December 30, 2010

Full View Godey's Lady's Book for January 1864

I really love it when people have wonderful resources at their disposal and take the time to share them with others. I decided to digitize one of my Godey’s Magazines that wasn’t available online so everyone can benefit from it. I wish it turned out a bit nicer but I couldn’t use my scanner without damaging the magazine. The benefit of using my camera is that the pictures are of a really high resolution. You can read it in my pages at the top of my blog page. It is really hard to read in picture form, anyone who would like a PDF copy of it, please leave a comment with an e-mail I can send it to or send an e-mail to

Enjoy! (Oh, and I promise, no more Civil War posts for a while, I've been neglecting other periods and topics terribly.)

December 29, 2010

1850s Multicolored Yarns

Pearl wool and Chine Wool were multicolored wools similar to multicolored yarns today. In the late 1850s, these yarns were a relatively new style. These yarns were dyed alternately white and one or more colors, about 1/4 inch to 1/2 and inch long of each color. This yarn was used in scarves, hoods, and decorative pillows. This very pretty, sweater vest is possibly made out of pearl wool.

Another type of multicolored wool was "Clouded Wool." Clouded wool was  Clouded wool was wrapped in corn husks,paper, cloth or string every two or three inches apart before dyeing to create a white and colored effect. Clouded wool was popular in the 1840s.In later years clouded wool was made by combing two different colors of dyed, raw wool together before it was spun. Blue clouded wool socks are referred to in many early 20th century books and a possible "clouded blue sock" can be seen at the Wisconsin Historical Society. 

Below is a pattern for a knitted comforter or scarf. It is knitted with pearl wool and black to imitate woven plaid. For reenactors, if you can find 100% wool with 1/4-1/2 inch color streaks, a knitting project using it could add some much needed variety to the group impression.  

December 27, 2010

Living History Award 2010

With the end of the year approaching, I thought I'd point out some excellent blogging, living historians.  Currently the award if for ladies only. The ladies are the unseen foundation of living history and few people actually see all of the work they put into reeactments.

Many people don't get to the clothing we sew, the food we cook, and the chores we do, just so the men can have a battle. :D We also have to look pretty while wearing the same clothes for three days straight, not showering, and sleeping on the ground. (Okay, I admit, the men do a lot too, some women go into battle and some guys sew their own clothes.) But I think that everyone will admit that the following ladies do deserve recognition for their dedication to the hobby:

*The 1st award goes to Atlanta from The Story of a Seamstress. She always has a lot of projects going that get us through the reenacting off season. She also created a website for beginning reenactors. 

* The 2nd award goes to Becca Kae. and Susan and The Lady's Guide for Re-enactresses. Their blog gives numerous tips for reenactors.  

* The 3rd award goes to Bethany Lynn at Diary of a Seamstress. Bethany Lynn is a Living History rising star. Her blog shows photos of a lot of beautiful clothing she has made for both men and women. I expect more, great things from her in the future.  

Congratulations Ladies!


With that being said, I need help with my HTML. My blog template has a serious issue. On some computers the page looks fine and is readable, but on many computers it is tiny. I have read a lot about how to change it, but nothing adjusts it so it looks good on small and large computer screens. Does anyone have any idea how to improve the template?

December 26, 2010

Christmas Ghost Stories: A Lost Tradition

Charles Dickens in 1842

During the 1820s-1830s, there was a heightened interest in forgotten Christmas traditions. Many traditions such as Christmas Ghost stories, decorating trees, and carol singing. 

The industrial revolution left families with more time and money to celebrate the Christmas holiday. Images of Prince Albert and his family celebrating Christmas, were published and republished, which further popularized forgotten Christmas traditions. Our celebrations today are a direct result of the Victorian celebrations. People sent Christmas Cards, went caroling, and even gave gifts.

Telling Christmas ghost stories was a popular Christmas tradition in the early and mid 1800s that has not survived to today. The most famous Christmas ghost story is by far, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Charles Dickens was inspired to write a Christmas Carol when his father was imprisoned for debt and Charles had to work in a shoe-blackening factory among the poor. Seeing the poor working conditions coupled with the lack of Christmas celebrations among all people incited him to write about the forgotten traditions and greed.  

Christmas ghost stories were widely popular in the 1830-40s, many writers wrote their own. Magazines of the time almost always included a ghost story in their issue for December.  It is thought that the ghost story tradition originated from the celebration of the winter solstice, or Yule. The shortest day of the year was associated with the "death of the sun" and its "rebirth."  The twelve days of Christmas also comes from traditional the Yule celebrations which lasted for 12 days.

Some Victorian Ghost Stories:
- A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.
- A Christmas Ghost Story by Thomas Hardy.
- Winnie and Walter's Christmas Stories by Increase Niles Tarbox.
- A Ghost Story for Christmas by Dudley Costello

December 21, 2010

Civil War Dance: The Gothic Dance Instructions

The Gothic dance first appeared in the United States in the late 1850s. It appears to have first originated in Nova Scotia. The dance gets its name from the line of "Gothic" arches formed by the gentlemen's arms while dancing. It is considered a country dance because it is danced in two lines and is a relatively simple dance.

