Thursday, December 11, 2014

Book Review: Civil War Women

Cover Image: Civil War Women by Barbara Brackman

Civil War Women by Barbara Brackman stands out from her other selections in that it's explicitly aimed at reenactors.  As with Civil War Sampler and Facts & Fabrications, Civil War Women uses the device of quilts to explore women's lives during the Civil War.  Where this book differs is in the depth of each story and the historical provenance of the designs.

In another departure, instead of pairing each story to a block, these chapters each feature an entire quilt project (so you can't do one of each and end up with a sampler at the end).  Additionally, a sample reenacting activity is included with each chapter--so after you've read up on Confederate spies such as Lizzie Powell and Belle Edmondson, you can devise an impression smuggling goods and information.  The accompanying quilt to this chapter, of course, is a secessionist design inspired by the Confederate flag--one corner of which makes the cover illustration for this book.

With only nine chapters to cover, more room is allowed to each story and project; instead of half a page of history, you're getting four to six pages, and consequently more fun detail and period quotations (and images).  The projects are all based on originals, and come with the usual templates and instructions. Between the history and the patterns, there are a large number of beautiful original images included.

The activities suggestions are also a welcome addition.  We civilians are often overlooked in mainstream reenactment planning, so ideas of accurate activities in which to engage while attending existing events is helpful.  The proposals require varying levels of preparation, participation, and sanction--from sewing a tobacco pouch for your sweetheart to running a charity bazaar.  Considering the book's focus, it is not surprising that 5/9ths of them involve sewing in some capacity, but there are also ideas for speech-making, writing and more.  [Break From Review: For additional ideas on civilian reenactment activities, see Liz Clark's "Value-Added Events"]

Stars: 5 Stars
Accuracy: High. Researched, cited, & full of period illustrations.  All the quilts in this book are period appropriate (but mind which side you're meant to represent).
Difficulty: Varies from simple ("Kansas Troubles", "Free State Album") to complex ("Rocky Mountain"/"Crown of Thorns").  An advanced beginner could certainly make some (but not all) of the designs, but an absolute quilting novice would likely struggle.
Strongest Impression: A well-researched and well-cited book.  This would be a great introduction to reenacting for the quilter, and a valuable resource to the reenactor who's looking to incorporate quilting into her impression.  As with Civil War Sampler and Facts and Fabrications, the seamless inclusion of original images and quotations makes this book a good introduction to those intimidated by primary sources.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for commenting!