Hainsworth Samples Arrived
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Author:  BrianTWhite [ Mon Mar 22, 2010 5:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Hainsworth Samples Arrived


I just received a batch of samples from Hainsworth including their Rifle Green doeskin "slight seconds" and Re-Enactment Collection.

The photographs you see below are the new samples, two discontinued fabrics/colors, and some dark blue samples for comparison. The green row contains, from left to right: Windsor Collection Rifle Green, Richmond Green Cap Cloth, Rifle Green Doeskin "Slight Second," and Rifle Green Re-Enactment Collection Fabric. Both photos are in direct sunlight but at two different angles to try and show off the effects of metamerism (color and its relation under different light sources). Keep in mind that your computer screens (and mine) may not show these colors for what they truly are in person; because of this I will give my best opinion on each sample and their relation to original garments that I have studied.

Windsor Collection Rifle Green: This is the cloth that I previously stated would make the best U.S.S.S. enlisted frocks and trousers, however I recently learned that being an interior design cloth it contains 25% synthetic fiber and is also the incorrect weave. But don't worry because it's been discontinued anyway! I included it here because it compares nicely in color to the original Cpl. Henderson uniform coat (private collection).

Richmond Green Cap Cloth: Cap cloth is a tightly woven and moderately finished plain-woven material that was used very extensively in Civil War era forage caps. It's sometimes also called "facing cloth." The Gettysburg U.S.S.S. forage cap as well as caps worn by Sgt. J. T. Schermerhorn and Sgt. Lewis Allen are all made from plain weave wool such as this sample. The color is dark and has just a slight amount of yellow in the dye; this is consistent with at least one original U.S.S.S. cap contract; they were cut from indigo-dyed YELLOW facing cloth. This color and cloth is ideal but only available from Hainsworth as a custom color.

Rifle Green Doeskin "Slight Second:" Hainsworth's Doeskin wool is a superfine, twill woven broadcloth. Twill weave wool is what was used in both the Tilson and Henderson frock coats (and the majority of mounted jackets and frock coats), but this is nowhere near the same weight. It's thin but not shoddy or loosely woven; it's just made using really, really, ridiculously fine yarns. Fabric at this weight would make an absolutely excellent officer's uniform. Looking at it in front of me, the color is a perfect example of metamerism; at an angle to natural light it's an incredibly vibrant pure green with no yellow or blue hues in the dye. When looking directly at it, the color deepens dramatically....this is just how light plays to the human eye when it's bouncing off fabric that is finished or brushed/napped a certain way, etc.. It has a "front" or "face" by way of a directional brushed nap that is short and pressed down to give the fabric a very lustrous, shiny appearance. The back of the cloth is also finished but not as finely, and the twill weave is slightly visible. Like I said above, this would be great for officer's uniforms but I think it would also do for forage caps if you're not overly concerned about difference in weave or a slight hue variation.

Rifle Green Re-Enactment Fabric: This sample is within the color range of both original U.S.S.S. frocks I've examined but unfortunately is not the proper weight, weave, or finish of the same originals. It's slightly thicker than the doeskin by virtue of larger diameter wool yarns but it is simply not as densely woven or thick as original cloth. That isn't to say that there were variations in originals because there were, typically in color (the Tilson and Henderson frocks are made using FOUR slightly different hues of dark green) but commonly not in the weave itself. However, since options are limited I can see this being a viable source material for frocks and pants; even caps if you are not as big a stickler as I am!

In the last seven years of receiving samples from Hainsworth I have seen some truly amazing fabrics. Some of their older, now-discontinued materials would have been absolutely perfect up to about three years ago but back then the cost was incredibly prohibitive at upwards of $85 a meter without including overseas shipping! It's refreshing to see that they have some much more affordable fabrics on hand but unfortunately the samples simply don't compare well to the original U.S.S.S. coats I have studied. If these factors don't concern you and you are just after the right color then go for it. If you want

- Spend a long time learning how to dye fabric and try your hand at top-dyeing some dark blue cloth of the proper weight and weave (I've actually done this with very nice results but it's a delicate balance),

