Saturday, July 22, 2017

Bonnet Veils

Sun protection, and garish colors all at once.

1860s reproduction bonnet veils of silk gauze, and cotton net lace
Net half-circle net on bonnet, with silk gauze veils in
black, blue, and green.

Black and white lace comprise the majority of museum collection veils, with the odd smattering of green.  Period documents, however, refer to blue, brown, black and green veils (even used by men).  Non-lace materials, including barege, grenadine, and gauze, are also named; these marginally more utilitarian materials appear to have been favored as dust-protection in the event of travel and/or bad weather--Mary Chestnut's diary mentions ruining a lace veil while travelling, as no cheaper veil could be procured after several years of blockades.

The surviving lace veils that I've seen are rectangular or half-circular* in form.  In general, the decoration is concentrated toward the bottom and/or sides of the veil, leaving the face--and especially the eyes--clear.  The half-circle or "D" shaped veils are mostly black, though the Met and Smithsonian each have at least one white veil of this sort. The VAM has an adorable black veil with yellow trim (and BEES!).

White lace D-shaped veil from Belgium, early 19th century.
From the Cooper-Hewitt/Smithsonian Design Museum.
Black lace veil from France, early 19th century.
In the Met.
My simpler version is made of cotton net with lace sewn along the curved edge (net from Mill End in Portland, lace from Fine French Laces). I dyed it with forest green fiber reactive dye from Dharma Trading Co. While this veil worked very well for me, I am considering dying it black and embroidering spots on it.  I started with green because 1) I like green, 2) I'm tired of people deciding my black veil is mourning attire, and 3) colorful veils existed in the time period but aren't represented in any of my usual reenactment venues. However, I haven't found an example of a green half-circle veil, yet, so it may be necessary to dye it the better-documented black (though it still won't be quite so sheer and lacy as most of the examples).

The rectangular veils I made are silk gauze with silk ribbon (dyed "forest green" and "mountain blue" with the Dharma dyes, though the silk gives a brighter and yellower green than the cotton net did). Both are loosely based on this brown original veil posted to the SA by Pam Robles some years ago.  I also used it as the basis of my first bonnet veil (in black), though I could not duplicate the narrower stripes, and merely sewed ribbon to the silk gauge to imitate the thicker lines. I attempted something similar with the green, and blue, but the ribbon I dyed for the project snags and runs very easily, so I only put one stripe on each--I may add the other three if I can find a better way to sew it. I did hand sew the new ones, which went much more easily than the machine sewing on my first veil. The black gauze, however, though nominally the same weight, seems more light and delicate than the dyed material.

While I would like to find more diaphanous materials for future veils, these three have performed adequately at shielding my eyes from sun glare, while not impeding vision (and, as a bonus, distinctly reducing the number of people declaring me a widow). They've also sparked some interesting conversations with visitors and other reenactors.

*More like a half circle with a two-inch strip added to the flat side.


Sunday, July 9, 2017

Hard Pomade and Macassar Oil

Some sort of oil or pomatum is absolutely necessary to be used. Not only does it add to the glossiness of the hair, but it contributes to hold the hair in position. Some little care is necessary in order to impart to the oil or pomatum the necessary medium between limpidity and adhesiveness.
--Godey's, November 1855
I'm experimenting with a few more hair-styling preparations.  First, Macassar Oil from Mrs. Bradley's Housekeeper's Guide (1853). Like the "common hair oil" mentioned later in the Godey's article*, this is basically just colored, scented oil:
"Any quantity of sweet oil, and alkanet enough to give it a splendid red color. Scent with oil of bergamotte, lavender or lemon." 
I used 2 oz of sweet almond oil, with a generous spoonful of chopped alkanet root. After soaking overnight, I strained out the alkanet and stirred in four drops of essence of bergamot.

Maccassar hair oil from Mrs. Bradley's, 1853
Hair oil.

So far, I've used it once. I dabbed some oil on my hand, and brushed it through my hair, as I would apply a pomade. It seemed to give a similar sleek look, while dispersing easier. I couldn't say whether it is more or less effective for sticking the hair to itself. At some point, I should try one of the castor-oil-based receipts for comparison.

