November 22, 2016

Domestic Skills Symposium 2016 Synopsis

Sitting down to compose an entirely different blog post, I realized that I never wrote about this year's Domestic Skills Symposium!

A rainbow of naturally dyed 30/70 silk & merino skeins! 

Hosted by the Genesee Country Village & Museum in Mumford, NY, the three day symposium featured five guest speakers with a 19th century funeral food themed luncheon, and two days full of pre- and post-conference workshops.  I was so honored to have the privilege of working and representing the interpreters of GCV&M for a third year now, and even had the chance to sign up for two workshops!  Best of all, I enjoyed spending the weekend among so many familiar and new friends and living history enthusiasts :)

Day One - Friday, November 11th

I suppose I should start by relaying a slightly embarrassing, yet internally gleeful story...When I arrived, one of the first tasks I set about to do was set up the crafts in the village table and resist the urge to buy one of each of the brilliantly colored skeins we spent all season dyeing.  I was quite absorbed in the task, when I heard a symposium guest say something along the lines of "you're Anneliese, I read your blog!"  I was caught off guard, and delighted that people actually read my blog.  In fact, there were five other guests that weekend who recognized me from the blog - and I have never been so flattered.  It's the little things in life!

Anyways, there were three village related vendors at the conference, including our interpreter's crafts-in-the-village!  This year, we filled two tables with our ever-popular hand dyed yarns (DK and lace weights, silk/merino blends, and a few hand spun skeins), an assortment of pin cushions and Berlin work pocket books, handmade brooms, and buckets and washtubs made by the cooper.  The best part about our crafts-in-the-village program is that any and all proceeds directly benefit our historic trades!  (So feel free to splurge on all of the yarn you desire knowing that it goes to a good cause, and because dyeing is fun!)

The hand dyed section of our crafts-in-the-village tables.

On Friday, I attended the Weaving Narrow Bands Class for Historic and Contemporary Use taught by our village's master weaver and master artisan, Louise Richens.  I was so happy to spend the day with her, Pickle Peg and three other lovely ladies.  I learned so much that day - from weaving fringed trim, to overshot with a supplementary warp, to button holes, beads and more - weave all the tapes!

Weaving with a supplementary warp.
One of my favorite techniques of the day!

Weaving fringed trim with two boat shuttles.
Lots of fun on the floor loom, now I need to try it on my box loom...
Maybe with some metallic floss?

Practicing a button hole or two.
I can see this being useful for apron ties and garters...

Weave all the tapes!

Oh, and one final memory from Friday...Deanna introduced me to Dr. Ann Wass, who was one of the presenters and workshop teachers!  Though I may have looked calm and collected, I assure you that inside, I was internally hyperventilating and fighting the urge to "fan girl" - which is how I feel around any of those sewing "greats."  (Anna Bauersmith, you come to mind here!)

Day Two - Saturday, November 12th 

This was the day of the sold-out conference!  I left my house at 7 in the morning, and pulled in the driveway again at 8 at night...SO much happened, where do I even begin?  There were five amazing speakers, over 100 fantastic guests, a feast of 19th century funeral foods including anything from towering jell-o molds to lemon raisin pies...each year it keeps getting better and better!  Though, one thing is for sure, I am so proud to be a member of the GCV team, and have the best co-workers anyone could ask for.  

Most of the workers (from right to left):
Aimee, Lori, Peggy, Amy, Ariana, Me, Patti.
Not pictured: Deanna, Pat, Brian, Sarah, Judy.
(Photograph credit: Ruby Foote, GCV&M photographer)
(Via: Domestic Skills Symposium Album, Facebook)

The speakers this year included:
  • Dr. Ann B. Wass, history and museum specialist at the Riverdale House Museum, presenting: "Cloaks, Pelises, Mantles, Mantlets and More! Outerwear, 1795-1845"
  • Sarah Lohman, Author and "Historic Gastronomist," presenting "Food of the Dead: A Culinary History of Funeral Food" 
  • Katie Cannon, curator of education at the DAR Museum, presenting "The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful: Cosmetics of Early America" 
  • Peter Wisbey, our curator of collections at GCV&M, presenting "Uncovering Coverlets: The Figured and the Fancy"
  • Joe Fee, co-owner of Fee Brothers, presenting "From Well Drinks to Swell Drinks: The History of Bitters"

Three of us preparing the cocktails for the Fee Brothers presentation.
(Photo courtesy of Judy J.)

Though the best part and what I look forward to each symposium is the Bill of Fare!  We always have so much food, enough to feed an army.  (And to keep seven of us busy all day!)  Our theme this year was 19th century funeral foods:  The main dishes included Salamongundy and Hosmer dressing, marinade of chickens, Mormon funeral potatoes and Enfield onions with grapes and Brussels Sprouts, a receipt from the Enfield Shaker Village, Connecticut.  

