Monday, September 18, 2017

The Royal Fusiliers in Canada, 1774


Here is the finished bearskin compared to a 1778 drawing of a grenadier by Philip James de Loutherbourg. The height difference is apparent, as is the grenadier's badge at center back. The cord pattern on the 7th Foot cap is completely conjectural, but is similar to surviving examples. Insanely talented Alexa embroidered the Regiment's badge on the madder wool bag. It includes the motto: Honi soit mal y pense. Perhaps some bear hair gel is in order.


Another de Loutherbourg comparison makes the cap height difference clear between grenadiers and fusiliers. The frontlet plate proclaims: Nec Aspera Terrent. Sadly, all the 7th's dress headgear was captured with their colors and a year's worth of clothing at Fort Chambly in October of 1775. Simple cocked hats were worn after that.



The mock "Present" position, with the musket at half-cock. Remarkable that the crease the tin shaping plate puts in the bear hide shows up in the drawing as well. The cap is light and surprisingly comfortable. Best of all, it half folds for storage. It's the perfect balance of intimidating and impractical.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Future Noir

Crank up the Vangelis, y'all. Somewhere in this pile (circa 1950-81) is inspiration. If any of this looks interesting to you, start here. You might bump into Adam Savage. Actual props and costumes have become big business, and like surviving historic clothing can be expensive.

Charles Knode created this coat from silk herringbone for Harrison Ford. No doubt there were several.

Ridley Scott describes it as "a Harris Tweed," and the Phillip Marlowe, detective with only one suit vibe is pretty strong. The shoulder yoke and back belt are a nice touch. Between still photos and the film there appear to be three different shirts and pairs of pants also, with one matching. Everyone knows the trench coat, but most miss the suit.

After weeks of searching for material, this appeared. Not silk, but they have a similar weave, which is fantastically soft. Shipping was fast. If you need linen, consider Lithuania. Previous experience with fiber reactive dye makes them an option. The terracotta color is misleading, in most images it is a warm golden orange with brown tones.

Perhaps some pants first to get the hang of the sewing machine.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Preenacting

Whoa. Has it been that long? Well, shit.

Getting thrown chez Calash leads to more adventure than anticipated. There have been excellent discussions, several detours and few new rabbit holes, but progress continues. This chap, discovered by Kitty, provides some cool details about bearskins. Turns out the lining comes right down to the edge of the cap. Unsurprisingly, the top of the tassel is painted to match the cord. Here's to completing modifications and finishing a new pair of drill overalls by the third weekend in September for some fusiliering.

Living history is weird. Information about the past is limited and trying to recreate a world from it is bound to be flawed. It's fun to try. Why not take the insanity one step further? How did people in the past view the future? This 1988 LA Times Magazine took a stab at 2013. Always interesting to see what they miss. Don't worry, we aren't leaving our favorite centuries behind, just exploring a side street. If you don't like science fiction or the 1980's you can skip some entries.

Speaking of which, here is what 1982 Hollywood thought an LAPD detective would look like in 2019. Yes, it is a movie, which makes it surprisingly harder to recreate. Isn't this just cosplay or costuming? Perhaps, but it's also history and that rain coat has to repel acid rain. It's still a uniform and a gun. Hot Topic, anyone?










  

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Perfect Day

Mrs. Delaplace (her name is lost to history) is worried. Strange people appear from the woods and ask pointed questions about the fort. Ticonderoga was more  "composed of decayed wood and earth" than a fortification in 1775. Fortunately, the stone barracks are serviceable.

Captain Delaplace worked his 23-man guard hard. He acquired livestock, and made his family comfortable by hiring servants.  





A middle-aged enlisted man and his wife cook and clean for them. The woman cooks, scrubs, and tends livestock while the man mends and cleans the captain's clothes, helps him dress and sees to his shoes. The battle against rust on fuzee and sword never ends.

Captain Delaplace has written to his superiors with concerns about the post, requesting more men, but it is already too late.

While late, his Drunkenness managed to combine forces with Kitty to deploy a servant team at Fort Ticonderoga this past weekend. The work was pretty constant, and surprisingly pleasurable to toss dirty water and the occasional chicken bone down onto the parade.  Captain Delaplace's gaiters were very tight continuing to lose buttons throughout the day.

Kitty's chicken was a hit, and we actually heated water and washed dishes at table. Note to self: must learn how to tie a sash properly. Also try to attend at least ONE drill with garrison to say hello.




Someone got their frontlet plate. While slightly shorter than surviving examples, it still looks incredibly badass. Both the plated copper and the tin inner plate have a nasty habit of cutting thread, so caution is required. Pull gently.

Next time the leather sweatband and the tin stiffening plate. Sewing through hair can be fun, and cut threads begin in earnest.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Bag It

So THIS happened. Miss Kitty talked me into it. Honestly, I don't feel like I have much to say, but together we could be helpful. We're both obsessed with excruciating little details that most folks ignore. Speaking of which, thanks to Kitty and Alexa for lending their special brand of insanity to the bearskin project.

The cord machine was a huge success, which is great because there is no twisted cord on bearskin caps. Oh well. It works fine on 18th century hats, so it won't go to waste. Here is some braided wool cord in a Monkey Chain for the top. It's upside down and needs to be trimmed. The whitening is obvious, per regulation.

Kitty's tassels have a net stitch over the head. I am still paying for the one I cut accidentally, which required her to make a replacement. Jason kept the cord pattern simple. The tassels finish the ends on the right side.

 Here is the cap, inside out, with the bag partially stitched in. Historic bag examples have three layers: red cloth, rough hemp, and canvas.  Wrangling all that hair is a challenge. It needs to stay out of the seam. Secured at the top and bottom, it's clear easing is required around the sides. At the lower left is the patch to fix the bald spot. The whole cap is still remarkably light.

Next time, the frontlet plate goes on, the leather sweatband starts, and the tin plate goes in.



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

Hides

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.