HANDCRAFTED HISTORY


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Medieval camping adventures

Come with us on a trip through Sweden and see how we live in a historical tent for one week! (And get my best tip for making your camping adventure a success!)

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One of the things I really like with our hobby is the historical camping on different events and markets. During Double Wars we packed the car and a trailer with all our camping gear, a friend and his stuff, some extras, a picnic bag… and then began the drive down to southern Sweden.

Geographically we live in the middle of Sweden, but that doesn’t mean it is close to all events, this drive took us about 15 hours, and we chose to split it up on two days, with some sightseeing in the breaks. Because we traveled with lots of gear we chose to stay at a hotel along the road, where we could lock the car and trailer in a secure place.

  • planning breaks or overnight stays along the way makes the trip much more smooth, and you wont get dangerously tired while driving. Remember that you may want to leave your packing in a secure space during the night.

Finally at site, we could drive in to our designated place and dump everything out from the car and trailer. It is common that you may drive in and out from sites before and after the main event, but during the week/weekend when most people have come, you may not be able or permitted to drive all the way in to camp. This is both because the cars may not have space enough to drive in, but also because it makes the historical encampment much more boring if cars will roll by every day…

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  • check with the schedule when you will arrive/leave and if you may drive in your car close to the camp then. It is no small task to carry everything in by hand…

Once everything was out in the grass we could set up our pavilion and get everything in place. The new pavilion was way more expensive than our previous, home-made tent, but we are really satisfied with it, both the quality and how much room we have inside. Our friend E got a section of his own, and we hade a sleeping area with draperies and a double bed.

  • to make the building of camp run nicely; bring good shoes, gloves, a snack, something to drink and extra ropes, pegs and the like. A sledge/hammer, shovel and knife are good tools to have close by. Also bring a cover for your things; if it rains everything will get wet!

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Our new home is done! Except the tent we also had a small outdoor kitchen area with a sunroof, table, benches, a fire pit and cooking gear. We didn’t bring everything by ourself, we shared the camp with friends.

  • The question is always; what to bring and what will I need? Of course, packing space and the amount of things you own is an important matter, but always try to plan your trip for “worst case scenario”. What kind of clothing will you need if the nights are cold? For keeping dry? What kind of bedding to keep warm and comfortable during the night? Maybe some medicines if you get a cold or a stomach flu? To be wet, cold, sick or sleep bad during an event never makes it fun. Makes these things your priority when packing, and then fill up with pretty clothing, extra kitchen wares, nice flags and more.

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This is what the tent looked like inside while we were moving in. We like carpets on the ground to have something dry to put down items and feet on. Under the bed we also had a plastic floor (a tarpaulin) to protect camping gear and the bed from wetness. It is very practical to have a part of your tent that will always be dry no matter the weather outside! In the wooden bed we use two modern mattresses that is easy to pack, and makes us sleep very good during long stays. Over them we have our sheep skins and then sheets, covers, blankets and feather pillows.

  • Sleeping good is very important. I discovered that feather pillows and duvets covered in woolen blankets makes for the perfect warm and cozy bed. I make sure to cover the bed during the day with a woolen blanket to keep air moisture or rain out, and always bring a sleeping hat/cap, extra woolen socks, and ear plugs to have a good night sleep. Don’t survive outdoors, instead enjoy outdoors!

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And done! I like to be able to hang things inside the tent, to have a table to put things on, and some sort of storage for food, dishes and other items. Without storage the tent will be impossible to live in after a few days…

  • Outdoors I say? Yep; there will be bugs and small things coming inside. Avoid some of them by keeping the food stored away (we use plastic bins for that, hidden under the bed, under a cloth or inside baskets). I also hang my laundry or store it dry, keep the jugs and bottles upside down or closed and shake out my shoes before I put them on in the morning. A mosquito net over your bed can be a real saver, lets children sleep well, and take almost no space in your packing.

