Sunday, November 21, 2010

Event bloggin'!

Katie, Mom. Recognize the plaid dress, anyone?

Short blog--still in Gettysburg, with my mama, Gwendolyn, Matt, and Tyler. Up next: battlefield tour, and then visiting the amazingness that is Needle & Thread's brick-and-mortar store.

More soon!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

It lives!

...And I don't mean the dust bunnies under my sewing desk...those are still not quite at the point of staging a hostile takeover. (Note to self: sweep soon.) No, I'm actually talking about this:

New Home Rotary Treadle Machine

I bought this machine just over two years ago. I had just gotten my "big kid" job, and a paycheck to match. There was one lone antique store on the route I took to work then, and I stopped by one afternoon to look around. I spotted this machine almost immediately, but it took me another month or so, visiting every so often, to decide to buy it.

Condition: Not too shabby!

The cabinet and hardware were all in pretty good shape, and a little fiddling in the store established that all the parts still moved. My mom helped me get it home and let me store it in her garage until I found a place for it upon moving into a new apartment. I got a new belt for it from Lehman's at Tyler's recommendation, and Mike helped me install it. Brave man; he sliced his hand in the process, but the task was accomplished!

And...then the machine sat there. For a long time. I put photos on it, took pictures with it, and got frustrated when I couldn't make it work. So it sat there. And then yesterday, right before I was supposed to go meet a friend for dinner, I decided I was going to make it work.

As it turns out, all I had to do was tighten the belt. I took several inches out of it, re-attached it, and finally figured out (thanks to a little internet research) that you have to use both feet on the treadle. Or at least...I do, since my foot doesn't cover enough area to move both the front and the back of the treadle from one position. Your mileage may vary. Anyway, it works! I didn't get a chance to thread it up, since I had to change and dash out the door for my lady-date, but I'm beyond thrilled at finally getting it running!

Since I have two 1860s dresses in the very beginning stages (as in, I just finished cutting skirt panels and am ready to begin skirt assembly), I've got romantical ideas of sewing them on an antique machine, just for kicks and because, seriously, how awesome would that be? So I think tonight will be fiddling with threading, tension, etc, and then some actual sewing!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


All right, so I just started sewing again after giving myself the summer off. And by "sewing," right now, I mean that I ironed ten yards of organdy and cut panels for the skirt of another 1860s dress. However, because the world does not stand still for creativity, I also had to do some laundry tonight so that I could be decently dressed at work tomorrow. Since I had no sewing projects in appropriate shape to bring with me to my parents' house (where I am very, VERY fortunate to be graced with free laundry!), I brought my computer instead.

And then I said, "Self, wouldn't it be great if you re-designed your website? That maroon and tan color scheme is soooo 2008." So I sat down with Photoshop, Notepad, and a full clip of crazy and re-coded my entire site. It looks so much simpler now! You wouldn't think it would have taken me...oh...four hours?

Anyway, I'd take it very kindly if you could go peruse for a few minutes...and let me know if there are any broken links or funky bits of text or anything. Sometimes monkeying with code for so long means my vision starts to swim and I get careless. ;)

Oh! And the blog has a new look, too, but I can't claim credit for that, really. They had a nifty new "design" feature that let me just putz around with it...way more simple than building code from the ground up!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Back on the Horse

Well hey there. I hope everybody (all like...three people who see this, anyway!) had a great summer. I know I did--I gave myself the summer off of sewing and crazy week-after-week events, and I found it quite relaxing. I spent quite a bit of time with my family, and especially with my sister. She's lived away from home for the past few summers, so it was really nice to be able to just go hang out with her whenver we felt like it, instead of having to plan a whole trip just to spend a few hours together.

I did go to a great reenactment at the beginning of August, however--the Siege of Old Fort Erie, in Ontario. I made myself a new chemise to wear, but that was it. Samantha gifted me a bonnet when she visited in May, and she made me this beautiful apron, too.

Silk bonnet, linen apron.

I do believe that both pieces are entirely handsewn, and the only thing I did on either of them was to sew on a button to the apron, and put in a buttonhole. It was magical. I wore clothes that I didn't have to make! I could get used to that...

Another of the bonnet, because it is wonderful and I don't do millinery.

Gwendolyn made herself a new dress for the event, which you should go read about on her website. Tyler also produced two of the niftiest pairs suspenders I have ever seen in my life.

Y-front suspenders on display.

