I want to thank Absolute History YouTube Channel for posting this fantastic series on their channel. This series demonstrates that history is not limited to textbooks but can be experimental as well! I hope that one day Amber does the second series of this fantastic series.
Amber Butchart explores the world of the Hedgie Cutter recreated in this episode of a Stitch in Time. Amber is taking inspiration from a portrait of a gardener. This is a highly unusual painting because of the low-class birth of the man in the portrait. So why was this portrait painted? Who was he? Who painted the portrait? What will Amber learn about the clothing of everyday people? Ninya prepares to take the challenge of recreating the Hedge Cutter’s coat.
Amber and Ninya carefully examine the coat of the hedge cutter. It could have been a posh man’s coat at one time and was passed down to the hedge cutter. Ninya brings out a pair of Napoleonic leather trousers and she examines them to give her ideas on how to make the coat. The coat is also patched up, demonstrating years and years of repairs. Will the coat have patches? Ninya is keen to make the coat at how it looked at the start of its life. It should be an interesting recreation.
Amber then looks at the life of the hedge cutter. Who was he? Why was his portrait painted? The portrait is owned by the Fines family and they bring it down for Amber and an art historian can examine it closer. The art historian believes that the portrait was painted in the 1780s. Since the clothing was passed down over the years, could lend credence to this date as well. The hedge cutter is also smoking a pipe and a pipe could easily date the portrait as well.
Is there anything comparable to this portrait? Yes, there was a series of portraits done by an artist showing the working class. It scandalized the viewer because they were used to seeing members of polite society. The later date delights Amber because it will help in the recreate the jacket in the portrait and it would have been a second-hand garment. Clothing was the most valuable thing people would own.
The patches are proving to be a challenge to the recreation. Harriett came up with a mock-up that included the patches. The patches seem to indicate that the hedge cutter was throwing himself around while he was cutting the hedges. Harriett and Ninya examine the mock-up carefully and comment that it would have been a lovely coat. They then unwrap the leather that is going to be used for recreating the coat and try to figure out how to cut the pattern and what bits will be sewn and which way.
Amber explores the textile collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum. She examines a coat from the 1750s with another fashion historian. It was a second-hand coat and had new life with another owner. It is possible that the coat came from a theatre. The actors had to purchase their costumes, so there would have been a trade-in second-hand clothing. The people would have held onto their clothing because it was so valuable and only after it could no longer be repaired it would then be sold to the rag and bone man and made into paper.
To continue to learn more about the hedge cutter and his coat continue to watch this episode.
This would be another excellent series for an art history classroom, as well as the history and home economics classroom. If you have an independent study student interested in fashion, you can recommend this episode.
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