Thursday, 1 December 2016


We have been discussing materiality a lot in the fibres cluster this year.  This term, the second level fibres class was asked what materiality means to them, to be expressed through the projects they would complete for the class. I've also been thinking about my up-coming comprehensive exams next Summer and Fall and what I would produce as far as work is concerned for the fibres exam.

I will be working through an extensive book and article list with my primary advisor over the Winter term on the material culture of the eighteenth-century. I will be writing that first comprehensive in the beginning of the summer months, probably discussing the goods that were available to the colonies during and after the Revolution. It seems appropriate that my fibres exam will be next. Over the past few years I have been thinking a great deal on the artifacts that make up a life, the things I need in my living history programs that are very much a part of me, who I am as a living historian. Going to Fort Ticonderoga this summer made me realize how much modernity we still take with us to living history events. Then going to Saint-Jean in August, I wanted more to be more fully immersed in the historical period, but it didn't quite work. When talking with my friend Vicki about a WWI era event she went to, where they even had historical nightclothes, it got me thinking even more.

Buying historical goods is difficult. There are very few suppliers, and some of the things offered for sale, still aren't quite right. Sometimes, like with my glasses frames, you have to deal with modernity to have lenses put in, and the modern labs don't know how to deal with your historical piece and they break them. What do you do? Much of what we need, we have to make ourselves. This isn't really all that different from our historical counterparts. But what do I need to live my life as a historical person? What are the things that make me, me? I will be working through these things as I continue to create the artifacts that will make up my historical self. For my fibres exam, I will be writing a paper on these items, and presenting them to my committee as my work of art. Over the Christmas break, possibly Pierre can help me begin this project. I will need a sea chest to hold everything. made by hand, using period techniques.

Yes. I know. I'm crazy. But isn't that what a PhD in Fine Arts is all about? Being a little crazy?

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Sensory Overload: a Living Historian Steps back in Time

My timing was off on the way to class this evening. I entered the metro just as the wall of end of day travellers hit the top of the stairs. I stopped next to the wall and waited for them to pass, but it was too late, I was already feeling the effects. The grey was closing in. I’m getting a migraine.

It’s early morning, the day is cool so far, and really bright.  The harbour smells fresh, so the tide must have just come in. The waterfront is quiet, people walking to work, walking their dogs. I go into the locker-room and get dressed for the day. I am working in the Robertson’s Store, Ship Chandlery for the day. It will be quiet too, separated from the museum and yet an integral piece of the history of the waterfront. It actually existed, closed in the early twentieth-century, and fully donated to the museum. I am wearing the clothing of the early Great War. My corset is snug, but not constricting. It is not what is annoying about the outfit, not what is oppressive about the period. It gives my body a smooth appearance and supports my clothing, that is all. I have to take baby steps when I am dressed in this period’s clothes. My stride is restricted, I am wearing a hobbled skirt.  The hem at my ankles is very narrow, I have no kick pleat. I prepare for my day. I take the hand crank out and lower the awning on the front of the store so that it stays somewhat cool inside on this August day. I am careful not to raise my hands too far over my head, so that I’m not having to readjust my blouse when I am finished. Take my time. At the end of the day, Pierre notes that my eau du rope cologne is especially strong, that I must have been working in the store. He loves the scent of hemp rope and floor oil that permeates my skin and hair on a warm day. He is a sailor after all.

It has been a long day. It is September 11th, and all hands are in costume. We have several cruise ships in the harbour. One of the boys runs down the demi-ditch and skids to a halt just shy of my door. He runs back in, feather bonnet askew. Have you heard, he yells. The Trade centre has been bombed. And just as quickly, he disappears out my door again. I’m not usually in costume, just special events and in the off season. At the Citadel, I am in charge of looking after about a hundred other people in historical dress.  Today though, I was dressed in the half hour and on the parade square. Dressing so quickly, my stays aren’t quite sitting right, I think I missed an eyelet or something. Ugh, I’ll deal. These tourists don’t know yet, what has happened to their country. I grab the box of tissues and bring it upstairs. In Victorian dress, I am large and imposing. Much like the soldiers, we stand out in the crowd of tourists pouring through the sally port.

Again, early morning. I lay in bed listening to the fog horn in the distance. The guys have the fire started, despite the damp, and are making coffee. I am going to learn how to make lace today. We are in my favourite place on earth, Louisbourg. I get up and slowly get dressed. My stays are a bit more constricting in the eighteenth-century than they are in other time periods, they hug a bit tighter. I have full range of movement in my eighteenth-century clothing though, and I stand in ballet’s first position. I am straight, my shoulder blades are slightly pulled back, my arms rest on my side hoops, palms up. My hoops have a sprung reed though, and its point digs into my leg when I wear them. I must remember to put my extra petticoat on first, to keep that point from nagging me. I have to concentrate today.

This time of year is sometimes lonely for a living historian. We need to deal with modern life far too much. Museum work is often seasonal, living history in the summer, for the tourists, mending and research in the winter months to prepare for new programing next summer. Little things will take you back to the moments of history, Le Fumoir at the grocery store, smoking hams for the customers, stitching eyelets on your new waistcoat, thinking of Christmas presents that you really should get started on so that they are finished in time to mail out. Living history, for me, is all about the senses. The smell of wood smoke, the scuff of hobnailed shoes on gravel streets. The click, clack of the loom as it creates the cloth, the young man practicing tin whistle outside the window, the sound of the noon gun, or hourly chime of the bells at the church. The senses are an intimate part of how I understand history, the way my body moves in the different period’s clothing, how what is first expected, is not the oppressive thing about what I’m wearing. When I am stressed in my modern life, it helps to imagine those fragments of sense to get me through the day. It really is too bad that someone hasn’t actually made Eau du Rope, or Eau du Woodsmoke perfume, I bet it would be a hit amoungst living historians

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

You can’t afford to shop anywhere but Walmart. I ask if we, As a Society, can truly afford Walmart?

I am often asked why I don’t ‘go into business’ selling my clothes.  These questions arise more often just after I have finished a collection for a school project, or have completed a new historical outfit.  They are often prefaced by the compliment that my work is so good, I could make good money at it.  Then I ask what people would pay for the skirt I’m wearing, and inevitably they come up short.