- Keep searching the market,

- And my favorite of all, custom finished, custom dyed fabric. Woolrich is ideal for this since they are able to weave, dye, and finish fabrics in-house. I am not joking when I say I have thought this through in order to get the "ultimate" U.S.S.S. cloth. They offer a lighter weight, tightly woven, virgin wool twill flannel that is, on it's own, too light weight for U.S.S.S. uniforms. However, if Woolrich were to take this cloth, custom dye it, and then finish it to the specs of original uniform coats (or at the very least like their heavier trouser kersey) then we got something. There are sizable minimums involved with custom work like this and of course the end price of the material could be a bit higher than any of us are used to paying...but it will still be affordable and in my opinion worth it if the resulting cloth is truly accurate. Left over fabric from a custom run like this can be easily spread out to interested parties in the reenacting community; guys could buy a few yards and hoard it, availability may lead to more people doing the U.S.S.S. impression, it could be sold to larger "factory" companies here in the states, and I know of at least TWO museums that I intend on making replica frocks for display who would buy some. We deal with Woolrich here at the business so I could try to get in touch and see about prices, yardage, et cetera if enough people are interested.

Hope this has been some help to those who are looking for new or replacement uniform pieces. For those of you who do not know me and think that my observations and opinions above are a little crazy, I've been searching for the ultimate coat/trouser/cap cloth for about a decade. I also make C.W. uniforms for a living patterned from originals; I have a strong personal and business standard that I adhere to which allows me to offer some of the best products on the market. This desire to "measure twice, cut once" or maybe "do it once, do it right" most definitely extends into the material culture aspect of my U.S.S.S. impression.



Author:  Snuffy [ Mon Mar 22, 2010 9:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hainsworth Samples Arrived

Thanks for the great info and pics! A great help to someone like me just getting started out. I do hope you work something out with woolrich.

Author:  BrianTWhite [ Tue Mar 23, 2010 3:05 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Hainsworth Samples Arrived


Thank you for the kudos. My main concern with having custom dyed and finished cloth by Woolrich is the cost. There is no way that I could shoulder the cost of the project alone but if there was enough interest or commitments of others to purchase some fabric once the run is complete it could be a real option. A correctly woven, finished, and dyed dark green cloth can be had in volume enough to satisfy the wants/needs of both current and future U.S.S.S. enthusiasts.

Author:  Bill Skillman [ Tue Mar 23, 2010 9:01 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Hainsworth Samples Arrived


Excellent, detailed post and your comments about the challenges of finding the 'ultimate USSS material; is spot on.

When I discussed the possibility of having Woolrich make up a custom run of USSS coat cloth with Chris Sullivan in 1998; he commented that it would cost "about $35,000". I didn't even bother to ask how many yards would be part of that order since it coincided with the amount I still owed on the mortgage for our first house.

Even if we were successful in getting enough USSS reenactors to put up money to entice Woolrich to make a special order/custom run; then we'd need to hire a firm to manufacture the uniform coats. The range of options that would have to be incorporated into a line of 'basic commercial' to 'ulitmate, museum grade' coats would be daunting, to say the least.

Continuing with the Hainsworth contract? Do they weave a blue broadcloth that better matches the original specifications (using Sgt. Tilson/Cpl. Henderson material as the 'gold standard') of existing USSS coats? Then is there a commercial dyer who could be secured to top dye it yellow to produce the desired color, hue and metamisms as the originals? I know this can be a very risky proposition. Recall when we asked Pat Kline to produce USSS material circa 2000 he sent it to a dyer who had done work for the US Govt. Instead of the rich Rifle Green color we wound up with fabric approaching WW2 dark OD. Pat took a serious financial drubbing and we/USSS became persona non grata among the authentic community. Bad deal all around.

Indiana Jones has nothing on us when it comes to trying to find rare and unique treasures.

Bill Skillman
Randolph Mess-USSS

Author:  BrianTWhite [ Tue Mar 23, 2010 2:50 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hainsworth Samples Arrived


I am fairly certain that Chris was either exaggerating the cost of custom dyed/finished material from Woolrich or misunderstood the cost. On the other hand, the estimate could have been accurate but for custom woven cloth. The idea I have is to use cloth that they already produce but custom dye it and custom finish it. Take Dan's C.S. issue blanket project; no doubt you saw those up close when you were at his house last week. The original blanket is so unique, so particular, that the reproductions had to be created from nothing; we needed to have custom dyed-in-the-fleece yarn that then had to be spun into two thicknesses, then woven in the four-panel herringbone pattern of the original. The original wasn't even finished in any way aside from getting wet in the field so that step was unnecessary for our purposes.

