Wednesday, August 29, 2012

18th Century Shortgown-A Temporary Simplicity

I've recently completed (temporarily...more below) an 18th century short gown for myself, not that I'm in love with these types of garments, but because necessity will soon beckon at a forthcoming Burnley and Trowbridge workshop. Once I knew of my need for one, I started researching the possibilities. When I visited the Colonial Williamsburg milliner shop last year, I saw a short gown in progress laying on the table. While I was looking at this sewing project in process, I was in a bit of a quandry, trying to decide whether I should purchase a pattern or not. I liked the idea of saving money on a pattern, since historical patterns are expensive. However the shape left my mind in a muddle. At that moment a guest started talking to me, discovered the reason for my perplexity, and proceeded to strongly encourage me sew a shortgown without a pattern. She promised me it would be quite simple. She picked up the short gown on the counter and explained what it looked like when it was cut out and how it was sewn together. I furiously scribbled notes and took photographs (I thought I took photographs, I can't find them now).

Eventually the time came to make a final decision. I reviewed my notes from the milliner shop and despaired. Although I had the basic information, I wasn't sure that I could duplicate the proper shape. Then I got the idea to research Costume Close-Up, a CW publication by Linda Baumgarten. There was an extant short gown with the layout of a pattern that seemed clear enough for me to model one of my own.

Instead of drafting the pattern from the book, because it was based on an extant short gown for a young girl, I cut the fabric of my short gown by eye because the design looked so simple. First I made a muslin. Laying out the fabric, I looked at the basic shape of the pattern in Costume Close-Up, approximated the shape by measuring myself and pinned the approximate cutting line. (I used descriptions of the wear of a short gown in What Clothes Reveal, another CW book by Linda Baumgarten.) After cutting it out I tried on the muslin and saw that it was a bit too tight in the bust. I estimated how much wider I should cut it to allow for more ease and added that to the width of the muslin.

Then I cut out the actual fashion fabric. Short gowns seem to be humble little jackets, typically worn without stays. They were often worn by working class women for ease of movement while doing household chores and such. A gentry woman might wear one in the privacy of her home to remain cooler in the hot summer months or for comfort. Short gowns were understandably comfortable during pregnancy, even though I've heard that even stays could by worn during pregnancy. I had a huge problem with morning sickness with my pregnancies, for the entire pregnancy, so I'm sure I would have been quite grateful for short gowns back then.

Not being a fan of humble types of clothing, I yearned to make this as cute as possible. I considered my fabric options. A solid linen or cotton could work, even the right sort of polka dot, which I had been previously leaning towards. (The short gown the milliner was making was a lavendar with white polka dots, historically documented!) Alas I forgot to look for a proper polka dot fabric, it was late, I was home, I was tired, I wanted to proceed. I looked at my 18th century fabric stash and realized I had a cute and cheerful blue on white print that I had purchased in the CW historic area about a year ago, at Mary Dickenson. I had only purchased 3 yards of the 45" fabric, which didn't seem to be enough to make anything substantial. Thus the destiny of this fabric became a short gown.

Photobucket

I only used 2 yards of the fabric. (What to do with the leftover 1 yard?) Differing from the short jacket in Costume Close-Up, this one does not have ties. I made this with only one piece of fabric cut to the proper shape. All I had to sew were the side seams that joined as one with the underpart of the sleeve. Then I rolled under the edges all around and up the center front. The Costume Close-Up version also has a cuff which I did not add.

Photobucket

For now I wanted to keep this simple and basic, and let the cheerful color of the floral print and the lovely swoop and grace of the skirts be the charm in the short gown.

Photobucket

The reason for my desire in simplicity is because I am extremely busy homeschooling, studying, researching, planning, and teaching. This year I have the newly added duty of driving my daughter to and from college over an hour a day. Also I have a huge sewing pile for those few spare moments to sew...

Photobucket

Eventually I'd like to add cuffs to the sleeves, as shown in Costume Close-Up, which will be the only added fabric pieces.

