Friday, August 31, 2018

Quilting for Eye Tracking

A couple of years ago while I was participating in the Row by Row Quilt Contest, my daughter got interested in quilting.

Ah! Now that she's interested, perhaps I could get her to work on her eye tracking and spatial reasoning with quilting! She had a month off from college classes (a rarity) so we hoped to conquer a little quilt for her.

At one of our favorite quilt shops she chose some lovely batiks for a small quilt of her own. I had already found an easy quilt pattern for her.

I did the rotary cutting for her, since her hands aren't as coordinated, and rotary cutters slice you up if you aren't careful.

Then I let her use my sewing machine. She hadn't used a sewing machine since taking classes at the Colonial Williamsburg Costume Design Center. I thought that coordinating the use of the pedal while pushing the fabric under the needle would help her spatial reasoning skills...and ultimately help her with her driving. She gets flustered managing too many things at once.

She had trouble eye tracking, so I put some 1/4" tape (purchased at a quilt shop) on my machine  to help her see how to keep the fabric strips lined up. Because she wasn't keeping the strips straight, the seam came out crooked, and she had to rip them out. That's never fun. The tape helped, but she still struggled...and got tired quickly.

Eventually she had all the initial strips sewn together. I rotary cut them into squares. Here she is arranging them into a pattern.

1-Arranging Lay Out

Then she sewed 2 rows of blocks together, and this is as far as she got during August of 2016. She's been busy ever since, between college and work.

2-Process 8023016

As great as this looks, the eye tracking was a struggle. I've talked to the vision therapy doctor about it, and so my daughter got new exercises. However I keep researching for more ideas to add to the exercises. There must be a missing ingredient.

Now that she's done with graduate school, we work on extra spatial reasoning activities on her days off. I thought we could pull this project out and finish it, but she bought another sewing project, which we are now working on. Details on that, and the missing ingredient, later. Stay tuned!

Monday, August 20, 2018

Chasing Hot Air Balloons over Bealeton

As dusk set we drove from the Moo Thru to start looking for the hot air balloons from the Flying Circus in Bealeton. I had read that if it wasn't too windy, they would have lift off at dusk. It wasn't long before we found one!


We drove to a location to stay put and watch and take photos...





Seeing them light up was cool!


Then we saw a hot air balloon appear to arise from within the corn patch.







By now they were all floating away from us, so we got in the car and drove to the main road...when we noticed this one about to land!


We got off the main road and onto a smaller road to take us to the landing site...


Seeing these balloons near the ground made me think of the land of Oz.


We actually did arrive at the landing site. My son took lots of photos that he then sent to the pilot.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

A Breezy Red and White Striped Dress for a Summery Day

My stashbusting took me to a few yards of remnants from sewing this 18th century gown for my daughter a few years ago. I had been saving it for a very late 18th century jacket. However Independence Day was coming, I was going to a picnic, and I was envisioning a light and airy dress to wear for the occasion.

Believe it or not, this pattern from 1981 beckoned to me.  I bought it in Vermont at an antique store years ago. I had 2 problems. One, it is too small. Could I size it up well? (I really don't know what I'm doing.) Two, the 1980's really aren't the "in" style. Could I get away with it? I just wanted a light and breezy easy dress. I decided to go for it.


I ended up not wearing it to the picnic, since it wasn't quite finished. I wore a red blouse with white shorts instead, which was perfect. I finished the dress later in July and wore it a few times before I finally got photos of it in August. Many thanks to my son for doing that for me.

We had a busy day. Our first stop was one of our favorite places, the train depot in Purcellville...


My son set me up for all the different poses...


Less breeze, above. More breeze, below.


DSC00059 (2)


Later that afternoon we went to the Moo-Thru near Bealeton...because we were going to go hot air balloon chasing. Pictures from that in the next post.


Crepe myrtles at the Moo Thru.



Unbeknownst to me while waiting for ice cream.


Moundz ice cream is the best!



No, I don't think I enlarged the bodice enough. I've lost quite a bit of weight since then, so perhaps it fits better now.

I ended up doing two different bodices. Without thinking, I cut out the first bodice as directed in the directions, with the stripe running vertically. I sewed it to the skirt, which had the stripes running vertically...which looked boring. I meant to take a photo of this for comparison on the blog, but forgot.

