A Stitch in Time
What’s in fashion at PMV?
By Julie Oakes
This summer, the latest look is the higher hemlines and trim shirtwaists of 1912! Following upon the success of “Nellie: How the Women Won the Vote” in April, which showcased some of our 1912 outfits and some very fetching hats, visitors will be seeing a wider variety of outfits in this time period. The Village Singers have expanded their repertoire to include some tuneful early 20th century melodies, and the costume volunteers rose to the challenge of outfitting them properly. If you have been watching “Downton Abbey “, or “Mr. Selfridge” on TV, you will recognize the silhouettes.
You may be wondering how decisions are reached on what costumes are most needed each year. This is an ongoing process and involves discussions between the Event & Volunteer Programmer and the Costumer, with input from costume volunteers and other staffers. As new programs and events are developed, the costume needs are determined for the following year. In 2011, which was Pickering’s Bicentennial, the large number of events commemorating Pickering’s establishment in 1811 dictated a need to expand our collection of 1811 clothing; this has enhanced our participation in ongoing events honouring the War of 1812. This time period, with the empire waists and short sleeves, is flattering to all figures and probably the easiest to wear, especially in summer.
Education staff are costumed for the school tours, and of course, the wear and tear of that very active job means that staff outfits must be periodically replaced. Each winter, the Costumer decides which staff costumes need to be retired and the fun begins of shopping for fabric in our “stash”, choosing a pattern, and- most important- complementary trims and buttons. For practicality, most of our staff outfits tend to be mid-century, but, in keeping with our rural focus, they are simple styles with sleeves that can be rolled up for work. Chilly days are handled by adding a sontag, shawl or cloak with a nice warm knitted barn bonnet (or a coat and knitted tuque for our gentlemen).
The addition of the Brougham Temperance House in 2010 added a second mid-century building to the museum village. Several wrappers have been completed (wrappers are considered to be “at home” wear and are very comfortable for cooking over the woodstove or spinning in the Collins house) in eye-catching reproduction prints. The Quaker heritage of the Temperance House’s owners inspired a soft grey print 1840s dress and a deep blue wool dress for winter.
Costumes are built upon the measurements of staff and volunteers. You know you’ve “arrived” at PMV when you are asked to be a model for a new dress! One such volunteer had mentioned in passing that she was often a bit chilly in the Miller/Cole house at our Christmas in the Village event, despite wearing layers. That was all the excuse needed to select a beautiful caramel-coloured Italian wool from our stash to construct a bustled outfit to keep this volunteer toasty. The addition of a perfect trim sourced at Mokuba in Toronto made this outfit complete.
Our dance group, Stepping in Tyme, must be considered in costume planning. While most dancers go on to make their own personal costume eventually, we gladly dress the newcomers. Again keeping in mind that PMV is rural, we try to ensure that there is a mix of styles and fabric choices, as there would have been in every village. The group has explored the dances of 1812, and is currently enjoying the waltzes, gallops, polkas, quadrilles and contra dances of the 1860s, so yes indeed, we do sport some hoops. Since the skirts swirl and undulate, the ladies must ensure they are wearing the correct underclothing, especially their bloomers, to avoid any unwitting display!
What’s new for our fall runway? Latest plans include a new lilac plaid wool bustled dress for winter, two wool paletot coats, a blue 1860s wrapper and another Quaker dress….with possibly a Quaker bonnet!
View on Volunteers
An Interview with the Innkeeper
By Mandy Smiles
I sat down today with the Innkeeper for the Pickering Museum Village’s Harvest Supper, to ask some questions about this fantastic meal. The Harvest Suppers take place on August 10 and 17 in the Brougham Temperance House.
Mandy “On your Harvest Supper menu it says that you are serving Mrs. Minerva Tinney’s Potted Cheese. When we talked about the Summer Solstice Supper menu I know you implored me not to confuse the Potted Cheese with the Pounded Cheese as they are very different kettles of fish. How are they different?”
Innkeeper “There is no fish in either to start. Pounded Cheese contains a hint of Dr. Kitchiner’s curry powder and other spices, and yes, there is pounding involved. Potted Cheese is mixed with garlic and Miss Ilabelle Corney’s famous Peach and Pear Relish. Potting is involved. Of course there is no sherry involved in either one. ;) ”
Mandy “I know that you are serving mushroom pasties. What is the difference between a pastie and a pastry?”
Innkeeper “Pastry is dough. Pastry covers the ingredients that go in a pastie. Cornish pasties being the most well known type of pastie.”
Mandy “The vegetables are growing well in the gardens and I notice you are serving sliced tomatoes and a cucumber salad. Do the squash rolls have squash in them or are they just squashed?”