Photobucket

Also I'd like to add a drawstring to the neckline, which according to Costume Close-Up, is dated for the extant shortgown from 1770-1780. There is another drawstring in the extant short gown, in the back at the waistline which I will not add. That was most likely an updated feature in the Regency Era, most likely to make the "old-fashioned" short gown more fashionable to the early 19th century. However I might make another short gown with that addition if I ever get to take early 19th century sewing classes with the mantua maker!

Historically short gowns were secured at the top with one pin and secured in the middle by wearing an apron. Eventually an updated look wlll come together. Stay tuned!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Who I Am, Not What I Do

We are all human. We all make mistakes. The errors of our lives sometimes overwhelm us to the point of wanting to work to earn God's favor. Some of us who have failed in certain areas of life, may feel completely defeated and in despair. Some give up. Some press on. Others are determined to fix the past by doing better next time.

In the times we are not distraught, a desire to attain consumes our lives. As homeschool moms this is the time of year we are caught up in the busy-ness of doing. Many preparations for a worthy school year are a good thing. The preparatory work we accomplish will structure a well-ordered path for the year's journey. However we should not be so busy doing that we forget to be. Our character is the testimony of God's work in us. The work we do is merely an expression of who we are. It's not that doing is a bad thing, but that our focus should entail the being.

A daily quiet time in God's Word fortifies us and develops our character. Also good books about God's Word can be helpful. One of my favorite books that is full of meaty teaching is Who I am in Christ by Neil T. Anderson. It is simple to read, with 36 short chapters but they provide thought provoking depth that combat the lies we hear with God's truth. This book was given to me while I worked with the adult and children's choirs at my church in San Antonio, Texas. Even though we were exceedingly busy preparing for the Christmas musical gospel presentation, "Christmas Shoes," in 2004, we spent time at the beginning of each leadership meeting to discuss some points in the book, related to being as opposed to doing.

Who are we? As Christians, we are in Christ. We should allow Him to express Himself through our actions and in our being. Some of my favorite quotes:
  • "We don't have to do things so God will someday accept us. We are accepted by God completely as we are. Our actions and works should be in response to God's love for us, not an attempt to earn His favor." p22
  • "Our need for acceptance and belonging are legitimate needs, they are God-given. But if we attempt to meet them independently of God, we are doomed to reap the dissatisfaction the self-life brings." p22
  • "It is who we are that determines what we do, and then what we do brings a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment." p62
  • "Our identity comes from knowing who we are as children of God, and our sense of worth grows out of our commitment to become like Him." p63
  • "In the Bible, believers are called brothers, children, sons of God, sons of light, light in the Lord and saints. Nowhere are believers referred to as sinners, not even as sinners saved by grace...We are not sinners saved by grace; we are saints who sin...The problem is not that we are not saints; it is that we do not live like saints." p72
  • "The key to understanding security is learning to relate to the eternal, not the temporal." p103
  • "God does not promise to make a bad thing good, nor has He assured us that He will keep us from bad things. He has promised us that in all things-even those that are terrible-good can come out of it for all those who love Him." Romans 8:26-28, 5:3-5 p119
  • "Running away from difficult situations is not where our hope lies...Our hope lies in proven character, not in favorable circumstances." p119
  • "Our hope lies in the fact that God will make us better people and conform us to His image through our difficult circumstances." p120
  • "If God isn't out to get us, then who is? The answer is Satan." p123
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. -Ephesians 6: 10-17
  • "In order to live a fruitful Christian life by faith, we must first believe what Christ has already done for us and then walk accordingly." p144
  • II Cor 4:7-11
  • "...the insufficiency of man reveals the total sufficiency of God." p146
  • "John 15 is really about abiding in Christ. We aren't required to bear fruit; we are required to abide in Christ. The result of abiding in Christ is bearing fruit, and that is the proof of our discipleship." p208
Whereever we are in our walks of lives, understanding who we are in Christ will help us do our professional jobs, interact with family and friends as well as live our personal lives. As homeschoolers, understanding who we are in Christ, will help us be the mothers and teachers we need to be to train our children in the way they should go. We can be better helpmeets to our husbands. And in so doing, can be a testimony to others that the focus should be on the being, not the doing.