I'm unsure of exactly the documentation, but they are documented. I absolutely love them. Tyler purchased the tape for his at Needle & Thread, and he made Mike's out of woven-patterned, sewed into strips, from his not-unimpressive stash. The button tabs are leather, and both gentlemen report that the Y configuration of the front allows for greater freedom of movement than conventional straight up-and-down suspenders.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


It's been far too long since I touched my actual website, so I took the weekend to mess around with it a bit. I've decided I'll be using the journal as an update page, as well as posting event recaps & photos here. So the main page has been simplified, and I changed a few things on the "about," page. Also, three new costume pages!

A dress of indienne block printed cotton, c. 1810-12.

Gentleman's small clothes (breeches & waistcoat) of linen and linen/cotton.

An open robe and petticoat of tropical-weight wool, c. 1770-1780.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Under the Redcoat 2010

A pleasant afternoon in Williamsburg

I should probably mention right at the beginning here that I'm a cold-weather girl. In my world, it should never get above 57 degrees to be ideal. I can deal with up to 70, but for me, that's hot. Eighties is TOO hot, and above ninety, I'm in hell. That being said...despite the fact that it was over a hundred degrees in Williamsburg while I was there, I had an absolutely amazing, fantastic time! Keep going to read more. With pictures, of course!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Greenfield Village Civil War Remembrance 2010

Lovett Hall, Greenfield Village
May 30, 2010

Over Memorial Day Weekend, my friends and I headed to Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan, to attend their annual Civil War Remembrance event. Despite unseasonably warm weather and high humidity, good times were had by all. This same event in 2009 marked the beginning of my involvement in Civil War reenacting, so it was really fun to go again and see how far I--and my friends--have come in just one short year.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Some days, all I can think about is what I'm going to make next, or how I'm going to proceed on a current project.

And then some days, all I can do is think about sewing. As in, I think about it a lot and somehow never actually get anything done. Oops!

Part of the problem is, as I've shared before, that I do not enjoy sewing as such. I like thinking about sewing, imagining what I'll make, planning, picking fabrics, problem-solving, occasionally even fitting initial patterns, and wearing the finished product. There's a significant gap between most of that and the final item--the entire construction process is not something I do for the joy of it.

So on days like today where I just finished a project (new chemise--photos to come) and haven't yet decided what to do next, it's soooo much easier to curl up in one corner of the couch with coffee and the celtic music station that Gwendolyn created for me on Pandora and...not sew.

Yep. Not sewing. Just thinking about it. That counts, right?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Regency Exhibition Ball 2010

Saturday March 27, 2010
Lansing, Michigan

Last Saturday saw my friends and I once again at the Central United Methodist Church in downtown Lansing for yet another ball. This time, though, there was a distinct lack of hoopskirts--it was the fourth annual Regency Exhibition Ball, sponsored by The Dressmaker's Shop.

From left to right above: Krista, Gwendolyn, Mike, me, and Julie. Mike and Gwendolyn and I traveled together, as is our custom, to Mike's parents' house, where we spent the day getting ready for the ball. This included Mike finishing his ultimate pair of Regency pants, emergency washing of Gwendolyn's dress when it was discovered that her aging cat had appropriated it unbeknowst to her, and lots of time with the curling iron for anyone of the female persuasion.

Pretty much an obligatory shot at trio events these days...

The ball was fun, as always, though I did find myself quoting Mrs. Jennings a la Sense & Sensibility (1995), "I do wish Lady Charteris would limit her invitation list...I do not know when I have been so warm!" But, it would seem that good times were had by all despite the lack of elbow room.

And, just because I love you guys, and I know you'll all appreciate this.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Still alive!

It always happens. You have all these great ideas for sewing, blogging, etc...and then you get sick. Spend a couple weeks coughing, sleeping, and high on DayQuil, and all of a sudden you realize you've gotten nothing done. Oops. Ah, well. At least it wasn't the swine flu (which I had last October), and my ears are no longer plugged up so's I can't I think I'm better!

So a few things to share, now that I've rejoined the land of the living:

My dear friend Tyler is a fellow at Winterthur, studying material culture for the next couple years, and getting to see and do all sorts of cool things while he's out there. He's got a new blog, All Dressed Up With No Place To Go: Run(a)way Fashion in Early America, and if you're the least bit interested in historical clothing, good writing, or just history in general, you should go give it a look. While completing his undergraduate degree, Tyler wrote a number of articles on Confederate prisoners of war at Johnson's Island, Ohio, nearly all of which presented these far-off historical figures in such a vivid, poignant, human way as to bring me to tears. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what comes out of this new blog!

