Jane Austen Festival at Locust Grove 2018

 an interpreter uses the natural light to do some last minute stitches at locust grove in louisville, ky during the 10th annual jane austen festival.

an interpreter uses the natural light to do some last minute stitches at locust grove in louisville, ky during the 10th annual jane austen festival.

It's official. I've fallen down the rabbit hole that is historic costume. I can barely wait to get into my first set of stays, set my hair into a neoclassical updo and slip into a sheer cotton regency frock. I've been bitten by the bug and I'll never be the same!


On a whim this Saturday, I decided to check out the Jane Austen Festival held annually at the Locust Grove in Louisville, KY. Two thousand eighteen marks the 10th festival which celebrates the 200th anniversary of Austen's novel Persuasion. 

Lately I've been following a lot of historic interpreters on instagram (many pictured here!) who were preparing for the event and it piqued my interest enough to drive down to experience it for myself.  I didn't have time to sew up a regency day dress, so I decided to play street style photographer circa 1818 instead. Everyone looked so lovely - these men and women really bring their best Austen era finest! It was an incredible experience. I had SO much fun and now I have plans to go next year! How could I not?  

And as I laid down my son down to sleep I thought back over the whole day - it really did feel like a page out of an Austen novel. There were the groups of friends that felt a little like the established ladies of society who kind of ruled the show (and nothing wrong with that at all!) The naval group had all the pomp and circumstance one expects from the King's men. Then there were newbies like me, kind of like wide eyed does taking it all in. The setting at Locust Grove was perfect backdrop to the ninety plus degree day which was lovely despite the heat. Do you have a favorite ensemble? Comment with your choice. My personal favorites are the pink dress pictured first and the women's navy military redingoat with yellow sash! 

So without further ado, check out my photos! Can you believe the variety and beauty of these looks? To say I was impressed was an understatement - this group brought their A game. If you see your image and would like a copy, feel free to grab it directly from this page or email me and I'll send over a digital copy. I just ask you to credit either my blog (if you're posting on your own blog), facebook, my instagram handle @starsandfield if you post there!

I took over 400 photographs, so if you recognize me but don't see your picture, please contact me. I have many more I would be happy to share! 

Now who's in for 2019? Will some seasoned vets take me under their wings?

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 This is a group of regency fans from St. Louis! They were the first ladies I saw as I arrived to the festival and all looked so amazing!

This is a group of regency fans from St. Louis! They were the first ladies I saw as I arrived to the festival and all looked so amazing!

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 The matriarch of this family sewed these ensembles for her whole family! There are three generations pictured here! Lovely! 

The matriarch of this family sewed these ensembles for her whole family! There are three generations pictured here! Lovely! 

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I spoke to the gentlemen in this photo for quite a while! He's a historic interpreted at The Hermitage in Nashville, TN! I didn't get his name but it was a pleasure to chat with you!

 Hello to some fellow Hoosiers! 

Hello to some fellow Hoosiers! 

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HMS ACASTA | Royal Navy

Group that portrays the Royal Navy circa 1800-1800. Read more at their site

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Last but not least - here's What I Wore - a modern outfit ever so slightly inspired by the festival. My dress was a Goodwill find, I blocked my own hat and my parasol is vintage! 

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Notes from the Field | 011

Hey friends! I have a spare minute here while the kids are watching the Muppets to say hi. So... hi! Summer is feeling very much like it did when I was a kid. It's hot as hell but when it's even remotely tolerable we've been outside. 

Last week we took a vacation to the lake to spend time with family. I've always wondered if I'm the only one who gets annoyed with my husband, kids, parents and siblings on family trips? I'm so jealous of people who seem to get along perfectly with their entire family because someone in our bunch is inevitably crabby.  I ended the week feeling really exhausted and bummed because it wasn't really as fun as I had hoped for. But like my friend told me the other day, vacations with kids are just bringing your problems to a new location. And man - it stays bright really late in Michigan! We were lucky to wind out kids down by 10pm and then we took turns sleeping with one kid in the bed and one on cushions on the floor. 

Anyways, I really do understand there are worse problems in the world than having a vacation dealing with all sorts of over tired people. I think about that a lot actually. I have a really nice life and I'm really grateful. I also know that hard is hard and it's ok to be frustrated with your circumstances. I really don't have the right balance figured out, but probably like many of you, I'm working on it. 

Speaking of feeling lucky, I spent most of Saturday in a daze and counting my blessing after the kids and I were hit by another car in an accident. Everyone, including the other drivers, was ok, and out of the three cars involved, only one needed towed. The experience was jolting emotionally and made me feel so stupid about the little things I've complained about recently (such as the aforementioned vacation grumbles). Those kinds of sharp impacts really do snap you into sort of an existential quest. 

