Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A New Reenactment Group and Lots of Recent Sewing Projects

Well I finished my thesis and had hoped to take a nice break. I ended up getting a week off before beginning the preparations for the re-enactment unit that Nic and some of his friends started recently, The Adelaide Regiment of Volunteer Rifles, 1862-1865. They wanted to create a group that was accessible to anyone to join as well as being progressive in its portrayal and research, with the aim of being as historically accurate as possible. Nic had spent a few months researching and we finally had enough information to begin work. We also had arranged to have our first big event in taking part in the Australia Day Parade in the City on the 26th of January. This left me with a panic attack and just over 3 weeks to prepare.

The first thing that I started making was the units flag. The Anglican Cathedral in the city had 3 existing flags of a similar design from later periods of the regiment, which were all of the same size and construction. From this we assumed that the flag would be one sided and 3 by 4 foot in diameter. Those flags had more decoration and were of differing colours. Thankfully, we also had the description of the flag from the newspapers at the time, which described the colour of the silk and the fact that it had no decorations.

After hunting around for the correct coloured silk, it was fully hand sewn by both myself and my friend Mandi.
The completed flag

Sergeant Davis bearing the flag during inspection before the parade.

I was also kept busy sewing the summer white cotton trousers for the regiment. I ended up sewing 3 pairs. Unfortunately, due to time and fitting restrictions, Lieutenant DeGroot's ended up a little too big and he was unable to wear them for the parade. Once I have recovered I will need to make myself a pair and a new pair for Nic as his bought pair are too tight.

I also had to 'Farb' up a banner for the group for advertisement. There is no historical evidence that they had one, but we did require it for parades and future events to advertise the group to the public. Especially as we often get confused as Civil War Re-enactors and the Foreign Legion. I ended up looking at photos of Victorian Parades and museum banners to create an idea. I then chose the font and printed the lettering from Word to create a template of how it should look. 

 Two sample letters and pieces of paper folded to work out the font size.
 The printed lettering in the desired size to check the layout.
 We also tried a few colour combinations for the lettering, which was made out of felt using the printed off templates to cut around. In the end we settled on the red with black backing. We are also thinking of adding the bugles later.
Mandi and Myself carrying the semi completed banner (depending on if we add the bugles or not) during the parade.

Finally, I had been promising to make Mandi a cotton middle/working class cotton day dress for attending events. She already owned a few amazing silk dresses, however, for some of the events that I invite her to it is more practical and appropriate to wear washable cotton. I was meant to have her dress made for attending the Barossa Goldfields last year. 

The completed dress is the one that she is wearing in the above photo. It has a fitted bodice with waistband and bishop sleeves. I also added a watch pocket into the waistband. The front of the skirt is flat with pleats and pockets with a dog leg closure. The back of the skirt is cartridge pleated. I absolutely love the dress. It is by far one of the best dresses I have made to date.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Catch Up and the Dreaded Mending Pile

Well I have finally completed my degree and my honours thesis. So now that I have taken a few weeks to overcome the trauma induced by stress and study, it was time to get back to my sewing.

After winning the war over my huge starching and ironing pile (the only negative to reenactment and historical costuming) I was left with a huge mending pile. My husband loves his period shirts and has worn many of them to death. He says that the wear and tear make them more period correct, but no self respecting housewife would let her husband out in those shirts (in my opinion). Nic has 5 shirts and every one of them required repairs. These repairs included button replacements, holes, tears, slits, worn cuffs.

I find that there are many different ways that I mend shirts. I am not sure how historically accurate they are.

Cuffs - Nic wears out cuffs a lot due to wear and washing (black powder colours the fabric and requires bleaching and scrubbing at times). On the first repair I slit the seam and turn it under. On the second repair I completely replace the cuff. By turning it under it extends the life with a lot less waste and work.

The top cuff shows the worn fold of the cuff. The bottom cuff shows it slit and turned under, I then whip stitch the seam closed. This is a quick and easy way to extend the cuff's life, but can only be done once as it makes the cuff thinner and is impeded by the buttonhole.

Under Arm - this shirt was made for Nic by his dressmaker before we began dating. The gussets did not line up and had no reinforcing. As a result of age and use it ended up with a huge hole in the undersleeve. It was too big for me to darn, so I whipped the edges to the sleeve under-flaps to prevent further tearing and fraying.

I also used this technique on a hole on one of the shoulders where the gap was too big for me to darn (I know that some people can probably do this, but I honestly find darning hard and tedious). 


General Tears -
While I do cheat on some holes, I will darn when it comes to slits that are easier to close. This is a nice little "L" shape tear on one shoulder that is about 1" (2.5cms long).

I have yet to touch on my own mending pile yet and I still have one shirt that I am continuing to darn against my own wishes. Maybe I should let you decide if its worth it. So far Nic has outvoted me and wants it repaired for use as a Napoleonic Private. I have currently only finished just over an inch of the darning. Its a big job.

The Challenge: #1 Make Do and Mend
Fabric: -
Pattern: Year: Various - Napoleonic, 1830s, 1850s and 1860s
Notions: Cotton and Linen Thread, various buttons (bone, pewter and porcelain)
How historically accurate is it? Not sure
Hours to complete: Continuing, a little every evening
First worn: -
Total cost: thread and buttons from stash