A Victorian Social at the Randall House Museum in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

IMG_7885-001Recently, Man The Capstan attended a Victorian garden social event at the Randall House Museum in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. This was held in conjunction with their summer exhibit called “Dear Dottie”. Costumes were encouraged by the museum, and this happily offered us an opportunity to get into our Victorian duds and do some strollin’. It was a particularly special event for us because a number of the members of the Man Capstan Crew are descended from Dottie and her family.

SLR_4_6252-004In 2005 a collection of approximately 500 letters addressed to Dottie Stewart, were discovered in an old trunk in the attic of a Heritage home that had once belonged to the Stewart family of Grand Pre, Nova Scotia. The sheer amount of these letters reveal a wonderfully detailed picture of what life was like for the Stewart family, their friends and their relatives, in this rural farming community during the late 1800s. Spanning a period of almost 15 years of Dottie’s life prior to her marriage, they are indeed a special find, not only for her descendants, but for the entire community.

The Stewarts were predominantly farmers and orchardists, a fact that is often mentioned in the letters sent to Dottie. Among other things, they grew and harvested apples, as did many farmers living in the Annapolis Valley during that time period, and, as many still do to this day. The ancestors and descendants of this family farmed the same lands for a period of almost 250 years, and even today members of the family can be found in the area.SLR_4_5960-002

The letters have been transcribed by volunteers from the Wolfville Historical Society, and were used as a primary source for “Dear Dottie”. This exhibit focuses not only on the Dottie letters and her family, but also on the history and goings’ on of the community during that time. It sheds light upon their joys and  sorrows, their struggles, hardships and good times. It also divulges some of the very personal experiences of those who corresponded with Dottie.  You can view this exhibit until the 15th of September, at which time the Randall House Museum closes down for the season.

Recently the Dottie Letters have also been used as a resource for seven short educational videos called Discovering Voices, by the NS Dept of Education. Some of these episodes were filmed at the Randall House.scan0003-008

The Randall House is a lovely old house and well worth a visit if you are in town. It is owned and operated by the Wolfville Historical Society and curated and managed by Alexandra Hernould. The following is a brief history of the house that I have taken from the
Wolfville Historical Society Website.

“This property, like all the other land in Horton Township, was granted to the New England settlers known as Planters, who arrived from Connecticut in the 1760s after the expulsion of the Acadians.  A house on the property  is mentioned in the deeds as early as 1769 but it is likely that the large and imposing eight room residence with full attic and cellar was built at least a generation later by more established settlers.  Aaron Cleveland, a cooper, lived here with his family from 1809 to 1812, during which time he took out a large mortgage, and it is possible that he was the builder.  The house, which overlooked the harbour, the wharves and the bustling commercial centre of Upper Horton or Mud Creek, was strategically situated to be at the hub of village life.SLR_4_6267-002

The term “the Randall House” was first used  in 1812 when Charles Randall, carpenter,  coachmaker and member of another Connecticut Planter family, purchased it from Cleveland.  His wife Sarah Denison died shortly after the birth of their only child, Charles Denison Randall, and for a time father and son lived here alone.  They later moved to a smaller house on the property and rented the Randall House.  Among their tenants was the Rev. John Pryor, principal of Horton Academy and one of the founders of Acadia University, who is described as “a cultivated, courtly man”.  He and his family lived in the house and may also have used it as temporary classroom space for the Academy.  From 1835 to 1845 Mrs. Henry Best, widow of a Halifax naval officer, operated a seminary for young ladies in the building.

IMG_7896-001Charles D. Randall bought the house from his father in 1844, and moved there following his marriage to Nancy Bill, the daughter of a prosperous farmer and  member of the Legislative Assembly.  Members of the Randall family continued to live in the family home until 1927 when Eardley and Anna left the Randall House for the last time.  Eardley’s initials can still  be seen carved into the wall of the attic staircase.