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Shared joy is double joy! (in Swedish a proverb; “delad glädje är dubbel glädje”.) Share the camp with friends (new or old) and bring what you have in furniture, kitchen gear, wood and the like. Maybe you want to arrange the best wild-onion-swinging-partycamp ever, the largest childrens-picnic or an elegant cocktail party theme? Be sure to tell your friends and neighbors of your ideas of beforehand and get their approval, to have all the festivities at the same time might be a bad idea…

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  • Try to make some activities with the whole camp you live in. Maybe cooking together, share a meal, have a small party or just hang out. During festivals, markets and SCA events there are lots of things to see and do, but some of the best memories from my adventures come from hanging out with people I like, without doing anything special!

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Getting to know new people. Maybe you don’t have lots of friends to share your historical adventures with yet? Well, go out and find some! Meeting new people and making new friends can be hard and tiring, but also rewarding. Here is my best actions to do so during SCA events. (The photo above is from a handcrafting picnic during Double Wars.)

  • Check out the schedule, and attend the activities that sounds interesting. Maybe you don’t have the right gear or knowledge; show up anyway really early and ask the organizer if there is anything you could borrow or some try-outs before or after. I like sewing meetings and picnics, archery and parties.
  • Join big gatherings like courts, open practices or handcrafting picnics. Ask questions, be interested, mention that you are new/would like to get to know people/love embroidery or whatever you like.
  • Don’t take a no or a turn down personally. Maybe you misunderstood and the meeting was just for kitchen staff, or that interesting handcrafter you met yesterday now has a terrible cold/migraine and don’t want to hang out. Thats ok, it is not you.
  • Help out. You don’t have to be a slave, but it is a good way to make new friends while doing things. Maybe the kitchen needs a helping hand (that is where the party is, right?), someone needs some help with carrying, or organizing a game/practice/cake eating contest or whatever. When people (especially swedes) work, they tend to be more talkative. And you have something in common!
  • Be generous. With your time, attention, knowledge, friendship and what you have. If you attend an open picnic; bring some cookies. If you are going to an open party; take something to drink or share. Maybe you don’t know shit about medieval clothing, but you know a really fast way to mend socks? Share around!

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Time to say goodbye? When the event comes to an end, it is time to pack everything together, say goodbye to all new friends you made and begin the journey home. Be gentle and kind to yourself when packing and traveling; nothing is worse than tearing down a camp with panic, being sick or tired after a party night that was a bit late. Allow yourself plenty of time, food and a good night sleep before a long traveling day.

  • Plan your travel with extra time if something goes wrong. A wet camp is slower to pack than a dry one, bad weather or heavy traffic can slow things down.
  • Consider when to pack and take down your tent. During the day the tent fabric dries out and the risk of mold is less, maybe it is possible to take down the tent during high noon? If early done, you can always attend one more picnic..?
  • Allow the driver a restive night, to travel safely. Plan snacks, and breaks or change of drivers if you travel far.
  • During some events, everyone wants to leave at the same time. This means it might get crowded, busy and hard to drive the car inside the camp. Check with the organizers what time could be good for packing and bringing out your camp.
  • Always clean after yourself. Clean your campsite, fill out fire pits, take away trash… and then lend a hand to cleaning some common space that you have used during your stay (like a toilet, kitchen area, sweeping). When everybody does this, things get really nice and efficient.

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And last but not least; when you have arrived home remind yourself about how awesome your adventure was while doing laundry, cleaning and unpacking. It might be a bit tiring with adventures…

 

 


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Sewing machine school- part 1

The sewing machine is a tricksy being, with a mind of its own. On the paper it promise to make whatever your heart desire, but home alone it tend to do as it pleases… Happened to you? It does not have to be like that!

In my Sewing Machine School I will give you all my best tips for making friends with the sewing machine. As a sewing crafts teacher I have great experience with dealing with struggling pupils… And struggling machines too.