Breads included powdered Wiggs from Amelia Simmon's American Cookery, and Pan de Muerto, a traditional Mexican funeral food.  
"Baked goods and candies...bear the mark of association with death, such as pan de muerto, scented with orange, often shaped in the form of bones and covered with fine white sugar." - Mexico Today: An Encyclopedia of Life in the Republic [Volume One] 

Pan de Muerto with orange glaze.

Sides included cheeses, spicy East India pickles, sweet pickled beets, apple sauce, relish, hard boiled eggs and prunes, all of which have symbolic meaning.  
"It is a Jewish custom to include round foods such as hard-boiled eggs, symbolizing eternal life or the cyclical nature of life at their funeral receptions.
"Prunes are also considered an averil, or funeral feast, dish.  Their black skin gives a note of mourning appropriate to the occasion."

And, in my opinion, the neatest addition this year, eight towering jell-o molds including Utah's famous green jell-o salad and cranberry-raspberry jell-o molds.  I hope they were as tasty as they were pretty!  

Two of the amazing jell-o molds!

Ariana & I were really amused by this jell-o castle.
It was so wiggly, wobbly, jiggly and fun!
(Photo credit: Ruby Foote, GCV&M photographer)

For dessert, a dozen lemon raisin pies and little cakes, paired with cider, ginger beer, shrub, coffee and tea.  It was quite the unforgettable affair! 

Lemon raisin pies waiting to be cut.

Also, as a parting gift, each participant walked away with a beautifully packaged and ornate funeral cookie.  I only wish that I had a picture of the beautiful cookie inside to show!  

Inside is an ornate funeral cookie!

Even the seal matches the theme!

Finally, a few out-takes because silliness is bound to happen with this crowd...

Well that looks safe...building a fire!
(Photo courtesy of Judy J.)

I won a door prize!  (Everyone who paid to participate in either symposium 
and/or optional workshops was entered in the drawings.)  Two skeins of purple (cochineal with a chrome mordant) and Prussian blue came home with me!  Oh, and I also splurged on the green because I couldn't bear to leave it lonely...

The face of yarn appreciation!
(Photo courtesy of Judy J.)

But best of all, I couldn't leave without partaking in the funeral festivities with Ariana...I had been wondering all day if I'd fit:

A perfect fit!
(Photo courtesy of Ariana B.)

Day Three - Sunday, November 13th 

For as long as I can remember, I've been obsessed with bonnets, caps and headgear of all types - and ever since I discovered Anna Worden Bauersmith's Blog, If I Had My Own Blue Box, I've admired her many amazing talents including all things straw manipulation.  (You can imagine how ecstatic I was to find out she lived near me, let alone meeting her in person!!)  

So, for the last day of the symposium, I signed up for Anna's Millinery in Miniature Class and it was fantastic!  Anna rightfully had a full house of milliners and doll enthusiasts.  I could go on an on about her as a person, as a teacher, and her class...but I'll let you read about her class here: Domestic Skills Symposium pt 2 Millinery on Miniature.  (Also, don't miss Cali's latest adventure here: Domestic Skills Symposium pt 3 Cali Visits Foster)

I just had to share this picture of Cali modeling one of the fellow participant's hats!
(Photo credit: Anna Worden Bauersmith)
(Via: Domestic Skills Symposium pt 2 Millinery on Miniature

An assortment of books, bonnets and original blocks!

For the workshop project, we had the choice between two styles of hats intended for 18" dolls.  I chose the style on the right and learned that every day household items, like the laundry detergent cap pictured could be used as hat blocks! 

Two doll hat styles to choose from. 

Julie's doll wearing the colored straw example.

My first stab at straw millinery:  I loved seeing the straw take shape by the amount of pushing or pulling, the thread tension and hand pressure.  I see more exploration in the future, though I'd be afraid to attempt anything larger than doll scale on my own!

Stitching around and around again!
(Photo courtesy of Judy J.)

My finished doll hat.  Wired with both
thin copper and millinery wire to hold the curve.

All decorated!  (I even pulled out the American Girl Doll to model
and made her a late Victorian dress to match!  More pictures to come...)

Alright, sign me up for Domestic Skills Symposium 2017! #gcvmsymposium

Sunset on the best of our symposiums yet!


  1. Hello Anneliese,
    I really enjoyed this post for I was there for the "Harvest Color for Natural Dyes'! :-) (I posted about it on my blog)
    I'm glad that I have found your site for I love everything about G.C.V. & M. !!!
    Many Blessings Linnie

    1. Hello Linnie! Thank you for visiting and taking the time to leave a comment! Your symposium blog post was a wonderful tribute the museum, and I'm thrilled that you tried the poke berry dye! Hope to see you again next season! Anneliese :)