Get Organized: Utilizing the Airtable App for Living History and Costuming

The Spring Collection

If you follow us on Instagram then you’ve probably seen us talk about the app and website called Airtable. If you haven’t, Airtable is basically a spreadsheet that also works as a database, so not only can you input information into an easy to read platform, you can organize it in a bazillion different ways to make it work for you! I’m low key obsessed, ok maybe not so low key lol.

I was first introduced to Airtable last summer when working with Molly Cooper of the 1st WAC Separate BN, she’s the queen of organization! It wasn’t love at first sight, but I did see the usefulness of the program at the time. I started setting up my first database to help me plan out projects and stay on top of them – something my UFO pile would love me to do. I planned about three projects and then forgot about it. Between the holidays and the general feelings of meh after The Season I kind of just wasn’t feeling it and the Airtable app just wasn’t working for me with the magic and wonder that Molly insisted it had for her.

Fast forward to this January, I had a slew of projects lined up in my head in multiple time periods. Add on to that the normal day to day things I have to remember between keeping the children alive, schooled, and the house from catching on fire. I was mentally fried and project pieces and deadlines were beginning to slip through the cracks. Thanks mom brain. I decided to sit down and force myself to make this Airtable app work the way I wanted it to.

First I decided I needed a database just for my sewing projects, something where I could easily see all of my planned projects, which time period they were for, which stage they were in, and what their deadline and priority level was. I started using the “Simple Project Tracker” database template in the app and then began customizing the fields.

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Simple Project Tracker template
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The modified template for my sewing projects

I left the first column (name) the same, copied the ‘Stage’ column and used it to create the ‘Time Period’ column, changing the options to 18th century, early 19th century, mid 19th century, and WWII. I kept the ‘Deadline’, ‘Priority’, ‘Photos’, and ‘Notes’ sections the same, just shuffled them a bit more to my liking. I also kept the ‘Tasks’ column which is a neat little way to connect to another spreadsheet all within the same database. Above you can see what the database looked like as the Simple Project Tracker template and what mine looks like now. Since Hayley and I use the same database for all of our reenacting stuff I copied my customized spreadsheet and just updated the name to differentiate between them, it now sits as the second tab in the Sewing Projects database with the Tasks spreadsheet as the third tab. The ‘Tasks’ spreadsheet is linked to both of the individual tables for our projects. As we enter tasks into our entries they generate here in the table. Below you can see what the ‘Tasks’ spreadsheet looks like, I only changed a couple of things on this spreadsheet.

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The ‘Tasks’ spreadsheet

I love that I can easily track each stage of my projects – no more forgetting to order swatches for weeks at a time. I also love the option of being able to attach photos or other media which is great for tracking inspiration for costumes. I’ve also found that there’s something superbly satisfying about getting to check off a box while in the midst of a project. Things like gowns and jackets and kids clothes (basically anything that isn’t a cap) seem to take forever and I’m definitely an instant gratification kind of person.

 

Now the next database was even more fun to create! I started with the Camping Trip Planner template and quickly started to customize the fields in the first spreadsheet. You can see below how much I changed things! We wanted to use this database as an easy way to organize the events we were attending and keep track of what exactly we were doing at said events since we tend to switch things up a lot. We kept the first column the same but then added a ‘Date’, ‘Prior Attendance, and ‘Registration’ field. I handle all of the administrative stuff so not overbooking us, ensuring we’re registered before deadlines, and have a general idea of what the event is about is something is something that can make my life easier. The next fields handle ‘Interpretation’, ‘Persona’, ‘Research’, and ‘Gear Needed’. The ‘Gear Needed’ field links to the existing ‘Packing List’ spreadsheet which currently needs some work. The ‘Persona’ field is linked to another spreadsheet that details all of those important things you need to keep straight when you do first person interpretation. The ‘Research’ field utilized the existing ‘Link’ field and is where we attach any research or resources related to the event and our interpretation.

