September 17, 2014

Playing Catch-up

I just submitted my weekly internship write-up and couldn't remember the last time I did an internship entry here, which means I must have a little catch-up to play...I do apologize in advance for the lack of pictures: one, I am terrible at remembering, and, two, we are not allowed to whip out modern conveniences on site where visitors might catch really would ruin the authentic 19th century experience that the museum works hard to give!

August 28, 2014:  A full day of working on repairs with Cheryl and Wilma in the costume shop!  My first task of the day was to tackle the box of under petticoats in need of mending.  For each petticoat, I removed the elastic from the waistband, machine-stitched a side opening and inserted a drawstring for greater adjustability.  After the entire box of petticoats was fixed, I measured and ripped panels from heavy, striped linen for more needed petticoats.  To wrap up the day, I stitched ties for the apron I had been working on for the past couple of weeks.  It felt wonderful to finish my first entirely hand-sewn project for the museum and, again, reminded me of how much I am learning from the costuming ladies.  My hand-sewing skills are definitely improving with all of the practice!

August 29, 2014:  I spent the day at George Eastman’s Boyhood Home to experience 19th century quilting methods with the gifted head quilter of the village, Judy Deyo.  I learned right along with the visitors about the history of quilts and the names of various quilt blocks, as she interpreted the building and instructed people at the hands-on quilting stations.  I found it most interesting that there is no historical evidence that quilts signified safe homes on the Underground Railroad; rather, as Judy explained, ladies aid societies would have raffled off quilts to raise money for anti-slavery purposes.

 Best of all, I tried my hand at a Jacob’s ladder quilt block, constructing it with 19th century methods.

Jacob's Ladder Quilt Block

A good majority of the day was spent just tracing each individual square and triangle piece using the templates and, then, carefully cutting out each of the pieces.  To ensure that the seams were straight and the corners lined up, each piece then had to be hand-stitched along the marked lines.  For the last hour or so, I began to sew a few of the pieces together, practicing the traditional rocking stitch that Judy demonstrated.   By the end of the day, it was very clear why, on average, a quilt took at least a thousand hours to piece together!

(Update: picture added June 20, 2014)

September 4, 2014:  After the short break from the Sophia project, it was nice to spend the day in the costume shop making progress on the 1870s wrapper reproduction.  Now that all of the pieces were cut out, I could begin piecing together the puzzle.  Bevin first helped me lay out both sides of the wrapper and match up the lining.  But, before I could begin sewing, I had to replace one of the side back pieces that I accidentally cut a duplicate for rather than a mirror image.  To conserve fabric and as a period appropriate solution, I cut from the duplicate and, matching the pattern as closely as possible, pieced together the new side back panel with delicate, top hand-stitching.

The rest of the work day was spent sewing and, by the time I left, the entire right side of the wrapper reproduction was assembled.  Bevin taught me her ingenious trick for adding a perfectly neat pocket on the side by sewing it one with the seam.

Side pocket.
After inserting the pocket, I worked on machine stitching all of the side panels in place, careful to follow the seam allowance of the original and to press each seam for a neater finish.  I only had to rip out and redo one side panel to better ease in the fabric along the curve, so the day was definitely a success.

September 11, 2014:  An exciting day in the costume shop as the Sophia Project, after two months of making progress, began to resemble the original wrapper, rather than a box full of fabric puzzle pieces.   Picking up where I left off last time, I machine stitched the entire left side of the wrapper reproduction together.  Bevin then guided me through assembling the odd-shaped back panel and its Watteau pleat.

Reconstructed watteau pleat.

Once that was finished, the right and left sides were matched to the back panel, machine stitched and pressed.  Joining the shoulder seams followed and, finally, the sleeveless wrapper could be draped on the dress form.

Still thrilled by the morning’s progress, I spent the rest of the afternoon working on the sleeves.  Machine stitching the front and back pieces and their lining was straightforward; however, recreating the hem and opening design will require studying the original sleeves.  I then finished the day by practicing a new skill as I carefully pressed narrow hems and hand stitched a backing on the triangular piece of the sleeve.

Backing the triangle of the sleeve.

September 12, 2014:  A super fun day in the bubble-gum-pink Dressmaker's Shop with experienced seamstress and shop interpreter, Rhonda B.!  Rhonda was actually one of the first interpreters that I met at the museum’s orientation, and, since the beginning, I have truly enjoyed every chance I have had to talk with her.  I have spent the entire season admiring her work, so it was such a pleasure to spend an entire day in her company!!

Dressmaker's Shop c.1825
Rhonda and I chatted all day about historical clothing as we worked, discussing everything from its representation in period films, to the work of accomplished seamstresses in the field, and even to our personal goals and future endeavors.  While Rhonda hand-stitched a hem and tucks on a chemise, I copied the housewife, or sewing kit that Civil War soldiers often carried, that she made for the shop.  I will be very happy when it is finished and I can replace the plastic Ziploc bag with a more period appropriate 1850s sewing case.  

A beautiful example of an early American housewife c.1830 (via:

Well that's all for now - time to return to wrestling with the chiffon sleeves of my latest endeavor...the Halloween Regency Dress...stay tuned...

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