So let’s break down the cost of the skirt I am wearing right this moment.  It was designed as part of my MA thesis collection and is based on research on Vivienne Westwood’s Bondage wear, an integral part of the early Punk scene in the UK. The denim fabric cost 15$/metre, and there is about a metre in the skirt, if I cut very carefully. Then there is about another 20$ worth of notions; the buckles, vintage buttons, waistband tape, zipper, hem tape, thread. The skirt itself took two days to sew. If I was to charge just 10$/hour, that’s 160$. So the skirt cost, at minimum, almost 200$.  Questions arise in my mind when I lay out the figures like this. First one is that I am worth far more than just 10$/hour. I have a Master’s degree and almost 30 years of experience. And so I ask how much money the person asking for this skirt makes in their job? How about their Dad? What should a person earn who has a Master’s degree and 30 years’ experience?

And then, what would Walmart charge for a denim skirt?

Cotton is one of the most expensive fibres to process, both financially, but also expensive for the environment. The amount of pesticides used on cotton fields would make any hipster vomit at the idea. It is often produced in Third World countries where environmental concerns are non-existent, so who cares about the environment, or the farmer? Farmers of cotton live with this every day, and they only earn pennies for the cotton crops they produce. Yes, pennies. The cotton crop is then sent to another Third World country for processing. Indigo in its natural form is too expensive, so synthetic indigo is used for dying cotton denim.  The excess dye is often dumped into the local water source to be taken ‘away’. The processors are also often only paid pennies for the cloth they have produced. That processing includes scrubbers, dyers, weavers, and finishers, before the fabric is ready to be cut into pieces to be made into clothing. The finished fabric is then sent to Bangladesh to be made into jeans and other denim clothes. The film we are currently watching, The Last Train, is an older film.  Manufacturers are now sending contracts to Bangladesh because the work can be done even cheaper, and yes, the labour and environmental laws are non-existent. The machine operators who construct our clothes are paid by the piece, usually fractions of cents per seam.  They sit at sewing machines all day and sew one seam of the garment, often for years, one. Seam. This works out to roughly 10$/month in salary. Then when the cost of their meals and housing is deducted from that wage, you get the drift. Garment workers in Bangladesh cannot afford the clothes they create, they don’t earn enough money. All the clothes they make are sent to western markets, where we buy them at Walmart, Forever 21, H&M, for rock bottom prices. And I am not even going to dig into how little sales associates are paid to work in those stores and sell you those clothes.

The clothes we buy are what is known as ‘Fast Fashion’. High turnover of styles in stores feeds an appetite for more. Our clothes are only supposed to last 10 weeks before we are expected to throw them away because they have become too worn out, or too out of fashion. Often times, North Americans will only wear an item of clothing once before it goes into the trash, or sent to the second hand market. Fashion is the second dirtiest industry in the world, second only to oil. Think about that for a second.

There is an internet full of articles on the subject of fast fashion, I’ll give you a quick link to a good one here to start you off. There are far too many reasons to dwell on why I don’t ‘go into business’ and sell my clothes, but the main reason is that we’ve been conditioned to think we can only afford fast fashion, and so, you cannot afford me.

And then I ask again, can we really afford Walmart?

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Facebook as Panopticon: I am not doing well. Do you care? Or am I self disciplining?

Friday, 21 October 2016, 7:23 AM
When I was young, government surveillance was something out of post-apocalyptic novels like 1984. Something that happened beyond the iron curtain, in the Soviet Union. Something scary, best to be avoided. Surveillance here in the West started innocently enough, bar codes being scanned at the grocery store so that the store could keep track of inventory through their point of sale system and so could ensure that the products we liked to buy would be on the shelves. Then came airmiles, so that the industry could keep track of our purchases...
Here we are in 2016, and our whole lives are under surveillance.  Cameras on the street catch us walking through the city in our daily lives, 'point cards' are the thing taking up the most amount of space in our wallets. The wildly successful TV show 'Person of Interest' has just finished up a run of five seasons about how our lives are under constant surveillance, and how we willingly let that happen.
But how did we let that happen? When did government surveillance stop being a thing to be feared, and started being a thing we bought into?  You cannot say that it was 9/11, because we were on that path long before then. There is not a waking moment when my son does not have his smart phone in his hand, checking social media.  He laughs at me, as I rarely know where my phone is, let alone if it has a charge left in the battery. His entire world is in his phone.  My grandchildren are the same, constantly asking for the phone to play with.  They cannot build simple wooden block structures, but at 5 and 3, both can find their way to their favourite programs on YouTube from a seemingly locked phone.
While I am not the most technically savvy person, my 'life' revolves around social media.  Most of my friends and peers are in far flung places around the world. We spend 'morning' coffee together, sharing ideas, talking about our lives, discussing the latest research project, editing each others papers for publication in journals. I'm also able to watch their kids grow up alongside my own. Our lives are online.
We often self edit what we say on Facebook though, what do we think our friends can handle as far as information about our daily lives. How are we doing really? One can put up a brave face, or just stay in the shadows, lurking through a rough spot. Nobody will know, because they can't see our faces on a daily basis, they only see the carefully composed selfies. Do our friends really 'know' us?
I know I share far too much on social media.  There are times when I feel as if I am shouting into the wind. I talk about the things that I wish other people would talk about, so that I would know that I am not alone in how I feel about grad school, about academia. This term, I have canned my way through the stress I have been under, 40lbs of beets one weekend, 20 lbs of apples another. Reading my friends status updates and blog entries for school have lead me to suspect that many of my friends are feeling the same way, as they too are processing far too much food for one winter, for one person. Doing something tangible and productive when the words just will not flow. We are all skirting around the real issues we are dealing with, self disciplining our Facebook pages to show the world that we are doing well.  But are we really?

Friday, 16 September 2016

Photographic Evidence: Dating Historical Photographs

What happens when you think you’ve found that key piece of information that proves your theory, and it turns out to be not what you had first expected? Often times, dress historians are asked to date photographs. The person doing the asking often has a preconceived idea of who is in the photo, and also often what year it was taken based on family ‘history’. Often times, those preconceived notions are misguided, and we have to tell them that they are wrong about the photo.

Case study: “Skutching Flax, Pictou County 1847”
Pictou Historical Society

As you can see, at some point in the photograph’s life, someone added the date and label to the photograph. When catalogued, the registrar added this date and description to the catalogue file for the photo. Straight forward, yes? Well, no, not really. What first stood out to me was the appearance of the photo.  It may be a digital image of the original photo, but there are tell-tale signs to question the original dating. Photographic imaging in 1847 was carried out through the daguerreotype process.  This produced an image on a glass negative and is printed on metal, which, even when digitally copied, still resembles a glass photo printed on metal.  The photo above did not resemble this process, rather it resembled a photograph printed on paper. I then looked more closely at the image itself.