Innkeeper “The salad recipe has been handed down in my family. The squash rolls do have squash in them and are a lovely golden orange colour.”
Mandy “The raspberry patch is growing well and you should have an abundance of raspberries for the Raspberry Cordial. How far in advance can you make the cordial, does it keep a really long time?”
Innkeeper “Raspberry Cordial is made from Raspberry Vinegar and keeps almost indefinitely. To make the cordial you add more vinegar, water and sugar to the Raspberry Vinegar. If you left the raspberries in the Raspberry Vinegar too long it would turn into something spirituous. But of course we would not do that.”
Mandy “What is Devilled chicken?”
Innkeeper “The Devilled Chicken recipe is ancient. The recipe we use goes back to the 17th century in Scotland. The chicken is cooked with a variety of spices, some of them hot. This recipe was used to make things more palatable, since refrigeration was not readily available.”
Mandy “Are the sausages with apples and onions served hot or cold?”
Innkeeper “They are served hot.”
Mandy “What is Succotash?”
Innkeeper “Succotash is a wonderful harvest treat. The main components are lima beans, corn, diced tomatoes, onions, and cream. It is served hot. There is never anything left even those who say they don’t like lima beans. It is amazing.”
Mandy “What attire should one wear to this evening of delicious eating?”
Innkeeper “Proper attire of course. Gentlemen should remove hats when entering buildings. Ladies are not required to wear gloves unless, of course, their hands are not fit to be seen.”
Mandy “Are there any tips for etiquette that one should be aware of?”
Innkeeper “Never discuss dogs when sausages are being served.”
Mandy “Thank you for taking the time, from your busy cooking schedule, to talk to me about Harvest Suppers.”
Innkeeper “I look forward to serving you on August 10 and 17.”
To reserve your place at the table go to pickering.ca/eStore or call the museum village for more information at 905.683.8401.
Peeks at Programs
Time Traveller Camp Welcomes a New Director!
Hello, all! I’m Axel Soos, and I have the privilege of being the Director of Time Traveller Camp this year.
While it may be my first year as director, I’m definitely no stranger to the Pickering Museum Village or this camp. I’ve been a counsellor here for the past four years! That’s a lot of butter making and creek walking, let me tell you. I’ve seen all kinds of directors, counsellors, and volunteers work on making this camp the best it can be, and I’m hoping to take my favourite parts of my experience here and put them together into the best summer so far.
Over the next week, I’ll be posting introductions to some of the activities we’ll be doing, as well as some other fun info about camp this summer.
by Mandy Smiles
Below are the winners of the Beard and Moustache Competition from Duffins Creek Spring Fair 2012. There were four categories: partial beard, moustache, full beard, and children.
Watch for interesting and inspiring facial hair examples as part of Whisker Wednesdays and join us at the Beard and Moustache Competition at Duffins Creek Spring Fair June 9, 2013
A Stitch in Time
Still Bubbling with Conference Excitement !
Written by Julie Oakes
There is nothing like a conference to get one’s creative juices flowing and make one fall in love with one’s job all over again! At the end of February a group of seven staff and volunteers from Pickering Museum Village made the trek down to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to attend a truly outstanding conference on social history of the 1850s & 1860s; it was my third time, and the second time for four of the group. We took a variety of hands-on workshops, relating directly to our areas of interest at PMV: in my case, as Costumer, I took a close look at cold-weather garments (like quilted petticoats), details of men’s 19th century ready-made clothing, embroidered garters, and a presentation on decoding headwear from period photos. The theme of this year’s conference was the importance of using primary sources, a great reminder for all of us.
Pam and Catherine working on their garter embroidery.
Of course, since the focus is costumes and textiles, we are given the option of appearing in costume as well. On Thursday night, we enjoyed a “Sociable Evening” of music, stories, magic, poetry both comic and tragic and a chance to meet the other attendees. The PMV contingent were resplendent in wrappers- the “at home” wear of the time (and yes- it was perfectly fine to show off one’s beautifully tucked and embroidered petticoat in this type of garment). The gentlemen present wore smoking caps and colourful banyans- a type of dressing gown-over their trousers and formal shirts.
L-R Julie, Lindsey ,Angela, Catherine, Helena, Pam, Barb just before the Sociable
Aside from the well-researched presentations, two of the most valuable highlights of the conference for me are the rotating displays of museum-quality vintage 1850s-60s clothing on display (so that we can observe fabrics, construction methods, trimmings of the time), and, of course, the opportunity to make contact with other museum costumers and textile historians (we were delighted to re-connect with Upper Canada Village, amongst many others). It’s just so refreshing to be able to discuss the finer parts of bonnet trimmings with people who really care about the subject.
