentarily but couldn't help but note that this was probably the most excitement Milltown has seen since the conflict began. Also the most gentlemen!

The hour is late and I must to rest before the sun rises. I can only hope tomorrow might have some excitement in store as well.