Post details: Reproduction vs. Reality - Of stitch counters and rivet counters...


Reproduction vs. Reality - Of stitch counters and rivet counters...

From the desk of Matthew Double-Decker-Bus-Guy Didier...

History, for Sue and myself... and our whole family... is more than just a subject, it literally is a part of our lives in what we do aside from those things that earn our daily bread.

As some of you may (or may not) be aware, we are also "living historians"... re-enactors... people who put on funny clothes and pretend to be in a time which they ain't.

Our era of "choice" is the early nineteenth-century in Upper Canada... the War of 1812 to be precise. Both Sue and I are "kitted out" and although we haven't been able to be as big a part of things over the last four years as we'd like to be, we do keep our fingers in the pie, so to speak, with an eye to returning at some point in the not-so-distant future.

Through this hobby, one gets to dress, drill, camp, and even eat like it's the period which they portray at historic sites relevant to the era... of course within limits of modern hygene, safety, and whatnot... but to the "outward appearance", it's about as true to 1812 - 1815 as one can get.

It's a great family friendly hobby... until one bumps into The Stitch Counters.

That tunic! It's not made of the RIGHT type of wool! The red is at least two shades off, the stitching was done by a machine and...

Those shoes... are those RUBBER soles on those shoes????

...and my favourite...

You! You have a moustache and beard! That's NOT PROPER!

Yes, The Stitch Counters... they not only ask for but DEMAND authenticity.

Now, I'm all for this... to a degree... but they have a problem sorting out "hobby" from "way of life". (Side Note: I often qualify certain sci-fi fans this way... those that understand 'X' movie or TV show was an entertaining production and those that get confused and think they are a way of life...)

...meanwhile, back from digressing...

I can understand avoiding nylon as an 1812 re-enactor... we deal with a lot of things involving fire... camp fires, flash-pan sparks, etc., and nylon would be highly dangerous... so nylon tunics and pants would be bad... and we all should SOMEWHAT match... despite, historically, this not being the case. In 1812, they TRIED to keep everyone "uniform", but due to equipment troubles, wear-and-tear, it never really worked out that way... some soldiers being described as "nearly naked" for lack of provisions...

Still, this doesn't deter The Stitch Counters.

They dictate the amount of stitches on the tunic and pants (BY HAND) and colour (as someone who in youth worked at a paint store, WE didn't demand as exact matching) and whatnot.

Then there's the anachronistic free encampments... this I totally understand. When the public visits an encampment, there should be NO modern things visible. They should feel as if they've stepped back in time when they wander through... which is fine... but The Stitch Counters WINCE when they see someone using an inflatable bed in their tent (despite it being well hidden by wool blankets) or if they catch a small peek of a food-cooler's corner from inside a tent... this sends them into spasms of anger.

Then there's my beard and moustache (and I'm not alone!)

There's FACIAL HAIR in MY line! My life is RUINED!



Now, it's true... facial hair was frowned upon (but not unknown) in the armies way back then... problem is, for me and others, the beard and 'stache are more than a fashion statement. I have a "young face". Last time I shaved, I was asked for I.D. to prove I was over eighteen to purchase cigarettes! (I'm forty right now...) So, without the beard and moustache, I look like a VERY young man. This is a good thing really... except in business where I need to be accepted as a professional... and sadly, too many won't accept a "very young man" as a professional... hence my facial hair.

However, I have actually heard (and read) where indeed, The Stitch Counters moan and complain that people like me have RUINED their experience!

(...this despite me finding a historical fellow in one of my regiments who did indeed sport a beard...)

Here's my take on all this...

#1: I'd love to be 100% authentic... but safety and real life must come first. Nylons and plastics are unsafe... wool is the order of the day... amongst other things... and my facial hair... if I'm dressed in my "red coat", is it not possible that a soldier in line forgot to shave one day and had a bad "face-hair" day?

#2: If safety is met and the veneer is good that the other re-enactors and the public "can't tell", what's the harm? Can a Stitch Counter truly say that he or she can tell my tunic was sewn by a machine while in line of battle?

I admire The Stitch Counters... and sure, it would be interesting if we could experience the period "perfectly"... but all things within measure and reason.

The 1812-ers are head and shoulders above The Society for Creative Anachronism who dress in late-Medieval/early-Renaissance garb for their outtings... but deftly avoid the issues of lack of personal hygiene of the period, illnesses (most notably, the plague), whacky-diet, caste-system, et al of the REAL period... in fact, the line from Monty Python's The Holy Grail springs to mind with these folks...

Da Boyz

Dead-Gatherer: Who's that then?
Peasant: I don't know.
Dead-Gatherer: Must be a king.
Peasant: Why?
Dead-Gatherer: He hasn't got sh*t all over him.

...anyway, back in 1812... as most of you, I would assume, are simply "The Viewing Public" to events like this... would YOU care if one of the fellows in that scarlet line isn't wearing wool socks?

Yeah, I didn't think so.

Oh, and did you believe that I only have run into The Stitch Counters in my travels and hobbies?


Enter The Rivet Counters.

You folks know that our whole family are trying to "rescue" an old double-decker bus, right?

If not, please click here.

Anyway, did you know there is a contingent who are ACTIVELY working against us?

There are!

The Rivet Counters are those in the "bus enthusiast" realm who believe that all antique buses must be perfectly preserved to their original form and must be in their country of origin... England.

Yup, we are not worthy or capable of the ownership of our bus as we will most likely not replace every broken or non-working item with an exact duplicate of the original... right down to the seat-fabric.

In their eyes, and they'll rarely publicly admit this, a bus is better scrapped then in the hands of someone who'd make an effort to restore it in some fashion... especially those of us outside their birth country of England! We're the worst! Just ask 'em!

