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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Exploring History At Home. The Pilgrims-activities, crafts and recipes Part 2

The library must have been hiding a few books away. These are worth searching for and reading if you can find them. Leonard Weisgard is one of my favorite illustrators of children's books, so I was more than pleased to find one written by him that I was not familiar with. I wanted to get beyond turkeys and other standard symbols we associate with Pilgrims and I found more than expected here.
This Is Why I Homeschool

How many five year olds would be excited to play with a homemade doll that has a spoon for a head and looks like a Pilgrim instead of a TV character? What a  perfect craft activity to do with my eldest daughter. Each step allowed us to talk about the different types and purposes of the various articles of clothing that women and girls wore long ago.

Pilgrims brought very little with them to America. If it was not a tool or needed for food it was left behind.
Children would have made their own toys, with what little free time they had, from any materials not needed for something else. These would have been quite crude looking and dependent on a child's imagination to give them life.

Now for a very easy doll for any little girl to make. There is very little sewing involved and she can do most of the cutting and assembly with a little adult help. You probably have many of the supplies needed already at home. Constructing the doll in this way allows the child to easily remove the clothes and redress the doll later on. (a bit like putting together a puzzle)

I bought a package of spoons at the dollar store and we drew faces on them with magic markers. I suggest you use waterproof ones.

Next I took a green branch and angled the ends to make hands.
 I cut a notch in the center to add more stability for the "body" .

Add glue to the notch and set the spoon on it.

Let it dry and tie it down with string for added strength.

Make hair from yarn and glue it to the spoon.

The Shift
Using an old pillow case I cut a rectangle. Really it is two rectangles attached at the top where there was a fold in the fabric. Cut a slit in the fold and slip it over the spoon. Gather it around the arms and use a strip of fabric to tie it and make a waste. Pull out a bit of the fabric to make sleeves.

The Bodice/Stomacher
Cut a rectangle from felt. Cut two slits in it for armholes. Slip it over the arms with the opening towards the back.

Cut two large rectangles from felt, one slightly bigger than the other. Place one on top of the other and line the edges up. Punch a line of small holes across the top and through both layers of felt. Allow your child to thread a ribbon through the holes as if sewing with a large needle. Pull both ends of the ribbon to cinch tight and gather the top into folds. This forms the waist of the skirt.

The Skirt/Petticoats
Place this just over the bodice and wrap the ribbon twice around the waist before tying a bow. Cut the ends of ribbon shorter if you wish.

Despite any images you have seen of pilgrims, they did not dress all in black like Puritans. Clothes were dyed with plants in all manner of bright or deep earth tones. Clothes were layered depending on the season and rarely washed like laundry.

The Apron
Cut a square from the pillow case and glue a small strip of ribbon to the top. Tie it around the waist.

Cut a triangle from felt. Wrap it around the shoulders of the doll and sew the ends together with one small stitch.

The Cap
Using part of the pillow case with a seam/folded edge cut a double triangle.
Fold the bottom corner of the triangle up and tack down with one small stitch. This will be placed and against the hair. Glue the other two corners down along the side of the face. When dry bring the two new corners back behind the head and tack down with a small knot to form the traditional Pilgrim cap. 

The Cape/Cloak and Pocket
Cut a semi-circle from felt and glue a piece of ribbon along the straight edge.
Tie around the neck of the doll when the glue has dried.

The pocket is just a square of fabric with a cotton ball inside. Gather the fabric to form a bag and tie the top with a piece of ribbon. Use a longer piece of ribbon to form the strap.

Your doll is done!

We Made A Cranberry Tart 
Cranberries were one of the few fruits, other than berries, native to the New World. They are high in nutrition and have medicinal qualities that would have been crucial to a healthy diet. Pilgrims would have used them to make tarts and preserves.

Start with a store bought premade pie crust (you are cooking with little kids right?)

