Mid Century Drawers

No, not drawers, drawers!

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They fit – whew!

Undergarments in the past, the sort of thing that covers your backside, were called drawers. While I can’t find a definitive source, most people are speculating that long underwear type garments were called drawers because they were drawn up the body (as in drawing the curtains closed, drawing up your chonies). At least since the later 1500s, drawers referred to what we now call interchangeably pantaloons, bloomers*, underwear, pantalettes, underpinnings, unmentionables, linens, etc. During the mid 19th century, they were called drawers, and so that is what I will be calling them here. The item was designed to keep a person’s legs covered, both for modesty as well as cleanliness. Typical drawers for girls reached to the mid calf.

For my Mid Century Sewing Project, previously I made the child’s chemise, and almost immediately went onto the drawers. The pattern consists of one piece cut twice on a fold, and then a small portion is cut away from only half of it, creating a distinct left and right leg. Since I had surprised myself in enjoying the hand sewing so much making the chemise, I decided to make the drawers in a combination of hand and machine sewing. Around the crotch area, I hand sewed the seams and felled them so they would not ravel. I chose to make closed crotch drawers for Melody’s modesty. The legs came together so easily, I hardly need to explain anything. My only caveat is that if your child has hips wider than the waist, you will want to cut the pattern to the hip measurement, not the waist measurement. You can see in the picture above that although these drawers fit Melody, a bit more ease in the hips might serve her nicely.

Next I added the growth tucks. I put in three tucks, and it should be noted, I lengthened the pattern by 3 inches in order to have the tucks! This girl is tall. :-) I did not add any embellishment to the hem of the drawers. The pattern suggests white embroidery in between the tucks, but my embroidery is laughable at best! Auntie might be playing with this at the next event we do together haha.

Once the side seams and plackets were prepared, I attached the waist bands. The drawers have two bands – a front and a back – which button together at the sides. For the front treatment, I pleated the drawer body onto the waistband for a more flat front. On the back I gathered the fabric and also decided on a semi-adjustable waistband. The semi-adjustable waistband is made with a short drawstring inside so the band lays relatively flat, but can allow for a bit of ease. Although the pattern called for cotton tape as the drawstring, I didn’t have any so I used cotton cord. Also, I learned how to make hand stitched eyelets! These were easy and look so nice.

Hand stitched eyelets

Hand stitched eyelets

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Untied drawstrings

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Bound ends of the cords

Here I chose to bind the ends of the cords with thread. Since it is cotton cord, it can’t be warmed to create an aglet. But also since it is cotton cord, I didn’t want it to unravel.

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Finished semi-adjustable waistband

Once this was finished I went on to learn how to sew a buttonhole. Mine are not quite attractive yet, but they are functional, heh.

Button button

Button button

I found in my stash two nice 1/2″ shell buttons. Perfect! Modern mother of pearl is so thin, but these will be sturdy for use by a busy little girl. Around about this point, I was asked to give Melody her first sewing lesson. I am delighted that she is interested, and she did a great job for her first attempt!

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Finally, the drawers are finished. Here they are paired with the chemise and a child’s cage that I picked up second hand from another reenactor. The cage is from the Originals by Kay line and are known to be historically accurate. I have to make a minor alteration to it. The previous owner added a button & buttonhole, but it’s a bit snug for Melody’s waist. So, I’m adding a short extension to cover and strengthen the previous buttonhole and give us another inch on the waistband.

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Altogether now

Next up will be the stays. Melody asked for them specifically, and I figure if I’m going to do this, I better do it right and how she wants it!

* Bloomers in the 19th century were a type of pants, not drawers or undergarments, that were worn underneath skirts, and touted as a progressive manner of dressing. They were originally introduced in the 1850s by Elizabeth Smith Miller, and based on the harem pants and other types of loose trousers worn in Asian countries. Mrs Amelia Bloomer popularized the garment through her own wearing of them as well as advertising and writing about them in her newspaper. She was also known as a “radical” because she believed women should have the right to vote in national elections and that alcohol should be outlawed. And she was radical for her time! She owned a newspaper specifically for women; she served on the Iowa Suffrage Committee; she was friends with other reformers, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Mrs Bloomer helped women take on the rights we all enjoy today.

