Friday, April 25, 2014

All for Accessories: A Ruffled Apron- Prepping the Pieces

Now that I've chosen an apron inspiration and have my fabric, I need to determine the pattern to get the pieces cut out and ready for assembly. Angela gave me a good start with some general measurements and ruffle length and then I turned to my inspiration image to extrapolate some more specific numbers.

I'm pretty short, so my petticoats end up being somewhere between 36-38 inches so that I don't trip or get my shoe buckles caught in my hem. To keep things proportionate, I figured out the "scale" of my inspiration image. Pretending the petticoat in the image is 36" long from waist to floor (like mine would be) I divvied up the sections of the petticoat, apron body, and ruffle from the waist down in the image.

My probably illegible to anyone but myself math.
As you can see, I started with the whole length, and then broke the sections down by halves. I was trying to originally use a tape measure, but then I decided to take a nod from the Tailor's handbook and use a piece of paper instead. I cut a piece of paper to the length of the petticoat (pictured underneath the pencil) and folded it in half, half again, half again, etc. to make incremental measures which could later be converted to inches (as seen in my paper measure above the pencil.) This would give me a "key" of sorts with which I could measure the apron.

Close up of ruffle
This was particularly useful when getting to the ruffle detail around the apron, because as you can see in the close up image (and as Julie from the Fat Reenactress pointed out in the original post's comments) the ruffle is not the same size all the way around the apron. It grows from smaller near the waist to largest round the bottom. It's also curved round the corner. So, I needed to figure out the ruffle's width as it progresses round the apron body. Cue handy measurement card.

Using the measurement card to get a general idea of
the ruffle widths.

It starts out at just over 1" wide near the top and progressively grows until it reaches somewhere between 3 3/4" and 4" round the bottom. I'll need to hem both sides of the ruffle with a tiny rolled hem so will need to add a touch of seam allowance. I'll also need to be sure that the varying widths are in the appropriate spots post gathering to the apron. I did some more math and sketched out the pieces, then decided to just cut!

After cutting all of my pieces, I happened to toss one of the cut ruffles on my yellow striped gown (which happened to be nearby).

Oh man. The oyster color of my apron fabric doesn't look so fabulous next to the yellow and white stripe. I am in love with everything about this fabric, though- the stripe, the hand, the weight. But if I'm going to be able to happily wear this apron with that gown I think I need it to be whiter.

Before going crazy, I took a scrap of the striped muslin and did a tester in a light bleach bath. So far so good:
You can see the original oyster colored muslin on top.
Lightly bleached version on the bottom. 

The bath was enough to brighten the fabric from the oyster to a somewhat brighter white (it's not optical white, by any means, and in person there is just a slight difference) but it's enough to make it look less washed out next to the yellow gown. I love how crisp and striking the stripes turned out, also.
I'm currently soaking the apron body in the light bath (I have extra fabric in case it goes horribly awry!) and I'll soak the ruffle pieces next. I've already sewn the ruffle together (because I was impatient) so it just needs hemming... lots of hemming... and I'll be well on my way to my first really fancy, dressy apron.

Monday, April 21, 2014

All's Fair- LBBC Fine Honey Lip Pomatum

After having picked up some pretty promising historical cosmetics from LBCC in February, I decided that it would be kind of cool to, you know, officially review them (now that I've had time to use most of them).

While my husband and I purchased a number of items, I'm going to review them one post at a time so that I can give them my full attention and be detailed without going nuts with the word count.

Up first: 

Fine Honey Lip Pomatum (1747)

Cost: $5.00
Product Description:  .5 oz Tin
This lip salve is made from an 18th century recipe from The Art Of Cookery (1747).
The original recipe calls for "virgin's Wax" (beeswax), Hogs Lard,  Spermaceti ( Sperm Whale's oil), Honey, Almond Oil, Sugar, and Raisins (which seem to be popular in 18th century recipes). Today we use Jojoba oil, which is a comparable replacement for the Spermaceti, Bees Wax, Honey, Almond Oil, and Sugar. I left out the raisins and added spearmint, which was also very popular in the 18th century.
This is also available in a modern label as well. (I purchased the historical label, but if you'd like to see the modern label check out the LBCC etsy page.)
This is what the actual insides look like!
Uses: Well, it's a lip balm. 

