If you ever were a reader of my old blog, Story of a Seamstress, you know that I used to do custom sewing commissions full time before I married. In my current season with a busy homestead and 3 young kiddos, its rare now that I will take a commission, but I still do on occasion. Earlier this year a lovely lady asked for a historical reproduction of a white sheer bodice from the 1860s. It was a delightful project.
The picture above is the original bodice my client wanted to reproduce. (this picture came from a defunct ebay listing) Notice the separate underbodice/lining with buttonholes and lace trim. We couldn’t see this bodice in great detail from the pictures, so I had to make a few guesses about construction, but over all I am very happy with the result.
My reproduction was made from white sheer cotton voile, and has a half-lining of cotton muslin. The lining buttons closed, and then the bodice closes invisibly over the top with hook-and-eyes.
When incorporated into a period outfit the white bodice will appear similar to the original images shown below:
A fashionable outfit with a fine silk, wool, or sheer fabric skirt and accessorized with a belt, or silk ‘waist’, and a collar, brooch or ribbon at the neck.
If you do any research on this look online, you might variously hear this type of bodice called a ‘Garabaldi blouse’, ‘white blouse’ or ‘white waist’. Looking at originial sources, it seems to be the white bodice and contrasting skirt look was an 1860s fashion fad mainly followed by wealthy younger women.
You can see the fabric is quite sheer above the lining allowing the upper shoulders to be very cool and breezy for those hot summer months!
All buttonholes hand done.
Sleeves very full and a nice fitted back.
Lace and buttonhole detail on lining.
Below: more inner construction details for any interested seamstresses! :)
Over the winter and spring Jordan has made a lot of progress on our kitchen! I am so excited about it. The kitchen has long been one of the most unfinished spaces in our house, and its exciting to see it getting a face lift!
The first big change was when Jordan found and purchased a used Kitchen Queen woodstove. We’d been on the lookout for a cookstove big enough to also heat the house, and this one is perfect! My small antique woodstove will have an eventual home in the summer kichen and be used during hot weather. Installing that was a big project! He insulated he wall behind and put the tin barn metal heat shield and stovepipe vent, installed all new stovepipe and made braces for the outside, then made a copper covered heat shield and platform for underneath the stove. Lots of work!
The window over the sink was taken out and completed re-glazed and the inside painted white. While it was out, Jordan chinked the two walls in the kitchen, and when the window went back in, it was the first in he house to have it’s proper trim installed as well! The trim will be painted white too.
The sink cabinet he built (still needs doors) and installed our sink and our real plumbing! (no hot water yet) The vintage enamel sink we bough at the local ‘Octoberfest’ sale last year for $25. I am really loving the progress! Read on to see what’s next….
Eventually the wall behind the sink will be our cabinets – there will be a larger cabinet and counter to the left of the sink which will be my ‘baking station’, and to the right of the sink will be a narrow cabinet with a space for a ‘coffee station’. The wall will be covered with a combination of open shelves and small cabinets, and there will be a hanging light fixture over the sink. The picture below is very inspiring to us, and the feel of our cabinets will be similar:
Picture credit David T. Smith
The color of the cabinets and shelves will be milk painted a distressed and muted aqua/sky blue, much like the antique cabinet below. Picture credit Garth’s Auctions
To the right of the sink, there will be a plate rack and cup hooks incorporated somewhere above the ‘coffee station’.
There will also be a work station in the middle, sort of a large island with a space underneath for firewood storage.
It’s been so fun to see our ‘real’ kitchen finally coming together!
If you are interested to see lots more of my farmhouse kitchen inspiration – be sure to visit my Pinterest board on the subject!
The gardening is growing so fast these pictures I took just a few days ago are already outdated! Every time I walk out to the garden I feel like the plants have doubled again in size! You can’t see them in this picture, but we also have our tomatoes coming along nicely now and staked up.
Last week we harvested all that was left of our cauliflower, as it was all ready at once.
This was the biggest head.