Mid Century Party Dress

Last year, my family went to the local county fair. Of course, I always take a look at the sewing entries, and the costume entires. The items in last year’s display were……interesting, to say it politely. I’m a dedicated admirer of historical clothing and sewing techniques. Some of the “historical costumes” submitted last year were exactly that – costumes. There is a huge difference between historical garments used in a modern stage play about the Antebellum South and actual reproduction garments worn by history enthusiasts. To most people, the two types of clothing look identical, but to those of us who know, the disparity is drastic. It was at that moment, as I gazed on a silk child’s dress made by a competent seamstress in a completely inaccurate manner to replicate the look of a Colonial child’s dress, that I decided I would like to make and submit to the county fair a full set of clothing in period accurate materials with period accurate construction techniques.

Um, what did I just say?

I’m taking on a project to create a mid-century (19th century for those who don’t know me well) party dress for my seven-year-old, made as though it came out of great-great-great-granny’s trunk after having been put away after the last big party, and then forgotten for 150 years.

Girls Dresses (c) Elizabeth Stewart Clark & Co.

To do this, I will be following the techniques in Elizabeth Stewart Clark’s Historic Moments Patterns, Girls Linens 1840-1865 and Girls Dresses 1840-1865. These two patterns were carefully researched by Ms. Clark to best represent the home sewing techniques used by most women of the era. There are various options for sleeves, necklines and trims that allow for styles across the classes – from poor to upper class.

Girls Linens (c) Elizabeth Stewart Clark & Co.

Now, I have been thinking about this project since last August. I have purchased white bleached muslin for the undergarments and two cuts of silk for the dress. Today I ordered fancy imported Swiss embroidered edging. I got out the pattern and read through the booklet. It’s a tiny bit intimidating when your pattern comes with a 30 page booklet of construction tips and instructions. But, this is one of the best patterns on the market, and I hear wonderful things about it, so I’m going to roll with it.

I took Melody’s measurements tonight. I have always said she is tall and lean! Her measurements fluctuate between three of the sizes in the pattern and one measurement isn’t even on the chart it is so small.

Chest 25″

Waist 21″

Back Neck Length 12″

Neck 11″

Arm Length 19″

Hip to floor 27″

Inseam 22″

Hips 27″

Her chest is between size A-B, waist is not even on the chart for A, BNL between B-C, Neck between A-B and arm between B-C. Sigh…I will have to make a muslin and do some alterations, I suppose. I expect I will start working on this soon as I’ve only got a few months before it must be turned in to the fair committee. Watch for updates as I proceed!

And wish me luck. Lots of it!

Construction project

It has been many years since I made a gingerbread house from scratch. I have a vague memory of doing this as a kid, and in between I did one from a kit that had pre made house pieces and awful tasting royal icing. I had a whim this week that it might be fun to make a gingerbread house with Melody, so here we go!

Ready, set, bake!

Ready, set, bake!

I downloaded some instructions from King Arthur Flour (click the link, it is packed with info!). The gingerbread recipe was easy to follow, if a bit bland. I had hoped for a more gingery gingerbread. Next time I’ll stick with my mother’s or grandmother’s recipe. The first batch was so dry I had to add a bit of milk just to get the final dry clumps to bind with the rest of the dough. The second batch was insanely sticky.  Go figure, I used the exact measurements and measuring cups for each recipe.  ???  I chilled it for an hour, then with my sister’s words of wisdom ringing in my head, I floured the heck out of my work surface, plopped down some dough, floured it again, and then floured it some more for good measure! The dough when chilled was stretchy and rubbery. I had a hard time rolling it thin enough, but did have enough left over to make some trees, elves and a Santa Claus cut out.

The King Arthur template

The King Arthur template

The Pixie House template from Gingerbread by Design

The Pixie House template from Gingerbread by Design

Instead of square windows on Melody’s house, we used a small heart cookie cutter. Awww, it was pretty cute. :-) We allowed the gingerbread pieces to cool quite a long time before assembly. In the meantime I made royal icing. The key to good royal icing is beating it a long time, not quite to merengue state, but close. You want it thick so it doesn’t drip right off or run. I used a plastic zipper type bag in a gallon size as my pastry bag, and snipped off one corner. It worked great! The freezer weight bags are quite durable.

