Regency Kites!

Well, it’s June now, and that means summer to me. I’ve been slow to post about my kite making adventures because I was busy posting about other things, but it seems fitting for this post to be the first one of June–summery, somehow.

After the official end of the Regency Dance Weekend I’ve been posting about recently, my friends and I stayed in the Salem area to relax a bit and have some further Regency adventures. We had been brainstorming about what sort of activity we might engage in that was outside of our usual occupations and had settled on the idea of flying kites!

I did some research into Regency kites and spent some of my evening time during the weekend sewing these four silk kites with some help from friends.

Plaid, green, striped, and pink.

I didn’t find much to go on with the kite making. The best source I found was Jen’s post about Georgian Toys on her blog Festive Attyre. The post includes a link to this kite making how-to as well as a link to this 18th century extant kite. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find more information on the extant kite than that which is on that one page. Jen’s post is great and includes fun information about other Georgian toys as well as kites. The how-to link is a good one as well, though I did sub out modern methods for more period ones. For example: there is no tape to be found, instead there are stitches.

Making the kites was fun. I went to Home Depot to buy the dowels for the kite frames. They were cheap and luckily you can saw the lengths to be what you need while you’re in the store (good for me since I don’t own a saw!). I also bought twine there. It’s a poly-cotton blend (boo), but it’s smooth on the hands, so that’s worth it! The kite tails are bits of the main fabric and a contrasting fabric just tied around the twine. Instead of notching the ends of the dowels after they were cut (I tried, and it failed, because the dowels just wanted to splinter) I just wrapped the twine around the ends enough times that it wouldn’t move. The method definitely worked and sometimes that’s all you need.

Despite the fact that it was super windy by the water, we had trouble getting the kites to stay in the air. I’ve surmised that my kite engineering skills are not super outstanding, because the kites did lots of circles near our head height and then dove into the ground… over and over and over again… It was a bit frustrating. These pictures capture the few times we got the kites up in the air. Trust me when I say they didn’t stay up very long!

Perhaps a running start?
Perplexed but still trying.
Clearly this kite did not want to go up.
Triumph! (If only for the moment!)
This kite had the best luck at staying in the air.
Another successful moment.

There were some adjustments and kite injuries along the way. One of the dowels in the pink kite broke, so I have to figure out how I’m going to fix that. The other kites had things like alternate bridles made and pennies sewn into the edges to try to add weight. Some of those things seemed to work. I guess I just need to do some research about what makes kites stay up. I’m not sure the tails worked very well, either. They tangled easily and were hard to sort out again. If you know anything about kite making and have tips, I’d love to hear them!

This is definitely something I plan to work on and try again. Perhaps at a summer picnic? We’ll see. It was a fun endeavor, despite the diving kites (and I had the opportunity to wear my new Tree Gown again!). Plus, there were pretty places nearby to take pictures!

Perfect photo opportunity.
It was pretty windy, so hat holding was totally necessary!

Regency Dance Weekend Part VI: Grand Ball

The time for dancing has arrived! You’ll remember that I recently shared pictures of the reception on the Sunday evening of the Regency Dance Weekend as well as the sharing of the train at that same reception? I’ve been promising to share ball pictures and finally, the time has come. Without further ado…

The Grand March. We had a good quantity of people this ball and because of our practice during the daytime classes all of the figures looked really good!

The Grand March was followed by a good number of country dances and figured waltzes. It was an amazing experience to have a room full of people who had already learned the dances and were able to dance them without instruction. We were able to complete dance after dance after dance and it wasn’t long before it was time for some refreshment.

Punch had been nicely laid out in the refreshment room earlier in the evening.
There were cookies, and fruit, and syllabub (sweet cream) with pound cake, just to name a few delicious treats.
The refreshment room also had small tables set up to encourage chatting while eating.

Unlike some of balls during which we have refreshment breaks, at this ball a person could break for refreshments at any point in the evening. It was a nice change, and especially since we did so much dancing and less standing and listening, it was particularly useful to refresh oneself throughout the evening.

Of course, there was the opportunity to chat with friends and family throughout the evening in addition to time spent in the refreshment room.
Setting up for a country dance. Or perhaps this was Sir Roger De Coverley?
Yes, I believe that was Sir Roger. This was later in the evening after sillyness had set in… We were changing partners and gentlemen/lady positions just to keep things interesting.

Goodness! By the end of the evening my legs were feeling all the dancing of the weekend. The characteristic Regency upbeat rise was getting harder and harder to achieve… But what an event! What a weekend! It was so full of fun, and getting to know new people, and learning dancing… Really, an exquisite experience.

