Creating War of 1812 Bicentennial costumes a stitch for local seamstresses

Amherstburg Echo
Clothing for the War of 1812 Bicentennial is being sewn by a group of volunteer seamstresses with work being completed Thursday, February 23. Helping to sew the costumes include (from left): Helga Bailey, Jessie Basden and head seamstress Jennie Jackson. Elizabeth Jones is absent.

Over 200 items handsewn for Roots to Boots Festival

By Ron Giofu/The Amherstburg Echo

AMHERSTBURG — The War of 1812 Bicentennial is here and the historic feel is coming stitch-by-stitch.

Historic costumes sewn for the event were finished and on display at the Gordon House last Thursday morning. Head seamstress Jennie Jackson said she was asked to make 25 ladies outfits and 25 men’s outfits but throughout the process, approximately 200 pieces were made when factoring in other accessories such as aprons, sashes, hats and bonnets.

Jackson became involved with the project after speaking with the town’s tourism and culture manager.

“Anne Rota spoke to me about doing the project,” she said.

After a few months of research, the sewing began with the actual creating of the costumes taking six months.

Jackson soon received help as area residents Helga Bailey, Jessie Basden and Elizabeth Jones. Those ladies have ensured the costumes are almost complete, as Jackson pointed out a few more items are still coming.

“I have ladies that are still sewing. They want to make a few more pieces,” said Jackson.

Children’s costumes will also be made in the next few weeks, she added.

It is a “very exciting” time for Jackson as she is thrilled to see the finished products and looks forward to seeing them in use this year, including the Roots to Boots Festival being held in Amherstburg Aug. 3-5.

“I like to create something and I can do something through sewing,” she said.

While not allowed by her mother to sew her own wedding gown in 1969, Jackson said she soon learned how to sew and did make wedding dresses and bridesmaid gowns in her basement for several years.

“I taught myself,” she said. “I bought myself a machine and taught myself.”

The 1812-era clothing she and the group have created in recent months will also be used beyond the Roots to Boots Festival.

“I know they have plans for other groups to use them. I know they are going to get a lot of use,” she said.

Jackson was given a $2,000 budget by the town, with that money being covered off by grant funds that the town had received. However, she has still looked for deals wherever she could be going to re-sale shops and taking apart other clothes to re-use the fabric.

“I’m a recycler,” she said. “I just search for bargains.”

War of 1812 project assistant Sarah Van Grinsven said the costumes made go beyond her expectations.

“It’s really exciting to see everything come about and see everything we’ve been talking about,” said Van Grinsven. “It fills the room. I can’t wait to see volunteers walking around the town during the bicentennial of the War of 1812.”

Van Grinsven called it “a living history” and is looking forward to seeing people learn about the region’s past.

“It’s a good way to have fun and learn about history,” she said.

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