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Silk and Lace Flag for General Washington

Photobucket
Last month when we visited the Naval Academy, this gorgeous silk and lace flag caught my eye. It was made by Mrs. Robert Livingston for President Washington's first inaugural ceremony in New York City. Her husband was the Chancellor of the state of New York, who had the honor of administering the very first oath of office to the president. For the grand ocassion, Mrs. Livingston made this flag out of silk and lace, which curators believe took a year for her to complete.


Photobucket

Canning Spiced Peach Honey Butter

After our 50's lunch, I asked if we could go to the Farmer's Market to buy fresh produce from one of the local Mennonite families to take home. I bought a bunch of sweet corn that I've been cooking for dinners this week. That is a special treat because it is an east coast specialty that we used to crave back in Texas. I also purchased lots of peaches for canning. Since this was a busy week, I decided to can peach butter because it would involve the least amount of time.

You may have heard of apple butter. I combined two recipes for peach butter. First I pitted, peeled and cut up my peaches, filling my crockpot. This went quite quickly because they were freestone peaches that were quite ripe.

Photobucket

I did NOT add any liquids. I merely placed the cover and cooked on low all day.

Then I scooped out the peaches from the peach liquid,pureed the peaches in my food processor and poured it back into the crock pot with the liquid. I added sugar to taste. It varies according to the natural sweetness of the fruit and personal taste. I don't like things too sweet. To this mix I added 1/2 to 1 teaspoon each of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Again, taste as you go, it's the best way!

Photobucket

Then I covered the crock and put it in the refrigerator overnight (I have a crock insert separate from the pot with the heating element.)

The next morning I put the crock into the pot, set it to low for the day to let the flavors develop. That afternoon I started canning. If your peach butter is not as thick as you like, pour the mix into a pot and heat on the stove with the lid off, allowing the liquid to evaporate. Keep a close eye on this so that it doesn't scorch. Once it reaches the consistency you desire (stir and taste to decide) then you are ready to can.

I filled my sterilized canning jars and capped them then processed them in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. I now have 9 half-pints of spiced peach honey butter. The peach butter can be used to spread on toast, biscotti, or even used as a sauce for meat.
Photobucket

My son says he likes it better than apple butter.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Stepping Back into the 50's at DJ's Taste of the Fifties

Saturday we drove to Lancaster, Pennsylvania where I said our first stop simply had to be lunch at the little vintage 50's sock hop diner we missed out on last year. I completely forgot to research how to get to this spot before leaving home, so I pulled out my smart phone and did a bit of googling but couldn't find it anywhere. I couldn't even quite remember how to get to the Amish country, which is on the same road as the 50's hamburger place. What to do? What to do? Check my blog with my new smart phone! I had put a link for this place on my blog when I wrote about missing it last year. I did a google on the key words and found that particular blog post as my first hit. Wow! It amazes me how that happens! What a handy thing it is to have a blog! DJ's Taste of the Fifties, here we come!

Here is the back of DJ's, where some of the customers brought their vintage vehicles.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Indoors and out we could listen to 50's music like, "Johnny Angel."

Photobucket

Being a beautiful 80 degree day, we chose to eat on the patio.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

They store the trash can in here!

Photobucket

Photobucket

My lunch...a traditional cheeseburger with everything on it and onion rings! The kids got flavored phosphates to drink with their sandwiches. The bread is homemade from a shop down the street, which is part of Amish and Mennonite Country. The bread is quite fresh and soft and delicious.

Photobucket

We had a late lunch so I suggested we go back and eat indoors and have 50's style ice cream sodas!

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

The wait staff were all in costume. She even has earrings that are records.