My biggest basket was full. We stored all but one in the fridge, and that one got included in supper –
A rather delicious stir-fry.
Romaine Lettuce and Dill growing together. We’ve gotten so many salads off our 3 varieties of lettuce we have planted. The kids like to go out and snack on lettuce, and on occasion have nearly killed a few of the plants by eating off too many leaves!
Speaking of, they also nearly destroyed the poor basil plants (in the right hand pot) last week. I asked them to go out and pick A FEW basil leaves for seasoning the dish I was making. When I checked on them, both plants had no leaves, and Alan was holding one uprooted plant in his hand. Thankfully we were able to replant quickly and they both seem to be recovering. The other sad plants in the chips are eggplants. The flea beetles are really hindering their growth, but I’m hoping once they get their roots established enough they will be able to produce anyway. (that’s what happened last year, so…)
I planted a few Sweet Meat Squash seeds in egg cartons that recently got transplanted out to an empty place in the garden. Hoping they do well.
This is our Swiss Chard, also seedlings of Okra beginning to get a few leaves.
And this – this is our Kale patch. Before I harvested 5 stuffed gallon bags for the freezer.
And this is the Kale patch afterwards…though its already growing back so fast.
Recently we added potatoes. This method may look a little strange, but works very well. First you lay down newspaper (or in our case, ripped apart feedsacks) and space the cut up seed potatoes over the top. Then thickly cover it all with hay. We actually covered ours with fresh grass cut with Jordan’s scythe, and it dried out very quickly.
After a few weeks the potato sprouts begin to push up through the hay, then before long it looks like this:
When we get ready to harvest potatoes in the fall, we just push aside the straw and pick them up!
I’ll leave you with this picture of collard greens and fresh eggs that were in the process of migrating into the house.
I’m sure I’ll have more thrilling garden news for you soon!
Most of last year our ‘guest room’ as it was then was filled with dry lumber were were storing for finishing the attic floor and the upstairs walls. Last fall when we put in the attic floor and did more work on the upstairs walls, we were able to move the stack out of the spare bedroom, and it finally became – the kids room! Marian and Alan had been sharing a crib in our bedroom, and it was high time they had their own space! They were pretty excited. It has been fun fixing up the space even though it’s not a finished room yet.
Right now I am keeping their clothes in this antique steamer trunk. It works famously!
Their beds are two crib mattresses, we keep them stacked during the day to be out of the way, and then at night they can each have their own bed. We have a small antique iron bed that Jordan is in the process of restoring – when that is finished it will be Marian’s bed, and Alan will have a trundle bed.
This is one of their favorite imagination areas – the play kitchen. Jordan made the wooden hutch for Marian for Christmas 2 years ago, and my parents found the other piece in an antique store and fixed it up to look like a woodstove.
Marian at her ‘sewing machine’.
Lots and lots of books stored here and there. I am looking forward to having some floor to ceiling built-in shelving in the corner between the windows one day!
The curtain behind their closet is covering a space where a second window will be. I strung tiny twinkle lights around it to give them a nightlight.
In the corner I have baskets for their various toy categories – wooden blocks, toy animals, baby doll things, and Alan’s basket of special toys (guns, hammers, tractors).
That’s their room! It becomes a wreck nearly every day, but being such a small space it’s also really quick to clean it up again in the evening when I’m putting them to bed. We’ve all been enjoying having the toys contained and having a nice space for the kids to play and sleep. I have lots more plans for this room as we continue to finish out the house!
A few glimpses of our spring season thus far…
Spring has officially arrived when the daffodils are in bloom! The beautiful yellow ones had gone wild all around a lovely abandoned old mansion.
Winshaw – emerging from winter, ready for sunshine and warmth!
The windy March provided excellent diaper – drying weather.
An adorable little bridge Jordan and Alan constructed one day. Its been very nice not having to step over the drain area! (this won’t be an issue one we get our permanent plumbing installed)
I have so many books going, it’s ridiculous.