Pros: I really like that it's a historical receipt and it's not tinted, so guys can use it, too! The spearmint is a pleasant touch as it adds a nice scent to the balm. It's not overwhelming, though. I can't use the regular Burt's Bees lip balm because the minty-ness is too much for my lips (yea- I'm super sensitive to that stuff). However, I can use this balm with no burning tingles.It actually lasts a long time- so if you're thinking $5.00 for lip balm? You're crazy! On average we spend $3-$4 per 0.15 oz tube of Burt's Bees.

Also, I know what's in it and from whence it came. That's important to me.

Cons: The biggest con for me is that when I have greasy fry fingers I can't get my tin open! LOL! I guess in reality it's good that the lid doesn't just pop off willy nilly (and my husband never seems to have this problem- so maybe my lady fingers are just not brawny enough?) but there it is... take it for what you will. Oh, and because it's not a stick like modern lip balms you use your fingers for application. Not necessarily a con, just something to keep in mind.

How well does it work: Pretty well. I actually started using this instead of my "modern" lip balms. But, to go the extra step check out the picture below. I stopped using my pomatum for a few days and took a picture of my "naked" lips. Then I took another photo directly after I applied the pomatum. Then I waited about an hour and took another photo of what my lips looked like at that point. I may post a follow up with a photo after long term use again, but I thought this would at least give you an idea of the effectiveness of the product. (P.S.- sorry for the creepy lip pictures. If you can believe it, it was kind of creepier when I left in more of my face so I just cropped it down to my mouth!)

My lips before, shortly after, and a bit later after application of the pomatum.

As you can see, my lips are noticeably less dry and chapped looking after application and the effect of the product lasts a couple of hours before I felt like I wanted to reapply.

Modern Counterpart: I have used Burt's Bees lip balm before, but I have to say that this pomatum makes my lips feel more like when I use the MK Satin Lips lip balm. It's very soft and silky and not as "waxy" feeling as some of the BB's products. I feel like it absorbs better because of that and leaves me feeling like I need to reapply less often. I also don't feel like I get that coating on my lips that some lip balms leave- you know when some of the skin peels in kind of a mushy white weirdness. (Maybe that's just me?...Moving along...)

Recommended for: Everyone. Whether you're into historical cosmetics or not this is just a nice lip balm. Even better if you're needing something for your living history events so you don't have to hide the tube of shame! (Just kidding- but we've all been there, right? Cold, windy, event and your lips are chapped and you have to huddle in a corner to pull out your chapstick tube and apply quickly so nobody sees what you're doing... and then you realize that the "corner" you're hiding in isn't a corner at all and thirty people just took a picture of you applying product from a plastic tube and you just know it's going to be on some "reenactors caught red handed" facebook page or something. this also just me?)

In Conclusion: A good product for your money in any period. It's nice when some products can do double duty and work in both my modern life and my historical one. This is happily one of those products.

Stay tuned for more historical cosmetic reviews, including the 1772 Rose Balm Lip Salve, 1889 Bay Rum After Shave, and the Ancient Insect Repellent!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

All for Accessories, Accessories for All: A Ruffled Apron- Preliminary Research

Happy Easter! Spring seems to finally be peeking its head out in Northern Illinois, which means event season is upon us. With events, come my desire for new items in my wardrobe. While I am plucking away at a new pair of stays not only for myself, but for three lovely friends, as well, I want to make something beautiful that will actually be seen by someone other than myself! (You know the feeling, right?)

Inspired by Sarah Woodyard's Morning Ramble ensemble (view it here at Two Nerdy History Girls or check out the project as they progressed via the Margaret Hunter Shop on Facebook), I decided to attempt an apron unlike any apron I've made before: one that's dressy and with ruffles!

While surviving aprons accessible via the internet aren't exactly abundant, there are a few aprons done in whitework that are documented, as well as silk with a combination of embroidery and lace. There are also a couple aprons out there that represent the lower sort (but that's a post for another day/another apron.) There are probably way more in collections that aren't view-able online, but because I'd like to start my apron this weekend for now I'm limited to what I can get my hands on via the web. Even though we may not have a ton of extant aprons online, perusing the collection at the Bunka Gakuen Library, I found this lovely lady:
Check out her apron- Ruffly love!

That's kind of the effect I'd like to get. Luckily for me, when I was at my last workshop I picked up some sheer striped muslin with a fancy apron in mind. Angela helped me figure out how much to get and gave me a rough idea of measurements. I didn't even think to ask for more detail regarding construction- doh! Oh, well. Live and learn, right?
The striped muslin from B&T. Single
layer on bottom and double near top.