I also tried making the (second) hard pomatum from Mackenzie's Five Thousand Receipts (1854):
 Another--Take 6 oz. of common pomatum, add to it 3 oz. of white virgin wax, scraped fine. Melt them in an earthen pan immersed in a one containing boiling water both being over a clear and steady fire. When properly incorporated, keep stirring, until it is nearly cold, then put it into small pots, or make it up into small rolls. Perfume it according to taste.
I was a little concerned here, since the first recipe given has 20:1 ratio of fats to wax, while this second one was 2:1.  Nonetheless, I tried it, and rather like the results.  As expected, it set much stiffer than the soft version; practically, this limits how much you can get out of the jar at a time. When I tried it on a friend's fine hair (which was only moderately responding to the soft pomatum I previously made), it did seem to hold better. I think I prefer using the soft version on my own hair, as it holds well enough, and is a bit faster to dispense. I used the same scent ratios for this hard pomatum as for the soft pomatum.

Hard pomatum from Mackenzie's 5000 Receipts, 1854
Hard pomatum.

*The extract from Godey's goes on to state that "Common hair oil is nothing more than olive or salad oil colored red with alkanet root, and scented. It is far too thin to be useful, and it soils more than enough", while Macassar oil is supposedto belong to a superior class of hair products (scented castor oil dilluted with wine spirits). This may be a case of a specific name (Macassar oil) being applied to the more general category (hair oil).

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Roast Fowls

A few more historical cooking adventures from the past week.  First, I tried using the Fort's reflector oven, and roasted two chicken according to Miss Leslie's instructions ("To Roast a Pair of Fowls", page 142). I used Mrs. Beeton's receipt for the forcemeat, The crust turned out delicious, but I will need to work on pinning the birds to the spit more effectively.

Reflector oven containing two chickens, next to fire.
Roasting chicken in a reflector oven.

Since I was cooking outside, I also fired up the clay bake-oven, for a tart, a few loaves of bread, and some iced fruits [cherries and blueberries were both successful, but the raspberries disintegrated into a tasty mess].
Open tart with pastry leaves, from Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1861.
Open tart with yellow plum preserves.
I made the preserves last autumn from "Dr. Tolmie's" yellow plum tree.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Treadle Sewing Machine

My new sewing companion, a Singer Model 27 treadle sewing machine:


The serial number indicates that this machine was made in Elizabethtown, NJ between 1904 and 1913. It's in a "No. 3" cabinet (five drawers, with embossing), and has the "Memphis/Egyptian" Sphinx decal. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Strawberry Ice Cream

Strawberry Ice Cream from Miss Leslie's Complete Cookery (1851).  Page 325.

A molded ice cream, made from an 1851 recipe in "Miss Leslie's Complete Cookery".
Molded strawberry ice cream, ready to serve.

The ingredients were straightforward: strawberries, sugar, and cream. I ended up wringing the strawberries through a cloth to extract the juice--a scant 2 cups from 1 quart of berries, after standing 1.5 hours with the sugar. Then, it was simply a matter of stirring in the cream and freezing it.  I halved the receipt, and ended up with enough cream to fill one 4-cup mold and nearly fill a second.

Not having a proper ice cream freezer, I tried using a two-bowl set up with salt and ice in the outer basin and the cream mixture in the inner bowl.  That proved ineffective, so I opted for the old standby of putting it in the modern freezer, and stirring at half-hour intervals. This worked moderately well, but the ice cream still didn't fully set until I left it overnight. At that point, it was a soft solid, so I stirred and froze it once more, then transferred it into the molds and let them set until needed.

I used hot water on the outside of the mold to loosen the ice cream: the short one worked easily, but the taller took several tries and came out a little more melted than anticipated. Both went back into the freezer for a half hour--I should have wiped off the excess a little sooner, as they were quite solid again in short order.

