Thursday, August 11, 2011

Items for a Soldiers Comfort Bag

My friend Laura and I decided that it was time to get an impression together and to have something to do at an event other than chase our children around all day. We both have read the excellent article by Virginia Mescher about "Comforts from Home" and decided that we would try to put together a soldiers care package. We have been working on things prior to our upcoming event and while at the event we will be displaying the items we have already made and work on additional ones. I am super excited about doing this and have had a lot of fun lately making a few items to go into the care package I'm putting together.

My theory is that once this package is complete, I will find a humble soldier-reenactor to give it to and then will start over again. It adds an interesting element for me as I work on these items for someone whom I do not know; it makes it more real to me. There are instances of women during the American Civil War who made care packages to be distributed to soldiers and they had no idea who these men might be. One instance, cited in the above mentioned article, depicts a young girl who sent a pair of socks for a soldier with a note including instructions that if the beneficiary was already married, to please swap the socks she made with another soldier who was not already married!

The first item I made was a quilted cloth hat. I have wanted an excuse to make a hat like this for the past six years or so. David has never wanted one because it would not fit into any of his impressions. From what I have been able to research about these hats, they were worn by those who were not able to afford a nice felt hat and are documentable to western Confederates, as well as slaves. I came across one picture that depicts a federal unit with a man wearing what appears to be a quilted brim hat on the Authentic Campaigner forum. There are several merchants and private tailors who have made reproductions of several different styles of quilted hats.

This hat was inspired by a quilted cloth hat given to Robert E. Lee, photographs of which are in the book Echoes of Glory - Arms and Equipment of the Confederacy. Even though David does not want this hat to wear for himself he was willing to be a head model so I could drape a pattern for the hat directly on his head. The finished hat fits him quite nicely so at least I know this hat ought to fit correctly and is right in proportion to be worn on an average head.

It is made of natural undyed linen and is interlined with heavy white linen. I chose to use linen for comforts sake if this hat is to be worn in the summer. The brim and crown are quilted with close stitches in doubled gray cotton thread and the crown is lined in plaid cotton. The brim is bound with black cotton and the band is the same black cotton. The pattern for the hat was quite simple - four squat triangular sections for the crown and a big circle with a hole in the middle for the brim. The quilting is what gives the hat body and shape. By easing the edge of the brim with a gathering stitch I was able to shape the brim to approximate the popular rocking chair brim shape of the period. The whole project worked up very quickly. I started the hat one afternoon and finished it by mid-morning the next day.

I also made a simple housewife, which is nothing more than a roll-up sewing kit, made of scraps of cotton. It has two pockets inside for holding items like thread, buttons, scissors, patches and yarn and a needlebook made of scraps of wool for needles and pins.

The tobacco pouch is inspired by one in EoG and is a simple rounded drawstring bag lined with tightly woven taffeta to prevent the tobacco from drying out. I added a bit of embellishment with an appliqued heart, just like the original that inspired this one.

I plan to make a few handkerchiefs (big enough to be knotted around the neck as neckerchiefs, if so desired) and put together a stationery kit with paper, envelopes and stamps. I also want to bake a liquor-laden, fruit-laden cake. I dried some onions from our garden and made candied lemon peel that will potentially be included in the cake if David does not eat all of it first! I know these jars are not period correct, but I am hoping to find some more passable ones at the thrift or antique shops this weekend. They be expensive though. But who knows? I'm sure I can find something!

I want to find some period recipes for candy, and dry a big bag of apple slices. Of course, perishable foods made for  the display of our comfort bags will probably be eaten before too long so they won't go bad but I will continue working on building up my stock of non-perishable items. I'd love to make some slippers and a fancy smoking cap and get a few repro novels and make a checker game to add to my package. Laura has already made a beautiful tic tac toe set for her package!



  1. WOW sarah, what a great impression you and Laura are doing. My sister and mother and I have wanted to do care packages as well and this has inspired me. Maybe at a future event we will be putting some together. I especially can't imagine sewing the hat! All that work! The soldier who recieves it will be a very blessed man. :) There are so many reenactor soldiers that need period items. They will sure appreciate your packages. Its so great that you can do an impression that will help the public to get a real picture of the past too. Great job!

    In Christ,

  2. That is such a neat concept! It will add so much richness to your impression (and you were already one of the best!). I can't wait to see what else you come up with.

  3. I love EVERYTHING!!!!!!! I used to make dried apples all the time. Peel them slice them in rings then string them with heavy thread. Find the sunnest window and with thumb tack tye the stringed appled acros the window. I had rows and rows on the HUGE dining room window. I would have thought they would have gotten moly or fruitflies but they never need. Within a few weeks they were shriveled and spongey and PERFECT!

  4. What an awesome idea!!! Your such a clever lady! :) Who ever gets your package is going to be a very lucky person. ;)

    Can't wait to see you next weekend at Galesburg... :)

  5. If David does not want the hat, I'll take it! (-:

    Noah Briggs

  6. You need to do a post on hoops! Is it cheaper to make your own?


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!