Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ever need a Colonial costume quickly?

Every once in a while, I am invited to dress up in costume and represent the early American crafts of spinning and/or weaving/knitting, etc. The first event was in the springtime, and the dress I made kept me warm on a cool day; however, that same dress seemed like a huge punishment when worn last summer on a sweltering August afternoon in the sun.

This coming weekend -- another August day in the humid Virginia weather -- I am going to join my guild in demonstrating the domestic arts (ahem!) at the Albemarle County Fair. A group called Backyard Revolution has created a settlement which will attempt to replicate life in the agrarian economy of the late 1700's through the 1800's. There will be natural dyeing of fibers, spinning and weaving along with blacksmithing, log-home building .. oh, lots of things that those folks had to do every day of the week just to subsist.

I will be spinning. Usually I sneak in my plastic spinning wheel, a little jewel from Babe's Fiber Garden, but this group sounds like they might be a little strict on period interpretation. My PVC plastic frame with a stainless steel wheel from a wheelchair will probably not cut it, pass muster. So, I am taking a couple drop spindles and some fleece from a Virginia flock which a girlfriend manages. They are Leicester Longwools, a cousin of my beloved Bluefaced Leicester, so that will fit in nicely. And, I will be working with fiber from Central Virginia, too.

But, back to my costume! I mentioned that I had made a dress for my first appearance in Colonial garb. That thing was ugly, plus it really did not fit and I had positioned safety pins along the bust to create pleats. In preparation for the upcoming fair, I decided to cut off the top and make a skirt and then to just buy a white blouson sleeved blouse (something like a peasant blouse) and an English vest. All of this brings me to the point, which is that I have a great recommendation for anyone needing to put together a costume to approximate early American dress.

It is Jas Townsend & Son, inc. They have a good selection of clothing for men, women and children plus several little accessories, such as the pockets which were worn under aprons mostly. They are muslin pockets with a cotton twill tape running through a little band on the top, but I saw several women in costume who wore theirs on the outside of their skirt, with no apron, and adapted this idea. I sewed my pocket onto the side of my new skirt ... made from the ugly dress. Great solution.

Here is the link to Jas Townsend & Son website: I give them top recommendation!

Next was footwear. My old Berkinstock sandals sort of remind me of pieces of leather which women might have wrapped around their feet during the Middle Ages. I am now in possession of a pair of Mary Janes, by Naot. They work fine, but what about socks? To knit a pair of knee length natural socks in four days is pretty much impossible for me, so I decided to drag out the antique circular sock machine. Within two hours and a couple of setbacks which taught me to check my equipment before launching into a project, I was in possession of a pair of kneesocks done in my lovely BFL Ultra! They were both too long, though, so I have had to unwind the toes and finish them off by hand, but much less trouble and work than handknitting! I have two days to go, and one toe to go, and then must wash out the machine oil. That was the result of over-oiling a reluctant sock machine into movement.

I'm looking forward now to getting dressed up for this shindig on Saturday. The weatherman, though, is calling for a week of solid rain. So, we shall see how the sky looks that morning.

No comments: