View Full Version : Local events/Workshops

03-11-2006, 11:39 AM
At reenactments that I've been to, the "Tea" for the ladies, often times will have some display or demonstration, which lasts maybe about an hour. That is about all that is offered to the civilians to participate in.

Has anyone ever done/been to a hands on workshop to learn a new craft/technique? A workshop for the reenactors not the public.
Most reenactments that "I've" attended in the past were generic in nature, the event was fictional to the area in which the event/battle was taking place. I'm talking the common family oriented events, where you have large groups of civilians, men/women/children.
Many people can not make it to conferences or out of state workshops. Would haveing some kind of alternative activity be of interest to the civilian community at a reenactment? I'm talking about a workshop/class for a fee.

I have read in the past at the mega events there were offered various workshops.

If some type of workshop was offered would there be any interest? Would paying a fee for a "kit/materials", or a list of supplies and bring your own materials be accecptable?
Would a two hour or half day or full day workshops be of interest??
What types of workshops would be of interest?

Susan Armstrong

03-12-2006, 07:28 PM
You know, my preference would be to get involved in various daily activities, but not necessarily as an organized class or workshop. I guess I feel it would take away from my desire to experience the 19th century. I do realize you're not necessarily talking about an authentic-type of event here, of course.

I like having things to do at events, such as cooking, sewing, knitting, or even just gathering wood. At a living history event last year the organizer set up a quilt frame and taught us how to quilt -- that was wonderful. I felt as though I was part of a mid-19th c quilting bee, which I probably wouldn't have experienced if I'd been participating in a structured workshop setting. But that's just me.

I'm glad you're getting away from that tea idea!

Delia Godric
03-13-2006, 12:30 PM

I can think of a few activities at presentation style (teaching) events.
- We have a seminar every year on Saturday morning at GCVM. In the past this has been more of a talk than hands on.
- One event had a basket making workshop. (I wasn't actually there for this.) From what I know a kit was supplied for a small fee. The workshop was and hour or two hours long.
- We made rag-dolls one year. This was for kids.
- One fabric presentation included picking from reproduction fabrics for a small quilt square.
- At the museum, we would do hands-on activities for other events. Some of these included tin punch, stenciling, quilting, ornament making, apple peeling, etc.

I don't think I would do any of these, except maybe making a doll, at an event that was focused on the 19th century experience. They work better for a learning/teaching/presentation event. I know there are others I have seen done, done or heard of being done. I just can't think of them right now. err.

If you are thinking of any workshop over an hour or two, I would do that separate from an event. I think workshops or seminars outside of events are a good way to get civilians together. You could do a wide variety of topics in an afternoon session. What topics are you wanting to cover?

Anna Worden

03-13-2006, 04:26 PM

If you are thinking of any workshop over an hour or two, I would do that separate from an event. I think workshops or seminars outside of events are a good way to get civilians together. You could do a wide variety of topics in an afternoon session. What topics are you wanting to cover?

Anna Worden

The events I've attended in the past have been the common family style event. Most of the participants focus on the weekend event. Most of their budget is for the planned events. This is all there is for many reenactors and they are happy at these types of events.
There have been numerous demo's but no hands on activities. A number of teas talk about clothing in various forms. There does not seem to be much interest in "outside" workshops/classes or conferences.
One event rents a large tent for the Tea and dance. A great place to have classes even if the instructor or materials are for learning.

I would like to get a feel for any kinds of classes that would tempt others to learn a fun activity, for a small fee for supplies or if need be to cover the fee of an experienced instructor.
I was thinking about tatting, or maybe a period kite, making a sewing sampler ect. Some things may take 2 hours some a day.
I'm just digging around for ideas and possiblities if there is any interest to do something more hands on at these events. :roll:

Delia Godric
03-14-2006, 08:51 AM
Building on the ideas you have, you could take a simple project from Godey's or Peterson's or such to do. There are directions for needlebooks, pin cushions, purses, and so on. These could be done in a hands-on workshop format or in a small gathering format. The small gathering could be a house, porch or tent at an event or at someone's home outside of an event.

I like to keep an eye on local museums, historical societies, and textile guilds for workshops as well. I can't always afford the bigger budget classes though.

Anna Worden

03-14-2006, 11:06 AM
What about:

Hair workshops just after breakfast, where everyone helps their neighbor put up a period "do".

Women sitting around hand-sewing are decorative: teach hand-gathering, gauging, and pleating/whipping in a skirt-setting workshop (when I teach it, it takes less than 30 minutes to get all the basic stitches taught and practiced--after that, it's individual questions and work.)

If you do have a tea, make it a more period experience: call it a ladies reception and have a different guest lecturer (on a period topic, in period clothing) each time. Possible lecture topics might include temperence, abolition, women's rights, women's education, science, technology, literature, music, art--really, anything! Going to a public lecture and reception is something a woman of the time might do, and it's also a good "stealth education" opportunity for the women. They'll have nifty things to talk about the whole rest of the event! The trick is to have someone use actual period lectures as their speech base, so it doesn't turn into over-the-top theatrics. I was a disappointed spectator at one such scenario a few years ago in Montana--could have been fantastic, as the set-up was four different (loud) 19th century people debating women's rights. Had they each memorized a stock of original quotes and passages from these individuals (all were prolific writers/publishers), and delivered those as "impromptu statements", going back and forth, it would have been just Amazing. Instead, they wore "historic-ish" clothing, and used totally modern "acting" to "imagine" what the originals "might have said." PLEH. No point. Do it from original sources.

