Sunday, August 25, 2013

Make-do Hat

I had great intentions last year, to create a hat to wear with my bathing costume, during our two mile stroll down to the water - but it didn't happen.

And I had great intentions this year, to create a fanchon bonnet to wear with my 1868 dress when we attended the vintage baseball game and held our picnic - but it didn't happen and I even had the frame!

So I really needed a come up with a "make-do" hat quickly.

During the mid-19th century, hats were most commonly worn by girls or young women, but there were occasions when they were acceptable for a woman of "certain age" and picnics were one of those occasions. Additionally, they were also acceptable when visiting a watering place, such as Mackinac.

Ladies straw hats of the period typically had low crowns and shaped brims, the above image shows a very common style.

Here's a couple vintage images too:

So, on to my "make-do" version:

Unfortunately, I failed to take photos of the process. But I started with a cheapy straw from the craft store, that was in the Halloween box.

First,  I steamed and flattened the crown. Next I chopped about 3" off the brim. I wired the edge (hardware store wire, not millinery) and then covered the raw edge with grosgrain ribbon. Petersham would have been the proper thing to use, but I didn't have any and this was a "use what you have" project. A bit a shaping and I was making progress.

The final step was to add some simple ribbon trim - actually bonnet ties removed from a friend's bonnet, she didn't like the red and I replaced them for her. I didn't even iron out ends that had been gathered and fastened to the bonnet!

The red was a nice contrast to my dress and also coordinates well with my red and black bathing costume.

 Was it perfect? No!

Did it work for the weekend? YES!

I still plan to make the fanchon, but I rather like my sporty straw too!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Weighty Matter

Lead sinkers seem like an unusual sewing item, especially for a bathing suit - I know the guy at the sportings goods store thought so!

NOTE TO SELF: Sometimes it's better not to explain why you need particular items.

But last year, we discovered why it was suggested in period descriptions of 1860's bathing costumes - without them, your skirt resembles a jellyfish, floating on the water.

Lead was suggested, I'm sure because it does not rust. These days, lead is not as readily available as in the period. However, lead split shot sinkers are still used for fishing and can be purchased in small quantities.

The split made it very easy to attach to heavy wool cord...

Just a quick squeeze to keep them in place, an inch apart.

I opened a bit of the hem and carefully fed the cord in, securing each end.

But was it enough weight?

I'll let you know soon!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Playing With Pastels

The Mackinac Arts Council has been offering a series of workshops this summer; they offer a great opportunity to explore different mediums and to just play a bit, with no expectations of serious work...and it's been great fun!

I recently attended a pastel workshop by Nicki Griffith, here's her description:

Luminous, versatile, portable, painterly, contemporary and ageless...pastels are all these and more!  From the caves of Lascaux to Picasso's Paris to modern times, soft and oil pastels have been an enduring art medium.  They have a unique ability to bridge the divide between drawing and painting.  Plus there's something about holding that slightly messy crayon-like stick that brings out the inner-child artist in all of us!
In this workshop you will learn a brief history of pastels, see simple ways to handle the medium and go home with your own small floral study.  There will be a handout, short demo and personal support and suggestions (with lots of encouragement).

Here's the setup, including Nicki's example:

And her fabulous collection of colors!

A few finished works:

And here's mine!

I really love the pure colors that can be achieved and I even managed to work loose, which is a rarity for me. I usually tend to very realistic and tight and working with the pastels brought back some memories of childhood crayons.

Pastels are messy, which is both a joy and a hazard - I came home covered in color!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Interpreting the Images of the Past

Those of us interested in studying and interpreting the mid-19th century have a distinct advantage over those who focus on earlier eras: the advent of photography.

It cannot be overstated what a vast amount of information photos from the past have to share with us, but as with any resource, we need to be cautious in our assumptions.

A couple of vastly different interpretations could be made of the above image, is it an abolitionist lady making a statement? Or a southern matron illustrating a very different viewpoint?

Actually neither is correct:

Period photography can play some unintentional tricks (although the concept of "retouching" photos existed, even then), especially in regards to how certain colors photograph. Note the appearance of the bright yellow trim in the tintype - it looks black. Virginia Mescher has posted a very good article regarding the phenomenon here.

Note too the complexion differences, one lady having a naturally ruddy tone, the other more olive and photographing dramatically differently too!

I was very impressed with the work of the tintypists, Whalen and Shimmin - they spent a great deal of time on proper poses and lighting and the results were impressive. They also experiment with some modern style use of the medium, which were equally impressive.