Authentic Civil-War Era Scarf

The new man in my life is a Civil War re-enactor and would like a hand-knit period-authentic scarf. I can probably do a simple pattern, but my question is what yarn to use. I’m allergic to most wool, and of course acrylic wasn’t around back then. Is there any type of wool that might not make my hands red, or another type of yarn I could use? Any help would be appreciated.

We’d need more info. Do you have a pattern you can link to? What weight is the yarn you need to use.

If you are truly allergic to wool and not just sensitive to it then you probably shouldn’t use wool at all. I’m not sure what other yarns were around back then if any. Ask him if you can use some other yarn due to a wool allergy.

Hi Cindy,

I agree with Jan in that if it’s a true wool allergy you should avoid it altogether.

However, if it’s simply a wool sensitivity certain varieties might not bother you. For example, shetland wool burns my eyes, makes me itch terribly, turns my skin red and activates my eczema. However, merino wool does not bother me in the least.

Peruse your local yarn shop to see. Also, I’d try a wool-silk or silk-cotton blend. Surely those materials were used in yarns circa 1861.

Best of luck!


Cotton was one of the major crops in the South during the period, and cotton mills were a major industry in the North. There was linen, too. Silk, only for the rich – it had to be imported.

There’s a great book of Civil War knitting patterns that have been rewritten with modern directions. It’s published by; author’s name is DeAnn Upton. I’ve also seen it on Ebay.

Thanks for the suggestions, everyone. I’ll go to the LYS and touch some merino as I don’t know if I have a true allergy or just a sensitivity to certain types. That’s an important distinction and one I had not thought of. I had thought about cotton and didn’t know how it would work out as a scarf (thinking about kitchen cotton). But maybe cotton thread? I will look for that book.

Oh there are much, much nicer cottons that kitchen cotton like Sugar and Cream. I never use that anymore. There are even some cotton/wool blends.

Don’t forget linen!

My son and I (he’s 8 and homeschooled) are studying early puritan colonies, and they had flax fields in Connecticut early on, I’m sure they had it at the time of the war as well.

Update: I went to the LYS and got some merino wool, which thankfully doesn’t appear to bother me. I appreciate the advice. If the man doesn’t stay in my life until Christmas, I or someone on my gift list will have a very nice scarf!