During the Civil War, there were two types of crochet projects. There wast the plain shirts, socks, hats, etc that were utilitarian and made in great abundance to be donated to soldiers and the needy. And then there was fancywork. I think we could all use a little more fancywork in our queue.
|Children's Soldier's Fair. Engraving by Davis. Originally published in The Tribute Book by Frank Goodrich, (New York: Derby and Miller, 1865).
Fancywork for Charity
The Charity Fair was perhaps the most important social event
in both North and South during the American Civil War (1861-1865). It was an
entertainment that people could enjoy with abandon since it was raising money
for "the cause." "Ladies' fairs" had been popular since about 1830 as a way to
support benevolent and political causes such as abolition (church fairs were
not yet common, and the term "bazaar"
would not be used until later in the century). Whatever they were called, it
was women who organized and started these fundraisers....
||Although named a "Charity Purse," Bart Elwell's spectacular
crocheted purse will become a favorite treasure bag. It's shown here with the page from the January 1862 issue of Peterson's Magazine showing the instructions and illustration he used to re-create the purse.
Photograph by Joe Coca.
Nearly any woman could contribute to a fair by supplying
handwork to sale booths. The objects that were considered appropriate were not
the practical "plain work" (shirts, socks, and bedding) that was sent directly
to the troops, but "elaborate nothings"-"fancywork" such as whimsical
pincushions and other sewing accessories, pen wipers, and lamp mats. Made to
"please the eye, gratify the senses and tickle the fancy," fancywork was
associated with good feeling and with abundance. The saleswomen at Civil
War-era fairs typically were attractive young ladies (their elders ran things
behind the scenes), who made the objects look especially appealing. Flirtatious
"wheedling" of male shoppers by the young ladies was expected and added to the
--Beverly Gordon, PieceWork
|My center motif for the Charity Purse.
I love the idea of fancywork, and if I had seen this charity
purse at a ladies' fair, I would have quickly added it to my collection. And
with Bart Elwell's interpretation of the 1874 Peterson's Charity Purse pattern I can create my own. I'm thinking
an elegant little classic clutch to go with the modern little black dress.
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P.S. What is your favorite fancywork project?