Finished bustle dress!

So, it’s a little late in coming, but it’s finally here! I wore it to the Laura Ingalls Wilder event at GCVM. Luckily, it was cool enough to do so!

After the event,  I had some fun with the “Take it yourself” timer setting on my camera. The lighting in the house was just perfect at the moment.

I really had so much fun wearing this and getting the great comments. I currently am working on a summer cotton version!

Published in: on September 24, 2010 at 11:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

Ongoing Project of the week: Bustle Dress

So, I’ve finally come full circle with my sewing. The very first historic garment I attempted was a bustle ballgown. I remember saving for months to purchase the fabric in high school and the frustration of working through a pattern that didn’t work at all with Grandma. The whole notebook of research and color combinations I worked on for a year, obsessively.  The whole thing still sits, a gigantic flop, in a box in the attic. Never worn. I never had the right pattern or the right undergarments to make it work, and little is left of the fabric to re-do it. Perhaps someday…

But right now, I’m again smitten by the remarkable and hideous shape. Perhaps someday, I’ll have an actual reason to wear it. The idea is “Fall”. And the year is the year before the demise of that fabulous bustle. When it was biggest and best. 1886. Why do I love it? Not sure. Perhaps it has something to do with what I don’t have in the trunk naturally, or the “prow of the ship” majesty of the silhouette.

I started right this time. No foolish, expensive but not-worth-it patterns. Just plain old research from originals. Starting with the bustle in hoopsteel.

But what fabric could I use? I have a nice dress-length of wool perfect for the dress in the cedar chest. A bright green teal. Most of the dresses for this era are wool. But, I have seen many heavier cottons. Turns out for this decade, it’s ok to use that upholstery cotton! And I think I have just the thing, a length of hideous, orange and brown cotton from a Gunlocke sale a few years ago. Don’t know why I bought it. The orange stripes are raised velveteen with chocolate brown between them. Stripes are another favorite of the time. No need to spend time studying the prints from then!

So that would be the bodice and apron and bustle. But the skirt. I can’t just use a petticoat from CW as the bustle will mess up the back. Plus, the heavy pleating at the bottom helps to keep things stable. I need to go to Jo-Ann’s anyway. Chocolate brown heavy cotton was found.

Of course, the creation has to have it’s own fabulous hat, complete with feather birds and fall foliage. Those too, were purchased! I found buttons that will work for now, but will need to be replaced later with antiques.

Today I finished the bustle and draped the fabric bustle. Next will be the skirt and apron and finally the tight, fitted bodice with postilion flared over the bustle and all the stripes matched up. A challenge! I want the sleeves just short of long (as was done) with brown cuffs and high standing collar. I’ll make it so the collar can be turned down and worn with a dicky or chemisette if it needs to be cooler. All I can think of is this cool pose with tight brown kid gloves and a long cane for some reason! Maybe I can wear it on the Mt Morris house tours this September?

Check back to see the progress I make!

Chapter 2:

I completed the skirt and the bustle apron. The skirt is simply chocolate brown cotton. It wasn’t quite heavy enough on it’s own, so it was fully lined with muslin. The pleating along the bottom was time-consuming, but worth it.

The apron was tricky, and I still might have to tack in the front pleats, but it looks great where the bustle meets it.

The whole shebang had to be sewn to a few waistbands. It was also difficult to place things along the waistbands since my waist and Iron Maiden’s waist are about 4 inches different.

Next up is to do the bodice. Tricky since I’m working with stripes. I made a muslin first and tweaked that, then used it to cut the actual fabric. I can’t believe how well it did come out considering how much it wanted to slip when being sewn.

A few shots on Iron Maiden to get a better view of the stripes.

I’m going to shorten the back of the bodice a tad so it makes a nice break at the top bustle there. I have to figure out how to finish the bodice edges. I’ve seen alot of piping in the Kyoto book, so I might do that, perhaps with just the plain brown.

Next will be sleeves. They need to be two piece (top and bottom) and I want a little flare at the top for range of motion, but can’t have too much. It isn’t the ’90’s yet! They should have a slight curve for the elbow and end just above the natural wrist. I think I want to do a contrasting brown cuff and collar with perhaps a stripe running through and pleats of lace to finish that off. Not sure if I have enough brown for the cuffs and collar AND the hat though.

I have found a problem. The bustle support is collapse-able, which is great, but it collapses while I’m walking, or when I get up from sitting. Then the whole back just looks wilty. I might have to concoct some sort of weights or something to keep the one section from riding up and causing the collapse. Maybe bean bags?

