March 29, 2020

The Citizen's Forum: 2019 Conference

I am writing this blog post from the comforts of my apartment, rather than from the hotel room I booked over a month ago.  This weekend was supposed to be one of my favorite events - the 2020 Citizens Forum of the 1860s, which is a weekend of educational lectures, workshops, vendors of period reproductions, and opportunities to study originals - however, like with most everything else in these strange and difficult times, the conference was postponed with a new date still TBD.

The Citizen's Forum is a wonderful event, organized by some of the hardest working, most dedicated reenactors and influencers within the living history community, and attended by so many I've come to call friends.  While there is disappointment, of course, for canceled plans, efforts seemingly in vain, and missing the chance to see those whom I may only cross paths with at this event, there is still hope that this year's conference will be rescheduled.  (And if not, there is always the next - health and safety above all!)  So while we wait for a new date, let me tempt you with the highlights of last year's conference, and hopefully, you'll consider adding this event to your calendar in the future:

For more information and updates, please visit the official website:
The Citizen's Forum of the 1860s & Facebook page, here.

The 2019 Citizen's Forum was held on March 22nd through the 24th at a new location: the Wolcott Heritage Center in Maumee, Ohio!  This was my second time attending the conference, (see the previous recap, here: 2018 Conference), and I loved the added historic ambiance of the chosen site, which included six historic buildings dating from 1840-1902. 

Every participant receives a welcome packet and folder,
complete with schedules, directions, speaker notes and worksheets.

Friday, March 22nd

For me, the festivities began shortly after check-in at the hotel...after throwing on my coral dress and, at the time, brand new bonnet from Timely Tresses (which I refused to take off because I was and still am obsessed), I ran into not one, but all three of the featured speakers - Cheyney McKnight, Elizabeth Stewart Clark, and Betsy Connolly Watkins, who I was finally meeting in person for the first time.  We ended up piling into my Honda Civic, and you bet I was absolutely starstruck, white-knuckle driving the whole time while internally chanting don't get lost, don't get was kind of a once-in-a-lifetime, dream experience.

Anyways, we made it to the evening soiree!  This time, it was held at the historic Wolcott House:

So many friends to catch up with:

Elegant company at the evening soiree!

Sara of Ensembles of the Past

Angie and Brian

Betsy and Liz
This picture makes me so happy haha!

There was a delicious spread, per usual, with the most amazing cookies...I mean these were art, I almost felt bad about eating them:

Desserts, glorious desserts!

Is this not the prettiest cookie you've ever seen?!
I seriously felt bad about eating it...LOL

While I spent most of the time chatting and snapping pictures, I did jump into at least two: 

Amanda & me 

Cheyney & me

I couldn't have asked for a better evening!

Saturday, March 23rd

A very busy day - three speakers, two workshops, shopping, and the greatest privilege of having dinner with Cheyney!  

One of the many brilliant parts of the conference planning was making use of the spaces available.  While the featured presentations took place in the main gathering space of the church upstairs, the downstairs work room and Wolcott House held concurrent workshops.  They also provided food all weekend in the kitchen, access to the vendors in the school house, and an incredible "museum" display in the farm house.  It was a really impressive, well-organized set up!  

Outside the historic church

Inside the church: the upstairs served as the main lecture hall and gathering space.

The theme for the featured seminars was Reduce, Reuse, Make Do: Practical Frugality in the Mid-19th Century.  There were three fantastic speakers:
  • Betsy Connolly Watkins, presenting What You Have, Where You Are: Planning Civilian Events 
  • Cheyney McKnight, presenting A Story in the Thread: The Clothing of Enslaved Women in the Antebellum South
Cheyney McKnight of Not Your Momma's History

  • Elizabeth Stewart Clark (from the Sewing Academy), presenting Second-Hand Plumage: Used Clothing Trades in Mid-Century America

I also really enjoyed the two workshops that I attended:
  • Cheyney's informative talk on Interpreting and Reenacting Slavery 
  • As well as the Youth Discussion, hosted by Kristen Mrozek, conference director and proprietor at the Victorian Needle

In between sessions, I made sure to visit the vendors: 

A candid shot of the two masterminds behind the entire event:
Kristen and Glenna Jo

The Dressmaker Shop, my favorite!