Place it in a pie or tart pan, pinch or form the edges if necessary.
Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork to create holes for the steam to escape and prevent bubbles.
Pre-bake the crust for 15 minutes at 350 degrees
Remove and add filling.

3-4 cups of clean and sorted cranberries (basically one small package)
1 cup of sugar
1TBSP of flour
Coarsely grated rind of one orange ( The  Pilgrims would have used marmalade brought from England)
1/4 cup of fresh orange juice
Pinch of salt
1 tsp of melted butter
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and pour into your pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes until the filling is bubbling and set.
As the filling cools it will thicken

We Tried to Make Beeswax Soap..
but it turned out more like salve for washing hands because I tried to avoid using beef tallow and lye by using a whole list of oils. Beeswax would have been available in the form of recycled candles from England. I felt that using melted glycerin blocks for soap making would have been totally cheating and too easy on my part. I wanted my girls to see that making soap from scratch is complicated (yes it can result in failure if the chemistry is not right).

We Tried to Make Horehound Cough Drops...

but ended up with a lovely cough syrup instead. Pilgrims would have brought seeds from Europe to grow the medicinal plants they were familiar with. They also would have learned about native medicinal plants from the American Indians. With few doctors in the New World, women needed to know how to provide medical care in their communities. At least I finally did something with the horehound that I have been growing for 20 years. The girls liked the taste enough that it might actually get used this winter.

The Girls Helped Me To Make A Seafood Chowder

Chopping vegetable is a great activity to build strength and dexterity in little hands.

Coarsely chop
2 large potatoes
2 large carrots
2 stalks of celery
1 large onion
Finely chop
1 red bell peper
2 cloves of garlic
1 leak white and green parts
1 jalepeno pepper
1 inch chunk of ginger root
Dump in a crock pot and add
5 cups of vegetable or chicken broth
1 tsp of ground coriander seed
1 tsp of paprika
1 splash of liquid smoke
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp of oregano
1/2 tsp of thyme
3/4 cup of quinoa
Cook on high for two hours and add
1 cup of chopped green beans
1 small package of frozen corn
Whatever amount of seafood you prefer
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook for two more hours
Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve

Obviously this is not a traditional Pilgrim recipe (which probably would not have been very tasty). BUT seafood chowders made of vegetables, shellfish, eel, wild onions and green herbs were introduced to the Pilgrims by the American Indians. It was an important combination when other types of foods were scarce. Seafood chowders got the Pilgrims through those first two years in the New World. They were just as present at that first Thanksgiving as the wild turkey. Plus how else would my kids get to learn about mussles as a food source, not to mention see what bivalves look like inside.

Here is my eldest picking herbs in the garden. I created her Pilgrim costume from pillow cases and a skirt from my closet.

And Finally The Mayflower!
(because no voyage to the New World could be complete without it)
I made some paper templates that were inspired from some I saw in a book.
(yes, one of these days I might have the time to figure out a way to make all of my paper patterns designed for this blog downloadable for my readers to use)

I traced them onto scrapbook paper and cut them out.

Made some sails with paper and bamboo skewers

Assembled the ship with glue and tape

Gave the girls a bit of a history and geography lesson

In my attempt to make history more alive and real to the girls I bought these period doll clothes. There is a professional seamstress on Ebay who sews high quality and cheap Colonial clothes for 18 inch dolls (our is a Madame Alexander). This is only a simple work dress but her dresses for tea and parties are stunning. We leave in a few days for a very special "school" field trip and vacation. I thought the doll needed to dress for the occasion. My eldest is so into aspects of Colonial life since I came up with this idea and have been reading bits and pieces of the American Girl books (Felicity) to her. I can't wait to post photographs of our special homeschool day as soon as we return. Happy Thanksgiving and many blessings to your family this week-CND 


  1. What a wonderful unit. I love the photos! Thanks for sharing all this fun stuff with us.

  2. Oh I love this unit! The wooden spoon doll is adorable!

  3. Lovely! I like the cranberry tart and the wooden spoon doll. We're going to try those this year.