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.

Simple Project Tracker template
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.

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.

camping trip
Camping Trip Planning template
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.



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.


Lucy Locket and Her Pocket



“Lucy Lockett lost her pocket, Kitty Fisher found it.
Not a penny was there in it, only ribbon wrapped around it.”

To most modern folks this nursery rhyme simply makes no sense, pockets for most of our memory have been sewn into our garments, sans ribbon. 18th Century pockets, on the other hand, were essentially medium sized bags with an opening that were tied to the waist (along with everything else). Pockets varied in size and shape as well as the materials used to make them with. Sparing you the pockets lecture I’d highly recommend the following sources before starting your project.

Pocket Research

Pocket Tutorials

I’m generally one of those people who prefers to buy everything in a kit rather than having to track down each little piece, while pockets seem simple enough they do have lots of little tedious bits that need purchased like the fabric itself, something to bind it with, tape to secure them to yourself, and embroidery thread if you so choose to have pretty pockets. I decided not to waste time and money and just bought a pocket kit through Wm. Booth, Draper. The basic pocket kit comes with ½ yard of unbleached linen, 2 yards of ½” wide linen tape, one spool of beige 50/3 linen thread and a bundle of strips of reproduction cotton prints for binding . The kit is intended to be made in a class so there will not be a pattern or instructions that come with it but that’s not a big deal at all.

You can easily order a pattern for pockets, Kannik’s Korner has a pattern for stockings, pockets and mitts that is available for $14.00 through Wm. Booth, Draper. If you’d like to save some money, and who doesn’t?, I’d advise improvising with your own pattern! My pockets are being made with the tutorial provided by the V&A Museum, as well as help from the Tea in a Teacup post. I ironed my linen and roughly drew out the shape I wanted based on the pocket dimensions in the “Teacup” post. I then scaled up a design I wanted to embroider on each of my pockets and transferred it to the pockets.

Now I won’t lie to you fine folks, my pockets are not finished. They are on the back burner… way, way, way back there. I know I should have them and they could be useful but for now I have gotten by without them. In their stead I have been using a market wallet for general carrying of stuff, small hand basket, and a frail from Mrs. Boice’s Historie Academie. Will I ever finish my pockets? Yes, eventually. Should you make your pockets? Yes! They really do provide an interesting topic for discussion with the public, sort of similar to the “What’s in your purse?” question and they can be used to easily hide away those modern necessities like cell phones, keys, credit cards, and cash. Two pockets makes that even easier if you devote one solely to modern items while the other remains the “show and tell” pocket. For a more detailed look at what a woman might have carried in her pockets check out this blog post written by Carrie Fellows over at the 17th Regiment of Foot.


So pockets, while not necessary are extremely useful, simple to make, and great little projects that can be worked on while at events- perfect for an entire pocket discussion!


DIY 18th Century Powder Brush


Hey everyone thanks for being patient with us as illness has taken over the Frederick household staying on top of blog posts and writing hasn’t been at the top of the list, sorry guys! To make up for the lack of content we have a great post from guest writer Bryn Kelley which ties in perfectly with our two series we’re running right now, The Twelve Days of Christmas Shopping and our Thrifty Reenactress series. Without further ado…

DIY Historically Accurate (Hair) Powder Brush

Raise your hand if you want big hair! So you have your hair powder, which you can make for cheap, you have a way to store it, but how do you actually apply it?

With a powder brush!

image3Now the big question is getting a historically accurate powder brush without breaking the bank. I am always looking for a bargain, in all aspects of life, I was at Marshalls shopping deals when inspiration for this project struck. I saw a small powder brush that only had a tiny aluminium handle that could easily be covered, the price made it sweeter, only four dollars.

(Powder brush before historically inspired makeover)


The trick with extant powder brushes is that wood 1512941549951and animal hair are two of the most susceptible materials to moisture and pest deterioration. To study brushes of the time therefore requires studying images, paintings and prints that show women at their toilette. The image here shows a brush that I used as my model for my brush handle.

