Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Give 'Em Enough Rope

Last post of the year. Hoping for more next year. Slightly taller than the originals, the boots now need stretching and finishing. These things are crying out for some pantaloons or stretch pants. Very happy with the finished product. Somehow there are now twice as many Federal Era shoes as 18th century.

Where the boots were simple, the bearskin has spawned a cottage industry. The old Royal regiments were allowed to have their badge embroidered on the cap's wool top. The 7th's device includes a crown, rose, and the Order of the Garter's motto. A delightful woman is willing to take this on. There is plenty left to do.

The cut hide is nearly perfect, with a small hair club for bears problem on the back. As with the period items, the bald spot is patched and the top sewn together into a point. The small triangular patch of soft leather reduces hair bulk behind the frontlet plate. It's also damn comfy.

The seam allowances are all tiny (1/8") with hair trimmed out.  The cap is slightly large to allow for all the metal and lining to come.

As if all that isn't enough, the cap is finished with knotted wool cord arranged in an elaborate pattern with two tassels. Wool cord is hard to find in the correct thickness. Fortunately, machines to make cord are cheap and fun to use. At left is a test batch of 24 strands of lace weight. It came damn close to the 3/16" cord required.

Kitty promised to help make three or four yards of this in January, channelling all those old New England rope walkers. We will need her help with the tassels as well. Once the cord is made it's time to braid. Some surviving caps have a Monkey Braid pattern sewn around the crown. Jason decided to have both tassels behind the right ear as seen in the 1778 de Loutherbourg drawings. More next year.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


With the boot toe up, pressed flat on the floor, here is the cardboard template for the front. The pin marks the center, and the scratch awl is used to trace the new edge. A cut down Teflon cutting board inserted into the boot makes this job easier.

Nearly two inches need to come off the back of the boot, so the canvas pull straps are removed, and their stitch holes made further down. Cutting was nerve-wracking at first, but not difficult.

This is not one of the Frenchmen's helmets from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The secret of 18th century British bearskin caps is a mitre-shaped tin plate. Bent into a curve, it is drilled with holes for stitching. It is sandwiched between the hide and the linen lining, with the front plate over the hair.

The front cutout makes it lighter, more comfortable and it is matched to a small triangle of calf skin sewn into the bear hide. The whole mess at the edge is wrapped with a leather sweatband (velvet for NCOs on up.) One of the Royal Marine caps has holes drilled around the cutout. Since there are no known Fusilier bearskins, the height of the plate was determined by surviving German Fusilier mitre caps.

Here is our legally taken bear hide. Check your local laws before you buy one online. Some states have strict controls on bear parts. The pattern is sketched to take advantage of the hair crown on the back. All the hair should lay up on the cap. The very top of the pattern is cut in a shallow V-shape, for a nice tight seam over the point of the plate. The gradual curve is where the wool bag goes.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Boots and Bearskins

Well that didn't go well. Making two coats at once was a huge mistake. Too many distractions. The regimental coat looks good, but doesn't fit worth a damn. Snug WITH constraint. Perhaps Kitty can make it into a riding habit. The lesson here is patterns need to be revisited and fitting patterns made for everything. Don't rush.

Time to shift gears a bit. This beautiful thing was found during Big Dig construction in Boston's North End. Boots have been around forever. At the start of the 19th century they became fashionable everyday wear for men. High-front "Hessians" and "Suwarrows" copied Central and Eastern European military styles. They were replaced soon after by "Wellingtons" (not the rubber kind.)

No we aren't making boots. We are taking advantage of an excellent boot maker who is flexible. The design is not unlike mid-19th century boots, with changes to the toe and heel. The canvas tabs need to be removed and replaced after the tops are cut.

Another good winter/Apocalypse project is at right. The 1768 British Army clothing warrant gives grenadiers, fifers, drummers, pioneers, and fusiliers the authorization to wear bear skin caps. The fusiliers cap is "not so high," as the others, which are to be twelve inches tall. This fearsome headgear cost over ten times as much as the standard hat. No wonder many regiments (including the 7th Foot,) gave them up as the American War progressed.

