Sunday, April 05, 2009

Historical Knitting

When I saw the Civil War-Era Sontag in the latest Piecework Magazine, I knew that it was exactly what I needed to wear at the Antique Spinning Wheel Showcase at the Aurora Colony Museum while spinning on my circa 1835 wheel. This event is one of the major ones both for the museum and for my guild, the Aurora Colony Handspinners Guild. This year there were 0ver 30 antique wheels that were brought and spun on by their owners by their owners or other volunteers. The date of manufacture of the wheels ranged from the late 18th century to the early part of the 20th century, and were made in many European countries as well as in the US. All volunteers for the event wear period clothing.

I started the sontag the day after the magazine arrived, about 2 weeks before the event. The yarn used was handspun that I spun about 3 years ago from "mystery batts" bought from Fantasy Fibers at BSG. These are batts of all of the odds and ends in the mill, many colors and fibers but mine seemed to be mostly gray, with green, red, and blue mixed in from time to time. I knew that I had more than enough of the yarn, so I decided that I would make the body of the sontag, then overdye the remaining yarn in a contrast color for the edging. The yarn was a pretty consistent sportweight.

I finished the gray body in a week, enlarging it as suggested in the pattern, which was in one size that was described as a small by the writer/designer. (The enlarging turned out to be almost unnecessary, but I had done it by the time I realized that, and I didn't have enough time to start over) I decided that I would use a scarlet overdye on the remaining yarn, and would also dye some white handspun destined for a future project. I don't have a photo of the gray, but here is the dyed yarn, the gray and the white done in the same pot.

The color is one I mixed, using a combination of warm and cool reds, some slate blue and some black. It is exactly what I was looking for, and I used an immersion dyebath which resultd in a semi-solid application. I didn't use the edging from the Piecework design, I wanted a picot edge so I made up my own edging pattern. It took me a total of 8 days to make the sontag, and used about 675 yards of handspun.

Here is the finished sontag, on a dress form so that it shows the way it is worn.

When flat, the shape looks somewhat like a V with the bottom point squared off, and the vest-like back has cords on the corners which are brought to the front around the waist and tied. Tassels on the ends of the cords are traditional. The "wings" are crossed over the chest, then buttoned to each other in the back, over the back section. Because my sontag is too large, I overlapped the wings and used 2 buttons, as well as turning down the neck edge into a kind of collar.

With a wool skirt and white blouse made from authentic patterns, and a white linen ruffled cap, I was warm and appropriately dressed for the Pioneer period of the museum. The sontag leaves the arms free to spin and doesn't slip as a shawl does while working, walking, and carrying things.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is the perfect thing to wear when spinning. Thanks for sharing - I'm think I'll try this pattern and use it when I spin for our guild events that require period costume. I've always used a shawl, but it does slip and get in the way.

8:44 AM, April 06, 2009  
Blogger PNWBookGirl said...

Very pretty! Please bring it to show on Wednesday.

1:00 AM, April 07, 2009  
Blogger Ann said...

It's gorgeous!

9:24 PM, April 07, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That sontag is very, very clever! Currently, some people do not believe there was ever anything ingenious made (or thought of) before the Internet.
But of course the people who attend the Antique Spinning Wheel Showcase you speak of are not that type.

What a great way to not get tangled up in things, or to not drag your sleeve in the gravy!
Thank you for showing it to those who do not get the Piecework Magazine.

Happy knitting (and spinning)
janeyknitting AT yahoo DOT ca
(Change caps to symbols and lose the spaces.)

9:56 PM, July 03, 2010  

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