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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Crafts for a Camp Follower

So I have begun to do some research on some other things I can do in camp while the men are out to battle. Since we don’t live this way everyday, just 2 days a month roughly, I unfortunately don’t have nearly as much free time as the women of the time would have had. Although I would love to live like this more often, that’s a whole other topic for another post. But doing a large craft is probably not a good option because I don’t want to be working on the same thing for the entire summer. Most likely I won’t work on it outside of events, because I have a lot of other projects to work on. It’s not easy finding good information about what would have been done at the time except darning socks or needlework, the first of which I am not interested in at all and the second of which I might do, but I wanted something more exciting. I had done a little research on finger weaving, but I had a feeling that a white, female, camp follower of this time wouldn’t do this. So I was looking for other places to start looking.

So in my quest for other information some time ago I stumbled across a great forum for “historical trekkers.” They have some great information being shared by reenactors from all over the country (and other countries too). I have been reading the forums for 6 months or so now, but I never joined in the conversations. I was just trying to absorb all the information I could. Some of it applied to me, some didn’t, but it was all very interesting. A few days ago, I finally signed up and posted a question about crafts for 18th century camp followers. I got some great answers! I haven’t had the chance to research anything as of yet, but I wanted to share the information that was provided with me.

The first suggestion I got was to read a book by Beth Gilgun. It is titled Tidings. I may be the only person left in the hobby who hasn’t heard of this book, but it looks like an awesome resource, not only for crafts, but all kinds of things related to the 18th century. Amazon has the following description of the book:

Beth Gilgun brings the mid to late 1700s to life with her entertaining and informative "letters" to a friend on the frontier. Great for reenactors, teachers, historic interpreters, and theatrical costumers. As an accomplished seamstress and goodwife, Gilgun shares with her "friend" information on clothing for men, women and children, as well as other topics of daily life in Colonial America. Included are clear, concise instructions for constructing reproduction 18th century garments, from choosing fabric to finishing. Her chatty letters include news about current events and the latest goods available on the East Coast.

I am going to check if my library has this book in stock and give it a good look over. I will share more information once I have it, but this looks like an awesome place to start.

The next suggestion I got was from Susan. She suggested the sewing, mending, embroidery, crewel, and weaving on a tape loom. I have never heard of a tape loom before. It sounds interesting and I am definitely going to do some more research on that one. Mike from Missouri also suggested looking into a paddle loom. He said it works like a tape loom, but is smaller and easier to handle. I have no idea if that’s true or not since I don’t even know how big a tape loom is, but he gave me a link to look into this more, so I will certainly do that!! I think I will devote a whole post to this once I do a little more research.

I got a bunch of really good suggestions from Mike who is from Iowa. Here is the list he provided for me:

- a Lucet
- it is for making cords for clothing from thread (kind of like the drawstring on a hooded sweatshirt).
- a Tape Loom
- a very small loom for making tape/ribbon
- Bobbin Lace
- a form of weaving to create patterned lace to add to clothing
- Soap making
- Candle making
- making candy/bake goods (but there might be some Health/Safety rules)
- offering mending/repair of clothing
- laundry services
- writing letters for those who cannot read/write (a common occurrence in some military camps)
- making/teaching small toys and games for the kids
- sew up traditional socks from wool/cotton/linen clothe cut out to a period pattern - including wool Nippes or Chausons
- sew up Nightcaps and Workman's caps (almost nobody makes those nightcaps)

You could also take up some of the sailor's knot/rope work. Some of it is pretty simple. And a little Needle Hitching really perks up the look of a knife handle or looks great done around a glass bottle. A simple single cord loop-thru-loop segment of "rope" makes a quick braclet for kids - especially when they watch you make it or you talk them through making their own. Leather "shoelaces" or some heavy cord works well. Ditto some of the braiding with 3 or 4 or more strands. Simple journals/notebooks/diaries can easily be made by cutting/folding some paper together and stitching them to hold it all together.

I really like some of his ideas. I think the journal would be a great one, my husband wants a journal to keep with him, and so I might make that. I will have to do some research on the type of paper to use. I wonder how hard it would be to make my own paper. Though more likely I will just buy some paper, I think I already have enough projects to do without adding paper making to the list!! I also like the idea of making toys; I think that might be fun to do. I will have to do some more research on that as well.

Well since this post is long enough for now, I will do some more posts with more specific information when I do some more research on each of these things, but I am very glad to have some good ideas of places to look for some different ideas of things to try!!

Believe me yours faithfully,

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