Stitching together the threads of history

July 17, 2013

The Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum Sewing Group has been working on 19th-century clothing for more than a year to outfit participants in an upcoming War of 1812 reenactment and bicentennial event.

The group met July 6 in the Breckenridge classroom at the museum in St. Leonard to continue sewing.

“Today’s event, it’s going to be kind of an introduction [for] a lot of people of what we’re doing,” said Kate Dinnel, museum education and archaeology specialist.

The group was focused on sewing women’s and children’s garments, Dinnel said, some of which were created by using patterns. Dinnel said that for garments in which patterns were not used, research was required. Outfits can be made by examining period clothing and making a pattern using personal body measurements.

In the 19th century, people made garments “just by measurement, and they knew how they wanted it to look and put it together,” Dinnel said.

“This time period is relatively simple sewing compared to other time periods,” Dinnel said, adding that “18th-century stuff and the Civil War” garments had a “lot of extra fabric.”

Dinnel said she hoped the group would make progress completing several costumes for the annual War of 1812 reenactment, scheduled for Sept. 28 at the museum. After the reenactment, Dinnel said, she hopes to make costumes for a June 2014 two-day event marking the bicentennial of the Battle of St. Leonard Creek.

“I’m really focusing on the bicentennial, and I’m really hoping we’ll have enough stuff after next June that we’ll have outfits for folks to wear at our future reenactments,” she said.

According to the museum Web site, during the War of 1812, “Commodore Joshua Barney assembled a rag-tag fleet of 18 small gun boats, barges and sloops and headed to the [Chesapeake] Bay in June of 1814,” in what is known as the Battle of St. Leonard Creek. They tried to “open the Bay from the British,” who had controlled the bay since the beginning of the war.

The battle was the largest naval engagement in the history of the state and took place where the Patuxent River meets the mouth of St. Leonard Creek, off the shore of museum, the Web site says.

Dinnel said funding for the sewing group partly comes from grant money.

Some people provide the fabric because they sew costumes they are going to wear. Several people at the July 6 event made their own costumes.

Barbara Kane and Thea Glas, both of Leonardtown, set up and traced patterns for a Sooke dress with a bibbed front. Kane and Glas made the Sooke dresses to wear at the War of 1812 reenactment, Kane said.

Others attended the event as volunteers to make costumes for other people.

After seeing the sewing event publicized in the paper, Chesapeake Beach resident Marcia Poland decided to meet people with similar interests.

“Nowadays, you don’t find many women that actually sew, but people around here not only sew, they’re really into” the period costumes, she said.

Poland said she hoped to work during the session on doll clothes, a type of costume she began sewing when she was 10 . When she was 12, she started making her own clothes, she said. Poland made her own wedding dress.

When Pat Kreuzburg moved to Chesapeake Beach nine years ago, she found a part-time job but needed a hobby to fill her spare time. As someone who used to sew “a long time ago” and has been quilting for about 15 years, she said, she was interested in the sewing group. “I love fabric and sewing, and I thought this might be fun to do,” Kreuzburg said.

The sewing group was started by Dinnel about a year ago, and “it’s gone by fits and starts,” Dinnel said. The group is always looking for new volunteers and welcomes those of all sewing abilities, she said.

People interested in volunteering can contact Dinnel at 410-535-8538 or kdinnel@mdp.state.md.us.

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