Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Jacobite reenactment in Scotland

A great shot from the recent event at the Highland Folk Museum in Scotland.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Drawstring fileadhbeag - construction method.

Recently I have been getting a lot of questions re the fitting of a drawstring to an 18th century fileadhbeag ( small plaid ) the same construction method can also be employed when making the fileadhmuir ( large plaid ) .  I would first like to offer my thanks to Daniel Cespedes who advised me in the 1st place how to use this method. Since then I have made 6 plaids using belt loops and it works very well and makes the plaid very easy to put on each time.

The Tartan : If you are trying to recreate an 18th century fileadhbeag or the larger fileadhmuir and want it to look authentic purchase some non clan tartan in muted colours - Harris tweed makes some fantastic tartans which are very suitable for this project - you may get a shock at the price per mtr but please remember this is hand woven in Scotland and very high quality , it is well worth the money !

First step : For the fileadhbeag you will need 3.5 - 4 mtrs in length so lay it out and see what it looks like , my first one was made out of some left over tartan ( not Harris Tweed ) and it was too short ! , no problem as if you are careful you can match the setts and sew them together to achieve the required length , pictured below is a photo showing the tartan pinned together ready for sewing , if the join is between sets it will not be seen as it will be inside the pleat.

After you have the total length you then need to figure out the width, it will be different depending on your leg length. But remember the fileadhbeag & the fileadhmuir were worn a lot shorter than the modern Victorian kilts that are popular today, some detailed accounts mention them being worn at mid thigh !. Find your natural waist then run a tape measure down to were you want it to stop . For me it was about 40cm add another 5cm for the turn down . Next you need to measure the length of the apron , this section does not require any belt loops and I made mine at 55cm . You need to make this at both ends , you can make it slightly longer or shorter to suit the sett if required.  The first one I made used 12 tape loops but my Harris tweed one uses 14 loops . Pictured below is the 12 loops sewn in place . 

To figure where the loops need to go take a look at the tartan sett and decide how deep you want the pleats ( they do look better deeper ) then place pins about 5cm down from the top and cut your loops. try placing the belt loops on every 2nd sett to see what it looks like ,Even though the loops will never be seen they do look better made out of the same tartan, you can fold them over double and sew them to make them stronger if need. They could also be made out of linen tape , leather etc. Pictured below is a photo of me working on my first Harris Tweed fileadhbeag with matching belt loops. The loops I made were about 3cm wide x 10cm long this will allow a wider belt to be used if needed, although the belt I have used was just some linen tape or woven cord which I found very comfortable. 

Take your time and hand sew every belt loop on well , they need to be strong as this is what will hold the pleat shape in place once gathered with the drawstring.  The picture below shows my red check fileadhbeag with a woven tape for the drawstring in place. Once all the belt loops are sewn on and the belt , cord is threaded through the loops you will get an idea of what the pleats look like , of course you can always do a test with the loops help in place with pins top and bottom to see what it will look like once finished. 

The above picture shows the over apron rolled up and the under laid out flat , someone else was using the table !. Now is time for a test fitting , take off the horrible trousers and throw them away as you will not be needing them anymore ! Hold the pleated section together and put it around your waist at the back, then do a bow at the front with your belt or cord. The two apron ends will be hanging down so just take the right under apron and fold it over to the left side and then take the left over apron and fold it over to your right side. Have your kilt belt nearby and put it on with the buckle at the front. The top will now fold down covering the belt. 

You can easily adjust the pleats whilst wearing it , by checking your rear end in a full length mirror or your lassie may offer you a helping hand to adjust the pleats. Once you have worn it a few times it is very simple to put on and if folded carefully will lay over a regular trouser coat hanger ready for the next time you want to wear it. The pleats should look natural as pictured below and there is no need to iron it nor sew the pleats down at all. 

The turn over at the top will be hidden by your waistcoat and should look like an authentic 18th century fileadhbeag. You can easily employ the same method to the fileadhmuir and you will no longer have to lay your plaid out on the ground and pleat it each time. While this has been the common method , I personally do not believe everybody rolled around in the wet, boggy ground pleating their plaid every time they wore it . The drawstring method makes a lot of sense and recently there has been research that shows a drawstring was sometimes employed in hold the pleats together .

For further reading and a more in depth historical study of the drawstring method check out the great 2004 article by Matthew Newsome  Did the early belted plaid have a draw string !  I hope this detailed post has been informative and should offer enough info for you to try making your own drawstring plaid .  

Best of luck 
Don Speden - Jacobite in Japan

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Over night hike reenactment

As there are no 18th century history events for the Jacobite period here in Japan , I usually entertain myself with making period kit and doing research. But this October if the weather allows me a couple of fine days I plan to do a hike to a camping spot up in the mountains overnight. My regular work schedule currently does not give me a lot of free time but I think I have come up with a plan to make use of what little free time I have to go camping before it gets to cold - at present it is just too hot for what I have in mind.

The Plan :  To walk from my inner city apartment to the main train station 2.8km then catch a train to the countryside town of Suibara and from there walk 11km out of the town to a free riverside campsite that I like. Highlights of the walk will include lots of concrete roads unfortunately but I will pass a lagoon, the fantastic award winning Swan Lake craft brewery which opens daily at 11am and a much needed fresh water spring. The total distance from Suibara train station to the campsite at 200 mtrs elevation is only 11km but I will be wearing full 18th century Jacobite kit and carrying everything that I need. I will be dressed similar to what you can see below plus I will also be carrying a period water canteen.

At present the plan is not to take a tent but to sleep rough outdoors at the campsite , in case of rain there is a covered shelter nearby . Cooking will be done over a campfire next to the river and as I will not be carrying any pots nor pans all cooking will be done over the open fire. Extra rations will be some bread and cheese and the main evening meal will be some meat and vege . For breakfast I will make porridge and one nice part about the 2nd day is I will get to take an outdoor hot spring in the mountain village before retracing my steps back to the station. Pictured below is a map showing the main route .

I would rather be walking on unsealed gravel roads , but as they are few and far between in Japan unlike my home country of New Zealand I am making the best of what I have . I have cycled the route several times and know it well and even though its a short distance it will be a good test for any future trips that I might want to do. Pictured below is a screen shot from the bridge looking down upon the Oku Murusugi campsite, There is a toilet block to the left of the picture but the nice green area next to the river offers a great place for a campsite either above or below the dam.