Don't you use canned goods to make your gingerbread houses?

Don’t you use canned goods to make your gingerbread houses?

More canned goods

More canned goods

I piped a bead on the bottom edge of the wall and stood it up, then did the same with the next wall, all the way through four walls. How did I get them to stay up you ask? Well I used cans to prop them up heh. Even though the royal icing was nice and thick, gravity is stronger haha. We left these to set overnight, then put on the roof pieces in the morning. Here we ran into trouble. On the Pixie House, one front wall was actually curved, and one roof piece was too short. Not sure how that happened since I used the same pattern piece to cut them both.  I also have not figured out how to make the gingerbread bake flat. Ours was ripply and lumpy. Hrmm. we used the can technique to set the roof pieces and watched some TV for an hour.

Finally, we went to town decorating. I got a little crazy buying candy for this escapade because I didn’t know exactly what we would want. I like to have lots of choices! We had Twizzlers, M-n-M’s, Skittles, gum drops, Dots, peppermints, bell shaped chocolates, candy canes in two sizes, plus stick pretzels and mini Oreos. Oops! But, it paid off and we have really colorful houses!

One last note about the templates. The chimney on the King Arthur house left something to be desired. But the chimney for the Pixie House was very nice and sits very sturdily on top of the house. A combination of the two house templates might work if you have the right roof pitch for the “good” chimney to work.

Hey! I forgot to cut out the front door opening!

Hey! I forgot to cut out the front door opening!

Mini Oreo shingles

Mini Oreo shingles

Gingerbread house love

Gingerbread house love

Someone got bored lol

Someone got bored lol

I lost Melody at this point. She wanted to get it done and go play. She was a trooper though and spent a good 3 1/2 hours doing this! She came back at the end to sprinkle the coconut for the snow. She was also high as a kite from eating plenty of the candy. :-)

Front

I remembered my own door

Why yes, that is Life cereal for shingles

Why yes, that is Life cereal for shingles

12 rows of it with 9 pieces per row...

12 rows of it with 9 pieces per row…per side

Don't forget the back!

Don’t forget the back!

This was a really fun activity but I think in the future I will only make one house. I’m glad we both had a house to decorate because we had very different ideas of what should be included and of course different levels of talent. But if we do this next year, Melody will decorate the house and we will enjoy it however she decides to do it!

Yum!

Yum!

So many things!

Princesses

Princesses

Dress Review Revisited

You may remember my pattern review of the Simplicity 2569 Princess Dress, which I made for Melody back in February this year. At the time I figured it would be fairly easy to make this in a 100% machine washable version. Since our summer vacation was planned coincidentally to fall right after Cassidy’s birthday I determined I would make the dress and the girls would wear their matching dresses during vacation.

Cassidy’s dress is made from a variety of pink cotton fabrics that Melody picked out, plus a poly lace overskirt and poly trims.  It was just as easy as I remembered.  The only real challenges were to my math skills.  The pattern calls for 60″ wide tulle, but we used 45″ wide lace, so I had to quickly calculate how much lace and then alter the cutting layout accordingly. Instead of 4 wide panels, it had 8 narrower ones. I also didn’t make it a three layer skirt since the cotton & lace were heavier than the tulle.

Even though the girls are different heights, they both have on a size 6/7 dress. Cassidy’s turned out to be a bit long once she tried it on, so I used some safety pins to create “panniers” on her hips. As she grows they can be taken out.

Vacation

The photo above was taken in Biltmore Village, NC. It was a humid evening but we walked around the village shopping and having a nice time. The girls got SO many compliments! They were truly the belles of the ball, so to speak. Tara and I were the wicked step mothers, lol.

The Biltmore estate is an amazing and beautiful house! If you ever get a chance, please go. It wasn’t even that expensive for the tour and the audio guides. The home was lived in until the 1950s I believe, so it really does feel like a home, rather than a museum. Most fascinating about the home was the restoration process, because since it was a home there was normal wear and tear on certain things. Just think about the normal wear and tear on your own home, then consider you have a home filled with priceless antiques and expensive fabrics. Just wow. I highly recommend this tour of an American “castle.”