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in the beginning:

  • Before sewing, make sure the machine is correctly threaded. It is easy to miss a part, get a loop or lose the tension. Use the instruction manual if you are unsure, or even better-check out youtube to find a video on your model! Older models may be available on internet as free pdfs, or check in with the sewing machine store.
  • To check the tension of the threads, pull carefully at the top and bottom threads. They should be moving but with a slight resistance. If everything seems fine, try sewing on a scrap bit of cotton fabric. Fine? Then try out a scrap bit of the fabric you intend to work on. Check to see if you need to make adjustments in the stitching length, or the presser.

A short note about caring:

It is very important to take care of your sewing machine! Wipe it down and clean it after each project. A can of compressed air is perfect for blowing away dust inside the machine, and a small brush can be used to remove threads etc.

You can also grease your machine with a special sewing machine oil, to make it run smoothly for longer periods of time, between the paid services. Do this after each sewing project or sewing period, and you will have a machine that runs smoothly. (Note; it is very important to use sewing machine oil, and to only apply small drops of it in order to not stain your fabrics after. If you are unsure if you might have applied to much, sew in a scrap fabric piece first.

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Change the needle after each big project (like a dress) or if you have accidentally pulled your fabric so the needle touched the machine going down. A sharp needle will make the seem prettier, more even and make the sewing easier.

While working:

Always start with a scrap bit of fabric to check the stitches and the tension. The threads should lock with each other in the middle of the fabric. If not, try adjusting the tension of the upper thread first.

Adjust the presser according to the fabric. Thick woolen fabric needs a lighter presser than thin silks. If the presser is to hard, your upper fabric will be pressed forward during sewing. If you have a problem with the fabric pieces always ending up different in lenght at the end of the seam, this could be your problem.

The feeder teeth underneath your fabric moves the fabric during sewing, but some machines also have an upper feeder that you can attach to the presser. Check to see if your machine have one, or if you can buy one. This is a very good device as it helps get the fabric even during longer seams. (If you dont have one, pinning the fabric pieces before sewing helps really nice too)

Use a needle fitting for your project. Thinner needles for fine linen and silks, a bit sturdier for wools.

Are you unsure about thick layers or sharp corners? You can always sew “by hand” on your machine. Instead of using the pedal, use the wheel on your right side, pulling it towards you. This makes the machine go very slowly and you will have plenty of time to check were you go and if the needle can take all the layers without breaking. Once past the hard part, just use the pedal again!

Be attentive to the sound of your machine. It should run smoothly and even, if everything is ok. When you have learn your machine, you will quickly discover if anything is amiss.

If sewing together two pieces for a dress (like a straight panel and a diagonally cut gore) always put the part that stretches the most (gore) under the other part. This will lessen the risk of the parts stretching out uneven, and make the seam a bit nicer.

To turn in a corner: Stop were you want to turn, and lift your fot from the pedal. Move the needle down into the fabric with the wheel, lift the presser and adjust the fabric to the new direction. Let down the presser, and continue forward with the pedal. The needle hold your fabric in place while turning and make sure the seam continue nicely.

This was my first part, and whenever I have the time I try to translate more sewing tip for you. Do you like it? Consider supporting me by Patreon, to make it possible for me to create more free tutorials!

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Workshops this spring

Just wanted to give you all a quick update about some of my plans this spring!

Between 8-10 of March I will be holding a workshop in medieval clothing in Norway; check out this event for a weekend of fun, new knowledge and lots of sewing!

https://www.facebook.com/events/2338507499771965/

I also have a weekend of tablet weaving in my hometown; https://hemslojden.org/activity/keramik-2-2/ were we will be doing lots of practical handcrafting, look into some historical finds, have fika and meet new friends.

Both workshops have their own way of booking by their site- just wanted to show them here for you!

