Tuesday, February 21, 2017

19th Century Motif: Dragonfly Part II

So sometimes I get a little obsessed with making things. Like the time I took Kay Cogswell's bracelet class at the Genteel Arts conference last year and BAM...twenty something bracelets later, I finally slowed down. And perforated paper items-I'm still burning the midnight oil due to my obsession with these. My craft room is a mix of fabric, beads, and tiny bits of paper. Both the fiance and dog are not amused by the general clutter.

Back to the dragonflies! In Part II of the great dragonfly saga (see the tutorial here), I will examine the documentation behind these little guys, as well as the context in which we would wear them. Though honestly at this point, my army of dragonflies look so cool, I might just start attaching them to random things around the house.

*Reminder! The original beaded dragonfly was completed by Kelly Dorman, who we remember here for her awesome contributions to the crafting and reenacting communities. Read her blog to get to know her and her amazing style. Also, I will donate a portion of any sales made from the beaded items to Crooked Tree Arts Center, and organization Kelly supported in her lifetime.

So yeah...totally skipping my Photographic Documentation. It's like finding a...dragonfly...in a haystack?

Another tidbit of information that is important: there was a movement in the 19th century for items in bonnets and headpieces to quiver or move, to appear lifelike. This was called "en tremblant," or French for "to tremble." Pieces would have a spiral of wire underneath to create the effect of movement. The Antique Jewelry University has a short explanation with images.

Textual Documentation

Peterson's Magazine, January 1864

La Mode Illustree, March 1864
(Feel free to translate, but it mentions insects in fashion)

Godey's Lady's Book, March 1864
Among the very latest novelties are snails, large caterpillars, such as we see on grape-vines, and as long and thick as a lady's little finger, butterflies made of the most transparent materials, others of mother-of-pearl, beautifully colored, dragonflies and snakes. Yes, dear readers, actually snakes, fully a quarter of a yard long. All these reptiles so closely imitate nature that you really feel reluctant to take them up and examine them. We think this mania rather carried to excess. But what is to be done. The ladies are never satisfied, novelties must be had. Like Oliver Twist; they still ask for more.

Godey's Lady's Book, April 1865
The "Empress" is made with a full front spray of white Persian lilacs, surrounded by blue forget-me-nots. On this spray is a blue enamelled dragon -fly , and the long branch of white lilacs drooping over the shoulder, is dotted over with blue enamelled insects.

La Mode Illustree, April 1865
No 1 White hat covered with smooth white gauze bubbling on the white and black egret small green feathers on the hat very narrow white hat half veiled by black lace even narrower inside two cords small green leaves dragonfly on the left side white edged D narrow lace

Peterson's May 1865

While most evidence points this fashion to be later in the war, I did find previous mentions of "insects" or "nature" that was added to the coiffure in some way. Also, these seem to appear most in hairstyles, bonnets, and headdresses. The materials vary, from expensive jewels to (later) beaded adornment. Did you also notice how they become most popular in the spring?

Surviving Originals

I've included examples of jewelry "en tremblant" to illustrate the popularity of the mechanism. I have yet to see a beaded example of a dragonfly (I do have the butterfly one here). With a pin these pieces could be attached to the hair in some fashion, or even as a brooch! Let me add that these seemed pretty difficult to date, as the style for bug pins returned in the mid-20th century, and are styled very similarly.

I definitely feel like there are gaps in my research for this project. I have many questions that I would ask Kelly if I could. Did she have a piece of the puzzle that indicates dragonflies were beaded as well? I've seen a few beaded butterflies flit through my research, and I wonder if she found that tidbit in one of the foreign magazines (or you know, someplace obvious that I've missed). Research is certainly a process, so I'll add that to this post as it becomes available.

Based on the research, these "tremblers" were often fashioned to resemble butterflies, dragonflies, bees, and other insects, with a sort of spring beneath. These could be made of expensive jewels, or glass beads. They would be worn as adornment on a bonnet, headdress, or a part of an elaborate hairstyle. In any case, we know dragonflies were a popular motif, and I imagine a lady would find them delightfully charming as they hover in a hairpiece. They would stand out for sure!

Back to my reproductions-they're finished! I have a million beads in my house. On the floor. In the couch. Stuck in the treads of my shoes. Ah, the price of beauty. Here are my reproductions of Kelly's crafted item. They are $25 each, with $2 added for shipping. 

Until next time, when I bead some butterflies...