The Charles Patriquin family purchased the house in 1927, restored it and installed its first bathroom.  The Patriquins are still remembered for their warm-hearted interest in young people:  there was a dress-up box for local children from which they could create Hallowe’en costumes, while Charles taught them how to care for wounded birds and animals.  He also looked after the ducks who spent the summer in the Duck Pond (the old harbour) and grew a productive garden nearby.  It was the Patriquins who expressed the wish that the house should remain unchanged in the community as a reminder of past times.

IMG_7890-001Photographs of the Society’s original museum, the T.A.S. DeWolf house, now hang in the front hall with a framed square of the pictorial wallpaper-all that remains of Prince Edward’s gift.  The Randall House is arranged and furnished as an early Wolfville residence and most of the furniture and artifacts have been donated by local people.  A temporary exhibit room in the back parlour features changing displays which relate to the town and surrounding communities.”

The Wolfville Historical Society is always looking for new members and volunteers.

Don’t forget to click on the pictures to see their full sizes.267352_620477654640513_1444852717_n-001

Red and Black Victorian Walking Gown – Ensemble

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I made this striking gown to sell in my Etsy shop, but as soon as my daughter Shara saw it,  it became hers. I would say it has “attitude”.  She looked so stunning in it that I had to give it to her, and in retrospect, perhaps I made it for her without realizing that I was doing so!  Shara and her husband like to do a little Steam Punk once in a while and this gown lends itself  to that, as well as to a strictly Victorian look. Shara therefore considers it a pretty versatile addition to have in her historical wardrobe.SLR_2_5600-2 It did look wonderfully festive when it was worn to the Victorian Christmas at the O’Dell House Museum.

For accessories, I bought a plain black, buckled, ladies felted top hat to go with it. I decorated it with red lace, black french netting, a few cocky feathers, a black net train and a big red rose. It also has a black parasol and matching reticule. Shara also wears netted black crocheted gloves, and a black beaded choker. Black brocade Victorian style booties complete this ensemble.

IMG_0014-002This Victorian walking gown consists of a polonaise and a walking skirt. I find it has a French feeling to it and  I also like it as a riding habit. The skirt, which is made from a black embroidered taffeta, has one large ruffle and is trimmed in black and red venise laces and satin ribbon. It is slightly trained at the back.

SLR_2_5437-002The polonaise, is made in a rich blood red and black shot striped taffeta and is fully lined and boned. It incorporates both the bodice and the over-skirt and has a nice large bustle, as well as a pleated basque at the back.  It is trimmed with matching black venise lace, tulle lace at the neckline and sleeves, and  ruched black satin ribbon. I had about a half yard of a very long, red, 8 inch venise lace, which matched the red of the taffeta exactly, so I added that to the front of the polonaise as well. I find it really stands out against the black of the skirt. This bodice closes at the front with black satin fabric self made buttons.

I’m planning to make a variation of this ensemble again as it is so striking. I have more of the striped taffeta, not only in the red but in a blue as well.

Don’t forget to click on the pictures to get the full size and effect!SLR_4_2486-002

A Victorian Ball Gown

SLR_3_7331-002I am very fortunate to have two very beautiful young women to model the historical gowns I make! The next two posts concerning gowns, will feature two crew members, my daughter Shara, and my feels like a daughter, friend Katherine, wearing Victorian ensembles.

2012_04_051-007This Victorian Gown was made for a client in Japan who is planning to wear it as her wedding gown. Once again our lovely Katherine is modeling this.

This is a circa 1875 – 1878 Ball gown which sports a full bustled over skirt, a double tiered ruffled underskirt, and an off the shoulder basque back style bodice with pouf sleeves. The patterns that were used came from Truly Victorian. They are TV324, which is the Long Draped Overskirt, and TV416 which is the Ball Gown Basque Bodice. The underskirt is of my own design.

