Hello and welcome to my blog. What I'm doing here is documenting my personal expression of "hands-on history" from a craftsman's perspective. I've been on this path for a large part of my life and it's taken me to some interesting and challenging places. I hope to share the processes and the historically inspired objects I've crafted along this journey into our past. This adventure has deepened my appreciation for past craftsmanship and the intelligence of common place things in Early America. Besides, now I have all this cool stuff to play (teach) with.

Jim Miller

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Historic Costume Recreations Revisited or A Suspended Project Revived

     I think it's safe to say that people involved in historical crafts, normally have a backlog of projects. It's also a fact that once in awhile a "future" project slips through the cracks. That is exactly what happened to this undertaking, until recently rediscovered.

The original pattern from
Godey's Lady's Magazine, April 1864
Photos Lindy Miller 2012

    Many years ago, someone gave me a pattern for men's crocheted suspenders from the April 1864 issue of Godey's Lady's Magazine. At one point, I made the effort to chase down silk yarn (Empire Silk, Karabella Yarns) and even dyed white yarn to create the "maize" color required. My wife is a great knitter, but since she doesn't crochet, I had to find someone to take this on. Apparently, I wasn't very successful, as the yarn and pattern ended up in a bag, buried and forgotten for almost a decade. Now rediscovered, the project finally got rolling again thanks to the unknown talent of my wife's friend Connie. I knew Connie was a stellar seamstress but I didn't know she crocheted. Yeah !!

Crocheted Strips Completed
 Calf and Kid Ends with Holes Punched
Ready for Stiching

     Once the crocheted strips were completed, I dampened and blocked them to shrink their width slightly. One of the great things about this pattern was the illustration that accompanied it. I've been collecting and studying 19th Century suspenders for years and felt confident to interpret what original examples might have looked like. There certainly is some latitude here, as this pattern was intended for home use. For the leather fittings, I chose a light weight, vegetable tanned calf for the top, and white kid for the underside.

Ends Showing Linen Canvas Extension
and Kid Backside

     When you study the illustration, it appears that the buttonholes were bound. From what I've found, bound button holes seem to appear on nicer versions of suspenders. Since the instructions suggest, " .....a little elasticity is desirable." in the crochet work, I feel that the extender section on the back, must have been  a simple section of canvas, rather than an elastic tape. When you look at it, there appears to be a seam in the middle.

Nelson Goodyear's Patented 1849
Elastic Cord Suspender Ends
Note the Bound Buttonholes

    A "little elasticity" is a good thing in suspenders, so I thought I would augment the crochet with a little elastic cord on the front attachment, courtesy of Nelson Goodyear's patent of 1849.  For the buckle I chose the ubiquitous Hartshorn style, patented in 1855. All of the leather was saddle-stitched with a waxed linen thread and I decided to go ahead and bind the buttonholes with kid, which gave them a nice finished look.

One Side Completed and One
On the Way

     I think they turned out swell, with more than a little help from our friend. Thanks Connie !! You made it happen. Now I have to keep my eye's peeled for more "buried" projects.

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