Friday, May 27, 2016

Water-closets ~ Flush Toilets

While doing some research on indoor plumbing I stumbled across the term "watercloset". This struck me as odd because I know that term refers to "the room with a toilet". So, I redirected my energies in that direction.

As it turns out, the beginnings of what we know as the flush toilet was invented in 1585 by Sir John Harrington and installed for his grandmother Queen Elizabeth I at Richmond Palace. He published a work called A New Discourse of a Stale Subject, Called the Metamorphosis of Ajax. The main feature was a a flush valve to let water out of the tank, and a wash-down design to empty the bowl.

In 1775 the S-trap was invented by Alexander Cumming. It used standing water to seal the drain, preventing foul air from the sewer from coming into the chamber. His design had a sliding valve in the bowl outlet above the trap.

Joseph Bramah improved the design by replacing the usual slide valve with a hinged flap that sealed the bottom of the bowl. In 1778 he obtained a patent for a float valve system for the flush tank.

In 1829 architect Isaiah Rogers, designed the Tremont Hotel in Boston with eight water closets on the ground floor. In 1834 he built the Astor House in New York City.

In the 1840s, George Jennings had a business manufacturing water closets, salt-glaze drainage, sanitary pipes and sanitaryware at Parkstone Pottery. During The Great Exhibition in 1851, he installed his Monkey Closets in the Retiring Rooms of The Crystal Palace and charged a penny to use it. This started the term "to spend a penny" meaning to use the pay toilet. He continued to make improvements to the design. By the 1860s English building codes suggested that new homes be built with water closets.

Published in The Young Housekeeper, 1852
"In every respectable family house there will generally be two or three water-closets, and it is expected that the housemaid should understand the proper method of keeping them always sweet and clean, and fit for use;- this is easily done with a little attention: all that is requisite is to know the time the water comes into the cistern, and while it is coming in, to lift up the handle of the water-closet and let the water rush away; then put the handle down, let the basin fill again with water, and, raising up the handle, let it off again with a rush; and so continue to do for full five minutes at least, once every day,- and families should never allow printed or stiff paper to be used, or it will stop and spoil the best water-closets; only thin whitey-brown, or curl paper is proper.
If a water-closet should get clogged, either from using still printed paper, or from want of using plenty of water, or from any other cause, it is best to ask your mistress to let you desire the plumber to bring his plunger, with which he will easily set it free, at the expence of a shilling, if he is an honest man; for not onetime in if hundred does it require any thing else to be done to it, if plenty of water is used; for which purpose it is good to take off the ball-cock in the cistern, and let all the waste water, after the cistern is full, run off through the waste pipe; which will tend to keep the drains clean, and also prevent the water freezing in winter weather."

In 1857 William Campbell and James T. Henry received an American patent for a plunger closet. It resembled the twin-basin water closets.

In 1859, Nicolay August Andresen, a banker in Norway insured 3 water closets in his town house.

In the 1859 the Alfred Vidal Davis family of Natchez, Miss., had indoor hot-and-cold running water and an indoor toilet. This home later became the Dunleith Inn. The shower and flush toilet system was sold by a company in New Orleans called Price & Coulon.

From Godey's Magazine, 1859

An alternate term for water closet was "wash down closet". Before the tern water closet was use the toilet was sometimes referred to as the earth closet or toilet chair. I actually like toilet chairs and they really went by many names depending on the when and where. Other names for this piece of furniture are close stool, necessary stool, night stool, convenience, and night commode.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

New Fabric On The Way

My husband had so much fun at the Winter Ball in Gettysburg that he is finally open to the idea of dressing up and accompanying us to events.... such as other balls and perhaps a baseball game this summer. He currently has nothing in the way of historical clothing. So, of course it was time to go shopping. I happened to see some great fabrics at and made my order.

I am a little hesitant because the last order I placed with them took over two weeks to get to me. I'm hoping that I get my fabric sooner than that. Most of the fabric I purchased with him in mind, other items in the order were just too good to pass up.