Another molded ice cream, made from an 1851 recipe in "Miss Leslie's Complete Cookery".
The second mold didn't come out so nicely.
The flavor was sweet and rich; the texture was pleasantly smooth, though I expect it would be even better with a proper freezer to provide continuous air incorporation while freezing. The molds worked better than they usually do for me, so I'm optimistic that they will become even easier to use with more practice.

Update: I have now tried this recipe with blueberries (moderately succesful, though more fruit is needed to get a balanced flavor), and with vanilla (milk making up the extra liquid). Both times, a hand-cranked freezer was used, and it produced a very smooth ice cream. This is definitely a receipt to hang on to.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Fancy Dress

I really need to attend a fancy dress ball (or three), if only to use some of these awesome costume ideas:
Fashion plate excerpt: two women in late 1860s "fancy dress" as the harvest and a ship.
Yes, I want the dress on the right:
a ship with open gun ports and an anchor necklace.
Though the little hat should probably be a wheel...

Or maybe I just need to make all my Halloween costumes period fancy dress...

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Book Review: Designs for Printed Textiles in England from 1750 to 1850

Cover art for "Designs for Printed Textiles in England From 1750 to 1850" by Wendy Hefford

Designs for Printed Textiles in England From 1750 to 1850 by Wendy Hefford

Though not a recent book (1992), this one was new to me.  And I was missing out by not knowing about it sooner!

I've reviewed fabric design books before (see here, here, here, and here), and where Designs for Printed Textiles stands out is in the size and quality of its images.  Written information is brief, concise, and in 10pt font (or smaller). The 236 samples are spread over 118 pages, allowing each image considerable space--most have an entire 10" x 12" page, or at least half of one; the handful of pages with four or more samples are all copies of period albums and sample books.  Some unusual specimens were included such as printed shawls and patchwork quilts containing many printed fabrics.

Compared to other works, this book has relatively few examples and a narrow scope: as the name indicates, it's all British printed fabrics from 1750-1850 (which are now in the The Victoria & Albert Museum).  Within that, various types of printed fabric are featured: furnishing fabrics, dress goods, shawls, etc.  The book seemed to contain more pages covering the late 18th century than early 19th (maybe 60% to 40%), so it may be more useful for people interested in the early part of the year range than the later.  While the bulk of the book is colored plates, there were also 7 pages of background information on styles/processes/technology, 17 pages of captions for the plates,  2.5 pages for a fabric glossary, and 3 pages about the history of different British fabric printing companies.

With all that in mind, I'd say this book is very useful for looking at changes occurring in British fabric printing over a hundred-year period, and fairly to very useful for looking at designs within that time period.  In most cases, you won't be finding multiple examples of a specific type of material for a narrower year range--but the one or two pictures that you do find will be lovely and detailed. I won't be making this my primary textile print resource, but I think it's a very useful addition to the library, and a good choice to consult before embarking on a late 18th (or early 19th) century project.

Score: 5 stars

Accuracy: High. All original examples

Strongest Impression: A pretty book which gives good, detailed examples of textile prints over a century.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Strawberries and Cream

Off-season (and in-season) HFF training.

The Challenge: None. Just trying things on my own until season three starts.

The Receipt:  Strawberries and cream from Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management

The Date/Year and Region: 1861, London

How Did You Make It:  Removed strawberry tops, arranged berries in a bowl, dusted with powdered sugar, and and poured on cream.

Time to Complete: 5 minutes

Total Cost: Ingredients on hand.  About $1-$2 for 1/3 c. cream and 1 c. berries.

How Accurate Is It? Half scale, but with no deviations from the instructions.

How Successful Is It? 
Simple and tasty.  I prefer whipped cream with strawberries, as the cream flavor was largely lost in this form, but the dish was perfectly palatable. I would certainly make it again for an appropriate occasion.

Strawberries and cream from Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1861.
Yes, it's literally strawberries with cream and sugar on top.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Quilted Petticoat, Part 1: Quilting

The first (and longest) step is complete: quilting the petticoat layers together.  The outer fabric is a paisley floral stripe (#2829-0116) from the Old Sturbridge Village Anniversary line; the back is a solid green cotton, and the batting is wool.

