civil war women’s shawl
Here in the foothills of the Rockies, the weather is changing; most of the leaves are down from the trees (and our hens are enjoying the addition to their cozy bedding!), and mornings are often glittered with frost.
For those anticipating some cool-weather history opportunities, consider adding one of the most basic mid-century outerwear pieces to your own collection. A simple self-fringed shawl is appropriate to men, women, children, and infants of all stations in life, and can be made either single (a width of fabric, squared) or double (twice as long as it is wide, folded to a square and then a triangle for use.)
Look for lightweight (4-8 ounce per square yard, or “tropical/summer” weight) to mid-weight (8-12 ounce) wools in gorgeous solids, plaids, or stripes (that don’t holler business suit) for shawls. The fabric need not be overly thick or stiff; you want it to mold and drape around the body easily, and thick, stiff wools won’t do that. The multiple layers created when a square or rectangular shawl is folded for use insulate very nicely, even when the weather is damp.
Worsted wools will have the smoothest feel, as they are made from longer-staple wool fibers, carded in one direction and then spun and woven. The better qualities of worsted wool have a silky finish that many who’ve only known wool as a scratchy, bulky torture device won’t even recognize as wool!
Sheer wools are an option for those of us who run warm, but want a little something (the two layers of sheer wool when my favorite shawl is folded are delightfully and deceptively cozy!)
For size, 54″ or 60″ widths are the most flexible in use, but if you’re making one for a little girl, go with 45″ x 45″; 36″ x 36″ for tiny toddler folks who won’t be snuggled up “in arms” (for those infants, the adult-sized shawls are easiest.)
Click through to the project titled Make a Fringed Shawl in the Compendium (you’ll need a PDF reader installed on your device in order to access any of our free projects).
One tip on the fringing: carefully snip from the edge toward the center of the shawl, every 3-4 inches or so, and you’ll have very short segments that fringe quickly and easily. Also, use a chopstick, skewer, stiletto, or seam ripper to get between the threads and pull them toward the edge.
These make an excellent gifts or items for a loaner trunk. The monetary investment is very small compared to the usefulness of the shawl, in the short and long-term. The best “make-do” pieces are those that are fully historically accurate, and inexpensive, and easy to accomplish!