Before balls, the attendees would receive dance cards, which would allow the dancers to find partners ahead of time as well as learn dances that they might not be familiar with. Most balls only had only the most popular dances at the time so that the dancers would be familiar with the dances. Other dances could be performed at private parties and dances for variety. The Gothic dance is only included in two known period sources therefore appears to be more of a  regional dance.
I have tried to give the steps without using dance terminology. The Ladies are depicted as circles and the gentlemen as x's. The two rows should be about 4 feet apart and the space between dancers should be 1 1/2 feet.  

Step 1. Ladies and gentlemen form two lines facing each other. Ladies join hands and gentlemen join hands.
Step 2. Ladies take 4 steps toward the gentlemen .
Step 3. Ladies take 4 steps back while gentlemen take 4 steps forward.
Step 4. Men raise their arms and ladies, stop holding hands, and pass under the right arm of the gentleman directly in front of each lady in 4 steps. Keep in mind that the gentleman's right arm is on the left for the lady. Also the "foot lady", the lady at the end will not have an arm to go under and will have to only pass by her partner.
Step 5. Gentlemen drop hands and turn around while the ladies turn around. Gentlemen join hands while ladies join hands.
Step 6. Steps 1-6 are repeated until all are in their original spots.
Step 7. The two head couples (the two couples closest to the left on the diagram) join hands and turn clockwise until the two gentlemen are occupying the spot of the head lady and head gentleman.
Step 8. The two men at the head, join hands and the two ladies pass under the arms of the two gentlemen and pass around their partner and under and around their partner once more.
Step 9. The two gentlemen at the head join hands with their partners and the two couples pass through the two lines to the end. Make sure that the head couple rejoins the lines before the second couple to keep the couples in the same order.
Step 10. The gentleman's line takes 4 steps to the left while the ladies' like takes 4 steps to the right to bring the 3rd and 4th couples to the head of the lines. Repeat steps 1-10 until all dancers are in their original places.

 My sister drew that nice sketch at the top for me. I think it really helps people who have never seen the dance visualize it better. If you can think of anything else that would clarify the steps, please let me know. Hope you enjoy!

December 18, 2010

Family Christmas Traditions

I dislike Christmas. Maybe dislike is a strong word. Over the years my family has amassed a great deal of Christmas traditions. There are a lot of fun ones like driving around looking at everyone's Christmas lights and singing Christmas carols in the car on the way to church. But there are some family traditions that I think need to be done away with. My grandmother and my mother host a big Christmas party for my extended family on Christmas day. While I like the party and seeing everyone, I really wish I could spend Christmas day quietly with my immediate family.I really don't get to spend much time with them and I wish we could just spend it together.

I think this party adds a lot of stress to what could be a very pleasant Christmas. We have to have the party on Christmas Day because that's what has always been done. We eat the same meal every year, even the dishes that no one in the family likes or can eat because it is what we've always had. Would you believe that we even stick to the same topics every year? (School, work, 1970s guitarists, and football.)  

This tradition has really made me think different about traditions. I think it is very important to reevaluate traditions occasionally. Holidays are supposed to be fun, any tradition that stops being fun should be done away with. I hate dreading the holiday and wonder how I would celebrate Christmas when I have a family. Will I keep some of these traditions? Probably, but I know I will do away with some of them. I'd never want anyone to dislike such a special holiday. 

Are there any holiday traditions that you dislike? Any that you really like? 

December 14, 2010

Ladies' Choice Waltz

Everyone remembers the dance scene from Gangs of New York where Cameron Diaz' character "Miss Everdeane," is given her choice of dance partners by sitting on a chair in front of the gentlemen and looking at each one, in turn, in a mirror and shaking her head 'no' until the partner she wants passes by.

While the dresses are horrid from a historic perspective and the movie itself is not for young viewers and boasts a lot of fiction, the dance itself actually has some merit. Using a mirror to allow the women to choose dance partners was a popular beginning for waltzes in the 1860s and 1870s.

