Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Re Shaping A Straw Hat c.1860s

I've been needing a new hat for a while now.  Most of my straw hats are late 1850s and early 1860s. Lately, I've been focusing on 1861-1866. My wide brim hats,  while beautiful and suitable in the Australian heat, are not as fashionable. 

I found 2 very damaged straw hats in an op shop for very little a few years ago.  They had a circular high crown with a circumference too small for my head. 
I needed to make it larger,  flat on top and oval.  I pulled out all the thread and soaked the straw in hot water. 
Once wet I pinned the straw with long quilting pins. I then sewed the straw into shape.  When wet the straw is very flexible.  It will even dry warped if you leave the pins in.  Thankfully another soaking will help smooth it out. 
Once it was sewn I steamed it smooth and into the desired shape. 
My hats get a lot of use and from experience I've learnt to always reinforce my straw shapes.  I tacked milinary wire to the inside of the brim.
Next is my favorite part.. trimming. I reused ribbon from a bonnet with too long ties. It was too short, so I left a gap in the front.  I tacked the ribbon and added extra gold ribbon from my scrap stash.
Next I placed flowers from my milinary box.  Most were birthday gifts from my husband when I was pregnant. I twist and pin the flowers until I have a design I like. 
Once nice I tack them on, not worrying about how neat it is inside. 
The reason it does not need to be neat is because I will line the brim with silk.  I cut a strip of silk the width of the brim with seam allowance included.  
I then ran a single father stitch and tacked it just inside the edge of the brim. 
Once fully attached you can pleat or gather the silk into the crown. I like to pleat and I'm not over careful as the brim is curved which changes the way it appears anyway. I tack the silk down with a curved needle. 
From here I have 3 options depending on how OCD I feel about a part of the hat no one will ever see.  I can full bag line it on cotton,  I can trim and bias tape the silk edge or just whip stitch the silk ends in place.
As the silk is shedding bad I decided to bias tape the edge as leaving the top unlined will hopefully help with air flow when it is very hot. 

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Tea Tree Gully Heritage Museum

This weekend we were invited to help celebrate the first open day of the Tea Tree Gully Heritage Museum for the year. We have never visited this museum before and we were very excited. 
This is an amazing museum and is well worth the visit.  They are open on the third Sunday of every month and each month they have a different theme. Inside they have a tea room. For only $6 you can treat yourself to a cup of tea our coffee with either a sweet and savory scone option. Their scones were devine.  They also have a small shop with beautiful handicrafts on sale.  Miss Amelia purchased 2 adorable knitted polar bears that we have not yet been able to separate from her.  
The building itself is a beautiful 2 story with an amazing collection of antiques to admire, as you strole through the rooms.  Outside is a surprisingly large garden that has been lovingly cared for by the volunteers. There are also a number of outbuildings to explore that are staffed by enthusiastic and well informed volunteers.  Amelia loved the sensory room that had touch and guess boxes,  scent boxes, a farm imaginative play table and a small mill where a lovely gentleman assisted her to mill some wheat into flour.  Miss Amelia loved this experience and is excited to make bread and cookies with her flour (I may have to provide some extra flour as she only milled a quarter of a cup).
As normal,  the unit presented multiple displays. Each display demonstrated a different skill from their manual of arms and platoon exercise.
The museum is surrounded by beautiful gardens and next door is the historic building the Fox and Firkin Pub, where you can purchase a refreshing drink and meal surrounded by it's historic atmosphere.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Toiling a New 1860 Chemise

For the past few years all my sewing seems to have been focused on Amelia May, Nic or mending.  My wardrobe is sadly in need of updating.  Much of my undergarments were made for my wedding 10 years ago this November.