The Royal Fusiliers DID arrive in American with them, though none survive. Construction of surviving caps was a bit of a mystery until the 1990s, when the Scottish United Services Museum started conserving the Seafield Collection. These are post-Revolution, but still follow the 1768 warrant. Pioneer, musician and grenadier caps are remarkably similiar, but for some details. Good friend Jason is using this as the basis for a fusilier version and so shall we. Trade in bear parts is legally complex, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016


Words. Details can be maddeningly elusive in the past. The Continental Army coat started out well enough. There were good sources that helped shape the color and style of this coat. Then there weren't. Always good (painful) to check footnotes. Construction of the coat has passed the point of drastic changes. Since details are often few in letters, orderly books, and journals, the meaning of words becomes key. There are coats and there are jackets.

This might look familiar. The white at left is the belted waistcoat. Wrapped around the right edge of the canvas interfacing is the red strip of a lapel. Hooks and eyes get fixed at top right. Only a skirt lining in this coat.

The America Southern army was nearly destroyed in 1780 at Charleston. General Gates did his best to destroy the replacement Army two months later. Gates replacement, General Greene discovered a dearth of roads and wagons in the Carolinas. States like Maryland struggled to get clothes to their nearly naked troops.

"Regimental Coats" arrived in October, and were handed out immediately. In Virginia, good old Baron Steuben rushed supplies, arms, and men South. These fellows wore "jackets with sleeves."

Steuben put a bug in Greene's ear about jackets. Jackets were not as "sightly" as regimentals, but easier to make and better than nothing. Here is the single layer collar turned to the outside. The seam will be covered by the collar. Greene described the jackets as "in the form of British Light Infantry Coats; to come down as low upon the hips as the waistband..."

Since the buttons have short shanks, it's easier to apply linen tape to the lapels--till you get to the collar. None of this is visible when finished. To muddy the waters further, the 1780 Board of War specifications state coats should come to mid-thigh, and have functional lapels, and collar.

Always nice to know what they were supposed to have. There is period imagery of British Lights with square cut jackets as early as 1777. This is probably what Greene is talking about. No lapels, no skirts, "with sleeves" implying that sometimes they were without like a waistcoat. Blue and red is a safe choice for mid-Atlantic Continentals, but not sure. Already ideas are forming for another coat.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

What Cheer, Netop?

Time to retire, after the most extraordinary history day yet. John Brown House returned to 1799 Saturday. The Browns, their friends and servants, took tea in period bowls and sat on antique chairs and sofas. The inhabitants were interpreters who studied period sources for weeks to play people who lived and worked in the home at the start of the 19th century.

Along with their duties, maids served as guides for visitors and related gossip as the day progressed. Stairs made their task even more strenuous.

The late 18th-century coat barely survived. It went together (too) quickly for the event and has some flaws that need to be addressed. The lining side actually tore. The sleeve lining seam pulled away, but the outside remained unscathed. The cuffs need to be removed and rotated out slightly.

The collar is a nuisance. The top button needs to be moved out, or a third one added. Pad stitching is uncommon in this period, but some stabilizing stitches could help. Steaming and shaping are good idea. The tails are too long. Stay tuned for improvements.

The creator of all this historic madness is our own Kitty Calash. We used her dishes, cutlery, and &c. The Brown's letters, journals, and articles on late 18th-century Providence were shared online. Participants were selected based on age matches to historic figures. Past What Cheer Days had a script and schedule, but the free-form version worked just as well.

Brown family artifacts and furniture, items with Rhode Island provenance, were safe in the corners, as less valuable antiques took their place. Modern lighting disappeared. As it was a gray day the house was dark (history is darker than you think.)

An outline of the day got us rolling, and interaction improvised. Before long visitors were following characters room to room as the drama unfolded. It was as cool as it sounds.

