Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Starting from Scratch

One of the things I love most about the First Regiment is that rather than focusing solely on the military aspects of living history, they actively encourage people to get involved in the civilian side of things as well. Obviously this is important to me as a woman--no ladies in the ranks, please--but it also opens participation to a much wider range of people. My mom, for example, and also my friends the Huebners.

 Last year my friend Erinn came with me to her Very First Reenactment, and she had a good enough time that she wants to do it again (phew!) Her excellent husband, Matt (and therefore by extension their one-year-old daughter Ashlyn), wants to join us also, so the next couple of months will be dedicated to kitting out the entire family.

Hello, Huebners!
For this endeavor, we'll all be stepping out of our comfort zones.  Erinn and Matt will be stepping into the wonderful world of sewing one's own clothes, and I will be (hopefully) teaching them. There are a lot of things to think about--patterns, fabrics, sewing methods, and of course historical accuracy. Fortunately my pupils are smart cookies, and they genuinely want to do things "right." Personally, I'm really excited to have this opportunity to do some menswear again. Last time I was really able to do anything with guys' clothing was for Under the Redcoat 2010, so this is pretty thrilling for me. Women's clothes aren't so unusual for me, but sewing for other people is always more of a challenge than for oneself.

At first, outfitting a whole family might sound a bit overwhelming--but never fear. For one thing, we're starting early. Our first event (1812) will be at the end of June, so we're giving ourselves plenty of time to get things done. Also, if you break everything down into manageable pieces, it's not so intimidating at all. For the first event or two, we're going to stick to the bare minimum--nice, basic, sturdy pieces that they can build on as they add depth to their impressions. Also, I don't want them to run screaming for the hills when I start talking about fall fronts and hand-bound eyelets, so we're going to start with a couple basic projects and go from there.

 My first goal is to get both of them comfortable with machine sewing. I know a lot of people would call that cheating, and it is. Clothing in 1812 was hand-sewn, but realistically a young family with two working parents and a toddler isn't going to have the time to invest in making a full set of garments without some mechanical assistance. I'm fine with this, they're fine with it, and if anyone is close enough to be looking at internal seams...we clearly have bigger problems than some machine stitching!  So, keep an eye out here for more updates: we'll be starting with Erinn's chemise soon, as well as a shirt for Matt!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

One thing after another

You guys, all of a sudden things started happening and I apparently lost my inability to keep up with my own life. Last weekend was the Kalamazoo Living History show, and it was great. I want to give a shout out to the people I met there--hi!--some of whom stopped me because of my blog, and some of whom had never heard of it, but that I hope to hear more from soon because they were really nice. (Family of adorable girls from Allendale, I am looking at you.)


*ahem* Anyway...about 27 hours after coming home from Kalamazoo, I was struck down by a horrible bout of the plague (aka, sore throat, coughing, and stuffy nose). My original agenda for this past week was:

  1. Blog about Kalamazoo.
  2. Make an 1860s cotton work dress.
  3. Blog about my brand-new involvement as a volunteer at Blandford Nature Center.
  4. List fabric on Etsy (whatever didn't sell at K-zoo).

Then I got sick an my agenda looked more like:
  1. Call in sick to work.
  2. Sleep all day.
  3. Cough. A lot.
  4. Have a man voice from all the coughing and stuffiness.
  5. Wish for a swift and painless death.

I accomplished one of those lists. I'll let you figure out which one.

Fortunately, I was feeling better by Saturday, which was vital because Saturday was my first day volunteering with Blandford Nature Center. I honestly have no idea how I've been living in the greater Grand Rapids area for over ten years and have never heard of them before this year, but we'll let that pass for a moment while I explain to you why Blandford is awesome.

--First of all, Nature Centers (yes, capitalized) are amazing. They just are. Nature is amazing, and an organization that is dedicated to preserving and sharing it's amazingness is, therefore, also amazing.

--Secondly, some of my favorite childhood memories are from visiting Sarett Nature Center, when I lived in Southwest Michigan for basically my entire childhood. I learned a lot of valuable lessons about nature--how to appreciate it, survive in it, and love it--from that place, and the opportunity to share that is unspeakably appealing.

--Thirdly, in addition to normal Nature Center-y stuff, they also do historical interpretation in a number of buildings that have been relocated to Blandford from various places in West Michigan.

Pretty much everything Blandford does is something that interests me...with the exception of farming. I'm great with animals. I love nature. I adore historical interpretation. But cultivated plants and I? Not so much friends. I have the blackest of black thumbs...so hopefully as long as I steer clear of their farming projects, there won't be any blighted crops or anything. I'll just stick to the critters and the history!

Anyway, Saturday was the annual Sugarbush Festival at Blandford, and I was fortunate enough to be invited to interpret in the Robinson-Kuhtic log cabin in full-on 1860s garb. Remember that work dress I didn't get done? Yeah, that would have been good to have. Hopefully next time I will have it ready to wear--because I met a wonderful woman named Karen, who prepared a delicious meal on the antique cast iron stove in the cabin! Alas, I was still fuzzy-headed from being sick, so I didn't get any pictures. *facepalm* Next time. Honest! I will get pictures next time!