The main source of inspiration a petticoat from the OSV collection (26.35.31). The quilting pattern used is 2" diamonds along the bottom 1/3 of the petticoat, with horizontal lines 2" apart above the diamonds, and horizontal lines spaced 3" apart nearer to the waist. This is a hybrid of the graduated horizontal lines from the OSV petticoat, and the diamonds on this petticoat in the Met.

With two of us working, it took three days (at approximately 6 hours per day), with one worker on the fourth day.  Admittedly, this was not without interruption.  I expect that a repeat of the project would progress much more quickly (I, for one, was sewing faster by Tuesday than I had on Saturday or Sunday).

Quilting under the locust trees.

The stitching is more visible on the back.

With thanks to Elise (stalwart sewing companion, keeper of lore, and mistress of the quilting frame), Quinn (vanquisher of the hunger-dragons), Jessie (slayer of tedium), and the various persons conscripted into snapping chalk lines.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Quilted Petticoat Research

For the upcoming petticoat-quilting weekend (ie, test-driving Elise's new quilting frame)

My inspiration piece is a c.1835-1860 cotton print petticoat from the collection of Old Sturbridge Village: (My inspiration experience is the really cold weather at Santa Train last December.)

Quilted petticoat c.1835-1860, made from stripe-print cotton. Old Sturbridge Village 26.35.31
Quilted petticoat, c. 1835-1860 from
Old Sturbridge Village (object 26.35.31).
Both this striped petticoat and another in their collection (#26.35.30, a wool twill petticoat c.1840) are quilted in horizontal lines, spaced closely together near the hem and further apart near the waist. From the given measurements (and taking proportions from the picture), I think this petticoat has a hem around 90" in circumference; it is 36.5" long.

I'm having trouble deciding between following the simple lines, or trying a more ambitious quilting pattern, like this one from the Henry Ford Museum done in overlapping waves (they also have a fun silk petticoat with much clearer quilting lines).

Perhaps a diamond pattern would make a nice compromise between an easy quilting pattern and a fun one?
Diamond-quilted white cotton petticoat c.1860-1870, from The Met.
Cotton petticoat with diamond quilting,
c.1860-1870, in The Met.

While the OSV petticoats have set waistbands and close with ties, the Met has about a dozen quilted pettis which appear to use drawstrings:

Cotton print quilted petticoat, early 19th century, from The Met.
Early 19th century quilted petticoat in The Met.
Maybe the drawstring is a French variation?


They also have some lovely silk quilted petticoats, made very full.  From some references in my casual readings, I suspect these silk petticoat are meant as an outermost under-layer, to support a delicate skirt, as opposed to the narrower quilted pettis worn near the body for warmth.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Crinoline Cartoons

"Why do women like stays?" "Because they feel so-laced by them." 
Just for fun, here are a few favorite mid-nineteenth century cartoons about crinolines. Some funny, some casually classist, some intended seriously:

1859 carton, crinoline struck by lighting
1858. "The Dangers of Crinoline"
Not intended as a humor, but
perhaps the 2-in-1 hoop lightning rod won't catch on.

"Song of the Crinoline" 1857 Harper's New Monthly Magazine
"Song of the Hoop"
Harper's New Monthly Magazine 1857
This needs to be performed at Conference next year.
Ideally with choreography.
"Dress and the Lady", satire from Punch Aug 23, 1856
Punch Aug 23, 1856. Other than the exaggerated
circumference of hoop and skirt, this one isn't too bizarre.
I like that you can see an under-hoop petticoat in use.

"The 'Skirt Movement' Illustrated", 1856 satire from Peterson's Magazine
"The 'Skirt Movement' Illustrated." Peterson's 1856.
Text: "Little Boy--Ma! call to Bridget! She's gone and put my hoop under her dress."

