Saturday, March 28, 2015

Symposium Friday

Friday we had a heck of a snow storm. Stormed all day. Many had to scrap their plans for off site visits. My first workshop was a bonnet frame workshop with Maggie Koenig. She provided us with patterns and instructions on how to size the frame for ourselves.

Rather than construct a full size frame, we worked on mini versions for practice. We blocked the back and bound the brim edges. I really enjoyed this session. It helped me really understand how to put my own frames together.

The workshop lasted until lunch.

 In the afternoon I attended Carolann's talk on mid 19th century fabrics. This presentation covered the patterns, colors and production of fabrics in the mid 19th century. These sessions are always helpful when trying to decide if a contemporary fabric is "close enough". Unfortunately, so many of the great fabric patterns are not produced any longer or are produced on a different fabric. Carolann's sessions are always a great resource.

There were several other wonderful workshops Friday and I wish I could be in more than one place at a time: mourning cockades, woven buttons, eyeglass many to choose from.

Between sessions and lunch I went shopping. The Market Place always has a great selection of vendors. One of the items that I have been coveting for a few years now are the shawls. This year I finally splurged and bought one.

I also bought a vulcanized belt buckle. Sorry the picture is sideways.

I was very happy with the purchase, especially after the first presentation of the evening on rubber and pre-plastics in the mid 19th century by Michael Woshner. The presentation was great; there were several items from his and Carolann Schmitt's collections of rubber and pre-plastic items. 
Of course the major highlight of the Symposium is the original displays. Rather than post all the pictures here, please visit my Flicker page that includes albums of all the different collections on display. However, there is one I must post here. I have adored this dress for years; even purchased fabric to reproduce it but never did for one reason or another. The dress belongs to K. Krewer and she brought it this year for display. I'm sure many of you will recognize it. 

I just love this dress!

One of the wonderful experiences this year was to be able to help Janine Whiteman change out her display of originals. She and Philip have an amazing collection of items and I was privileged to help her with the dresses. She has a couple of dresses in which the sleeves were lined with flour sacks.

So ended Friday.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Better Late Than Never: 2015 Symposium Post 1

Yes, I am finally posting about the Civilian Symposium (previously known as the Ladies and Gentlemen of the 1860s Conference)  held March  5-6, 2015. I apologize for the delay in posting my AAR; however, I came home with the flu and am just now getting over it.

I drove over to Camp Hill on Wednesday night. I had arranged to room with Lisa Jackson from England. She arrived later into Harrisburg on Wednesday night so I picked her up at the airport. While we were waiting for her luggage we ran into Heide Presse who was also attending the Symposium. We had a car full on the way back to Camp Hill.

The weather was expected to be nasty on Thursday and we were not disappointed. Several inches of snow fell all day Thursday.

This kind of wrecked havoc with the off site tours scheduled for that day as travel was a bit hazardous. I only had one workshop planned for Thursday so had a very nice leisurely morning sleeping in and ordering room service. 

My first workshop was a fichu workshop with Carolann Schmitt. She shared many of her originals as well as presented information about the development of the accessory. Carolann had "kits" available that included lace and trimmings and she provided the pattern for a simple fichu.

I don't have progress pictures as I started out putting the lace on the wrong side so had to take it all off and start over. But I did finish it recently. At the marketplace I found some cotton velvet trimming at the Needle and Thread booth to accent the trim from Carolann. I really enjoyed making this. It is simple handwork that can be picked up and put down and picked up again. It was relatively simple, although there are some obvious corrections on my part needed next time. If you have a chance consider attending this workshop; Carolann is having another in November in Gettysburg. Visit her website for the exact information. More pictures from the fichu workshop can be found here.

Thursday night is traditionally the wrapper and smoking jacket party. There were several wonderful pieces this year. I didn't even start my new one and forgot my old one so I was only an observer this year.

The evening would not be complete without entertainment; this year we watched Carol Burnet's Gone With the Wind parody and Things Museum People Say; you should be able to find both of these on YouTube if you are interested in them. Additional pictures from the party can be found here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Fancy Dress Skirt

The skirt is done. I chose to make the front and back of the skirt a yellow, fake taffeta. The side panels match the jacket to imitate real matador suits of lights.

A note for future projects: spring for the good fabric, not the fake stuff. It was such a chore to sew; my needle barely went through the fabric.

The waist sash is also done and is red. On to the cape, which will be the yellow taffeta with red lining from which the sash was made. No more pictures until after the conference.

Sunday, February 8, 2015


The Chaquitilla is the matador's jacket. Keep in mind as you go through this and the related posts that the point of the fancy dress was to develop an impression of the intended subject not to necessarily replicate it. Also, I am using non-period fabrics as stated in previous posts.

I used a brocade fabric that would mimic the designs on an actual jacket. I did not want to stitch on all the necessary trim so only added trim to add dimension. I used the bodice pattern from my last project and kept the basic period traits such as the dropped shoulder and the shoulder seam toward the back. Since this is a period fancy dress party I made the assumption that these traits would have been incorporated into any costume made at the time.