 

 

I also have some free time yet before the summer for weekend workshops with your group or at a location of your choice. Just send me an email if you are interested, to linda.handcraftedhistory @gmail.com. I also have time to make a couple of outfits for customers, so are you planning to order some clothing for yourself before summer now is a perfect time to do so! (waiting time is now until early May)

Then my main market season will start, and am I looking forward to that! Medieval tents, summer winds, lots of happy people, swimming in lakes… Yes, please! Let’s hope the spring and summer will arrive soon here!


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15th c clothing for men

Love got some new garments for his 15th c outfit this autumn. Do you remember the wedding outfit he had, with the silk doublet?

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It is a bit fancy for the everyday outdoor event, so now I made him a wool doublet with linen lining. It is based on period artwork, such as this painting by Rogier van der Weyden (St. John Altarpiece ca 1455-1460)

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The doublet has a couple of bronze buttons in the sleeves so he can open them if he needs to pull up the sleeves when doing dishes, and the front is closed with lacing in silk. It is not as tight fitting as the silk doublet, giving him more freedom of movement (or adding some weight in the gym)

He also got a wool coat with linen lining and fur trimming, based on several paintings by van der Weyden, like this one that is a portrait of Nicolas Rolin (Beaune Altarpiece ca 1450)

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The black, fur trimmed coat seems to be one of the most fashionable garments during this period, you can see it on several men in portraits and religious scenes.

The belt is similar to the one in the painting, made in bronze and black leather. It was mostly this detail that made me do the coat, and since the belt set was a wedding gift from our friend H-G it seemed like a good combination.

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In combination with his black pilgrim hat the outfit gets quite striking, but maybe a bit black. A red hat or chaperone perhaps would do the trick? Or red pants?


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Memories from Visby

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Greetings from Visby Medieval Week! Me and love traveled here with our friend Lali, shared an apartment and had a wonderful week with friends, ice-cream, new experiences, shows and music!

I spent most of my time at Kaptielhusgården, holding workshops in tablet weaving and pattern construction. Look at this amazing place! I never get tired being here and enjoy the feeling. During the mornings everything is more calm, but still buzzing with interesting classes and mealpreps in the kitchen.

I didn’t take any photos from my workshops this year, I always get so absorbed with talking and is more likely to forget the time… Also, this year was unbelievable hot and I actually got a heat stroke during one of my workshops. Phew!

The evening was better, and the last day cooler weather came over the sea, rolling in with thunder and rain. We celebrated by going to Kapitelhusgården for a drink (yes, back to work on my one free day)

We went to the marketplace, climbed the city to get the View, walked by the church St. Maria (and took the Stairs twice a day) visited Arkadias great show, and had a Good Time!

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And went for strolls in the botanical gardens, one of our favourite spots! A nice lady took this photo of us, love is wearing his wedding outfit, inspired from 15th c Italy, and I have a German 15th c outfit that is still on the try-sew-retry stage. Not completely happy with the folds and the neckline, but I have a new plan for it…

Last, I wanted to say Thank you! to everyone who stopped to say hi, or had a chat with me- it is so nice to meet readers old and new and make new friends!


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Cudgel wars 2018

This came to be a more personal blog post, so if you want to join one of my adventures from the summer, here we go!

Cudgel Wars is a SCA event in Finland, situated at a lovely site with saunas, beach, small boats for exploring the lake, and all the usual SCA activities like archery, fighting, workshops and more.

I traveled alone for once, and the long journey made me a bit tired even if most hours was spent on the ferry with food, apple juice and lots of sewing.

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Finally on site, I was super tired and needed to put up my camp before it got dark, so I asked some friends for a little help…

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And in no time the whole tent was up, R put together the wooden bed and I was moved in. Think everything was done in under an hour, comparing to Double Wars when our camp took three hours with three persons to finish. Thank you!

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Here is my home during the market season! It is so cozy! The tent is from Tentorium and I am very satisfied with the quality and all details in it, it feels sturdy, well done and is easy to handle even though the wooden poles are heavy to lift. The poles, pegs, ropes and linen canvas all fits in the car along with basic camping gear, clothing and three boxes of shop things, if I put down the back seats in the car.