Regency Dance Weekend Part V: Sharing The Train

I’m eager to share pictures of the grand ball with you, but I want to insert this post before continuing to ball pictures. One of my friends had the ambition to complete a Regency court train to wear during the reception I showed pictures of last post. It’s a pretty fabulous train made of velvet printed with golden bees and trimmed with opulent gold lace.

The actual owner and maker of the train.

It’s not the sort of thing to be danced in, but that’s fine, because it attaches at the waist, so it’s easy to take off. During the course of the evening some of us tried on the train and tried out different poses in it. So nice of Antonia to share with all of us! It was quite grand and fabulous.

Benevolent royalty face.
Elegant royalty face.
Aloof royalty face.
Exuberant royalty face.
Pretty pretty princess royalty face.

It’s my blog, and that means I can share as many pictures of me as I want…! Spoiled sounding? Probably… Okay, fine, I’ll return to my more humble un-royalty roots.

There are some absolutely stunning extant court trains out there. Here’s my pinterest page of court gowns and trains from all different periods. And here are some of my favorite Regency court trains to inspire you.

ca. 1809. The Met.
1809. The Met.
First Empire From the Chateau de Malmaison Costume Collection app
First Empire From the Chateau de Malmaison Costume Collection app

There is an event at Dress U in about a month that requires court gowns or trains. I won’t be there, but I’m looking forward to seeing pictures of other people’s fabulous court trains! I hope you’ve enjoyed these silly pictures. I promise that the next post in this series about the Regency Weekend will be pictures of the ball: no more delays!

Regency Dance Weekend Part IV: Reception

Having successfully completed the first day of the Regency Dance Weekend and then archery on Sunday afternoon, we hurried off to prepare for the Grand Reception and Ball on Sunday evening. These events were held at Hamilton Hall in Salem, MA. This hall that was built in 1805: perfect for our Regency events!

The reception was to include a toast with sparkling cider, so we pre-filled glasses to have ready to go at the right time. In addition, we worked on laying out the refreshments in pretty glass compotes and on silver trays as well as making the punch and laying out all the necessary silverware and dishes. Preparation was a bit hurried and I have to confess to getting super grumpy at one point…

Picturesque filling of the glasses.
Picturesque grumpy face.

The alterations I made to my skirt to fix the rip created a new issue. Sigh. See those horizontal wrinkles on the rib area? Because the front of the skirt hangs differently now, the front skirt wants to wrinkle. I can fix this problem, but ugh! It’s so much easier when the clothes just fit perfectly!

Partially completed spread of refreshments.
When everything was ready we joined everyone else for some pictures in the lovely ballroom, where there were real candles in the windows! So pretty!
IMG_0958 - Version 2
These mirrors are stunning and beautiful, in addition to being wonderful places to pose for the camera.
I thought my hair looked particularly regal for this event. Here’s a good picture of my poof and laurel wreath tiara.

It’s convenient for these sort of events to have hair that is easily made poofy. I don’t have any short bits of hair around my face (aside from frizz…) so curly tendrils for Regency hair styles don’t work for me. This had become my go-to Regency style: center part in the front with the front bits of hair saved for last; the back part of the hair put into a pony tail and brushed out to be super poofy, then rolled on itself to create a self rat and hide the ends. The poof is then pinned in place, the front bits are wrapped down and around the back which creates lovely lines on the back of the head, and finally the tiara is added to define the area between part and poof. The whole thing is finished off with a liberal douse of super hold hairspray to contain the frizz and keep the style in place.

But enough pictures of my dress and hair! After these reception pictures we all descended the stairs to the sidewalk, where we watched a celebratory champagne bottle be opened with a saber. Neat!

Each person was served with a glass of sparkling cider on his or her way back up to the ballroom.
And then we all had a bit of time to socialize and admire the room, the people, and the circulating cider refills.

When the cider was beginning to dwindle (which didn’t take too long), the time had come for the dancing to begin. And my, what dancing there was!

Regency Dance Weekend Part III: Fell Off The Sewing Wagon, But Got Back On!

Yup, that’s me I’m talking about in the title of this post. I was straggling along the first bit of the Mar-pril Regency Sew Weekly road. For Goal #2: evening wear, I had hopes to fix the rip in my 1813 red evening gown, but unfortunately I didn’t get to it in time for the deadline.

Sad, sad rip.

I did get to it before the Regency Dance Weekend, though, so I was able to wear the dress for the Grand Ball and Reception on Sunday night. I’ve got pictures of the event to share soon, but for now I’m going to focus on the gown.