In Gilliam Rose’s article, she quotes Joan Schwartz arguing that “photographs are complicit with particular ‘visual agendas’ that they should be seen as ‘social constructs capable of performing ideological work” (cited in Rose 2000, 555). There were things that seemed ‘wrong’ to my eye if the photo had indeed been taken in 1847. Take for instance, the clothes on the woman in the front.  Her skirt and blouse were a dead giveaway that the photo was more likely from 1887 instead of 1847.  First of all, she was wearing what we now call ‘separates’ instead of a ‘dress’, as would more likely have been worn in the 1840s. Her skirt is cut in an A line shape instead of a full, gathered rectangle shape. Her shoulder line is square, with the sleeve cap gathered into a little puff at the top to accentuate that square line.  Women of the 1840s preferred a rounded shoulder line, and the armscye of the sleeve was worn down on the arm, not up on the shoulder point, to accentuate that rounded shoulder.  The neckline is also more in keeping with the 1880s, being high and tight to the neck instead of cut lower on the bosom and in a more rounded shape.  This woman exhibits all the fashionable ‘tailored’ garments of the 1880s, not the more ‘feminine’ styles of the 1840s.

As Rose mentions, she wants “to insist that photographs cannot be used as neutral evidence of the way things looked” (Rose 2000, 556). This very quickly discussed photograph could be case in point.  The researcher was hopeful that it proved that linen production occurred in Nova Scotia in the 1840s.  It was heartbreaking to inform them that I believed what we were looking at was more of an early ‘re-enactment’ of historical practice for the purpose of the photograph.  As a living historian, I have often wondered how the reproductions we use in our programing will be seen by researchers in the future.  With this photo, I am now wondering how the photographs of our programming will be viewed by those very same researchers. And in viewing this particular photo, I was also struck by how little importance was given to getting the elements of clothing correct, especially in a period where the wearing of ‘old clothes’ was an important social function through masquerades.  The correct clothing could have been obtained and worn by the participants in the photo, and that alone may have fooled more of us here in the ‘future’.

Rose, Gillian. 2000. "Practising photography: an archive, a study, some photographs and a researcher." Journal of Historical Geography 555-571.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

finally finished weaving

I have learned this summer, that when it comes to weaving linen, your best laid plans should be set aside, as linen is a difficult mistress, prone to getting her own way. In John O’Neil’s Improved Method of Weaving Linen, I learned that “eight yards of calico is a fair day’s work, and two yards and a half of linen” (O'Neil 1810, 166). O’Neil also seemed to back up my thoughts on the dryness of the air having an effect on the linen threads (O'Neil 1810, 167). In the article Atmospheric Conditions and Industrial Efficiency, I learned that “the weaving of fine linen is one of the most trying industrial operations known in this country, as it has to be carried on in a hot and very moist atmosphere, in order to reduce the breakage of the yarn to a minimum” (Atmospheric Conditions and Industrial Efficiency 1923, 36). I managed to accomplish my own weaving in one of the hottest August's on record, I also think it was one of the most humid. I learned to not use a single ply thread in the warp.
The ladies at Colonial Williamsburg that I had been chatting with about my project quipped, “It’s only thread…” and I used a lot of thread this summer. But I am happy with the final product. I ended up using an Egyptian linen 2/16. A bit heavier than I originally wanted, but I also wanted to get this project completed this summer. After about a metre woven with the 2/16 as the weft thread, I was close to running out of the 2/16 and so switched to a spool of thread from my stash marked only as #10.  I have halved the number of threads in the check through the weft than are in the warp so that my check stayed an even square.  The threads were packing in nicely, and I am finally happy with the cloth. I ended up weaving about a metre per day, working around my mum's much needed naps due to chemo recovery.  I then processed the fabric by washing it in hot water, hanging to dry on the line, and then steam pressing it before using it. I only broke two threads, one on each selvage, which I then fixed by bringing new threads through the heddles and weaving them in.

Given that the eighteenth century was full of turmoil for the residents of Nova Scotia, with the deportations of the Acadien people, immigration of the Planters from America before the Revolutionary war, and then a second wave of immigration through the refugee crisis of the Loyalists, it is easy to understand why textile production does not seem to have become widespread until the mid-nineteenth century. Extant newspapers from Halifax, Shelburne, and Saint John all contain many advertisements for goods and textiles that were imported and sold from all over the world. As I enter into the time of year when I am processing the year’s harvest, I can understand why the production of food would be paramount in a settler’s mind, certainly one that may or may not have the skills needed to create textiles. I will continue my explorations of weaving linen, but with a different focus. I do not feel that it is a necessity to weave one's own cloth for the accuracy of cloth when used in garment construction, certainly not for men’s shirts or women’s body linens. We are still able to buy reproduction fabrics that are of good quality for much cheaper than I can even buy the thread.  I will weave apron fabric in linen only, as the width of the fabric will be noticeable when made up. I think that my eighteenth century counterpart would approve.

My bibliography for the summer, and the resulting paper 

1769. The Nova Scotia Chronicle and Weekly Advertiser . Halifax: Henry, Anthony, January 31.

1769. The Nova Scotia Chronicle and Weekly Advertiser. Halifax: Anthony Henry, August 8.

1923. "Atmospheric Conditions and Industrial Efficiency." The British Medical Journal 36.

Baumgarten, Linda. 2011. What Clothes Reveal: The Language of Clothing in Colonial and Federal America. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Bolt, Barbara. 2007. "Material Thinking and the Agency of Matter." Studies in Material Thinking 1-4.

Goodrich, Eugene. 2016. "Domestic Textile Production in Early New Brunswick." St. James Textile Museum publication.

Hood, Adrienne D. 1996. "The Material World of Cloth: Production and Use in Eighteenth-Century Rural Pennsylvania." The William and Mary Quarterly 43-66.

Johnston, A.J.B. 1995. "From Port de Peche to Ville Fortifiee: The Evolution of Urban Louisbourg, 1713-1758." In Aspects of Louisbourg: Essays on the History of an Eighteenth-Century French Community in North America, by Carol Corbin, William O'Shea Eric Krause, 3-18. Sydney, Nova Scotia: The University College of Cape Breton Press.

Lawson, Murray G. 1950. "The Domestic Exports of Halifax, 1754-1757: A Ststistical Summary." The Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science 419-421.

Nellis, Eric G. 1986. "Misreading the Signs: Industrial Imitation, Poverty, and the Social Order in Colonial Boston." The New England Quarterly 486-507.

O'Neil, John. 1810. "Improved Method of Weaving Linen." The Belfast Monthly Magazine 166-167.

Rees, John U. 1999. "Some in Rags and Some in Jags, but None in Velvet Gowns: Insights on Clothing Worn by Female Followers of the Armies During the American War for Independence." ALHFAM Bulletin 18-21.