"Servantgalism" hoopskirt satire from Punch, Nov 21, 1863
Punch, Nov 21, 1863
Servantgalism. 
Mary: "Did you call, Mum?" 
Lady: "Yes, Mary! I thought I told you not to wear your hoop  before you had done your rooms, because you broke the jugs and basins with it!" 
Mary: "Oh, Mum! You see the sweeps were coming this morning, and, really, I could 
not think of opening the door to them such a figger as I should ha' been without my crinoline!

"The Convenience of Crinoline" hoop parody, Graham's Magazine 1856
Graham's Magazine, 1856
The Convenience of Crinoline. A Warning to Mothers.
Troublesome Parent.--"Who was making that noise, Clara?"
Clara.--"Only me and Moustache, Mamma!"

"Under the Mistletoe" crinoline satire, in 'Punch' January 1857
Punch. January 1857.
When crinolines aren't hiding illicit beaux,
they're apparently quite adept at fending them off.

Frank Leslie's, 1857


Inflatable crinoline satire, Punch, Jan 17, 1857
Punch. Jan 17, 1857
I'd love to see an inflatable crinoline at some point.
Emily. "Madame Bonton says 'the Circuference of the Crinoline should be Thirty-Six Feet!"
Caroline. "Dear me! --I'm only Thirty-Two--I must Inflate a little!"

Punch December 12, 1857. Two boys using a covered crinoline as a tent.
Punch, December 12, 1857. Playing "Crimea"
with sister's crinoline for a tent.



Monday, May 29, 2017

Chicken Croquettes

On Sunday, I decided to recycle Saturday's left-overs, nineteenth-century style.

The chicken bones (along with a beef marrow bone, some bacon, herbs, and vegetables), went into the pot for a "medium stock", later used in a Soup a la Flamande (second version; both receipts from Mrs. Beeton's). 

The left-over chicken meat went into Chicken Croquettes, from Miss Leslie's (page 143).  The extra rolls were grated up for the bread crumbs.  Due to ingredient shortages, I omitted the suet and parsley. Nonetheless, the croquettes held together well, looked prettier than I expected, and tasted splendid (primarily of chicken and mace).  All six people who tried them liked them.

I finished the meal with another batch of "excellent rolls", and a batch of ginger-and-lemon-peel dessert biscuits.

Chicken Croquettes from Miss Leslie's Complete Cookery 1859
Croquettes in progress: ground chicken and
herbs with egg yoke, then shaped into pears
and rolled in bread crumbs. The stems are cloves.

Chicken Croquettes from Miss Leslie's Complete Cookery 1859
Finished Chicken Croquettes.

P.S. The top of the lemon pudding eventually set, after spending the night in the refrigerator. A lower liquid layer persisted, however.  Despite the off-putting texture, it tasted alright: lemon and wine, with a nice pastry crust.  I would be willing to try making it again, if I could figure out a way of tweaking it for solidity.



Saturday, May 27, 2017

Fricasseed Chicken

I tried cooking with Bessie, the long-suffering if somewhat temperamental wood-burning stove, again today.  Nothing burned this time, but the oven seemed to be running cool, even though I kept the fire up.  

Anyways, today's dinner consisted of fricasseed chicken, from Miss Leslie's Complete Cookery (1851), accompanied by boiled vegetables, 'excellent rolls' from Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management (1861), and followed by puff pastry cookies (a version of this appears in most of the cookery books I've looked at c.1850-1865).  The pastry was left over from making a lemon pudding (also from Miss Leslie's, though I got the idea from Mrs. Beeton's list of May menus); unfortunately, the lemon pudding didn't set in a timely manner.

Fricasseed Chickens, from Miss Leslie's Complete Cookery (1859)
Fricasseed Chicken. I cut up a whole chicken
without freaking out, even if it wasn't very neat.

Rolls. Could have used some more salt,
but the texture turned out quite passable.

Boiled vegetables with rosemary. Improvised.

Puff paste cookies with sugar and cinnamon
Puff Paste Cookies. Yum.

Lemon Pudding, from Miss Leslie's Complete Cookery (1859)
The lemon pudding didn't set
(well, not in the hot kitchen).

