August 27, 2014

Spinning on the Great Wheel

Anneliese here with your weekly internship update!

August 21, 2014:  Back in the costume shop for the day!  I started the morning by pleating the apron I've been working on to the waistband and securing it with tiny running stitches.  Then, taking a break from the Sophia Project, I got to help the costuming ladies finish the costumes for the Mad Hatter's Tea Party.

"The Mad Tea Party" from the original illustrations of
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, drawn by John Tenniel.

Cheryl worked on the Queen of Heart's Elizabethan standing ruff, Whilma finished Alice's pinafore, and Bevin made the queen's headdress complete with a heart-shaped coiffure.  My theatrical costuming skills were put to the test as I was tasked with constructing a giant tail for the Dormouse.  First, I cut a tapered rectangle shape from pink fleece, seamed it at the center and stuffed it with batting until firm.  Then, with Bevin’s aid, we shaped a base for the tail from coat-hanger wire and buckram.  Hand-stitching just about every inch of the base to the tail and two, twill tape belts later, the result was a sturdy, five-foot-long dormouse tail.

Costume shop view of the dormouse tail.

August 22, 2014:  I had the privilege of joining craftsperson Sandy for spinning lessons on the great, walking wheel at the Humphrey house.  Sandy is a dedicated interpreter and all around lovely individual, so I was definitely looking forward to spending the day with her again!  In the morning, she demonstrated the mechanics of spinning on the great wheel, including all of the hand motions and walking path involved.  Then, she left me to practice and get acquainted with the wheel.

The Great Wheel at Humphrey

Wool & Hand Carders
The first skein I spun and wound off was rather uneven and full of kinks from over-spinning, but the second skein I spun in the afternoon featured a much better and thinner thread consistency.  (Also, the second skein features some hand-carded brown wool.)  I found that, after a day of spinning on the great wheel, I prefer the walking wheel to the treadle style wheels, which I had experimented with a few weeks ago.  Despite having to spin the wool with one hand, I felt that turning the wheel by hand gave me more control over the result.

Antique Skein Winder

Top: my second try at spinning.
Bottom: my first attempt at spinning.

August 23, 2014:  I was thrilled to be called in to model in the fashion show for the museum’s second, annual Victorian themed day!  Bevin spent the entire morning getting all of us models dressed for the show at noon.  Then, at the fashion show, I enjoyed parading around with the others and demonstrating the change in silhouette throughout the Victorian Era.

Sitting and waiting for the fashion show to start like proper ladies.

My excited (and silly) face :)

The rest of the afternoon was spent enjoying the Rochester Steampunk Society's presentation and preparing for the museum’s Alice in Wonderland themed tea party.  Two other maids and I set the table, arranged tea cakes and followed behind the Mad Hatter to serve tea at the party.  All in all, the event was successful and that made the clean up afterwards much more pleasant.

Two thumbs up for a great day!

Helpful links referenced:

August 21, 2014

Toe to Line

My internship is the best experience I've ever had and, even better, I'm getting college credit for it through Monroe Community College!!  (It's official now as I've paid the bill to prove it.)  As part of the credit arrangement, I will be sending a page or so write up of each week's highlights to my EBL101 ("Experienced Based Learning") professor.  This also means that, from now on, I will be reporting on both the Sophia Project progress and experience days together in neat, weekly updates.  But, first, there's a bit of catching up to do...

July 30, 2014:  I was paired again with village craftsperson Ron Tyler for a day of spinning at Keiffer!  Ron is a very patient and knowledgeable teacher, so I knew I was in for another enjoyable experience.  In the morning, Ron put me to work cleaning and carding wool to be spun in the afternoon.

In the afternoon, I had the chance to try my hand at spinning.  I started with a drop spindle, which I quickly discovered was aptly named.  Regardless of my efforts, I was not very successful at spinning with the drop spindle, and moved onto the Anglican wheel.  Sewing experience made treadling easier and, despite the difficulties of hand-foot coordination, I was able to spin a nice amount of wool yarn.