The other take away I had from the accident was the sincere kindness of strangers. No less than three cars stopped to help direct traffic before the sheriff arrived (this all occurred on a state highway which is pretty busy in the summertime). A neighbor of mine nearby helped me get in touch with my husband and held my kids while I talked to firefighters, EMT and the sheriff. Everyone was really amazing. And the thing that crossed my mind in hindsight was this - no one stopped before helping the other person to ask "who did you vote for last election?" or "who do you pray to?" or "tell me your thoughts on gun control?" None of it. People are people. And if I completely disregarded social media I'd probably walk around this world really delighted that mankind is so... kind. And really, at the core of my heart, I do believe almost everyone just wants the best for their families and communities. I'm starting to feel like politicians and the (enormous and corporate) machines behind them are playing on single issues to turn us all against one another.

I'm going to let those thoughts simmer a little before I write about them more, but imagine what could happen in a third viable party - run by women, was like "ENOUGH OF THIS BULL SHIT DUDEZ! We're not getting anything done!"? Will it happen in my lifetime? Could I be a part of it? All things to think about. 

I'll jump away with that. And leave you with some of my latest photos from rolling with my homies (err... children) on drivenaps around the countryside. And from my kitchen and backyard. 

And... does anyone read this anymore? Until next time....

A Family Through the Decades

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On a Friday morning in late June, I found myself with a stack of piles and boxes at my aunt and uncle’s dining room table. Just to set the scene a bit further, i wasn’t uncovering treasures just anywhere. It was at one of my very favorite historic houses - a  Hoosier homestead built in 1885. I’ve always loved this house and it kind of makes looking at equally old photos (like the wedding shot from 1880 below) even more surreal. 

So I'm at the dining room table, opening boxes that my aunt has carefully labeled and divided into categories when I see the above photo. To me, this is like finding gold! From the clothing I can date it to the Edwardian era, probably around 1910. Then I ask my uncle Walt if he recognizes anyone and he immediately points out the woman second from the left. “That’s grandma Kramer!” He says.  

Carl Stoppenhagen and Wilhelmina (Minna) Kramer post for their wedding portrait in 1880.

With this clue I’m able to start comparing labeled photos and start connecting the dots. Of course it’s Wilhelmina Kramer Stoppenhagen! She’s my second great grandmother (or Dorothy’s grandma) her face is easy to pick out in the dozen photos I’ve found of her so next I aim to put a name to the rest of the faces in the portrait.  

Because there are three other women and three men, my next assumption is that she’s posing with her children, husband and grandkids. If I look closer at the woman in a dark hat and dress, I can pick out the smile of my great grandma Mary (see her wedding portrait below). When I look at records, I can also see she would have had three daughters when this photograph was made - Minnie born 1903, Hilda born 1907 and Edith both 1908. I also think the blurry little boy behind them is her son Arnold, who was born in 1910 and is being held by her father Carl Stoppenhagen. 

Mary Katherine Stoppenhagen and Charles Nicholas Werling pose for their wedding portrait in 1902.

So who else had children by 1910? Her sister (first woman on the right) Minnie! Thanks to additional records I found at Barb and Walt’s house, I could date Minnie’s children - Paul born 1908 and Gerhert born 1911. Those kids look roughly like they are three and under a year! 

By taking into consideration the youngest child together with the next to be born (Mary is not visibly pregnant with her next child who would be born in March 1912) I’m ninety nine percent sure this was taken in the summer of 1911! 

The younger woman on the far left would have been the youngest - Lydia. She would have been seventeen. Although she’s wearing a woman’s dress, check out the enormous hair bow she’s wearing in her hair. This indicates so me she might still have been treated as the baby of the family. Or maybe it was popular with the other girls in her class?! Who knows! 

Lastly are the two men on the left and right of the photo. Those would have been the brothers Fred and Charles, but they were only born two years apart - one man would be 24 and the other 26. I’m really guessing on this but the man on the left in the bowler hat looks a little older so I think that’s Fred which makes the man on the right brother Charles. 

So that’s the family! Next I’m going to try to compare this to Minna and Charles Sr’s 50th wedding anniversary photo taken in 1930 (below) to try to match younger and older faces of the same people. My grandmother Dorothy is the second child from the left in the front row! Mary and Charles Werling are standing on the right side just behind the seated elderly couple and I'm pretty sure Charles' twin August is standing just a few people to the left of them! 

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Have you ever aimed to date photos? I love using my costume history background to give it my best shot! I’d love to see links to your posts or photos of your family too!  