2012_04_051-005I used a Seafoam green faux silk which is embroidered with ivory, gold, tan and turquoise florals and leaves, for both the overskirt, and the main part of the bodice. The pouf sleeves and the underskirt are made of a 100% pure golden dupioni silk. The bodice is fully lined and boned for added shape and structure, and buttons at the front with self covered golden dupioni fabric buttons. This bodice also has a lovely pleated basque back.The draped overskirt is fully lined and was lengthened at the back by several feet to incorporate a long and elegant train for the evening.2012_04_051-004

To trim this gown, I used golden pearl teardrop beading around the sleeves, around the bottom and extending around the basque back of the bodice. I also used this beading on the draped front of the overskirt. I used golden swagged and scalloped rayon venise laces, which were hand-dyed using potassium permanganate. This method of dyeing gives lace a rich golden colour, and perfectly matches the silk dupioni. The result lends a very antique quality to the gown.SLR_3_8484-003

Katherine is also carrying an authentic Victorian lace fan made of bone and wearing a pair of beige, non-shiny, elbow length gloves. She is wearing a single strand of golden pearls around her neck and wrist, and golden crystal drop earrings. Simple but very effective accessories.

Something I really enjoy doing is creating matching foot wear for these gowns. For the Victorian gowns I purchase vintage lace booties, which I then dye and decorate with left over scraps of the lace and trimmings used in the creation of the gown. For this dress, I tea dyed a pair of lace boots and decorated them with the left over golden lace. I also re-laced them with a matching satin ribbon. The effect is very lovely when worn with the dress.

Don’t forget to click on the pictures to see the full size and effect!SLR_3_8470-002

18th Century Gown Ensemble

SLR_2_9927-004I am doing some serious catching up for Man The Capstan the last few days. I was recently asked if Man The Capstan is still active, and although we are not able to get together as often as we would like, the answer to that is a resounding yes! We have experienced a number of changes in our lives the past couple of years however, and unfortunately this blog has been sadly neglected as a result. Therefore, I will be continuing to add a number of posts, over the next few days and weeks in order to bring this blog up to date.SLR_2_9828-001

This post will focus on a lovely 18th century colonial gown ensemble that I created for a young lady in Virginia. It is modeled by our own Man The Capstan crew member, Katherine, who looks just beautiful in it! The pictures were taken by Dave on a beautiful spring day with our blooming cherry tree as a back drop.

2011_07_011This two piece gown, was made using a basic pattern, but with a number of alterations made to the design. I used a beautiful, medium to heavy weight cotton, in cream with various hues of gold and coral to red sprays of ivy leaves on it. I also used a coral sateen or polished cotton for the contrasting underskirt and the stomacher portion of the bodice. The bodice is also fully boned and lined; this adds great shaping, as well as stabilization to the form. This can be worn without a corset, which sure does add to the comfort of it. Antique style lace flounces at the sleeves and a beautiful ivory venise lace were used to trim up this gown. The result was quite nice. This gown laces up at the back with gold grommets and ivory satin ribbon.

2011_05_14_pm-001In order to make these gowns so that they will fit a variety of sizes, or to allow the wearer to continue to make use of the gown, even if she gains or loses weight,  a three inch modesty panel is installed at the back opening. I  also leave a part of the skirt, at the back seam, free from the waist, which then gathers and ties up with satin ribbon. This can then be adjusted, according to how tight the lacing is done up, and prevents unsightly gaping or bunching at the back waistline. The back is slightly trained. Katherine is wearing a hoop skirt with this gown but the skirt sides are actually slightly longer then the front to accommodate panniers.

SLR_2_9763-004Also included in this ensemble was a matching reticule, a small flat crowned straw hat decorated with the sateen cotton, ostrich feather ribbons and lace, and a pair of cream silk habotai bloomers, made in the traditional way.

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A Victorian Wedding Gown for a Texas Lady

SLR_3_3660-002This is a  Natural Form Victorian Wedding  Gown that I was commissioned to create for a very kind and lovely young lady living in Texas.

kara-008I acquired the patterns to create this gown from Truly Victorian, a very good and quite authentic pattern company for making Victorian reproduction gowns. They have a good variety of patterns for period clothing, both for women and men. The instructions are clear, concise and easy to follow, however, I would not recommend them for the beginning seamstress as they use techniques that were used during the Victorian era.

photo-015To create this gown we chose Truly Victorian patterns #TV225 – 1878 Fantail Skirt, #TV420 – 1879 Cuirass Evening Bodice and #TV328 – 1880 Split Pannier Over Skirt. We made a few alterations to each of them since we wanted a differing neckline in the bodice, and we also combined the fantail skirt with the split panniers to create one skirt rather then two. The panniers were also rounded instead of left square.

photo-018For Fabrics we chose, a creamy ivory satin matelasse, complimented by a matching 100% pure shantung silk for contrast.  I used  a variety of matching ivory trims and  laces, both venise and bridal type as well as chiffon. I was careful (insomuch as was possible) to choose only laces and trims that were historically accurate representations of what was used during the Victorian period. The gown is fully lined and boned.  I used Chinese knotted silk buttons also in a matching ivory for the bodice. The sleeves and neckline are trimmed with ivory venise lace and the sleeves also are ruffled with ivory bridal lace. The back fantail skirt is made of satin matelasse and has 8 layers of overlapping lace and chiffon on the fan, and is decorated with satin ribbon. The front section of the skirt is made of ivory shantung silk and trimmed with bridal lace and two layers of silk pleats at the bottom. The split panniers are made of satin matelasse and are trimmed with bridal lace and venise lace.

SLR_3_5076-002In order to get the fit required, I made up several mock up bodices and because of the distance between us, sent them out in the mail. She would try them on, pin them where alterations were required and send them back to me. Although in the end we were quite successful in getting the fit right, she did have to go to a local seamstress to have slight alterations made to the shoulders and waist.  I would not consider this an unusual occurrence however, since almost all of us have to have alterations done when purchasing a wedding gown.kara3-005

For accessories for this gown, I purchased a pair of vintage lace booties and decorated them with laces left over from the gown. I also made a matching reticule from left over fabrics and laces. This gown was created over a period of about 5 months

Don’t forget to click on the pictures for the full size and effect!

A Victorian Christmas at the O’Dell House Museum

SLR_2_5614-003The O’Dell House Museum is situated at 136 – George Street, in the beautiful and historic town of Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia. This very interesting Victorian house Museum, circa 1869, is now owned and operated by the Annapolis Heritage Society. Graced with beautiful period furnishings, art, photographs, and history, as well as a Genealogy Centre and Archives, this is a pretty special place.4460170492_4bb3e7fd52_z-001

Each year, “A Victorian Christmas” is hosted here, an event that is held over a period of two weekends in late November and/or early December. Two Christmases ago, Man The Capstan decided to attend. (yes I know this blog was a long time in coming, but better late then never), and did we ever enjoy it! For this outing, we donned…what else…but our Victorian bustle gowns! Our Royal Navy Captain and Marine Major, altered slightly, the way they wore their uniforms. The beauty of them is that they can be worn in several differing ways, which really helps when using them for different time periods.

SLR_2_5637-001The ambience, warmth, and beautiful period Christmas decor of the O’ Dell house, make this event well worth attending. The heritage society does a wonderful job of it, spending days collecting Christmas greenery from the surrounding woods, and then countless hours more in decorating the house with these natural treasures.

photo_1272856_resize-001Boughs, wreaths and bouquets of evergreen, holly, boxwood, moss and pine cones fill the house, adorning each doorway, staircase and mantle. Delightful touches such fruit pyramids on the dining table and sideboard, and dried floral bouquets brighten each corner of the house. An old fashioned Christmas tree with homemade and antique ornaments graces the lovely parlour. The golden flicker of candlelight, the fragrance of evergreen, and scents of baking and apple cider assail your senses as you enter. There is much laughter and conversation, and singing of the  traditional carols. You really feel as though you have stepped back in time! What a treat! The crew of Man The Capstan truly appreciated the efforts made and were definitely in our element.SLR_2_5624-001

Once a thriving Tavern and Inn, the O’Dell House was owned and built by Corey O’Dell in the 1860s. Corey who was born in St. John, New Brunswick on June 27, 1827, arrived in Nova Scotia in about 1849. He was a Pony Express Driver for the Kentville-Victoria Beach part of the Halifax-Victoria Beach run. This service was short lived and he returned to New Brunswick the following year.

