Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Back Down the Rabbit Hole -- Shirts

National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London Self Portrait of Lt Gabriel Bray 1775

IIt's back down the rabbit hole and this time we were led there by shirts.  We decided to do something different this year by devoting an entire Hive to a single garment. The shirt was selected for several reasons - because so many reenactor men are wearing really bad ones, but also because we knew there was much to be learned about this seemingly humble garment.

The first part of the Hive will look at the shirt from a societal and historical context. What do earlier and later shirts look like?  What do period sources tell us about how to make a shirt? Who makes them? How many would you own? What are the period names for the parts and pieces of a shirt? We'll then dive into a survey of shirts as depicted in 18th century artwork in order to identify the hallmarks of a shirt from the 1765 - 1785 time period.  We'll use period advertisements, inventories, sewing guides, and other primary sources to better understand fabric options, shirt production and specifications.

Detail from The Blacksmith 1772 Lewis Walpole Collection
The actual construction of the shirt will take center stage when we dig deeper into the details, sewing techniques and assembly sequence. We are going to look at four examples of shirts with 18th century provenance that we have had the opportunity to closely examine.  What did we expect to see?  What didn't we expect to see?  And what were the out and out "wow" moments?   And thanks to high resolution digital photography we can zoom in close enough to make sense of what we can't see with the naked eye.

Detail from Paul Revere Portrait by JS Copley - MFA Boston
The last part of the Hive will be spent demonstrating several of the stitching techniques you will need to create an authentic shirt of your own.

Mark you calendars for February 21st and come join us for what should be a fun and informative afternoon!

The Hive will be held at Minuteman Technical High School on route 2A in Lexington, MA.  The Hive is from 12-4.  Admission is free, coffee is served and snacks to share are always welcome.

Any questions feel free to email me at hiveworkshops@gmail.com

(Yes our website is currently unavailable -- up to date info will be posted on this blog)

Sunday, December 20, 2015

HIVE 2016 Schedule

Sunday January 3, 2016 -- Battle Road Hive  noon - 4pm

 12:00 – 12:45: Parker’s Revenge – What we have learned
"BALL!” Whenever this simple word was shouted, all work in a small wooded area on the eastern end of Minute Man National Historical Park would come to a halt. Within moments a small, dedicated group of archaeologists and metal detectorists would gather around the person who initiated the call. They would be the very first people to see what had not been seen since the afternoon of April 19, 1775 – a deadly relic of battle – a musket ball. This fall a project lasting more than two years to discover where Captain Parker and the Lexington militia met and engaged the British in battle finally came to a close. The results have been more exciting and enlightening than anyone could have imagined. Park staff and volunteers involved with this battlefield archaeology project will share with you their experiences from the field and discuss the analysis of the finds. Where was the battle fought? How did it develop?  Pay close attention, as this year’s Battle Road tactical demonstration will be based on it!
1:001:45: “…the farmers gave them ball for ball, from behind each fence and farmyard wall…” Interpreting Battle Road Combat
For interpreters, helping the public better understand what they are seeing during a reenactment or tactical demonstration can be a daunting challenge. There is a lot going on out there and important details that can easily go unnoticed. How did a commander organize his column for a march through hostile country? How were flankers deployed and in what strength? Did the militia really fight “Indian style” on April 19th 1775? Park Ranger Jim Hollister will share some interesting primary sources that may shed light on these questions.

Newbie Clinic -- Just starting out or want to update your kit? The newbie clinic will show you where to start and get you going on the right track (for both men and women)

Kit Tune Up -- Bring that unfinished project or item in your kit that needs work. Reattach your buttons, add another buttonhole to your shirt collar, tighten up your baggy breeches, fix those floppy gaiters --our Hive team will help you get your kit ready for the season.

Paul Revere by JS Copley
Sunday, February 21, 2016  ALL ABOUT SHIRTS! noon- 4pm

Presentation -- A Look at Original Shirts - It's all in the Details!

Breakout Sessions: Demonstrations/Discussions involving the details of making a shirt
--Selecting Materials
--Preparing and cutting your pieces
--Attaching cuffs, and sleeves 
--Fitting the shoulders and neck
--Thread and Dorset Buttons
--Stitch Basics & Flat Felling
--Attaching the collar

Everyone should make a shirt at some point.  You will learn almost every hand sewing technique and master your stitches in the process, not to mention create a thing of beauty (and the same techniques are used to make a shift).  This half day session will get you off to a good start and will hopefully inspire you to make a new shirt for the season.