The rest of our vacation was too darn short! Melody loved playing in the backyard with Burke & Cassidy, going to Wonderworks – a kids hands on museum, and just hanging with the kids at home. These are the times the miles feel so great, but the wonderful memories shorten them.

Swimming Lessons

Melody has been taking swimming lessons and has gone from not leaving the side of the pool to jumping in, over and over and over, with the water above her head! We are so proud of her accomplishment of overcoming her fears. This is a big step for a child to own their own safety in a pool. Great job Melody! And thank you to Gramma A for taking her every day!

Girl Scouts

Mom has been trained to be a coleader of the Daisy troop this year. I’m excited and we are going to have a great time! I hope to blog more about this as we go along in the year.

Claire

Some of you understand the concept of an online Mom’s group. We met virtually when we were all pregnant 8 years ago, and we have stayed tight. Lots of us have met in person and we are now just like a great big international mom’s group. I think of these ladies as some of my closest friends. Well, one lady who I dearly love has been diagnosed with cervical cancer. All I can say is that we are praying every day that the treatment beats it into remission and it never ever comes back! When something like this strikes your group of friends, the immediate reaction is “no way, not in our group!” but it’s real and we have to face it. The very hardest, most difficult part of all of this is the inability to pop by and sit with Claire, make dinner for the kids, do the wash, pick up the groceries, whatever. The normal things you do when a friend or family member is in need. This is another time the miles really stretch.

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We are with you Claire!

That’s about it for now. Melody is back to school next Tuesday and she will be a FIRST GRADER! Yahooo!!!!!

Painting furniture

Several years ago, I bought a child sized table and two chairs for Melody to use in her playroom. At the time, it was unfinished, but I always intended to paint it. But in the meantime, Melody worked her creativity on the surface, coloring on it, spilling glitter glue, and all together enjoying it. But we finally decided that at 6 years old, she ought to have a finished table and chairs. Over the Independence Day holiday recently, we determined the project would commence.

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After a visit to Home Depot’s paint department, we had all we needed. Melody was very specific about the paint color. She chose a beautiful violet color, and wanted white flowers painted on top. So, with stencils, paint, brushes, sand paper, and primer, we began. You can see there was quite a lot of crayon to remove. The play-doh residue came off quite easily. The glitter glue disintegrated and covered everything in powdered glitter. Once the surfaces were clean and smooth, we primed.

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At this point, Melody lost interest in the project for the day. The primer dried overnight and I applied a second coat the following day. After that, I sanded the surfaces to take down any significant bush marks, dribbles or other imperfections.

Next, paint.

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It is very purple! Looks like we need to tone it down a little bit with some white flowers.

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The stencils turned out very pretty. They are Martha Stewart Crafts stencils and we used a foam “pouncer” to apply the paint. I am no pro at stenciling, but I read the instructions. I have to say, the Martha Stewart Crafts instructions were thorough and very helpful. Melody did the larger flowers and I did the small ones on her chairs. She wants me to make pads for the seats. I’ll see what I can do. Maybe that is something a Gramma could do for Christmas, heh, hint, hint.

The table and chairs are now in her playroom and she uses them to write in her summer journal, color and play. Hopefully some day, she will use the with her own children!

Tiny Stars

Granted, I’m biased, but we could not be more proud of our tiny star! Melody will be in her third dance recital this coming Friday. The girls will dance to Somewhere Over the Rainbow, as performed by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. It’s a sweet little tune sung to ukulele. Little girls in tutus, showing off their arabesques and leaps, are beyond cute, aren’t they?

Our star

Our star

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Heritage House – Riverside, CA

Sunday June 30 we were so pleased to attend the 20th Annual Old Style Independence Day Ice Cream Social at the Heritage House in Riverside, CA. This gorgeous Victorian house has been lovingly restored and is a curated museum of Victorian life in early Riverside. Mr and Mrs James Bettner moved from New York to Riverside for his health in the 1870s. After his death, Mrs Bettner commissioned the house as a grand showcase of Victorian living. The house gives tours from September to June. The summer months are reserved for updating projects and the upstairs rooms are just too hot for guests. This is a vintage home and they did not have central air, lol. There is a gift shop and the House staff is wonderful! My colleague from history events is a docent there and it is clear she has a deep love for the home.