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Camping Trip Planning template
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Newly customized and ready to go!

Ok so the last little bit I’m going to show you is a detail of the Clothing and Accessories spreadsheet. I kind of figured the Persona and Gear and Kit spreadsheets you could figure out on your own or eliminate entirely, but this one is neat. So I struggle with wanting to make a new outfit for every event. It’s just my thing and it needs to stop. I also struggle with remembering what all I have tucked away in storage, out of sight out of mind. So the weeks leading up to an event I inevitably forget what all I own and try to crank something out – enter this spreadsheet! This one tracks all of my outfits and the interchangeable pieces, like petticoats and caps, and all of those fun accessories. I can even go in and link an outfit to a persona so no more scrambling trying to remember if my cotton print gown is appropriate for a particular date/event or social class because its all right there! I can even electronically “pack” my clothing for an event by linking it right to the event spreadsheet! Voila! When I have 1000 other things to remember this one is going to save me from a mental breakdown and keep me in good graces with my hubby if I’m not buying fabric and sewing into the wee hours before an event. Below is an example of my fabulous table which is desperately in need of being updated – I meant to do it when I put all of my stuff away but you know, forgot.

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So there you have it folks! This is just an overview of what I’ve done with the Airtable app and how it works for me. As a note all of the images are views from the Airtable website whereas the mobile app has a slightly different layout. If you want more pictures or details on how I set up the other spreadsheets just let me know and I’d be glad to help! I hope this inspires you to get organized and take control of that UFO pile – or at least organize it a little lol.

-Brittany

Historical Sew Monthly: March 2019

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I feel like I’m cheating with March’s challenge of  “Sewing Kit” but honestly my sewing kit is a bit sparse so there weren’t many tools to choose from. The challenge calls for you to make something with your favorite tool or gadget from your sewing kit or make something for your historical sewing kit, like a housewife or pinball. 9EC540EE-2833-4CB6-8497-2CC1E3143468Since I have my historical sewing kit in order already, I turned to my favorite tool: the Bohin needle, a French company in business since 1833 and manufacturing needles since 1860. In this day and age it can be difficult to find sewing tools and notions that are produced by manufacturers that are focused on quality and not quantity and cheap labor. I love these needles, they glide like through fabric like butter; yes even that tough K&P wool doesn’t stand a chance with these and I gladly pay to have these little fellows shipped to my door from Burnley & Trowbridge.

 

For this challenge I am entering my Barbara Johnson fine white muslin apron which was all completed by hand, using period techniques, and my favorite french needles. This post will be short and sweet since I’ve already detailed the project in this post here, so let’s get down to business.

The Challenge: Fine white ruffled apron

Material: Fine cotton muslin “mull”

Pattern: None, self drafted based partly on the American Duchess Guide to Sewing

Year: 1780s

Notions: Thread and beeswax

How historically accurate is it? Nothing will ever be 100% accurate so let’s put this at a close 95% accurate.

Hours to complete: Honestly not as long as I thought, I didn’t keep track very well because I was sick but realistically maybe 6-8 hours.

First worn: Hasn’t been worn yet but fingers crossed we’ll have a photo shoot in a couple of weeks. If the weather doesn’t cooperate then it will make its debut at the Crabill Homestead event the last weekend of April. 

Total cost: About $36 in fabric between the apron and the handkerchief

Historical Sew Monthly: February 2019

 

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I’m a horrible blogger. I repeat, I am a horrible blogger. As you can tell from the title this post is all about the February HSM challenge, I actually did complete this in February, I just suck at blogging – in case those in the back didn’t hear me the first time. February’s HSM challenge was “Linen/Linens” as in make something out of linen or as in the other use of the word, underclothes. After the 1850 Winter Evening event at Cobblestone Farm, for which I made the last HSM challenge, I had already fallen in love with this new time period and volunteered my children to come with me for the next event at this beautiful site, the Spring Fling to be held on Sunday May 5th. This meant not only would I need another dress suitable for the warm weather, but my three boys would all need full outfits. GULP. That’s a lot of sewing! I’m probably crazy.