Winter - John Collett 1779

Hive 3 - Sunday, March 13, 2016 KEEPING WARM - INNER & OUTER WEAR noon 4 pm

Men --
Cloaks, Surtout, and Great Coats
Muffs and Gloves
Quilted Waistcoats

Women --
Cloaks, Short Cloaks and Cardinals
Muffs, Mitts, Gloves
Quilted Petticoats
Flannel Shifts


As always, Hives are free, we serve coffee and tea, and snacks to share are most welcome.

Any questions?  email: hiveworkshops@gmail.com

The Hive is brought to you by The Ladies of Refined Taste and Minute Man National Historical Park.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

2015 OSV Clothing AAR

OK gang, let's talk!  Clothing standards love 'em or hate 'em -- for a truly first rate event they are absolutely necessary.  I'm not talking guidelines either,  I'm talking enforceable standards where there are consequences for non-compliance.  Sounds a bit harsh I know, but standards are like puppy training, you have to stay with it, be persistent, and reward good behavior to achieve long term results.

Truth be told, I love attending the OSV event.  The staff there is so accommodating and friendly, the site beautiful, the visitors are curious and engaged.  Best of all I get to visit with friends and meet new people and spread the Hive message.  And I do see improvements in clothing, sometimes where you would least expect it.  To those who tried to make upgrades to their kits - great job keep up the good work!  On the other hand, do rags were back, bodices never left, and coats were far and few between.  It's clear our message isn't reaching a certain segment of the reenacting population.

So that brings me back to standards and another thorny issue -- legacy events. Imposing standards on legacy events is incredibly difficult. There are ways of doing it, however there are consequences.  It takes time, lots of work, patience and perseverance.  On one end of the spectrum is the Battle Road model.  Create standards, phase them in along with education, inspections and a little peer pressure.   That worked for Battle Road 2000, but two years later when the pressure was off, things slipped backwards.  That's when we started the Hive to address the slippage and to keep moving the ball forward.  It works, but the time and effort that goes into just maintaining the standards is immeasurable.  And, all in all, compliance is less than you might expect.

L'Hermione 2015
Then there is the Fort Ti approach, who used the "here are the standards, like it or not" technique.  This methodology relies heavily on the loyalty of those who already comply plus you have to brace yourself for the onslaught of the reenactors with the torches and pitchforks.  These are the folks who go on a rampage because they've been going to the event forever, and no one can tell them they can't have their beards and wear sneakers to reenact an actual event at a historical site/museum.  After the dust settles, this method works too and is much faster and less work than the Battle Road system but I'm guessing that ultimately compliance is about the same.

Muster Day MMNHP
So here's where I have landed when it comes to events like OSV's Redcoats to Rebels and other legacy events.  No matter how many blog posts I write, workshops we conduct, Hives we run, etc., that woman who comes out to play once a year with her town militia husband, is not going to swap her sleeveless bodice for stays and a gown no sooner than her husband is going to shave his beard, buy a pair of repro shoes and put on a well fitting coat.  It's not what they are about.  On the other end you have the event organizers who risk a PR nightmare if they uninvite groups who don't meet standards. So you do the best you can.  You go, have a good time, but don't have high expectations when it comes to authenticity.

L'Hermione 2015
To those of us who care about creating accurate impressions, it's time to create new events. I'm taking juried events, where one has to bring their documentation to participate. Yes, they will be small events, and people will throw stones and whine about how we're being elitist and exclusive.  That's okay, there are plenty of events for them to attend why should they care about what we do.  If you want to take it to the next level, enforceable standards, events where we are reenacting a specific date and place, and doing lots of good research beforehand -- that's the next frontier.  Not everyone will be aboard. Though when they are done complaining about what we are doing and they take look over the fence that they, in fact, have built, they'll see we are having fun and may just want to join in.  The gate's always open -- you just have to be willing to play by the rules of this new, really cool playground.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Gown Workshop - June 20 & 21, 2015!

Looking to make a new gown to wear on the wharf on July 11th?

In preparation for the arrival of the Hermione, we are pleased to be offering a gown workshop on the weekend of June 20 & 21 in Waltham, MA. You have the choice of making either our English gown (stomacher front/en fourreau back) or the new Larkin & Smith "Fashionable Gown" (referred to as a zone front).

If you do your pre-workshop homework as well as your homework after day one of the workshop, your gown should be at least 90% complete by the end of the weekend.

