Summer 2013

So I suppose I owe the internet an update! I successfully completed my thesis and graduated with merit from the University of Glasgow! It seems ages ago now that I was over in the UK but I guess it wasn’t really all that long ago. Since graduation I’ve been keeping busy with volunteering and I recently completed an internship at the Agnes Etherington Art Center on Queen’s University campus. I assisted with a risk assessment and a condition survey of the costume collection they have there and it truly was a dream! It was such a shame that it was so short! I love to work with the collection and the institution in the future! Also, Kingston was awesome. I very quickly settled in and took advantage of the wonderful community they have there.

Currently I’m interning at the Canadian Conservation Institute and doing some work in private practice on the side! I’m continuing to apply for all the textile conservation jobs that I can and I’m eager to hear back from the institutions I’ve written to over the past month. It looks to be  busy summer!

I’ve also been able to find some time to sew a dress or two – a couple of n vintage vogue pattern reprints and a trapeze dress. Hopefully I’ll get a post or two up on them soon! Also I planted peas which is turning out to be an increasingly satisfying endeavor.

Take care Dear Readers, I’ll write again soon.



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My life is focused on my thesis right now. I basically want to get it done as soon as humanly possible so I can get started on my adult life! How exciting is the prospect of not being a student! I’m never spent a significant amount of time not a student. I worked my university summers of course but it’s just not the same. I’ve whined and complained about living a temporary life for years. And now I’m so close to settling in and committing to all the things I want to do…. as soon as I get this thing written!!!!

I’m trying to organize my thoughts here.

I also picked up some of this basil the other day. Who knew basil was so British!

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Bread and some other stuff

I made some bread! It’s still cooling so I haven’t tried it yet but it looks pretty good!

Ok I just tried it and yup, it’s as good as it looks! I bit salty though. I uncharacteristically followed to recipe’s amount of salt but next time I think I’ll reduce it to a teaspoon. I also replaced half a cup of the white flour with whole wheat because and everyday loaf HAS to have whole wheat. Only special occasion loaves can have all white flour. It’s a rule, go look ti up. I also just cooked it in a regular stock pot because my ceramic dutch oven is at home (boooo!). I did have to take off the plastic handle so they wouldn’t melt but it worked out fine! Here‘s the recipe in case you’re interested.

I also just watched a really interesting short film on youtube. It features Kelsey Freeman from Daily Reenactor. I think she has other photography/travel site(s) but I only follow her tumblr so I’m not familiar with them. I admire Kelsey for her outreach efforts about the hobby although I do feel that she and I are looking for different things from the hobby. The film is titled No Time Like the Past. It’s really interesting and, to my untutored eye, has pretty good production values for a student film. It’s about half an hour but if you have the time you should check it out.

And, of course, I have some opinions about some of the things that were said. Well mostly the things that Will Ritcher said. I will agree that the way that reenacting has evolved into the hobby that it is today has produced some inherent issues. But criticizing reenactors because it they are not capable of time travelling to actually experience the past is unfair and an over-simplification of a complex issue. This line “oh they’re just pretending” is not accurate to why reenactors reenact and deliberately downplays the important role that reenactors can play in preserving different aspects of history. I guess I haven’t been around in the hobby long enough to meet those that I feel I can fairly criticize for their lack of respect because I’m sure they’re out there but just because they exist doesn’t mean all reenactors share the same attitude. I also found his perspective  to be overly focused on the military aspects of reenacting. Clearly as a (former?) member of the US armed forces, the military is and was a big part of his perspective but I felt that many of his comments are skewed by this perspective. It’s interesting how the film juxtaposes his negative comments against his Urbex-ing techniques that clearly drawn on his own personally “historical” military training from his past as a member of the armed forces. And I just have to say it: I call myself a reenactor and generally pursue the hobby in a typical weekend-at-a-fort sort of way and I still have no interest in carrying a gun thanks. That doesn’t make me any less of a reenactor! Reenactors are a diverse group of people and anyone watching the film would certainly see that!