Published in: on July 6, 2010 at 12:09 am  Leave a Comment  

French and Indian War at Ft Niagara

So, it was hot. Very hot. Not even the stiff breeze coming off the lake could really fix that, but we had a good time anyway.  This is the way cool wooden British ship. It actually took some pot shots at the Fort during the battle.

I finally got Chris’s pants and jacket some fabric covered buttons (I give up on the Death Head ones. The thread won’t stop slipping off the molds!) and made him a new waistcoat of way-cool changeable linen. Got great comments on my gown from the proprietor at William Booth and Draper (!!!!!SQUEAL!!!) and the buttons.

I LOVE my new bonnet, and the new book of genre paintings I got justifies their use for the lower classes! yay!

We had a lovely little picnic and then Chris took a nap.

We met up with some friends:

And walked around the Castle speculating on how miserable it would have been to be here in the winter:

I started feeling a little ill as we walked around the merchants. At first I thought it was heatstroke, so I started drinking a ton. All I could think was, “Oh no, I’m going to have to get in an ambulance and I don’t know if my health insurance covers that!” But, as I made a run for the parking lot and air-conditioned car (one more reason to Love a Subaru) and ended up showing everyone my lunch! Luckily, the residents of the 1812 cemetery were already dead and didn’t see! I felt instantly better. Must have been food poisoning?

Published in: on July 5, 2010 at 11:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

Event of the Summer!! 1812 at GCVM!

The musings I could have on this event are far too numerous to even contemplate at the moment. I’m still digesting how excellent a time we had. But, here’s at least a few photos to share.

The hosts of the Thomson Inn, Lucy and Joseph!

Our establishment. We found out that our boarders, officers and some friends, were running a Faroh ring out of the other side of the house! Faroh is quite addictive, especially when you win, like I did!

Testing out the rope bed. Despite Chris’s expression, it was very comfortable. If you need to recycle those Styrofoam packing peanuts, a clever idea is to use them for the mattress stuffing. It’s light, and rats aren’t into Styrofoam like they are into hay or horsehair.

The spacious boudoir. The window allowed the moonlight to shine right into the room all night. There was a lunar eclipse (partial) and it was hard to sleep with all that light. But at least, we didn’t have a bat visit like Mom did in the woodshed!

Our maidservant, Polly. She was quite feisty, and reminded me of a cleaner version of another Polly I know…

I told you she was feisty…

Our goodies..

and the open hearth!


Mr. Thomson retreats.

With food of course!           

The ladies continued on unfazed.

We went to the dance: If you need an early paisley shawl, go to Regency Revisited. I’ve been looking for one for three years and they had MANY to choose from, all carefully selected to best represent what was historically available. I go the lovely green wool one for $80! They also have just marvelous fabric for any century and fancy sewing tools, silk ribbon and lace stockings in silk I wish I could have bought!

And then, there were those military types….

Mom happened to be sleeping in the room the museum keeps all the games in. On a trip to the privy, she knocked over all the stilts against the wall with a clatter in the middle of the night. We decided to pay them back..

On second thought, we’re not so sure how great our health insurance is, and given the history of this man with children’s toys…..

I wish I had gotten pictures of the glorious food at Hosmer, the leaches swimming like eels in the doctor’s fishbowl, the tailor’s impeccable neckwear, or the cluster of well-dressed ladies at the fashion show, but I was having FAR too much fun to worry about the right shot!

If they do this again next year, count us IN for sure!

Published in: on June 29, 2010 at 1:38 am  Leave a Comment  

Vintage Veggies

It’s growing season and boy, are things growing!! This year, we decided to try all pre-1860’s varieties of veggies in our garden. Above, you see our peas on the wire fencing, radishes with the flowers on top of them, and our Tom Thumb lettuce. As always, Goblin helping out..

The peas were of course, very happy. The new wire trellis works really well to support them. We tried snow peas and peas that you shuck. We liked the shuck ones better since we never seemed to catch the snow peas young enough. We had enough peas for a delicious split-pea and ham soup as well as to give away and snack on. We’re letting the rest dry on the vine for seeds.

The lettuce variety we tried was Tom Thumb. I picked it because it grows in little florets that are easy to harvest. It’s a sweet lettuce and doesn’t bolt as quickly as others. I really like it, but so do the slugs! Luckily, a little beer in a few shallow dishes and I think we’ve solved the problem.

We’ve yet to try the radishes.

Here’s our Cherokee Trail of Tears beans. They’ve started climbing up the poles now and leafing out. Should be good for soups and easy to store if dried.