Block not yet in the round

Now the actual work begins! I started with some oak I happened to have from making tent poles in a previous project. I hate how hard the wood was, but it was nice because A.) I owned it already and B.) it was almost in the round. I had to glue the two scraps I had together so I used Gorilla glue because of the durability. Then I was ready to roll!

I started out hand sanding, intending to whittle to taper the handle. I quickly regretted the choice of oak. I am not one to back down; I simply get creative. I rigged a lathe of sorts and started sanding with 80-grit to get it into the round. Fast-forward to getting it rounded, next step is tapering it down so it is actually usable. Sadly I did not take any pictures before it was tapered, but it generally looked like a dowel. If you want to not hate yourself during this I recommend finding inch and a half dowel of a wood.

Block tapered and sanded

This next part was the trickiest part, drilling out the indent for the actual brush to get set into. The trickiest part of this was the fact that since the wood now had a finish sanding on it I did not want to mar the wood, so attempting to use the drill press with the narrow end of the handle at the base. I got some help from a second set of hands. Here is another time where I wish I had used one-piece dowel-rod, since mine was pieced together the bore bit did not like the joints, skipping multiple times. In the end I needed to use the Dremmel a little and ended up cobbling it together successfully. Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures of this step either.

Final step! Now to set the brush into the handle. I used E6000 glue to set it but you could epoxy or super glue. The E6000 took up the extra space I had from the bit being too big.

Here’s the final product!



Bryn Kelley

The Great Fabric Post of 2017


Note From the Editor: When I sat down and began writing this piece I intended it to be a basic guide, the starting point for someone new to the hobby or this time period in particular. As I was sifting through my research it became clear to me that I could easily expand each topic discussed in the following post as its own blog post chock full of important details on the how’s and whys. At a later date we may choose to expand on fabrics in much greater detail but for now this basic rundown on the what’s and the where’s will have to suffice. 

Hey all! Welcome back after that brief Turkey Day break, we’re ready to get back into our Thrifty Reenactress blog series with our final post before we begin working on actually putting together our basic women’s kit. Today we’re going to be talking about fabric and notions, or the stuff you need to make a thing. In our last post we talked about patterns and some ways you can cut corners and still turn out a great piece that will meet authenticity standards set for a majority of events. This post is going to cover what types of fabric you should be looking at with some specifics on weights, fiber content, and drape. We will also discuss prints and why scale and color matters when looking at pretty fabrics. Finally we’ll close with tips on buying fabric online, in store, and in some unusual locations like Goodwill and IKEA. So let’s jump right in!

Fabric, you can’t make anything on your wish list without having at least a scrap of it lying around. As you begin brainstorming for your new 18th century wardrobe the first thing you need to consider is Who are You? The majority of us will fall into the realm of middle class and lower class, from tradesmen to servants and everything in between. As a general rule of thumb a persona based in these two classes should shy away from silk except for in small accessories like a handkerchief, mitts, or a bonnet. A silk gown would be quite out of place for someone like a cook or laundress. We’ll save our discussion on the secondhand clothing market for another day 🙂 It should go without saying that fibers should be all natural meaning no polyester or other manmade fibers. The most current research is showing that wool was king in the 18th century and that we should have a larger quantity of people wearing wool than other fabrics such as cotton. Linen seems to be second most common and then lastly cotton. We won’t discuss blends too much like Linsey- Woolsey because there are yet to be any affordable sources for the material but natural fiber blends did commonly exist at this time.

Wool was one of the most common fabrics being worn in the 18th century. Made from the fleece of sheep it is sturdy, readily available, and could be woven into a variety of weights and patterns. Unlike linen, wool takes dye color better meaning the sky’s the limit on color choices. Weights can vary from light tropical weight wool that’s silky to the touch or heavier broadcloths suitable for cloaks and redingotes. When considering wool fabrics you may see words such as worsted and woolen being used to describe the material. Worsted wools are combed to remove the short fibers and are tighter spun with the long fibers lying parallel together creating a stronger and smoother fabric. Woolens are carded back and forth to create an airy and plush springy fiber when spun, creating a fuzzy looking fabric when woven. Gowns, petticoats and jackets can all be made from worsted wools in almost any color and can also have stripes or cross bars. For cooler weather events shifts, under petticoats, and quilted waistcoats could all be made with wool flannel to add extra warmth. We recommend looking at the large selection of wool available at Wm. Booth, Draper and Burnley & Trowbridge. Order samples and familiarize yourself with their various weights and textures and refer back to them when considering wool for your garments.