On my end of things, there have been a few events of note. Last weekend, Mike and Gwendolyn and I went to the Kalamazoo Living History Show, which is essentially two days of reenactor shopping heaven. I bought quite a few essentials that I think will make our lives as reenactors much more pleasant...and of course, we went in costume. Mike kitted out in his First Regiment getup, Gwendolyn wore her 1810 outfit, and I actually had a new dress, which I love.

This is definitely my favorite "regency" dress I've ever made, and I will be wearing it again this weekend at the Regency Exhibition Ball in Lansing. I decided against trying to finish the embroidered dress in a hurry, since I worked very little on it when I got sick, and I'd really like to take my time and do it right. This new dress turned out really nicely, though, and I'm looking forward to wearing it again! There will definitely be more pictures after Saturday.

Also on Saturday, we've been asked to do a demonstration to promote a masquerade that the Exhibition Ball committee is planning in South Bend, Indiana. We'll be doing a dance walkthrough while wearing masks...which of course means, we need masks. Here's a a sneak preview of stay tuned for more!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Midwinter Ball

Surprise! Event this weekend. Good thing it was an 1860s ball, and I already have a ballgown.

Gwendolyn, Katie, and Mike
February 27, 2010

More after the jump!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Looking forward...

Ideas late at night are hard to photograph...

So, I'm a winter person. I like cold weather, I don't mind snow. Downhill skiing is really the only sport I really, truly enjoy. Even so, these last few weeks of winter--before spring starts to hint at us here in the great white north*--are tough ones. I find myself planning ahead for warmer days in order to cheer myself up.

This is just one thing I've been mulling over; far-off party plans are a fun way to daydream, though, and who doesn't like white china and sparkling glassware? 'Til you have to wash it, anyway.

*Michigan--aka Canada, Jr.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Embroidery, Day 7

One sleeve down, one to go.

A gentle press, and then onto the next one!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Looking Sharp: The Art of Directional Knife Pleating

Please forgive me re: title. I couldn't help myself.

Directional knife pleating creates a lovely cascaded effect with a large geometric pattern.

There are several ways to compress a skirt width to a waistband, but for 1860s, my personal favorite is directional knife pleating. Here's a short how-to on the technique I use.

I started by seaming the skirt together. I use three panels if my skirt fabric is 54" or more, and four if it's 45". I'm using my plaid day dress skirt as an example, so there are three panels, since the silk was a decorator width. To make things easy on myself, I placed one seam at the center back, and used roughly one panel for my front width, so the bulk of the fullness fell toward the back of the skirt.

To prep the skirt for pleating, I hemmed it on the straight grain, so that the bottom is level all the way around. The skirt is then balanced from the waist, much like the technique that Katherine outlines here, though her example is for an 18th century petticoat. For the plaid skirt, I used pinking shears to finish the top edge of the skirt, just so it wouldn't fray too badly.

In the front, I always pleat my skirts the same way. That makes it easy to start there. I mark the center front with a pin and measure half an inch out from either side; that's where the first pleat will fall. This gives you a 1" flat space at the very center front of your skirt. The first pleat from the center is a 1/2" pleat. The "directional" part of directional pleating means that pleats in the skirt front point toward the CF, while back pleats point toward CB.

Half an inch to each side, followed by a half-inch deep pleat.

The rest of the pleats are 1" pleats, side by side. That is, they aren't stacked--each pleat lies next to the preceding one, with no overlap.

One-inch pleats--number will depend on distance between measurement and the side of the skirt.

The side of the skirt is the secret to directional knife pleating. See, the pleats point toward the center front and center back, respectively. The side is where they change direction.

Because of the way the pleats point, you'll end up with a box pleat at the side point of your skirt waist.

The process of pleating the back is significantly more organic. I don't really measure anything, but rather figure out how much space I have to cover and then pleat my remaining width down to fit it. With the large plaid, it was pretty easy to gauge, since the fabric itself acted like a guideline.

When you're done, the back and front will each have an inverted box pleat at the center point. Below, you can see what the inside looks like:

Lastly, don't forget a method of actually getting in and out of the skirt. It's common to see skirts closed at the side front, which isn't always intuitively obvious, especially if you don't have a seam there you can leave open for a faux-placket. For this one, I simply slit the inside of one pleat down several inches and bound it with some bias silk. When the skirt is closed, the back pleat laps over the front one and conceals the split.

Detail of the skirt closure.

Embroidery, Day 4

Right sleeve

Eventually, this will become an 1810 ballgown based on an example from Nancy Bradfield's Costume in Detail. I've only ever really embroidered one other project, so I'm as interested as the next person to see how this turns out!

