August, 2008

A Jacket for Rebecca

August 31st, 2008 by Jill Hall

When Tricia was taking these pictures, Rebecca was dressing herself in these clothes for the first time. Before this she had only tried them all on, with help, especially with the stays. This time she laced herself in. Once she got into the petticoats I cast a critical eye upon her things and decided to tighten the stays a little. Of course that meant adjusting the waists of the petticoats too. Here Rebecca is hooking them back up after my fussing.

Next Rebecca needs a jacket – in the 1627 English Village called a waistcoat. We have a few probate inventories from early Plymouth Colony – 1629 to 1633. A couple of them mention women’s clothing, and they seem to call the upper body garment “a waistcoat.” It can be hard to match up historic garments with the name they were given in the period, but these inventories list the waistcoat together with a petticoat, which is how they were worn in the period. If it listed a waistcoat with a gown and/or petticoat I would wonder if the waistcoat was sleeveless, but in this case, and with a complete absence of any other named garment that could be the long-sleeved upper body garment, I feel pretty confident that they were calling this item a waistcoat. So anyway.

Rebecca chose to wear a lightweight wool waistcoat this day, because it was pretty cold and rainy. Here she’s buttoning and I’m holding her girdle with suspended knife and knitted pocket. We were hurrying, because Tricia was photographing and she had to leave pretty soon to pick up her son from the English Colonial summer camp.

Here’s a detail of the knife and pocket. There are plenty of 17th-century images of people wearing a belt or girdle with a pouch or pocket and/or a knife hanging off it. Generally, those wearing knives seem to be men and/or working away from the home. Our interpreters, both men and women (and the oldest two boy and girl volunteer children, and don’t think there wasn’t a protest from the younger, knife-less ones), wear a knife on their belt. They each need a knife to do their work, and even though a housewife would likely not have kept her knife on her person as she worked around her hearth and garden, we don’t want to leave them lying around. Both because they might “walk” away and because we don’t want anyone to get hurt trying it out if they should happen to find it in a cupboard.

There is, of course, historical evidence for women having knives hanging from their girdle; those seem to be more for either eating or other delicate tasks, rather than the sturdy work-type knife we’re using.

Dressing Rebecca – Part Three

August 30th, 2008 by Jill Hall

When last we left Rebecca, she had on her smock, stays, bumroll, shoes, stockings, garters, one petticoat and had had her hair done.

Next is another petticoat. They go on easiest over the head. We put the fastenings in front; I know some others put the closure on the side. I can think of one painting (at least), dated 1569, that shows a woman undoing her stays, looks like she’s either going to nurse a baby or just has. Her petticoat opens in front, along with her stays.

Once you put it on, you have to give it a little flap to make sure it isn’t bunched up in back. In early 17th-century England, little girls (and maybe big girls, too, who knows?) played a game called “making cheeses.” Basically, you twirl around really fast so your petticoat flares out, then quickly drop to the ground. The girl whose petticoat makes the biggest circle on the ground wins. This may sound simple, and maybe you’re thinking that kids today wouldn’t be amused by something so basic, but believe it or not it was one of the favorite pastimes of the little girl volunteers this summer. And some of the big girl staff, too.

August Show & Tell

August 28th, 2008 by Jill Hall

Here are a few more treats Carli brought for us to see.

She makes both knitted lace and bobbin lace. The knitted lace is draped across the small pieced and appliqued quilt she made – entirely by hand – for her grandfather.

The bobbin lace she “just learned to make in March, so this is all I’ve done.” Hmm. Seems like a lot of lace to me.

Two Wing Pieces

August 27th, 2008 by Jill Hall

On Friday, Carolyn took the second wing piece of lace off the pillow. The “wings” are little flaps that are stitched on over the shoulder. On our jacket, as on the Laton jacket, they are trimmed with lace.

Wendy arranged the lace over Carolyn’s shoulders so we could see the effect.