(all event photos by J.D. Kay)


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Under Pressure

Okay, so maybe two coats at once (plus ancillaries) is a bit much. Luckily, one of them is supposed to look half-assed. Both projects are interesting, it's only a question of getting both done on time. Here is the faux-cuff stotted to the sleeve. Regimental coats in this period have sleeves that end right at the wrist.

 Looks like the poor Baltimore contract worker who is making these coats has cats. While construction continues, research is ongoing into the appearance of these coats. Blue and red seems a safe bet. A thorough search of Nathaniel Greene's papers, 1780-81 is in order.

Meanwhile, work on the super-fiddly 1799 coat proceeds. Here it is inside out, over a shirt and waistcoat. Hemp canvas interfacing helps shape the body, but lack of pad-stitching means things can slide around. All the front edges of the coat have been turned and whipped to the canvas. The interfacing tends to curl around the shoulder seams, so the canvas edges are whipped together over the pressed-open wool seams.  Like the 19th-century tailcoat, this has ridiculous lapels, but they are totally separate from the Elvis-like collar. It's really more cape than coat.

Cheryl agreed to the tedious task of providing silk Death Head buttons for this project. With the silk tail lining, just the right amount of pimp. Thirty-one days till showtime.  Hope to finish a new neck cloth and get some boots in the mail before then.

A close up of the chaos under the shirt sleeve. The pocket bag peeks out from the interfacing, complete with back stitches to hold the under flap in place. A pencil/chalk line marks were the outer pocket flap gets sewn to the body.  Once they are in place, the lining can start.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Pew and Pocket Flaps

Great times were had at Frederick, Maryland. Chaps from the Fort Dobbs garrison and the Fort Pitt Museum formed a combined company of North Carolina Provincials serving with General Forbes in 1758. Good lads. Brandyn Charlton took this Last of the Mohicans shot of us. In the background is the 300-year-old road built by the people we are portaying.

There is something satisfying about marching with an axe or spade instead of a musket. Roadwork was part of the scenario, a job the Provincials performed, even though the public couldn't see it. Shovelling dirt into ruts in the heat, felling trees, all while dressed like Natives may sound boring, but many Carolina men arrived in Maryland without weapons or much else. There was even a coffin maker in the camp to keep us honest. Pew is losing it's appeal.

Here are the front and back of the 1780s Continental Army pocket flaps. These snazzy buggers are purely decorative and vertical, not unlike those on Light Infantry coats in the period. Holes are punched in the cloth, and the shanks are secured with linen tape sewn to the back. Yes, the USA acronym is that old. This is the Kochan and Philips French Blue cloth that was color matched to a surviving American uniform fragment. To save money, the coat is short, with no functional bits.

Equipping and clothing the US Army every year became a headache for the bankrupt Congress. Lack of shoes, hats, small clothes, gear, even food was common. France helped, and some of the clothing was made there under contract.

Things are looking up by 1799. This gentleman's coat is made from fine black cloth, and lined with green silk. Along with custom Death's Head buttons and giant pocket flaps, these under pocket flaps secure the opening and keep the pocket bag from stretching. Less cost-cutting here. The nine-piece lining is made from three different materials depending on visibility. The back and sleeves are cheap cotton.

Fatigue cap scraps will be useful when it comes to the cuffs on the Continental coat. A combination of stotting and piecing will simulate frugal construction. In the experimental history department: how did folks in the past deal with Poison Ivy? Perhaps it wasn't as much of a problem then.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Heat is On

Salem Massachucetts is hot. A good time to don 1804 attire and become an accountant in a West India Goods Store for the Annual Maritime Festival. Since the building is normally an NPS office, visitors are slightly confused when it magically tranforms into a store. More so when Kitty fills it with some tiny fraction of her 19th-century collection that isn't for sale.

At left is the stock throughly sweated with heat applied. It dried in this grotesque shape. Lesson learned, reshape the buckram while still wet.

The Cossacks (too late for 1804) are nearly done. All they need are stirrups to pull the fancy toe cutout down over the shoe. Like Rick James. New Morroco braces with springs are in the planning stages, but more pressing matters intrude.

