Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Colonial Long Waistcoat

Earlier this month I finished the custom order of the early American waistcoat. The order was from a returning customer, Dan, who is very tall and a very good customer. He bought breeches from me last year and we've been corresponding about another project for a while.

Dan wearing "my" breeches

It's bad, but whenever I send Dan an email my fingers automatically type "Dad" instead of "Dan." Or even worse, once I typed "Dam" instead. But I must have caught all the mistakes because Dan bought and got the waistcoat this June.

Dan's Waistcoat on my Barbie mannikin

 Materials Used

I bought the green wool from a friend who, I'm pretty sure, had bought it in bulk from Heritage Fabric. I've looked at their wool before, but a minimum order is 10 meteres, and that's a lot of money.

The buttons were pewter with star flower design from Jas. Townsend(buying two ten-packs saved us something).

The lining was my favorite, Kaufman Essex natural linen/cotton from

The pattern was the J.P Ryan long waistcoat with the option of sleeves.

Even with money-saving measures like buying the wool at wholesale price from a friend, using a blend for lining, and ordering cheaper buttons, material cost is so crazy high. Usually when I'm making an item for the first time or if the customer is a friend or returning customer, I charge less, so when I list things on Etsy for the greater public it always goes up. But I still think my prices are decent, all things considered!

Welt pocket with flap

The pockets were new to me. It's just a basic welt pocket underneath the flap, but I'd never attached pocket flaps over a welt pocket like this before. According to the instructions they can be added in the welt pocket seam, or topstitched over the welt pocket. I felt that with this wool adding the flap into the seam might be too bulky, so I topstitched them. The concern there is that they might come loose sooner than if they had been in the pocket seam. So anyway, the jury is still out on that one.

All the seams were done by machine, and the welt pockets were by machine. The buttonholes and hemming were by hand. There were three buttons on each pocket, and twelve down the front. Since we got ten-packs there were two extra, so I added them to the back pleats for decoration. I didn't plug them both because I forgot to before I did them hemming, and because it's really hard to sew a plugged button back on. Putting buttons on the back of a coat is just a decorative way to save them for when a button falls off the front, I think.

So there's that! Another order, another garment explored.

Friday, June 19, 2015

A Rendezvous

I've been doing living history for six years, and Penny has been my reenacting buddy the entire time. We decided to take a quick history trip together up to central South Dakota for the 2015 High Plains Rendezvous. Now, this is not a rendezvous with destiny or anything like that: it's basically two weeks of tent camping with a bunch of wild people. We sometimes have HPRR members visit the Fort, and next year the Fort is actually hosting the 2016 Rendezvous. So we thought it might be a good time to get to know HPRR a little better.

Penny and I. New Green Dress Day. It was cold.
Most of the HPRR people I've seen have been the fur trading, Indian-like, pioneering sort of people, so that's what I was expecting. And for the most part those were common roles, but there was also a group of enthusiasts new to me: Primitive campers. Not necessarily based on any historical era, these people just enjoyed wearing simple clothing, using canvas tents, and cooking over a fire. In fact, I felt like the majority of the clothing worn there was wildly(I say again, wildly) inaccurate for any time in history. I can appreciate the joy of getting away and participating in that type of rustic atmosphere(though maybe not for two whole weeks) but now that I've seen it I think my preference would be for military living history.

All the tents were canvas with wood poles.
The majority of the campers were probably over fifty. There were some families and some older singles. One thing most of the campers had in common was that they were a fairly rough crowd. One evening I found myself watching a gambling scene straight out of a western saloon set. By the end of the weekend I was fairly fed up with profanity, vulgarity, and general poor taste. I felt the entire camp was in need of serious revival, or judgement(oh Lord! Bring the lighting!).

Old Teal Dress Day, cooking over the fire.
Before we left I finally got around to mending my faded old Regency dress. I'm not sure it will be decent much longer, but it's good enough for camping. On Wednesday I cooked lunch over the fire. I tried Scotch eggs, which is basically sausage wrapped around boiled eggs and then fried. I had about a fifty-percent success rate: half of them fell apart, and half of them turned out perfectly.