Extra Sources
NY Times Article on Dragonflies
AJU Grand Period Jewelry

Friday, February 17, 2017

New year new beginnings

Hey y'all, it's been a while since I've written anything. I can't say that I've been more excited this year than ever before! The reason being is we celebrated New Year's eve in our own home.

We've been calling our new home Hidden Acres. Hidden acres is set on 6 acres on a private drive. The closest city is 3 miles away and I have to drive on a dirt road. We once lived in a busy city on the corner of a busy road and the freeway. It's a culture shock to now live on the outskirts of a small city with the population being just under 12,000. 


This home is our new beginning. Our plan is to eventually have a small garden, get goats (I'm still trying to convince the hubby for goats), raise chickens and move my in-laws in the basement. But first we had to do a few things such as gut the basement and fix the roof line.



January has been a funny little month. Some weeks were just freezing and the next, I was able to bring the kids out and play. 

Here to a New Year!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

19th Century Motif: Dragonfly Part I

I will begin by saying that I did not "discover" this dragonfly in a primary source and found a way to magically reproduce it. While creating a prototype is one of my favorite things, this time it was Casey O'Connor who brought up a picture on The Civilian Civil War Closet. It was beaded and buggy-count me in!

She couldn't quite remember the source of the mysterious insect. Eventually, with the help of Colleen Formby and others, we were able to determine the artist responsible for the beaded curiosity- the late, great, Kelly Dorman. I'm sad to say I didn't know her, though I'm guessing we've crossed paths as we both hail from Michigan. She was a fantastic researcher and beader, and I strongly urge you to visit her blog Mackin-Art to see the beautiful pieces she created.

I have to say that the problem-solving, engineer's daughter part of my soul needed a puzzle on a cold February night. A proper blog post will be coming in the near future, as I'm actually supposed to be working on stuff for the conference in March, not playing with shiny things. (Important info will be included, like the fact that these are pretty decorations for bonnets, hats, and hair pieces). Off to work then, troops!

Materials: Size 11 beads (Toho brand is best), .25mm non-tarnish silver artistic silver, two other larger beads (I used coral, 6mm), patience

Step 1: Put bead through about an 18 inch piece of wire. Make sure it is in the center.

Step 2: Now loop one of the wire ends back through the bead, while anchoring the bead in the center. You will use this technique for the entire piece, just changing how many beads you'll add. Tighten.
Step 3: Add on two more beads to make a second row. Again pull one of the wires through, and tighten. It will stack on the other one, building two rows. You will do the 2x beads on 13 rows.

Step 4: Congrats getting through those 13 rows of 2 beads. Your little guy should look like this (if he doesn't, make sure to go back and tighten where needed).

Step 5: Now you will do a row of 3, 4, 5, 4, and 3 beads, in that order.

Step 6: To add the eyes, string a larger bead (not too big!), and then one of the body beads. pull your wire around the body bead, catching it. Tighten. Then weave the wire into the top row. Do this to both sides, twisting the two wires together when finished. Don't trim it yet (that part is the bottom of the piece)

Step 7: For the wings, you will follow the same process as the body, but with different bead row amounts. This is where you can definitely add cool colors/designs and such. Your bead amounts in each row go in this order: 1, 2, 2, 3, 4, 4, 5, 5, 5, 4, 4, 3, 2. When you finish the wing, add a single twist of the wires to keep it in place. Do this four times.

Step 8: Connect the two sets of wings by twisting them together. You should have to two sets twisted together. One is your top set, the other your bottom. 

Step 9: Spread the 4 wires of the top set and place the bottom set between them. Wrap the top set around once, then the bottom. You should end up with one piece after they are both twisted together.

Step 10: Now at this point, I'm sort of lost. Since I don't have the original in my hands, I have to guess. Remember those two wires from the body? Wrap them around the center point where the wings all meet. Wrap them around a few times. If it will work, depending on your bead size, try to weave some of the wires from your wings through the body. I had a very hard time with this, so I tried that first method. With all of your leftover wire at the bottom of your piece, twist it into a circle. Kelly had her dragonfly with a spiral; the circle has the same effect, and feels very sturdy. Feel free to do the spiral and tell me if it goes well. Trim any extra wire. And finished.
You are done! Play around with colors to get a different design. You may possibly go blind and descend into madness.
A view from underneath
 The Tres Dragonflies in the Collection

 Add a comment below if you have a question or would like to add a link to your own butterfly! I'm signing off for now-back to the relentless effort that is planning a conference!