Angela admires a silk day dress.
One of the highlights of the conference was the dinner and ball. Luckily for us, we also dance with Stepping in Tyme, PMV’s historic dance group, so we were very familiar with the dances. There was a three piece band, a patient caller and plenty of partners (huzzah!) so a great time was had by all. There is something about a roomful of elegant ladies, colourful hoop dresses swaying gently, as they swirl about the room on the arms of impeccably dressed gents in “The Spanish Waltz”.
L-R Julie, Lindsey, Barb on their way to the ball.
Did I mention the shopping? The conference has a wonderful selection of sutlers, selling all types of period items; this was a great resource for hard-to-find patterns and books especially. Close to the hotel, we found a discount fabric warehouse, which stocks a wide array of reproduction fabrics and trim. Barb, Helena and I spent hours in there choosing fabrics for the PMV stash, and also for Janet, the Costumer at Lang Pioneer Village. I just delivered Janet’s fabrics to her today-she was thrilled!
As I reflect on the whole experience, I am struck again by how excited and recharged I still feel. It’s so important to take time to attend workshops and conferences to renew our passion for our jobs and to nudge us to further research. I came away with a whole book of handouts, chock-full of bibliographies of primary and secondary sources. The seven of us bought books, patterns, fabric, fans, a gorgeous lace shawl, lace cuffs, ribbon and silk violets for a hat, vintage brooches, feathers (all of which we declared at the border, to the bemusement of the customs officer) : these treasures will remind us of our excellent conference adventure.
View on Volunteers
By Backwoods Players
Richard Malouin’s directorial talents combine with Backwoods Players’ dedication to showcase historically accurate playwriting as the company stages Dianne Grant’s ‘Nellie! How the Women Won the Vote’at the Brougham Community Hall on April 20, 21, 26, and 27. It’s a journey you won’t want to miss!
With a sparkling cast assembled from Bowmanville, Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, and Pickering, this play follows four founding members of the Political Equality League, Nellie McClung, Frances Marion Beynon, Lillian Beynon Thomas, and E. Cora Hind, through their trials and tribulations to get the vote for women in Manitoba. Using intellect, logic, and humour, these remarkable women challenged Premier Sir Rodman Roblin’s ideology that “nice women don’t want the vote” as they spread their message of social reform through suffrage.
With fast-paced, witty dialogue, and clever staging, the main characters will take the audience on a journey by train to speaking engagements, by car to review factory working conditions, and even into the dining room of the Premier himself, where he battles his own wife’s idolizatin of the unflappable Nellie McClung! The women’s courage, strength and perseverance to challenge the political landscape of Canada changed rights of women forever.
Nellie McClung: Patty Seaton of Bowmanville
Frances Beynon: Samantha Williams of Pickering
E. Cora Hind: Janina Bogusz of Oshawa
Lillian Beynon Thomas: Kathy Stinson of Oshawa
Sir Rodmond Roblin: John Edmonds of Oshawa
P.T. Fletcher: Daniel Gelbard of Ajax
Various supporting roles played by Susan Gardner of Pickering, Barbara Horsburgh of Ajax, Marcia Sylvester of Ajax, and Mark Kalzer of Whitby.
Tickets will be available March 22 online at pickering.ca/estore or at the Pickering Museum Village Gift Shop during regular business hours. This play will be preformed at the Brougham Hall at 3545 Brock Road, one block south of Highway # 7 on the east side. Performances are April 20 and 27 at 7:00 pm and April 21 and 28 at 2:00 pm. For more information call the Pickering Museum Village at 905.683.8401 or visit pickering.ca/museum.
A Stitch in Time
Wrapping Up Fashion Then and Now
By Julie Oakes, Costumer
You can get multiple looks from one basic outfit if you layer different tops/jackets/sweaters-perhaps even a shawl! This worked in the 19th century too and was even more important, given that women of average incomes might only have had two or three dresses.
In a recent fashion history workshop at PMV, we looked at an impressive variety of ways women in the 19th century and early 20th century could change their look. One way was the convertible dress, in which a skirt and two bodices were made up of the same fabric; one bodice would be a day look with a modest neckline, while the other might be suitable for dinner or a ball with a much lower neckline.
Another method was the use of detachable collars and undersleeves, which could be easily changed for another set, and which made laundry much easier, since collars & cuffs would soil more quickly than the rest of the dress. Some dresses had matching pelerines, which were large, cape-like collars; other dresses used pelerines in a different fabric, such as lace or muslin.