Embroidery officially began on February 13, where I worked on it for most of the day at SewFest. I did a little more the next morning, and then brought it to work on Monday, since we had an in-service day. A little more last night, and here's the current state of it. I did not bring it with me to work today, since I'll be going to class and then swing dance after and didn't want to drag it around with me all day. But swing is over at 10, so I'll have an hour or two to spend on it tonight.

My goal is simple: Spend every free moment possible working on embroidery, and see how far I get.

Friday, February 12, 2010

First Regiment Volunteers

Okay, so, I'm really excited about this. I was just telling Mike the other night, "I adore all the people I've met through 1812 reenacting." My friends and I have attended events with the First Regiment Volunteers in the past, and I'm really looking forward to seeing these people again. I've also been working on a couple projects recently for upcoming 1812 events, and I just got some news that's made me even more excited...if that's possible.

The First Regiment Volunteers' website has just gone live--I just got word an hour ago! It's still growing, according to our Capt. Fisher, and I'm eager to see what more is coming. In the meantime, take a look around. From what I've seen and experienced, I can't recommend these folks highly enough if you're at all interested in 1812 reenacting!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sutler Showcase: Spencer's Mercantile.

I first discovered Spencer's Mercantile at the Siege at Old Fort Erie in August 2009. Walking into their tent was pretty much of the most shop-able establishments I've ever been in at any reenactment, and their merchandise!

I turned to Gwendolyn and asked, "If I just hand them my credit card, do you think they'd just let me back my car up to the tent and start loading it up?" They had seemingly everything a reenactor could want, from shako plates to swords and shawls. I managed to contain myself, and picked out only a few things.

Parchment crocuses; one of my purchases from Spencer's Mercantile.

Their customer service was flawless, too. The weather that weekend was hot and muggy, with a smattering of rain every so often. I know I wasn't in the best mood all the time! But they were helpful and friendly, and to my surprise, recognized me when I went back in street clothes the next day, even. That's right, I went back. Parchment crocuses weren't enough! I just had to have that wooden comb, and the turtle charm...

Since then, some of my other friends have discovered them, too. Most recently, I believe they were among the first to stock the new Robert Land 19th century/1812 shoe styles for men and women. I'll be ordering my pair from them shortly!

Anyway, you can bet that if I ever get the chance to visit their brick-and-mortar store, I'll be there in a heartbeat. Until then, or the next occasion I have the pleasure of encountering them at an event, I'll have to content myself with their website!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

"I am not playing. I'm accessorizing."

As my dear friend Gwendolyn often tells me, "accessories make an outfit." Above is pictured one of my favorites.

Inspired by this portrait, I wore my coral set to the River Raisin Battlefield Commemoration back in January. The necklace I've had and worn for years; the beads were a gift from my friend Marie. She sent me enough (from Canada--New France, if you will, which makes me geekily excited) for a necklace and then some, but until recently I hadn't done much with the rest of the beads. Most of them became another necklace (for a gift), but I still had a few left over. Add in a couple smaller beads and some silver findings, et voila! A set of matching earrings.

Gwendolyn, wearing the coral necklace and choosing sash colors.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


So, we here at Theatrical~Historical (meaning...uh, me) are experimenting with using the blog page. Ideally, this will be much easier than opening cPanel every time I want to put something on the main page, which will hopefully in turn inspire me to update more often than just when I go to events and put up new costume pages. I'm also hoping that this will make things a little more interactive--up until now, there's been really no way for people visiting my site to leave feedback. This way, comments are enabled (and welcome!)

Avoidance Mode

Once upon a time, when I was working at Hobby Lobby in college, one of my coworkers saw my mom at the store and asked her, "does Katie work well under pressure?"

My mother, bless her heart, considered for a minute and finally told her, "Well, if there's pressure, she'll actually work..."

This statement is very true, in that I work best with a set goal. Give me a deadline and I can whip out whatever it is you need in no time. Without a date by which I have to accomplish a task, however, I tend to not work on it. I've gotten better, and haven't had a last minute sewing panic in several months, but I still do better with a deadline.

And if it's a task that I REALLY don't want to do (like, say, cutting out chemises or cutting out a dress bodice, or...cutting out anything, really), I tend to find other things I could work on. Like creating a blog and attempting to embed it in my website. I figure it's just a matter of time before I decide to completely redesign Theatrical~Historical, anyway. After all, it's almost two years old! As of February 16, I will have had for two full years. How the time flies!