What Cheer Day nears, and will require a gentlemen's 1799 coat. The traditional black wool of a physician, complete with giant collar and lapels should do. Why not make two coats at once? Fort Dobbs Timeline deserves an accurate Maryland or Delaware Continental who fought in the Carolinas. The 1781 regimental coat is a model of cheapness and expediency. The old veterans were not impressed. Still, USA buttons and better than being naked.

Our WCD character, Dr. Bowen will need breeches and some ruffles on his shirt. Rather than retire the Invincibles trousers, why not convert them to breeches?

The tops of the Cossacks are enough to make a child cry. It's the feeling you get when you open a box in a museum collection and ask "who would wear these?" Can't wait to wear the whole mess.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

An Adventure

Historic homes are a pleasant fiction. Most held generations of families or were sold more than once. They may have been gutted or had plumbing and heating installed. To restore them back to a particular year seems impossible. How do you know how they were before?

First, what walls have been moved/removed? What going on with the stairs? What were the rooms used for originally? Fortunate is the curator who has an inventory of all the furniture by room. Mostly it's guesswork. But what if a direct descendant, living four hours away, offers to donate a bed that was known to be in the house 200 years ago? Just needs to be picked up.  That's an adventure worth having. Kitty's job took us to the wilds of Vermont. Driving a large cargo van is an exercise in faith. Best just to shout "WITNESS ME!" When changing lanes.

The donor is delightful, a wise woman of 85. Like the house it came from, the bed had been upgraded, it's rope pegs cut off to take a modern box spring. The handiwork was unmistakable: small carved roman numerals marked every groove and slot. The hand carved posts are perfection. You know you are in Vermont's hinterlands when Google's hotel and dining recommendations start near Montreal.

Time to tackle the terror of flap pockets. Here is the back of the trousers and pocket (with cover in place.) The top of the bag back will act as trouser front for the waistband. The L-shaped bit at bottom left is where the flap stops and the leg seam begins. It's confusing. There are more photos here. It's easier to assemble the pants first, then sew the pockets together. Just don't sew the flap to anything.

Here is the even more confusing front. The bag front is pinned on, and the L-cuts don't match the trouser fronts exactly. Not a problem since the whole thing gets trapped in the seam. Pleats peek out from the pocket edge, and the stripey bearer lining is evident. The edge of that wonky L-notch on top lines up with the bag back and completes the waistband front.  Next come the waistband, buttons and button holes and the outside leg seams.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


On the left, a trouser front with the bearer and fall welt pinned wrong side along the fall cut location. There is a strip of interfacing on the back centered on the future cut. Kanniks Korner directions have you sew everything, then cut the fall, which was done here.

On the right, the cut is made, the bearer tucked under, and the striped lining whipped over the cut edge. The welt gets folded, origami style, around an interfacing piece. More details are here. Super narrow fall on these babies.

The stock got a band and a five-piece faux bow. This is similar to neckware at GCV right down to the odd detail of both tails in back.  Here it is before gathering for the knot. Anyone who has made cockades or put bows on bonnets will recognize this. Once the bow and band are gathered and knot applied, the band end is sewn down. Stock finished.

Friday, July 8, 2016


So there's THIS guy.

He's hiding in the background of William Sidney Mount's Rustic Dance After A Sleigh Ride. The suit is damn fresh, but check out the pleats in those trousers. Early 19th century fashion went bonkers with trousers. There were tight, lower-calf hugging Pantaloons, Moschettos with feet or shoe tops like overalls. Breeches were still worn for dress occasions, but hipsters wore long pants.

Alexander I brought Cossack dress to London and the result was ridiculous. Think MC Hammer with stirrups. The remarkable number of these that survive in museum collections may indicate how embarrassed their wearers were after one outing in them.  Our hero appears to be wearing a less baggy version.

Holy hell. There might just be enough checked material left, but only if the legs are a reasonable dimension. The pleats might make the wearer look less frog-like. Since the coat turned out well, let's go back to Laughing Moon for the pattern. It includes most waist sizes for all the different crazy trouser patterns from the period, even a cord pattern for Pantaloon Trousers.