I came to this realisation 2 weeks ago when repairing inner seams on some drawers and replacing hooks and eyes on bodices. Somme of the hooks were seriously deformed. 
When I first started in living history I only had basic sewing knowledge. I've now made so many amazing garments I figured it was time to make something special for me.  10 years ago I purchased this book '60 Civil War-Era Fashion Patterns'. In this book is a collection of patterns from Peterson's Magazine. It has had years of ogling and post-it-note plans. I've now decided to actually start making some items I've dreamed of for years. 
Due to my needs, I chose to start with the 1860s chemise. I really try not to reinvent the wheel. I had 2 similar period patterns that I was able to adapt to help me make my pattern. 
Simplicity 2890 had the same front and back shape,  as well as a similar front panel and sleeve. 
I then had to adjust the front panel to match the pattern diagram.
As I knew this was only a learning exercise I decided to make it issuing a fitted sheet that was in excellent condition,  but it's elastic had decomposed, so it was no longer usable. I purchased some cheap cotton ribbon for this chemise with the intention to use nicer vintage ribbon later on a finer version. 
Once I had my pattern I made multiple pin tucks to get a size and distance that would balance nicely. 
I also discovered that pin tucks and insertion lace can be quite tricky to do together.  In the past I've only ever seen one or the other. This took me a few days to perfect as the illustration and diagram had different pin tuck directions. after trying both I found the diagram with the tucks in facing the same direction was far nicer looking. I also had to adjust it a few times as my original pattern was too long. 

For the gores I was able to use another Simplicity pattern.
I did have to adjust it to be a slight bit shorter. Some patterns skip the gores,  but I believe they make the chemise stronger and help it to sit nicer around the hips while having less fabric around the waist that can be bulky under a corset. 

The buttons are small shell buttons that I purchased years ago from an op shop.  They had been salvaged from garments that were not saleable.
The chemise came together very smoothly due to adapting the pre made pattern pieces. While it took longer than expected I now have an amazing chemise that is very comfortable and a completed pattern.  I am also looking forward to constructing the nice version with finer and wider insertion lace. I just need to find a matching edging lace. 
The front of the completed chemise. 
The back of the completed chemise. 

1830s Frock Coat - Part 3

Well after 2 years of working on this frock coat it is finally finished. It would be the most frustrating, difficult and traumatic thing that I have ever sewn, but it is still also the most amazing jacket. Nic loves it and has worn it on many occasions.

 The coat with only the skirt to hem and the front buttons to attach.
The finished coat in action, back view.
 The finished coat, front view

Friday, January 17, 2020

Gentleman's Relish 1828

A few weeks ago Nic purchased a cute little pot with pheasants on the top.  At lunch we discovered the inside text. Nic suggested it may be something nice to research and make. 
To our modern thinking we assumed that it would be a plant based relish, as we had only ever experienced tomato or beetroot relish. We were very surprised to find that Gentleman's Relish was anchovy based and also goes by the names 'Potted Anchovies' and 'Patum Peperium'. I was unable to find the original recipe from 1828, but I was able to find many various recipes published post 1828. These recipes are all very similar, with small changes.  Following is our summarised version. 
With a mortar and pestle pound 3.5oz of anchovies and 2.5oz of butter until smooth. 
To this add:
Tablespoon of white breadcrumbs;
1/8th of a teaspoon of cayenne pepper;
Pinch of mace;
Pinch of ginger;
Pinch of cinnamon;
Pinch of nutmeg and
A pinch of ground black pepper
I then potted the mix and sealed it with 2-3mm of melted butter before refrigerating. Later, I will also cover the pots with waxed cloth. This recipe does require being stored in a cool location. 
I love anchovies and this relish had a very nice flavour with a mild spice flavour once the anchovy and butter flavours dissolve.  It was surprisingly not as overpowering as I had thought it would be. Nic is not a fan of anchovies,  but even he found it quite nice and is looking forward to trying it on scrambled eggs.

**Edit - so the next morning Nic was kind enough to make scrambled eggs on toast for breakfast.  The relish was delicious, but strong.  I would definately advise using sparingly if you are not a huge fan of anchovies.