Saturday, January 26, 2013

Forging Ahead - An 18th Century Military Neckstock

         Upon realizing that I would ruin the surprise if I posted pictures of my nephew's red and black baby quilt, I decided to go with a different bit of unfinished business; a new neckstock for my darling, patient husband.

          To paraphrase Ralphie in A Christmas Story;  Neckstock? What's a neckstock? It's the forerunner to that wonderful fashion accessory, the necktie. All the rage in the 18th and 19th centuries!

          We began doing 18th century re-enacting about 7 years ago, and I have made most of our clothes since then. However, Bob's neckstock is a pitiful little off -the-rack strip of black cotton and two back ties that we are constantly losing. It also scrunches down into a thin little strip when he wears it, and doesn't look that good. Besides, his friend E has a really nice one with the period correct military buckle to hook it together in the back (to make it even more uncomfortable) and he likes to have whatever E has. I decided he had worn that little sad one long enough!

             I got a piece of black handkerchief linen, ordered the appropriate buckle from Smiling Fox Forge and decided to wing it. Based on some extant garments I have seen, as well as many photographs of same, I believe that there was a lot of winging it that went on with sewing in the past when there were no patterns and no written directions, and maybe you couldn't read them if there were. So I grabbed my fabric and started pleating. I wanted stacked pleats - very crisp. No.1 is a bad picture of a bad idea. I thought I would try it without any stitches to hold the pleats. I worked on it and worked on it - pleated, repleated, pinned, repinned -then I put it on the desk and ran away.

              Finally, after walking past it numerous times, it became clear that it must be done a different way in order to actually accomplish the look I wanted . So, in need of a project to sit in front of the TV with, and to allay any guilt at Bob's not having a proper neckstock, I took it apart and started over. This time, I took my time, marked everything, folded and pressed, and ran a running stitch along the lines to make the pleats, sizing the pleats to hide the stitching once they were pressed down into place. See picture 5, below.

              This has turned out to be a good idea, and now all that needs to happen is for me to make the tabs with the handsewn buttonholes for the buckle posts, interface the fabric and stitch the back closed. Then Bob will literally be able to hold his head high among the other re-enactors wandering the grounds of public parks and historic homes.

Thanks for checking in with me!

Lord Cornwallis and his Neckstock.

From the Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston

1. First attempt, and definitely the hard way to do it. Bad pic; nice photo of the neckstock buckle, though.

2.Carefully pinning in the pleats this time.

3.Almost there...

4.Pins marking where the tabs with the buttonholes will be attached. No, they aren't done yet.
5.Pleats pressed in. The buckle is attached to either side by putting the little posts through buttonholes in the tabs, which aren't there yet. The lower section will be folded to the back and stitched, after adding some interfacing. Some of the originals actually had paper inside of them to add stiffness.

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