Purple potatoes anyone? Not a historic variety, but very tasty and fast growing purple tators from friends! The little red ones got left in the dust by them!

We also planted little onions, a medieval white carrot and are getting too many berries from the plants around the yard. We have yet to plant our squashes and pickles, but intend to this week.

Published in: on June 29, 2010 at 12:02 am  Leave a Comment  

Jane Austin Ball 2010

My husband decided to join me this year, which meant more sewing! But I think he looked grand!

I wore my sheer dress that was completely hand sewn.

And my mother and her new husband, Mr. Hart, came up from Maryland to participate.

It was a fun time. And the weather was perfect!

I made a few things for people for this year’s ball:

A pair of trousers:

And this stunning silk satin dress with real silver spangles!

The food and environment were, as always, top notch. Chris even enjoyed himself!

Our next 1812 event will be the 1812 (well, 1813) weekend at GCVM where we will be the hosts of the Thompson Tavern.

Published in: on June 4, 2010 at 2:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hot off the sewing needle!

Christmas present for my father-in-law this year. It’s made of royal blue silk broadcloth with white silk taffeta letters and state seal. Each letter and the seal are backed with white cotton to prevent the blue background from coming through. The motto is from an original Florida state flag. All of the white was hand-appliqued. The state seal was embroidered prior to being sewn onto the ground. Everything is hand-sewn except for the fly strip. The “S” are a little off, but those were really hard! I’m sure he’ll love it!

Published in: on November 24, 2009 at 6:49 pm  Leave a Comment  


Today’s meager post is about an upcoming experiment in which I attempt to poison my unit as they reenact this coming weekend at Spangler’s Springs in Gettysburg. ..


Just Kidding! I’ve been assigned to bring “gatorade” to contribute to the groups’ food that weekend. Instead, I will be bringing a concentrate used during the 1860’s instead of gatorade. It contains less sugar, has ginger to calm stomach cramps from heat, and still replenishes all the electrolytes of gatorade with none of the toxic non-natural un-pronounceable ingredients or nasty flavor. The mystery drink is:


Here’s the recipe I’ll be trying. I think I’ll enjoy the added lemon flavor. I’ll be taking it down minus the water so it can be added to water when it needs to be mixed.

1/4 C minced ginger, boiled in small quantity of water and strained

1/2 C honey

1/4 C molasses

3/4 C lemon juice

1/4 C apple cider vinegar

Mix together and keep until needed, then add to gallon of water.

I think it also might be good with a nip of peach brandy…..

Published in: on August 11, 2009 at 4:45 am  Comments (1)  

New kitty

Meet Miss Cleo. She’s the cat of Anna Worden, who has moved down south for a while. She’s finally fitting in!


Published in: on July 22, 2009 at 2:10 pm  Comments (1)  

Mumford Civil War Weekend

This year was set to be our best yet. The museum was trying alot of new things, like allowing the civilians to inhabit the buildings and do scenarios, and of course, I was not sure if I could go due to work. But we managed to make it saturday at least.


We met up with Bill, Elyse, Becky, and Katherine and attempted to fly kites before the storm front moved in. It was less than successful. The bowl shape of the natural amphitheater made for uneven wind currents.


Ms. Topping joined us in watching the boys attempt to fly the tissue paper and sticks. Chris and I decided to go farm-class for the event, with him in a sack coat and me in a modest homespun sheer with straw bonnet.


I test drove my new white silk veil. It looks pretty, and is good for indicating wind direction, but it actually increases sun glare. Wish I had brought my black one!


Ms. Topping looks on as Bill achieves flight with the dangerous Yellow Kite of Dislocation!!


Chris flying the docile red kite. Later on, Elyse and I flew the kites with much success during a windy speech by Lincoln. After the speech, Chris joined us. He was having great success, but then the kite’s line came off the reel. In order to prevent injury by kite to an unsuspecting spectator, he nobly dove for the line. He got it, but dislocated his shoulder in the process, causing a mad rush to the Batavia ER and much drugs and pain. He’s on the mend, but we missed all of the evening scenarios and events! So much for the day off….


Katherine and her new sheer plaid dress. It’s a little long for the new cage. Here she is attempting to fly the Yellow Kite of Dislocation while avoiding horse pies and tripping over her hem.


We enjoyed a lunch of homegrown cherries, jam and lemonade by Bill, wheat bread loaves and sharp cheddar cheese, and good conversation on the porch of the insurance agency. There was banjo music nearby and people stopping to say hi. It was relaxing!


My honey relaxing with some lemonade.

Published in: on July 22, 2009 at 2:03 pm  Leave a Comment