Monday, September 22, 2008

Stitch Counters Ain't So Bad

Civil War Reenacting Definition: Threadcounter –A reenactor who insists on a historically accurate impression, down to fabric and buttonholes having the same threadcount typical of the time. The derogatory term for this same person is “stitch nazi.”

Many reenactors have this fear of - or being known as - a thread counter, and I'd like to know why? If one does their homework and purchases (or makes) period correct clothing, what is there to be afraid of? And why do so many knock the thread counters for wanting to be as accurate as they possibly can?
Let's take all of this one step at a time. First off, no one should ever fear a thread counter or a stitch nazi. Like I said, if you do your homework - I mean really do your research - then no one can say anything derogatory to or about you. Yes, this research will take some time and effort on your part, but if you are doing actual living history and not taking part in some costumed Hallowe'en-type fun, you should try to be as accurate in your presentation as you can, correct? So, while at an event, ask a well-known stitch counter for their advice. Better yet, ask two or three. Chances are, if they're a stitch "nazi," they may have already given their two cents anyhow. But, listen to what they have to say. Take notes. Then double check their information. They may be thread counters, but that doesn't mean they are always correct.
Find reputable sutlers - on line or at an event. But, remember - just because they set up at an event or have the claim of being an authentic sutler does not mean that they sell period correct items. They are in a business to make money so they could very well tell you what you want to hear just to make a sale.
Again, research.

The picture below shows not thread counters, but living historians who have done their research and can honestly portray themselves as ladies of the 1860's.
If you sew, find true period-correct patterns. Past Patterns and Homespun are usually pretty accurate, and many stitch counters use them.
Magazines - especially Citizens Companion -
is a great magazine to subscribe to (click the link to read my detailed review and to subscribe)

Something else to think on - - - - the men who do military impressions cannot - cannot - go onto the battlefield unless they have everything they need, from their kepis down to their brogans - they must be accurately dressed. And, they also - in nearly all units - have to attend numerous practice drills (the 21st Michigan has 5) before the new recruit is eligible to go onto the battlefield.

Why can't something similar to this be the case for the civilians as well? Are we less important? I repeatedly hold meetings for our civilians in the 21st Michigan, and have attended meetings with the MSAS - Michigan Soldier's Aid Society.
The meetings don't always work - there are still some who go their own way - but the rest of us do not give up. We continue to strive to represent our ancestors the best we can. And we can only hope those who go their own way will follow suit eventually.

If you are going to make the claim of being a reenactor / living historian, then do the rest of us a favor and don't just half-ass it. Please, take the time and do it correctly. I don't care if it takes you three years to get your outfit together, at least you are nearing your goal. Just throwing on whatever and saying "this is close enough" does not cut it, not when so many of us have taken the time and effort to present ourselves as correctly as we can possibly be.
Is this asking too much? Does this make me a stitch counter? Yes? Well, then, thank you. I take it as a compliment, even if you don't mean it to be so (although I do not go around giving advice to those who do not ask for it - I'm still learning, but at least I'm making the effort).

Sorry if I sound a bit harsh, but, as a friend of mine has said, I take my fun seriously. And if you plan to do something as important as living history, then maybe you should, too.


Fiber addikt said...

Definitely agree, but there are some other great patterns out there for women sewers and reenactors. The Past patterns bodice is my standard, then I've changed and adjusted it to work the dresses into designs like in my CDV's of the era. Thank goodness for quilting fabrics that are designed to be reproductions of period fabrics of museum collections! I see stitch counters are people that can help me improve my impression, but some people WANT to play dress up in their own way, and they don't want to hear it! They don't want to change, and they certainly don't care.

Fiber addikt said...

sorry, I forgot to careful with Citizen's Companion. There was recently an article in there on what "reenactors" do in their sewing. It told what percentage put, for examples, pockets in their dresses and the like. I don't want to know what reenactors do since a large percentage are not period correct, but I want to know about the originals. There is a lot of talk about what to sew, but if you make it in the wrong fabrics, it isn't period correct either. I would like to see more period information in CC.

Historical Ken said...

Thank you for both of your comments.
I agree that there are other fine patterns out there.
Yeah, and, unfortunately, many reenactors certainly add their little extra's. Nothing beats studying originals. I can't believe how many men wear incorrect shirts, believe it or not - usually in the collar.
The importance of research.
Thanks again!