Wednesday, January 15, 2014

HSF Challenge #1 -- "Make Do And Mend"

The Challenge: #1 – Make Do and Mend
I’ve recently joined an F&I era group and the one winter event I went to, they just could not seem to leave me alone about not having cold-weather clothing (albeit in a very sweet and kindly way). I had mitts and a thick shawl and lots of petticoats, but I’ll admit my torso was a little chilly in the evenings with just a corduroy jacket. So my “make do” was to cut up an old wool blanket, line it with warm fleece (I know, cheater cheater), and make a very heavy bedgown to go over anything.

Honestly, I can't say for certain if that is something the French Colonial women around here would have done. Still, it makes sense...goods came up the Mississippi River infrequently in canoes, and somehow I don't think the women, when they first arrived in "New France," would have been adequately prepared for the sometimes frigid winters. I could see them whipping up a rough bedgown out of a blanket to throw on over many layers of clothing.

Fabric: Old grey woolen blanket, grey fleece

Pattern: basic “T” shaped garment, hits just above the knee. I know the sleeves look lopsided, but they're not...and I probably won't leave them rolled up and showing the fleece like that when I wear it. The back has a seam down the center until about waist-height, then releases to leave a little bit of a pleat and fuller appearance to the bottom half of the garment.

Year: 1720-1780? You might find something like it in just about any art depicting the lower class of the 18th century I guess, shapeless sack that it is.

Notions: Just thread

How historically accurate is it? I left the typically-seen shawl collar off of the bedgown because my skin doesn’t tolerate wool and even with a neck handkerchief I just KNOW it would end up rubbing against my skin and driving me insane. It’s entirely hand-sewn, but I think the fact I lined it with Wal-mart blanket fleece kind of negates that. But I think with my grey petti, an apron tied over it and the handkerchief, it’ll look very passable.

Hours to complete: Probably around seven

First worn: Not yet! This weekend at a women's event.

Total cost: The blanket was probably around $20 when I got it a few years ago, the fleece was about $6.


  1. How cold did it get at your winter event? My first reenactment was freezing cold with pouring rain, and they actually canceled the last half of the event due to high friends and I figured it could only go uphill from there! A wool bedgown is an excellent idea, and the perk of a loosely fitted garment is that you can conceal layers of modern thermals and other garments for warmth under it. Very nice! :)

    1. It was below freezing at night, I was so happy for a subzero sleeping bag in the tent, that's for sure! During the day it crept up into the 40s so it was tolerable...I'm so NOT a cold weather person, ick! Great idea about the thermals, I might totally cheat this weekend and do a complete set of long-johns, haha.

  2. If I recall correctly, Diderot specifically mentioned the use of Walmart fleece blankets. So really, I'm not sure how much more accurate you could get.

    F&I= French and Indian? I soooo envy you!

    1. I must have missed that bit, my French is by no means fluent...I wonder which word in his description meant "bargain bin".

      Yes, it has been a little nerve wracking trying to fit in with new people (especially all older and more experienced) but it keeps me from being a total recluse!

  3. Might I suggest, as an outdoor enactor from Oregon, invest in a set of silk long underwear in white and black. It is incredible warm, breathable, washable and thin! They hide easily under period clothes and can make a huge difference in comfort.

    1. That sounds lovely! Thank you for the suggestion...the old waffle-knit cotton kind just isn't doing it for me anymore!