A quilting bee can accomplish a LOT: putting together a fundraising quilt to be raffled for preservation, teaching about period quilting traditions, blocks, quilting patterns, the actual quilting and finishing process of the time, having something to DO through an afternoon (during the battle!!), giving spectators something fun to see.... just add in a woman who doesn't quilt, reading aloud from a period magazine, tract, book, the Bible, a travel article, the newspaper--and again, you're entertaining the women in the circle in a period way, AND giving them interesting information about the period in a totally "stealth" way. It can also allow women who are shy to participate in a "first person" scenario: they do a first-person action (quilting) while others handly any first/third person conversation. :) Having someone on hand willing to interpret to the public is a great thing. That person can talk about women making fundraising quilts for Soldier's, Widows, or Orphan's aid, and how today, we're doing the same thing for Historic Preservations (donation box and raffle sales located just down the way...)... Even if you give the color/block/history information in 5 minute segments to the public, the quilters will be listening and learning at the same time.

What about organizing a women's patriotic chorus (or girls, or children, or mixed families)... all you need is to make small folded books of public-domain period music, get out a pitch pipe and someone who can teach, then gather a group at the event, practicing for a few hours here and there with the goal of a public (spectator and event participant) performance once or twice in the event. Again, gives them something period to DO, is entertaining for participants and spectators, and is a far departure from the norm.

Giving people period influences (lectures, reading, etc) really helps combat the "modern hobby chat" problem. What's the point in getting all dressed out, working so hard on everything 19th century, then chatting about the internet all weekend? LOL I used to get so built up, and then so let down, when that would happen. But, it doesn't have to be that way.

Perhaps the more instructional workshops (like, how the heck do I fit down this bodice??) could be done on Friday afternoons... if I recall correctly from my time at such events, Friday afternoons are set-up, with lots of dead space once the gear is unloaded. It might be an ideal time to have some young women set up in a "primary school" for all the children (keeps them out of the way and safe during setups), and then run short (30 minute) workshops on various period topics that afternoon....

The Mantua Maker
04-11-2006, 03:45 PM
There is a local reenactment here in Keokuk, Ia. that is 18 some-odd-years old. About 8 yrs. ago I had the narration of the "Ladies Tea and Fashion Show" kind of dumped in my lap. Being a member of the local HistoricalSociety and they as the official sponsor, I decided to try to do what you mention. Prior to the review of clothing we had about a 30 min. program. We are very fortunate that K.Krewer of Orion, ILL, long time reenactor and Collector ExtraOrdinare of Origninals lives nearby, is a friend and fellow reenactor....she volunteered to bring some of her collection and display it at the Ladies Program...as well as sharing her lectures on various things a couple of years. I felt we were beginning to accomlish something that the reenactor ladies of the event would enjoy and learn from.

About 2 years ago...one of the "quesi-lady-rrenactor-wives" comlained to the sponsors that the ladies program was too long and boring and they wished it were just the fashion show "like it use to be 15 years ago" :(

As a result...K still brings her wonderful collection, and we will have a few musical selections, the primary program is the "Fashion Show"....
The "tea" that goes hand in hand with this program is very enjoyable and delicious, but still the cookies and punch thing that in no way resembles a correct "tea"...

This is/has been my experience and I've had to with stand a great deal of criticism in order to make some positive changes over the years. And I must admit I'm about to throw up my hands and quit trying :(

Vivian Murphy

05-11-2006, 11:59 AM
Vivian, I think various events get a certain flavor ranging from anything goes to being absolutely authentic and everything in between. It's hard to change once in place.

I volunteer at Fort Delaware, which is only open from late spring to early fall. On the mainland across from it is Fort Dupont, where there are Park offices and a meeting room. We are talking about having some winter workshops there for those of us who are "jonesing" in the off months. I will probably run a knitting and/or crochet workshop and another woman may do a bonnet workshop.

In my experiences, small, relatively simple workshops or projects can be done at a reenactment, but you really need a dedicated space and peace and quiet to do anything really "serious."

05-12-2006, 05:00 PM
One of the popular 'hands on' we've done has been utilizing Elizabeth Clark's 'draft your own drawers/chemise' patterns from her website.

On one occassion, we put together a complete kit, at cost, based on reservations. That part was a disaster, as about half the folks who reserved a kit didn't show, or somehow didn't have the $4 'with them'. Those who actually did show up, on time, and stayed with it, had a new pair of handsewn drawers by Sunday afternoon.

Since then, we take a different approach--handouts, freezer paper, pencils, tape measure. Then we help them work out all the measurements, and draft the pattern. We do give advance notice of yardage required in case somebody wants to make a pair on site, they have to bring their own material. We bring a period hand crank sewing machine and run the long leg seams for them so they can get through in a day. We've got a tent nearby for privacy, as they have to undress to get the measurements. And since the only cost we have in the thing is some copies and a roll of freezer paper, we can do the whole thing as a freebie.

We also frequently do a knitting class--I take up to 6 at a time for a 'learn to knit' which teaches a simple garter stitch scarf. Since I'm already selling dyed yarns anyway, its easy to put in a few sets of needles to sell.

In other settings, I've seen china painting and pine needle baskets done as workshops at a mainstream event.

Realistically, if your hands-on will run more than 2 hours, you're going to lose your crowd to other responsibilities, perceived or real, cause some folks think they just have to cook or watch the battle or some other foolishness ;)

05-22-2006, 04:23 PM
in new england , the season opener is much like a civil war rondevous, with classes and socilization saturday, and a public program sunday. this years civilian classes covered social correspondence,calling cards and spencerian writing, period cooking, knitting boards and crochetting and a hairnet workshop. the military side had classes on artillary and cavalry safety and medical emergancy handling, musket takedown, campaigning without the ego, and command staff positions and dutys.. the evening program was a period comunal feast and singalong with songbooks passed out

unplanned was a townball game that took on a life of its own...
in the end, an extremely sucessful event

website is http://www.libertygreys.org

- mike p