Saturday, February 10, 2018

Texas Living History Association 2018 Conference

The last week in January, I spent the weekend in Abilene, TX for the Texas Living History Association's annual conference.  It was a smaller conference this year, probably because it was so far out west.  However, I did have an enjoyable time and got to wear some new dresses.

I took off work Friday and drove up to Abilene that morning.  I got there around noon, which gave me just enough time to unload all my stuff into the room then head over to pen wiper and chirography session that was from 1-5.  As part of the class, we made a pen wiper.  Here's mine:

Then we spent the next hour going over period handwriting examples (the class covered late 1700's through the 19th century) and letter shaping.  Then we got to practice writing.  Now I've dabbled in writing, but it was nice to get solid instruction.  I learned quite a few things.  For instance: every person writes differently, so, it stands that not everyone can write well with the same nib (the little metal piece on the bottom of a pen that holds the ink).  Someone in the class, I can't remember if it was the instructor or a participant, explained that it was like Harry Potter: there's a nib for everybody!

The nib chooses the writer, Mr. Potter!

Good news is that I learned that the reason I was splattering ink all over my papers when I wrote was because I was not using the correct nib for my hand.  Well, our lovely instructor Theresa sold me a nib that works just well for me.  I also purchased a few that are reproduction of period nibs.  I sort of went on a tangent after the class and bought myself (online) a late 1700's porcelain ink stand, as well as a reproduction bone pen that is the style and shape of period pens.  I'll write up a new post and add pictures once they arrive.  I also bought some walnut shells to make my own ink.  Now I'm going to have to find myself a nice period writing desk/secretary to store all this stuff in.  I'm currently hunting craigslist.

As part of the class, we practiced writing with different inks as well as nibs.  We then made a few visiting cards for ourselves.  I did all my practicing and stuff using my character, Mary Henrietta "Nettie" Groce Bennatt.  Here are some of my samples (ignore the splatters as I was trying to figure out what nib fit me.):

Friday night, we were invited to Frontier Texas (a new museum that had just opened) and had a good time talking to everyone.  Paula and I drove together and didn't stay too long, but it was nice to do a little meet and greet then go back to the hotel and rest.

All the sessions were held at the MCM Elegante in Abilene.  It was SO nice not to have to travel anywhere to get to sessions.  All I had to do was walk right downstairs.  It made things so easy.

Saturday, I decided to dress out all day.  I wore my new 1870's outfit, which was loads of fun.  I realized afterwards that one of my bustle ribbons broke off, which meant I didn't have near as much of a bustle as I should, but that's okay.  I fixed it when I got home and had a good time anyway.

I attended the keynote speaker as well as sessions on knowing your audience as a living historian and a class on period printed fabrics that covered the 1700's through the early 1900's.  While I was listening, I worked on the day bodice of the evening dress I was to wear that evening.

Sessions ended an hour or two before dinner so I had time to get (partially) undressed and rest before getting ready for dinner.  I made an 1865 dress for the occasion, modeled after one in the MET.  I only decided to do this about a week and a half before the event, but I still managed to completely hand sew it without feeling stressed for time.  Thank goodness for school holidays and snow days!!!  The dress is going to have it's own post as soon as I finish and wear the day bodice.  For now, enjoy the pictures of the evening dress:

I learned a few things from this dress: 1) Ebay is the most fantastic invention ever.  Seriously, I managed to find JUST enough original Maltese lace as I needed to trim this gown in the week it took me to make this dress AND get it sewn on in time, 2) tuckers really do make the whole ensemble work together, and 3) it is MUCH harder to sit in an elliptical hoop than a normal hoop.  I struggled all night.  I suppose I'll have to practice before I wear one again.

I also struggled with my hair that night.  I ended up doing a simple braided bun and putting a Greek Key comb (that I made) in, then sewing some leaves to some combs and putting them on either side, trying to make it look like one piece.  I think it turned out okay.  I would have rather had some 'poof' at the sides of my ears like in late war CDVs, but my hair was NOT cooperating.

Sunday was an easy get packed up and head home day.  Next year the conference will be held in conjunction of the regional group of ALHFAM and will be at Nash Farms in Dallas.  Can't wait!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Peacock Dress

I love my new peacock dress so much that I decided it needed its own post.  So, here it goes!

The fabric is a tissue taffeta from  I believe they call it 'mary ann' silk.  It's super thin but not sheer at all.  The peacock fabric came out a little more slubby than I would otherwise like, but my other length, a sky blue, was perfect.  I believe this is the fabric:  It says green shot blue, but it is really purple not blue.

I cut my skirt as usual and knife pleated it.  I faced it with cotton sateen from Joann's.  With how thin it was, I really should have lined it, but I did not.  Perhaps a fix for later.  Finding polished cotton in Texas is impossible, so I opted for a light brown sateen in the same shade as period linings instead.  The entire dress is completely hand sewn, something I'm trying to do more of.  Yes, machine sewing is period correct; but I have found that it is actually quite relaxing to hand stitch a gown.  The skirt wasn't the hard part, though.