Linen fabric is most commonly woven from flax plants, but also sometimes from hemp. It is a sturdy and strong fiber commonly used to make undergarments because of its ability to withstand the harsh washing practices of the time. Linen comes in a variety of weights from handkerchief weight perfect for caps and shifts to heavy weights more suitable for bed tickings and sacks. Unlike wool, linen doesn’t take dyes very well and was rarely found in shades other than blues, browns, and whites. Striped and check linens were quite common and even stamped linens were seen. When considering linen for a gown it seems that stripes were the most common fabric used, a large selection of medium weight striped linen can be found at Wm. Booth, Draper. For undergarments you should be considering handkerchief or lightweight bleached or natural linen. A common way to save some money in the 18th century when making clothing was to make a shift body out of a cheap, unbleached linen and then using the fine handkerchief weight linen for the sleeves which could be seen peeking out of gown sleeves. Hayley will talk more about this money saving hack in her post on shifts later this week.

By the end of the 18th century cotton and cotton printed fabrics were finally becoming an affordable option in the New World. We’ll spare you the history lesson on cotton processing since others have talked about it at length all across the web, but know for our intents and purposes it’s finally an option for gowns and other outer garments! Plain white cotton printed with a single color design was a popular choice amongst the working class, Burnley & Trowbridge have a wonderful selection of single color prints perfect for gowns, jackets, and bedgowns. Speaking of printed fabrics I think we need to take a moment to discuss what makes a print appropriate for our time period. First look at the overall design, most printed cottons were floral designs emulating expensive silk brocades. They often included European flowers like roses and carnations worked into traditional Indian motifs over a white background. More popular amongst the working class were simple sprigged designs which required minimal worked compared to most printed fabrics. Most modern chintzes and toiles found at chain fabric stores are incorrect for 18th Century use. Another important thing to consider is the scale of the print. Larger scaled prints were often reserved for upholstery and curtains, generally not clothing, an exception is the large scaled prints seen on gowns in the first half of the century. A recent trend has taken hold of making gowns from Waverly curtains found at Lowes and Home Depot. They have great color and the print design is correct for the 18th Century however the scale of the print makes them more suitable for drapes and upholstery projects rather than gowns. When considering authenticity it is our opinion that while the Curtain Gown is a great way to cut costs we don’t believe it is appropriate for a living history setting. However we have found some ways to save money while still having those pretty fabrics that will be better suited for an event where authenticity plays an important factor.

As we’ve mentioned in the previous paragraphs Wm. Booth, Draper and. Burnley & Trowbridge are some of our favorite resources for purchasing fabrics. We also recommend Renaissance Fabrics, Reproduction Fabrics, Liberty Linens, 96 District Fabrics, and Dutch Fabrics. These retailers are all top of the line and cater towards costumers and reproduction fabric enthusiasts. These are the guys you want to save your pennies up for and splurge on when you’re making that gotta have piece. In the grand scheme of things their prices are very reasonable and are worth the investment but we realize that not everyone can afford $12+ yard for fabric. For discounted linen prices we recommend specifically their medium weight linen IL019. They also offer a handkerchief weight linen at 3.5 oz which while we haven’t had the chance to try personally it has been recommended by others. For discounted wools we occasionally see stuff come up on eBay and Etsy but thus far we wholeheartedly recommend Burnley & Trowbridge or Wm. Booth, Draper as the most reliable and affordable options for wool. They have done the research and are presenting the closest wool that you can get to what was used in the 18th century. The only other retailers I’d recommend considering would be Kochan & Phillips (K&P) sold through Najecki Reproductions but their stuff will definitely cost you. The previous recommendations are mostly online retailers, and unless you run into them at an event you’re more than likely going to have to ask for a sample swatch if you’re unfamiliar with the material before making a purchase.