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

13 Historical Activities under $25 While Visiting The Citizen's Forum Conference

We are fast approaching The Citizen's Forum of the 1860s in March! While I am excited to meet again with friends and share in learning, many have asked about the activities available here in Michigan, as people are flying in from all over (So far Texas is the farthest, but there is still time for more miles) With the conference at such an affordable rate ($110 for adults, $45 teens), one can bring the whole family to enjoy history!

Here is my list of 13 things one can do while attending the conference here in Michigan. Admission to all ranges from the awesome *Free to $20. All are within an hour drive time of the conference, with a few just down the street!
Attend the Friday Soiree!
The Sawyer Homestead has graciously become our sponsor, and your registration includes an invitation to the party! The large home was built in 1873, and is run by a passionate historical group. Expect food, 19th century band, games, and a picturesque setting in which to have your likeness taken. Feel free to wear your 19th century clothing, or modern wear if you prefer.

Free Workshop at The Clements Library
This workshop is also FREE! We only have 10 seats left, so sign up now if you're interested!

Ellis Library's George Armstrong Custer Collection

The Ellis Library in Monroe is giving attendees of the conference exclusive access to their collection of Custer artifacts, from photographs to maps and other related items. Access is available 12-4pm on Friday, March 24. There's nothing like a research trip for the history-loving soul!

The Monroe County Courthouse
The current courthouse was built in 1880, and is breathtaking in person. I highly reccomend photos of the building, and there is an historical marker. Be aware-it is still a working courthouse!

The River Raisin Battlefield
Did you know Michigan had a battlefield? During the war of 1812, American soldiers clashed with British/Indian forces. After the battle, an estimated 30-100 surrendered American soldiers were scalped and murdered, with the Frenchtown settlement plundered. The site of the River Raisin Massacre in now on the register of National Register of Historic Places. You can visit today, with trails to peruse and a friendly visitor's center. 

Monroe County Historical Museum
Open from 11-5, this museum is free for Michigan residents, with a suggested donation of $5 for adults. Such a wealth of knowledge about the Monroe area! There is also a research room upon request, though you should contact the museum in advance. The building is down the street from the Sawyer Homestead, and about 10 minutes away from Monroe Community College. 

University of Michigan Museum of Art 
While admission is free, a $10 donation is suggested. Open from 11-5, you can treat yourself to sculptures from the masters of the19th century. The gallery also includes famous medieval paintings, including Madonna and Child with St. Thomas Aquinas. You will be in awe of this spacious art museum, and the several floors of wonders.

University of Michigan Law Quad/Library
Rumor on campus is that the great hall from the Harry Potter films was inspired by this library's swooping gothic architecture. You will still see hurried law students with a nose in a book; be quiet if you go inside! Another reason this place is so magical? The author's fiance proposed to her on a bench out front. Now that is a reason for an historical marker if I ever heard one.

The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
This museum is truly moving and inspiring. Watching the African American community struggle through slavery in the 19th century and rise through racial inequality is a truly humbling experience. Prepare for thoughtful exhibits, with information about the 19th century and the Underground Railroad included. The museum is absolutely beautiful, and admission is free!

The Detroit Institute of Art
Have you ever wanted to see a Picasso or a Van Gogh up close and personal? Do you love suits of armor? Medieval paintings? Lunch while looking at thousand year old sculptures? This world class museum hosts many floors of awesomeness, from modern art to ancient Roman jewelry. There's currently an exhibition about historic tea/chocolate! Admission is free to residents of the tri-county area, and only $12.50 for adults. Seriously, eat lunch in Kresage Court and breath in the history.

Detroit Historical Museum
The Motor City runs on wheels! You can see the history of the automotive industry, as well as the other interesting bits of Michigan history. There is currently an exhibit featuring Michigan in the Civil War, from women to The Iron Brigade. They are open 9:30-4, and admission is free!

Ye Olde Tap Room
I realize that this has nothing to do with the Civil War, but...have you ever visited a real bling pig? Used during Prohibition to help Detroiters keep their collective whistle wet, the Purple Gang even used the basement as a speakeasy. There are at least 285 brews available, making this perusal of history more of an adult trip, to say the least!

The Henry Ford Museum
And last but certainly not least...this museum is known around the world for good reason! Here you can see the chair that Lincoln was shot in, sit in the exact spot where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, look at the car that held Kennedy's last moments, and witness George Washington's camp bed. If that's not enough, go check out the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile! With admission at $20, this is the most expensive thing on the list. Trust me-it's worth the price!

There are certainly more historical things to do in Michigan, as this list barely scratches the surface. Remember, the free workshop has a limited number of seats, so sign up sooner rather than later! Click the link below to go to The Citizen's Forum of the 1860s website.

Until next time my friends...



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