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American Duchess “Pompadours”

The American Duchess just opened up the pre-order for her latest shoe offering the Pompadour. I bought the first shoe she created but have been holding off for these ever since I heard about their creation. I really want these because of the awesome toe shape. It is so hard to find shoes with accurate shapes especially the eighteenth century. You can check ou the shoes here and Lauren is holding a giveaway on her blog.

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1812 Coat

I watched an episode of Sharpe the other day and it got me to thinking about reenacting. Yet another one of those activities that I swear I would be doing ALL THE TIME if I wasn’t busy across the ocean getting a master’s degree. I’m pretty well set for dresses and underthings, despite ongoing experiments with stays, but I lack outerwear. I’m hoping to make it back home in time for the fall events however I need cold weather gear if that is going to happen. So! Commence scheming…

Things I want this garment to do:

  • protect me from the rain with long sleeves and full coverage from the skirt of the coat
  • have a capelet over the shoulders to shed water and add some protection
  • a standing collar that sits close to the neck
  • lined for warmth
  • seam finishes that help repel water
  • have the garment more or less appropriate to campfollower’s station
  • a decent fit that gives me a waist!

I have some fabric picked out: three metres of a pale lavender fulled wool. It’s not much, nor is it a colour I particularly care for, however this stuff is an amazing example of what wool can do. It is so heavily fulled it is very difficult to see the weave (I think it’s a twill of some kind) but that feature is what makes this fabric so perfect for wet weather gear. The fibres are so closely bound that water beads on top! This is also why I’m not going to attempt to dye it. Not only will it most likely not turn out well due to the likely lack of penetration of the dye, but I really don’t want to mess with the finish on the fabric which the high temperatures required for good dyeing probably would. It probably wouldn’t stand up to a true dunking but it pretty darn good for a fabric without a water-repelling finish.

I’ve done a bit of searching online but I haven’t found an extant garment with the details I’m looking for. Ideally I’d like to see something similarin some collection but I think I wider range of sources including images and men’s garments would be useful here. I’m particularly interested in the tailoring details of men’s garment as wool coats of the period generally feature details found on men’s clothing and military uniforms.

So here are a few sources of inspiration.

This is pretty much what I’m going for. The plate is dated to the French revolutionary calendar of year 14 which I think corresponds roughly to 1805/1806.* This is a nice temporal distance from both the up to date high fashions and geographical source for my lower-class, colonial persona. I think it’s reasonable that a lower class campfollower in Upper Canada could have a coat that stylictically is similar in 1812-14. The great big cape over the shoulders should be great protection from the rain and the long skirt offers great coverage. It’s not going to be easy getting that out of 3 metres but I think the length and coverage is really important to get this to look “right”. Oh well, piecing is period! This fashion plate also has super long sleeves that extand over the hands. A nice feature that I’ll replicate if the fabric allows for it. While the white ruffle hides things a bit I think there’s a standing collar of some kind under there.

Sabine at Kleidung um 1800 has numerous lovely examples of outerwear from this period. She is one of those lucky seamstresses able to achieve “the look” of the period with apparent ease! In particular her recent post on a wool spencer has many features that I want to integrate into my coat. Notably, the use of raw edges, although I will not be pinking the edges, as well as the cut and construction of the lining. The use of different fabric for different areas (i.e. cotton for the sleeves to allow for ease of dressing) is worth a thought although I’m prioritizing warmth over ease of dressing with this thing!

A final source is:

Wilcox, David. 2012. “The Clothing of a Georgian Banker, Thomas Coutts: A Story of Museum Dispersal.” Costume 46 (1) (January 1): 17-54. doi:10.1179/174963012X13192178400074.

I actually haven’t read this article yet. Someone mentioned it on the h-costume list and said that there were details of the lining and such for the coat. I’m assuming that the tailoring information contained there will be both new information and useful even just to inspire my construction methods.