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Breakfast inside the tent one morning; coffee and chocolate soft cheese on bread. Tired, in need of some alone time but overall happy. Sometimes the best thing is just to hang inside your tent, watching all the fun things happening outside and being able to feel contentment.

My friend B dressing her son in viking clothing for the cooler evening

Parts of the Frostheim group that I lived with, hanging in the kitchen area. Well, actually none of the persons in the photo lives in Frostheim, but having the best group makes for new friends…

In my tent, having some wine and wearing the 15th century outfit with the dress I finished sewing during Hamar, and the necklace I bought there.

20180712_222358And meeting lots of new friends and amazing people in the Purple Dragon household!

Taking some nice photos by the lake in the evening

M in two of her outfits

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The Mörk family

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R by the lake in his viking gear

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The site was situated by the lake, but if you wanted to take a small walk the forest was just above, with pine trees and a nature that felt very close to my own home.

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Trying out my bathing dress in the lake, and it worked well for both swimming, modesty, looking medieval and avoiding some sun. It was harder to get it of after when it was wet…

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The ferry took about 8-9 hours, traveling through beautyful archipelagos with small island, mixed with boats and longer stretches of sea.

All considered, it was a very nice event and I really recommend it to anyone searching for a SCA event that feels like a vacation.


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The 15th century coat

For the Golden Egg challenge, I made a warm, woolen coat. The purpose with the coat was to make an over garment from sources that would be warm, practical and fitting for the period. After using it for half a year I am very satisfied; it is such an easy garment and yet it looks great, is comfortable and versatile. I use it as part of the outfit, when the weather is cold or wet, as a robe when visiting the bathroom early in the mornings, as a picnic blanket…

I drew you a basic pattern outlay, if you want to try it out for yourself.

The small gores F1 and B1 are just to save fabric, so the main pieces are 2 fronts, 2 backs and 2 sleeves. If you have a toile or mock up that works for you, you can use that as a base and then just draw out the lines from the sleeve/neck as I did on the pattern.

The fabric I used was 310 * 150 cm, if you are taller or need a size large or above, consider adding some extra fabrics for lengths and sleeves. You don’t really need as much width as I have, but it will give you a very nice drape and look.

The cut and pattern are based on paintings and what pattern instructions I have found from the period. I think it is a possible take, though I have seen outer garments with S-sleeves, sleeve gores and more intricate patterns and constructions. The side seams can be found in some pictures, as well as in patterns of outer garments from later periods.

When you have cut out the pieces needed, pin/baste and sew the coat together in the following order:

  1. back seam
  2. shoulder seams
  3. side seams
  4. sleeves
  5. insert the sleeves in the coat
  6. hem the coat
  7. put in a closure at the front neck.

I used unbleached, waxed linen thread and a running stitch, folded the seam allowance to one side and fastened it down with whip stitches. The hems were finished with whip stitching to.

I also trimmed the neck and sleeves with fur, since that seems to be common in contemporary art. To avoid dipping the sleeve hems in food, I made the sleeves wide enough to be able to fold the fur inside the sleeves when working- this turned out very practical!

Materials:

The coat is made in a warm, thick wool twill, with a rich, deep brown colour that would have been quite expensive to dye. Other good colours could have been walnut brown, red or black.

Linen thread for sewing, since this seems to be common in most finds from the period.

Rabbit fur for trims, because that was the only fur I found that was up to my ethical standards about how you should treat animals (eco, small family garden breeding, killed and tanned in the area without chemicals). White fur to match the paintings.

The clasp is based on a find from the period and is made in bronze

You can wear the coat loose, or close it with a belt. I often wear it with the belt, as it is more practical. If you want tips on sewing a fur trim on a garment, check out my tutorial on the subject!