He came back to Nova Scotia in the late 1850s with his wife and family to live in Annapolis Royal. There he purchased the property where the O’Dell house now stands. The house has fourteen rooms, including the tavern, which later became a grocery store, six bedrooms, dining room, front parlour and kitchen. It is situated near the waterfront, a short distance from the wharves in an ideal location for trade. Corey died March 14, 1887, a wealthy man.

SLR_2_5650-001The O’Dell House Museum and the Genealogy Centre are open year round.

The open hours for the O’Dell House Museum and the Genealogy Centre are:

Summer (from late May to early September):
Every day – 9 am to 5 pm
Winter:
Monday to Saturday – 1 pm to 4 pm
(weather permitting; a call ahead is advised). Closed Sundays.

Admission for the O’Dell House Museum and the Genealogy Centre is by donation; the suggested amount is $3.00.

French Provincial At The K.C. Irving Centre

The 65,000 square foot K.C. Irving Environmental Science Centre at the Acadia University in Wolfville, has to be one of the most beautiful buildings in the Annapolis Valley. I really love this place and it’s wonderful architecture. Built in a classical almost Georgian styling, it nonetheless offers state of the art research and technology. There is a grandeur about it that is unsurpassed, yet all the while it maintains a comfortable and homey, well lit, conducive to learning environment. study irvingFirstly it is a place for study, research and instruction of the natural sciences, but it is also a place of gathering for both the University and the surrounding communities, and is a well used event and conference centre. It is a lovely place for a wedding reception for example.

The K.C. Irving centre was constructed in 1999 and along with the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens was built and donated to the University by Jim, Jack and Arthur Irving in memory of their beloved parents. The Irving family’s attachment to Acadia University began many years ago with K.C,  (Kenneth Collin) who attended there, and has continued with sons Jack and Arthur who are graduates there-of. Arthur is also the present day Chancellor of the University.

I had always wanted to do a shoot in this fantastic building and upon the completion of my 18th century French Provincial/Colonial Gown and matching Gentleman’s Coat, I once again began to imagine how wonderful these pieces would look with the Irving Centre as a back drop.

So,…I asked Man The Capstan crew members, my son David and good friend Katherine, to model these pieces and it did seem quite right, since, after all,  they are both Acadia University Alumni. Katherine gained permission from the building’s manager for us to take some photographs there. It was great fun and such a beautiful and appropriate setting.

This 18th Century gown and coat were created using a printed and embroidered fabric which I found locally at a home decor place. I have often found that the greatest fabrics to make 18th century clothing from are drapery type fabrics. Such was the case with this beautiful striped Antoinette blue and embroidered gold cotton. It caught my eye the moment I walked into the shop and I had to have it! As a matter of fact I bought enough to make two gown and coat sets! Which is indeed a good thing since they have already both been sold. I am obviously not the only one who loves the blue and gold stripe combination.

I trimmed the gown with ivory and gold Venise laces, beige Chantilly lace and satin ribbon. It is paired with an ivory brocaded petticoat or underskirt which is also trimmed in gold Venise lace. Also sold with this gown was a matching ivory chiffon fichu or neck scarf. I did purchase a plain 18″ flat crown straw hat to go with it and this I decorated with matching fabric, ribbon, Venise lace and one ivory ostrich feather.

When I make these gowns I try to make them so that they will fit at least several different sizes and I accomplish this by lacing the back of the gown and using about a three inch modesty panel so that the laces can be worn completely closed or open to varying degrees. I also do not attach the over skirt fully to the bodice and allow a portion of the skirt to remain free at the back closure. Using ribbon drawstring the skirt can be drawn tight or loosened and I find this feature effectively prevents the unsightly gaping and/or pulling that one often sees with these dresses. The bodice is fully lined and boned as well which gives it good shaping and structure. The matching Gentleman’s coat is lined and trimmed with matching gold Venise lace and brass coloured nautical anchor buttons and sells with a jabot. The pockets are faux. David is wearing his own breeches, waistcoat, shirt and boots.

We had a great time at Irvng Centre, and really, it was difficult to get any bad shots, the setting is so spectacular! Above is a photo of the wonderful winding staircase.

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