1850s · Finished! · Millinery · Outerwear · Reenacting · Reenactments

A black straw bonnet for living history day

So, despite my self-imposed reenacting hiatus, I kinda slipped this weekend and attended living history day at Fort Steilacoom.

These things are like crack, I tell you!*

In my defense, they really needed more women to bring the fort to life, so I was one of the two women there (I played the daughter of the Colonel, the other gal played my mother).

One of the bedrooms at Fort Steilacoom.

Fort Steilacoom is a bit different from Fort Nisqually (where I usually reenact) in that it is an American military outpost, as opposed to a (mostly) recreated British trading post. Another difference is that Steilacoom is only open select days out of the year, and, as a result, severely underfunded. The museum is right next to a mental hospital (we often joke that when the patients there see us and remark that there are time travelers outside, they’re not joking), which completely gutted the area in 1872 that now there are only 4 of the original buildings standing.

Anyways, the heat in the building wasn’t working (no surprise there ;)) and it was quite chilly, so I wore my red wool basque, tan wool skirt, 3 petticoats, long johns, wool socks, and, of course, my cage crinoline (I really don’t get enough opporotunities to wear this!).

I also wore my new straw bonnet!

The straw form is from Vivian Murphy (aka the Mantua Maker), but I did trim (aka decorate) it! The lace is from Fine French Laces, and the curtain, ties, and bow are from a silk Ann Taylor blouse I thrifted. 😉

The only photo I have of me during the reenactment itself was one taken by Carol, this red-headed older lady that works with the historical association for the museum. She came back an hour later with an 8 1/2″ by 11″ print of it. When she gave it to me, she told me that I could use it for my “publicity.” Too cute!

*Full credit for the connection between reenacting and crack goes to Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz.

1850s · Finished! · Outerwear · Reenactments

The “inspired by Margaret Hale” 1850s wool coat

'Well, hello, cute gentleman in a top hat. Let me greet you at the door in my shawl. You see, I've been working on a coat for the past 4 years . . . "

One of my other favorite things in sewing – besides procrastination sewing, of course! – is working on projects for years and years. I mean, sure you can sew something in one sitting, but it’s way more fun to sew it in spurts, throwing it in a bag in the closet when you get bored or tired or frustrated by it.

Enter my 1850s wool coat, which has been in various incarnations since 2007. The backstory on this is that it gets cold here in the Pacific Northwest during our fall and winter reenactments, and while shawls have worked, I wanted something a bit more warm. Plus, I just love a classy coat. Winter is one of my favorite seasons because of all the cute peacoats I can wear.

Right, back to the 1850s. My original inspiration for this coat was “La Polka” from 1854: 

Originally, I was going to make this out of a medium weight tropical wool, but that was a bit too light. Luckily I was gifted this fabulous purple coating wool (I *think* it’s a melton, but I’m not entirely sure about that) to make the coat with, and I got incredibly inspired to do so after watching North and South for the millionth time with my mother (okay, so the hope of having my own Mr. Thornton to follow me around in a chilly Northern English mill town while I doted on his poor factory workers and upheld Victorian morals was also a huge motivating factor, too) and seeing Margaret’s quite lovely purple wool coat.

However, I knew that I wanted to have oodles of velvet trim like any proper 1850s lady would, and so the “inspired by Margaret Hale” 1850s wool coat was born.

And, after 4 years of working on it (2 years of planning and drafting and mocking the pattern and 2 years of hand-quilting the lining and cutting the coat and sewing the pieces together and applying the trim), I finished the coat in time for Saturday’s reenactment!

Doing my best Margaret Hale confused and dazed look, complete with a rabbit fur muff!

The wider velevet trim is fabric, and the narrower trim is ribbon.

The upper-bodice part of the coat is lined with a hand-quilted lining of batting and polished cotton, and the sleeves are lined with silk twill.

Oh, and the reenactment? Fabulous! I spent time chatting and catching up with reenacting friends, teaching visitors (and tons of cute kids!) calligraphy, and sewing in the parlor.

It was a lovely day and I’m so looking forward to the Christmas reenactment next month!