Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Next Project

My second pair of socks are finished, these were the cammo socks. They turned out pretty cool, one toe needed to be knit in the more yellow of the yarn, as I ran out of the nice mottled green.  That's ok though, what shows will be the nice mottled, or heathered green.

My next project is revisiting the shirt warp from a couple of years ago. I'm working from a sample in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, accession number 98.1822g.  I had a good chunk of that warp left over from the project when it fell off the back beam.  Like a good, frugal girl, I crocheted up what was left, put it in a bag and into my string bin, determined to revisit it.

Well, now is as good a time as any.

This week I have done the finishing set up of my loom with help from Pierre.  We washed it down, blech it was dirty.  Then I loaded the harnesses with heddles, which I do not have enough of.  Pierre made a bunch of lees sticks for detangling, but also for winding on the back beam.  I also had to stitch my back beam apron on again as someone in its past lifetime had cut the beam rods off (thankfully I still have them).  With an equal amount of enjoying our longer than long weekend, we got the loom ready for loading with thread.

This morning I came upstairs and got geared up to thread the loom with that old warp.  Have I mentioned how tangled it is.  That I washed the excess starch out of it and it's a big old mess.  Have I mentioned that there's no cross marked any more, nor do I know where the centre line is.  I looked at it and thought, why that HELL am I bothering!  More than enough work to untangle the thing, then more to get it on the loom, and then I'm not even sure if I will have gotten the centre right, or any of the is plaid after all.

So it sits in the chair, contemplating its own messiness, and I am winding a new warp.

The new warp will not be nearly as long.  My winding board only does a five metre length on a good day.  Nor will it be as wide as the original project.  I am winding it in sections, crocheting each section up, tying it to the back beam, and hopefully not getting it as tangled as the last time around.

I might use the old warp for weft threads...that will depend on how many spools of thread I have on hand.

I have a few projects on the go this summer.  Weaving this shirt warp, then a hose warp in worsted wool.  I have a 1775 suit to make for Pierre, and I have to finish my pink striped gown.  Then, during, as soon as freaking possible, I'm also embroidering a stomacher for Jennifer Wilber, for her wedding at the beginning of August.
AND, I'm thinking about submitting a paper proposal for next year's Canadian Museums Association conference that's due June 12th.

And helping mum through Chemo.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Idle Hands are the Devil’s Playthings: You Could Be Knitting….

