Old Stone Well Farm

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A Dress and a Missing Chicken

Many of you know that I love all things 18th century — food, music, architecture and clothing. In fact, for two years I have been working on sewing by hand an English round gown that would have been worn in the Colonies between 1760’s-1770’s.

I found a period-correct pattern and researched the correct material, including a cream colored under skirt with a quilted pattern. Of course, any authentic dress would only fit right with the right underpinnings. And so, I found a wonderful 18th-century reproduction company and ordered a shift and stays. Stays were a corset that laced up tightly to flatten the bosom and narrow the waist. The look of that time was a conical shape for a woman’ torso, with emphasis being on big hips and butt. So I had to order a bum roll, too. Then came the shoes, buckles, stockings, garters, cap and ribbon.

I began this dress right as the pandemic hit in the early spring 2020. And today I finished it. Not bad for someone who doesn’t follow directions well and is not a seamstress. It was a lot of fun learning about how dresses were made. For example, the pleating in the back was often fodder for petty gossip among women because if your pleats weren’t perfect, word would get around. I also had to figure out the inset of the sleeves. I kept wanting the shoulder to hit on top as our modern-day shirts do, but these 18th-century sleeves were not aligning to what looked correct to my 21st-century eyes. Then I realized, after some research, that 18th-century sleeves were set further back to pull a women’s shoulders back to give her better posture. Who knew?

As I was filming to show you the finished product, something terrible happened — so I thought. I was in the yard calling the chickens. All of sudden they were clucking like crazy. A big commotion. I was confused. Two hid in the deep thicket beyond the fence. One froze in place screaming. It all happened so quickly. I didn’t see any predator, but clearly there was one among us. When things settled down, three chickens hid, clearly frightened. One made a mad dash back to her coop. I looked around and realized PotPie was missing.

I looked at the video as the camera was still rolling when this happened, and the last I saw of PotPie she was running from the lilac bush toward the overgrown raspberries up a ways.

It was so sad. It happened so quickly. All afternoon, I kept looking out the window for her. Nothing. I had accepted that she was gone. But then my husband came home from work and the first thing he asks when he came into the house was why was there one chicken outside of the coop running around it in circles? What? I had securely locked them in the safety of their run in the coop. I ran outside (in my petticoats!) and saw that PotPie had come home! I was so relieved — and stunned.

What a day it has been here at Old Stone Well Farm! Of course all this commotion had to happen when I was dressed head to toe in 18th-century garb. I wonder what those passing by in their cars thought as they watched me running around, searching for my chickens.

Well, here’s my finished dress…and a look at the excitement as a day in the life of an accidental country pastor.