Pioneer Clothing

What kinds of clothing did pioneers wear?

Pioneers made their own clothing at home; there was little store-bought clothing available. Skins and furs of animals were used a great deal. Loose deerskin shirts, somewhat like those of the Native Americans were worn by many of the pioneer men and boys. Deerskin moccasins were common for footwear. Hats were often made of raccoon or fox fur with the tails left hanging down the back of the hat for decoration.

Pioneer women knew how to make cloth. Where sheep were raised cloth was made of wool. After the wool was sheared from the sheep, the women washed, combed and carded [what?] it into smooth silky strands. Then they used a spinning wheel to twist the strands of wool into thread.

Flax was also used to make cloth. Flax came from a plant that grew in swamps. The stems of the plant were soaked and separated into strands that were then made into thread on a spinning wheel. A large wheel was used for spinning wool and a smaller wheel for flax. Cloth that is made from flax is called linen.

The cloth was made into different colors by a process called dying. The dyes were made from plants that were found in the woods and fields. Pioneers made colored dyes from:

Cloth dyed with these dye colors faded when washed or left in the sun, but the pioneers found that certain things would set the dye to keep it from fading. These were called mordants. Salt, vinegar, alum, and lye were commonly used as mordants. Mordants also changed some colors. Salt made some colors lighter, alum made some colors darker.

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