May 26, 2020

Greenfield Village's 2019 Civil War Remembrance Weekend

We were all looking forward to the 2020 Civil War Remembrance Weekend, which should have been this past weekend at The Henry Ford.  Under the present circumstances, the beloved, annual event had to be canceled, of course; however, the online outpouring of photographs and memories from weekends past by friends all over the reenacting community has helped keep spirits high (and only builds anticipation for the return in 2021!).

Weiser Railroad Train Station -
an operating steam-powered rail line
offering a scenic, 3-mile "ride" through the village!

For years I had only dreamed of visiting Greenfield Village, and a million times thanks to Kristen, my good friend, educator, and proprietress at the Victorian Needle, this top item on my life-bucket-list became reality last summer.  And still, hands down, this was probably the best trip of my life.  If I were to try and write about every detail that made the weekend so memorable, we would be here until the next for the sake of fitting everything into one blog post, please enjoy my brief recap of the highlights from the 2019 Civil War Remembrance Weekend at Greenfield Village!  

Setting Up Shop 

The Victorian Needle -
Home for the weekend

Last summer, rather than staying in Kent, I went back home to Upstate New York, which meant a really long drive over to Michigan for set-up on Friday.  I think it took me at least 8 hours, and if you've ever driven through Ohio in one time I might try going through Canada.  

Anyways, I'd travel far greater distances to have the opportunity to spend time with Kristen (and to be her shop assistant) again!  Kristen planned and took care of just about everything - and me being a total newbie, out-of-state reenactor (working for a living history museum is an entirely different beast!), without her hosting and incredible generosity, none of the weekend would have been possible.  So thank you, thank you, thank you, Kristen!    

Kristen, my host for the weekend and proprietress at the Victorian Needle,
joined by dear friends, Kim and Jim of the Dressmaker's Shop

Many hands make light work, or so they say.  Kristen brought two tents - one for the shop, the other A-frame for our cots and personal belongs - canvas and hand-painted(!) floorcloths, tables, chairs, shelves, and all kinds of ways to display her painstakingly researched and faithfully reproduced, Civil War Era jewelry and ladies' accessories.  From exquisitely beaded bracelets, to earrings and necklace sets, cast brooches, combs, and delicate butterfly and dragonfly "tremblers" or fluttering accessories - Kristen makes it all!  (Shop at select events, or find her on Etsy at Victorian Needle)

Much to everyone's delight, the shop also carried some of Kim's (the Dressmaker's Shop) handsewn, straw bonnet forms, as well as all of the finishings and flowers.  They also brought their popular bonnet veil kits and several antique parasols (including the one I drooled over all weekend until I finally splurged at an event this year - but that's a whole other story that deserves it's own blog post).  All in all, it made for a one-stop-shop for the most fashionable of ladies (and gents, even if only to pay haha).  

Here's a little tour of the set-up:    

The outside shelf featuring hairnets and a straw bonnet form,
earring and necklace sets (which rotated all weekend),
as well as a few lengths of dress fabrics on the bottom

A view of the table to the right - featuring Kristen's prized family heirloom -
there is a story now about that mirror, the side of tent collapsing,
and an assistant going running...and that's all I'll say.

Hair combs, bracelets, earrings, net frills, and paper flowers for bonnets or the ball!

Notice the binder full of research to the left -
Kristen meticulously documents and pulls period sources for all of the pieces that she offers  

I'm obsessed with matching bracelet sets!
Also her loom-woven, beaded bracelets are amazing 😍

View of the table on the left -
more jewelry, bonnet forms and veil kits

Anything coral is my favorite!
(And I finally pierced my ears this January after only oh 20-something years...)

Beaded flower ornaments and Greek Key motif bracelets to the far right.
We also strung dozens of beaded butterflies and dragonflies on the poles throughout the shop.

As shop assistant, I had so much fun arranging and rearranging the tables, chatting with friends, both familiar and new, and so many lovely visitors - and most of all, assisting customers!  Be it with decisions or offering suggestions, "talking into" or showing off similar jewelry sets - seriously, I love to sell people things (it's shopping vicariously through their purchases)!

Thanks to Kristen's well-established presence at the event - I so pleased by how many returning visitors look for her shop every year - and the fact that she either knows every reenactor or they know her - we were busy all weekend.  (I swear Kristen must know every reenactor in the state of Michigan and beyond!)  And for someone who loves to chit-chat and meet new people, I couldn't have asked for a better time.  New introductions are made very convenient when: 1 - they come to you, 2 - your host already knows them, and 3 - all the shiny, pretty things 😉

And just in case you were wondering what the inside of an A-frame looks like:

Home for the weekend.

Meeting Our Neighbors

Well, "meeting" is a little misleading, as we already knew our neighbors!  To the left was Bob and Nancy of Sullivan Press

And to the right was...actually, funny story, a surprise at first!  There was to be a new "seamstress" and sutler shop with antiques, rumored to be from New York, my home state.  Immediately, I had a hunch, which was confirmed when my friends and co-workers at GCV, Allison and Stephen of Clara Jane, Seamstress and Supplies showed up!  I think they were just as surprised to see me, as I them, having no idea we'd all meet up in Michigan; but, through circumstances, it ended up making the trip (and the extended trip adventures, which I'll write more about later) all the more memorable and enjoyable: 

Allison and Stephen of Clara Jane, Seamstress and Supplies

Not to mention, Allison saved my hair all weekend with her magical hair-styling abilities, and I'll have to ask Stephen if he remembers the rainbow sprinkles story...We were all planning for a round two this year, but alas.  

The only "neighbor" we might not miss until next time is the Sir John Bennett's clock, which though impressive, was very loud at night:

Sir John Bennett Sweet Shop (left) & Carousel (right)
(Note to self: do NOT ride side saddle in hoops again, you will be yelled at)

Making New Friends

Oh my gosh, I met so, SO many new people - either for the first time ever, or at least for the first time in person (thanks to the internet, i.e. Facebook and Instagram).  There were also a good number of familiar friends, including Cheyney, Amanda, Katie, Jillian, Jennifer, the list goes on an on...It's really the people that make an event, and it seems like Greenfield Village is the place to be! 

One of the first people I ran into was Amanda at one of the "What We Wore" programs, presented by Felicia.  Kristen lent me matching bracelets for the fashion show (and I also had one of her butterflies pinned in my bonnet), because why not do a little advertising for the shop? ;)  

Amanda & Me

It was so nice to see Katie, Julie (who I think I met at GCV), and Gwendolyn for the first time!  All of them are fellow bloggers (from back when blogging was more popular) and Instagram costumers, which is how we all knew each other.  The internet has been incredibly kind to me for making historical costume connections, but there truly is nothing more special than meeting the real person from the online pictures.

Gwendolyn (painting) and Katie (modeling)

If a picture is worth a hundred words, a portrait must be a million?  I was so surprised and honored when Gwendolyn asked me to sit for a painting! 

Sharing this oil painting by Gwendolyn Grey @gwendolyngrey

The last new friend I'll mention was my date for the ball and wonderful guide to Greenfield Village!  His family are long-time reenactors, and it was pleasure to get to know them over the weekend.  Drew really went out of his way to make my first time at the event special, and I so appreciated getting to see the museum and village with someone who grew up there.  (Seriously, he knows all of the hidden treasures of the place!)  

Anyways, we ended up sitting for tintypes, which is a fascinating photography process, and makes for a neat (and very period appropriate) keepsake.  

 Robert Beech, wet-plate photographer, at Beech Photography

The image in "real" life, through a digital camera...

Drew, my guide to Greenfield Village, and me.

Isn't it interesting how a tintype or wet-plate image appears in reverse?  Also, look at the change in color values!

Photograph by Robert Beech, GFV 2019

Dancing at the Ball

Attend just about any Civil War reenactment, and there's usually an evening dance.  Those are not to be confused with the ball hosted at Lovett Hall...The chandeliers were enormous.

Posing in the beautiful ballroom!

Allison & me taking a last twirl across the floor

Obligatory evening hair photo - thanks Allison! 

Exploring The Henry Ford  

Where do I even start?  The sheer size and number of buildings in Greenfield Village alone was overwhelming, not to mention the special Remembrance Weekend events (like the Memorial Day Commemoration and the pavilion "museum" full of original, antique garments from private collections), as well as the exhibits over in the Henry Ford Museum.  This is not a one or two day affair - so if you ever visit, make sure to plan a few days!  

Here are a few favorites from around Greenfield Village: 

The Cohen Millinery Shop

This interpreter was very sweet -
Allison, Stephen and I had a wonderful chat with her on our post-event visit

Antique ribbons - loving the bold pink and black plaid
& cream stripe with green polka dot borders!

Noah Webster's private study
(and Robert Frost's House stands next door?!)

Print Shop - and the press was from New York!

If I had to choose only two, favorite collections items from the Museum of American Innovation:

The Lincoln Rocker - the chair that President Lincoln sat in at Ford's Theatre
when he was assassinated on April 14, 1865

The Rosa Parks Bus - sitting in the spot where history was made

The Adventures Continue or Taking on Detroit

As I hinted at above, the adventures continued into the week!  Originally, I had made arrangements just to spend the night and then drive back to New York on Tuesday.  But, thanks to a threatening rainstorm, Allison and Stephen ended up staying with me, which lead to an invitation to join them in Detroit.  Of course I jumped at the chance to do some more exploring with long-time friends, and extended my stay for two more nights.  

I've never stayed in a pink hotel before!
This was in Dearborn, MI and very comfortable (5/5 would choose again)

And, I'm so happy that I did - we ended going back to the Henry Ford for a day, explored the city (including the downtown library, John K. King Used & Rare Books, and a very unique, neighborhood art exhibit), and just had a lot of fun catching up.  (I hadn't seen them since the end of the last summer as I had returned to college in August.)  Taking on Detroit - by foot, Stephen's motorcycle, and the "people mover" - was a thrill!  Thank you so much, Allison and Stephen, for letting me explore the city with you!   

Taking on Detroit: by foot, Stephen's motorcycle, and the "people mover" -
so happy to be back in a big city again!

Hi, Canada!

I'll end with this final memory from our extra day at Greenfield Village: I had always heard that there was a working Jacquard loom in the Weaving Shop, and wow, the shop did not disappoint!  I could have spend an entire day just there, listening to the crafts-person and interpreter, who was incredibly generous with his time and knowledge.  Allison and Stephen were too obliging, while this textile student asked a million questions ;) 

The weaver and interpreter in the shop demonstrating a flying shuttle.
He was so generous with his time and knowledge, answering every question!

A working(!) hand-operated Jacquard loom!!

Explaining the loom mechanics in detail.
(At school we have digital Jacuard looms, so no need to punch cards haha!)

The shop had a variety of looms, including a dobby!
(Again, I've only ever woven with digital dobby, so this was neat!)

There were several, more familiar, counterbalance looms -
and this one was threaded to weave overshot!

And that's a wrap on the 2019 event recap - if you've made it all this way, high five!  Thanks for reading, and until next time, hopefully, at the 2021 Civil War Remembrance Weekend!  

May 25, 2020

Dear Museums, an Open Letter from Those Who Miss You

Dear living history museums, this is an open letter from those who miss you most:

A sense of longing
(Photograph by Judy J.)

Museum seasons close with tears, cheered only by the memories made over the past months and the promise of return in the next season.  It's a long Winter awaiting the re-opening in Spring; and this year, it seems like "Spring" in name only.  "Winter" for your interpreters never ended as we long for our home away from home and for a reunion with those we call museum "family."  Yes, on paper historical interpretation may be a job, but it quickly becomes a cherished way of living and breathing too.  

In these uncertain times, allow us to express concern for you:  for as much as we look forward to being onsite again, we realize that the extended closures, though essential for safety, create unforeseen challenges.  The financial and other implications may seem overwhelming and threatening to future stability (and in some cases, posing the ultimate consequence of permanent closure).  Count on our patience, dedication, and support, as well as our appreciation for the health and safety guidelines your are following for staff and the visiting public.  While no one knows when this may end - just that it will, eventually - we hope that you will continue to stay strong, to adapt to the changing times, and to provide quality education and entertainment for an expanding, digital audience.  

Until we meet again!
(Photograph by Judy J.)

Your historical interpreters

P.S. Are you a historical interpreter or fellow museum-loving visitor?  What do you miss most about your favorite living history museum or historic site?  Do share in the comments below - stay safe, everyone! 

May 18, 2020

So Becoming to the Wearer - DIY Clip-In Ringlets

"FANCY HAIR WORK of the latest NEW YORK Fashions consisting of Rolls, Puffs. Ringlets, Madona Bands, etc. Also Wigs, Toupees, and the patent Crown Toupee, which is so becoming to the wearer that even the most critical observer would take it to be the natural head of hair." Geneva, June 15, 1831
A Do-It-Yourself Tutorial for Clip-In Hair Ringlets:
"so becoming to the wearer that even the most critical observer
would take it to be the natural head of hair"

My goodness, it's been ages since I've written a blog long so that Blogger has completely changed it's look and publishing tools.  The other day, I was chatting with a friend (and fellow costume blog enthusiast) via a zoom conference, and felt inspired to both dig out a sewing project and to write a blog post - a double win, especially since I've been practically silent on all but Instagram these days!

Anyways, if you still happen to read this little blog, please enjoy this short tutorial on making clip-in hair pieces for your historical hairdos!

DIY Clip-In Ringlets for Historical Hairstyles 

My ringlets have been known to fool people...Anna asked about them in my 1830s hairdo, Kristen questioned why my curls hadn't dropped after a full day in an 1810s style, and I've even used them in several 1860s hairstyles.  For those of you who've seen my hair down - it's long (kept between waist and classic length), stick-straight, thick, and heavy - but most of all, no way going to keep a curl!  So, I've turned to making false hair pieces to supplement my natural locks.  

Even for those blessed with tresses that will hold a curl or magical hair-styling abilities (both of which passed me over), clip-in hairpieces are easy and period accurate - as it reads in the 1831 advertisement above.  Even in the worst humidity, they will stay in for the whole day, and can be restyled when unclipped at the end of an event.  To get started, you will want to gather the following materials: 


Gather your materials: hair wefts, rollers, rubber bands & bobby pins!

  • Hair wefts - choose either real, synthetic or a blend of the two to match your natural hair color.  (Mine were a cheap-ish blend purchased from Sally Beauty Supply)
  • Hair rollers - not going to lie, I just used the $1 plastic ones...
  • Optional: curling papers for stubborn hair ends (I may have used toilet paper squares long before the current shortage haha)
  • Small rubber bands and/or bobby pins to secure the hair/hair rollers 
  • Pot for boiling water + tongs 

  • Comb for detangling hair 
  • Wig clips (unless you simply wish to pin your hairpieces during wear)
  • Scissors - both for trimming the hair and for thread
  • Needle and thread - select a sturdy, matching thread if possible (I used button twist, but doubled sewing thread will probably work just as well)


Part 1:  Preparing the Hairpiece 
  1. Decide on the desired width for your hairpiece.  I chose one inch for a single sausage curl and 5" for a strip of curls, which were intended to be used for both Regency-Era front bangs and Romantic-Era "spaniel" or side curls
  2. Cut a hair weft 2 - 2.5 times longer than the desired finished width.  This allows for a more voluminous sausage curl. 
  3. Fold the hair weft in half, making sure to fold the cut edges towards the middle to disguise the unfinished edges.  Stitch through all the layers to bind them together.  And now you have a hairpiece ready to curl! 

Part 2:  Setting the Curls 
  1. Once you've prepared your hairpieces, take a section of the hair and wrap it around a roller.  Curling papers are optional, but do help to control unruly ends.  As I mentioned in the materials list above, I just used cut squares of toilet paper cause I'm a broke college student...Secure the hair roller with rubber bands/bobby pins as necessary

    Hair wefts - sectioned and secured around rollers
  2. Repeat until all of the hairpieces are sectioned and secured in rollers.  

    I repeated the process more than once...

  3. Bring a pot of water to just about boiling.  Using tongs (unless you're very adventurous), submerge the hairpieces and allow them to soak in the pot for around 30 seconds.  

    Into the boiling water!

  4. Remove (after no more than 30 seconds, folks, especially if you're using cheap plastic curlers and synthetic hair wefts(!) or you'll have a melted mess on your hands instead of nicely curled hairpieces).  Allow the hairpieces to dry completely before styling. 

    Laying out to dry in the sun for a couple of hours

Part 3: Styling & Finishing 
  1. After allowing ample drying time, which for me was a couple of hours out in the sun, remove the hair rollersDetangle the hair, either with your fingers or using a wide tooth comb.  

    Removing from the rollers 

  2. Style the curls by smoothing, trimming, and clipping any fly-aways as necessary.  

    Ready to tame the curls... 

    ...much better! 

  3. To finish your hairpieces, I recommend attaching wig clips.  These can be sewn directly to the top of the hair wefts.  I used 2 per "bang" or hairpiece, positioning a clip on both the far right and left sides.  

    I recommend stitching on wig clips for ease of wearing

    Wig clips attached!

Part 4: Wearing & Storing
  1. Once your hairpieces are styled and finished as desired, simply clip them in place and you're all ready to rock them at your event!  Lightly hair-spraying your real (and fake) hair together should help maintain the curl.  
  2. If you're not going to don your newly-completed hairpieces immediately, I recommend gathering the curls with a bobby pin and giving them a light misting with your favorite hairspray or setting product.  Then, right before your event, remove the hairpins and they are ready to be clipped in! 

    Gather curls with bobby pins and mist with hairspray to set

  3. Boiling synthetic fibers should permanently melt the curls in place, so I've been able to use and re-use my hairpieces without having to re-curl or style them.  However, I do recommend storing them flat if possible between wearing - enjoy your new, curly clip-ins!  
Completed set of side bang, clip-in ringlets! 

With your completed DIY clip-in ringlets, the historical hair styling options are limitless!  Here are just a few ideas to get you started:  

Full front bangs for an 1810s look at the 2019 Domestic Symposium

Rocking the 1830s side bangs during the "Get Dressed with Me" program
at the John L. Wehle Gallery, and yes, that's an original, antique pelerine!
(Photograph by Brandon @l_aspect_ancien)

Okay not the best photo of me, but it shows the same hairstyle as above,
taken the morning before the gallery program

A single, side sausage curl blends seamlessly with my real hair
for this fun, 1860s summer photoshoot 

1860s evening hairstyle for the 2020 Ohio Regimental Military Ball

If you try this tutorial, let me know how it worked in the comments below, and better yet, share a picture or two of your historical hairdos! 
Make sure to tag me @youngsewphisticate on Facebook/Instagram so I don't miss a thing - 

Thanks for reading! 

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