Sunday, September 29, 2013

Kristen: My First JASNA Meeting

As if my time wasn't so precious; between work, master's classes, reenacting, sewing, soccer, and sleeping, I decided to join JASNA. You are probably wondering what JASNA is, and I'm going to give you a hint...
I want

JASNA stands for Jane Austen Society of America, a proud organization of Austen-lovers and pursuers of early 19th century everything. Needless to say, I was psyched to attend my first meeting!

We met at the home of one of the members, and it was obvious she loved Austen! I noted several designs that decorated her space, ones that I envied quite a bit...

We began by discussing Pride and Prejudice in multimedia forms, which included the three movie interpretations. My favorite is still the one with Keira Knightly, though that might be because I watched the movie religiously on weekends during my trek through high school. 
She seemed most like me!

Our facilitator asked very thoughtful questions, and I truly bonded with the lovely women who are kindred spirits! Our conversation continued, covering our favorite English television shows, and of course my opinions of Regency style!
I already bought the kashmir shawl...

We adjourned to tea and snacks. I ate my fill and then some; the tea cups were quaint and the table setting gorgeous! I tried a tea I can't remember, but it was quite delicious. The quality of the conversation surpassed all expectations! 

After eating too much and conversing quite freely, I left...already feeling Austen-withdrawals. My next meeting is coming up on October 27th already! If you are interested in knowing more about JASNA, email You have to first join the national organization, which can be found at As for me, I need to get sewing! On my agenda first, a pair of Regency short stays!

My sewing list this week:
1. Finish short stays
2. Finish 1 thing for Becky's baby shower
3. Finish another surprise thing for baby shower 
(Aren't you so curious Becky?)


Friday, September 27, 2013

Kristen: ENG 7021, The Female Observer

Since this week I am completing my paper, a blog post wasn't necessary. However, I thought I'd share with everyone a bit of an article I found in my *newest* issue of The Female Observer, hot off the 18th century printing press!

The Female Observer
Vol. 1
It is with great Pride that this author is so Esteemed to share with her audience, the proceeding Irks and Pricks of Modern Lifestyle. As an Observer I can look and admire without Stain to my reputation. I will not Bore you with prattle; this topic is of the utmost Importance to my readers.

As of Late a certain young lass of Quality has found it Within her heart to act most Immoral. Once a soft Lady of Good Taste, she fell into the same Trap that many of her Station find so Quickly. It is not for this Writer to speak of her Lack of Propriety, but it was Witnessed by many who wished a simple Musick performance in the study of a Lady M--- T--- V---. Her hair in Disarray but oddly pinned and wearing Foreign fashion in odd shape, Moving her body most Vexingly. I shall Not name the Poor Afflicted girl, though her Name is on Every wagging Tongue in London. She will not be again Mentioned in this paper even as she is like Blood for the Leeches of this Towne. Let her Outrageous Behavior be her Undoing thinks this Shocked author.

Her Mother and Father ought to Educate their offspring of her Great Folly. Of all the Virtues she Possess'd it was her Honor that felt the Blow of her Misbehavior. We are Told from the mouths of our Governesses and Nurses to find Reward in our Goodness of heart and spirit. This author herself a woman Spectator of events, remembers the soft Lessons that she Felt to her very soul. Learning that Propensity is a Vice or Virtue allows the Girl to put aside her Swaddling cloths for a more Adult Fashion if it the Virtue she Follows.

The Accomplished Woman will do much in her Day. Besides those Daily occurrences of tasks, she must be the Light of her household. She lacks Hypocrisy as it is a great Sin; her Husband does not Leave for the Coffeehouse and return Late in his cups. This Learned Female does not Lack wit, but knows the Precise moment to Acquaint her Audience with it. She is Amiable, Loving, and Natural in her dress and Air. Her Charms are used as a Model for those younger peeking out the nursery window. Those Tender young are the Mothers and Wifes of their own Property soon enough.

We will End our Speculating with a Thought on the Good Nature of our fine Ladies of London, who normally shew no lack of Propriety and Grace. It is these Women who find Reward in their Lives and are closer to Heavenly in their Manners.

~A Female Observer of Taste

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Kristen: Plymouth Cemetery Walk

Very recently I was asked by a fellow reenactor to participate in a cemetery walk at Riverside Cemetery in Plymouth. Yes, dear reader, that is me standing amongst the graves. It certainly felt odd, as if I had a larger audience than the living that had come to take a peek!