I did my very best to buy ALL the ribbons from them!
I also splurged on a veil kit (that a whole year later I still have yet to finish...)

Sunday, March 24th

Saturday was so jam-packed that I made sure to leave Sunday morning free to spend at the farm house, which Kristen and Glenna Jo converted into a museum of original, extant garments and accessories from their own, personal collections!

Of all the conference offerings, this is one of the most spectacular, and I cannot imagine the planning and preparation that must go into arranging this...the entire first floor was set up with men's, women's and children's clothing for all occasions, inside and out, complete with informational cards, period photographs and documentation.  It was, in short, incredible (and really deserves its own blog post, but for now, I'm just sharing some of my favorite pieces).

The farm house, which became the "museum" of original garments,
selected and curated from the personal collections of Glenna Jo and Kristen.

"Work" clothing and men's wear in the common room and kitchen (not pictured):

There were tables in just about every room lined with various accessories, jewelry, sewing ornaments, and children's clothing:

A "party" dress for a child, c.1860,
apparently made from the skirt of an adult dress!

The parlor had some pretty, pretty dresses!  That silk apron is to die for...😍 

Front and back view of a sheer silk ball gown, c.1858 and remade in 1876.
The images do not do the fabric or brilliant magenta color justice,
this was one of the most fascinating pieces there!

Pocket detail...someone please reproduce this apron!

The back bedroom: undergarments, nightgowns, and wrappers, oh my! 

Lots of pretty white work and a coverlet too!

Last but not least, the final surprise of the conference was viewing Kristen's entire, 19th century perforated paper wouldn't surprise me if she had the largest in the country!  I fell in love with a few pieces, including this collar band box:

A snap shot of only a small portion of Kristen's perforated paper collection

Thank you so much to everyone involved with making the conference such a memorable experience - Kristen, Glenna Jo, Amanda, the speakers, vendors, and all behind-the-scenes!  

Looking forward to the next Citizen's Forum be it in 2020 or 2021! 

January 14, 2020

Double the Ruffles, Double the Fun

Readers, you know me, when it comes to caps - double the ruffles, double the fun!  This post is all about a quick, little, and utilitarian project, which was trimmed with a large bow of a vintage, blue moire ribbon for the previous photo shoot, here: To Walk Is by a Thought to Go - 1810s Photoshoot

A Regency Era cap with double the ruffles for double the fun!

Usually, I'm all about the ribbons and frills, but for this Regency Era cap, I decided to take a "less-is-more" approach and let the two, little ruffles be the stars.  Though, I do think the big, blue bow added just the right finishing touch. 

Per usual, I chose a fine cotton lawn for the material.  I followed the period construction method of finishing each of the pieces - caul, band and ruffles - separately, then joining them together with whip stitches.  The cap is entirely hand-stitched using narrow, 1/16" rolled hems and whipped rolled gathers.

The cap on its side.

From the inside - constructed in the period methods,
each of the pieces are finished separately,
then joined together with whip stitches.

Completed Project Shots

Front view.

3/4 side view.

Side view.

Other side view.

Detail shot of the ruffles with 1/16" rolled hems.

Bonus: just for fun, here are a few shots of the cap in action!  This was back in June, I think, during one of my first days solo weaving at the Humphrey House.  I was actually working in the Dressmaker Shop for a special fashion program, but they were in need of a weaver, so I was happy to make the switch.

Weaving at the Humphrey House.

One of the summer projects I worked on -
A wool shawl, 2/2 twill weave.

My friend Rhonda, the dressmaker, has an adorable, little, double-ruffle cap that she copied from an original in the Susan Greene Costume Collection.  She calls it her "whip cream cap," and I've admired it for years.  It just perfectly frames her face, and the ruffles look so pretty peaking out from beneath a bonnet.  (And Rhonda has quite the bonnet collection!)  

