When I'm not in costuming working on the Sophia Project, I am around the village getting valuable, hands-on experience! As part of my internship, I am paired with different village crafts-people learning about how "they" did it (dyeing, weaving, spinning, dressmaking, quilting, etc.) in the 19th century. Seriously the coolest things I've ever done!
July 4, 2014 – My first official day in the village shadowing and helping my mentor during the Independence Day festivities. Not only did we run the 19th century games (pea shooting contests, egg tosses and sack races), we helped this year's maidens prepare for the 1826 4th of July ceremony and witnessed the anvil shooting. In fact, if you're interested, you can view the Genesee Country Museum's photo set from Independence Day, including a great picture of this year's maidens - my fellow historical interpreters, here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152574069801000.1073741847.93582675999&type=1
|Feeling like a Jane Austen heroine :)|
I wore a lovely, borrowed 1810s dress over a chemise, 1850s corset and newly completed bodiced petticoat safety pinned to me (I realized when I tried it on that morning that it was way too big, however, pictures of the redone strapped petticoat to come soon!)
|Having a good hair day, though my hair was covered all day by a lovely corded sunbonnet.|
Finally, this entry would not be complete without some Austen humor:
July 12, 2014 – My first day paired with a village crafts-person, Mr. Tyler (who I later found out is the linen expert), for dyeing wool at Keiffer (one of the early, 1820s homes in the village). What an amazing, informative experience! The morning brought making and tending to the three fires (in 80 degree weather) and boiling the dyes - Brazilwood & Fustic. Then the rest of the afternoon brought more fire tending, dyeing and then cleaning up. Mr. Tyler was experimenting with the dyes and mordants (substances used to set the dye colors on fabric) to produce as many different shades as possible - in all, I think we had six or seven. Some of the treatments included using an iron mordant bath to darken the color and using vinegar or ammonia to change the pH of the wool. I really enjoyed learning about and experiencing the entire 19th century dyeing process - and, hopefully, I'll have the chance to do something like this again!
|The dyeing set-up with fustic on the left & brazilwood on the right.|
Brazilwood and fustic (along with logwood) are all traditional 19th century dyes extracted from the wood of tropical trees. Brazilwood (also used for violin bows) produces bright and beautiful reds, but is temporary and fades when exposed to too much light; Fustic produces light to golden yellows. Great information on the use and origin of these natural, tropical dyes can be found here: http://www.wildcolours.co.uk/html/tropical_dyes.html
|Wool dyed with Brazilwood|
|Wool dyed with Fustic|
For dyeing that day, I wore my newly completed short gown and hand-quilted sunbonnet (more pictures of both to come), as well as a borrowed linen skirt and apron.
|Giggling at the rather anachronistic car in the background :)|
July 17, 2014 - A fun, action-packed day on the early 19th-century farm and threshing-barn with two Matts & a Cassie! In the morning, I learned all about the wool (from shearing to carding), linen (from growing flax to linen) and failed U.S. silk processes and their tools – and even got a tour of all the village’s animals.
Best of all, I had the chance to try my hand at transforming retted (or rotted) flax into usable fibers! Part of that process includes breaking the retted stocks to free the linen fibers inside with a breaking machine (like the German-style flax break pictured below). Next, using a scutching board and knife, more pieces of the unusable stocks are separated and scraped away from the flax. Finally, the flax fibers are pulled through various sized hetchels (boards with large, evenly-spaced nails) to detangle them and get them ready to be spun. A fantastic, illustrated explanation of the entire flax to linen process can be found here: http://www.ulsterlinen.com/flax.htm
|An illustration of a German-style flax break, just like the one I used.|
Throughout the afternoon, I helped the other three reap & bundle a field of barley the 19th-century way into sheaves (large bundles) and shocks (made of a group of at least eight standing sheaves). What back-breaking work that was - sure gives me a whole new appreciation for farmers! But, for being such a city kid, it was a fun experience for one afternoon!
|Our afternoon's work.|
Helpful links referenced: