Saturday, December 3, 2016

Mid 19th Century Quilted Petticoat

I am SO glad that this is done! After Thanksgiving we all came down with a terrible cold thing. Or maybe a flu thing. It was bad. The kids bounced back after a day or two but I'm still sniffling and shuffling my way through gloomy, coldish, grey days and battling a wearisome round of fever and chills.

So. My goal was to finish the petticoat by November 30th since my first goal of getting it done by Thanksgiving wasn't accomplished. I pushed myself and got most of it done but I still had a bit of finishing to do that wasn't able to be completed til December 1st. I wanted to wear it last night to a Christmas festivity but I didn't go since I was sick.

I love this petticoat. It's warm and cozy and light and fluffy. Like wearing a comforting blanket wrapped around you all the time. Which, at this point, I need. It's made of two widths of a striped fabric I've had since before Anne was born. I am not totally sure of the fiber content. I originally thought it was a nice cotton but after quilting it for so long I really believe there is some silk content as well. It handles like silk and has that distinctive whooshy sound when you quilt that you only get from silk.

It's lined with plain white and grey striped cotton (I think I have had a thing for stripes lately. . .) and interlined with cotton batting. I quilted it on many evenings in front of the tv watching Walker, Texas Ranger (which is Malachi's new favorite tv show that he simply must watch every night from 7 to 8).

I made a short yoke to gather the lower skirt at the hip. I didn't want a ton of bulk in the waistband so this seemed like a good idea. Then the top of the yoke was gathered into waistband. The yoke isn't lined, so the seam between the lower skirt and yoke is finished with a strip of scrap fabric. The outside of the seam has a decorative band of bias cut self fabric.

The total width is about 120" and I'm happy with that. I thought it might be a bit too wide but I think it's just about right at this length. If it were shorter, I may have made it a little narrower. The hem falls at lower calf which is probably on the long side for quilted petticoats but hey, my lower legs need to stay warm, too!

I'm fitting this into the HSF "Red" challenge because the stripes on the skirt are a darkish pinkish red color. And in case that wasn't enough to bump it into a red category I used a bright red cotton for the inside seam finish. So! There ya go.

HSF info:

What the Item Is:

Mid-19th century style quilted petticoat.

The Challenge:



Outer fabric, cotton batting, cotton lining.


My own, but all rectangles!


Meant for use for Civil War reenacting but could theoretically work for 1830-1865 as the skirt silhouette is similar.



How Historically Accurate Is It?

Fairly so. The only thing I'm not sure of is the yoke - it was a last minute idea to add it and I didn't look for an original example with a yoke. :(

Hours to Complete:

Tooooooo many. There are 18 rows of quilting and each row took about an hour to do. Then the finishing work was at least 4 hours. And cutting the darn thing out and sewing the layers together before quilting took about 2.

First Worn:

Not yet; just for pictures. Hopefully I'll get a chance to wear it in a historical setting very soon!

Total Cost:

All stash stuff. If I bought new of everything I guess it would be around $40 or so.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

1856 Knitted Hood

Now that Thanksgiving is over it seems to be Christmas all around. Everywhere I look there are white twinkling lights, big wreaths tied with enormous red ribbons and, of course, there are plenty of Christmas trees! We put up our tree the day after Thanksgiving and are slowly working on getting the rest of the house, inside and out, festive for the holidays. 

I thought it would be nice to do a post about the knitted hood I finished a few weeks ago. Of course, the first sunny day we have had all week is warm enough for t shirts and shorts, not wool! But Anne wanted to dress up anyway, so we took a few pictures. She's so fun. :) 
This hood is the 1856 knitted opera hood that is so popular in reenacting circles. I got my pattern from Ephemeral Chaos and made it up just as the pattern stated, except with size 7 needles instead of the larger ones called for. This made the hood come out smaller than usual - perfect for Anne. 

I am not a fast knitter or a very good one but I appreciated how easy this hood was to make. It's all plain knitting (which does get monotonous) but it worked up warm and thick. It took about 2 weeks of knitting at night to get it done, after a false start where Anne pulled off the first four inches of knitting so she could use it as a scarf for her doll. (well, it could work well for a scarf! I can't blame her.) 

The back is pretty where it is gathered to fit the neck. I like the silhouette. It is quite flattering, at least from an 1860's point of view. 

I hope she will have occasion to wear it before Christmas - if this warmer weather holds, Christmas caroling in period attire will be an absolute must. :) 


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Hopewell Culture Museum

This past weekend we visited a wonderful museum that is dedicated to the history of the various local native cultures, particularly the Hopewell culture. We live in a really amazing pocket of Native American history and I was so excited to explore this history a little bit. The kids were just as thrilled as I was. Here are a few photos from the day.

One room was full of completely hands-on activities for the kids to do. Musical instruments, a wide variety of real animal pelts to touch and read about, a wall full of dress up clothes, a tent dwelling for the littles to play in and lots of cool artifacts.

The children have Cherokee ancestry on their dads side -
so of course, David had to try a turban. Turbans are not part
of traditional cherokee attire but started to be worn after contact
with white settlers/traders. 
Outside, there were two real dwellings to look inside of and discover. In this area of the country, the tipi was not used and dwellings were often dome shaped structures made of easily obtainable local materials. 

In addition to the wonderful exhibits that detailed the various eras of history of the Hopewell culture, there were many original artifacts to look at, including these beautiful beaded moccasins, a wampum belt and two adorable little dolls made from grass and cloth (and one with a carved hickory nut head!)

One of the interesting features of this culture is the mounds they built. While no one knows for sure why they were built, it is speculated that the mounds served as lunar observatories in addition to sometimes being used for burial purposes. We got to see some of the extant earthworks on the trails we walked and they are really remarkable! It's amazing to me to see something still in existence that is many hundreds and even thousands of years old. It makes the Civil War era seem so, well, modern. Which, of course, it is, in the grand scheme of things. 


Thursday, November 10, 2016


I finally finished repainting my sewing room and it feels wonderful to have everything moved back in. While the paint color would not have been my first choice (it was a good brand, 50% off because of a mistint) I am actually pleasantly surprised with how cozy and feminine it makes this little room feel. I liked the previous color a lot but it was undoubtedly an old paint job and the walls were filled with years worth of holes and the paint was bubbling and peeling in several areas. It's a good thing to have all that scraped and filled and covered up now.

This room is small. Like, 10' x 8' small. One wall has a good sized closet and the opposite wall one window. Still, it makes a more than adequate space for sewing and for the computer and it has wonderful light all day since it faces south. I put the sewing desk and the computer desk along one wall, the bookshelf under the window and the ironing board is a fold-down type that hangs from the door. The back of the door has a long mirror and in the closet I have plenty of space for most of my fabric and some storage bins.

And I have started quilting my petticoat. It's going to be a simple petticoat with monotonous rows of horizontal quilting but I am really excited about it! It's finally getting cold and I can see this making its way into my modern wardrobe this winter. I love it!


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge #10 - Heroes

I had hoped to have better photos of this project but I don't think I will get an opportunity for pictures for awhile, so these, taken early last month, will have to suffice! 

The theme for October was "Heroes". I did not choose this project to fit the challenge but I quickly realized it would work. The project? An 1860's, American Civil-War era majors double breasted frock coat. The impression is of a surgeon and I can state without hesitation that surgeons and other medical support staff were by and large unsung heroes of the war. 

In fact, historian James McPherson speculates that the availability and quality of medical care during several important campaigns directly influenced the outcome of those bitter four years. The organization of both the Northern and Southern military medical branches was complex and very political, yet undeniably critical in the successes and failures of both national armies. 

More soldiers died as a result of disease than of any other cause during the Civil War. This can be attributed to the general ignorance of the importance of sterility and personal and environmental cleanliness. However, some surgeons noticed a great improvement in the outcome of their patients treatments when they used clean instruments and the patient was kept clean.

Surgeons traveled with the army or were stationed at general hospitals where sick or wounded soldiers could be treated and convalesce. They oversaw the care of many patients, wrote reports, filled out forms, dispensed medicine and were frequently treated like crap. It amazes me how many brilliant military leaders thought very poorly of their medical staff and how hard it was for surgeons to receive very badly needed supplies, or to even have their concerns listened to!
quilted lining in progress
The Civil War saw the first African-American U.S. Army Surgeon, Alexander Augusta, and the first woman U.S. Army Surgeon, Dr. Mary Walker, who are heroes for not only their medical service but also for paving the way for African-Americans and women to receive equal status as surgeons to their white male counterparts.
tintype taken at Perryville, KY 2016

This frock coat is constructed as was common at the time with a quilted body lining, plain lining in the skirts and a padded chest. It's made of dark blue wool broadcloth with black polished cotton lining and reproduction federal brass buttons. The buttonholes are worked with silk buttonhole twist (of which I barely had enough!) The shoulder boards, designating the rank of Major, are reproductions from NJ Sekela. The placement of the buttons on the double breasted front narrows at the waist as seen in some originals. 
progress shot on a cobbled-together-dressform thingy
There's not much to say about it, although it was the biggest project I've had for quite a while. It went together with no complications and didn't even take that long. It's heavy! It was made and worn for the reenactment of the Battle of Perryville in early October of this year in Perryville, Kentucky. (Sadly I did not attend. I wish I had!)


Thursday, November 3, 2016


It's November! I missed posting the Historical Sew Monthly challenge for October but that's because I haven't taken any pictures yet of my project. I will! As soon as the weather clears up somewhat. It's been rainy and grey and warm. . .very uncomfortably humid. So odd for this time of year!

In my spare time I have been thinking about things that I want to sew over the winter, in between reading biographies and watching reruns of Little House on the Prairie. I am not in a big rush to start anything mainly because I don't have any events coming up for a while and I'm a little burnt out on sewing for the time being.
One of the beautiful tiny cemeteries we have around here. This one was lovely
the morning after Halloween!

Still, there are a few things I know for sure I want to make. This is besides what I need/want to make for the kids for next reenacting season. This is for me. ;)

1. A cage crinoline. My current hoop is made from the round hooped petticoat sketch in Costume in Detail. Oh sure, it's appropriate in look for the 1860's, it's made of appropriate materials and it's comfortable to wear but it isn't pretty. It's very utilitarian. I want a pretty cage. I want one that is shaped with a nice back thrust and a pretty belled silhouette. Other reenactors have made the same kind of hoop skirt I currently have and very appropriately described it as a tire suspended from the waist.

There was (is?) some kind of hooping steel crisis this year and it was (is?) hard to find the rolls of buckram covered steels commonly used for hoop skirts and bustles. I was super lucky to find a large coil of wire almost identical to the stuff inside buckram covered hooping, set out by the curb on set-out day. Free wire! I just need to cover it with twill tape and it will be perfect for a cage.

2. 18th century stays. I've never made a pair of 18th century stays that I can look back on and say I really liked. I got pretty close last time but the waist was a bit long for comfort and the bust far too squished. I want to take my time and make a nice set that gives a good shape for the 1770's period. I'm kinda holding off on these til Rose decides to wean so I may not get around to this til next spring. But eventually.

3. 14th century cotte/kirtle and appropriate undergarments/accessories. I really want to get back into the SCA. I have missed it so much. There's a great local group I would love to get involved with but I need the appropriate attire! I'm excited about this since I have learned a lot since my first 14th century kirtle several years ago and I'm looking forward to seeing how I can improve upon my earlier attempts.

4. An 1860's silk fashion bonnet. I have all the materials already, I just need to make it! I still dread working with buckram.

5. A plain, sturdy, not-white regency dress. This has sorta been planned since last year but I haven't gotten around to it. Something I can cook in over a fire.

6. Knitted things - I really want to knit a wool shawl for Civil War reenacting, and maybe an opera hood. I knitted a small one a few weeks ago for Anne and it came out quite cute. I'd love to make another one for myself!


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Princess Leia Costume for Rose

I think this is the last Halloween costume I need to make this year. I think. Fingers crossed. Anne keeps changing her mind as to what she wants to be but she keeps going back to a Fairy Princess, which is easy since we bought her a very pretty pink and silver, puffed-sleeve princess gown a few weeks ago at a second hand shop and fairy wings are a dollar at the local DT. And Malachi will be, as usual, a cowboy. 

For Rose I needed something that she can easily walk in, that she'd actually keep on (she prefers being as un-clothed as possible) and that wouldn't cost too much. While I initially thought I'd make a one-piece bunny costume with some pink wool I had on hand I came across a pattern for a crocheted Leia baby hat and I knew that Rose had to have it!

Now, this is kinda a big deal for me since I can't crochet. My great-grandma was an amazing fiber artist and tried patiently to teach me crochet when I was 11 years old. I learned how to make a long string of chain stitches and beyond that my brain turned into a hopeless puddle. I took up knitting, instead, and closed the door forever upon the mysterious world of crochet. 

But, Rose was worth the painful idea of trying again. I'd try again for her. So I got the supplies and watched a few YouTube videos on how to start a slip knot for crochet, how to do double crochet and half double crochet and adventurously began. And an hour and a half later I did have a hat! Wow. I was shocked. It's probably the easiest pattern in the world but I was so very excited about being able to complete it. The hat isn't perfect (I messed up on the final round since I was trying to count while also helping Judah with math homework) but it looks pretty much like it's supposed to, it fits Rose and she keeps it on. Win.

The dress is a cut all in one piece as  T shape, with an attached, gathered hood at the back neck opening. Very simple and very quick to make. I used a piece of fabric from one of the poly/cotton sheets I keep on hand for mock ups so there was no expense for new fabric. The belt is a stretchy white headband. 

I love grey autumn days since they are so good for taking pictures. Rose loved wearing her new costume outside, exploring the yard and the edge of the woods and playing with the cat. I can't wait to take her trick or treating on Monday. She is going to be so excited when she finds out she gets candy just for looking cute. ;)

Now that these projects are behind me I am feeling the need to slow down a bit. I have a mid-19th century style quilted petticoat cut out but I haven't started putting it together yet. Before I start anything new I want to repaint my sewing room and get things arranged better. Maybe next week. For now, I'm going to enjoy the rest of this lovely cool grey day with some good cups of coffee. Happy Halloween everyone!