Now, again, I understand their point of view... they truly don't want to see these buses scrapped (which is often the fate of the buses in North America due to the rarity of parts and expense involved in maintaining them) and they don't wish to see the "original versions" more-or-less destroyed in the quest for convenience and functionality for the new owner(s).

The trouble is, in our case, for example, there ARE historically preserved examples of model of bus in England... several of them actually... so it's not like our's is truly "one of a kind" except to us.

Secondly, if we don't do something, it's not like the current owner in California is going to suddenly ship the bus home to waiting hands of loving new owners who will look after and perfectly historically preserve her... she's far more likely to end up as a four-by-four cube of semi-recyclable materials in a wrecking yard.

...but, again, to some this is "preferable" to us possibly putting a rivet in the wrong place or fixing the seats with a "different colour" of fabric. (I kid you not.)

I got into these whackos faces and said their attitude reminds me of the Bedouins suddenly demanding the return of ALL Arabian horses because the rest of us don't know how to look after and maintain them.

The logic of "better running and in shape and being looked after than scrapped" is alien to these folks....

Rivet Counters, meet The Stitch Counters.

I will be totally honest... I LOVE real history... I LOVE "authentic" vs. "reproduction"... I don't want a historic site to become a Disney village...

...but I'm also a realist.

I'd rather see a Disney village on a historic site then it bulldozed for a strip mall... at least it would be SOMEWHAT preserved...

...and to be honest, since "hand stitching" my tunic would cost me more than a used compact car and since our bus will be most likely scrapped before it's shipped to England to act as a museum piece, I think I'll take my middle-ground views.

Before leaving you to ponder these historic purists, allow me to impart ONE last thing...

In the War of 1812 mailgroup, I got into it with a muckee-muck about the re-enacting community about my beard... and he stuck to his DEMANDING historical perfection.

I responded thusly...

Sir, since you're so stuck on historical accuracy at events, pray that I do not find you using the "modern conveniences" like the toilets at the next event we're at together or I shall call you out!

It amused many of the other more realistic folks in our hobby!



Comment from: Kim Jamieson [Visitor]
In 1812, what was the typical life expectancy of the average 'Joe in the field'? If any of your 'Stitch Counters' are in the realm of 'senior', it could be that back then, they'd have been members of the spirit world by now; so, by listening to them would put you into the group that would listen to ghosts. Wouldn't it? I mean, gotta have accuracy, right? ;)

On the other hand, paying homage to the past is a tribute more than the rest of us ever make, so I would just enjoy the whole thing and not sweat the 'analities' of the fun. After all, my late great grandma told us stories of the War of 1812 that she heard from HER great grandmother, who was a little girl at the time, and it wasn't anything I would want to live through myself. Maybe the 'Stitch Counters' should think about that...
Have a good weekend!!
PermalinkPermalink 04/28/07 @ 15:07
Comment from: MsDemmie [Visitor] ·
Confesses to knowing a "stitch Counter" - you outline many of their traits .............. thanks for the smile!

PermalinkPermalink 04/28/07 @ 17:08
Comment from: matthew [Member] Email ·
Hey Kim... Life expectancy wasn't too far from what it is now... but yeah, the average soldier would be a lot younger than the "mean age" of 1812-ers in the field. Oh well, no matter what logic is applied, the Stitch Counters wouldn't care... after all, it's their hobby! :)

Hey MsDemmie... Oh no, not one of them! What era are they sticklers for?
PermalinkPermalink 04/28/07 @ 21:00
Comment from: MsDemmie [Visitor] ·
Very similar to yours - Wellington/Regency era is their particular favourite.
PermalinkPermalink 04/29/07 @ 11:03
Comment from: Chris (remoteplanet) [Visitor] ·
Great and entertaining post! :-D

PermalinkPermalink 05/02/07 @ 10:34



Allowed XHTML tags: <p, ul, ol, li, dl, dt, dd, address, blockquote, ins, del, span, bdo, br, em, strong, dfn, code, samp, kdb, var, cite, abbr, acronym, q, sub, sup, tt, i, b, big, small>
(Line breaks become <br />)
(Set cookies for name, email and url)
(Allow users to contact you through a message form (your email will NOT be displayed.))
What kind of tyme do we wish to pass with good companye? (Try past)

Pastime with Good Company

Pastyme With Good Companye

Welcome to the blog of amateur historians Matthew James Didier and Sue Darroch. Partners in life and in crime, we endeavor to entertain you with snippets from our combined historical research. Past time with good company indeed, as we shall introduce you to Kings and Knaves, Queens and Mistresses, Cons and Heroes, from our collective past......from events well known to those perhaps all but forgotten, we will do our best to bring you interesting historical factoids from around the globe. It is our belief that through understanding our past we will all gain a better perspective on our future.

Related Links

Disclosure Policy

Meet The History Buff

Ask The History Buff

Sticky Note For Historians

The History Nook - History Themed Items & Books At Great Prices

The Paranormal Blog

Nuttin' But Pimp

Life in the Urban Zoo

One Old Green Bus

Demeter SRC - My Genealogy Website

Friends and Acquaintances

Life At The Edge

The Spicy Cauldron

Eileens Free Tips

Pointless Directives

Musings of Khlari

What Will I Know Tomorrow?

Robin's Blog Blather


The Educational Tour Marm

Grokodile Blog Directory - Add Your Blog

Blog Soldiers

Sponsored Links and Businesses

MYLOT-Get Paid To Write

Text Link Ads

Mechincal Nonsense

November 2010
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
<< <     
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30          



XML Feeds

What is RSS?

powered by

Click here for the...


Click here for the...


Click here for the...


Click here for the...