Historical sources and why I did a coat

The outer garment could be a dress as well, as there are lots of warm dresses lined with furs or fabric in sources. I chose the coat as I wanted a practical garment, and know from experience that a second layer of wool dress would not be versatile enough for what I needed. The sources I have used are from the second half of the 15th century, in todays Germany. The Golden Egg outfit is based mainly on the period 1470-1490, but the coat belongs to the end of this period rather than being the “choice of all women”. So now you can decide if you should go for the practical coat or the more common dress when making your outfit!

Sources: if you want to check out some sources on 15th century clothing, I recommend some of this links:

Lots of clothing from Dresden

My pinterest on the project

A portrait

About the black engraving

 

 

 


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Making a 15th c dress with a waist seam

This is my walk-through on how I made my green 15th c kirtle/dress in wool. It is not a complete tutorial with all details, so if you have never sewn before I recommend starting with a shift or other straight garment. If you want more good sewing tip, you will find many problems addressed in my other tutorials.

This is a common late 15th c middle dress for women, it is quite easy to make, practical and is shown in many different pictures from the period. Your choice of colour, neckline, clasps and other details will make it different, and if you choose a thicker wool fabric it will work as an over dress to. The art work I have used is from 1470-1485.

You will need about 3-4 meters of thin wool fabric, I bought mine from Handelsgillet, they have a thin twill fabric that is easy to work with and quite historically accurate for the period. I fell in love with the perfect green colour… And you can see some examples of green kirtles at the bottom of this blog post and in other art works from the period. The shade can be achieved with plant dying but is more expensive than a madder red or yellow, and I think it makes a good option for my outfit; a well of burgher from a city.

I lined my dress with prewashed, unbleached linen, but you only need to line the upper body for some stability, and that will need maximum 1 meter. I sew my dress by hand, with waxed linen thread. Running stitches for the main seams, back stitches in armholes and sides, and whip stitches for the seam allowances and hems is all you need. The dress closes with hooks and eyes, be sure to have lots of them!

This is what the model looks like, it is really simple, and if you have a personal toile/mock up for your upper body you can use that with some small modifications. The front opening should have a slightly curved seam to follow your body, and the closure makes the front pieces lay edge to edge.

Comparing to a supportive kirtle, you need a bit more room now for your bust area, it should be quite loose and lay over your breast, to get the shape of the period. Make a new mock up in fabric and make the front pieces a bit wider, and try it out.

The sleeves are regular S-sleeves or a sleeve with a curved upper edge and seam under your arm. You can see both from the period, though the S-sleeve seems to be more common. The skirt is made up of 4 pieces in my dress. Here is the pieces I used together with my measures (around 36-38/small European size)

The dotted line on one of the skirt panel indicates a gore to save some fabric during cut out, but I wrote out the wrong number of pieces; the left panel is the front and you only need one of that. But this is just one way to create the skirt; you can use more pieces, gores, or just 2 wider parts.

The upper body back piece is whole, you can shape the back in the sides and with the help of the waist seam.

I lost my sketch of the outlay (how to place the pieces on the fabric) but made another one just to show you. Since I am a rather petite person, I can use the width of the fabric for most outlays, but if you are longer than I am (around 160 cm) you my want to lay the skirt panels out the other way. In this picture the panels are a bit wider in the back than that above, so you only need two. The front is straight or almost straight. Note also that I apparently drafted regular sleeves instead of S-sleeves, but you will get the idea…

After I cut out all the pieces, I basted the dress together to try it out. When happy with the fit and measures, I started to sew all the seams by hand. If you keep the correct basting stitches while sewing, you don’t need to pin and can easily work in the sofa, super cozy!

Make the dress in the following order:

Sew the upper body together, front and back pieces, and then sew the sleeves before you insert them in the body.

Sew the skirt panels together, but leave around 20 cm at the top center front, to be able to put the dress on (the slit shown on the first sketch). I hemmed the body and the skirts upper circle separately, and then attached them to one another with whip stitches. This seam will get a lot of wear, so it is nice to make it twice, or use a sturdy thread like the buttonhole silks or a thicker linen thread, like 35/2.