Making an American Flag

Home Made American Flag by Jessica Quirk

Between going elbows deep into my own family tree and becoming fully intrenched into the Hamilton soundtrack and Revolutionary War history, somewhere along the way I decided I wanted to sew my own American Flag. 

And it's kind of strange because I haven't felt all that patriotic in the past year and a half. As a little girl I helped my grandma make paper poppies for the American Legion Auxiliary (of which I was a member!), I went to Girl's State in high school. I was (almost) voted Most Likely to be a Politician for senior superlatives (but a boy won... i was the only girl in the category). I've watched almost every presidential debate since I was voting age. I love history, learning about past presidents, period dramas - you name it. 

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Jessica Quirk holding her handmade American Flag

But since late 2016, it's all really turned me off. I've always been really vocal about voting and there are issues I feel strongly about, but I also felt like keeping the peace between my friends and family who voted differently. Sometimes I can run off at the mouth in the fury before the second Tuesday in November. I'll admit to that. But this past election felt more personal and created more fractures than ever before. Maybe I wasn't old enough to really feel it, but when the other party would win the presidency in years past, I'd be a little bummed out but not breaking down into tears. And maybe it's all because social media just makes everyone louder and less civil? Or maybe because (some of) those in charge don't set a very good model for respectful discourse? Or maybe being seven months pregnant and feeling hyper protective of my children made me scared to see our culture start crumbling? 

That's when I turned off the TV (never plugged it in actually) and logged out of facebook. I turned my attention away from the ticker tape on the bottom of the screen and towards being a good mom to my son and new baby. It was the only way for me to keep it together. Now I find myself needing to find something, anything, to find pride in our country. 

So I opened my genealogy charts. When I started tracing my family lines back in time I found at least four direct connections to the Revolutionary War (like my sixth great grandfather Philip Roush - who was at the Battle of Yorktown, no less!!) There's my second great grandfather Carl Schroeder who fought for the Union in the Civil War (and he was an immigrant!). Of course there's Herman Amos Roush who I wrote about a week or so ago and his participation in WWI. Both of my grandfathers served in during World War II - one in the navy, the other as a Merchant Marine carpenter.  And then there's the mothers, sisters, wives and daughters who all had leading and supporting roles at home during those times of conflict. 

These links to the past gave me a renewed sense of pride for (some parts of) American history. My people played a roll in becoming a new nation, the fight against slavery, and ultimately against the hatred of the Nazis. These are things I can be proud of and these things inspired me to make my flag. 

And because I want to be a representative of the America that believes in Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. I interpret these ideals to mean the right to live your life with whomever you love, to believe in whatever higher power you feel called to (or none at all), to have autonomy over your body, the freedom to vote in a way that best matches your ideals, to speak freely (both in favor of and against the policies of your government), to be treated equally under the law regardless of your gender or skin color and to pursue happiness in a way that benefits you without causing harm to others. These are the parts of being American that I value and this is part of why I've sewn my own flag. 

Last but not least, this year I've set myself a goal of either buying things secondhand or making them myself. I've been slowly updating my front porch (photos soon!) and I felt like an American flag would be a nice final touch. Sure - I could have bought one - maybe even found one at a thrift shop or garage sale - but then I wouldn't have had the pleasure of embroidering the stars or sewing the stripes. Could a great grandmother of mine made such a flag years ago? Would she have stitched her name into the corner? I'm thinking about adding at least my initials in matching thread as the final touch. What an heirloom this might be!

So why did I make a flag? To get patriotic again, remember my ancestors, and to use my hands. And I'm so happy to have it ready in time for the Fourth of July! As for the actual construction, I had initially planned on this being a DIY post, but as I went further and further into the project, I realized I'm unable to write instructions for something this advanced. If you've had a lot of quilting experience I believe it's something you could achieve, but it's not a beginners project. That said, I do have some progress shots below and I've included a little commentary on each one!

I am so proud of my American flag and what it represents to me.  

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Girl Holding American Flag Jessica Quirks Homemade American Flag
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Freshly Picked Flora

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My first bouquet of the season! Surprise lilies from the front yard, white and purple hydrangeas (I use coffee grounds right on top of the mulch to get the colored blossoms to go more and more blue as the season progresses), mint and zinnias. I’ve had a Japanese beetle issue on the leaves of the zinnias but the blooms seem to be ok. We don’t use pesticides on the property so I’ve been experimenting with some homemade deterrents (garlic powder mixed with olive oil worked great in some parts of the garden and was less successful in others. 

Anyway! Surprised by how pretty this mix was so snapped a few photos to remind me down the road. 

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