When I first made this dress back in January and wore it to the Pride and Prejudice Ball in February, the skirt of the dress was tightly gathered across the back to take in all the fulness of the skirt. But while taking pictures after the ball, the dress caught and ripped! I suppose it’s hard to tell in the picture, but the rip was not small.

Gathers used in the back to take in all the fullness.

Ugh! What to do? Try to patch it, or darn it, or replace the whole vertical panel where the rip was? None of those ideas sounded like they would be pretty or fun.

I didn’t actually get around to fixing this until after I had constructed my Tree Gown, which has a skirt with an angled (trapezoidal) front panel and the back panel cut as a rectangle. The effect of that shaping on the Tree Gown is neat: there is less fabric to gather at the back and the skirt has a nice shape to it that is different than the shape that is created by the original tube shaped skirt on the red gown. In addition, I decided after looking at the pictures of the red gown that the gathers were too poofy in the back and created a shape I wasn’t looking for.

So I came to the idea of using the trapezoid plus rectangle skirt shaping for the red gown, because making a trapezoid would allow me to cut out the section of the skirt with the rip. This required taking the skirt off of the back waistband, sewing the new seams, then reattaching the whole thing. Since I was taking it apart anyway at that point, I decided to also pleat the fabric around the back instead of gathering it, like this dress, below.

1812 Wedding Dress at the Met with a pleated skirt.
The ripped side of the skirt, removed from the waistband and with the new seam pinned. Now you can see the scale of the rip!

It looks like I don’t have any great pictures of the back of the gown with the new pleated back… whoops! Here’s one picture, though, where you can sort of see what’s going on with the dress.

Sort of hard to tell, but the area where the skirt meets the waistband is much flatter, and the skirt has a much bigger flare at the hem due to the new seam shaping.

Perhaps hard to envision, but if you compare this back picture to the one at the beginning of this post, there is a definite difference. It wasn’t a fun project, but it needed to be done, and I sure am glad it is! Next time there will be pictures of the reception, including more fun pictures of this dress.

The Tree Gown For Real (HSF #9)

Textiles and the natural world are inextricably linked.  Until very recently, all textiles were made from flora (linen, raime, hemp) or fauna (wool, silk, fur), and dyed with flora and fauna.  Flora and fauna also influenced the decoration of textiles, from Elizabethan floral embroidery, to Regency beetle-wing dresses, to Edwardian bird-trimmed hats.  Celebrate the natural world (hopefully without killing any birds) with a flora and/or fauna inspired garment.

This is the description of the HSF Challenge #9: Flora and Fauna. I’m super excited about my garment: the all new 1815 Tree Gown I recently showed a sneak peak of as well as photos of in action during archery and outdoor lounging! The archery and outdoor lounging, in particular, include great pictures of the dress, so if you haven’t seen them yet, you really should go check them out!

1815 Tree Gown and Bonnet with a Stripe-y Reticule.

I love love love this dress! It’s super comfy and super cute. You might remember that I don’t own many printed or patterned clothes (modern or historic), but I branched out (haha, unintentional bad pun) with this one and I love the results! There’s something so refreshing about the classic white Regency dress that has been shaken up a bit with a bold print. Also, from the HSF perspective, it is made from cotton and printed with a flora inspired motifs! Double duty challenge fulfillment right there.

Back view. The drawstring at the back neck is so subtle and clean looking, and I love the results of my careful cutting which keeps the print symmetrical on each side.

There are pictures of the interior construction of this dress in this previous post. To summarize, the dress is machine sewn on the inside seams and hand finished. Most of the interior seams are french seams. The dress closes at the back with hooks at the waist and a drawstring at the back neck. The front neck has a drawstring as well.

More facts:

Fabric: almost 5 yds of hand block printed sheer cotton (made in India and sold on eBay via Heritage Trading).

Pattern: loosely based on my other Regency gown patterns for my basic measurements, but adapted to resemble my main inspiration dress at the Met.

Year: 1815.

Notions: two hooks, about 1 yd of 1/4″ cotton twill tape, thread.

How historically accurate?: I give it 95% rating. Really, the only thing keeping it from “as accurate as can be with modern materials” is that it is machine stitched on the inside seams. It is hand printed fabric, sewn in historic ways, and hand finished.

Hours to complete: 16? Total? That’s not bad for me!

First worn: Regency Dance Weekend, mid-April 2013.

Total cost: $25 for the fabric (it’s almost doubled in price since I bought mine!), maybe another $1 for the notions?