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Book Review: Paisley Plaid and Purled: Shawls of the Mid-Nineteenth Century

Cover of "Paisley Plaid and Purled: Shawls of the Mid-19th Century" by Anna Worden Bauersmith.

Paisley Plaid and Purled: Shawls of the Mid-Nineteenth Century by Anna Worden Bauersmith (2015)

Another much-over-due review from my winter reading list.  Ms. Bauersmith has written a thorough (nearly encyclopedic) introduction to shawl styles and varieties c. 1840-1865.  Like From Field to FashionPaisley, Plaid and Purled delves into manufacturing practices and deals extensively with written sources from the period.  However, it also includes a large number of pictures (of original shawls, as well as historic images featuring shawls), and even project instructions from period sources.

The main narrative covers half the book (63 pages), and details the author's research methods and results.  She looks at how shawls are described and referenced in the period, who was wearing them, what kinds were available (including common sizes), and how shawls were made and worn.  Some 27 period photographs are included, with discussion of the shawls featured therein.  Modern color images of two original shawls, in all their colorful glory, are also featured.  This section ends with period instructions for homemade shawls: quilted, embroidered, knitted, netted, and crocheted.

To aid in one's further research, there is also a seven page bibliography, as well as a lengthy appendix of useful information.  In addition to longer quotation from period sources (including more shawl instructions, and manufacturing information), there's a glossary of terms, a helpful table of shawl prices, extensive charts detailing shawl manufacture from around the world, descriptions of shawls in advertisements, and seasonal references to shawls, etc.

There's very little I would change about this book, as I'm busy swooning over the footnotes and gazing covetously on the original pictures.  A lot of the information is from publicly available sources, but the amount of work that went into assembling this information, and explaining it is tremendous, and definitely worth the cost of an e-book.  Those looking for explicit project instructions might be frustrated, as the ones featured here are all from the period, and thus spare in their instructions.  However, I don't know of any other source nearly this comprehensive which also translates the patterns for modern use.

Score: 5 Stars.

Accuracy: High. Extensive use of period material, fully cited.

Strongest Impression: I would recommend this book to anyone participating in costumed historic interpretation or interested in historic clothing.  Yes, including men.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Quilt Updates

I've been cutting scraps and seaming them for my autograph quilt (the winning design being the hourglass).  The block is basically "broken dishes", ie, it's a four-patch, with each of the four squares divided into two triangles.  Based on the dimensions of inspiration quilt, I'm aiming for 6" finished blocks: I've been cutting 6.5" squares for the white blocks, while the triangles are halves of 4" squares.

Three pieces "hourglass" blocks for 1850s reproduction quilt.
The general organizational scheme.

By my count, the original quilt is 15 by 15 blocks: 112 pieced hourglasses and 113 plain white ones. Now I just need to find 113 friends! And, maybe, cut and piece the other 96 blocks.

16 hourglass pieced quilt blocks made from reproduction 19th century fabric.
Sixteen down, ninety-six to go!

I've also been slowly whip-stitching my 3/4" hexagons, using all the fabric scraps that are too small for the autograph quilt (ie, less than 4" square).  This work is highly portable, so it's one of my favorites for commuting.

Hexagons of 29th century reproduction fabric for paper-piecing quilt.
Many tiny hexagons. This is a long-term project.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Linen Smock, 16th Century

I made a second 16th century smock based on the instructions in The Tudor Tailor.  While the first one I made had a collar and cuffed sleeves with button fasteners, this time I made the collar-less version, with narrower sleeve (plain hemmed edge) and no fasteners.  Between the simplified finishing, and tracing the first smock for a pattern, this garment made up very quickly: about 10-15 minutes to cut, and 6 hours* to completely hand-sew.  The sleeve and gusset seams are all run-and-fell, while the sides seams are just running stitch; the neck, cuff, and bottom edges are all 1/4" twice-folded hems.  This time I used a slightly heavier (mid-weight) twilled linen, which I think I acquired from Fabric Mart during their last linen sale.

