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 Post subject: Re: Green Frock Material
PostPosted: Sat Feb 12, 2011 9:31 pm 

Joined: Fri Nov 07, 2008 11:18 am
Posts: 164
This seemed like the appropriate thread for it, so here goes.

There's been a lot of experimentation over the years with dyeing green fabric darker to get it within the range of the original USSS uniform coats and trousers. My own methods first involved using browns and blues to top-dye the standard Woolrich-made "emerald green" kersey that was used for years (if not decades) but I never achieved that perfect "evergreen" color with a hint of blue. The most obvious answer to the top-dye method was in front of me the entire time and it was only recently that I realized that BLUE fabric could be dyed with yellow to achieve the proper color. Tonight was the first time in several years that I tried it and the results were great.

Historically, the very first material used for the sharpshooter's uniforms was purchased from England and made by Martin Bros. of New York City. Later, in early 1862, a special request for new frocks, caps, and trousers was placed with Schuylkill Arsenal in Philadelphia; having no green cloth on hand, S.A. sent regulation dark blue uniform coat cloth (twill weave, med. weight, for coats and trousers) and yellow facing cloth (plain weave, light weight, for caps) to Horstmann Bros. & Company for top-dyeing with yellow and blue respectively. The coat cloth was sent to S.A. for making up into coats/trousers while the cap cloth was sent to George Hoff to be made into forage caps. Original, S.A. manufactured and field-issued uniform coat fabric is a true dark green color with a strong tinge of blue still prevalent; think "evergreen tree" color.

Back to modern applications. Using one package of crystallized RIT Golden Yellow dye, 1/4 cup of kosher salt, 1/2 Tbsp. liquid dish soap, 1.5 gallons of water, and approximately 8 (weight)o unces of dry Woolrich kersey I was able to get a beautiful and 90% accurate dark green color. Since these were samples I cut the RIT suggested proportions of dye bath material and fabric in half but used full-strength dye. The fabric used was Woolrich #5100-206 Midnight Blue and #5100-237 Military Navy. The Midnight Blue fabric leans towards Navy Blue in that it does contain some red in the dye, causing it to have a "purple" hue in some light. The Military Navy fabric is the next shade lighter and is more of a "bright" dark blue without red in the dye. Both materials were simmered in a stainless steel pot for half an hour, rinsed in hot-to-cold water until the water ran clear, drip-dried, and ironed. The samples also shrunk and thickened a bit but it's nothing a good hot iron didn't fix. I say that the finished colors were "90% accurate" but this is due to the DOUBLED amount of dye/HALVED amount of water/salt/soap; the samples are the proper "darkness" but have just a slight hint of yellow/olive green (which the originals don't). Your mileage may vary.

I will note here that I have also made up samples in the past using the method above but using Woolrich's flannel. The results were similar to what I had with the heavier kersey but since it's flannel the material will be lighter weight. Top-dyed dark blue flannel would make into excellent private purchase sack coats and perhaps uniform coats and even forage caps.

This is just a stop-gap until some other source becomes available in quantity. Or, if you want to play Dr. Frankenstein with some fabric this might be a permanent solution for your uniform fabric needs! Links to the material I used is below. You'll see that they sell 15-yard bolts at wholesale price so all you need is to cut the material into sizable pieces for dyeing or get a huge tub!

Brian White
Wambaugh, White, & Company
Randolph Mess, U.S. Sharpshooters

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