Now for inspiration. The dress is most closely based off of this dress at the Met. I changed some things, but I think the resemblance is quite clear.

1810-1815. Met.
1810-1815. Met.
1810-1815. Met.

These two dresses were other more minor inspiration for the Tree Gown: 1812 yellow silk wedding dress and early 19th century slip, mostly for their square necks and back tie closures.

Eee! All I can say in conclusion is how much I love my Tree Gown!!!

Regency Dance Weekend Part II: Archery And Outdoor Lounging

Not very long ago, I shared the first section of Regency Dance Weekend photos: Settling In–about dance classes, an 1807 house, and an informal dance. Now it’s time for Part II: relating to archery (yay!) and outdoor lounging. These outdoor events took place on Sunday afternoon at Pioneer Village in Salem, MA. The village had been opened specifically for our use, so we had our run of the place!

Archery was the major activity and took up most of the time allotted before preparing for the Grand Ball and Reception that evening. Given that it was a Regency period event, there were plans made (and executed) to use images of Napoleon as targets, which was super silly and fun. I think there were perhaps 30-40 people who took part in this daytime event.

Our instructor teaching us basics and safety.
I think most people were pretty successful at hitting the target at least sometimes.
There he is! Napoleon is lurking on the left.
Archery in a bonnet is an extra challenge, but we made it work.
Recognize that dress and bonnet? And perhaps the spencer? This is your first glimpse of my new clothes!
We got him, and the tubes he was hiding behind!
There were replacement Napoleons for when the first few had been well hit.

It was pretty cold out, actually, especially when we weren’t distracted by archery! Nevertheless, we prevailed for hours and were still willing to stay outside and lounge for more pictures even after archery was complete.

New clothes amongst the trees.
Striking a pose on the footbridge.
Climbing a fence. Perhaps while out on a stroll? I feel like this is something the more athletic Jane Austen characters do.
New long sleeved day dress and a new bonnet. You know how it is when someone is wearing something new. It always requires pictures!
I was very pleased with how my new dress and bonnet look and feel, and I’m so pleased that they coordinate so well with the spencer. Yay!
Spencer time. It’s so neat that we’ve built up our wardrobes and are well equipped with dresses and spencers! Bonnets are on most sewing lists, too, which is so much fun!

Next up is a post specifically dedicated to my new tree gown!

Regency Dance Weekend Part I: Settling In

Not so long ago (only about two weeks, though it seems longer), I had the most marvelous time at the Commonwealth Vintage Dancers’ Regency Intensive Dance Weekend. The weekend included classes, archery and outdoor lounging, an informal dance, and a formal ball. Plus, I had the added bonus of staying with friends in a lovely 1807 house and having extra outdoor adventures the day after the weekend ended!

 The weekend had about 50 people in attendance, which was a perfect number for socializing, meeting new people, and filling a ballroom without it being over crowded. It was so special to get to know so many new people, not only by name, but also to have time to get to know a little about them. By the final ball on Sunday night the atmosphere was of the kind you usually only get to dream about when reading Jane Austen: it was a ball where you knew everyone in the room , everyone was constantly changing partners, and everyone knew the steps so there was no teaching, just dancing. It was an absolute blast (and after the weekend I had danced so much that my calves were so sore it was hard to walk for a few days)!

Given that I had such a great time, and that I was able to wear some lovely new clothes (like the tree gown, and my new bonnet, and my blue underdress) you can understand that I have lots of pictures to share. Everyone else looked stunning as well and also had new clothes to show off, which was super fun. Really, people really did look marvelous! Yes, I’ve got lots of pictures, and I’m going to break them down into multiple posts.

First, we’ll look at Saturday, a day with 5 hours of dance classes, checking in to our lovely 1807 house, and attending an evening dance. (Oh wait, did I mention my friends and I also swarmed our lovely and kind friend’s house on Friday night? No great pictures, but it sure was fun to hang out together and squish 8 people into an apartment…! Plus, it made getting to dance class the next morning so much better since we didn’t have to drive very far!)

Starting to learn Regency dance steps.
Working on Regency waltz.
The wallpaper in my room of the 1807 house we stayed in for the weekend. The room was decorated in this deep red. It was so beautiful!
Dressed in my new blue underdress and square neck gown. I’m heading off to the informal dance. Accessories include my blue American Duchess clocked stockings, blue velvet flats, white gloves, a red bead necklace, and my patterned red pashmina.
Waltzers during the dance.
Dancing a Regency waltz. Look at us go on our toes!

That’s it for now. Next post will be about archery and outdoor lounging!