When the whole dress was assembled together, I put it on my doll to hang out for some days, before I cut and hemmed the skirt and sleeves. If you have a doll, it is really good to leave the dress hanging for a couple of days before hemming, this will make the fabric in the skirt stretch out, and you can cut away excess fabric to make the hem even.

The front with its lining is sewn from the right side, first with basting and then with a seam. To make the front opening and the neckline more durable I added a second row of stitches around.

The hooks and eyes are fastened last. This is what it looks like on the inside, note that I have sewn the hooks and eyes not only in the loops but also at the stems/higher up. This will make your opening lay flat and give that characteristic look at the closure you can see on 15th c paintings.

And finally, some of my favourite artworks that I used during my research. As you can se, they are all green kirtles, of the same models, but with some different cuts, necklines, closures and headwear.

Historically accurate? My main aim with making this outfit was practicality, durability and a dress I would feel comfortable in, based on period clothing. With this said, I aimed to make the dress (and outfit) as historically believable as possible from my means.

The fabric is machine vowen and dyed to cut on costs, but the pattern construction, sewing techniques, material and look aims to be close to the dresses from the period. Another modern take is the hooks and eyes, which are machine made instead of handmade.

I rarely work with metal due to some problem with my joints, but I tried to make a couple of hooks and eyes by hand. It is not hard work, they got quite pretty, but I didn’t make enough of them for a dress.

One thing I did give a lot of thought was the lining. My experience is that lining a skirt with a different material that is sewn down in a slim hemline rarely gives a good result. But I was curious, and gave it a try with the method of letting the skirt and skirt lining hang down before cutting and hemming. It worked quite well, but gave me a lot more work than leaving the skirt unlined. In artwork you can often see a lining inside the dresses, and this was a try to make one without adding warmth with another wool layer.

 

 

 

 


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Kirtles and dresses during the 15th century

This post is about my work with 15th c dresses for the Golden Egg challenge I do in the SCA, and it will be something like an overview on dresses. If you want pattern outlays and sewing tutorials, check out my tutorial page!

 

What is really the difference between a kirtle, middle dress, dress, under dress and so on? Not much, except the words. All these can be used for the same garment, depending on the country of origin and the period. A kirtle refers to the main (upper body) garment for both men and women, which should be long (and loose at the hem). A tight-fitting, short garment with the same function is called jacket or doublet. A kirtle can be both a tunic and a dress. So it is more of a language term than a specific garment.

Dresses is basically what you think it is; long garments (for women in this post) worn in different fashions, styles and materials. The medieval women generally wore several layers of garments, so to better talk about these they are given different names.

 

  • The shift, chemise or under dress is your underwear, usually in bleached or unbleached linen, washed frequently as you would do with modern underwear.
  • The supportive shift is a sleeveless, tight underwear to support and shape your bust. You can se it in both pictures and as a find (lengberg). You can wear it on its own, under the middle dress or together with a shift with sleeves.
  • The kirtle or middle dress is the next layer, often in wool, but also in silk, cotton, velvet or mixes of materials. You can wear this in public, and during the 15th c it is often tight fitted. The cotehardie? That is french, meaning basically a kirtle but is referred to as a tight fitted 14th c garment for both men and women, often with buttons or lacing.
  • The dress or overdress is a warm layer worn on top of the first two, during the 15th century it is often loose, with lots of draping fabric. And as expensive as you can afford it. The houppelande? A certain style of overdress, with an opening at the center front, often elaborate sleeves and lots of fabric in the skirts.
  • The coat or cloak is a layer of its own, to protect the wearer from the weather (or for symbolic/religious use) or as a fashionable garment. Women and men both wear them and own them in sources, but they don’t seem to be high fashion during the 15th c, more like a practical choice.