Shammas, Carole. 1982. "How Self-Sufficient Was Early America?" the Journal of Interdisciplinary History 247-272.

Tryon, R.M. 1916. "Household Manufactures in the United States: A Quarter-Century of Developments 1784-1809." The Elementary School Journal 234-249.

Ulrich, Laurel Thatcher. 1998. "Wheels, Looms, and the Gender Division of Labour in Eighteenth-Century New England." The William and Mary Quarterly 3-38.

Monday, 8 August 2016

weaving, an exercise in frustration

Well, I've finally woven about an inch of cloth.  I am completely not happy with the result.  When I last posted, I was threading the reed at 3 ends per dent.  It was causing me to have a very holy cloth, but also not packing in tight enough.  The ladies at Colonial Williamsburg mentioned that I should be packing in the reed a bit tighter than expected, and so this morning I rethreaded the reed to 7 ends per dent.

Now I am definitely getting a warp faced fabric, still with holes in it, as the reed is keeping small spaces in the warp.  I'm also not getting a good enough pack to the weft threads, and my selvages don't pack at all, which is making me very cranky.

I think I may need a finer reed.  I will ask if I can borrow one from school...if so, I might be weaving again by Friday, if I'm lucky.

At least the shed is opening this go around!

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Getting ready to weave: Shirt warp, number's only string, right?

I began this project a few years ago while doing an artist residency at the Centre for Craft and Design in Halifax.  If you go back and read the entries there, you'll find that the shirt warp gave me no end of grief. In the end, I saved what I could of that warp to use later.

Later was this summer.  I dug out my original warp and washed the starch out of it, fully intending to put it on the loom and use it.  Then I realized that the cross had not been saved, and it really was a horrible, tangled mess. I stuck it in the corner of my room and let it contemplate it's messiness while I wound a new warp from the remaining cones of threads I had from that original project.  This time around, my plan was to not use starch, rather, if need be, I'd just spritz the threads down with water.  I was also going to be weaving in the right time of year for linen, in the warm, humid months, and in a naturally conditioned space...meaning no air conditioning.

The second warp was finally wound on the back beam of the loom, and the loom threaded about mid June of this summer.  When I began to weave, the shed just would not open.  The linen fibres were so fluffy they were sticking together tight, fast.  I'd try to open the shed and the whole warp would move as one.  I thought maybe I'd done something wrong when I set up my loom in the Fall, did I tie something up wrong? Nope.  It's the thread.

Part of the problem that I've been having with this shirt warp, part one and part two, is that in an effort to create fairly fine cloth, the threads I have been using were single ply. When I broke down in tears at not being able to open the shed, my Mum and I started searching for solutions.  Plied thread was the only viable solution.  And so, when Pierre started his vacation, he and I day tripped up the thread store in Brassard, QC, and bought new thread.

During this Spring and Summer, my mum has also been battling lung cancer. Since the end of June, my brother and his family have been here for a week, mum has had to endure a particularly bad Chemo cycle, our son and his family have been here. And finally, last weekend, Pierre and I went off to Fort Ticonderoga for our wedding anniversary, and also so that we could get some living history time in this summer. July has been busy.  Needless to say, no weaving has gotten done, as my room has to play double duty for housing extra people when we have company...our house is small.

Pierre went back to work Wednesday morning (yesterday) and I went back to work on the weaving project.  I am now using 2/16 Egyptian linen thread, with a 2/16 cotton in the blue. I am winding six repeats of 20 white, 4 blue, 20 white, 10 blue, 10 white, 10 blue, 20 white, 4 blue, 20 white, 6 blue, 6 white, 6 blue, 6 white, 6 blue. I would have liked to have used a finer thread, but I just cannot buy any in Canada at the moment, and I really want to get this done this summer. I need to get it done for my course work for school.  It will be good apron weight cloth, not fine shirt weight like I had hoped.  But I'll plod along and get it done and possibly publish an article on my research.

While I work, I like to watch documentaries on youtube.  I've 'watched' nearly every Time Team episode, lots of documentaries on the 18th and early 19th centuries in North America, I've also re-watched the miniseries John Adams, and then there is my favourite, Tales from the Green Valley.  This morning, I was looking for something new to listen to and stumbled upon an early 2000s series called Colonial House.  I think it was a BBC production, where they send 17 modern Americans and Brits to live for the summer in a recreated 17thC colony based on Jamestown and Plymouth.  I had forgotten how drama filled this series was.  These people went into the experience with modern agendas, not really wanting to see if they could do it properly.  I was left wondering if that was when Ruth Goodman and crew approached the BBC and asked to try something similar, only trying to do it right. I ended up shutting off the Colonial House about half way through episode3, the modern drama llama holding no appeal to me as I stand here winding a warp, trying to weave cloth in a historically accurate manner. Trying to figure out how my 18thC counterpart would have felt at having to produce her own cloth for the first time in her colonial life as part of a 'revolutionary' act.  So used to being able to purchase fine linen cloth, I'm feeling a bit disheartened at how thick and rough my cloth might turn out. And I'm using purchased threads...I wonder what I'd be able to accomplish using my own produced and spun threads? That will be an experiment for another summer, and I suspect, another year.

Anyway, one more repeat to wind.  Then I can sit and embroider for a couple of afternoons.  I need Pierre's help getting the warp on the loom, and I need new stocking garters, so the indulgence of embroidery is also a necessity.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Why am I here? or, the seemingly exclusivity of living history events

Why am I here?  Well, I'm a living historian, and experimental archaeologist so to speak.  I learn by doing in point the shirt warp, and yeah, sometimes the best lessons learned are those that took the hard way.

While we are in Quebec, I really want to do some living history events to see how things are done, differently?  on a larger scale? for a different audience? with different historical narratives? Fort Ticonderoga has been on my radar since I was a fresh faced 20 year old, first starting out in this profession.  It was big, like Louisbourg 94 big, in my eyes, but also in real life.  It has been a large event, with more living history people in one place than I can really imagine.  I didn't make it to the Louisbourg 94 event, I was still wearing a uniform then, looking after a bunch of cadets in Vernon BC that of my big regrets in life.
Fort Ti is putting on an event in a couple of weeks.  The fall of the Fort to Burgoyne and the British. Though Burgoyne wouldn't get very far in his intended campaign that year, it is one of those instances where I'm left wondering that if the British parliament had only supported its troops in America, that war may have gone very differently.  If only the British Generals in America actually supported one another...

But I get back to my story...