Remember the yellow trousers are too short on top and only come down to the ankles. Adding two inches to the top and three to the bottom solves both problems. Hopefully the stirrups will last awhile since they ride on the instep.

Here is the watch pocket bag pushed through the slit in the waistband and interfacing. A self fabric cover hides the bag back. Heaven forbid a bit of white shows when opening your pockets. Next time more stock progress and Cossacks continue.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Know Your Enemy

The sight of a recreated company of properly-dressed, shaved, 18th-century soldiers emerging from the woods their ancestors fought over never fails to thrill. These New Englanders covered 16 miles in two 80+ degree days in New Jersey. Historians among them regaled the others with the actual events of the 1778 Battle of Monmouth, a deluxe battlefield tour.

Camp followers marched with them: stays adding an extra layer of misery to the process. Monmouth County was a wasteland in the late 1770's. The long coastline allowed the British to come and go at will. Escaped slaves were armed by the Crown and returned to torment their former owners. Whigs gave up fighting openly and began secretly retaliating against anything vaguely Tory (including Quakers.)

The Pine Barrens hid a den of horse thieves, pirates, and smugglers. Old religious and county grudges returned. A group of civilian reenactors attempted to recreate this strife for the march, but were thwarted. The lesson is no plan survives first contact with the event site.

At first glance, volunteers/employees and historic interpreters have much in common. They share a love of history and feel strongly about surviving objects and buildings. Sadly, humans fear change and are hostile to outsiders. Negotiations sometimes fail. The volunteers are at the site every day. It feels like home to them. Interpreters can appear arrogant when told a metal bread cooking device can be operated with the feet (hence, toe stir) or a pair of fireplace tongs are for when cows choke (cud-puller.) It's hard to relate to someone who says: "just stand there and don't touch anything." Hours of kindness can sometimes gain trust. In the end "the plan" never trickles down to the people who spend every day on site. The event planners need to be flexible and understanding.

  On a more positive note, here is the buckram Federal neck stock with checked cotton whipped over it. The buckle can be found here, but needs to be removed from it's mount. Another piece of buckram is used for the tongue. The body is lined, and some originals have soft leather chin guards to keep the cloth from fraying.

Next up: a band with a faux bow to complete the project.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

GCM After Action Report

Well, it's comfortable. Genesee Country Village's early 19th century weekend made an excellent place to test the Summer tail coat. None of the interior seams are finished, the sleeves are not lined and the cuffs just tacked on.  It was way too hot to button anything.

After some initial confusion, our group of seven and a half settled in two different buildings. Rather than interpret a trade we formed a party of well-off folks at leisure, sketching our surroundings with period implements. Using a camera lucida is remarkably difficult, but that may be because it required a bench.

The old trousers and waistcoat made the outfit bearable, but changes are required. These were fine to start, but the yellow pants are not tall enough, and the linen waistcoat is too long. I find these chaps inspiring. Some checked trousers with stirrups perhaps?

The coat revealed some interesting issues. One arm appears to be 3/8" longer than the other. It may be an anatomical problem. Since the sleeves need to be a tad longer it was easy to roll one cuff down slightly more, and make up the difference on the back of the other.

The maddening droop of the overlapping front is fixable. Kitty pressed her face to one of the displays at Genesee (without even being asked) and found two small internal buttons on a period coat. These engage the top and bottom button holes of the right front to hold it up.  Time to whip over the cut lining edges, line the sleeves, and return to the blue neck stock. Last, trousers and a short waist coat.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Pad Stitching Continued

The clock is ticking. Better to race to finish things rather than enjoy the process. Communing with harassed ancestors is what it's all about.  This is the first project with two layers of interfacing, the lining stuff is much lighter. Widely spaced pad stitching holds it over the shoulder to the back.

The right front lining gets a pocket. Here is the bag front stitched on and pushed through the opening. A welt will cover the hole. There is a surviving Federal tail coat with welted pockets on the outside of the tails too, so that's next. It also has simple turn back cuffs.