Our beautiful new walnut dining table – this was a handmade gift from some special friends, and we are so honored to give it a home. Many meals and conversations will take place here!
Dogwood blossoms. I would love to have a pink and white dogwood trees near the house somday.
A new spring dress for Marian. I’m making it a priority this year to make them new clothes myself when they need something before I run out and just buy by default.
Setting out our plants to go into the ground. I love watching things grow. We are expanding our garden spot this year, and I am excited and a bit anxious to see how everything turns out!
A garden helper who was being rather whiny. Nap time and all that, you know.
Little Man loves his baby sister!
We so enjoyed keeping a neighbor’s milk cow last week. Jordan and I both grew up with milk cows around, and it just makes the place seem so homey. :)
Milk and cream galore! We were getting about 2 gallons a day.
Several times during the week I made butter. It was beautifully yellow – all that fresh spring grass!
Our old dining table moved to the porch, where I’ve got a few herbs started.
French toast and pretty china.
Elsie helping with laundry! I makes a good place for her to sit while Marian and I take the clean clothes off the line.
In February and March, Marian and Alan each had their birthdays. Jordan and I have talked quite a bit about what traditions we want to begin in our family for birthday celebrations. We considered what would be special and memorable to the child on that day. So, starting this year we began a new tradition – the birthday child will get to spend a day out (or in) with just one parent. This could be anything from a wilderness hike to an afternoon scrapbooking – I’m sure it will look different with each child each year with their personality and preferences. But the underlying idea as they get older is to create an environment conductive to unhurried conversation, and truly finding out where the heart of the child is at this new beginning.
This year I suggested Jordan be the one to take the kids out on their birthdays, since Elsie is still so tiny, it would be hard for me to give the others undivided attention. He took Marian to a cute local lunch spot for a ‘daddy-daughter-date’ (as Marian delightedly told everyone she met) . She was thrilled to get to eat out at a restaurant (a rarity for us) and had a wonderful time! She hasn’t stopped talking about it since.
When Marian returned from lunch, we blew bubbles in the evening sun rays, and decorated her petti-fours. (pound cake I made previously and cut into circles with a cookie cutter)
They were iced with cream cheese tinted pink with beet juice.
Marian is happy to be 3 now, and is already talking about when she will be 4!
We love you, Marian! Our big girl.
Alan on his 2nd birthday got to go fishing with Jordan for the first time! He loved catching ‘baby’ fish, and both of them had a great time.
He choose to have a chocolate cake, an insisted we bake his portion in this teeny tart pan! We love our ‘big-little man’!
What traditions do you have for birthdays in your home?
Last autumn, with baby #3 on the way, I had been reconsidering diapering options. Before Marian was born a friend loaned me a stash of newborn cloth diapers in various styles, so I did some cloth but mostly disposables from honest.com . With Alan, since I didn’t have any cloth diapers of my own, I did all disposables with the Honest subscription, which I felt was quite affordable in the world of ‘natural’ or chemical free disposable options….however that payment coming around every single month still made our budget say ‘ouch’. So, before Elsie was born I was considering cloth diapers in the back of my mind – but then it is usually a big investment getting started in cloth diapers, even though it’s much cheaper in the long run, and there are SO many cloth diaper options, it gets really confusing trying to research it online! The one consideration that really pushed me to seriously do cloth diapers this time around was the insane amount of garbage disposable diapers make. Think about it – if you had to deal with the garbage you make on your own property, there’s no way you would even consider using disposables and have piles and piles of old diapers sitting around in your back yard – it’s not like they are biodegradable! The more I thought about it the more wasteful it appeared to do that (even though they don’t end up in our yard -they end up somewhere taking up valuable land space), and I determined to find a way to do cloth diapers, even though it didn’t seem like we could afford it. The thought never entered my head to make my own diapers, until…
In mid- November (Elsie was due December 5th!) I was talking to a friend and neighbor who had done cloth diapers with all of her 4 children, and she showed me how she makes her own diapers with THIS pattern . The pattern looked so simple, and since I could make my own diapers so much cheaper (nearly for free, since I had so many sewing supplies on hand already) than buying any other cloth or disposable option, I was sold! I started making diapers in every spare minute for the next few weeks. When Elsie was born, I still didn’t have all I wanted made, but we had enough to limp by with, and I’ve still been making more in any spare time. I only have a handful left to make before I will have enough to go a few days between washing a load. (about 30 diapers)
Here are a couple of the first diapers I made, the teeny newborn size.
