How to Acheve a Supply of Period Lint
I would like to support your efforts to realistically and authentically portay a Confederate surgeon. If it is your desire to honor all our ancestors, educate the public and actually have the experience of assembling medical supplies as they did, I would strongly urge you to leave your dryer lint home.
Picking lint is a very period occupation, and was extremely common, especially in the first years of the war. It is an easy activity to teach, and you can also enlist spectators in lint picking. At First Manassas, last summer we were given the opportunity to portray a Confederate field hospital in a historic home that was a field hospital during the battle. As noted, lint is most traditionally made of linen, but buying linen can be pricy, with yardage often above $10 a yard. We took a large number of four inch squares of muslin, and at every spare moment we would enlist people to unravel a square and align the threads into a small bundle, just as pictured in Mrs. Mescher's article.
Civilian groups are often encouraging members to bring needlework to events -- for those members who don't yet know how to knit or crochet, or who don't like to do either, lint picking is a portable, easily taught, period craft. Spectators are fascinated, and surprisingly, children often love doing it.
When we were doing third person interpretation at the historic house museum, as each group of spectators would come into the room we were using, we handed each a square, showed them what to do and got them all started as we then proceeded to tell them about the events that happened in there. We didn't ask them if they wanted to pick lint, we just handed out squares, demonstrated what to do and got to answering questions. Those who didn't want to, just handed back their unpicked squares as they left the room and we thanked them for coming. After three days of unending lint picking we had a sizable bundle of lint, which is destined for Surgeon Aycock's supply stash. It came home with me in the flurry of packing at the end of the event and will be forwarded this spring.
Some would say that we farbed out by using muslin rather than linen, and they'd be right. But we brought to life a period civilian activity that many had read about, but very few had seen. Many spectators were thrilled to be given the opportunity to participate, including several descendents of the Lee family who thanked us with tears in their eyes. It was amazing to most parents how many children were completely fascinated by, and wanted to continue, picking lint. There were several meltdowns by the under five set when they had to leave -- we ended up giving away lint squares that the children could pick in the car later. And adolescents who entered the room with that martyred air of terminal boredom occassioned by being dragged to boring historic spots by their mortifyingly uncool parents would often silently accept a square, then proceed to become speed-pickers, often going through three or four squares in the time that their parents could pick one.
I would strongly urge you to reach out to the civilian organizations in your area and see if they will provide you with a sporatic, but on-going supply of lint. They will be bringing a period activity to life, and you can benefit with the results.
But please, as someone who wants to honor and commemorate the memory of the sacrifices that Confederate wives, mothers, sweethearts, sisters and daughters made for the Glorious Cause, I ask that you leave your modern dryer lint home. Don't try to explain in words while you unpack in person a pound of modern dryer lint that "this isn't exactly what they used." Spectators remember what they see much longer than what they are told. Show them real lint, prepared in a period manner, even if it's made of muslin rather than linen. You'll be amazed how impressed people can be by actually seeing the real stuff.
Period Knitting -- Socks, Sleeping Hats, Balaclavas
Atlantic Guard Soldiers' Aid Society