Lastly, I did get one more thing on my first agenda done--I've been listing fabric at my Etsy shop today. I'm clearing out my stash, so if you've ever wondered what lives in my costume closet, head over and take a look!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Kalamazoo Living History Show

The Kalamazoo Living History show is one of my favorite events of the year. Basically, it's a giant historical trade show. Anything you could possibly want for living history, reenacting, or historical costuming, all in one place for the whole weekend. It's amazing.

I'll be there with the 1st Regiment, my favoritest 1812 unit ever. We've got a few tables set up for information and promotional stuff for the Bicentennial, and then we also have a table at which to sell our wares. I've boxed up several lengths of fabric to bring, and I'm hoping that they can go to a new home this weekend.

If you're even sort-of local, I'd love to see you there. It's a great event, and the best reenactor shopping you'll find--anything and everything pre-1890, from antiques and art to firearms and furniture. And of course fabric! I've got some really nice stuff that I've been hoarding (or maybe aging, like wine), but have finally come to the conclusion that I just won't be using it in the foreseeable future. Lots of wools, a couple silks, and some lovely cotton perfect for regency/1812. We'll be in the North Expo under the flag of the First. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

One more for sale!

Click for more photos and info.

The skirt has been freshly dry cleaned, just to spruce it up and it came clean just beautifully. The bodice hasn't been cleaned, but it also didn't have hem dirt to deal with! It's still one of my favorite dresses, but it doesn't fit me anymore and I hate to just hang it in the closet when it's got plenty more wear in it. I'm asking $250, which just covers materials for this one, plus actual shipping cost to your location.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Amey's Adornments and Pretty Things

Before last year, I'd never heard of Amey's Adornments, but when I found them I nearly died of glee. Andrea Miller Amey is 1. adorable, 2. an amazing goldsmith, and 3. super super nice. I met her at Fair at New Boston 2011, and imagine my surprise and joy when I saw that she sold rings for pin balls.

I ordered one right then and there. It arrived not too long ago, and I'm in love.

I. Love. It. There are no words to express how much I love it. To my knowledge, the only other place selling them is Colonial Williamsburg. Not to be gauche, but I paid significantly less for this than I would have if I'd gotten it from History Disney W-burg. Plus, what's not to love about supporting a small business? I always feel like buying stuff that's "by reenactors, for reenactors" is like good shopping karma.

It's a beautiful little thing, and I just adore that chain. The floss that also features here is silk, bought from A-Z Needlepoint...and will be used for the pinball intended for this ring. I know...I just posted about not liking embroidery, but counted needlework is different in my mind. I'm less likely to make it look sloppy, for one.

Maker's hallmark, for posterity. Not that I'm passing this on...my progeny can pry it out of my cold, dead fingers and I might just ask to be buried with it. I told you I loved it!

Sunday, March 4, 2012


Anyone who's ever asked me about embroidery has probably heard me say something like this: "I hate embroidery with the fire of a thousand suns."

And, for the most part, I do. I'm a product stitcher, not a process one. That is to say, I don't do this because I just love sewing so much. I do it because I like other aspects of the creative process--for me, it's problem solving, design, sourcing, and the finished product.

However, if I'm taking the time to cord this pair of stays, I figured I might as well put ALL the work in and embroider it a little, too. That's not required, but it is very common in originals. I'm a sucker for wheat ear designs, so here's a peek of what I came up with:

Friday, March 2, 2012

O Wise Internet

So the more I get into cooking and experimenting in the kitchen, the more it's growing on me. As I get more involved, I'm realizing that adding to my collection of kitchen gadgets would make cooking even more enjoyable, since certain tasks would be faster and easier, and it could try more and different recipes. I already have a hand mixer and a few other things, but I'm starting to think maybe I should look into getting a food processor.

Now, keep in mind that I'm a total kitchen n00b, so. Um. That's why I'm appealing to the infinite knowledge base known as the internet. First of all--I considered a blender, but Google tells me that blenders are better suited for liquids, and I do basically none of that. My repertoire consists of meats, breads, and veggies. Being not a fan of dairy, and avoiding carbs from flavored drinks or juices, smoothies are right out...plus the gooshy texture is a bit of a no-way for me. Food processors are overall more versatile (again saith the Google), so that's what I'm leaning toward.  Chopping, grinding, etc--that seems right up my alley.

After extensive research (aka typing "food processor" into Google shopping, and fiddling around on Amazon), this seems to be the product most likely to fit my needs.

It's a Cuisinart, which I do at least know is a reputable brand, and at 4 cups capacity it seems to be a nice small-medium size.  I'm single, cook for just myself, and don't need something huge.  I do make decent-sized batches of things to freeze and carry to work, though, so I don't want something teeny-tiny.

So, I guess my question is--for that price, should I go ahead and get it?  Is it worth it to buy a food processor in the first place?  Has anyone had any bad experiences with Cuisinart, food processors, or anything like this in general?  Is it a silly idea to drop money on an appliance like this when I only cook three nights a week and even then just for myself?  Or is it an amazing kitchen gadget that nobody should do without and you have no idea how I've made it to 25 years old and 4 years out on my own without ever having used, bought, or owned one for myself?

I cast myself upon thy infinite wisdom, O Internet.  So, you know...tell me what you think?