I’m away from my books (as usual) so these three sources are hardly the limit of my inspiration but the rest will have to wait awhile. I suspect that this coat will end up moderately accurate as my personal highest standard for accuracy is the replication of an original garment, and when does that ever happen?? I also suspect that this coat will appear far too “new” and “nice” for my persona for at least a few seasons but really my goal with this coat is to keep myself warm. I’ll save my highest standards for day wear that the public will probably see. Oh yeah, I’m going to hand sew it. Just for fun!

* See this post for an explanation of these dates in relation to fashion plates of the period.

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More Progress

Yup. As I predicted the extra linen sewing thread I ordered is a slightly different shade.

Well the shade varies in blue tone a bit. If we’re going to get techincal, blue is one of the harder and more expensive colours to achieve so a little variation there is easily explained away. Also, dyeing is an imperfect science even now! The two colours are close enough that they could simply be the product of two different dye baths. Also, the colour variation will be less noticeable when the thread is sewn in individual lines on the stays. Lots of reasons why this isn’t the nd of the world! I’ve also basically given up hope that this set of stays will be the “perfect” set. It doesn’t mean I’m enjoying the process any less!



Hey look! More progress!!


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Green Linen Stays Progress

I’ve stumbled upon a bit of time the past few days so I picked up a project I’ve had ongoing for at least four years now. I’ve been pretty good about keeping all the pieces together and while I have all the pattern pieces, I’m missing the shoulder strap fabric. I’m not sure if I cut them out and have since lost them or if I just never bothered to cut them out at all!

So far I have both back pieces completed and I just started the front. They’re sort of based on the Diderot diagram for stays, but altering them to fit required significantly altering the boning pattern. I’m using reed I ordered for my first pair of stays from the Silly Sisters but this time I’m doubling up the reed in each channel. I’ve never gotten any real wear out of my first pair but even with just the few times I’ve tried them on, I’ve had a bone break in the front, just off to the side a bit. Annoying! I definitely think that to use reed boning I need to fully bone my stays. Once I get the stays to the point where I can try them on I might even consider strategically replacing one or two with something stronger, maybe even baleen?

My method is just one I sort of came up with. I initially sew a seam that acts as a guide for the angle of the bones and then I slip the doubled-up boning in between the layers and push it up alongside this seam. I then stitch along the other side of the bone, continuing to push it firmly against that first initial seam. I usually works well although I did find that the pattern on the two backs are slightly different as a result of the boning pattern growing more or less organically. I’ve since seen evidence for stays boned with baleen where the channels were stitched first and then the bones were pushed into te channels but I haven’t heard anything either way for reed boning (see note).

I’m using some green linen thread I got from my aunt for my birthday many years ago. I was just eyeing my spool and I don’t think I’ll have enough to get through this project. If I was thinking straight I would have started on the front so that I at least had one uniform colour there since the new stuff I ordered is unlikely to match correctly but oh well! I’ve decided not to think too hard about my colour choices since I doubt that linen of the period would dye this dark green of a colour but oh well!

I was thinking I’d try to line it in leftover red spotted cotton I used in my shortgown. Wouldn’t that be cute? I have some white leather to bind the edges as well. I can’t remember how much of the cotton I have left although I don’t have a problem piecing the lining. Piecing is period and I think it makes projects like these so much more interesting! Many of the stays I saw at the Galliera had heavily pieced linings of various cheery cotton or linen prints. Both these things are back home way away across the ocean so that will definitely have to wait.

It feels so good to be sewing again! I haven’t sewn anything historical since last fall!!

Note: There’s a dissertation that was completed a few years ago on a stomacher that was concealed in a wall of a building. They x-rayed it and you could clearly see where fibres of the bone had been bent backwards as the bone was  pushed into the channel. I can get the specific citation if anyone is interested.

As well see: Sorge-English, Lynn. 2005. “‘29 Doz and 11 Best Cutt Bone’: The Trade in Whalebone and Stays in Eighteenth-Century London.” Textile History 36 (1) (May 1): 20-45. doi:10.1179/174329505×37112.×37112.

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