March 30, 2011

Civil War Era Apron Pattern

My dirty apron.The stains are from the ashy pots.
 Nothing is so helpful at a reenactment than a good apron. Aprons function as napkins, drying cloths, extra warmth and protection against various "wardrobe malfunctions."

 During the war, it is said, that a few ladies who dressed like soldiers and joined the army were caught when another soldier tossed them some apples and they attempted to catch them in their nonexistent aprons.

I've been using the same 2 aprons for at least 3 years and think it's time for some new ones. I thought I'd include my sketchbook diagrams for anyone wanting to make their own.

To find the waistband length, take you waist measurement on top of the dress you will be wearing it with and add 5 inches for overlap. If you want to make an apron that ties, use at least an extra 12 inches on both sides.

For waistband stiffeners, buckram and stiff muslin were used in the 1860s. I will be using buckram for mine. If you are a beginner, buckram can normally be bought at the cutting counter, you just need to ask for it. The size should fit a teenager or an adult, the only thing that really changes is the size of the waistband. Cut two apron bibs along the fold of the fabric, cut 2 waistbands of fabric and 2 of stiffener, and cut one apron skirt, hem the skirt with a plain hem. Alternatively, you could make a apron with no bib. They were just as popular and are quicker to make if you need one in a hurry.

Diagram from my sketchbook.

A note for beginning sewers: If you make a pattern that you know you will use frequently, such as an apron pattern or a bodice pattern, make it easy on yourself and glue the flimsy pattern pieces to poster board. The next time you use it, you will not need to use pins or weights and it will trace very quickly. You also won't have to waste time ironing pattern pieces or repairing damaged ones. They are bulkier to keep around but it really does save a lot of time. You can use a hole bunch and a piece of ribbon to keep the pieces together so you don't lose them.   

1. With right sides together sew around the sides and the top of the apron bib.

2. Turn the apron bib right side out and iron it. Gather the bottom edge (by hand or with a long machine stitch.)

3.  Stitch a piece of interfacing to the wrong sides of each of the waistbands. With right sides together, sew between the stars indicated on the diagram. (8 inches from the center at the top, 16 inches from the center on the bottom. Clip the excess fabric, turn right side out and iron.

4. Insert the bib into the 8 inch open space left in the waistband. Stitch across. (There are nicer ways to do this that would be too difficult for me to explain. If you know the nicer way, do it that way.)

5. Hem the apron skirt on three sides. Gather the rough edge. Insert the gathered edge into the 16 inch gap left in the waistband and sew across the waistband.

6. Add a button (or 2 if you fluctuate frequently) to one end of the waistband and a buttonhole to the other. 

****Ironing is very important when sewing. Many people, myself included, don't want to stop sewing to iron each piece but it really makes the garment look more professional and fit better.*****

March 28, 2011

Help! The Homework is Killing Me!

It is that time again, when everything is due. Papers, essays, tests, quizzes and articles will consume my very being for approximately 2 weeks. It's strange how this always coincides with the beginning of Spring. It's so unfair, I have to be chained to my desk as butterflies and robins flutter past my window, enjoying the sunlight. 

I can't wait until school is done and I get to relax and enjoy Spring. It seems as if I just got 10 invitations to do things but can't go because of all of the writing and assignments that need to get done.

I want to be able to read by the water and bask in the sunlight. I cannot wait for a relaxing, relatively stress free summer! Is there anything you are dying to do?

I now have the Facebook widget for networked blogs on my sidebar. Please add your blog if you have one! If you don't have a blog but use Facebook, feel free to press "Like" in my sidebar as well. 

March 23, 2011

John Eliot and the Algonquin Language

In the 1600s in the American colonies, many of the groups of settlers tried to convert Native Americans to Christianity. William Penn saw it as part of his holy mission in Pennsylvania to convert the Native Americans there to Quakerism and the Puritans in Massachusetts tried to convert many Native Americans to Calvinism.

The Puritans did not understand the Native American culture because it differed so much from their own. To the Puritans, the Natives acted like uncivilized animals. They thought the Natives ran around in the forest, practically naked, like children and considered it their religious duty to "civilize" them.