We are able to go to this event at Ticonderoga, having received permission to join in the fun just recently.  All Spring though, I have been thinking about my 'back story', the why behind why I would be at Ti.  As a Loyalist woman, where would I be coming from, how would I have gotten there, what would I have with me?  But since the early Spring, and the Boston Massacre event in March, I have also been thinking about whether I, as a woman, would actually be at Ti in this particular situation.

Ticonderoga has a wonderful information page for this event that has been shared around my facebook feed.  In it, they mention that the American women left prior to the troops leaving the fort in surrender to the British, and that the women were also captured by the British shortly thereafter.  I'm wondering how many women will be in the patriot camp that event weekend?  What will they be doing?  How many women will be in the British encampment?  Will there be any Loyalist refugees?

I could dig my heels in and say that I have just as much right to be at a living history event as any guy blowing off black powder, but do I really?  Is that the history I want to tell? As a woman, our stories have largely been overlooked.  You have to really search for clues as to where we were and what we were doing while epic historical events were happening.  But the herstory is there.  Nurses, laundresses, wives with children, and my personal pearl that I'm worrying of late, the refugee.

So if you spot Pierre and I at the event, skirting the goings on, on the battlefield, with our pack basket.  Pay us no mind.  We are only passing through. Trying not to grab attention from either side, lest we be mistaken for spies or deserters.  We are only on the long walk from New Jersey up to just south of Montreal where Pierre has family.

a little different from the story we tell while on the shore of Shelburne waiting for a plot of land to get started again.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Paper titles and stuff

Excremental Language and Tears: Sometimes the best lessons are learned the hard way, or an exercise in weaving shirt linen, part the second.

There are 1000 threads on my loom. It is no wonder it took so long to thread...especially where I had to make a few hundred heddles.  Monday we are driving up to Plessiville to buy more thread.  This time two ply, in hopes that I can maybe make something this summer other than piles of string.

The original warp, from three years ago is going to be burned in effigy tomorrow...I might ask the guy down the street for some of his pre-lit charcoal in order to make the pile of mess go up faster.  The 1000 threads that are currently on the loom will be wound off carefully and possibly used as weft threads.

as the ladies at Williamsburg said "It's only string".

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Day two, a more fully packed reed, shed still won't open.

The ladies at Williamsburg were lovely yesterday and wrote back with some ideas for getting the weft threads to pack in tighter.  This morning I rethread the reed and retied the warp to the front beam and have just spent the last two hours trying to get the shed to open enough for me to throw my shuttle and weave.

Then I tried spraying with water to cut down on the fuzz...didn't work, won't open.

Then I resorted to the dreaded starch.  What a fucking frustrating mess this is.  Still won't open.

Weaving linen has to be easier than this.

Yesterday I read that a man could easily weave 2 yards/day, cotton, he could weave 6-8 yards a day.  I can't even weave five threads.

and those five threads look like garbage.

I'm sitting, well standing at my loom, pounding the living tar our of the harnesses to try to get them to open when mum calls up the stairs and asks if I should take a break.  She suggests that maybe I go to Williamsburg and see what they do that's different.  Not a half assed idea actually.

Weaving linen has to be easier than this.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016


This damned linen!

I am now finally weaving...well, if you call it that.  I got the warp tied on and the tension good, I tried to open the shed and it won't open.  What have I done wrong?  turns out, nothing. the linen is just that fuzzy that it is sticking together and not opening.   Ok, so a little armstronging it apart and I started weaving. OK, now I'm having tension issues, so I stop and try to figure out what is going on.  The back beam fell off the hook and was hanging there, all askew.  Well, at least this time is wasn't the warp falling off.  This was an easier fix.

So I start weaving, again.

The shed not opening is still being a bit of a bitch to my progress, but so is the fact that I'm not getting the weft threads to pack in tight enough.

Once again, we have cheesecloth.  I am frustrated.

I have another hour before the cat groomer gets here to give Dubh a haircut.  I have an email in to Williamsburg weaving studio.  They just wove up a similar cloth this Spring.  I hope I get an answer back soon...I might have to resort to the starch again.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Zen and the art of dressing a loom

Many people balk at buying fabric that costs more than 2$/metre.  It is only when you have produced cloth that you fully understand why it was the cloth for garments that cost so much in any historical period prior to industrialization.  Even with the power loom, dressing the loom is still a time consuming, back breaking process that is done by human beings.  Cloth becomes cheaper the more that is being woven at any given time, mostly because you only have to dress a loom once.

That all said, my weaving process is slow on purpose.  I do enjoy the set up process, but it does take a lot more time than I would like it to.  First I wind my warp, which really should be done in small sections when you are working with linen threads.  Otherwise they will find a way to twist up and tie themselves and the other threads in knots.  So my warp has been wound off in sections of about 30 threads each.  And even then, it was a bit of a mess to wind on the back beam.  Pierre and I got it done in one evening though, which was surprizing.  I am only weaving 5 metres this go around.  I haven't actually counted the number of threads yet...that scares me a bit.  The width is about 35 inches.  I'm using 1/12 weight linen thread.

Once we got it wound on the back beam, then I began threading the heddles on the loom.  When my loom guy came to set up the old lady, he asked me if I'd really need more heddles than what came with her.  I looked at the box and shrugged, I really didn't know.  Well, I can safely say now that yes, I will need more, because I am out.  In order to thread, you stand in the loom, kinda hunched over the harnesses that hold the heddles, and you carefully tease one thread at a time from the mess in the back and thread it through the eye of the heddle with a hook.  The heddle hook is my go-to tool for dressing the loom, I'd rather use it than the reed hook when I get to that step.  I have a reed hook.  It's a good luck charm in my handbag.  I never actually use it.
So I've gotten to about 200 threads towards the end and am now making new heddles so I can continue threading the rest of the warp.  Each thread heddle is slip knotted to the top bar, then two little knots are made at the height of the heddle eyes, then the bottom is tied to the bottom bar of the harness. This eats up a crap tonne of time. I watch BBC renovation shows on youtube while I work. Or Tales from the Green Valley.

You know what people hate about sewing?  It's having to haul out all your gear, and then crawling around on the floor to cut out a garment, then just being able to sit down to sew when you have to tidy everything up again so you can get supper on the table.

This is what making thread heddles is like.  So I took yesterday off and just enjoyed the holiday of Saint-Jean Baptiste.

Once I get the heddles threaded, then I will thread the reed...and only then I can start weaving.  That part won't take me very long at all in comparison.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Lost a month, but not entirely unproductive

For those that follow along at home (on facebook), mum's last chemo cycle was particularly difficult.  She didn't get up and dressed at all save for two evenings where we took her out for dinner, one of those being Lebanese street food from the market, so that doesn't count really as being 'up'.  Needless to say, my warp took a back seat for the month as I didn't want to leave her alone.  Add to that my brother and his family came up and my nephew sleeps in my studio when they are here. And our cousin came to hang out with mum while Pierre and I went to a conference on the American Revolution in the Mohawk valley New York.

