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Saturday last saw the launch of History Space, the collaborative project of the Rhode Island Historical Society and the Newport Historical Society designed to help living history practitioners and reenactors acquire the clothing and skills needed to bring the past to life.

Many parts to a frock coat.

Scheduling being what it is, we plunged right in to hands-on work with Easy Grace and Comfort, a two-day man’s frock coat workshop with Henry Cooke. We saved enormous amounts of time in the workshop by having Mr Cooke cut coat kits for participants, and I know it was well worth every penny.

There is much less on-body fitting when Mr Cooke cuts a coat for the kid than when I do. (I think the Young Mr grows while I am trying to figure it out, but Henry cuts fast enough to head him off.)

Buckram and button stands

Buckram and button stands

The most painful part of the whole thing (if fitting is largely done) is stitching on the buckram interfacing and the button stand. The zig-zag stitch as demonstrated by Henry was fairly easy to get the hang of when you caught the rhythm, but the tightness of the Red Edge stand tested my needle and even my fingertips.

There were some complaints at one table, largely voiced by the Fifer Formerly Known as Lambchop, who awaits his 10th Mass name.


We made it all the way to sleeves, which is impressive, considering that some of the gentleman had not made more than a haversack or knapsack before. But if you can backstitch, and have some help with your fitting, you can make a coat.

I happen to like sleeves, myself, stitching them up and setting them in the garment. I think it’s the three-dimensionality of them that appeals to me– and I like a good challenge.

And here we are: sleevil one.

It’s critical to pay attention, though, so you make one left and one right sleeve, and to keep track of them as you set them to the garment body. I sometimes mark mine with chalk, and have even pinned notes to the pieces when feeling especially daft.

I’ve made it to an assembled coat body and sleeves, with one sleeve basted on. Before Saturday, I plan to baste on the second sleeve and test fit sleeve set on the boy. I’ll also try to get pocket flaps made. Since I have a talk to write and a bedgown to finish as well, I’m probably dreamin’ big.

When this suit is done, the Young Mr will have a very nice blue ensemble that includes breeches (join in the fun here) and a waistcoat. I think he’ll look rather nice, and better than he has previously. I still want to make lower-class* clothes for him, but first he does need a nice suit.

*I said urchin, but Mr Cooke said urchins can’t be over 6 feet tall. Basking sharks are big, but in this blue-grey suit, perhaps the Young Mr will finally be a grey reef shark.