Tan & Brown Plaid Medium Weight Linen

I love plaid. This can be a sack coat or pair of pants. If my husband doesn't like it, I do have two boys that could benefit from new suits.

Solid Cocoa Brown Lightweight Linen

Here is an example of a deal too good to pass up. I had originally picked this for part of my husband's summer picnic suit but now I am thinking that it will be too thin. I may be able to use it with a lining but if it's unusable for him, we will just call it brown Holland and make boy's aprons.

Dusty Plum & Ivory Plaid Light Weight Linen

I did mention that I like plaids, right? This cute plaid is for the vest or waistcoat front. It will be lined with white cotton twill, the same will be used for the vest back. I really can't see using all of this for just one vest so I am hoping that I can get a mini vest too, for one of my boys.

This is another piece that I have high hopes for but I'm not really sure about the weave. I am wanting to make pants from this but I love browns and this would go beautifully in my modern sewing. If my husband bales on the idea of dressing up before the piece gets cut.... it's all mine.

Antique Gold Plaid Wool Suiting

I love the colors in this piece. It has antique gold, blue, green, burgundy and white in it, according to the description. I'll have to inspect it more closely once it have it in hand, just to make sure. This is a light to medium wool and I'm hoping that it will make a nice vest front. The back will be brown polished cotton. There was only one yard of this available. I would have loved to get a long length for a bigger project. Again, if the weight or weave isn't correct, this will be joining my modern fabric projects list.

Natural Canvas 10 oz
This is just a fun piece. I've been wanting to try my hand at making a painted floor cloth and now I can. I am also playing with the idea of making my own tent for our trip to the National 19th Century Base Ball Festival in July. I'll want to see how well I can sew the hem on my machine before I take on the task of sewing an entire tent. I'll probably play with grommets as well.

Here are some inspirational images to keep me going:

Monday, February 9, 2015

Turquoise Voile Girl's Dress

3/3/2015 Update - Here is how the dress looked for our children's ball last Saturday:

It's not completely finished. I need to add the box plaiting at the hemline as well as adding a silk sash at the waist. Also, the child wants puffed sleeves instead of open sleeves and there was no time to finish that detail before the party. As a side note, it seems that this child also needs a new cage. Her current one doesn't seem to give the proper shape to this dress..... Alas, how my sewing list grows!!

2/9/2015 Update - Well, It's been three years since I purchased this fabric and many dresses (both modern and historical) have been made in that time. I do think that it's about time to finish... or should I say start, this project. It just so happens that the Dreamstress is hosting a Blue Challenge for her February Sew Monthly. Hopefully this will be enough of an encouragement to finish. If I am able to finish this dress, my dear daughter will be able to wear it as a party dress to our private Ball at the end of the month. Wish me luck! 

6/2/2013 Update - Here is the inspiration image for this dress. Unfortunately we only get a back view to admire.
Journal De Demoiselles March 1862

Of course I am talking about the little girl. Here is a closer look:

 I will not be doing the fluting at the bottom of the dress because I don't think that the fabric will hold the pleats. I will also need to get some silk for the belt and rosette.

Original Post 11/13/2012 - Fabric Mart just had a $1 sale on turquoise cotton voile.

I was able to pick up 5 yards and am planning on making a sheer dress for my young daughter. I can see a lined body with gathered, puffed, short sleeves, and perhaps some tucks in the skirt. Wouldn't a matching, sheer bonnet be nice as well?

I received the voile today. It is not as sheer as I has expected, but it feels very durable and has a nice shine. I look forward to making a nice dress from it next spring.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Making A Ball Gown ~ Finished

Ball Gown Update 2/4/15 ~ My dearest husband decided to surprise me with tickets to the Winter Ball in Gettysburg last Saturday. I was fortunate to have been told and was able to start at the beginning of January. As you can imaging, I worked daily to get my gown finished before the event. This lovely surprise moved my due date for this project up an entire month. Here's what I completed:

The first thing that I had to do was to remake my cage.... again. Our trip to Cedar Creek really destroyed it. I also added an attached bum roll to help with a back thrust for my skirts. I really like how it turned out but looking at the pictures, I think that I could go wider with my cage.