The diapers have layers of towels or other padding, then three layers of main fabric.
All layers are sewn flat together inside out and elastic is tacked on at points around the leg holes, and back of waist.
Then, the diapers are turned right side out and top stitched all around. Super easy and fast!
Outside diaper laying flat
Inside diaper laying flat. I always use white fabric for the inside of the diapers so that any stains can bleach white again in the sun.
I started using old soft cotton t-shirts for the outside layer of the diapers. This fabric seems to work better than flannel for my fastening method. (see below) For the other two layers I used white cotton knit and white cotton flannel I bought. All the other supplies (old towels, elastic, old t-shirts) I either had on hand or was able to find for free.
These diapers wash really well in my hand powered James washer. They are pretty slim, and don’t have any sewn on fasteners, so they can go through my wringer without any hang ups. They also dry on the line, or by the woodstove much faster than the store bought cloth diapers I used before.
I decided not to use individual fasteners on each diaper, but to use these clever little things called ‘Snappis’ (also recommended by my neighbor). Much better than diaper pins!
Now, with cloth diapers there of course must be some outer layer to keep the diaper from soaking through to the clothing once it is wet. There are lots of different cover options available – I bought two waterproof Thirsties covers, that work pretty well, but I really don’t like anything plasticy next to my baby’s skin, plus they will start to have an odor if you aren’t very careful to wipe with the cover with a baby wipe between each change. I knew I also wanted to try wool covers, so I made several using thin old 100% wool sweaters that had been felted by washing and drying in a regular machine. I used this pattern.
Wool is amazing. I love that these covers are soft and natural, and do the job so well. Once these covers are sewn and finished, they should be’ lanolized’ . (basically just soaked in warm water while you rub lanolin into the fibers, I found a very helpful video tutorial on YouTube) Wool is already naturally somewhat water resistant, but treating with extra lanolin makes them amazingly so. I’ve never had them leak, even going overnight, and don’t have any smell. Another great thing is, these covers only have to be washed about once every two weeks, due to the natural neutralizing properties of the wool.
I am quite pleased with my cloth diapering system thus far. It makes me very happy that I have been able to make the items myself, which has saved us so much money! I’ve been enjoying the whole process much more than I thought I would – it’s much easier than I expected! I also wanted to write a bit about the infant potty training that I am doing with Elsie, but this is getting long already, so I will save that for another post!
Having a newborn at Christmas time was fun – it also made for a very quiet, at home celebration.
The day before Elsie was born we went out and found our tree, and then it very slowly got decorated bit by bit over the next couple of weeks.
I had bought the supplies for a gingerbread house last Christmas, and never got around to making one – so we were all ready to go this year without having to leave home! We made a sad little lopsided house, but I think the kids had fun.
Marian was very excited to wake up from her afternoon nap one day about a week before Christmas to discover the first presents under the tree! I didn’t have any wrapping paper, so everything got wrapped with white pattern paper and ribbons from my sewing stash.
I didn’t do really any of my normal cooking ahead of time for Christmas, which didn’t quite feel ‘right’…We did however make eggnog which was delicious. Here Marian is helping – her favorite ‘job’ is licking the beater, of course.
I think we can all agree that the best part of Christmas this year was snuggling Elsie! It was extra special having a newborn at this time of year as we told Marian and Alan about when Jesus was born.