The cost of the workshop is $165 and includes your pattern, fabric for your fitting muslin, as well as your lining fabric. If you have any question or would like to sign up or email us at hiveworkshops@gmail.com

Friday, May 29, 2015

Creating Civilian

Creating Civilian Events that is!

Here in Hiveland we were a little surprised with the reaction to the clothing standards put forth by the organizers of the east coast Hermoine events.  For those of you who aren't aware, this summer the recreated ship that brought Lafayette to the colonies in 1780 is arriving at various ports along the eastern seaboard.  At each port events are being organized to have the ship greeted by accurately costumed reenactors.

Courtesy of l'hermione.com
Personally I think there are several reasons that these standards have ladies' stays in a twist.  Reenactors don't like to be told what to do, especially when it comes to what they wear.  Many are not used to detailed clothing standards.  But I believe the biggest reason this has caused such a kerfuffle is that there are so few civilian events out there and people are afraid of being excluded.

Other than the occasional ball, a ladies tea organized by the host unit at a military encampment or a stroll down sutler's row, there are not a lot of opportunities to put on the finer clothes and do something other than laundry or tending some hunk of meat on the fire.

Market Faire MMNHP

As a friend said to me once, "Guys need a cast of hundreds to pull off a good event (military that is), you ladies can have a great event with just two of you".   What he meant was you don't need a lot of organizing and a huge complement of people to pull off a good civilian event.  We do them around here quite a bit and I encourage others to do the same.

Golden Ball Tavern Holiday Open House
Want an excuse to wear a French Fashion Plate?  Attend a Mozart opera or concert in kit (be sure to contact the artist director and get permission before you do).  A couple years ago, a group of us attended a showing of Dangerous Liaisons and purchased box seats.  The audience thought we were part of the show and we actually received a standing ovation from the cast!

Tea with the Derby's
Have a small dance at a local historic house.  Most historic properties welcome the participation of volunteers.

Want to wear those 1780's confections? - plan a post-war/celebrate the victory/end of war event.
Reenactor play date
Schedule a "renenactor play date" at a local historic site.  Bring your sewing projects and spend the day getting something done.  At the same time you can educate the public on clothing of the period and how that relates to commerce, class, etc.

Do yourself a favor and plan a civilian event this summer.  I think you will find they are fun, low-pressure, and very rewarding!

Next: What does 1780 in New England look like?  Preparing for the Hermoine.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Vive le Roi!

On July 11, 2015, the recreated sailing ship L'Hermoine will be arriving in Boston.  There is an event being organized for the citizens of 1780 Boston (aka living history types) to greet the ship in a grand manner.  We at the Hive are looking forward to the ship's arrival and, in preparation, will be discussing appropriate impressions for 1780's New England.  In the meantime, I offer you news of the ship's arrival as described in the Massachusetts Spy on May 11, 1780

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Problem with Pinterest

It’s so simple, a pin here, a screen shot there, save image as, just copy and paste.  Easy, isn’t it?  Sites like Pinterest, Instagram, Tumbler, etc., are great ways to bookmark your journey through the interweb and are a simple method for sharing what you find. However, when it comes to research, these sites are a blessing and a curse.

How can having all this information at one’s fingertips be a bad thing? ... Because of the rampant failure to cite sources, attribute research and recognize other’s work.

Recently we called out vendor for violating the copyright on a Larkin and Smith pattern.  When challenged to cite their source, they claimed that the object in question was inspired by an original.  The object, in fact, turned out to be an original – A Hallie Larkin original!  

But where did this all go wrong?  Simple – it’s easy to pin. It’s harder to take the time to cite your sources.  In this case, not only did the museum that housed this supposed “original” not get any credit, but the primary source was actually a secondary source.  A good one based on a primary sources mind you – but ultimately the vendor was inadvertently selling a copy of someone else’s work.

Here’s how Hivesters can make a difference!

If you are using sites like Pinterest – note where the pin originated.  Posting something on Facebook?  Cite the museum, date, artist, etc.  Quoting from a book, article, website – cite your sources.  

Good research is built on a framework constructed by others.  The reason we’ve come so far is because of people like Linda Baumgarten, Janet Arnold, Sally Queen, Sharon Burnston, Florence Montgomery, Claudia Kidwell, Edward Maeder, Beth Gilgun, and Henry Cooke, among others. 

Cite your sources. Give credit to those whose research you are using, respect intellectual property.  For you it might be a hobby and doesn’t really matter.  For the rest of us, it’s our hard work, and it does matter. 

For more about citations see: