Sunday, September 30, 2012

Taking to the Waters: Male Bathing Costume Construction Details

If you ask most reenactors what men wore to swim in during the mid-19th century, you would probably be told "nothing - men always swam in the nude."

Well, I'm sure there certainly were times when men swam in their skin, but a bit of research tells us that it was definitely not a case of "always". 

This scene, "The Bathe at Newport", by Winslow Homer circa 1858, shows a good reason why - in America, bathing was not gender segregated, as on the continent - and while the Victorians were not the prudes they are ever so frequently portrayed as, group nude bathing was definitely not a socially acceptable activity! 

Clues to what men actually did wear, are tantalizingly few. I choose to use this example in the collection of the McCord Museum as my inspiration. The original is wool, trimmed with braid.

The museum's description notes that men's swimming suits of the period were closely styled on underwear - and that's exactly what I used for the basic shapes when creating my custom pattern.

I took the pattern pieces for men's drawers and a square shirt and combined them into one piece. 

My initial "muslin" (actually an old flannel sheet) was a bit short in the torso, so I added an additional 3" - thus, the piecing you can see on the muslin.
When I first asked Robin if he would be willing to wear a period bathing costume, he readily agreed: if it was ORANGE, so if he ended up floundering in the waves, we could find him. As fate would have it, on our first attempt to find appropriate fabric, what did we find but bright orange wool! However, it was blanket weight and would have had him floundering in the waves for sure, so we settled on this color scheme instead


And behold, my version of an 1860's male bathing costume, which has come to be nicknamed the "Civil War Onsie"! It was never my intention to 100% replicate the McCord Museum piece, but to use it as reference. The basic shape is very close, but I used bands of red wool as my trimming and the mother of pearl buttons were great accents.

As the "test driver" so to speak, Robin reports that it is both functional and comfortable.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Technology - September 2012 Bead Journal Project

My series of rune stones have been all about forces and there's no denying the force of technology in our lives - it's what allows me to share these stones with you!

Like all forces, there is a duality to technology; it has the ability to be both a positive and a negative force in our lives. It's important to consider how a new technology may change our quality of life before embracing it, as once it becomes part of our routine, it's hard to go back to life without!

 Having said that, I'm probably the last human being on earth who does NOT have a cell phone - I'm really not a Luddite, I just don't feel the need to be available to the world 24/7. For me, the technology of a cell phone would decrease my quality of life, so I choose not to have one - simple!

For my rune stone, I used a portion of a circuit board, removed from a defunct VCR, as my focal point. 

As all modern technology is oil based, I used matte black beads to secure the circuit board to the stone - I wanted it to look like oil dripping down the edges.

I was initially unsure about this stone; it seemed out of place among the other stones, which are much more based in the natural world. But I decided it was appropriate after all; all the elements of modern technology are rooted in the earth - oil, metals, water, etc.

Do you embrace new technologies? Or do you adopt a bit of a "wait and see" attitude?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Sunshine on the North Shore

Summer's nearly over, we're quickly moving toward fall. But the colors of summer linger here and there, especially within this clump of  black eyed susans growing along the north shore, like a bit of sunshine caught on earth.

I really enjoy creating these mixed media pieces; the challenge of finding just the right thread, stitch or bead to enhance the image is endlessly satisfying!

Available for purchase here.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Servant Problem

MRS. MILLEFLEURS.- "Oh, Angelina! I'm so glad to see you!-You must excuse my looks. I've been House Cleaning all day, and I'm almost tired to death!" 

Good help is hard to find!!!

Servants were the underpinnings of the middle or upper class lifestyle in mid-19th century America, yet they are a most misunderstood subject. I'll be exploring the myths and realities of  domestic service at the upcoming 2013 Ladies & Gentlemen of the 1860's Conference in my presentation, The Servant Problem: Good Help is Hard to Find.

MRS. MILLEFLEURS.-"Oh, Bridget, do scrub a little more gently; you shock my nerves."

Many people have formed a viewpoint of domestic service based on classic novels and movies, such as Jane Eyre - but servants in England are far different than their counterparts in America. The "servant problem" is a constant refrain in literature of the period; the interactions between mistress and maid were frequently fraught with conflict.

Visiting the intelligence, the maid-of-all-work, the "Irish girl" - all this and more will be examined during my presentation.

If you've never attended the conference, it's an experience like no other: incredible presentations, workshops, original artifacts, quality shopping and more!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Touring Michigan - Munising

Water - it's the centerpiece of the landscape in Northern Michigan and was the focus of our recent visit to Munising, located on the southern shore of Lake Superior and a gateway to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

There are seventeen waterfalls in the Munising area, one of our favorites is Laughing Whitefish Falls. The falls drop a hundred feet down a limestone slide; in the spring, the flow is much stronger than now, but it's still beautiful. It's a tough place to photograph well, the ravine is so deep that only at midday does sunlight reach the bottom.

There's beauty in the little details too - the color of the rock, the play or light and water.

 With a forty foot drop, Miner's Falls is the reward for a twenty minute walk through the woods.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a place unlike any other, towering above Lake Superior are the most prominent of the park's  features, the multicolored sandstone cliffs for which the lakeshore is named. These cliffs reach to a height of 200 feet above the lake; the name "Pictured Rocks" comes from the streaks of minerals that stain and decorate the face of the wind and water sculpted cliffs. Sandstone cliffs of ochre, tan, and brown - sandwiched with layers of white, green, orange, and black - glisten against the cloud-streaked sky and clear waters of Lake Superior.

There are a few ways to see the Pictured Rocks, we choose a boat cruise this time. About 12 years ago, we hiked the length of the park - from Grand Marais to Munising, a total of 42 miles. Maybe we'll do it again some day!

The cliffs start out small:

But big on color! The colors and patterns are caused by water carrying minerals such as copper, iron and manganese through the soft sandstone.

If you're comfortable in a kayak on Lake Superior, you can get truly up close and personal!

 Arches and caves are formed by the forces of wind and water:

Many of the formations have been named, this is Indian Head:

This is Chapel Rock, topped with a magnificent pine - even more amazing when you notice the root system bridging the gap to the cliff!

Spray Falls marks the turn around point, the falls also marks the the resting place of an 1856 shipwreck;  "Superior" lies at the base of the falls in 20 feet of water.

As is common on Superior, a quick moving storm moved in on our return trip:

But it stopped just before we passed the East Chanel Light on Grand Island - we had spent the previous day on Grand Island, biking nearly 20 miles.

The Munising area is beautiful all year, but the best time to visit is quickly approaching: FALL! The colors are already starting to show just a bit - plan your visit soon.