I wasn't entirely unproductive though.  I started Pierre's new linen breeches about a month ago, and got those to the point of just needing knee bands, and I started yet another pair of socks.  I figure if I just keep knitting socks in the in-between times, the three of us will have enough wool socks to carry us through just about any event.  These ones are back to the off white of the natural sheep, but I had so much fun with the 'cammo' socks, that I'm going to be looking into dying some more yarn.  I'm also going to be needing to get some more yarn...if anyone wants to stop in to the NSCAD store and pick up a skein or two of single ply, and send it up with anyone who is passing this way, it would be greatly appreciated.  I'm also willing to do a bulk order with Neil, but that will have to wait until after the summer and weaving.

So I finally got back to the studio on Saturday morning.  We spent the bulk of the cool temps cleaning it up and organizing it.  I finally own a dresser for my T-shirts and sweaters.  We got a couple more boxes unpacked, that sort of stuff.  This morning I got back to my warp and finished winding it off and dressing the back beam.  It is now ready to be wound on the loom, which I'm hoping Pierre and I can tackle over the next couple of evenings.  I have a few metres to weave before the grandkids come.  I want to have the loom naked when they get here, since Audree is still only three, and prone to getting into things she's not supposed to.

Getting back to that conference.  I understand the dynamics of history, but was surprized at how little the Loyalist story is being discussed in the States.  I will be looking into that more over the next few years while we are here.  That's the story of my own history, and Nova Scotia's history has a lot to do with the waves of immigrants.  I hope to be portraying a Loyalist when I'm in the field, re-enacting.  It will be interesting to see how other living historians take to that narrative.  The conference itself helped me to get a better grip on my dissertation because of that.
I was also happily surprized to see how much volumn was given to the Native stories surrounding the revolution.  Pierre was also inspired by it, and more interested in looking into his own family history with that regard.  It appears that the Mohawk people here were just as caught up in the two 'sides' of the conflict as the rest of us were.  Cool.

Our cousin was also sharing stuff she has been uncovering while trying to tidy up my great uncle's house after his passing.  She tells me that the 'old house', my uncle's house being the 'second house' on the property, may still have foundations to explore.  It would be wicked to be able to do some archaeology up there.  She also tells me there are some of the old orchard left, and again, the historian in me wants to see if I can grow some of great-great grandpa's heritage breed apples.  The property has been in our family since the 18th century, and we are all excited to know that it has been passed into good hands.

Well, that's an update anyway.  I should go get the downstairs part of my day started. My tummy's growling, and I'd like to get that sock finished today.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Next Project

My second pair of socks are finished, these were the cammo socks. They turned out pretty cool, one toe needed to be knit in the more yellow of the yarn, as I ran out of the nice mottled green.  That's ok though, what shows will be the nice mottled, or heathered green.

My next project is revisiting the shirt warp from a couple of years ago. I'm working from a sample in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, accession number 98.1822g.  I had a good chunk of that warp left over from the project when it fell off the back beam.  Like a good, frugal girl, I crocheted up what was left, put it in a bag and into my string bin, determined to revisit it.

Well, now is as good a time as any.

This week I have done the finishing set up of my loom with help from Pierre.  We washed it down, blech it was dirty.  Then I loaded the harnesses with heddles, which I do not have enough of.  Pierre made a bunch of lees sticks for detangling, but also for winding on the back beam.  I also had to stitch my back beam apron on again as someone in its past lifetime had cut the beam rods off (thankfully I still have them).  With an equal amount of enjoying our longer than long weekend, we got the loom ready for loading with thread.

This morning I came upstairs and got geared up to thread the loom with that old warp.  Have I mentioned how tangled it is.  That I washed the excess starch out of it and it's a big old mess.  Have I mentioned that there's no cross marked any more, nor do I know where the centre line is.  I looked at it and thought, why that HELL am I bothering!  More than enough work to untangle the thing, then more to get it on the loom, and then I'm not even sure if I will have gotten the centre right, or any of the is plaid after all.

So it sits in the chair, contemplating its own messiness, and I am winding a new warp.

The new warp will not be nearly as long.  My winding board only does a five metre length on a good day.  Nor will it be as wide as the original project.  I am winding it in sections, crocheting each section up, tying it to the back beam, and hopefully not getting it as tangled as the last time around.

I might use the old warp for weft threads...that will depend on how many spools of thread I have on hand.

I have a few projects on the go this summer.  Weaving this shirt warp, then a hose warp in worsted wool.  I have a 1775 suit to make for Pierre, and I have to finish my pink striped gown.  Then, during, as soon as freaking possible, I'm also embroidering a stomacher for Jennifer Wilber, for her wedding at the beginning of August.
AND, I'm thinking about submitting a paper proposal for next year's Canadian Museums Association conference that's due June 12th.

And helping mum through Chemo.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Idle Hands are the Devil’s Playthings: You Could Be Knitting….