If you’re one of those people who like to feel and handle a fabric before committing to a purchase you may consider saving your pennies and hitting up a Trade Fair where a speciality vendor will be in attendance. These are most often held over the winter and early spring months and can be found online at Facebook and retailers individual event schedules. If you prefer to try your hand at sourcing material from a chain fabric store we recommend shopping sales, clipping coupons, and paying attention to fiber content labels. Unfortunately not every fabric is labeled correctly and in some cases the law allows up to 2% other fibers be included in a fabric blend without being labeled. I find that bringing a lighter and asking a clerk to do a burn test can sometimes help me decide between fabrics if I’m uncertain on blend content. Right now at JoAnns and most other chain stores it is nearly impossible to find 100% linen, especially at a rate that’s less than what you’ll find online. Most of their linen now comes in a linen rayon blend which isn’t terrible – rayon being a man made fabric from natural cellulose fibers it won’t melt to your skin like polyester or nylon but at their asking price you’re just better off getting it elsewhere. Occasionally you can find great deals on remnant and clearance linen so it never hurts to look. Generally speaking stay away from their quilting cotton prints, most of them are more suited for 19th Century garments. Likewise avoid any of the upholstery weight toiles and chintzes, while the design may be correct or really close the weight of the material will vastly affect the drape and overall look of the finished garment.

So where else can you source materials that isn’t a fabric store? Hayley’s favorite place to search for deals is at local thrift stores. She’s found entire lengths of worsted wools and cotton voiles perfect for costuming needs. Her favorite trick is to search for linen sun dresses or white linen trousers which can make perfect handkerchiefs, caps, and shift sleeves. One white sundress could easily produce a cap and two shift sleeves at a fraction of the cost you’d need to purchase from a retailer. Vintage linen tablecloths and bed sets can also be great finds at thrift stores or estate sales. Right now my favorite places to find fabric is through IKEA. They offer a range of printed duvet sets that are a reproduction of 18th Century prints which are the perfect scale for gowns another outer garments. I recently purchased the LJUSÖGA king size set for 39.99 and it contains yards of printed fabric for a fraction of the cost of ordering from a fabric store. If your heart is set on a printed garment an IKEA set is the way to go. Check out the 18th Century Notebook for more information on IKEA prints and the various gowns that have been made with them. I also LOVE Etsy and the wonderful Indian blockprint fabrics that can be found. They require a little bit of training of the eye to pick out correct prints but many of these fabrics cost only $5 a yard and sew up like a dream making wonderful late 18th century gowns.

So there you have it folks! Selecting a fabric is by far the most important part of the sewing process. We hope that with our little post here we can help make your life a little easier by pointing you in the right direction. If cost is your biggest concern we highly recommend saving up for a good quality material because it will last and wear better than something of lesser quality. Please tell us in the comments below if we missed anything and what is your favorite trick to save money on fabric!


Patterns on a Budget


Ok so you’ve this crazy idea in your head that you want to jump into the world of 18th Century living history as an actual participant, but where do you begin? Well before you fire up the Way-Back Machine let’s start at the beginning: patterns. For the purpose of the Thirfty Reenactress series we’re only going to cover in detail specific patterns for a basic woman’s kit including a shift, stays, petticoats, bedgown, apron, pockets, cap, and handkerchief. In this post we’ll share some valuable (read: free) resources that you should look into when expanding beyond your basic garments. So let’s begin!

The Library
This seems like a no brainer but you’d be surprised at how easily forgotten the local library can be in this new digital age of information. So why is the library so great? Costly costuming books! Some of our favorite historical fashion titles can fetch a pretty penny when purchased online, if they’re even still available in print. There is no better way to access these amazing sources of information than by checking them out at the library. Most of our favorites include detailed descriptions and patterns to replicate period styles straight from extant pieces around the world, just waiting to be scaled up to your measurements!