I started researching little boys clothes for the 1850s knowing that my youngest (just turned 4 at the end of February) would still be in frocks I decided to start there as information and patterns seemed readily available and easy enough to understand. I dug into Pinterest to look at extant frocks in museums and darling little boys in daguerreotypes (pro tip: center parted hair indicates a girl, side part a boy) and read as much as I could from amazing sites like Elizabeth Stewart Clark’s The Sewing Academy and the blog by Romantic History. I settled on the pattern the Elizabeth puts out, seeing as it seemed the most well researched and with a lot of bang for your buck in terms of everything you could produce with it.

Knowing that every time period requires the use of proper undergarments in order to achieve the look you want, I began drafting up a bodiced petticoat for my little Bug. To be honest this was one of the easiest little garments to make…ever. I measured the munchkin and using the bodice pattern I cut straight into my white linen, no time for mock-ups it’s a simple garment who has time for that lol. Once the bodice was sewn up and was semi-wearable I fitted on the Bug and realized hes actually a lot tinier than said bodice. Facepalm. Not wanting to make another and realizing eventually he will grow I made two vertical tucks at the center back closure of the bodice to take in the extra – when he outgrows it simply remove the tucks!

With the crisis averted I moved onto the skirts. I did some crazy maths and calculated how long the skirts should be and how many panels I wanted. I began sewing them up, hemming and working on the two tucks I had accounted for. I hastily gauged the skirts – no dread and terror this time- and was proud to have finished the petticoat in less than a day. I tricked my little guy into putting it on and SURPRISE I did the math wrong and his skirt was longer than I wanted. GRR.

So now I had to fudge another set of tucks while the skirt was attached to the bodice, what a pain. I managed to finagle it more quickly than I was expecting and decided to give everything a nice pressing – seriously is there anything more satisfying than freshly pressed tucks on a petticoat? **Note that the following images do not depict a satisfyingly pressed tucked petticoat**

With how quickly I put this together I immediately cut out a sweet frock for him and had it finished in another day. Seriously, this thing is darling. I decided to go with a lightweight cotton plaid/check because 1. it was on clearance 2. it’s always dreadfully hot during the summer events and 3. I saw a lot of boys wearing plaids and checks in dags. Once the gown was finished we sat down together and looked at how some frocks were trimmed – plain frocks are no fun and my little man isn’t afraid to be EXTRA. He really enjoyed the sash and belt look on a few extants so we went with that using some scrap brown worsted wool I had from another project. We decided to use that same wool for contrast piping and for a sweet little dagged trim on the sleeves. I think it really gives the frock a more masculine feel.

I’m really excited about the finished project and I can hardly wait for the event next month. I definitely think he’s going to be irresistible to photographers.

PS. Enjoy some photos of him in his adorable outfit, I couldn’t resist sharing them.

 

The Challenge: 1850s linen bodiced petticoat for a child

Material: White linen

Pattern: The Sewing Academy 220: Little Boys Wardrobe and Romantic History tutorial

Year: 1840-1850s

Notions: Metal hooks and eyes, beeswax, and thread

How historically accurate is it? It’s mostly machine sewn and it seems that cotton was a more popular choice for undergarments in the mid 19th century so I will say its 75% accurate.

Hours to complete: Total was probably less than 4 hours

First worn: Aside from pictures for this post and Instagram last month it hasn’t been officially worn yet

Total cost: $25 for pattern, linen fabric was from the stash

Historical Sew Monthly: January 2019

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Ok, so I think by now we all understand how bad I am at keeping up with blogging. To be honest though, if I blogged as much as I wanted I probably wouldn’t get half as much sewing done as I’d like to. Vicious circle. Anyways, for the second year in a row I am casually participating in the Historical Sew Monthly challenge hosted by the lovely Dreamstress. If you’ve never heard of the HSM challenge definitely check it out, I love seeing all the cool projects people turn out to fit the challenge themes! This year I managed to inadvertently knock out the first two challenges with little effort as they fit right in with my  sewing plans. #score!