On social media lately there has been a call for more activities for the ladies, more women’s material culture being represented at events.  For most of its history, the living history movement has been focused on the major battles of North American history, and with it, the major focus has been on the men.  Women’s roles have been relegated to that of camp drudge, prostitute, or silk dressed ‘belle’ out to view the encampment.  As living historians have expanded their research, we have found that any number of roles for women could exist.  Camp following women were not just soldier’s wives or prostitutes, but could be tavern keepers, merchants, Loyalist refugees, immigrants, the list could go on as far as your imagination will allow.
So what should we, as women, be doing in camp? 
As I prepare for this upcoming season, I am working towards goals set out by the more progressive members of our community.  I have already completely hand stitched our clothing, I’ve been doing that for over a decade now.  I’m working on the little things, the accessories that round out our impersonations.  Getting those little things right can lead to a bunch of little, short term projects with a big bang for the buck.  Lots of accomplishment feelings can go a long way when you are mid-way through a gown that feels like it is taking forever to finish.  I also have a lot of time sitting and waiting right now, and so need little projects that I can take with me as I sit in waiting rooms.  My latest project has been knitting stockings for Pierre.  His legs are the most visible, and so I have started with him.  The eventual plan will be to have all three of us in knitted, period stockings and that none of us have to carry with us modernly constructed, over-the-knee socks.
Eighteenth-century stockings are different from modern stockings in relatively few ways.  Starting at the top edge, the ribbing is constructed differently so that instead of being elastic, like modern socks, the ‘gartering’ is a fat rib to allow for your garters to hold up your socks.  The top band is knit in alternating rows of knit a row and purl a row, instead of knit one, purl one on the same row.  Does that make sense?  The garter rib usually also is only about ½ - ¾”, rather than a fat 2-3” band of ribbing.
Stockings should also come up, over, the knee.  Unlike modern knee socks, these stockings have to extend up beyond the knee band of your breeches.  It drives many a living historian nuts to see sloppiness of socks drooping down around the ankles, or having to constantly struggle to keep your own socks up because they are just too short.  The stockings I’m working on started off as a modern knee-length stocking pattern that I added 5-6” to the length, I also added more stitches to the initial cast on so that there would be enough room for the lower thigh to be comfortable in the sock.  I think I may have added 20 stitches to the cast on.  I then have two separate decreases to the leg, one from top of stocking to the knee, and then a second from the calf muscle down to ankle.
The third main difference is the heel.  Most stockings I have seen have a plain knit heel, no modern fancy stitches to make the heel knitting thicker to last longer.  As boring as it sounds, plain knit heels are the majority.  But if you come across an oddball outlier, I’d love to see it!
There are many references to historical stockings in books such as Sharon Burnston’s Fitting and Proper (Burnston 100), or Linda Baumgarten’s Costume Close Up (Watson 75), the latter being frame knitted, but holding similar characteristics to their hand knit counterparts.  The stockings I am studying are from the New Brunswick museum collection, accession numbers 59.81, OTTY 22586, and OTTY 22587.  These stockings are all knit in fine thread, possibly cotton or linen and are white.  References from run-away ads from American sources in the period also mention woollen stockings with varying colours, such as blue, heathered grey, and even red.
Publication: The Pennsylvania Gazette
Date: August 30, 1764

RUN away from the Subscriber, living in New Britain Township, 
Bucks county, a Servant Woman, named Catherine Palmer, about 5
feet high, well set, of fair Complexion, full faced, pretty 
fresh coloured, with brown Hair, has a Scar on her Breast, and 
another on the left Side of her Head, grey Eyes, supposed to
be about 29 years of Age, sometimes says she was born in
England, but talks with the Scotch Accent; she is much given
To Liquor, and Chewing Tobacco; Had on, and took with her when
            She went away, a long Calicoe Gown, with purple Flowers; a
Striped Linen short gown, Kenting Handkerchief, and a blue and
White one, three Shifts of homespun Linen, one with the
Sleeves something finer than the Body, two Linsey Petticoats, one
Blue and white, the other red and white; two Caps, one
With Cambrick Border, and the other with a Lawn one; Black
Bath Bonnet; a Pair of Pockets, one the same Stuff as her
Gown; a Check Apron, a Pair of new Shoes, her Buckles not
Fellows; a pair of Woollen Stockings, with blue Gores, Stole a 
Pair of blue Stays, new Silk Handkerchief, about 8 yards of
Fine Linen, a Pair of red Worsted Stockings, and several other 
Things supposed to be taken by her.  Whoever takes up the said
Servant, and secures her in any Goal, so that her Master may
Have her again shall have Five Pounds Reward, and reasonable
Charges, paid by John James, jun.

N.B. All Masters of Vessels are strictly forbid to
Carry her off. (The Accessible Archives - the Pennsylvania Gazette)

In a very quick search on Pinterest this morning, I also came up with several instances of women of all class levels knitting.
 a Girl Knitting; MERCIER, Philippe 1689-1760; Nation Galleries of Scotland

 Serving Girl Knitting; BOUYS, Andre 1656-1740; MET

 Woman Knitting; DUPARC, Francoise 1726-78; Musee des Beaux Arts, Marseilles

 Countess Tolstoy nee Lopukhina; ARGUNOV, Ivan 1768

Given that it has taken me a month and a half of knitting to produce one pair of stockings for my husband, it seems as though we should all be knitting.  Everyone needs socks.  The ones you can buy commercially just won’t cut it anymore for several of the events we want to participate in.  It’s time we stepped up our game and started knitting our own stockings.  It is also a good way to keep our idle hands busy, and interpreting an activity that many of us enjoy already.  For those of you needing an actual pattern to follow, there are several available through places such as the Plimoth Plantation and the Modern Maker.  I am also currently working on a pattern based on my own research which will be published in the near future.


Baumgarten, Linda and JohnWatson. Costume Close Up: Clothing Construction and Pattern 1750-1790. New York: Costume and Fashion Press, 1999.
Burnston, Sharon Ann. Fitting and Proper: 18th Century Clothing from the Collection of the Chester County Historical Society. Texarkana Texas: Scurlock Publishing Co. ,Inc., 1998.
The Accessible Archives - the Pennsylvania Gazette. 30 August 1764. 26 April 2016.

Monday, 2 May 2016

a rough term

I haven't written anything that's any good this term.  My thoughts are focused on just getting through the day for the most part.  I've been battling a bad depression that probably stems from the move and starting at a new school.  Then, to top things off, Mum got sick at Christmas time and by mid March we finally found out it was cancer.  So there's that.
I made it through the term though, B+ student.  I will take that as a fairly decent mark, given the circumstances.

The new term brings with it spring and spending the next four months making.  I've also started my anti-depressant top up pill again.  Let's kick this depression shit in the arse!

For school, I will be weaving.  I am going to re-visit the shirt warp, trying out some theories that I have to see if I can get it to weave up a bit tighter.  Washing some of the starch out of it, and using a finer weft thread might help.  So will weaving in an non-air-conditioned space. That's the first project.
Second project will be weaving some red and white checked bag hose material for Kerry Delorey of the 84th Highlanders in Nova Scotia.  He is also working on getting some yardage woven in Nova Scotia in larger amounts.  If that works out, could we possibly wish for other heritage textiles to be woven?  In any case, I'm going to be weaving more once I get things set up here in Saint-Hubert.

For the past two months I have also been working on a knitted sock pattern.  Knitting away in between periods of reading and trying to grasp school work.  I just started my second pair of the summer on Friday night.  Pierre should have four pair by the time we get to do any living history this summer...if we do.
That said, it is highly unlikely that we'll be travelling very far afield this summer.  Louisbourg and Shelburne are now out of the question.  We can't be 14+ hours away from Mum, and our original plan of taking her with us to stay in Caribou is now out too.  She'll be too sick for that kind of travelling.  Our back up plan right now is to spend our 10th anniversary at Fort Ticonderoga, if we can swing it.  There is an event brewing there for that weekend, and if we are accepted to go, we'd be in with a bunch of hard core progressives.

So I am focusing my to-do list with that in mind.

