OK so this is not a normal record of my spinning and weaving adventure but very closely related.
This past Friday and Saturday I spent my time in the 1860s at the Prairie House at the George Ranch down by Richmond, Texas. Texian Market Days is a two day extravaganza for them with period exhibits and demonstrations at each of their houses so you can spend a whole day and travel through a hundred years of history. I usually am with my friends in the 1830s but this year it was the 1860s and the Ladies Aid Society. Alas, when I arrived at 7am on Friday I learned that the Ladies Aid Society (for which I was just a sidelight there to tell stories) was not in attendance. None of the 20 or so ladies could make it out. I wanted to scream – but didn’t. I had to make this work. Not an exciting exhibit to say the least or interesting to look at as just myself and a couple of things with my basket was all that was under this huge awning. In the above picture you can see my table between the soldier and Leslee in the blue dress. Then with my stool hiding behind them that was it.
Thankfully, that as I was to be telling stories for 2 days I wanted something for my hands to be doing. I muddled a bit on it … Then decided that as shoes ran out in Texas during the war, and if you could get some through the blockade, they were wicked expensive (calico by the end of the war could go for as much as $25 a yard), many women turned to making cloth shoes. So cloth shoes it would be and now to decide how to do it.
Though a bit early, I of course pulled out the Workwoman’s Guide which was published in 1838. A great resource for making anything out of cloth for the home. I found a half page of shoes in its pages.
Alas I was a bit surprised at how few shoes there were in it compared to some things that I am amazed at the variety. But anyway, I poured over the diagrams and picked of all things to try – the baby shoe but in my size. So to interpret the directions.
Well, being as math is not remotely close to a strong suit of mine and trying to change “nails” into inches can be a challenge. Though I can tell you off the top of my head now that one nail equals 2 1/4 inches. But anyway, in the above diagrams, 51-54, are the baby shoes. So I cut out the first piece as there are two pieces for the tops then a sole for each shoe.
So I got some leather from my husband cut out soles and punched holes in them with an awl. Got some cloth that was the bottom of his trousers that I had cut off and made shorts. Some thread and a needle and proceeded to sit out there and tell stories while making a shoe.
Here is the results of my time out there. I got one front piece all hemmed and then attached to the sole. Glad I tried it out as it turned out I needed to make it shorter than I had cut it to fit over the top of my foot.
And here is the bottom of the shoe. Now as it turned out as after the kids were all gone Friday and I time traveled back to the 1830s and my friends there, I discovered that a gentleman who I see at many of these events is a jack-of-all-trades and for the kids had brought his shoe making supplies and was demonstrating making shoes in the 19th century. Went over and talked with him awhile and learned a few tips and tricks that would have made this a whole lot easier. So if I actually finish this one or its pair and feel I can then try to make a nice pair with handwoven cloth (knew I could get some weaving in here somewhere), it should go much faster. As in lightening speed to how this went.
But all in all, it wasn’t a total disaster being the only one in my group there. I had my stories and then people were interested in the whole concept of having to make you shoes out of cloth in tough times.