Some specific titles you should search for?
Arnold, Janet, Patterns of Fashion; Englishwomen’s Dresses c.1660-1860 (London, 1964)
Baumgarten, Linda and John Watson, Costume Close-Up: Clothing Construction and Pattern 1750-1790 (Williamsburg, 1999)
Bradfield, Nancy, Costume in Detail 1730-1930 (London 1981)
Burnston, Sharon, Fitting & Proper: 18th Century Clothing from the Collection of the Chester County Historical Society (Texas, 1998)
Waugh, Norah, Corsets and Crinolines (London, 1972)
Waugh, Norah, The Cut of Women’s Clothes 1600-1930 (London, 1987)

The World Wide Web
Everyone knows that you can find anything you want on the internet with just a few keystrokes, but often times the tedium of sifting through search results can be overwhelming. We’ve come to love Pinterest when searching for inspiration from extant garments and when wanting a quick result for simple tutorials on things like a petticoat or a basic cap. In addition to the multitude of magnificent DIY tutorials shared by costume bloggers we are lucky to find so many period sources for patterns, like Diderot’s Encyclopedia and Instructions for Cutting Out Apparel for the Poor.

Tutorials and Free Patterns

Commercial Patterns
While most living historians shy away from recommending commercial patterns from the Big Three: McCalls, Simplicity, and Vogue, we think they can sometimes be used as a good starting point for basic garments when an individual lacks the confidence to tackle scaling up a gridded pattern and doesn’t have time nor the money to get their hands on a better pattern. Recently Simplicity has released multiple patterns designed by American Duchess who has conveniently provided a PDF booklet on her blog that outlines simple hacks to create a more historically accurate garment from the patterns. While we don’t advocate for their use as our top pick patterns, between their frequent sale price of .99¢ at JoAnn’s Fabrics and the PDF of hacks, we think they can be a great alternative for getting someone into an event and gaining more skill and confidence with sewing historical garments. When looking for patterns specifically designed with historical authenticity in mind we find that searching on Etsy can sometimes pull up new, uncut patterns for less than can be found at other retailers. Typically we’ve noticed that Mill Farms Patterns and Kanniks Korner Patterns can be less costly than others. On the other hand the more expensive patterns put out by Larkin & Smith, running about $20 per pattern, tend to include better construction photos and explanations based on the latest research as well as including tutorials on making other basic items needed such as an apron, petticoat, and handkerchief. So for example you can purchase their 1770s English bedgown pattern for $18 and you will have a manual detailing how to make a bedgown, petticoat, handkerchief, and apron – almost everything you need for a basic kit, well worth the investment.

American Duchess Hacks

In the following posts we’ll cover each garment of the basic working woman’s kit and include a specific pattern or tutorial that we believe is the best you can get with little to no money. We will also be sure to share our favorite patterns, where to get them, and why we think they are worth the investment. Stay tuned for next week’s post on shopping for fabric while on a budget. We’ll be talking about things like fiber content and weight, prints and why scale and color matters, and what are some good ways (and not so good ways) to save money on fabric.


The Thrifty Reenactress


Hi guys, so today marks the start of our first official blog series “Building a Basic Kit on a Budget”. As most of us are wrapping up the event season we often begin to reflect on our kit, selling off the things we no longer want and prioritizing what needs to be made before the following season kicks off. This is also the time of year when we most encourage newbies to jump in and start sewing. Hayley and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to talk about how to get a basic kit for a lower class woman in the 18th century while working with a budget, because we all know between family and home obligations there’s not always as much money in our fabric fund as we’d like.

Follow along on our blog series as we cover budget friendly pattern options using some of our favorite resources (can you say free?!) as well as some more unconventional ways to source fabric and notions. We will go through each piece required in a working woman’s kit and show you exactly how we were able to save pennies without skimping on authenticity. By the end of the series, if you have followed our tips and guidelines, you should have a fully functioning kit that will meet authenticity standards for the vast majority of 18th Century events giving you a great solid foundation to build upon.

And if the idea of saving money isn’t enough of a reason to follow along over the next few weeks we’re pretty certain a chance to win some great prizes like a custom hand sewn fine linen cap or a complete lady’s hair dressing set might encourage you to subscribe. Stay tuned as we plan to announce the full contest details and prizes later on in the week.