Christmas eve when all three kids were finally asleep – Jordan and I still had to finish up the gifts for both Marian and Alan, and fill stockings. We were up pretty late.
Our tree this year was decorated with dried oranges, red and gold ribbon, copper wire starry lights, paper snowflakes, and pine cones.
Here it is, early Christmas morning. We gave Marian a tea set, a new gown, a fancy dress-up dress, (both homemade) a necklace, and some books.
Alan was delighted with this miniature anvil and blacksmith’s hammer that Jordan made for him! We also gave him a vintage metal dump truck and some books.
Here come the sweet faces down the stairs Christmas morning, Marian was the most excited, and Alan was excited because she was excited!
Elsie was very unimpressed with Christmas, she slept most of the day.
Christmas afternoon we spent at Nanna and Papa’s house, and then came home and everyone took a nap. That was our very good, quiet little Christmas this year!
On December 6th we were blessed to welcome another little girl to our family –
Elspeth “Elsie” Victoria
She was 7 lbs 8 oz, and 19.5″ long
So, a bit of the birth story – (thankfully much less dramatic than the day of Alan’s birth)
My due date was the 5th, so my Mom and two youngest siblings had arrived several days before, and we had been getting the house ready with some organizing projects, and trying to get our Dream Come True Bed orders for Christmas finished up. We had also found and cut down our Christmas tree the evening before.
Mid morning on the 6th I had some faint contractions, but they were so faint that I wasn’t sure whether or not they were actually anything. This continued for several hours while I tried to finish up some unfinished projects and some bedding orders for Christmas Dream Come True Beds, while Jordan and the kids got the Christmas tree set up. Finally the contractions started getting steady enough that they were obviously the ‘real thing’. It was about 1:00 pm. I asked Jordan to draw me a nice deep bath (we can do that now with our new bigger woodstove and water reservoir, post on that coming soon) That was amazing and kept the contractions at bay for about an hour.
Our midwife was at another birth a couple of hours away, so she sent her daughter who is also a midwife. She was awesome, and we were very thankful she was able to come!
When she arrived I got out of the bath and went upstairs to the bedroom where my Mom had been getting everything ready for the birth. Quite soon the contractions started getting painful, and I needed Jordan to be right with me.
Very soon (really sooner than I was mentally ready) I was told the baby was ready to come, and I could push – so in not very long our little Elsie arrived! It was 3:18 pm. She was perfectly pink and round – hardly cried, and just seemed to want to go back to sleep after the slight interruption of being born! But, we had to wake her up so she could have her first meal – which she greatly enjoyed!
I had decided several months before that I would let Marian be at the birth (she was at Alan’s birth as well, but that was pretty much by accident) and she had been looking forward to it. As I was going into the last part of labor, she and Alan were going down for a nap, so we let her sleep for about 45 minutes. When it was obvious that the baby was soon to make her appearance, Jordan went and got Marian up, and she perched beside me on the bed – seeming to take the whole thing quite calmly.
She was enormously pleased that baby was a girl! Of course she had been telling us all along it would be a sister for her. (she says the next baby can be a boy now, because Alan needs someone!) We woke Alan up after the birth, and he seemed a little surprised to see tiny little Elsie. On the whole he was very excited and wanted to touch and cuddle Elsie – but he also kept repeating over and over in a confused tone…”My Mom….my Mom…my Mom…”
Here is Elsie getting her first check up.
Goodness, there’s nothing like that wonderful feeling of being done with the birth, and just knowing you can rest and hold the sweet new one.
Alan does adore Elsie. They were both ready for a nap at the same time a few days after the birth, and he just wanted to snuggle. He looks SO BIG now! He is almost two years old after all, but after being the baby for so long, it seemed he doubled in size overnight when she was born!
Everyone loves Elsie! Grammie got lots of snuggles in before she had to go back to Texas.
Her little profile slays me.
She gets lots of sibling love! I have to watch carefully because they (Alan especially) are still learning about the word ‘gentle’.