I do confess that most of the work went into the flounced petticoat or under skirt. There are 11 flounces and each one took an entire day. They are all hand hemmed and hand gathered. However, I did use the machine to attach the flounces to the base skirt. My favorite part about this petticoat is that I can use it under the wrapper that I have planned as well as for the skirt of my new sheer.

The silk for the bodice and over skirt came from It's called "Bronze Brown Silk Taffeta" and has an embroidered check design. I do confess that when I first opened the package I almost cried.... it looked like curtains. It had taken so long to arrive and I didn't have any time to send it back and order something else. I shoved it back into the bag and tried to forget about it for a few days. Finally, I pulled it back out and draped it on my mannequin. After a few days of looking at it draped like that, it slowly started to look like dress fabric.

The bodice and over skirt were finished in about a week. I used Past Patterns 704 for this and really like how the double puff sleeve turned out. I used a straight size 18, only taking in the side seams about 1/4 inch on each side. I also put in a gathering stitch to narrow the sleeve openings but other than that I made no alterations. It would have been nice if there was an actual bertha pattern included.

The bows were made from black silk satin organza. I wanted to use wide silk ribbon but everything that I saw was very limp and wouldn't have given the look that I was going for. The fabric was ripped into strips and hemmed on both sides. Then the bow was made and two were attached to the over skirt and one went into my hair.

I am already planning my improvements for this gown. I'm going to add a sheer bertha decorated with strips of the bodice fabric (if I have enough) and take a little bit off on the side seams of the bodice. I had wanted to also make a new under skirt of silk but after the gown was stepped on so many times and drug on the dirty ground, I may just stay with a washable (and bleach-able) fabric.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

12/09/2014 - Wouldn't you know that as soon as I start on a major project, like making a quilt, along comes another major project, like making a ball gown. We are hosting a party that includes a dance master, gowns and a lovely historic venue. So, of course I have to have a ball gown. After all, you can't hostess a ball without one, right?

Here are some ideas that appeal to me:

I'm going for a two part dress such as the red one above. I really like the open bodice style.

The ruffled underskirt is very nice on this one. For mine, I'm thinking a white underskirt and a colored over skirt.

I especially like this red one. 

I love this painting of Lady Elizabeth Gilstrap (1822-1891) by Richard Buckner (Newark Town Council, Newark, Nottinghamshire UK) . You can see her flounced, sheer under skirt. 

Currently, I have no silk. So, a sheer flounced underskirt would be a great place to start. I have until the end of February to finish my dress. Wish me luck!

Other Inspirational Gowns:

Here is a lovely example of a sheer flounced ball gown from the MET Museum

Godey's Lady's Book, December 1859
I adore the blue one on the far left. Is that 13 rows of flouncing that I see? Here's the description: Fig. 1. we have one of those characteristic tunic dresses, introduced of late, and notable for their novelty at least. Underskirt or petticoat of white silk, covered by innumerable small flounces. Tunic and corsage of blue satin; sleeves of white silk, with a ruche of blue; berthé trimmed with point lace.

Peterson's Magazine 1860
I had been wondering if ribbon trimmed flounces would be an option... and it looks like they are. Fig. I. -Evening-dress of White Tulle, trimmed with eleven narrow tulle flounces, edged with blonde and narrow currant-colored velvet. A tunic of spotted tulle is trimmed with a broader velvet, a long wreath of velvet flowers, and a large bow of velvet ribbon. The sleeves and the berthe, which is of a heart shape, are trimmed to correspond with the skirt. Wreath of green leaves and velvet flowers. 

I really like this yellow one as well. I could use some gold silk that I have for the bodice and bows and order something that coordinates for the over skirt.