Another interesting feature is the lining back yoke. Often these are just a flap, this one gets some firm interfacing and a light pad stitch. Here it's sitting on a linen waistcoat and shirt for fit. In period garments this just hangs down, sometimes the bottom edge is pinked. It provides a broad foundation for the horse collar to come.

Strange as it sounds at first, the outer collar is sewn to this neck edge. The under collar, with all it's pad stitching is sewn to the coat body. Furious pad stitching on the lapels holds them up. Where they meet the collar needs to be resolved before the lining goes in. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Pad Stitching

Preserv'ed Tailor remembered his apron this past weekend. The Craven County militia captain appreciated his service and there were extra monies. Our hero used them to pay the laundresses to darn his stockings.  To refine things further, a small box would be useful. Time to add shaving supplies, cleaning brushes &c. Interactions with the other men, sutlers, and laundresses are becoming more refined and realistic.

The 1771 rebellion of farmers in the North Carolina backcountry added a whole new dimension to being a servant. Shoot at the poor in the morning, refill the rich officer's ink pot so he can write out fines for militia infractions in the afternoon. The ironic circle of history.

The fitting pattern for the tailcoat required quite a bit of material removed around the back seams. Ideally, this should be taken from the middle of the fronts in a vertical line. The lazy way (shown here) wrecks havoc with the arm holes. Material needs to be added to make them vertical and right on the edge of the shoulder. With the test sleeve fitted, a savage chalking by Kitty corrected this. This coat is loaded with interfacing, and all of it, as well as the lining and body bits, need to be tuned to the fitting pattern.

Weak past attempts at pad stitching will not do for this coat. It's time to turn to an expert. Whichever evil knucklehead refined pad stitching for men's collars, it has been done this way on bespoke suits ever since. Left handedness is not helpful here. Rory makes it look easy. The under collar has the appearance of a pox sufferer.

Time to cut cloth. Sadly, laundering made it very soft and removed much of the hand it once had. Here is the under collar draped across the coat lining, which gets a light pad stitch to hold the shoulder shape. Our demonic familiar observes the proceedings with some interest. Similar dense stitching is needed on the coat body lapel to match the collar.

The collar interfacing needs trimming and the edges will be turned. The edges of the lining interfacing get whipped to the body to prevent movement. The right one gets a pocket.  We'll do that next time. ALSO: more pad stitching.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Federal Era Revised

Five years have passed since we tried our hand at an early 19th century tailcoat. John Lewis Krimmel provides some great inspiration, rocking out at the Wayside Inn. May have to forego the bullwhip, but checks and a cigar are always welcome.

The older the sewing efforts, the more horrifying the garment. The tailcoat pattern included some guesswork. It's remarkably helpful to have someone who knows surviving clothes well locate all the problems with the copy.

This sexy beast is in the URI Collection (1967.13.17) and known as the "Stonington Plaid." Details can be found here. Everything we want: mismatched pattern seams, fake pocket flaps, tail and breast pockets, unlined linen. Aside from input from Dr. Hammer, the Laughing Moon pattern will be our start point. A cotton fitting pattern will be used for sleeves and collar testing.

Considering how well it fits, the 2011 coat has serious issues. The neck opening is huge, probably why it doesn't hug the neck on the right side.  The front panels are the wrong shape, so the arm openings are strange. The back pieces are way too big, and for some bizarre reason the back sleeve seams are not centered. While we are at it, all the current early 19th century trousers are not tall enough. Might as well make news ones.

This was good, but we can do better. Next time: fitting pattern.

Monday, April 18, 2016


Back to Dobbs, where the ratio of women, children, and dogs to Provincial soldiers is just right for an 18th-century frontier fort. Sandbyland. Lovely Carolina weather: 80 degrees during the day, 30 at night. The site director kindly allowed his drunkenness to be a valet for two days, a chance to up the common soldier game and stay busy. The Letenant's dual role made him hard to locate at times, but his possessions were always handy.

