Sunday, April 17, 2011

To the reenactors!

If you are an 18th C reenactor, please listen!

The very basics of 18th C knitting:
1) No Shawls.
2) No flat hand knitting. No straight needles with bobbles on one end. Knitting in the round presages flat by hundreds of years.
3) No Shawls.
4) No ribbing. None. Zilch. If you are wearing purchased machine knit gloves/stockings, if you can hide the ribs do so. If you can't, replace ASAP! There is No Excuse for any hand knit ribbing....that shows a lack of care and research (unless you have found an extant ribbed item, with a good provenance, in which case, TELL US!!!!!).
5) No shawls
6) frame knits are VERY fine, upwards of 20 sts/in, knitted flat and seamed. Should you choose to mimic this by hand, you have my admiration, but it's not demonstration appropriate! These are the only knits that should have sewn seams.
7) No shawls
8) DO NOT cuff a cap high like they do on Colonial House, unless you WANT to perpetuate farby reality TV (AKA crown or Jughead style, like the idiot in the old Archies cartoon). Caps should sit near the hair line (that you had as a child, should it be receding), and really should have a bit of space at the crown, for a simple one, or a lot, for stocking caps. I cannot find a period drawing with this style of cap....just can't find any! See these guys in their caps (Hogarth)? They are messy, caps ajar and falling off..but not tiny beanies, still. Soft, squashy caps....heavily fulled caps with brims sticking Jughead beanies!
9) (repeat with me.....) No shawls
10) no cables, almost no lace

So, what *can* an 18th C reenactor wear for hand knits?
Fingerless mittens/gloves (often called mitts or half mitts)
all conforming to the numbered descriptions, above.

Caps typically have decreases all around, not two lines. (a common one is k2tog, k3 around, knit 3 rounds plain, then k2tog, k2 around, knit 2 rounds plain, etc) The Dutch Museum (Rijksmuseum) has many caps....use one of the following patterns for the shape, and get a stripe pattern idea from here! You can make any of these larger, to be felted, and stretch the bottom into a brim. The hat in George Neumann's Collector's Encyclopedia of the American Revolution is, basically, the same as a Monmouth cap, with the brim stretched out during the felting can see the edging shape, which is quite clearly a 3 needle bind off, as I used in my Monmouth cap pattern.

Sally Pointer, Mara Riley, and I all have researched patterns available.....I haven't come across any others I'd recommend, so far. If the pattern doesn't have a bibliography and reasons for the choices made, be skeptical!

Sally's Voyageur Cap, a felted doubled cap, can be made to flop or to fit closely.
My Monmouth Cap, as close to stitch for stitch as I could get to the original, which is 1600s. (none of the original caps I can find have a purled turning row!) If you must make a Monnouth, this one has all the details....but a stocking style or doubled cap is likely more common for 18th C.
My 18th C plain old striped cap, a generic cap pattern, can be made long or shorter, of course. If enlarged, it can be felted. Its color pattern is copied from Zoffany, where the man's cap is falling off, but you can see the basic looks odd, I think that the artist was making it look like it was falling off, but didn't bother with getting it realistic, which it clearly is *not*.
Mara's fingerless mitts (I'd add a couple rows of garter to the finger edge of the hand).
For plain old mittens or gloves I'd suggest using this vintage (1950s) pattern, replacing the cuffs with a few rounds of garter, then plain knitting, and keeping the whole thing in plain knit (The period mittens I've seen have all had round tops, I expect to find more, with different shaping, but have not, yet...these are super easy and, without the ribbing, completely accurate).

The General Carleton of Whitby cap pattern is coming...several people are working on one. The only pattern currently available (in the book from the ship wreck), has been deemed to be not worth the book, by all I've discussed it with. But the color pattern is straightforward and standard shaping applies. It's the only cap I've seen, to date, with a rolled edge (with neither felting nor hemming)....but it has fringe/thrums.


spinningkat said...

Hi Colleen,
I happen to see your post on the Juniper Moon Blog and I agree with you-Susan was not the 1st wool CSA-I posted a response siting the Martha Ballard Diary-a Midwife's Tail as proof that like business models existed at the beginning of this country. Anyway-fascinated about this blog post for reenactors.I dabble in piece goods research-still very much a novice-curious about the "no shawls". When did women first start knitting shawls-I know they wove them? Interested in your findings. Thanks-Kat Oliver

Colleen said...

They knitted shawls in the 19th c. Lace shawls in the 19th c became examples of conspicuous consumption, and at some point, I'm not sure of the details, I guess it became economically feasable to save money by knitting shawls instead of buying woven fabric. It wasn't earlier. It's complicated, when your looooong time spent knitting flat fabric is cheaper for your household than buying woven. It only works out like that when your free time is worth very very little!