I took the role of Ella Chaffee (1854-1946), a school teacher who lived and taught in the area. She married Elmer Chaffee, and at age 20 in 1877 she became the principal of the school. In 1881 she joined the school board where she remained until 1896. It was fitting that I portrayed such an education-minded lady!

I spoke to the tour group as if I had risen properly for a short time to tell them about my life. There was mention of "mealworms" and "walking over my grave." I feel that I must have entertained them, as they laughed at my many remarks!

I was not the only reenactor to participate-the others took on other people from different times, including a famous senator, scorned woman, female judge, immigrant, and soldier. Their stories were compelling, even after death!

Before and after the presentations I decided to walk around a bit, exploring the graves. I found so many interesting buildings/statues. A few were worn down, while others seemed to stand the test of time. It was quiet, peaceful if you don't count the hundreds of dead turning a sleepy eye to a woman dressed from the past...

There were a few graves of children that were sad-I imagined how hard it must have been to bury them. One didn't even have a name, as I'm sure it could have been a stillbirth. There were also graves that time had oddly shaped. A large crack developed between a married couple's names-coincidence of time? Or evidence of distemper after death? I walked carefully amongst the graves, taking care to brush off any leaves or dirt that had accumulated over time. I didn't want them to think they had been completely forgotten!

Finally, I just had to include this last one. A "die hard" Michigan fan! I have so much respect for the man who honors my alma matter even in death!

It might seem weird, even morbid to spend time with the dead. However, I found my time to be quite enjoyable, and it made me contemplate my own mortality. No one wants to think of death, but it is inevitable. Where would I be buried? What type of stone do I want? Or funeral? I am so lucky to have already lived a full and happy life, and this visit reminded me of my many blessings.

I think I shall have to go and put flowers on the graves of my Aunt Patti and Grandpa.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Kristen: Fort Wayne Civil War Reenactment

Perhaps now, dear reader, you assume that I am tired of reenacting. The stress of sewing, dressing, and driving to events has been too large of a burden, and that I am in a fit of hysterics. Well, you're wrong!
I did get a bit hysterical here...

I ended up "day-tripping" both days, meaning that I did not camp during the night. Since I live only 20 minutes away, it seemed like less work! The first day I spent more time in the beautiful house, playing parlor games or sewing. Who know just sitting around a house would be exhausting?
And some GORGEOUS wallpaper!

I also had the opportunity to walk through the rest of the fort. While this is not my first post about Fort Wayne, I still find plenty of moments that need a photo. Why is this place so beautiful?

On the second day my family visited, and we walked around a bit more. My feet were so sore! I also had the opportunity to meet new members of the 21st Michigan, and wear my yellow dress, hot off the sewing room floor!
-Ken Giorlando
-Ken Giorlando
I will be returning to Fort Wayne in the next few months, and to be honest I'd like to volunteer my time (when I can find it) to help clean/restore the fort when possible. While the city of Detroit might be experiencing financial difficulties, there is no reason to not support history, especially in honor of the many veterans that passed through those gates.

Finally, I'd like to note an odd creature who hangs about the beautiful house in which I spent most of my time. While her dress is pretty, unfortunately she has lost mobility of her right hand. She was so anxious at the idea of company, that she hid herself away in the back, stiff with fear. There was no comforting her either; she simply stared straight ahead like a statue in her terror.

And who says reenactors don't have any fun?


Friday, September 13, 2013

Kristen: ENG 7021 9/18

Agency of Fashion: The Turkish Letters

As Lady Mary Wortly Montagu discusses her many travels, the mention of fashion and clothing seem to be present in nearly every description of a new people. While it can be said that as a female she knew more of the clothing, it is possible that this ability to describe and admire such adornment defines the agency of both the foreign subject and Lady Montagu herself. It is these interactions that will teach Lady Montague to "speak" within another culture and gain agency in it.

In Vienna she notes the absurdity of the fashions, specifically of the hair and dress: "You may suppose how this extraordinary dress sets off and improves the natural ugliness, with which God Almighty has been pleased to endow them..." (Vienna, Sept 14 O.S.) The way that these Austrian women form agency is though their clothing, and Lady Montagu believes they are not communicating beauty to others. These supposedly "civilized" women are actually "lying" with outlandish hairstyles and absurd clothing to hide their lack of culture or refinement. Lady Montagu does not participate in the agency of their fashion, and mocks it repeatedly during her stay.