The sleeves were another issue. I picked from my patterns one I thought was from regular coat sleeves and ended up with shorter sleeves. So, ok, just an impression, right? I think with undersleeves it should be fine. I decided on coat sleeves to keep the period traits.

I then added the shoulder shields. I am going to change the tassels, removing one and placing the other to dangle from the center of the shield to be more in line with an actual jacket.

On to the skirt next. I plan to make a period pleated skirt with solid panels in the front and back and panels of the brocade fabric on the sides to represent the matador's pants. The skirt will only reach to the bottom of my hoop.

Monday, January 19, 2015


I started working on the fancy dress with the matador hat, called a montera. I stated before I am not using period correct fabric as this is a costume and will probably not be worn more than a couple of times.

Here is a picture of an original montera. Mine does not look quite so good; more like a smoking cap with bulbs attached to the ends.

I started with a buckram band covered in black fabric.

I then added the top. It is a bit bigger than the top on the original and I did not decorate it as other originals have been. The top was based with buckram as well.

I then added the bulbs. These are supposed to represent the bull's ears. I stuffed these with fiber fill.

It's not perfect by any definition, but it gives the impression of a montera and the impression is really what is important for this rather than an accurate, exact copy.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Fancy Dress

This year at the Civilian Symposium in Harrisburg there will be a fancy dress party. This is basically a masquerade party with or without masks. Since my life has been so unsettled the last few months I really hadn't thought about making another outfit. But then I had an epiphany. A matador, stylize. I went looking for pictures of 19th century matadors and found paintings, original jackets and a ballerina.

My costume will include a bolero type jacket, a chemisette I already have, and a skirt the length of my hoop rather than pants. Similar to this costume.

Now keep in mind this will be a costume, not something I will wear regularly in living history so I am not willing to spend the money I normally would on my living history dresses. My fabrics are not natural fibers. Originally I thought to use gimp to add simple designs to solid fabric. But then found a brocade that imitates the fancier fabrics of the jacket and side of the pants.

I plan to use the gold colored gimp to add a bit more dimension to the brocade. The yellow will be the front and back of the skirt and cape, the red of course will line the cape and a cummerbund, with the brocade as the sides of the skirt and jacket. I also have black fabric for the hat and will add a black silk bow tie similar to the ballerina above.

My purist historian is balking at using these fabrics but I really am looking forward to putting this together; it should be fun!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Prospects of Peace: Harpers Ferry

Over the first weekend in December I participated in an event I have wanted to experience for some time: an event at Harpers Ferry National Park. It was amazing being in the town in period dress, visiting the different exhibits and occupying one of the historic buildings. The event was Captain Flagg's 1864 US Quartermaster City. It was an AGSAS sanctioned event and since I am a candidate for membership in the group, I decided to attend.

Since I just started a new job I couldn't head out until around 4:30 and arrived in Harpers Ferry about 8:00 pm. Polly Steenhagen had arranged for several of us to stay in the Master Armorer's House. It is located just down the street from John Brown's fort.

This structure includes a visitor's center downstairs and a four bedroom apartment upstairs used to house interns and volunteers.

The apartment has a living room, one bathroom and small kitchen.

Period graffiti has been preserved under glass in the bathroom and kitchen section of the house.
I shared a room with Sherri and Sami. Our bedroom included two wardrobes and two chest of drawers. The room was huge.

Through the door in the above picture is the porch. 

As you can see, Saturday was not the best weather for an event or for public visitation. Sunday was much better. But we were inside the Confectionery and out of the weather. 

Saturday started with a reenactor meeting, including Santa Claus. Thank goodness they had a huge tent to stay out of the rain. 


For the last few years, Faith Mark Hintzen makes goodies to "sell" in the Confectionery. She prints script to give the soldiers who then use it to "buy" sweets. She had pies, cookies, breads, and candies. 

The other part of the house was the living quarters for the Roeders who originally owned the Confectionery. (You're not seeing double, the photos were taken on different days)

The are four rooms upstairs but they are not open to the public. It is reached by the stairs behind the orange colored door in this picture. I did sneak a peek at the stairs. 
In an ironic twist, the Confectionery has a Hopewell furnace; the Hopewell site doesn't have a Hopewell furnace. 

Since the weather was so bad, we had few visitors which gave me a chance to get out and look around town and the other exhibits. 


The Confectionery also has a basement, which housed the kitchen.

During the event the basement was used for a candy making workshop. 

Saturday concluded with a catered turkey dinner. After dinner we went back to the apartment, warmed up and relaxed.

Sunday was a much better day, bright and sunny but a bit cold. 

We had more visitors because of the more pleasant weather and one of the rangers joined us. I still got out and roamed a bit. 


Two of our visitors were soldiers, female soldiers. Their impression was great! They really tried to hide that they were women. It was really difficult to tell until up close or talking to them, but even then they looked and sounded like young men.

We started cleaning up about 4:00 and left about 5:00. I really had a great time. Being able to stay in a historic building and populate the town in period dress was really great. I with the weather had been better, but I still had a great time. 


Additional photos can be found here.