When making your own cloud there are three things to consider: pattern, yarn, and needle size.
Patterns for making clouds and nubias can be found as early as 1859 and as late as 1916. (Unfortunately, the pattern for the illustration on the right does not seem to be available online.) They are great projects for beginner knitters because the patterns are often very simple. Ragged Soldier Sutlery has collected two patterns for nubias from historical sources published in 1859. These two patterns are easy to use, and one even has a modern interpretation. The Lady's Knitting-Book (1874) by Elvina Corbould gives a more complicated pattern for a Canadian Cloud, which involves a white Shetland scarf that is two and a half yards long and bordered with "scarlet crochet" and has both ends gathered up and finished with "a large tassel" (60). The Bazaar, Exchange and Mart, And Journal of the Household (Volume XXI September 17, 1879) also gives directions for knitting a Canadian cloud that seems to be more square in shape, since it involves casting on "244 stitches" and knitting "264 rows" (180). This version of the cloud also has the ends gathered and trimmed with tassels. While it recommends using "[p\lain white, salmon pink, and pale blue" Pyrenean, Shetland, or Andalusian wool for a solid-coloured scarf, it also suggests "darker colours and stripes in two contrasting colours, three of each" for "poor persons" (180). More information on clouds can be found on the West Coast Fibre Arts website, where the host Wendy has collected some patterns and made a cloud of her own.
The yarn should be a very light one, preferably a lace weight or super fine weight (fingering or baby weight). The recommended yarns from period patterns are also all wools, so consider using a 100% wool fibre yarn. The fluffiness of the yarn will help create the cloud-like nature of the scarf. While many of the types of yarn are no longer available, Shetland, which is often recommended for clouds, is still manufactured by people in Scotland. It can be a bit pricey, so if you don't feel like splurging on yarn really any soft, lightweight, fluffy wool will do. Remember, you're going to be wrapping it around your head, face, and neck, so pick something that feels comfortable against your skin.
Needles should be fairly large, especially compared to the weight of the yarn. I would recommend anything from 4mm to 6mm needles (that's 6-10 in US needle sizes). Try out a couple of rows in your chosen pattern to see if you like how it looks. It should be light and lacy and cloud-like. The stitches will look quite big and loose. See below for a picture of my own in-progress cloud, which uses lace-weight Shetland wool and size 4.5mm needles in a lacy knit pattern that I made up.
It can get pretty chilly during winter events. One great way to keep warm is to wrap yourself in a cloud. Also known as a Canadian cloud, a nubia, or a nubian, these long scarves were worn throughout much of the 19th century and the early decades of the 20th century. These versatile scarves were either knitted or crocheted and in various weights of yarn, depending on purpose and the station of the wearer.
Clouds make frequent appearances in literature of the period, which can give us an idea of their variety and how they were worn. In her autobiography, Clearing in the West, notable Canadian Nellie McClung writes of having a "home-made red and black 'cloud' to wear in the cold weather". Frances Monck, in her book My Canadian Leaves: An Account of a Visit to Canada in 1864-1865, mentions her intention "to get a white cloud" describing it as "a long knitted scarf, which goes all over your cap and round and round your throat, and ties in long ends, and hangs over your back" (189). Agnes Macdonald, the second wife of Sir John A. Macdonald, when writing about what Canadians wear to go for a ride in a "tobogan" for Murray's Magazine, writes of "the fleecy folds of a 'cloud'--that peculiarly Canadian wrap which, consisting of a fringed strip of loosely knitted or woven thick soft wool nine feet long and eighteen inches wide, is both comfortable and becoming" (84). Macdonald gives very specific directions for wearing the cloud:
"To arrange properly must be passed over the
forehead, leaving one end half as long again as
the other; both ends are then crossed behind the
neck and drawn forward. The longest end passed once or twice about the neck--letting it lie snugly about
ears, throat, cheeks, and chin--is next brought to meet the shorter one, when both are looped together, and
the fringed ends fall over the shoulder." (84)
The above picture from the McCord Museum shows Lady Dufferin wearing what is presumably a cloud in a manner similar to that described by Macdonald. The cloud was clearly a practical, as well as stylish, garment. The lengths of wool wrapped around one's head and neck would provide good insulation from the cold and keep out the biting winds. Anyone who has experienced a Manitoban winter can appreciate the benefits that would accrue from having a scarf like a cloud.
I hope that this introduction to the Canadian cloud has peaked your interest. Next up will be information on how clouds were made in the period and some tips for making your own so that you can bundle up like a true 19th century Canadian.
Note: With the exception of Clearing in the West and where links are provided, all cited sources can be found by searching Google Books.