The movie then shows the couples dancing with candles. There are very few period references to "candle dancing" but a book from 1899 called "The World Wide Magazine" details a peasant ball in Italy which may have been the inspiration for the movie scene: 

"There are a few rather funny dances. One not unlike a figure of our cotillon is called the speahio, or looking-glass dance, and is very amusing to watch. A chair is placed in the middle of the room, round which a couple dance once or twice. The man then places the lady in the chair, and hands her a looking-glass. He then goes and gets another man, with whom he dances, and finally brings him up behind the girl in the chair. She sees his face in the looking-glass, and, if she likes him, gets up and dances with him for a short time. Then the man sits down, and girls are brought up in the same manner for him to choose. If he does not like them, he wipes the looking-glass with a handkerchief, and the girl has to retire, with a red face, amidst the laughter of those looking on. It seems rude, but is customary. Another dance I have never seen in England is called 'The Candle Dance,' perhaps on account of the amount of grease flying about, as the candle is kept lighted during the dance. It begins by as many couples as care to take part dancing round in the usual manner. One man who has not acquired a partner stands in the middle of the room with the lighted candle. He suddenly cries " Stop," and immediately each couple commences to walk round him arm in arm. He then cries "Go forward" or "Go backward," whichever he likes, and all the men have to leave their partners and take the girl in front or behind them as the case may be. Meanwhile the man with the candle is himself trying to get a partner before one of the other men. If he succeeds the man left out has to take the candle, but if baffled he still continues to hold it. Dancing commences again as soon as everybody has got his new partner."

December 9, 2010

In Remembrance of Boo

Boo, the world's best bunny, and my little baby, died tonight.

We will miss her terribly and love her always.

December 6, 2010

It's Too Cold to Post!

I keep trying to type but my hands keep getting so cold, I have to pile blankets on myself and wait for them to defrost. We had our first bit of flurries on Thanksgiving and more are expected tonight and tomorrow.

It was so warm last week I can't believe that it has changed to bleak gray skies and dry air. It's finally starting to feel like the yuletide season. I am readying myself for gingerbread houses. I found a great tutorial to make miniature gingerbread houses that go with hot chocolate here: Not Martha.

Gingerbread houses became popular in Germany after Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm published the German folktale, Hansel and Gretel in 1812. Honey is traditionally the main sweetener in German "lebkuchen" houses. In Hansel and Gretel,the antagonist a cannibalistic witch lives in a big house made entirely of candies and cake.

Some interesting gingerbread houses:

Those houses are amazing, aren't they? Keep warm and enjoy some cocoa and gingerbread. Here are some photos of the Colonial Plantation house decorated for Christmas. I did some knitting by the fire the day I took these. My yarn smells like a wood-burning stove but it's a cozy smell for it to have.

December 3, 2010

You Have My Permission...

My Unfinished Projects: 1. Pink and white Civil War Era knitted headdress(as seen on my sister's blue wig from a costume), 2. Green and black "Dark Mark" scarf (lost a knitting needle), 3. Peach, Colonial Era Jacket, 4. Purple, Civil War Era knitted suspenders, 5. Pink and white Colonial Era pockets. Notable projects not pictured: 1. Civil War Sontag (ran out of yarn), 2. Civil War Era Quilt, 3. Blue and white, handsewn Colonial Era Jacket. 

 To stop working on that project.

I constantly work on more projects than anyone could finish in a lifetime. Frequently, I have so many that I half finish them and forget about them until I am rummaging through my stuff looking for some material for yet another project. I used to think I had to finish every project I started, just as I used to think that I had to finish every book I started reading.

As I have gotten older, I realize that I don't have time to read books that aren't good and I don't have to finish every project I start. I frequently find that I will discover an abandoned project months later and no longer have a need for it anyway which makes it useless to finish. 

So for everyone who was sitting around like me, waiting for someone's permission to stop reading a bad book, or to stop sewing a garment that wouldn't fit you anyway, I give you my permission to stop and you don't have to feel the least bit bad about doing so. We are all very busy and all more productive than we think. Less projects and less guilt equal less clutter and more time to focus on what is important.

What to do with those abandoned projects?

Give them to someone else. I have Civil War Era dress patterns new in their packages that I know I will never get around to making. I also have half finished jackets and things that I know someone else could finish up quickly and use. Sometimes we stop projects when they get to a tedious point--it may be easier for fresh hands to finish up.
Recycle the Materials. You can always recycle the materials into something more useful to yourself at this point in time. Half done sewing projects can become raw materials for new ones. (Imagine my surprise when my boyfriend told me that he could use a bit of a half-done leather project for his uilleann pipes.)
Find someone willing to finish them for you. Sometimes my sister just wants to sew something and she doesn't have a project in the works or doesn't have money to finish the project she is working on and she'll help me sew. 
Put them on hold. Put the project on hold for a period of time until you might need it again. Working on knitting mittens in the summer might be less important at the time than sewing summer clothes. Just remember to give yourself time to finish the project before you need it.  

When I look at all of these unfinished projects I feel guilty. I am working on all of them slowly and most have to do with me needing more materials and refusing to buy them until I have a coupon. Surprisingly these are nowhere near all of my projects and they are always changing. I also have numerous unfinished writing projects, drawing projects, music projects. I am kind of surprised at myself that I take on so many projects. This seems crazy especially with all of my schoolwork but  I am one of those people that always have to be creating something or I go crazy. I guess I never really look at all of the things that get finished, in proportion, I guess the unfinished projects shouldn't make me feel guilty. 

I know I have a lot of really creative people who read my blog, is there any project you just want to scrap but feel guilty doing so?

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