I had just enough fabric to cut out another bodice, with the stripes running as a chevron in the bodice. I attached that to the skirt (which had the stripes running vertically). Then I added ruffles which then had more stripe interplay. I loved the effect.

I'm still on the lookout for a belt that I like to wear with the dress.

Despite the dress not being the best fit, it is wonderfully comfortable. I used 100% cotton that has a lovely drape and soft, comfortable touch. I loved all the ruffles I added and the way the skirt bounces against my legs when I walk. It's a lot of fun to wear. Not at all dressy, it's good for a simple day out and about.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Sewing Summer Pastels

I can't believe summer is nearly over. As usual I've been quite busy helping my daughter with her vision therapy for spatial reasoning, and sensory integration.

Meanwhile, I've also been busy sewing. So many of my clothes have completely worn out, that I've had to toss them into the trash. I hate to spend money on fashions I really do not enjoy from the rack.

So, I've determined that this year is for stash busting. My linen closet was full of fabric waiting to be sewn. The stores are full of fabric for which I really do not have any care.

These 4 are completed garments I have already worn. My son has kindly photographed me in the yellow and blue dresses on the right. I hope to get blog posts out about them within the next couple of weeks. The blue one is based on a 1960 dress!


These 5 blouses and 1 dress are still works in progress. Mainly they need buttonholes. My sewing machine makes horrid buttonholes, so I have been hand stitching them. At least that gives me a chance to work on my 18th century sewing! I hope I can finish them before summer is over!


I've already used the backpack, on the right, on two hikes. The tote bag on the left is nearly finished. Two other styled tote bags have been cut out and are ready to sew. Oh, I've also sewn 3 zipper cases, with another cut out.


These two sun dresses are nearly finished...and both are made from extra fabric from historical gowns I've sewn.


I've loved sewing with these lovely pastels. Soon I will be sewing autumn/winter clothing with my darker colored fabrics.

I've started an Instagram account where I'm sharing nostalgia and my sewing. I'd like to connect to other seamstresses. My username is lahbluebonnet.

Monday, August 13, 2018

'Twas a Napoleonic Exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Recently I visited the exhibit, Napoleon: Power and Splendor at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, Virginia.

1-Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Museum of Fine Arts-Richmond, Virginia

The layout was quite intriguing, built around Napoleon's various "staff members" that comprised the Imperial Household. Each room introduced a different "staff member," then detailed his responsibilities, while showcasing the items for which he was responsible.

The ladies were not to be forgotten. Each of Napoleon's wives, Josephine and then Marie-Louise, were also featured within the context of the Imperial Household.

The simplicity of Josephine wearing a muslin gown contrasted with the elegance of the bust that was displayed in the center of the room.  (For sewing enthusiasts, yes! I did wear my early 19th century inspired skirt...linen and rufflicious! I was hoping for a gown to be on display, but there were only a few paintings.)

Josephine greatly advised how to promote a positive image for Napoleon. Since he was a Corsican by birth, the goal was to make him appear worthy to be included with the prestigious heads of Europe.

(Napoleon was actually asked to lead France, with great hopes that his leadership would finally end the years of the bloody French Revolution. As Napoleon successfully brought peace and organization to France, the other nations allied against him, for fear that a successful republic in France would foretell an overthrow of the governments in their own countries.)

2-Josephine Bonaparte laying a wreath on the holy myrtle 1796
Josephine Bonaparte laying a wreath on the holy myrtle, 1796

This glass and stone mosaic was incredible...and hearkens to the Republic of Rome.
3-Napoleon in his study wearing the uniform of a grenadier of the guard
Napoleon in his study wearing the uniform of a grenadier of the guard, 1813-1830

Napoleon was no connoiseur. He preferred simpler fare. Yet, state dinners were sometimes necessary...and sometimes was the operative word. In his entire reign, he only had 8 state dinners.
A Napoleonic State Dinner Setting

This is an impressive collection from the mid-19th century, of which there are actually 16,000 pieces!
5-Collection of Imperial Guard Figurines
Collection of Imperial Guard Figurines, 19th century

The piece de reistance of the entire exhibit was the Throne Room.

6-Throne Room
Napoleon's Throne Room

If you can't go to Europe, this is a grand way for Europe to come to you.

7-Throne Room
Napoleon's Throne Room

As a lover of fibers and tapestries, this room peeked my interest in the attention of detail.