Spinning wheel & hand carders

To finish the day, I got to attempt spinning linen thread on Ron’s Irish castle wheel! Even with his help, it took all of my concentration to pull, bind with water and guide the linen fibers, while keeping my foot treadling.

Antique Irish castle spinning wheel

I learned right along with the visitors about wool and flax, as he interpreted and demonstrated spinning.  I even was given examples of cotton on the seed, combed cotton, unwashed and washed wool, and toe and line flax to remember the experience. 

Flax seeds, toe flax (above, considered a waste product and can be used for spinning a thicker cord), line flax (below, fine fibers perfect for spinning into thread) & hand-spun linen thread
Did you know that the Egyptians (and some poor Colonial men) used the smooth, line flax in their wigs?  Sure gives a whole new meaning to the term "flaxen hair"

Washed wool & hand-spun wool thread

August 8, 2014:  In place of a hands-on craft experience day, I subbed in the 1855 Romulus Female Seminary, the building I normally interpret on weekends, for Richard, a fellow interpreter.  (I will be doing a post on the history and interpreting here later.)  Not only is the history of the building and 19th century education fascinating, but the interactive environment of the seminary, or finishing school, really adds another positive dynamic to the visitors’ living history museum stay.  I find that connecting the historical aspects with the modern student experience allows me to better engage both adults and children.  And, I know I have been successful when I receive an “I never knew that” comment, hear laughter and learn from the visitors.

August 14, 2014:  Back in costuming again!  I started the morning by cutting out Sophia's sleeves and gussets.  Afterwards, we all took a field trip to the gallery to ogle at the newest additions to the Susan Green Historic Clothing Collection.  According to the curator, the museum was granted first pick at the garments being auctioned from the Rochester Museum and Science Center’s collection.  Part of the acquisitions include a delicate 1850s drawn bonnet, an 1860s wedding ensemble, a 1870s wrapper with similar trim to my Sophia’s and, my favorite, a golden 1820s pelisse with sea green piping and buttons.  

I then spent the rest of the afternoon daydreaming about future clothing projects and cutting out lining for the bodice of the new wrapper.  By closing time, I had finally finished all of the cutting, leaving assembling as the next step in the Sophia project!

August 15, 2014:  I had the opportunity to join talented craftsperson Sandy at Humphrey House for a day of weaving!  All morning, Sandy taught me about the basics of weaving from winding the warping board at the cross, which is crucial for keeping the threads from tangling, to the complicated process of threading the floor loom.

Antique Barn Loom in Humphrey's Pink Parlor

The loom system depends on maintaining the tension between the warp and cloth beam, working a system of pulleys that raise the harnesses, and carefully threaded heddles and reeds.

(Image via:

(Image via:

At the moment, the project on the loom is a complicated Shaker blanket reproduction, which features diamond shapes within the plaid stripes, made from indigo-dyed wool yarn.  Best of all, once Sandy had demonstrated a few shots on the loom, she handed me the shuttle and helped me do a sequence.

View from the loom

Another view from the loom featuring the boat shuttles & rare, antique reed.

For the rest of the day, I enjoyed weaving on the tape loom and made about a yard of woven tape.  While Sandy interpreted at the floor loom, I encouraged a few of the guests to try their hand at the tape loom.

Tape loom - I really, really, really want one of my own now!

Close up of some of the tape I wove

Finally, one of my most memorable moments of the day was explaining the flax to linen process to an interested guest who noticed the equipment display in the adjoined barn space.  It then sank into me how much I am truly learning from this internship!

Helpful links referenced:

August 12, 2014

1810s Working Class Separates (Part I)

I've been chipping away at my summer sewing list, especially the 1810s Working Class Wardrobe!  (I  really need something new to wear this Friday and Saturday at work - unfortunately, because of time constraints, proper undergarments & accessories may have to wait...)  Anyways, back to the progress report:

(1) For my working class ensemble, I plan to make a couple of short-gowns to mix and match.  You may recognize this one from some of my other pictures - I actually made it for the museum, but I'm using the same pattern (with a few adjustments) for short-gowns of my own.