The Puritans ended up kidnapping Natives and sending them to small villages called "Praying Towns" where they were taught religion, how to dress and act like the English, writing and math. These praying towns were not effective until one man, John Eliot decided to take a different approach. With help of a Native convert, Eliot studied the Native language and in 1663, translated the Bible and Puritan Catechism to help teach the Native Americans. He also gave sermons to them in their language. After this many Native Americans were willing to go to prayer towns and learn to live like the English.

Eliot's Bible inadvertently helped save the Algonquin language, which did not have a writing system.Today, fewer than 2,700 people can speak the language but many Native languages were wiped out completely.

For those of you interested in the Algonquin language, Eliot's "Indian Grammar" can be read online for free here. There is an excerpt of the book below:

March 21, 2011

What is Going On?
Normally the blogging community is very friendly and encouraging but recently, at least four people I know have gotten nasty comments on their blogs. I don't mean comments that share a differing opinion or comments that contain constructive criticism, but, truly nasty comments.

 I know that nasty comments have very little merit can be deleted quickly and as much as you pretend it doesn't bother you, it will make you feel a little hurt. I understand the need to share differing opinions and believe that it actually makes the blogging community more intelligent as a whole. But why is there need to couple a differing opinion with a nasty comment aimed at the writer?

If you have that much of an issue with a writer or something that a writer has said, I believe you should discuss it with the person in a personal manner (e-mail, private message, ect.) There is no need to try to discredit a person in front of their readers or make fun of someone just because they are different or don't agree with you.

To Quote Eleanor Roosevelt:

"Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people."

Lets stick to discussing ideas. 

I couldn't help but post and link that cartoon. Sometimes it really does feel that way! (Although, I think it would have been just as funny without the use of profane language.) Our grandmothers would tell us "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything," and our Civil War predecessors would say "Image she was your sister," before you criticize someone. Can't we all just take this advice and be nice to each other? This post actually was inspired by my sister. Someone left her a nasty comment on her website and she came to me in tears. A few other people recently got hate-comments as well. What is going on?

Please share your stories of nasty comments to help others think more carefully before they press enter.

March 17, 2011

Blarney Castle Painting and Irish Potato Candy Recipe

I've been working on this watercolor of Blarney Castle for a really long time. I finally vowed to finish it before St. Patrick's Day.

I don't really know anyone who really likes to use watercolor as their favorite medium. My favorite medium is pencil, so watercolor is as different as you can get in terms of control. Pencil does exactly what you want it to, watercolor does what it wants.

I'm not sure that the painting is 100% finished right now, but it's finished enough that I would only have to put 15 or 20 minutes of finishing touches on. I am considering slightly more detail on the bush and maybe some clouds in the sky.

I always paint and draw on the floor, I don't know why, I do have as easel, I've just never used it. Fortunately, my easel doesn't go to waste  as my sister uses it a lot. You can see some of her drawings here.

I only use a few supplies which is great if you like to paint "in the field." I have never painted on location, although I would like to try sometime. I dislike when people watch me paint or draw.

I use cheap paints (the $5.00 for the whole set kind) because I have found that the expensive paints have added ingredients which helps the paint dry faster on the paper. I am told that you can buy "stuff" to make the expensive paint not dry so fast but it seems like a waste of money when the really cheap paint works well.

I once had to take a watercolor class for college and I hated every minute of it. The teacher made us buy expensive paint ($5.00 a tube and we needed about 7 tubes.) Then he made us "experiment" constantly. If I was going to experiment, as a student, I wish I wasn't using $35.00 worth of paint and $60.00 worth of paper.

I do still have a lot of expensive paints left over and I keep telling myself that when I get really good at using watercolor, then I'll use those paints. I am told that they will not fade as much as cheap paints. I'll have to do a "fade check" to see.

Below I have a St. Patrick's Day Recipe for Irish Potatoes. These are American coconut candies. The candies are rolled into balls to imitate little potatoes and then rolled in cinnamon to look like dirt on the potatoes. If you like coconut, you will probably love them.