However, Lady Montagu encounters an entirely different scene when she visits a bath house in Turkey: "There were many amongst them, as exactly proportioned as ever any goddess was drawn by the pencil of Guido or Titian,-and most of their skins shining white, only adorned by their beautiful hair divided into many tresses..." (Adrianople, April 1 O.S. 1717) These women are a sharp contrast to the heavily made-up beauties of Vienna. Lady Montague admires their natural beauty more, as they exist as openly as possibly, but still does not undress to bathe with them. She does show her stays or corset, but refuses to join completely, showing that she is more open to acculturation within the foreign society.

Finally, Lady Montague becomes an agent for herself by acclimating to the ruling class of Turkey. She describes rose-coloured damask "drawers," a silk gauze smock, a waistcoat, robe, and fine headdress. As much as possible is covered with jewels, feathers, and flowers. Lady Montague notes: "I can assure you with great truth. that the court of England (though I believe it the fairest in Christendom) does not contain so many beauties as are under our protection here." No longer acting as passive bystander to the agency of fashion, Lady Montague becomes an active participant. She negotiates her agency to become the foreigner, empowering her to be noticed and respected within the culture.

The descriptions continue throughout the letters. Fashion is more than just clothing; Lady Montague uses her descriptions to comment on the society of the wearer, and the intended effect on foreigners. She seems to form venerated opinions of the Turkish people, though perhaps it is because it is the only culture in which she had agency through fashion. She retains her English cultural identity, but finds avenues to appreciate and communicate with the Turkish people.

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Monday, September 9, 2013

Kristen: ENG 7021 9/11

Death and Mourning in The Beggar's Opera

The role of death and mourning in John Gay's The Beggar's Opera play a key role in drawing out the characters and contrasting them to highlight their social qualities. I will examine death as interpreted by three characters, who play on known stereotypes of the time: Peachum notes a business transaction, Mrs. Trapes a mode of fashion, and Polly/Lucy loses her love.

Peachum's very name alludes to his business nature. His first scene finds him with the book of accounts, puzzling over the thieves that bring him money and how they should not be hanged. Even as he chooses, he notes the business-like quality of keeping women alive: "There is nothing to be got by the death of women-except our wives!" (Act 1, Scene 2) In this case death transforms into a business transaction, a payment or punishment. MacHeath's death is also viewed as a form of gaining money, as in Polly's dowry "The comfortable estate of widowhood is the only hope that keeps up a wife's spirits." (Act 1, Scene 9) For the audience, Peachum's selfishness and apathy towards death would accentuate his role as thief, a stereotype that could be found in criminal biographies of the time.

While a secondary character, it important to note Mrs. Trapes' light attitude towards mourning in terms of clothing. She approaches Peachum with a request: "If you have blacks of any kind, brought in of late, mantoes-velvet scarfs, petticoats-let it be what it will, I am your chap. For all my ladies are very found of mourning." (Act 3, Scene 6) Mrs. Trapes' prostitutes are donning black not to hide away from society, but to draw attention to their wares. In this sense death is used as a vehicle to gain business but also as fashionable wear to adhere to society's expectations. Mrs. Trapes would represent the vain aspect of death, as all in the audience would interpret the need for mourning clothing.

Finally, perhaps the only character not to view death as an eventuality is Polly. She begs her father to "sink the material evidence, and bring him off at his trial," (Act 3 Scene 11) because she knows it would mean MacHeath's death. She avoids a "noisy crew" of prisoners who were pardoned from their trials, because "the mirth seems an insult upon my affliction." (Act 3, Scene 12) Furthermore, Polly's role is to bring a sympathetic sigh from the audience; she doesn't bear the callous business-like attitude of her father or the frivolous fashion of death as Mrs. Trapes. Polly's fear of death results from her deep love, an absence to be found in nearly every single character. It is ironic considering her upbringing that she expects MacHeath to live long. In this way death is used to highlight her difference from the other characters in the play.

Perhaps it is the combination of these three attitudes that contributed to the success of The Beggar's Opera. While the play is considered a "comedy of manners," the subtle themes of death and mourning were necessary to playing the serious against the humorous. The most telling conclusion to this theory is brought forth when MacHeath's death is prevented by "you rabble there" (Act 3, Scene 16). Death is personified distinctly by each character, yet it is the role of the audience that actually effects its timing. As an audience, this gives them power over the stage, and makes death less of a finality and more of a character who is businesslike, vain, and feared.

Works Cited
Gay, John. The Beggar's Opera. England: 2000. Print.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Kristen: Sewing basket research

As if I am not busy enough, dear reader, I've found myself another project on which to spend my time. Do you find yourself frustrated by your inaccurate sewing basket? Mine screams farby louder than a pop can on a plastic folding chair. I then decided to devote and entire afternoon researching the archives here to determine what I wanted to make.