I was out in the other room talking about volunteer needs for the Colonial Wardrobe Department with Plimoth’s new intern & volunteer coordinator (no, the irony hasn’t escaped me) when Carolyn came walking in with the lace over her shoulders.

It was amazing how the teardrop spangles trembled with her movement. We were all impressed again at how the finished jacket must have looked when the wearer moved, when the already flickering light twinkled over all the Bling. Wow.


August 26th, 2008 by Jill Hall

This embroidery session was also Carli’s first time with us. She comes from New York, but I can hear behind me as I write this that another of our new embroiderers is offering Carli a place to stay if she wants to come back. I think we’ll see her again soon.

Carli is a very accomplished needleworker, in a whole variety of different techniques.

Here are only a few pictures, one is, as Carli said, “the reason why I can do detached buttonhole stitch OK.” It is a mussel shell in detached buttonhole. Wendy’s holding it. It is beautiful, especially the way she imitated the streaking in real mussel shells.

Also here is a gorgeous applique, of flower and butterfly motifs on changeable silk. Carli’s applique technique is beautiful, her stitching is really invisible.

And here is Nicole holding up a small quilt Carli made for her grandfather. I personally am partial to the vintage prints and I love the colors in this little piece.

Nicole’s Berlin Work

August 25th, 2008 by Jill Hall

Here are two more pictures of the August show & tell.

This antique embroidery belongs to Nicole. This weekend is the first time Nicole has joined us; she’s already planning to come back in September.

Nicole bought this piece; it’s dated to about 1875 – 1900. It has a French title, A L’amitie Filiale, which means something like the love of a daughter for her parents. It may have been done in a convent school. It reminds me of one my great-grandmother did, but hers is coarser, and was probably made in the mid-twentieth century.

Here’s a picture of Betty-Anne admiring it, and asking Nicole some questions about it.

On the table in front of them is one of Mary-Denise’s hats, which date from around the end of World War I.

August Show & Tell

August 24th, 2008 by Jill Hall

One of my very favorite parts of these embroidery sessions is getting to see all the beautiful items our talented volunteers bring in for show & tell day.

First up is a piece of bobbin lace Carolyn W is working using some Redde Gilt Sylke Twist.

In the second picture Carolyn is removing some of the pins.

Rebecca’s Hair

August 21st, 2008 by Jill Hall

Here are a few pictures of Lacey fixing Rebecca’s hair.

In the early 17th century working-class women (like the Plymouth Colonists) wore their hair up and covered with a white linen coif. Modern female interpreters may or may not have “period-correct” hair, but either way they have to get their hair under a coif with no bangs or other bits showing. Rebecca has gorgeous period correct hair, by which I mean long and unlayered.

Some women with long hair put their hair up in a simple bun, some braid it. Here Lacey is braiding Rebecca’s hair in a style thoroughly illustrated in The Tudor Tailor. This book shows Jane, one of the authors, braiding ribbons into her hair starting about halfway down each of two braids. The ends of the ribbons hang down beyond the end of the braids. You then use those hanging ends to tie the braids up over your forehead.

The first time I tried to do my daughter’s hair that way, the ribbons pulled right out of her slippery fine braids. I thought about it for a minute, then cut a long ribbon, folded it in half, and placed the fold at the back of her neck. I began to braid one end into half her hair. The other end got in my way and I pushed it forward over her shoulder, saying, “here, hold this end”.

Then I had a flash of insight – in the book Pride and Joy: children’s portraits in the Netherlands 1500-1700, there’s a 1596 portrait called “Hilleke de Roy and Four of her Orphans”. Hilleke de Roy was the matron of an orphanage. In the portrait she is combing a girl’s hair. One half of the girl’s hair is already braided, and you can see that a ribbon is braided in. Hilleke is combing the other half of the girl’s hair, the unbraided half, and the girl is holding the end of the ribbon, which goes up and around the back of her neck – just as I asked my daughter to do. I love when stuff like that happens.

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