The first challenge of the year was “Dressed to the Nines” and costumers were encouraged to create something fancy to be “dressed to the nines” or create something from a year ending in 9 (like 1849), or incorporate the number 9 into the design elements, like 9 buttons. This was perfect as I need to whip together a dress for an event in February that was set in 1850.

I decided to start planning my project by perusing Pinterest for some inspiration. I was still really new to this period and learning exactly what shapes and details were appropriate was daunting, fortunately they had photography! During a random search I came across this dress and then this fashion plate and finally this dag.

Hmm, look at all that blue changeable silk! Funny thing is I have an entire bolt of that very same fabric sitting in my sewing room – sometimes things are meant to be!

So with the fabric decided upon I began looking at elements I liked in these dresses, namely the tightly gathered bodice front and the tight sleeves, and chose the Truly Victorian pattern 454 German Day Dress to work with. I had heard many great things about the Truly Victorian patterns and figured I couldn’t go wrong with them especially when working in unfamiliar territory. I really enjoyed working with the TV pattern, but not going to lie the sizing chart was crazy. I might just be really unproportional but I had to fudge some numbers to get to a size that made sense. I really had my doubts about the fit when sewing up the mock-up but amazingly the crazy maths and head scratching worked! I had to make zero adjustments! Seriously when does that ever happen, especially on an unfamiliar pattern in a new time period? Truly Victorian patterns I AM SOLD!!

After whizzing through the mock-up I whipped together the bodice in no time – seriously flat lining is my new favorite thing, WHY AREN’T WE USING THIS MORE OFTEN???

With one week before the event all I had to do was gauge the skirts and attach them – cue terror and dread.

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Holy Crap I can gauge skirts!

Pleating skirts is second nature for me, when it comes to knife pleats that is, but throwing in a new technique like gauging (or cartridge pleating) and you have me shaking in my boots. I don’t do well with change. I think I spent more time researching how to gauge skirts than I did actually gauging them. Not even joking.

The week of the event and after 2 cups of coffee, 4 pep talks, and like 7 internet tutorials I finally bit the bullet and gauged the darn skirts. It took me approximately the entire season of BBC’s The Living and The Dead (I don’t suggest watching this before spending an evening in a dark and haunted Victorian home) to finish the skirts and attach them to the bodice, essentially making the thing.

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Ta-Da! Ignore my shrinking dress form, that girls got problems

The day of the event we met up early to do a mini photo shoot, because that’s what you do when you make a new thing you’re proud of right?

The event was focused on recreating some of the activities that would occur around a house during a winter evening in 1850. The 1850s girl gang decided to reenact a parlor scene by taking tea, reading and discussing current events. We took advantage of the gorgeous candlelight to snap a few haunting images. Overall the event and the gown were a huge success.

HSM challenge #1 = Accomplished!

The Challenge: “Dressed to the Nines” an 1849 day dress

Material: Blue and black changeable silk, black silk, and green cotton twill lining

Pattern: Truly Victorian #454 German Day Dress

Year: 1849

Notions: Metal hooks and eyes, beeswax, cotton cord, blue linen thread, and blue silk thread.

How historically accurate is it? The pattern is based off of an original tailors guide written c. 1843 and the fabric and styling matches extant gowns and those seen in fashion plates and daguerreotypes, however the gown is mostly machine sewn (its an antique machine if that helps recoup points), so I will call it 90% accurate.

Hours to complete: I’m terrible at tracking hours but from mock-up to finished product there is probably 24 hours of labor involved.

First worn: Saturday February 9th, for the Winter Evening event at Cobblestone Farm in Ann Arbor, MI.

Total cost: Less than $25, fabric and almost all notions came from stash. Pattern and cording were the only purchases.