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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Scandinavian Festival

June  17th is so far away, and yet is approaching oh so quickly.  It is the day of the local Scandinavian festivals.  This half of the state is heavily populated by the descendants of thousands of Scandinavians that felt that this part of the country resembled home and the price for these hard working settlers was perfect during the great westward migration that was made possible by the Homestead Act of 1862.

These intrepid folk raised dairy cattle, beef cattle, fished and processed sturgeon, and grew grains.  They brought with them their customs, beliefs, and food!

Every year, local festivals come together as they have for generations to celebrate the Independence of their respective countries. It's a chance to celebrate who they are, where they come from, and share in each other's fellowship.  And heck, it's a darn good reason for a town party before planting really gets going and the heat of Summer is full upon us.

My family has been on this continent since 1626, so well before the 1814 date of the separation of the Scandinavian countries. (We had our own little brouhaha going on at that time on this continent.) But they all hailed from what is now Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland. (One branch is from Switzerland.) I can go back as far as 1580, but no further. 

Since Stromberg is one of my favorite local haunts, and I haven't missed a festival since we moved here, I have declared it one of my adopted villages.  It is also my closest town to celebrate Constitution Day.  This year, I have decided to go in full regalia.  I've spent the past year researching the island villages I descend from and the clothing that is special to each.  When the family left the area in the early 1600s, the clothing was a modified version of Elizabethan garb.  Both families were in the shipping business and one was married to the Pastor of the church of New Amsterdam, now Manhattan Island.  Silks and satins wouldn't be out of the question, even for daily life.  Although, I'm sure linens were used as well as hard wearing and more keen to washing.  They came from a land where color was used and where status was shown through the amount of fabric used, and patterns and colors were mixed freely.  They were above all, practical.  If it still served its intended function, it was still used.

After a great deal of study, I came upon a design that best suited the clothing of the period, and the modified style of the 1800s.  I will of course be using a sewing machine.  The stitch is stronger, and by golly, if they would have had one, they would have used it, darn tootin don't cha know!

I found the perfect shoes and came across some silver buckles, which are absolutely necessary, online.  By total accident, I also found a full set of Danish silver jewelry, which also must be worn with the full outfit. 

The stockings and petticoat are bright cardinal red.  The suit of clothes is deep teal.  The shirt and lace are bright white linen.  The skirt and vest, cap and purse, are supposed to be wool, but as I am highly allergic to wool, I have dispensation to go linen on all of it.  Phew!  It doesn't have the same drape as wool, but it is what it is.

The shawl is a woven brown, teal, red, and green micro check, and the apron is a stripe of the same colors. 

My first undertaking was the coif and the cap.  The coif is a simple white linen cap that was worn daily to cover the hair and to protect the precious, expensive, heavily embroidered cap from daily grunge and hair oils.  Finding instructions for this should have been easy, but it really wasn't.  When I thought I had one that seemed simple enough, I made a mock up out of scrap cotton.  It didn't fit.
Another pattern style, another mock up, another fail.  On try #3, I finally found a combination that was close.  With some tweaking, the mock up worked.  It was time for the linen.

First I needed to change the threads on the serger.  I told you I was using technology on this one!  The serger is a great tool. It does so much work for us, so quickly, that we are fine with putting up with how long it takes us to thread the evil beast.  But here's a trick.  DON'T rethread it.  Sure if a thread SNAPS, then you have to rethread it.  Otherwise, let IT rethread itself.  

Simply snip the thread near the cone and tie the new thread to the old.  Make sure this knot is small and tight.  Trim any little tails.  Now simply run some scrap cloth through the machine slowly.  The tiny knots will flow through the machine and needle eyes and viola, a new color is threaded.  SHOULD a knot come undone, then you really aren't any further behind than if you had done it the old school way. 

I serged the seams and then the hem.  I then turned the hem and top stitched it with both a top stitch and a plain white decorative stitch.  The coif is meant to be used, and then remade when it gets too worn or stained.  In this case, it would not have been ornately decorated, but that doesn't mean it would have been totally ignored in a household with a good seamstress who could afford to part with her thread.

Once the coif was made, I could use that pattern as a base for the cap.  In the case of my regions, it was slightly smaller than the coif, and a different shape.  It also had to be intricately embroidered. 

I constructed the cap in the same manner as the coif, but used a heavier black cotton, almost a canvas. (Remember no wool.)  I top stitched it in the same subdued manner as the coif, this time in black threading.  I drew an ornate Rosemal pattern in water soluble white pencil with the intention of doing the embroidery by hand with pearl cotton.

That was disastrous.  Needlework isn't my thing and the cotton kept unwinding.  TO THE EMBROIDERY MACHINE!  I found a 13 piece design pack of patterns on sale and downloaded them to my machine.  This switch in direction required me to cut a new cap out.  I selected my patterns and colors and spent 8 hours of my Sunday changing thread colors when the beeping box demanded it of me.  Each time hoping that a thread wouldn't break, or the machine wouldn't start misbehaving, ruining the whole panel. (Embroidery machine owners, you know what I mean!)

This morning I crossed my fingers that the serger would behave, and the regular machine would behave.  Everyone did.  I think it finished beautifully!

I am out of yellow thread and adhesive stabilizer so the purse, which is next, will have to wait for a trip to town.  After that, I'll start on mock-ups of the shirt, vest, skirt, and petticoats.

Trip to town accomplished.  I still need to buy some more Bottom Line Thread for my bobbins, but had enough to finish the purse embroidery.  If you sew a lot or use your embroidery machine a great deal and have never tried this thread in your bobbin, give it a whirl! I've been using it for 13 years and it's durability is amazing.  It glides through your machine like the old fashioned lingerie thread and doesn't snap, which looses your place while embroidering.

Here is the design I chose for the purse.  I will put it together in the next couple of days and then move on to the red petticoat.

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