 

 

During the 15th century, fashion seems to change quite fast, and you can also see many different styles of dresses at the same picture or geographical area during the same time. If you want to research different kind of styles yourself, I recommend diving into some artwork for the period. I have two pinterestboards to check out, one about my Golden Egg project here, and another on interesting 15th c clothing here.

I also wrote a post about research and artwork here. I could really go on and on about different models of dresses forever, but to keep it simple I am just going to show you some different examples I have tried to recreate from the 15th c:

For my wardrobe, I opted for the green kirtle, a simple dress with long sleeves, a waist seam and front closure with hooks and eyes. The sleeves can be loose enough to roll up to the elbow, or a tighter version like mine. The front opening continue after the waist for a bit, to make the dress easy to take on and of. Decorative clasps by the front, or lacing seems to be options for this style. It also seems like the kind of dress you can wear as both middle or over layer on your outfit, depending on how you fit it and the material.

But I also got curious and tried out the loose dress model with my dove blue dress, based mainly on a picture from Bohemia. These model can often be seen with a decorative closure at the neck, and is held together by a thin belt by the natural waist. The breast can be seen as two individual shapes; you need a lengberg bra version or a modern balconette bra to achieve this look! (or go natural)

doveblue1

Before, I tried to recreate this kirtle with short sleeves and a waist seam with a plaited back, based on some artwork of Weyden. The sleeves have a seam under the arm instead of the more common S-sleeve, the middle back has a seam, and there is a strip of fabric around the neckline, as a way of giving support to the shape. The front of the skirts lay smooth to the upper body, but at the back there is plaits to add volume and a nice drape to the dress.

pinnedsleeves3 (2)

The houppelande is such an interesting garment, and I have tutorials about the different pattern and outlay. These are some of my different versions I have made. I really am a fan of this green colour as you may have noticed, and my friends use to joke with me if I don’t wear green on events…

 

And here is my pinterestfolder on different houppelandes and overdresses.

This became a quite long post! I will try to keep up with making some more tutorials for the different models if you want to try them out yourself.

 


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How I make my 15th century braids

I took some quick pictures to show you how I make my braids for the 15th century outfit. I do not make them to all events, and they end up looking a bit different each time, but this is the basics for the look! (this is not a historically accurate way, but it is one that really works for me during work and camping events so I wanted to share)

You will need:

Longer hair, or hair extentions.

Brush, comb, hair wax (optional), rubber bands or thread, 2 bobby pins.

First, I divide the hair in two sections, and brush them out. Then I usually add some natural hair wax to get the hair a bit easier to work with. The hair is pulled to the front, and the braid is a regular 3 strand braid that begin over the ear.

Look at the start of the braid, it is really high up and almost at the front of my hairline:

 

Braid both sides, finish them off with a small rubber band or thread. I always use rubber bands, because I am lazy…

After this, it is time to fasten up the two braids in loops. I usually do this by pulling a bobby pin through the rubberband, so the pin hangs in the end of the braid. This is the hair from behind; you don’t have to make it perfect, but try to pull the braids tight from behind to avoid the hair falling down your neck.

After that, grap you bobby pin, fold the braid back and put in the bobby pin at the start of your braid. If you have extentions, you can pin it through one of these for extra firmness. Make sure the pin is secure, give it a small “twist” to secure it inside the braid.

Then it should look something like this. The loose hair ends lies against my head, behind the braids and under any cap or veil I will wear. The bobby pin and rubber band is also hidden. Note the lenght of the braid in different paintings when deciding how long yours should be. I like them to reach the line of my nose, it makes my face look cute.

And from behind

There, all done! I have discovered that the best way to hide the loose hair and the small hairs at the neck is to use a modern, thin hair band in fabric, that I pull over my head and smooth away the hairs with. I didn’t use that this time, and you can use hair spray, wax, bobby pins or whatever you fancy to hold your hair in check.

The result? This is what it looks like when styled with the 15th c great veil.