J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Shifts, Caps, Pockets, and More

The Ladies of Refined Taste & Friends, in partnership with Minute Man National Historic Park, have announced their 2010 schedule of “Hive” workshops for reenactors and park volunteers seeking to improve their interpretation. These Sunday sessions are free for people who want to participate, but some involve a fee for materials and all require advance registration.

Sunday, 17 Jan, 1:00-4:00 P.M., Minute Man Visitor Center, Lincoln: Why We Wear What We Wear — Several speakers will examine primary sources, including New England inventories, wills, advertisements, ships manifests, run-away ads, period art, and extant garments, to explain the background behind the current Battle Road clothing standards.

Sunday, 14 Feb, 10:00 A.M.-4:00 P.M., Noah Brooks Tavern, Concord: SHIFT-O-RAMASharon Ann Burnston, author of Fitting and Proper, will explain the evolution of shifts through the 18th century, and participants will construct their own shifts using period sewing techniques. They will also be entertained during the day with 18th-century prose. Attendees will need to buy, pre-wash, and iron their linen before the workshop; information on yardage and sources will be supplied upon registration. During the same afternoon there will be two-hour sessions on “Sewing” for children aged six and older, “Making a Huswif” ($10 materials fee), and “Learning the Norfolk Drill.”

Sunday, 14 Mar, 1:00 P.M. to 4:00 P.M., Noah Brooks Tavern, Concord: Ladies’ Caps — Try on different styles of caps till you find the one that looks good on you. Then construct your cap. Materials cost of $15. There will also be two-hour sessions on “Making a Sampler” for children who took the previous month’s workshop ($10 materials fee), “Musket Tune Up,” and “Learn the Norfolk Drill.”

The Hive is also offering Saturday workshops for higher fees with more advanced projects: how to make a frock coat or jacket, an English gown, a knapsack, a bonnet, a fashionable pair of stays, and a powder horn.

All these sessions are leading up to the big Battle Road events on 17 Apr 2010, commemorating the first major battle of the Revolutionary War, when the reenactors’ hard work will enhance the experience for us ordinary folks. This being New England in winter, visit the “Hive” website for any changes required by the weather.

Shown above is another sort of sewing project: a “dimity pocket” owned by Abigail Adams, which the Massachusetts Historical Society featured on its website last month. Sarah Sikes described it this way:

Measuring a full fourteen inches in length, this pocket is composed of eight pieces of dimity sewn together with an opening halfway down the front. Two ties are attached to the top seams of the pocket to be secured around the waist. The simple and sturdy striped fabric of the pocket—the polar opposite of the sheer cotton known today as dimity—suggests that this was a utilitarian garment to be tied under an apron or worn beneath a skirt and accessed through an opening in the outer garments.
Because this one is so well preserved, Adams probably did not wear it for very long. But the provenance looks quite solid.

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