Friday was school day at the site. Showing 500 children how a musket works has it's moments. When asked about the practicality of the mid-18th century uniform, one young girl quipped "it was probably the swag of the day." Still time in the evening for work. Shoes need cleaning and black ball. Hot water from the laundress is helpful. The officer's coat is thoroughly brushed, tape restitched, and a pocket flap repaired. A vain fellow, our officer cannot grow long hair, so his wig needs redressing.

All this happens after hours, which begs the question if you interpret history and no one is there to see it, what's the point? The skills are still useful. The laundresses experimented with indigo in their rinse water to get just the right shade of blue for white linen. The public has a role to play, but are they required? It's a challenge to mesh the duties of the soldier with those of the servant: dressing both of us before formation, and preparing a noon day meal right after drill. Always keep the port glass full.

 Meanwhile, Red Shoes laundry boils dozens of shirts and stockings in the blazing sun. After drying, stockings are darned and repaired. Not everyone has this level of obsession. Others get bored easily. The officer's clean shirts have no marks: time to paint initials on them. The scrounged tablecloth needs mending. Here is hobby as work. Dressing the part and learning facts is only half the battle.

With enough fatigue it's possible to stuff a huge rag down a dry musket barrel while cleaning. Rookie mistake #5 means a stuck rammer and barrel removal with primitive tools. Thanks to Todd and his viselike grip the breech plug came out. Blacksmiths are 18th-century superheros. The servant role requires further exploration, but next time we'll start an early 19th century summer suit.      

Monday, April 4, 2016


A full couple of weeks, these past. Film continues to answer the need for more gritty immersion, even if only for one or two takes. Black powder charges buried in potting soil with cork fragments are safe, but still ring your bell. The air bursts are worse.

Faux soldiers can never come close to the terror experienced in real combat, but the dread of remote detonations, and the concussion is exhausting. Loading on the run and falling are good tests for clothes gear and skills.

 It's nice to relax indoors with a new waistcoat. Fit is excellent, it could be longer. The side vented needed to be shortened a couple of inches. With so many great sites full of talented people, it's easy to become complacent. Living history land is mostly populated by good folks, which makes the appearance of bad apples glaring. Irony is not lost on the drunk tailor when normal 18th century behavior rears it's ugly head.

Sadly, physical altercations are no longer a civil matter. Pain is inspiring. Shunning still seems to work, and having units police up their drunks is pretty efficient. The spirit of 1976 lingers. Women sometimes feel unsafe (or worse.) New ideas are looked down upon. Humans hate change, love routine for routine's sake. Best to inspire young people, charm them away from the creaking edifice that was reenacting.  

Monday, March 21, 2016


Helyar's Company of the 7th Regiment of Foot waits. Smoke and shouts drift up the hill towards them. The crash of hundreds of muskets and a ball buzzing off a tree make them forget momentarily how hungry they are. If only the liquor had not run out.

General Cornwallis is concerned, desertions are up, and men are being captured as they forage for whiskey. He knows Greene's army is huge and he needs every man to attack the rebels.

We're on the home stretch of the mid-century waistcoat, there are enough buttons to close it and work on the side seams. Apparently, the back piece was cut for a POW or child. No idea why it is so small. Oh well. Thankfully, there are surviving period waistcoats with pieced side seams. Wearers gain weight, cloth runs short, tailors drink. Since it's not lined there are more seams to whip, but... All of this will be hidden by the coat anyway.

 More potential drunkenness. As with coats, a good deal of fitting happens in the shoulder seams. Since this garment is double-breasted, with lapel linings it is temping to finish the neck seam before assembly. It should work. Sometimes the neck opening humps as seen in the left of this picture. The trick is to remember.

Best to open the turned bits of the neck seam, sew the shoulder seams together, THEN roll the neck seam as one piece, as shown on the right. All that is left is to do up the arm holes and hem the bottom.

For something completely different, it's time to be an officer's servant for an event. Not enough gentlemen with servants.