Sunday, March 30, 2014

Happy Birthday

Today was my birthday. It was also a Zoological Promenade Day for the Victoriana Society. It was great to see my friends, dress in period attire and visit the zoo. Nic had not been to the zoo since he was little and I had not been since I first moved back home from China.

This month was also Jessie's birthday and Nic's birthday so we decided to celebrate all of our birthdays today.
 I know I mentioned my hair the other day, but it is amazing the difference longer hair makes. This took only 10 minutes to tease, rat and braid. The same style used to look a lot smaller and took me over half an hour. My bonnet also now sit on my head a lot better and tighter. I do not have to rely on hat pins to keep them attached anymore.
 Everyone gathered at the front gate awaiting any late arrivals. It was quite a shame, but they made Nic place his sword in safekeeping at the visitor station at the entrance. I guess they don't trust Victorians around all those amazing pelts, which is funny as they had a pelt stand just inside the door to educate against killing animals and all we could do was discuss the merits of each pelt and recommending different articles that they would be most suited to. This is especially pertinent as it is almost winter here and we do have an ice skating day in a few months and I could use a muff and winter hood. Thankfully the staff did have a good sense of humour. 
 We had 3 birthdays this month so I shared the day with Nic (13th March) and Jessie (24th March). We each had our own cupcake and candle.
 Sorry it is blurry, but the camera had an accident and it took a while to get the settings sorted.

 Adelaide Zoo is the only zoo in Australia with a Panda breeding program. It was happily ignoring the crowd and eating bamboo. I must have made an impression as it stopped eating to stare at me for a while. 
 Today was exciting as it was the first time that Nic was able to wear his French Crimean War chasseurs d'afrique uniform. It is a very striking uniform. 
The avairy was amazing. There were birds flying all around us. 
I think that the lion saw Nic's pants and thought of dinner as a second later she gave a huge raw that almost made me drop the camera.

This little fellow was sooo adorable. He was cuddly and licked my hands. He also tired to steal the sandwiches from my basket...
 At the children's petting zoo I begged my dad for $2 for a bag of food to feed the animals. It was great fun. They gentlemen made fun of my wanting to join in on the feeding, but they still had a turn and I'm sure I see laughter and smiles. I believe it is important to get in touch with your inner child sometimes.

 Some of the goats did get a little demanding for the food. It was funny how at first one of them bounced off of my crinoline, until they learnt how to hook their hooves onto the wires to keep themselves upright.  
I don't think I would want to spend my birthday any other way. A few of us are thinking of heading to the safari park at Monato next Saturday. Still in period, but exchanging our bonnets for pith helmets. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Chicken Coop Fun (part 1)

In exploring the past, we do more than just make and wear historical clothing. We have many interests including gardening, produce, preserving, and period pets.

We recently had chicken problems. Our old chicken Dotti (standard large red hen) was getting old and lonely. We went looking for companionship for her. Instead of just buying some more standard Isa Browns on point of lay.... we fell in love with a cranky OEG partridge bantam and her 3 babies. As a result we gave the OEGs our commercial coop and built a temporary run across the creek for Dotti.

She loved her new home, until...

1. New neighbours purchased the house next door with little white dogs that yap through the fence at her and also keep escaping into our yard and running around her run yapping at her.
2. We separated the mother OEG (called Lucille) from her babies to get her to stop being broody so that we could get her to lay and stop being cranky.
3. A friend had issues with his own flock of Isa's and asked us to take 2 of his that were point of lay and being bullied. These poor chickens were soo scared when we first got them, they very different hens now.
4. None of them getting along and yes the bantam bullied the Isa's.

This resulted in the run being separated into three and no eggs, due to the stress of the dogs yapping.

To solve this problem we build a new run on the other side of the house to the dogs. To save money we used branches from trees that had fallen down, chicken wire and an old metal framed door from the creek that had been on the property since at least the mid twentieth century. We were also able to line the floor with terracotta tiles that we found on the back lot. For the coop we decided to make a wattle and daub chicken house. We did not have any wattle branches so we used pieces of flexible wood that we had around the garden. The daub was a mix of cut straw, clay from the creek bed and lime mortar that Nic found in some archaeological research papers (we chose not to use dung as research currently has the impression that the quantity in tested specimens is soo low that it could have come from small pieces of dung that came from recycled hay and on testing has made no difference to the outcome of the mix). It took 3 wheel barrow loads to complete the two walls and about 2 weeks to dry properly. The weather has been crazy here so we put a temporary metal sheet roof on it. The next step will be to use some thin pine that was left over from a fence to make a shingle roof. Once it is completed we also plan to lime wash the walls.

This project is more historically inspired and so far is working well. The chickens love the new run. Dotti and the new Isa's (Henrietta and Polly) started to get along straight away. We could not put Lucille in with them and her and Dotti were fighting and Dotti had pecked off Lucille's comb (thankfully it did grow back). We put Lucille back with her babies, but she kept flying out at night (we suspect she didn't like her children on re-introduction) until one morning we found her with the big chickens and she has been happy their ever since. I guess this goes to prove that chickens function better in a nicer and less stressful environment.

The basic run down the side of the house. The branches were put in holes and back filled with gravel and then dirt.
 The framework with Polly and Henrietta supervising construction.
 The daub mixture
 Nic almost finished with the walls.
 The house, waiting for a new roof and white washing.
The chickens enjoying the run.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Crowning Glory

After two years my hair is now past my waist. Due to this, I felt it was time I put some effort into finishing making my caps and hair pieces for different impressions to make the most of my hair, when dressing late 1850s to early 1860s.

I have wanted a new evening hair piece for a while now. I love my yellow and black lace evening cap, but it is nice to have a change sometimes. This new one is copied from pictures in various magazines. I used millinery wire, a hair comb, green tape, wax orange blossoms, small pink flowers and green velvet leaves. I think that it is really pretty and compliments many hairstyles.

Front with back in mirror. 

I also finally made a nice lace cap. I also used various images from fashion magazines including Peterson's and Godey's to create this design. I thankfully had some vintage tiny white flowers left over from my wedding bonnet and some light green ribbon from trimming a bonnet a few years ago. The lace was recycled from Jessie's daughter's first wedding dress, which we had pulled apart a few months ago (the dress was a bustle gown made with a tulle overdress with embroidered net lace). I designed it using three sections of gathered lace with the bottom ruffle gathered onto an oval section of plain tulle.  

Sorry I have no photos of me wearing it. It really is nice on and very fancy.

Finally, I have continued with my knitting in making a working class cap by using the Godey's Sortie Cap pattern. I found this very easy to knit as the directions are simple. I used 4 ply wool that was left over from making my garters. There are a lot of people that have made this pattern, some of their suggestions I found very confusing (such as knit an extra setting row... which doesn't work as you drop every second stitch as the end and adding an extra row makes no difference). I would suggest just following the pattern. It seems small when you start, but when the stitches are dropped it gets a lot wider. The completed cap fits perfectly and stays on without claps, even in the wind. I did make one change in placing a ribbon through the front as it was rolling a little (as can be seen in the drawn image, but I didn't like that much).

 Sorry about my creepy mannequin, I am not sure why I painted them this way.

My Dream 1950s Dress

For a few years now I have been in love with this dress from the V&A Museum. It was made in 1957 by Pierre Balmain, in France. I had some amazing organza put aside for this project that Jessie had given me a few years ago. 

Like most projects it was shelved by projects of more urgent need. Thankfully, some friends of ours decided to make their wedding a vintage high tea theme. My version of this dress took me two weeks to make, including the toile stage. 

 My main inspiration was to copy the bodice. As I was using organza this was difficult, but very rewarding. I chose not to box pleat the skirt and instead gathered it using 5 fabric drops (I love the excess, very luxuriant).

I made a fully corseted bodice with a zip up back. The pleating was done first by hand and then I appliqued on the cut out flower designs. Each flower also had to be basted on to lining before appliqueing. The photos do not really show it but the dress is actually cut just below my knee, so it is not really at cocktail length. As I am tall, I decided it was better to have a shorter skirt length.

A photo of myself and my husband  at the wedding. Unfortunately, I do not have any photos of me standing up. I really do love this dress. It wears and feels amazing. I look forward to hopefully wearing it swing dancing one day.