Good U.S.S.S. cloth does not really have to be custom woven because the correct weave of cloth already exists; cutting out the actual weaving process in a large project like this will save a lot of preparatory research, a lot of time, and a lot of money. Making sure the color and finish is correct will be the primary concern.

The old Pat Kline produced U.S.S.S. cloth is not bad. The color is all dark green but with varying hues per batch, just like the original cloth, although some of it still contains too much yellow or red in the dye making it look more like a dark olive-drab or brownish. The Tilson uniform coat has varying shades/hues of cloth used for interior facings while the Henderson coat is an entirely different, deeper, richer shade of green throughout. This is ultimately a result of what shade/hue of dark blue the coat cloth was before it was top-dyed with yellow. Indigo is fickle; water temperature, pH, "rest" times between dips in the dye bath, etc. can all affect the final result (see picture below). But breaking down the process of how the original coat cloth was produced goes something like this....

1.) Raw wool fleece is sorted and graded by quality,
2.) The raw fleece is cleaned and scoured to remove dirt, sweat, lanolin, plant matter, etc.,
3.) The fleece is then carded and indigo dyed to dark blue. Indigo by nature produces rich blue hues that contain no red and do not look purple or Navy blue, but the shade/hue can vary (see picture below).
4.) The dyed fleece is spun into yarn. Sometimes the dyeing process begins after the yarn was spun.
5.) The yarn is woven into unfinished coat cloth. This is called loom-state or greige. It will be tightly woven but visibly twill like Pat Kline's old sack coat flannel only finer.
6.) The loom-state dark blue cloth is top-dyed with a chemical or light-fast vegetable yellow dye to achieve a dark green color.
7.) The loom-state dark green cloth is finished in a mill. This includes: fulling (immersing in water to make the fibers interlock), crabbing (permanently setting the interlock), decating (shrink-proofing), napping (scratching the cloth surface with tiny hooks to raise the wool fibers), and calendering (pressing the cloth between hot rollers, giving it a uniform shiny appearance). Dyeing can now be done during the finishing process, say, between fulling and calendering. The unworn, unexposed areas of the Tilson and Henderson frocks still retain a shiny, almost velvet-like finish leading me to believe that the dyeing was done before finishing.
8.) The finished cloth was shipped to Schuylkill Arsenal for storage until needed. Government tailors and draftsmen would cut both uniform coats and trousers from this cloth including interfacing, lining, pocketing, trim, and batting/wadding. These kits were distributed directly to the women of Philadelphia and sewn entirely by hand. Schuylkill Arsenal disallowed the use of sewing machines beyond the production of canteen covers and forage caps; locals produced everything for them by hand as a form of social welfare. The result was no two uniform coats cut or constructed entirely the same.

Which leads to the question of constructing great looking uniforms once the cloth can be had. In my experience a lot of modern patterns for Civil War uniforms are drafted poorly and inaccurately compared to originals. This can be remedied by sourcing a proper pattern; not only do Dan and I have several in storage but Charlie Childs, Jim Ruley, Chris Daley, and various smaller vendors are all sources for a good frock pattern. After the coat is cut using a good pattern there is the matter of construction. This is another problem with many standard hobby vendors; they cut corners in manufacturing, they have a tendency to mass produce clothing poorly, clothing is manufactured in India or Pakistan, incorrect type of thread, machine-sewn buttonholes, not enough hand-sewing, et cetera. Again this can be remedied by finding people who understand how originals were produced and have experience at making good reproductions. I'll go one step beyond and suggest that in order to get a really accurate U.S.S.S. coat, then every visible stitch would have to be hand sewn. It's simply a mimic of the original garments without resorting to EVERY single seam being hand-sewn, because honestly, who is going to look under the interior seam allowances to check? The all-visible stitching by hand method is likely how I will make my own uniform and the very least I would do. I will also say that mass producing authentic uniforms can work too so long as those making them are trained properly and are supervised by someone who understands how original uniforms were made and can parley that into reproductions.

I could say that this leads into the variety of buttons to use on the coats, and how those can be made accurately too, but I think I hear my soap box creaking under my weight.

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