8-Throne Room
Napoleon's Throne Room

This definitely took the concept of being "keeper of the keys"  to a whole new level. The one who wore this key about his waist had a most important position. They are still worn by those in Europe with this position in royal households today. Here you can see the eagle, another symbol from the Roman Empire.
9-Key of the Chamberlain of the Imperial Household
Key of the Chamberlain of the Imperial Household

After displays of gorgeous silks from Lyon that decorated the palaces, was this lovely cashmere shawl. Quite a bit different from the type I find available to wear today.
11-Cashmere Shawl
Cashmere Shawl

This lovely workbox full of sewing implements was gifted by Marie-Louise to one of her Ladies-in-Waiting.
12-Workbox given by Marie-Louise to one of her ladies-in-waiting
A Lady's Workbox

And finally, Napoleon's tricorne...made of silk, felt, and beaver pelt.
13-Bicorne from the Emporer's Wardrobe 1812 made of felt silk beaver pelt
Napoleon's Bicorne, 1812

The only thing I can think of to top this experience, is to meet Napoleon himself. Actually my kids and I did meet him a few years ago...and  sometimes he can be seen in and about the Richmond area and the museum during this exhibit.

If you'd like to learn more about Napoleon, I highly recommend Napoleon by Vincent Cronin, which is heavily documented to understand a different view of the man from what we commonly hear.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Visiting the Source of the George Washington Cherry Tree Myth

After church, my kids and I took a quick and easy trip to Dumfries, which was chartered back in 1749. Once a bustling colonial port on Quantico Creek which feeds into the Potomac, the mercantile trade which required fields of tobacco growing on all available land has faded away. Today a more modern hustle and bustle prevails.

Apparently in the day there was a playhouse and horse racing among the 18th century expectations of taverns, trade shops and dwellings. George Washington and George Mason were both known to transact business here.

Specifically we visited the Weems-Botts House which has a mix of history. Built in 1747, it was only two rooms.

12-Weems Botts House

In 1798 Parson Mason Locke Weems purchased the building to open a bookstore.

2-Weems Botts House

Parson Weems was a traveling book salesman, and writer of biographies. After Washington died in 1799, Weems wrote about his prestigious neighbor in what became his most famous work: A History of the Life and Death, Virtues and Exploits of General George Washington.

Not everything Weems wrote was truth. Much were fabricated tales, to teach a lesson which seems contradictory. Washington was a valiant man in and of himself. He didn't need tales created to mortalize him, yet Weems thought otherwise. After his book was published, he had his critics to answer to, yet he understood marketing a book. The book became quite popular.

To me this seems more reflective of the upcoming Romantic Era of literature, as opposed to the fact loving era of Enlightenment that was closing out.

Thus, the story about the Cherry Tree, is not true. Also, the story that Washington could throw a silver dollar across the Potomac is not true either.

Anyone ever been to Mount Vernon? Could you imagine throwing anything across the river and it landing in Maryland?

Has anyone been to Ferry Farm, Washington's boyhood home in Fredericksburg?  I recall the tour guides there mentioning a variation of that tall-tale and insisting it is not true that the boy George Washington threw a rock or anything else across the Rappahannock River.

Dear Reader, I'm your friend. I'm warning you. =) The docents around here laugh at you if you believe any of that stuff. My kids and I don't but the docents still give us a hard time because they assume we believe all the tall tales. I'm not laughing at anyone, because it's hard knowing the facts when the myths are what gets populated.

6-Weems Botts House

Moving on...up the stairs.

1-Weems Botts House

The room was decorated in an American Revolution manner that the kids and I really appreciated.

3-Weems Botts House

Dumfries is located in the far eastern end of Prince William County.

4-Weems Botts House

Uh, oh. Well, General Charles Lee turned out to be one of the worst of Washington's generals. Check-in to the Battle of Monmouth, where General Lee checked-out and was eventually court-martialed.

5-Weems Botts House

In the other room of the main floor there was a display of tobacco notes, used in the mercantile days. We've used those very pieces for our own reenactments of mercantilism.

8-Weems Botts House

Also a copy of the Virginia Gazette, printed in Williamsburg. This copy had been printed in 1769.

7-Weems Botts House

An interesting analysis of Weem's book can be found here.

In 1802 Weems sold the house to Benjamin Botts who used the house for his law office. His most famous case was to defend Aaron Burr who had been accused of treason.

Additions to the house were built in the 1870's.