January 6, 2013

Coffee Staining Paper and Civil War Skirts

Friday we were scurrying through school work so that we could attend a planning meeting for our upcoming science club.  The kids were excited to get to play in the snow with some of their favorite friends and I was excited to get to know some really cool moms a little better.  But all of the sudden Hunter said his head hurt and he got crazy sleepy.  I told him to go grab a nap and see how he felt, but after an hour, when I went in to get him up, he just couldn't bounce  back.  We tried working on his recorder song, but his eyes were drooping and he was having coughing fits.  So I finally had no choice but accept that he was sick and sent him back to bed after bowing out of our engagement.  He slept the entire afternoon- poor little fellow.  And now, we've ALL been in bed for 2 days and missed way more that a club meeting.  We cancelled a meeting with our bathroom remodel guy (that's one I'm REALLY sad about) and we've cancelled Ruhi for tonight and are missing an ice cream party with a friend in from England.  Luckily, we'll get to see them on Tuesday, God willing, for a birthday dinner.  Anyway, this post is about Friday, so let's move on.

Stained and unstained side by side.

Haven and Hannah Jane and I decided to plug away at their Civil War lap books.  That morning they had wrapped up work on their Civil War newspaper articles and I had typed them up and scanned in their drawings and arranged it all like and old Newspaper for each of them to put on the back of their lap books.  With Hunter down and plans canceled, we decided to age the papers with coffee.  If you've never done this, it's pretty cool.  Some people use tea, but I find that on bright white printer paper, tea just doesn't give enough stain.  Coffee is what you want.  Tea staining is better for taking bright white clothes and making them look all organic and unbleached because you can leave fabric in the tea for longer.  But if you don't want your images to dissolve into utter nothingness, you want to dry paper pretty fast and only coffee will get you the right stain in that short time.

I pulled a magazine out of the recycle bin for them to work over and gave them a little dish of left over coffee.  They used crumpled up paper towels to dab their papers with coffee and then I would blow dry them and they'd add a second coat.  I thought that made them plenty crumpled and aged looking, but Hannah Jane proceeded to wad up her paper and then smooth it back out for a little extra worn look.

Yeah...I wasn't to strict about the articles having to be from the same exact time during the war.  That would just be asking too much of the younger ones.  LOL!  It's...um...and eclectic newspaper :)
It went so well that they made covers for their Civil War journals too!  Hannah Jane's journal has been written as a Quaker helping slaves along the route to freedom, Haven has written as a farm boy whose house is overtaken by a battle, and Hunter's has been from the perspective of a drummer boy.  We just cut out paper the same shape as the journal entries, which have been on a lined scroll shape that I made in Power Point, and coffeed them up!

With Hunter still sick and Hannah Jane annoyed that she really wasn't going to get to go see her friends, I asked, "What are you going to wear for Culture Club this month?"  Perfect question to get her head out of self pity mode and on to a challenge.  She dug through my scrap fabric bin and ironed out a nice big blue rectangle, pressed a seam along the top and bottom and got to work on the sewing machine.  She had already threaded elastic through the waistband and was half way down the side seam when she realized that her rectangle wasn't exactly rectangular and the bottom hems weren't meeting up (not even close) as she approached the  bottom.  I was called in for an emergency fix.

The best I could come up with was to sew in an off-white ruffle to connect the uneven sides.  That solved the unevenness problem and the issue of her not being able to take normal steps on account of the not being quite enough of that fabric left in the bin to make a truly full skirt. And it was okay, but it left a bit of a bulge above the split, so we made a giant box and stitched it over the bulge.  She insists on fluffing what is meant to look like an undergarment way out to the side so that it is highly visible instead of neatly tucked away.  I was pretty sure that this left her looking fancier than was time period appropriate, but we googled some images and as long as she lays claim to a rich southern belle, she's just fine.  She paired that with a blouse from her jumper set and a shawl that was my great grandmother's and she looked ready to wave her hankie as Johnny marches home!  She's a pretty resourceful little gal and she's awfully excited about her new dress up skirt!

I think we're in the Civil War home stretch.  Lap books are all but done; newspaper articles, ads, and editorials have been written; a ton of historical fiction has been read; and they have almost mastered their music.  Well, mastered might be a bit of an overstatement.  They can almost play it at a level that won't make them cry of embarrassment after they perform it at Culture Club.  That's all I'm really asking for on this round.  And they seem to have strong opinions about what could have and should have been done differently.  I generally consider new strong opinions a pretty good sign of learning.  Especially if they can back them up with a little argument.  When we wrap up that time period, we need to go back and fill in the presidents between the Revolutionary War and the Civil War.  Those poor guys always seem to get overlooked.  There's no textbook glory in being a peace time president, I suppose.  But we're going to remedy that in our home.

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