Irish Potatoes

- 4 Cups Powdered Sugar
-2 1/2 Cups Flaked Coconut
- 4 ounces Cream Cheese (1/2 an 8 ounce package)
- 1/4 Cup Butter
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- Cinnamon or Cocoa Powder


Cream the Butter and Cream Cheese together in a medium sized bowl. Once smooth, add the Powdered Sugar and Vanilla Extract. Add Coconut, you may have to use your hands to blend it together. Pour the Cocoa or Cinnamon onto a small plate. Make 1 inch balls of the "dough" and roll them in the Cocoa or Cinnamon.

You can eat these right away but they are best slightly cold and keep for a few weeks refrigerated. If you are going to refrigerate them, put each individual candy into a tiny fluted liner, available at craft stores.  

Andy and I always make Irish potatoes (covered in cinnamon) and Chocolate Blarney Stones (rolled in cocoa powder.) We make the Blarney Stones more rectangular in shape, similar to the actual Blarney Stone. Making two batches uses up one whole package of cream cheese and adds variety. Many people like the cocoa covered ones much better than the cinnamon, but the cinnamon is traditional.

March 15, 2011

Movies for St. Patrick's Day

The Rock of Cashel, Ireland (Carraig Phádraig)
The Rock of Cashel is said to be the spot that St. Patrick converted the King of Munster to Christianity in the 5th century. The buildings on the rock date back to the 1100s but many buildings were present before these were erected. It is one of the greatest archaeological spots in Ireland. There is one account that stated that St. Patrick died on March 17, 460 CE. In Ireland, and among Catholics, March 17th is a Holy Day, in the United States, it is a day of festivity and parades.   

What better way to celebrate St. Patrick's Day than watching a good Irish movie and eating Irish food? Since St. Patrick's Day is an Irish holiday and the St. Patrick's Day Parade, an American one, these movies include both Irish and Irish American movies. The St. Patrick's Day parade was first held on March 17, 1762 in New York City to honor the Irish fighting with the British Army.

Waking Ned Devine: A hilarious story about a man who wins the lottery and the whole town that cashes the ticket. It's actually a lot funnier than it looks and has a great soundtrack. Warning: Brief nudity (Rated: PG.)

The War of the Buttons: Two rival gangs of Irish children and their idea of what it means to be adults. I believe the whole thing is available on youtube or OnDemand rent from Amazon for $2.99. Warning: Brief nudity (Rated PG.)

Angela's Ashes: The serious memoir of an childhood in the slums of Ireland. Warning: "Irish" language. :D They are bad words there but not here. (Rated R, but personally I think it is appropriate for mature teenage audience due to the historical aspect of the movie.)

Good Will Hunting: An Irish American genius works as a janitor at MIT and doesn't have aspirations beyond that until he is caught fixing math equations by a leading mathematician. Warning: Language. (Rated: R.)   

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn: A coming of age story about second generation Irish and Austrian tenants in Brooklyn. I believe the whole thing is on youtube, it was made in 1945.

Hope you enjoy! I think we will be watching Waking Ned Devine and War of the Buttons this year. A lot of people like to watch The Quiet Man on St. Patrick's Day but I can't stand watching that movie for more than 5 minutes. Andy really likes it though. (I don't know if it's the bad acting, the bad storyline or John Wayne.)

I guess I'll add The Quiet Man for all of you masochists out there. :D

** Between Andy and I, St. Patrick's Day is also known as "The day we get to  feel like normal people." :D (Those of you who know us well, know why.)

March 13, 2011

Colonial Kitchen Garden for March

I hope to be officially starting my garden today, although I still have some chives growing from last summer and hope to grow some garlic chives for next year. Garlic chives, or Chinese chives are a delicious staple of Asian cooking. It is frequently the ingredient that makes Chinese food not taste right when you make it at home. They have a very mild onion flavor with a hint of garlic--they're delicious.

I'm going to be taking a lot of hints from "Every Man His Own Gardener," published in 1767. I always seem to plant things too early or too late and this book dictates what should be done in a garden and when.

