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

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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