Front view.  The short-gown closes with an under-bust drawstring and pins.

Back view.

Inside details.

(2) I refit my strapped petticoat - re-pleated the skirt, added two one inch tucks, and straps.

Small pleats in the front.

Lots of gathering in the back.
(The waistband does close, Beatrice, my dressform, is just a little larger than me)

Close up of the tucks and hem.

(3) Also, I finally bound my 1850s corset, after two months of wear and tear, it was about time!

(4) When I get stuck and frustrated with fitting's time for a small, side project, which means: 1810s accessories!

Ruffled kerchief.
(I've been experimenting with different sized triangles, but this one I think is my best.)

Half hand-sewn & half machine-sewn cap of my own pattern.

View of opposite side.  I took advantage of the selvage edge for the ruffle.
I definitely see making more caps in my future...

Mid-19th century quilted sunbonnet.
Completely hand-sewn and made for the museum.  I want one now!

View of sunbonnet with cap peaking out.

Alright, it's back to the sewing machine for me...I do like how this outfit is coming together.  Stay tuned for the completed 1810s working class ensemble!

August 9, 2014

In Pieces

Just a quick update on the Sophia Project, which now is in pieces!

July 31, 2014:  Being in costuming this Thursday was great - especially because the rest of the week was sure busy!  Wednesday I tried my hand at spinning (more on this to come), Thursday was with Sophia, Friday I subbed for another interpreter, and Saturday & Sunday I ran a Victorian Calling Card Craft in the Seminary for the quite crazy, but fun Laura Ingalls Wilder Weekend.  

Today Sophia, my 1870s wrapper project, was patterned - each piece was laid out and traced onto brown pattern paper.  Seam allowances carefully marked, traced pieces cut out and, voila, an 1870s wrapper pattern ready to be made!

I also got to pick out my fabric for the reproduction: a lovely cotton print paired with a lightweight, black silk (that will hopefully be switched with a chocolate silk)

Cotton reproduction print, dubbed the "eyeball" fabric
(Note: color is a little off in the picture)

August 7, 2014:  First day of cutting!  Using the pattern from last week, each piece is being carefully cut out from the reproduction fabric, "eyeballs" up.  (Except, to save fabric, the four side gussets have been cut out "eyeballs" down.)  

Well, that's it 'till next Thursday for the Sophia Project.  In the mean time, I'm hard at work sewing (and hand-sewing) my outfit for the museum's fiber festival! 

Bonus:  I've also been having fun dressing with a vintage flair

Skirt & petticoat made by me

August 5, 2014

Summer Sewing List

While I do really like to talk about my internship (and there's plenty more to report coming), there will also be a fair share of posts on costuming - historical and theatrical!  That being said, I am a firm believer in the "if I write it down, it will [eventually] happen" method.

So, here is what's on the books for the rest of summer in sewing projects:


1850s Undergarments:
  • 2 more chemises
  • 2 more pairs of drawers (cut new waistbands & finish)
My first attempt at a chemise & pair of drawers
  • hand-sew binding on corset
Corset when it was still in pieces
  • modesty petticoat
  • tucked petticoat
  • another plain petticoat
  • corded petticoat
Frolicking Frolicks' absolutely gorgeous corded petticoat,
and other mid-19th century undergarments

1810s Working Class Regency Wardrobe:
  • 2 shifts (using Sense & Sensibility Patterns)
  • short or long stays(?)
  • strapped petticoat (refit)
  • bodiced linen skirt (hem facing & closures)
Lovely 1800s working clothes posted at Two Nerdy History Girls

  • 2 short gowns
Printed Short Gown c. 1800 from Augusta Auctions

Skirt & short gown c. 1815
  • Regency apron
Oil painting by Georg Friedrich Kersting


Costuming 5 one act plays for a friend (deadline: August 15th)

Wish List
  • 1810s striped cotton day dress