I cut the bodice as a low body on my normal bodice pattern.  I piped the armholes, neckline, and waistline as normal.  Hand sewing piping isn't my favorite thing to do, but I did it.  It's done.

For the fichu, I used my bodice pattern then just cut it across the front and made it long like a fichu shape... I know that doesn't make any sense but I can't think of any other way to explain it.  I wish I had fixed the neckline before hand, as it is a little low in the back, but that's okay.  I put velvet trim on the seam that connected the van dykes to the fichu to hide the seam, since I did not make it in one piece, but my original idea was not to trim this dress at all... I wanted the fabric and design to shine through, not any trims.

Original dress from Ebay with a fichu like mine


The sleeves are Van Dyke, such as these CDVs.

CDV, Etsy
CDV, unknown
CDV, Ebay
I don't know what originally drew me to this, except that it looked fairly easy, and I thought it would be cool to see the white undersleeves under the sleeves.  The first few attempts at the sleeves were awful.  Finally, I went back to the originals and realized I was making my v's too deep and they were super long and funky looking.  So I cut more that were a little shorter, and I like them much better.  I put a pagoda underneath them for day wear since I am a little bit older.  I can also take the pagodas off and have a very nice evening/ball gown with short sleeves.  I thought this gown would look really nice with my white bertha with all the original Maltese lace.  I could also put the matching undersleeves on it and make it look really nice.

I wore the dress with my chemisette and a brooch/earring set I made myself.  All the supplies were from Fire Mountain Gems and I like how these turned out.  The red really looks good with the peacock dress and is a nice contrast.

I have gotten to wear this dress twice-once at Welbourne and also for Civil War Weekend at Liendo.  I look forward to many more wears!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Welbourne 1861

So... surprise! I was off by a year-we did 1861 at Welbourne this year and not 1860.  While that meant some of my Welbourne plans had to be scrapped, it also called for some frantic, last minute sewing.  Biggest change-I did not wear the striped dress.  I'm saving it for December Liendo.  Instead, I made up the purple/green shot dress (the 'peacock dress' will probably get its own post at some point)

All photos in this post are by Jessica M. Craig unless otherwise noted.

For Friday, I wore the peacock dress.  Photos really do not do this fabric justice.  It just looks blue in pictures, but it isn't.  It's a royal purple shot with an emerald green-looks more teal in person with purple/green highlights.  I'll write a more detailed post on it later, but essentially it is a low necked gown with fichu for day wear.  I also wore a chemisette with it for more coverage.  Looking at CDV's, I'm young enough I could probably have gone without it, but since I was portraying an engaged woman (Nettie was actually married earlier but we 'fudged' history a bit so we had an excuse to be in Virginia-trousseau shopping!!), I opted for a style that would have been worn by adults more than teenagers/young adults.  The sleeves are Van Dyke sleeves; I have seen the style in loads of CDV's of teenagers and young girls.  I also attached a pagoda to the bottom, making it an early war gown.

Playing the piano.

Most everyone was being super productive-except me.  I just sat there and chatted with people.

Hair is a mess!  The end of my braid worked its way out of my bun.

Mrs. and Miss Groce

For evening, I made an organdy fichu, but no pictures of it.  I'm lending it to someone on Civil War Weekend at Liendo so perhaps I'll get some pictures of it then.

On Saturday, I wore the rosette dress.
Dinners were usually in 1st person, which was fun.

On an afternoon stroll.

I love this picture!

Still on our stroll.  We did lots of walking throughout the weekend.
Photo shoot after the group photos.  Thanks to Paula for these!

Just the dress.  Rosettes are hidden.  I may have to redo the pleats so they stand out more.

1861 selfie!

Mrs. Courtney Groce and Miss Henrietta Groce

Also on Saturday, Jessica came back out to the horses with us and took some amazing shots of the riding habit for me.  Thank you, Jessica!!!

Out for another walk, after the horses.  I didn't feel like changing out of the habit!

Making a new friend

Back of the habit

Horse didn't want me to pet him

This one was loving!

Yay for completed habit!

Walking up the back steps to Welbourne.

Going on another walk.  Gloves got tucked into the habit early on.  Belt never made it on.
I'll have to make a riding habit post soon, too.  Especially now that I actually got to wear it!  I still need to fix the saddle.  Oh, and find a horse.  I guess that's an important part of the whole ensemble.  Anyway, the habit was super fun to wear but a little cumbersome to walk in because it was fairly heavy.  LOTS of fabric in that thing.  Riding shouldn't be too bad once I actually get into the saddle.

Anyway, Saturday night, I wore the lilac and chantilly gown.  Not too many pictures, but here are a few:

Sitting by the fire.  It was chilly up in Virginia!

Both of us were able to wear new evening gowns!

Front/side of the gown.

Back of the dress.

Sunday, I wore the black wool.  I made a new bodice for it to be more 1860's which turned out nice.  Neckline came out way too big and will have to be fixed, but it was workable and fun to wear.

And of course, our yearly group shot.

I am so glad I got to attend again this year.  I am already looking forward to next year!