If I ever get my Regency act together, we'll have to plan an outing (or at least an excuse for pictures).  I haven't seen her in a long time, and I miss her...anyways, I might start calling this my whip cream cap in honor of hers:

January 7, 2020

To Walk Is by a Thought to Go - 1810s Photoshoot

To walk abroad is, not with eyes,
But thoughts, the fields to see and prize;
Else may the silent feet,
Like logs of wood,
Move up and down, and see no good
Nor joy nor glory meet.
- "Walking" by Thomas Traherne 

One of my favorite makes of 2019 was a little, striped, Regency Era half robe or short gown.  It was a seemingly simple project with straightforward construction, yet oh so comfortable and convenient to wear.  I like to think of the early-19th century "short gown" as comparable to today's t-shirt -- a throw-on-and-go staple in a living historian's working class wardrobe.  Plus, the opportunities to pattern mix-n-match and accessorize can't be beat!

In this blog post, I'll be sharing both the details of the garment's construction, as well as the completed project photographs that my sister graciously took last July - thank you, Maria!  So, without further ado, let's get started...

Construction Details

The story begins two years ago when I found the perfect, reproduction print fabric at Regency Revisited during GCV's 1812 weekend.  Readers, believe me when I say it was love at first site - my friends and co-workers can attest to this haha!  Unfortunately, there was only about two yards left, but I couldn't resist the indigo stripes and so it came home with me:

The fabric - a historical reproduction printed cotton.

Fast forward to July of 2019, I finally had a project in mind for the fabric!  I wanted a new half robe or short gown, something with maximum arm-movement (i.e. being able to raise my arms above my head, which those who wear mid-19th century clothing with those low-dropped armscyes can relate to), especially necessary while I was weaving.  After a quick mock-up (though the sleeves took two tries), I was ready to cut - and Jack, my best friend's mischievous, one-eyed cat was equally ready to assist:

Jack, always ready to assist!

Special thanks goes to Judy, not only for hosting the sewing day (and for her resident helper), but for the continued encouragement.  Had she not been asking for daily updates, the project might still be languishing in a u.f.o. (unfinished object) bin somewhere...sewing friends to keep you accountable make all the difference!

As for putting it all together, I think it took three or four days of working on and off to finish.  I assembled the fronts, 4-piece back (including the skirt), and lining separately, then seamed them at the shoulders and sides.  I stitched the long seams (and set the sleeves in) by machine to save time, but anything visible from the outside was done by hand.  I did also top stitch the shoulders down by hand though as it's a pretty and period appropriate detail.  

Only the fronts have turned down edges along the top and narrow pieces of bias tape at the underbust for drawstring casings, while the back is fitted with curved seams and pleats for the skirting.  Both the set-in, elbow length sleeves and skirt were finished with bias cut facings, and I turned under or overcast any exposed seam allowances to prevent future unraveling.  

Here's a picture of the interior, which hopefully helps to illustrate the process better:

Interior view.
Please excuse all of the wrinkles.

And here's the finished short gown:  

Full front view.

Side view.

Other side view -
I might try to reduce the height at the cap
for a smoother sleeve set-in next time...

Back view -
featuring directional knife pleats at the side
with an inverted box pleat at the center.

Completed Project Shots

Once again, the beautiful gardens at the George Eastman Museum and historic mansion were chosen for the location of our summer photo shoot.  Maria, my sister and photographer, did her usual, outstanding job of documenting my latest sewing project - and I'm so grateful for her time and talents!

In the following pictures, the short gown is worn with period stockings and pointed tie-shoes, a shift, long stays, strapped cotton petticoat, and linen petticoat.  A beribboned cap and hand-rolled checked kerchief complete the quick and comfy look.  

*All photographs courtesy of Maria M.*   

To walk is by a thought to go;
To move in spirit to and fro;
To mind the good we see;
To taste the sweet;
Observing all the things we meet
How choice and rich they be.

A little child these well perceives,
Who, tumbling in green grass and leaves,
May rich as kings be thought,
But there’s a sight
Which perfect manhood may delight,
To which we shall be brought.

While in those pleasant paths we talk,
’Tis that tow’rds which at last we walk;
For we may by degrees
Wisely proceed
Pleasures of love and praise to heed,
From viewing herbs and trees.

Poem is "Walking" by Thomas Traherne - stanzas 1, 4, 8, and 9.  Follow the link to find the full poem.  Thanks for stopping by! 

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