Photobucket

Photobucket

My daughter's dessert.

Photobucket

My dessert.

Photobucket

My son's dessert.

Photobucket

My husband's dessert.

Photobucket

Now we want to go back and order kids' meals but they won't let us. A customer has to be ten years old or under for the kids' meal, which comes on a special cardboard cut out tray in the design of a classic 50's car.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Revolutionary City at Colonial Williamsburg Summer 2012

After the 4th of July we attended the new line up of Revolutionary City which is now scattered throughout the historic area throughout the day. On Thursday, we were not able to attend all the scenes because we were also trying to squeeze in RevQuest. In some scenes I simply wasn't able to get pictures. On top of that it was blistering hot, with temperatures over 100 degrees. With all the walking we had to do through the historic area, I was completely done in, even though I was dressed in a blouse and shorts. I don't know how the interpreters survived the heat and still put on an excellent and realistic show! Many thanks to those who found cold water for me.

This brand new scene, set in April 21, 1775, showcased the reaction of the town's citizens when Governor Dunmore has the gunpowder removed from the magazine, creating an uproar of protest.
Photobucket

Photobucket

There is a call to storm the palace.

Photobucket

Speaker of the House Peyton Randolph urges the citizens to calm down. His goal is to use words before action.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Meanwhile Governor Dunmore and Captain Foy look on.

Photobucket

This was fun seeing them up there!

Photobucket

Photobucket

Behind the palace we witnessed the tense meeting between Peyton Randolph and Governor Dunmore regarding the confiscated gunpowder.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Then we walked to the Raleigh Tavern to watch a fencing lesson that turned political.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Shortly after the fencing master and student came to an understanding, a horseman galloped down the street with news of the battles of Lexington and Concord. We all remember that those battles were provoked by the British threat to take the gunpowder outside the town of Boston. Only a week before, Govenor Dunmore had the Williamsburg gunpowder seized from the citizens (as seen in the first pictures). That new scene heightens this scene, appropriately called, "Gale from the North." The title comes from a line from Patrick Henry's "Give me Liberty or Death" that he declared in fiery exuberance a month before in March.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

(Friday the scenes picked up from the day before.) In this scene in front of the Courthouse there was talk about a supply depot in Suffolk that was burned.

Photobucket

Then the audacious turncoat Benedict Arnold arrived in town!

Photobucket

Hope came to our souls through the preaching of Baptist preacher, Gowan Pamphlet.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Sadly, we witnessed the trial of captured slaves who had run away.

Photobucket

Afterwards we got to see General Lafayette who is quite pleased that Cornwallis is cornered at Yorktown. Victory is certain!
Photobucket

(My husband took most of these great shots!)

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

One of the Fife and Drum Corps youth was specially honored by the Marquis de Lafayette!

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

After the review of the troops, we followed the Fife and Drum Corps as they fifed and drummed down the street. To my surprise, some of the interpreters came out to wave some flags. I missed the grandest part but got these shots.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Instead of disbanding, they kept fifing and drumming with special moves on Botetourt Street. This was great!

Photobucket

They kept up the beat all the way to "woods," the secret entrance from the 18th to the 21st century for the interpreters (which always reminds me of Field of Dreams.)

Photobucket

That is where we had to part company. My son wondered what was going on because they kept fifing and drumming through the secret entrance/exit. I told him that perhaps that the one who was specially honored by Lafayette had a birthday, and that the flag waving and extra fifing and drumming was part of a birthday celebration. I could be wrong, but that was the only explanation I could come up with. Oh, my son *liked* that idea. I had to agree. I can't think of a more special way to spend a birthday. At least we got to experience it through the fifer. That was so much fun and a very special ending to our final day in CW. Can you believe we haven't been back since?

Update: A little bird told me that all that fun flag waving, notice by the general and extra fifing and drumming are part of the graduation ceremony from the Fife and Drum Corps! What fun!!! I'm so glad we got to see that!