On social media lately there has been a call for more activities for the ladies, more women’s material culture being represented at events.  For most of its history, the living history movement has been focused on the major battles of North American history, and with it, the major focus has been on the men.  Women’s roles have been relegated to that of camp drudge, prostitute, or silk dressed ‘belle’ out to view the encampment.  As living historians have expanded their research, we have found that any number of roles for women could exist.  Camp following women were not just soldier’s wives or prostitutes, but could be tavern keepers, merchants, Loyalist refugees, immigrants, the list could go on as far as your imagination will allow.
So what should we, as women, be doing in camp? 
As I prepare for this upcoming season, I am working towards goals set out by the more progressive members of our community.  I have already completely hand stitched our clothing, I’ve been doing that for over a decade now.  I’m working on the little things, the accessories that round out our impersonations.  Getting those little things right can lead to a bunch of little, short term projects with a big bang for the buck.  Lots of accomplishment feelings can go a long way when you are mid-way through a gown that feels like it is taking forever to finish.  I also have a lot of time sitting and waiting right now, and so need little projects that I can take with me as I sit in waiting rooms.  My latest project has been knitting stockings for Pierre.  His legs are the most visible, and so I have started with him.  The eventual plan will be to have all three of us in knitted, period stockings and that none of us have to carry with us modernly constructed, over-the-knee socks.
Eighteenth-century stockings are different from modern stockings in relatively few ways.  Starting at the top edge, the ribbing is constructed differently so that instead of being elastic, like modern socks, the ‘gartering’ is a fat rib to allow for your garters to hold up your socks.  The top band is knit in alternating rows of knit a row and purl a row, instead of knit one, purl one on the same row.  Does that make sense?  The garter rib usually also is only about ½ - ¾”, rather than a fat 2-3” band of ribbing.
Stockings should also come up, over, the knee.  Unlike modern knee socks, these stockings have to extend up beyond the knee band of your breeches.  It drives many a living historian nuts to see sloppiness of socks drooping down around the ankles, or having to constantly struggle to keep your own socks up because they are just too short.  The stockings I’m working on started off as a modern knee-length stocking pattern that I added 5-6” to the length, I also added more stitches to the initial cast on so that there would be enough room for the lower thigh to be comfortable in the sock.  I think I may have added 20 stitches to the cast on.  I then have two separate decreases to the leg, one from top of stocking to the knee, and then a second from the calf muscle down to ankle.
The third main difference is the heel.  Most stockings I have seen have a plain knit heel, no modern fancy stitches to make the heel knitting thicker to last longer.  As boring as it sounds, plain knit heels are the majority.  But if you come across an oddball outlier, I’d love to see it!
There are many references to historical stockings in books such as Sharon Burnston’s Fitting and Proper (Burnston 100), or Linda Baumgarten’s Costume Close Up (Watson 75), the latter being frame knitted, but holding similar characteristics to their hand knit counterparts.  The stockings I am studying are from the New Brunswick museum collection, accession numbers 59.81, OTTY 22586, and OTTY 22587.  These stockings are all knit in fine thread, possibly cotton or linen and are white.  References from run-away ads from American sources in the period also mention woollen stockings with varying colours, such as blue, heathered grey, and even red.
Publication: The Pennsylvania Gazette
Date: August 30, 1764

RUN away from the Subscriber, living in New Britain Township, 
Bucks county, a Servant Woman, named Catherine Palmer, about 5
feet high, well set, of fair Complexion, full faced, pretty 
fresh coloured, with brown Hair, has a Scar on her Breast, and 
another on the left Side of her Head, grey Eyes, supposed to
be about 29 years of Age, sometimes says she was born in
England, but talks with the Scotch Accent; she is much given
To Liquor, and Chewing Tobacco; Had on, and took with her when
            She went away, a long Calicoe Gown, with purple Flowers; a
Striped Linen short gown, Kenting Handkerchief, and a blue and
White one, three Shifts of homespun Linen, one with the
Sleeves something finer than the Body, two Linsey Petticoats, one
Blue and white, the other red and white; two Caps, one
With Cambrick Border, and the other with a Lawn one; Black
Bath Bonnet; a Pair of Pockets, one the same Stuff as her
Gown; a Check Apron, a Pair of new Shoes, her Buckles not
Fellows; a pair of Woollen Stockings, with blue Gores, Stole a 
Pair of blue Stays, new Silk Handkerchief, about 8 yards of
Fine Linen, a Pair of red Worsted Stockings, and several other 
Things supposed to be taken by her.  Whoever takes up the said
Servant, and secures her in any Goal, so that her Master may
Have her again shall have Five Pounds Reward, and reasonable
Charges, paid by John James, jun.

N.B. All Masters of Vessels are strictly forbid to
Carry her off. (The Accessible Archives - the Pennsylvania Gazette)

In a very quick search on Pinterest this morning, I also came up with several instances of women of all class levels knitting.
 a Girl Knitting; MERCIER, Philippe 1689-1760; Nation Galleries of Scotland

 Serving Girl Knitting; BOUYS, Andre 1656-1740; MET

 Woman Knitting; DUPARC, Francoise 1726-78; Musee des Beaux Arts, Marseilles

 Countess Tolstoy nee Lopukhina; ARGUNOV, Ivan 1768

Given that it has taken me a month and a half of knitting to produce one pair of stockings for my husband, it seems as though we should all be knitting.  Everyone needs socks.  The ones you can buy commercially just won’t cut it anymore for several of the events we want to participate in.  It’s time we stepped up our game and started knitting our own stockings.  It is also a good way to keep our idle hands busy, and interpreting an activity that many of us enjoy already.  For those of you needing an actual pattern to follow, there are several available through places such as the Plimoth Plantation and the Modern Maker.  I am also currently working on a pattern based on my own research which will be published in the near future.


