Class to teach construction of Spencer jacket

  • Jennifer-Ehle-wears-a-Spencer-jacket

    Jennifer Ehle wears a Spencer jacket in PBS’ production of ‘Pride and Prejudice.’

  • Jennifer Ehle wears a Spencer jacket in PBS’ production of ‘Pride and Prejudice.’
    Jennifer Ehle wears a Spencer jacket in PBS’ production of ‘Pride and Prejudice.’

    MONROE — If you sew and are interested in history, the River Raisin National Battlefield Park may have just the event for you.

    On Nov. 17, it is sponsoring the latest in its Fashions of Frenchtown Women Workshops at the United Way of Monroe County, 216 N. Monroe St., from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

    Participants will make a Spencer jacket of the sort worn by fashionable ladies during the War of 1812. Patterns will be available for sizes 8 to 16.

    “These jackets were popular and very common during that period,” explained park ranger Shawna Mazur. “We want people to see what fashions were like during the War of 1812.”

    Participants should have a basic knowledge of sewing and bring tissue paper (for tracing the pattern), a pencil or pen, scissors, transparent tape, thread that matches the fabric, a measuring tape, straight pins, needles, and three hooks and eyes (medium to heavy weight).

    The fabric should be a solid color of heavy cotton velvet or wool 2.5 yards long and 45 inches wide or wider.

    For lining, participants will need heavy cotton or linen of the same dimensions. A sewing machine would be useful.

    The workshop is free, but sewers should register in advance by calling the park at 734-243-7136.

    Cathy Taylor, the park volunteer who will conduct the class, rates the difficulty level as medium for a reasonably competent sewer.

    “Hopefully, they’ll be able to just about finish the garment by the time the workshop is over,” she said. “They might have to do some hemming later.”

    The Spencer jacket itself conjures up images from a Jane Austen novel. Worn in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, it as named for George Spencer, the second Earl of Spencer. It was a British military jacket before women on both sides of the Atlantic adopted it. The garment is short, with long sleeves.

    Ms. Taylor also does cooking demonstrations at the battlefield park and said “I enjoy teaching people history in creative ways.” She is trying to assemble a group of sewers to tailor period clothing for children’s activities at the park. Anyone with an interest can call the park at the above number.

    January marks the bicentennial of the Battles of the River Raisin. The park’s commemoration will be on Jan. 18-20 with battle re-enactments, ceremonies, a dinner, and a concert.