Pierre can't just bum around in his Louisbourg sailor's kit, he needs arsing around gear for the revolutionary period.  So I have some linen in the wash for new breeches and frock coat that he can then completely destroy once they are made.  I'll be basing them on the breeches in Sharon Burnston's book (Burnston, 53), and the frock coat from Linda Baumgarten's (Baumgarten, 92). The linen is a twill in dark blue.  He'll wear the waistcoat I made for him last summer in blue and grey stripe.
I have to finally finish my linen striped gown for then too.  I figure another few days and that will be off my UFO pile.  Better late than never.

This encampment has a document it or leave it at home rule.  So I'll be going over our kit with a fine toothed comb.  I am looking at tracking down a basket I can make into a pack basket and only taking what we'd be wearing and what will fit in the basket and maybe one market wallet.  I am also considering making/finishing the canvas tarp I started back when I worked at the museum to be used as a shelter.  All of their tents are hand sewn.  Like I said, hard core progressive.  It will be interesting to experience that.

Anyway, should get back to my knitting...


Baumgarten, Linda. Costume Close Up: Clothing Construction and Pattern 1750-1790. New York: Costume and Fashion Press, 1999.

Burnston, Sharon Ann. Fitting and Proper: 18th Century Clothing from the Collection of the Chester County Historical Society. Texarkana, Texas: Scurlock Publishing Co. Inc., 1998.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

wow, where did February go?

Feeling kind of dumb today. I can't get one of my readings to open (Bennett) past itty bitty tiny, tried in google scholar and it only opens some of the pages, and only part of the first chapter. That I can read is a whole lot of academic bureau-speak. Feeling a bit over my head today.
I have been feeling a bit over my head a lot this term.  A couple of things have struck me over the past few days though, and I'm beginning to feel my head clearing of the fog. Brene Brown's interview on Empathy, Compassion, and Boundaries really struck a chord with me this morning.

I have been questioning my place in this PhD program.  I have a core group of classmates that I enjoy being around, that I enjoy conversation with.  This core group are challenging all of us to think outside the box.  I think of them in the same way that I think of another classmate in my MA program.  She left that program and I was beside myself.  Her choice to leave was valid, and I applaud her for it.  I stuck things out.  I felt alone a lot of the time.  The only thing that got me through that program was my family and my advisor.  I had no cohort.  With this degree, I finally feel like I have a cohort.  It is a small one.  Most times, I feel like we are the misfits of grad school, the nerdiest nerds.  I love them all.  I stick it out in class because of them.  I want to be with them.  I want to engage in conversation with them.

Then there are the 'big fish' of grad school.  The ones who can create words seemingly out of thin air, the students who can engage in academic bureau-speak.  With these classmates, I feel frustrated.  I feel stupid.  Some of these classmates have exclaimed that we are the 'upper echelon of the academy', and I'm going 'what?', 'Where?', 'Howdidthathappenagain'?  I'm not feeling upper of anything.  I'm just trying to figure out what my readings are trying to teach me this week...what does that word mean again?

I could feel frustrated and stupid, or I can just go and be creative.  So, once again, I have cut out a bunch of new garments and am going to engage with the Zen of pocket construction this afternoon.  Each painfully tedious step from marking with chalk, to basting, welt construction, pressing, I am going to engage with them all.  Then I am going to Hong Kong finish all my seams, or maybe not, depending on the sample I do, and if it creates too much bulk with the seams.  I am going to engage in topstitching in contrasting colour, this jacket will be topstitched to within an inch of its life.  And then I am going to engage with the Zen of the buttonhole stitch; that meditative thing that I enjoy the most about garment construction, hand sewing.

Maybe I should then write a reading response to my professor.  The performativity of my own artistic practice, and my own concept of agency (Jones). 

I'm givin' er.

Jones, Amelia. Material Traces: Performativity, Artistic "Work," and New Concepts of Agency. MIT Press, The Drama Review, Vol 59, No. 4, Winter 2015

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Studio day

I have designated Tuesdays as a studio/work day.  Today I am cutting out a silk bonnet to wear to class next week (I almost wrote a couple of weeks there, time is slipping away quickly!).  I am presenting on interpretation, ethnology, and museums for my 'objects' class.  I think my final paper will be on interpretation too.  I also checked further into the Fort Ti internship, the due date for applications is the first of April, so I may use this piece of writing as part of that application.

But first, bonnets, and next week's class.  I was hesitant on the whole bonnet thing at first.  I saw them as a fashion trend emerging within the re-enacting community when they first appeared.  I wondered how prevalent they would have been in period, and how many would be produced by reenactors to wear.  Would the silk bonnet eclipse the straw bonnet?  What about the calash?  The last few years have seen more and more information put out for the public to see, and I have to now admit that I am convinced.  Will I be wearing my bonnet all the time? Probably not.  It will be saved for working in, when the other hat options are not practical.  And probably not when it is too hot, as the straw is a better option there.

I am making mine out of black silk taffeta that my brother gifted to me a few years ago.  It is fine quality cloth, with no slubs at all.  I am constructing the brim with layers of hair canvas, pad stitched together to create the curve, then I'll cover the canvas with wool, then the silk.

Ok, this is me, getting my day started.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Thoughts on a wintery afternoon

We are in Montreal now, and I am starting my second term at the PhD level.  I am growing to really love my program, but I'm also looking at the future, and what I want to do once I'm done.  I really want to get into Interpretive Programming, at the management level.  Pierre and I have also made noises about wanting to return to Nova Scotia eventually, but even that is up in the air, depending on the job market.

I'm not ready for the job market yet anyway.  I have another school year of classes to take, then a year of comprehensive exams, then writing the dissertation.  But what can I, or do I want to do in the meantime to expand the interpretive background of my CV?  There's a summer internship at Ticonderoga in Interpretation.  There are opportunities at Williamsburg.  I will be spending the next month looking for other opportunities that I might like to take part in.  Broadening the horizon will make it easier to get work when I'm finished this degree, especially in Nova Scotia.

I am anxious though, that there will be pressures forced upon us to return to Nova Scotia before I am ready.  As much as I love it there, I think I would regret it if we go back too soon.  I feel like, for the very first time in my life, that I am able to do anything, anywhere that I may dream up.  Most people do things like this when they are in their early 20s.  I am turning 45 in four months.

In the meantime, I just finished the second of my two 'Christmas break' project outfits.  I wore the red smock last week to class.  The little brown and blue suit I will be wearing to a mess function at the end of the month.  I'll have my hair done up nice and will take a photo then.  next up for sewing projects is to get my striped linen 18thC gown finished, just on the off chance that I might have a summer gig.

fingers crossed.