The view from our Cabin, the one second it was sunny.
Because Penny is too old and I'm too soft, we rented a nearby cabin(it was adorable, and very clean) instead of tent camping. We were glad we did, too, because it was grey and rainy and usually near 60F for most of the four days. The Rendezvous site was just a few miles away on private property. It was gorgeous: the road into the site led down a hill into several acres of woods with a creek running through the middle of the site. It was all very well-kept. And I never got a single tick.

Tent decor: He told us it was an Alligator Turtle shell, from 1949.
There were various vendors selling various goods; one blacksmith and one kitchen. Someone told us that at this rendezvous there were over 200 campsites, and that the highest number they'd seen was at a rendezvous with over 1000 campsites. I bought a cup(I'm soooooo susceptible to pottery; I love pottery) and a woven belt- that was embracing my wild side, after being around all those savages. Plus it was only $2.

A Printing block from the early 19th Century
One lady brought her stamps and let us try stamping fabric. Some of her blocks dated back to 1850, if not earlier.

That's what I stamped, while being eaten alive by mosquitoes.
On our last morning a very kind gentleman showed me how to shoot his blackpowder rifle and pistol I say he showed me, because I didn't do much except pull the trigger.

Mr. Oklahoma let me shoot his blackpowder rifle and pistol.
 The rifle was(I felt) extremely heavy. If I was actually trying to defend myself with that rifle, I'd be in trouble because I don't think I could have held it steady. The pistol was fun and surprisingly loud.

I didn't aim at anything. I just shot.
We also met a nice man from Canada who helped carry our bags down the hill. He was extremely talkative and we learned in a very short time that he only had nine toes, he'd been reenacting forever, he knew just how to bake biscuits in a dutch oven, and his wife had recently died.

A needed commodity at Rendezvous, I'm sure.
 We also met the grave digger. He was slightly morbid but friendly. There was almost always someone shooting at the range. There were specific times for rifles, pistols, shooting at a mark or shooting clays. There was also tomahawk ans knife throwing most days, but that was mostly little boys who did a terrible job of it. When it wasn't raining, there was live music in the evening. Musicians would either gather together to play, or just sit at their respective tents and all play different things at the same time.

Moonshine, for the first time ever. At least it was the good quality stuff.
Overall spending time at the Rendezvous was an interesting experience. Both our cabin site and the rendezvous sites were just beautiful, rolling prairie with woods and lakes. I'm glad to be home, though.

Thursday, June 11, 2015


The emergency dinosaur order went as well as expected. Not a chance in Amazonia that any of those adults actually looked like dinosaurs, but it got done.

Dino hoods for foolish adults
I'm also currently working on a cow. Cotton duck, extra-large shirts, pants, hoods and hand covers. The Woman of Energy wanted me to attach udders, but I very much hope that is not going to happen.

Cow shirt with pockets!
Cow pants with pockets AND a tail!
Cow hoods with pink floppy ears!

And that's about it.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Sickly and Sewing

We hadn't even got over the business of Grandma's funeral before Presbytery came. Presbytery gets to be more fun every year, because after seven years of attending there are more people we know and look forward to seeing again. Except I came down with a weird flu bug before presbytery, and a cold afterwards. I was so disgusted with myself, I was considering flagellation. When we got home Mom said that she and Dad were going to strictly do nothing all next week, and then she promptly came down with the flu. So I guess she really meant it.

Uncle Sam
Over at the costume shop I'm currently working on a three-piece suit in striped sheeting for an Uncle Sam outfit. Personally, I think it looks like a pajama set. It's one of those outfits that the Woman of Energy says "It looks spectacular!" and I'm thinking, whoever wears that is going to look so stupid.

Wedding Dress Cape
The Costume Shop recently purchased a large load of formals and old wedding dresses that are too worn to be resold and too many to be rented, so the Woman of Energy told me to cut some of the skirts down into capes, to be dyed and sold at Renaissance Faires. They were actually turning out pretty well, until the Woman of Energy stormed in today with an emergency order for four adult dinosaurs. I'm not looking forward to that, because there is no way to make a human look decently like a dinosaur!