Elsie is quite a Daddy’s girl already. She loves to rock with Jordan by the cozy woodstove. Sometimes when she’s fussy I can’t even console her – but as soon as Jordan takes her and she snuggles her head down on his chest, she’s fast asleep and smiling.
We are SO happy Elsie is here, and can’t wait to see more and more of what her personality will be!
Our garden report isn’t very impressive this year, but I wanted to post about it at any rate, because it is our first year to have a garden, and I’m glad we at least made a start!
These pictures are from when we first put our garden in. It wasn’t until mid-June because we were waiting on completion of our chicken-tractor. (more about that in another post) When the destructive poultry were finally confined, it was so late in the season that we decided to buy plant starts to pair with the few plants I had already started from seed.
Earlier in the spring Jordan tilled a place in front of the house and we covered it over with cardboard (lots of cardboard!!) and wood chips. It sat for a few weeks before we were ready for planting -and it was wonderful! Planting was so fast and easy, and clean! The dirt underneath was soft and full of worms – I just made little holes in the cardboard with a spade, dug down enough to give the root ball space, then spread the dirt then chips evenly back when the plant was settled.
We planted tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, cantaloupe, watermelon, dill, artichoke, winter squash, and cucumber.
The squash and cucumber we planted underneath the rail fence to give the plants a nice place to climb.
So….here we are about 3 months later. We had quite a few casualties. The artichoke, dill, and zuchinni died fairly quickly. Even with daily watering, I think the little plants were just too vulnerable in the summer heat without established root systems.
The winter squash and cucumbers thrived for a while and got fairly big, but then just seemed to shrivel and die from the roots upward. I’ve been told that a pest that lives in the ground was responsible for that. Must figure out how to defend those types of plants before next year. Winter squash always did wonderfully when I lived in Texas, but it seems to have more enemies here in Tennessee!
I do definitely love the card-board and chips system. Even as a busy mom without very much extra time, I was still able to pretty easily keep weeds and grass at bay.
To learn more about using woodchips in the garden – watch the free online film Back to Eden.
So, here we are with our garden survivors, and two little munchkins. Marian and Alan love spending time in the garden. They will often ask to go out there while I am on the porch doing laundry to sit and eat cherry tomatoes. We’ve grown a good deal of delicious yellow ‘Sun Gold’ cherry tomatoes, as well as some bigger varieties of red.
We never have gotten our tomatoes staked up off the ground, but they seem to be thriving anyway. I think the chips are doing well at keeping them from being too damp on the ground.
The eggplants are doing well now, and have lots of blossoms. For 2 months they just barely hung on during the worst heat, and were also eaten down to nothing again and again by flea beetles. (another new pest to me – any tips on how to control or prevent them?) But after several weeks of cooler weather and rain, they sprang back to life and have tripled in size. The beetles are still there, but don’t seem to be harming the plants as much now. Maybe we will get some eggplants yet!
We’ve had several good cantaloupes! Our watermelon plant is still doing well, but so far every time a watermelon gets any where close to big enough to be ripe, it splits open. Apparently it’s been too rainy to be a good watermelon year.
Alan is quite the tomato lover. When they are headed to garden he shouts “May-mo!! MAY-MO!!” at the top of his lungs! Usually we don’t make it into the house with any of the tomatoes we have picked – they are all consumed on the spot.
I made the little overalls Alan is wearing from a charming and delightfully easy vintage pattern from the 50s. I made him two pair, and they have basically been his uniform this summer. I’m hoping to make some long, warm flannel ones for warm weather.
This dress I made earlier in the Spring. I saw a pretty floral printed king size pillowcase at Goodwill, and thought it would make a lovely little dress for Marian. I quite love how it turned out – there was enough material to make a very full skirt which is always so cute and fun for little girls.
Looking forward to continuing what’s left of our garden into the fall, with hopefully a better idea of what to prepare for next year. I’m hoping to get a much earlier start next spring and be perhaps a little more ready for the challenges of Tennessee gardening.