While the apron in the first print isn't striped, I like the idea of a stripe for mine. It's legit for the period, too. (Yep, I just said legit...) Another search of the Lewis Walpole Library Digital Collection returned this studious beauty:
There is a subtle stripe to this apron similar to that
in my fabric. 
Let's not forget checking any advertisements available, either. A cursory search of the Virginia Gazette Archives turned up this little nugget:
"Just imported in the last ships from London, and to be SOLD on reasonable Terms by the Subsciber in Williamsburg, ...striped bordered Muslin Handkerchiefs, flowered and striped Gauze Aprons, plain Gauze, long Lawns..." (emphasis added) Virginia Gazette, October 15, 1772

All things considered, I'm feeling pretty good about this apron. I think it will be a nice addition to my wardrobe and (bonus!) a good chance to practice my rolled hems to prepare for the High Hair and Coquettish Caps workshop coming up this May. Not bad a'tall, if you ask me. =)

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Devil and His Details!

A short while ago I was happy to find myself at yet another Burnley and Trowbridge workshop. I'm kind of a junkie, if you didn't already know. What could be any more awesome than spending a weekend learning 18th century tailoring, mantua making, and millinery with some of the nicest and most informed folks around?
My child size waistcoat front and
back semi-finished from class.

This workshop was entitled Devil in the Details  and focused on coat and waistcoat construction. The magnificent Mark Hutter and his apprentice Michael McCarty were our task masters (erm... instructors...) for the weekend and they did a phenomenal job at giving us so much amazing detail that our brains were near bursting when we left. (Well, at least mine was- I can't speak definitively for everyone else!) 

Near bursting brains aside, it was a blast! Mark has probably forgotten more about 18th century tailoring than I could ever hope to learn, which makes it so much fun to spend a weekend under his tutelage. The goal of this class wasn't so much to complete a coat/waistcoat in a weekend (if it were, as you can see from my picture I would have failed miserably on that count) but rather to learn the more subtle details of the construction of a coat/waistcoat that we are then able to take with us and apply to all of the cool new coats and waistcoats we'll make in the future.

Unknown portrait from our tour.
I attended this class with a friend, and while we missed the Friday portion of class (super bummer!) we worked extra diligently to get all caught up on Saturday. Friday night's homework was pocket flaps, so Saturday we arrived early and got to work. Once we were caught up, we tried to stay on pace with everyone so we wouldn't have a ton of homework Saturday evening. Saturday afternoon, we learned set in pocket bags, applied pocket flaps, put in our buckram and button stands, and were ready to set in the linings for homework. Our diligence paid off.

We finished our homework Saturday evening and had some time left over to be able to go on a ghost tour/investigation at the hotel in which we were staying. The manor house was built in the 1730's and burned down at some point in its history but has been restored. As we were walking through the main hall I saw this portrait and couldn't help but snap a picture. Sadly, the tour guides didn't have any information as to the gentleman in the portrait, but I thought it showed some nice details of his coat and waistcoat.

Michael McCarty switching threads
on an "astral" button.
Even though we missed some of the demo of death's head buttons on Friday, Sunday afternoon Mark and Mike put together a variety of demos for us so that we could pick which things we wanted to try individually. I was really excited that multi-colored death head buttons and basket weave buttons were some of our options! I think buttons seem like such a small thing but can make a really big impact on gentlemen's clothing. I'm working on finishing up a civilian waistcoat for my husband (let's not talk about the new coat he severely needs- or that regimental and small clothes- eek!) so this class was timely for me. Now I will get to apply everything I learned relatively close to the end of class, so hopefully it will stick! 

The end of a workshop weekend is always bittersweet. While it's nice to come home, it's sad to leave. While it's so cool that Angela let's us run a tab for everything we purchase over the weekend, it's always a little painful when I realize how much I spent... okay, just kidding. I budget pretty well for these and I can always justify what I'm purchasing as an investment in my historical wardrobe! This time, I even got a pair of shoes for my husband. =) Behind=covered!

Mostly, though, when I leave a workshop weekend I am inspired to be better and I feel more equipped to do so. I also can't wait to go back. Did I mention I was a junkie? Without meaning to wax poetic, without these workshops and the people who make them possible (Angela and Jim, Mark and Janea, and the rest of the crew of the Margaret Hunter Shop) I wouldn't be where I am now in living history and I'm so thankful for that. 

On that note, and until next post, I'll leave you with our end of workshop photo:

All of our coat fronts as a pretty spring posy. =)