Baumgarten, Linda and JohnWatson. Costume Close Up: Clothing Construction and Pattern 1750-1790. New York: Costume and Fashion Press, 1999.
Burnston, Sharon Ann. Fitting and Proper: 18th Century Clothing from the Collection of the Chester County Historical Society. Texarkana Texas: Scurlock Publishing Co. ,Inc., 1998.
The Accessible Archives - the Pennsylvania Gazette. 30 August 1764. 26 April 2016.

Monday, 2 May 2016

a rough term

I haven't written anything that's any good this term.  My thoughts are focused on just getting through the day for the most part.  I've been battling a bad depression that probably stems from the move and starting at a new school.  Then, to top things off, Mum got sick at Christmas time and by mid March we finally found out it was cancer.  So there's that.
I made it through the term though, B+ student.  I will take that as a fairly decent mark, given the circumstances.

The new term brings with it spring and spending the next four months making.  I've also started my anti-depressant top up pill again.  Let's kick this depression shit in the arse!

For school, I will be weaving.  I am going to re-visit the shirt warp, trying out some theories that I have to see if I can get it to weave up a bit tighter.  Washing some of the starch out of it, and using a finer weft thread might help.  So will weaving in an non-air-conditioned space. That's the first project.
Second project will be weaving some red and white checked bag hose material for Kerry Delorey of the 84th Highlanders in Nova Scotia.  He is also working on getting some yardage woven in Nova Scotia in larger amounts.  If that works out, could we possibly wish for other heritage textiles to be woven?  In any case, I'm going to be weaving more once I get things set up here in Saint-Hubert.

For the past two months I have also been working on a knitted sock pattern.  Knitting away in between periods of reading and trying to grasp school work.  I just started my second pair of the summer on Friday night.  Pierre should have four pair by the time we get to do any living history this summer...if we do.
That said, it is highly unlikely that we'll be travelling very far afield this summer.  Louisbourg and Shelburne are now out of the question.  We can't be 14+ hours away from Mum, and our original plan of taking her with us to stay in Caribou is now out too.  She'll be too sick for that kind of travelling.  Our back up plan right now is to spend our 10th anniversary at Fort Ticonderoga, if we can swing it.  There is an event brewing there for that weekend, and if we are accepted to go, we'd be in with a bunch of hard core progressives.

So I am focusing my to-do list with that in mind.

Pierre can't just bum around in his Louisbourg sailor's kit, he needs arsing around gear for the revolutionary period.  So I have some linen in the wash for new breeches and frock coat that he can then completely destroy once they are made.  I'll be basing them on the breeches in Sharon Burnston's book (Burnston, 53), and the frock coat from Linda Baumgarten's (Baumgarten, 92). The linen is a twill in dark blue.  He'll wear the waistcoat I made for him last summer in blue and grey stripe.
I have to finally finish my linen striped gown for then too.  I figure another few days and that will be off my UFO pile.  Better late than never.

This encampment has a document it or leave it at home rule.  So I'll be going over our kit with a fine toothed comb.  I am looking at tracking down a basket I can make into a pack basket and only taking what we'd be wearing and what will fit in the basket and maybe one market wallet.  I am also considering making/finishing the canvas tarp I started back when I worked at the museum to be used as a shelter.  All of their tents are hand sewn.  Like I said, hard core progressive.  It will be interesting to experience that.

Anyway, should get back to my knitting...


Baumgarten, Linda. Costume Close Up: Clothing Construction and Pattern 1750-1790. New York: Costume and Fashion Press, 1999.

Burnston, Sharon Ann. Fitting and Proper: 18th Century Clothing from the Collection of the Chester County Historical Society. Texarkana, Texas: Scurlock Publishing Co. Inc., 1998.