Locally, the rule of thumb for planting is " after Mother's Day (2nd Sunday in May,) but the cold-hearty plants should be okay.

For March it recommends:
  • "About the eighteenth or twentieth of this month, is the time to begin to sow the cucumbers and melons which are to be planted under hand or bell glasses."
  •      "Plant cabbage plants of all kinds, the beginning, or any time this month, but the sooner it is done the better. Let them be planted in good ground, at two feet and a half distance each way, or thereabouts.
         This distance is to be understood of such plants as are to remain to grow to their full size; but such as are to be cut young, may be planted closer ; and eighteen or twenty inches a-part will be sufficient.
    Sow the seeds of cabbages, of any sort the beginning or middle of this month, for autumn and winter use: let them be in an open spot of ground, each sort separate.
         Red cabbage seed should also be sewn about the middle, or latter end of this month, to raise some plants for winter service.  "
  •  Other plants to be planted: Lettuce (transplanted from the winter,) Spinach (planted every two weeks to ensure a constant supply,) Onions, Leeks (sewn at the beginning of the month or in February,) Radishes (planted 3 times in March and thinned out,) Carrots and Parsnips, Asparagus, Artichokes, Beans, Peas, Turnips, Celery, salad greens, Nasturtium (for salads,) Purslane, Potatoes, Dill, Fennel, Chives and Mint.
  • "It is the custom now with such people as are obliged to make the most of every spot of ground, to sow a thin crop of onions the first year, on the new asparagus beds ; and this may be done without hurting the asparagus, provided the onions are not suffered to grow about the plants. "
  • Using lettuce or parsley for borders around plant beds.

I think I will just be enriching the soil, planting, chives, leeks and onions, and starting my tomatoes indoors (something that was not found in colonial gardens except for show.) I thought that the winter would have killed the chives that are already out there, we had so much snow this year, and I did nothing to cover them. Has anyone already planted?

March 10, 2011

Simplicity and Beauty

"Oh, I got plenty o' nuttin'
And nuttin's plenty for me
I got no car, got no mule
I got no misery

De folks wid plenty o' plenty
Got a lock on de door
'Fraid somebody's a-goin' to rob 'em
While dey's out a-makin' more
What for?"

Simplicity is always something I am working on. I always think deeply about it when I am cleaning the house or when things start getting messy. I feel that as Americans we are conditioned to believe that life is a competition and he who dies with the most material possessions "wins."

As the Porgy and Bess song says, many people are focused on working to buy new things but they are also unconscious of the stress that is attached to belongings. Many people focus on saving money to buy an item but never fully think about where they will keep the item and what kind of upkeep it will need.

Not only does "upkeep" entail the normal functionality of the item but also the stress of cleaning it and around it. Anyone who has a lot of small figurines on their mantle will tell you about what a pain it is to dust. It is something a lot of people don't think about but less stuff means less cleaning and less stress. Few people associate new items with more stress; it is hard to see past the shiny newness and the novelty of things in stores.  

Some people cling to things as if the memory will fade if the object is let go. I am continually striving to surround myself with things I use or things that I think are beautiful. The things in my house should represent who I am today and not who I was 10 years ago. I recently removed all of my books from the bookshelves.

My bookshelf had slowly collected books since High School. Unfortunately the shelves were filled quickly and more recently acquired books have been piling up in my room. The books I use a lot now, never made it to the shelf and I would have to dig them up to use them. It created a lot of stress and wasted a lot of time. I looked over my bookshelves and realized that the books on the shelf represented my interests and needs, 5 or 6 years ago. Now that I have the books I use everyday on the shelf and have donated the books I didn't need, I feel like the bookshelves are serving me and my current purposes-- what they should be doing. 

The rest of my belongings should be doing the same. I've been donating things and throwing useless things out and I have to say that I have yet to have needed any of those things as of yet. Having my bedroom and belongings serve my purposes has left me with a lot less stress and more time to do things that I want to do.  Less really is more and the best things in life really are free, who knew? :D

I've been inspired by:
  • A Guy Named Dave: Dave proposed a challenge where he would whittle down his possessions to 100 items. 
  • Minimalist Fun: This guy took Dave's 100 Things Challenge and wrote a lot about it.
  • Walden by Henry David Thoreau: A book published in 1854 by Thoreau, a leading transcendentalist writer on his observations on living as a minimalist.    
  • Choosing Voluntary Simplicity: A family dedicated to living debt free, working from home, living "green" and simple living.

March 7, 2011

Civil War Era Knitted Fringe and a Sneak Peak of the Knitted Civil War Reticule

Since I didn't anticipate a tie for when the Civil War Era Knit-Along would be I've decided to hold it in June and let everyone know what materials they will need now so that they have time to get them .

The Materials are:

- 1 Skein of size 10 Crochet Cotton.
- 2 size 00 knitting needles (double pointed are fine.)
- Lining fabric, 1/4 of a yard should be plenty

I think everyone will be pleased with the pattern. It's an open period stitch that makes for a pretty and daint purse.

It is a very small stitch for this project.

I've also been working on some knitted fringe, I was thinking of adding a bit to my dress. I wasn't sure how it would turn out but I think it's pretty enough. I should have ironed the fringe out straight for the pictures.

The Instructions: 

Cast on 9 Stitches.

Slip 1, Knit 2, Yarn Over and Knit 2 Together, Knit 1, Yarn Over and Knit 2 Together, Knit 1.
Turn the knitting over and cast off the first 5 stitches and pull the remaining 4 stitches off the needle and untangle them to form one fringe. Holding the knitting in your left hand, cast on 8 more stitches by looping the yarn around the needle.

The joints are a little "wonky" but after a while it evens out and looks pretty. It's different than normal knitting but only takes a few tries to get right. Make sure to knit loosely.  

March 2, 2011

43 Things and Writing a Book

43 Things is a website where people keep track of their goals. At first, I didn't understand it, it seemed like a computerized version of a "To Do list." I figured that I already made "To Do lists" on paper, why would you want to put something boring like that online for other people to see?

But when I investigated further, 43 Things lets you add goals and connects you to a network of people who are trying to work towards the same goal or who have accomplished it already.The people in that network can cheer you on or those who have already accomplished the goal you are trying to achieve can give you tips and encouragement.

You can also leave journal entries on each of your goals which is an obvious reminder if you've been neglecting working towards one. Since the goals are public, I think it gives us an extra boost to achieve that goal it also makes me more selective about which goals I really want to pursue.

One of my goals is to write a book. It has been one off my goals since I was a little kid. I always thought I'd grow up and be a writer. I was surprised at how many people on 43 Things who have the same goal. 29,243 have the goal to "Write a Book," 2,763 want to "Write a Book and Have it Published," and 10,685 want to "Write a Novel," it's astounding!

A preliminary layout for my book.

Really, it is considering only 6,328 people want to "Lose 10 Pounds." What is it about writing books that makes us all want to do it?

I'm writing a book that, quite frankly, I want to read myself. It will be a cookbook of Colonial Era Recipes. There are many books about historical cooking and cookbooks, but there are very few that have gorgeous pictures! I think that great pictures are absolutely necessary when cooking food that is unfamiliar. My goal is to have only around 100 recipes (which isn't a lot for a cookbook) and include at least 25-30 full page photos.

The biggest reason for books to lack photos is the expense it takes to print them. At this point, I don't even want to try and get it published, I do not believe there is a wide enough readership for it. I am thinking of only ever making it into an e-book so it can be virtually as long as I want it to be and can include as many helpful photos as I would like.

I have been working on it on and off for a while when I don't have school work. 43 things says that the average time that it takes for people on the site to write a book is 1 year! Wow! I am definitely giving myself at least 2 years, I am in no rush. I am guessing a lot of the people who wrote a book in a year participated in NaNoWriMO, which encourages people to write a book in 1 month regardless of how horrible it is.

So I normally don't tell people my big goals for fear of failure but 43 things has encouraged me to do so. Even if my book takes 5 years, I know my readers and friends will encourage me. I am also having a lot of fun on 43 things.

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