White linen smock for 16th century, from design in "The Tudor Tailor"
Plain linen smock for 16th century wear.

*While doing other activities: watching a hockey game, playing D&D, and listening to a lecture.  It may have gone quicker if I was not multi-tasking.

And, just for fun, here's an original 16th century smock from Italy:

16th century woman's smock (embroidered) in The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Late 16th century Italian smock, from The Met

I'm alternating between covetous admiration, and sheer terror at number of hours all that embroidery took. Also, awe that it survived that last four centuries, and a strong desire to inspect it more closely.

[Hint to costume designers: this is what should be worn under the corset/stays/bodies. Isn't it pretty? Don't you want to start including it in your plans?]

Monday, May 8, 2017

Petticoat From An Old Dress

One of the reasons I like using historical methods in garment construction is ease of reuse.

Consider my second-ever cotton dress:

Reproduction cotton plaid day dress with narrow coat sleeves, c.1862-1865.
Cotton "homespun" dress of red, blue and white plaid.

It doesn't fit my needs anymore. The coat sleeves post-date my main time, while figure fluctuations have affected the bodice fit in irreparable ways.

Fortunately, I made this dress as a finished bodice and skirt, so snipping a few basting threads gives my a perfectly functional working petticoat:

Gauged petticoat of plaid cotton, for mid-Victorian working wear (reproduction).
Colored petticoat. Cost: $0, 30 seconds of labor.
I flat-lined the bodice with white cotton, so both it and sleeve seams can be picked out, and the fabric used for patchwork or other small projects (doll clothes, sewing accessories, scrap-fabric hem facings). Modern techniques such as cutting out darts, serging seams, or using iron-in interfacing would reduce or eliminate this utility--I've remodeled a couple dresses with interfacing, and despite multiple washings, the fabric remained stiff and retained a gummy residue.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Brown print yoked dress, 1850s

I could use another washable dress for dirty work at the fort, and haven't made an adult-sized yoke dress before. This should fit the bill nicely:

Brown cotton yoked dress for 1850s wear
It really shouldn't show the dirt.

Full yoked bodice, bishop sleeves, and gauged skirt (all self-drafted). Fastens at center front with hooks and eyes, and at the wrist with shell buttons. The print is the brown floral from Marcus Fabrics' "historical stripes" line; lined with white muslin, scrap fabric facing.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Soft Pomatum, 1854

Experimenting once again with cosmetics, this time with soft pomatum from Makenzie's Five Thousand Receipts: In all the Useful and Domestic Arts (Philadelphia, 1854).

From page 189: Soft pomatum Take 25 pounds of hog's lard, 8 pounds of mutton suet, 6 ounces of oil of Bergamot, 4 ounces essence of lemons, half an ounce of oil of lavender, and a quarter of an ounce of oil of rosemary. These ingredients are to be combined in the manner as those for the hard pomatum. This pomatum is to be put up in pots in the usual way. 

Not needing thirty pounds of hair product, I scaled this down to a mere ten ounces (8 oz lard to 2 oz tallow, having no ready source for suet).

1854 Soft Pomade Recipe: Lard and Tallow
Solid lard and tallow.

The process was very straight forward: I melted to the two fats together over low heat, allowed the solution to cool for a few minutes, then stirred in the scents, poured the liquid into tins, and set it aside to solidify.  Excluding the final cooling/hardening, the process took about fifteen minutes.

1854 Soft Pomade Recipe: Lard and Tallow Melting in Saucepan
The fats melted quickly over low heat.

For the scent, I maintained the 24:12:2:1 ratio, but as I was working at ~1/50 scale, I didn't try to calculate miniscule fractions of ounces. Instead, I opted to use 2 drops of rosemary essence and adjust from there (4 drops of lavender, 24 of lemon, 48 of bergamot).  This amount seems to work well, imparting a notable, but delicate, odor.

1854 Soft Pomade Recipe: Liquid pomade with bergamot, lemon, lavender, and rosemary essence.
The final liquid was faintly yellow and translucent.