The Ice Cream Social is an annual fundraiser for the House, and all proceeds will be used to pay for school busses to bring 3rd & 4th grade children to visit the house. It is important that young children not only get a lesson in local history but also touch the beauty of Victorian culture. If just one child in a group finds a love of history and goes on to promote learning, then the fundraisers have been a tremendous success! Children learn games and past times that do not involve electronics, how laundry was washed in a manual agitator washing machine, and how the grace of the Victorian era was more than just architecture. Check the gallery for some photos from our visit.

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Imaginary friends

When I was a little girl, we moved from our old house to our new house (where my family lived for nearly 40 years), and I missed my friend Jimmy so badly I would pretend he was with me. He was my imaginary friend at a time I was uncertain, didn’t know the neighborhood kids yet, etc. I think. I have very few memories of this time, because we moved when I was three-going-on-four. I knew Jimmy was imaginary, but he seemed real when we played together. Anyway, one time I was playing and imagining that Jimmy was chasing me, so I locked him in the bathroom. For real. My mother thankfully had one of the special tools that unlock those doorknobs that don’t have a key, and it all worked out. I remember talking about why I had done that with her, and she told me it was ok to have an imaginary friend. Shortly after, Jimmy left my mind and I forgot all about him for many, many years.

Flash forward to about five years ago and I am reading Alive in Wonderland, the blog of Suzanne Broughton, who I met through the OC Register. She was posting hilarious stories about her son’s imaginary friend, SoSo. Ben was four when SoSo came around, married LuLu, introduced Knock-Knock his brother and CoCo his dog. I read these stories with fondness, remembering how Jimmy had been so important to me when I was that age.

Well, about two months ago, Melody met a ‘ghost’ named Cheryl, or Carol if she’s been naughty, who followed her home. Melody’s friend Lily has a ghost that followed her home, as well. Cheryl has stayed around, playing with Melody’s toys, moving things around and otherwise pranking her from time to time and keeping her from sleeping. This morning, Melody explained how Carol had moved the missing piece from the Perfection game so that she (Melody) wouldn’t be able to take it to game day at school. But then, Melody remembered – not in a dream mind you – that the missing piece was on the TV cabinet because she’d been intending for me or her Dad to pay Easter Egg hunt with the pieces. She told me this upon waking this morning. Not remembering a dream.

I could hear Melody talking in her bedroom while dressing this morning, ostensibly having a conversation with Cheryl. In the car, she advised me that Cheryl has a dog (who’s name has escaped me) cat named Teensie and that the dog cat plays with Browser while he is sleeping and that’s why Browser’s feet twitch. At that moment, Cheryl and her dog cat were in the cargo space of my SUV as we all drove over to school. Also, Cheryl and Teensie eat invisible carrots.

Sometimes, Melody will stop in the doorway of her playroom or bedroom, state very clearly “Cheryl, stop it!” and then head off to whatever it was she was going to do in the first place.

Apparently, imaginary friends and/or ghosts are fairly common in the kindergarten set.

Sometimes I worry that because Melody does not have a sibling, she is somehow lacking in stimulation or companionship at home. She often begs us to have friends visit, and when they do come over she begs them not to leave. Are these feelings of loneliness playing out as Cheryl? Research suggests that an imaginary friend for a child is a way to express fear, anxiety, uncertainty, and other feelings that children have difficulty expressing. Most children have encountered an imaginary friend by age 7. Most adults do not have an imaginary friend, because society isn’t ready for Harvey and it is most often seen as eccentric. Sometimes it is seen as mental illness, and that just makes adults uncomfortable. Adults who do have an imaginary friend tend to keep it a secret for fear of stigmatization.

Fortunately, other research suggests that imaginary friends help children in a positive fashion. Children who chat with their version of Cheryl tend to develop language and conversation skills at an earlier age, and high school students who reported having an imaginary friend during childhood had developed better coping skills and resiliency than their peers. So while Dr. Spock might scare a parent into thinking their child has a serious psychological problem because of the presence of an imaginary friend, the reality is that children will likely be just fine.

I turned out ok. I’m pretty sure Melody will too.