Outer layers such as jackets, shawls and sontags would provide warmth in homes which were not centrally heated as well as provide a fashionable boost. Jackets could be fitted or quite loose, depending on the prevailing mode, but shawls of lace, silk, cotton or wool could be draped elegantly over one’s dress. Many women were given beautiful shawls as wedding gifts and it was especially desirable to have a Kashmir shawl. Some wool Kashmir shawls were said to be so fine, one could draw them through a wedding ring; these shawls were very expensive. A more affordable option was a Paisley shawl from Scotland. The Textile Museum of Canada in Toronto has a beautiful collection of Kashmir and paisley shawls.
A sontag, also known as a bosom buddy, is a knitted garment without arms, which criss-crosses over the chest and ties or buttons at the back.
It is very comfortable to wear, keeps the chest and back warm and leaves the arms free to work: in fact, all of our female museum staff and volunteer interpreters enjoy wearing this to keep toasty warm on chilly days in costume at the museum.
(Above: “A Spirit Walk: Call to Rebellion!” actress Alyssa sports a sontag with her costume for her role as Greeter in the PMV’s annual September play.)
The sontag is named for Henrietta Sontag (1806-1854), an opera singer, who had the distinction of singing the soprano role in the very first performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. One can well imagine the need for such a fine singer to coddle her voice by carefully enwrapping her chest and lower throat in soft wool. She later became Countess Rossi, and after a stay in Mexico to perform with the Mexican National Opera, she sadly died of cholera.
Godey’s Lady’s Book, a very popular fashion magazine, gave a pattern for a sontag. They show a cream or white border with little black tufts: this was supposed to mimic ermine.
(Image courtesy of http://www.rolloadams.com/missmargarets/godeys2.html)
We have updated this pattern for modern knitters, and our museum knitters use it to produce the beautiful sontags you will see on our costumed interpreters. One of our knitters (in fact, my mother-in-law, Geraldene) knits sontags poolside while wintering in Florida! Interestingly, these little knitted shawls look just as good over modern clothes as they did in the past.
Some of our staff have made their own so that they can wear them as a fashion layer today. To download the pattern, visit the resources page on our website at http://www.pickering.ca/en/discovering/resources.asp . If you are looking for a distinctive accessory to add originality and zing to your overall look, take a leaf from the past and knit a sontag!
Tackling Tarnish at the Pickering Museum Village
Excavations carried out on lands set aside for a planned housing development turned up two silver spoons which were subsequently given to the museum in October 2012.
The 19th century spoons were examined in the conservation lab and it was determined that they were in rough shape, extremely tarnished and in need of care.
Spoon - Before Treatment
Spoon After Treatment
A gentle, low-abrasive silver polish containing a tarnish inhibitor was applied to the spoons with a clean cotton rag. After they were rinsed and dried, another problem was uncovered. The silver storage shelf was already over crowded and it became evident that a more efficient storage method was urgently needed.
After some research, it was decided that a cloth roll-up storage method would be the best, most cost efficient solution.
If you would like to try this for storing your silverare at home, here are the details on how we made ours:
The roll is made of unbleached cotton (pre-washed, dried and ironed). Determination of dimensions will vary according the amount and size of the items to be stored.
The pieces of silver are placed into the pockets of the roll accordion style.
Custom Storage Roll - Unrolled (Interior)
Custom Storage Roll
Using this method greatly reduces the amount of space taken up on each shelf. Several rolls can be stored in a box which will free up space for other artifacts and future donations.
View on Volunteers
All in the Family!
By Mandy Smiles
Volunteering at the Pickering Museum Village is like being part of a family. It might be because there are many families volunteering together here. PMV has husband and wife teams, brothers and sisters, and entire families. Sometimes it just takes one family member sharing the fun they’re having at PMV to get others joining!
This was the case with Janet. Her husband David started volunteering with the Woodwrights’ Guild in the fall of 2009. By the spring Janet was in for a volunteer interview to see how she could become involved at the museum village. Now she helps out with event planning, the gift shop and works with the Conservator with the museum collection.
“I enjoy making discoveries in the collections department and helping to solve some of the mysteries. The rejuvenation of the Gift Shop has been a challenging and a rewarding experience, seeing the positive results has been great. I learn something new everyday at the museum. Since I was not born in Canada it has been an opportunity to learn more about Canadian history.”
It is not just families who volunteer together; friends come to volunteer together in an activity they enjoy such as gardening. Not to worry, if you are thinking of volunteering you can come on your own and make many new friends. Some volunteers became friends as youth volunteers and years later are still close. Young love has even sparked between PMV volunteers, and resulted in a wedding!
Whether they are here three days a week, once a week, once a month, or only a couple times a year, our volunteers contribute to the success of the museum village.
Our volunteer team in 2012 consisted of over 250 active volunteers contributing well over 25,000 hours! Thank you everyone for your contributions! I hope to see you all soon!