Sunday, November 27, 2016

1856 Knitted Hood

Now that Thanksgiving is over it seems to be Christmas all around. Everywhere I look there are white twinkling lights, big wreaths tied with enormous red ribbons and, of course, there are plenty of Christmas trees! We put up our tree the day after Thanksgiving and are slowly working on getting the rest of the house, inside and out, festive for the holidays. 

I thought it would be nice to do a post about the knitted hood I finished a few weeks ago. Of course, the first sunny day we have had all week is warm enough for t shirts and shorts, not wool! But Anne wanted to dress up anyway, so we took a few pictures. She's so fun. :) 
This hood is the 1856 knitted opera hood that is so popular in reenacting circles. I got my pattern from Ephemeral Chaos and made it up just as the pattern stated, except with size 7 needles instead of the larger ones called for. This made the hood come out smaller than usual - perfect for Anne. 

I am not a fast knitter or a very good one but I appreciated how easy this hood was to make. It's all plain knitting (which does get monotonous) but it worked up warm and thick. It took about 2 weeks of knitting at night to get it done, after a false start where Anne pulled off the first four inches of knitting so she could use it as a scarf for her doll. (well, it could work well for a scarf! I can't blame her.) 

The back is pretty where it is gathered to fit the neck. I like the silhouette. It is quite flattering, at least from an 1860's point of view. 

I hope she will have occasion to wear it before Christmas - if this warmer weather holds, Christmas caroling in period attire will be an absolute must. :) 


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge #10 - Heroes

I had hoped to have better photos of this project but I don't think I will get an opportunity for pictures for awhile, so these, taken early last month, will have to suffice! 

The theme for October was "Heroes". I did not choose this project to fit the challenge but I quickly realized it would work. The project? An 1860's, American Civil-War era majors double breasted frock coat. The impression is of a surgeon and I can state without hesitation that surgeons and other medical support staff were by and large unsung heroes of the war. 

In fact, historian James McPherson speculates that the availability and quality of medical care during several important campaigns directly influenced the outcome of those bitter four years. The organization of both the Northern and Southern military medical branches was complex and very political, yet undeniably critical in the successes and failures of both national armies. 

More soldiers died as a result of disease than of any other cause during the Civil War. This can be attributed to the general ignorance of the importance of sterility and personal and environmental cleanliness. However, some surgeons noticed a great improvement in the outcome of their patients treatments when they used clean instruments and the patient was kept clean.

Surgeons traveled with the army or were stationed at general hospitals where sick or wounded soldiers could be treated and convalesce. They oversaw the care of many patients, wrote reports, filled out forms, dispensed medicine and were frequently treated like crap. It amazes me how many brilliant military leaders thought very poorly of their medical staff and how hard it was for surgeons to receive very badly needed supplies, or to even have their concerns listened to!
quilted lining in progress
The Civil War saw the first African-American U.S. Army Surgeon, Alexander Augusta, and the first woman U.S. Army Surgeon, Dr. Mary Walker, who are heroes for not only their medical service but also for paving the way for African-Americans and women to receive equal status as surgeons to their white male counterparts.
tintype taken at Perryville, KY 2016

This frock coat is constructed as was common at the time with a quilted body lining, plain lining in the skirts and a padded chest. It's made of dark blue wool broadcloth with black polished cotton lining and reproduction federal brass buttons. The buttonholes are worked with silk buttonhole twist (of which I barely had enough!) The shoulder boards, designating the rank of Major, are reproductions from NJ Sekela. The placement of the buttons on the double breasted front narrows at the waist as seen in some originals. 
progress shot on a cobbled-together-dressform thingy
There's not much to say about it, although it was the biggest project I've had for quite a while. It went together with no complications and didn't even take that long. It's heavy! It was made and worn for the reenactment of the Battle of Perryville in early October of this year in Perryville, Kentucky. (Sadly I did not attend. I wish I had!)