Mama's Work Basket-Godey's 1862
Material-A piece of white fillet a little blue crochet silk, a frame, some white and blue satin, card-board, and blue gimps; a yard of blue satin ribbon.

Cover your frame with white satin on the outside, and blue in the interior, the bottom being slightly stuffed with wadding. The sides are put in rather full. For the pockets you will take a piece of blue satin double the depth of the basket, fold it in two, with a thickness of fine wadding with pot-pourri within it, and sew it in six pockets in the inside, plaiting in the fulness at the bottom, and concealing the stitches with a chenille gimp, which also edges the top. The outside of the basket is covered with the white netting, darned according to the design, in blue silk. It is edged at the top with three different gimps, and at the bottom with two, of blue and white intermingled. The handles are nearly covered with chenille, and further decorated with a  hard gimp, besides being finished with bows and ends. 

This is a most elegant and appropriate gift for the holidays. It may be made in any other color, if desired; but should crimson or any deep color be used, black fillet would be more appropriate than white.

Drawing-Room Work-Bag-Godey's 1861
A small receptacle for needle-work, which may easily be carried in the hand, to convey it from place to place, or from room to room, with the few requisites which it demands, so as to keep the means of pleasant occupation always ready, that spare portions of times may not be wasted, is one of the necessary appendages of the work-table which we are now endeavored to supply in a simple but novel style.

The shape is first to be cut out in card-board, the bottom of the bag having five sides, from which are turned up the five parts, each similar to the perfect one, as seen in the illustration. When laid flat upon the table it will appear as a five-sided piece with corresponding projections, which must be so folded as to give the while the required shape. This being done, the under part may be covered with silk, and the sides with velvet, or the whole may be covered with velvet. The most ready way of doing this is to stitch the velvet on to the cardboard at its lower part, then to turn it up, and having folded it over the edge, to take it all round in the same way as patchwork, carrying the velvet about half an inch over. The ornaments are very easily attached, being nothing more than those golden stars which have lately been so much used for the headdresses of ladies. In our engraving we have given the small stars as a border, with a larger one in the centre of each division; but these may be varied at pleasure, as bees, butterflies, crescents, and many other tasteful forms, are no manufactured for the same purpose. 

When these have been fasted on in their respective places, the tacking threads will be concealed by them, and the whole shape must be laid down upon a round of silk and stitched down at each corner, the drawing in at the top having been frst prepared and made ready for the strings. There will now be a vacancy between each of the five parts in which the silk will appear, and round this line an elastic is to be carried, which, while draws up each part close to the neck, allows the bag to expand according to the quantitiy of material it is intended to convey. Another mode of making up is to line the shape covered with the velvet, and merely add the upper part of the bag in silk, which in this way requires a much smaller quantity, and is done with very little trouble.

The Chintz Work Basket-Godey's 1861
The work basket is made of bright colored furniture chintz. As will be seen by the picture, its construction is very simple, being merely pieces of pasteboard, cut any size the maker may fancy, and the shape of those in the engraving. These are covered neatly with chintz, and sewed together, The little box to the left is for buttons; it is made of pasteboard, cut to fit accurately into the basket, with a cover of tin, covered with chintz. The advantages of tin is, that it will not curl as a pasteboard one would. 

There is a little stuff cushion, fitted into the button box, for pins. The little bag is of chintz, and intended for a thimble. The two little bags to the right of the button box, are for spools of cotton; a needle-book comes next, having a cover of pasteboard sewed over the flannel. The bag to the right is made of chintz, very full, gathered at the bottom, and confined at the top by a ribbon; this is for tape, and the many little trimmings to be found in a lady's work basket. At the side opposite the needle-book, there is a bag of chintz for the scissors, and a strip sewed down tightly, and fastened at proper distances, for papers of needles, and bodkins. The handle is a strip or tin covered with chintz, fastened at the sides by bows of ribbon.
My goodness! There are such descriptions for little projects, that it's no wonder many people in the hobby do not attempt them. They also seem to be wordy, vague, and assuming the reader knows quite a bit already (which I'm sure she did...back then!).

I've decided to try all three of these baskets, possibly making a few for upcoming events/Christmas presents. I'll be posting about them soon, though I have quite the sewing list for this weekend already:

1. Mend Sofia's dress
2. Finish yellow dress
3. Finish white travel bag

Perhaps soon I will see the sunlight?


On My Bookshelf: December

December has been a really rough month. Between what happened in Oxford (not far from where I live...) and just the general pandemic issues,...