Batch size note: the 10 ounces of fat (by weight) exactly filled the three 4-fl-oz tins I had prepared.


1854 Soft Pomade Recipe: Final product
The pomatum grew opaque and white as it solidified.

The final pomatum is somewhat softer than the one I previously used.  Where that one was a solid, and needed to be rubbed on the fingers to liquefy it for use, this pomade is ready to go--if it was any softer, it'd be liquid.  I'm a little concerned about how it'll fare during the summer heat (both in use and in its container), but am optimistic that it will be easy to use and won't leave tiny white specks behind in my hair, as happened when the other pomade aged and separated.

I'm tempted to also try the hard pomatum recipe in this book (white wax and suet); if I end up liking the soft version, I intend to try it again using fresh lard and suet, to see how that affects its consistency and behavior.

Update: Having now used this pomatum, I am pleased to report that it soldified still further, and was a perfectly nice consistency when I went to use it.  The melting point of the combined fats is just around body temperature, so very little friction was needed to work it into my hair. My hair styled easily (as much as it ever does) on the first and second day, after which the pomatum washed out easily with shampoo.  The scent proportions I used seemed fine to me; if anything, it was a hair strong, and I would be tempted to try it with half of the oils (1:2:12:24) to compare.  That being said, one of my friends still thought that the tin of pomatum smelled too strongly of lard. 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Nisqually Album Quilt Ideas

I've had a few quilt ideas bouncing around in my head (like the wool one that I'll be starting on as soon as I get two more dresses cut out, and thus have some 'cabbage' to play with).  One quilt that I would like to make is another album quilt, this time with signatures from all my west coast reenactment friends--my first ever attempt at a reproduction quilt being a chimney-sweep album signed by my Minnesota reenacting circle. I like having it as a memento, and would love to do another incorporating scraps from my different projects.

Design 1: Crosses, 1840-1860 [tilted variation of the 'narrow X' album block with sashing in between].
Crosses Quilt, c.1840-1860, IQSCM 2008.040.0165
IQSCM 2008.040.0165
It's an album block, and I like how the sashing and orientation have played with its visual effect. The narrow stripes of white would limit inscription length, but this could still be a fun design. I could also try a different setting of the blocks.

Design 2: Hourglass, c.1840-1860
Hourglass Quilt, c.1840-1860 IQSCM 2008.040.0037
IQSCM 2008.040.0037
This example fits my time frame well. Though not an album quilt, the many white blocks could be employed for signatures and verses, and I like the symbolism of the turning hourglasses for a reproduction quilt signed by reenactors.  The block is straightforward, but isn't one I've made before.  I will need to find a nice print for the border (maybe one of the large-scale designs from Reproduction Fabrics).

Design 3: Nine-Patch, c.1850
Ninepatch Quilt, c.1850 IQSCM 2003.003.0185
IQSCM 2003.003.0185
The unbalanced nine patch is a classic pattern, and easily executed. I like how this version created a unified effect through repeated colors and sashing. The white spaces could admit signatures. Unfortunately, only five fabrics are used, including the border, so it wouldn't be good for incorporating dress scraps.

Design 4: Eight-Point Star set in stripes, c. 1830-1850.
Eight Point Star Quilt, c. 1830-1850, IQSCM 2006.043.0218
IQSCM 2006.043.0218
It's a little before my main years (1855-1865), but this one's pretty and the white triangles could be turned to signatures. I would need to find a suitably awesome period fabric for the vertical stripes, though.

Design 5: Birds in the Air, c.1845-1865
Birds in the Air Quilt, c.1845-1865, IQSCM 1997.007.0289
IQSCM 1997.007.0289
It's pretty, falls within my reenacting time span, uses a lot of small pieces, and can be machine-pieced. I am also seriously coveting some of those prints. The downside is that there is no obvious place for signatures.  While it won't fit my current needs, I'll have to keep this example for future consideration.

P.S. I'm still working on my hexagons, but the amount of hand sewing ensures that one will be 'in progress' for some time.