HANDCRAFTED HISTORY


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The Ultimate Packing List

In Sweden, the historical camping season has begun, and with that lots of clever reenactors are sitting at home, working on their packing lists and piling their things in large heaps. For your convenience and enjoyment, I have asked around after the best packing tips, clever hacks and what-not-to-forget as a beginner.

Here it is, the Ultimate Packing List! Containing everything and more, just what you need to plan your event. Just adjust after your preference and need, and print it out!

Tent:

  • wooden pegs
  • tent pegs
  • tent walls/roof
  • rope
  • sledge
  • extra rope, pegs and mending stuff

Sleeping arrangements:

  • bed/cot/mattress/air mattress
  • bedding: sheep’s skin, wool blankets, pillow, duvet, sleeping bag.
  • mosquito net
  • sleeping clothes; warm socks, cap, shift/shirt etc

In the tent:

  • tarpaulin floor
  • cloth/fabric floor
  • carpets/furs
  • furniture like stools, benches, table, chests
  • curtains for privacy

Clothes:

  • underwear
  • a change of modern clothes for travelling
  • two pairs of shoes (or more)
  • swimwear historical or modern depending on the rules
  • socks, and extra socks. Some more socks.
  • shifts/shirts
  • middle layers for warm days
  • overlayers for cold and rainy evenings
  • headwear that protects against the sun

Food, eating and cooking:

  • eating utensils: spoon, knife, pick/fork, plate, bowl, jug and glass
  • food storage: cloth bags, chests, plastic bags, cool bag with freezing blocks
  • water container to carry with you during daytime
  • fire maker (matches, striker etc)
  • towel/rags for hot kettle, table, dishes
  • fire extinguisher
  • fire pit/somewhere to make your food
  • tripod for your pot
  • firewood, coal
  • pot to cook in (frying pan or cauldron)
  • dish brush and dish soap
  • towel
  • tasty drinks
  • snacks
  • food for all your meals
  • trash bag or bin with a plastic bag inside for icky trash

Necessities:

  • toilet paper
  • towel
  • soap
  • hand sanitiser
  • plastic bags
  • wet wipes
  • your regular medicines and toiletries like toothbrush etc
  • menstruation pads
  • abrasion patches (band-aids for your feet)

Good Things to have:

  • power bank
  • extra socks
  • extra medicines (for cold, pains, band-aids etc)
  • extra blanket/sleeping bag for warmth
  • sunscreen
  • earplugs
  • mosquito repellent
  • snacks
  • first aid kit
  • cloth sacks to store things in
  • cloth sacks, baskets, fässing, bags to carry things in
  • mending/sewing bag
  • fluid replacement (to put in water if the event is very warm)
  • axe
  • small broom for the tent

To make the stay more enjoyable:

  • candles in lanterns, and/or led candles for lighting your tent in a safe way
  • heater for the tent + fuel for the heater
  • toys according to your hobby; sewing projects, swords, bow, armour etc

*Please be advised that some events have restrictions on fire and cooking or modern equipment etc so be sure to learn what rules apply to the event you want to visit!

Good luck with your packing and adventuring! I am going to pile some more “important-looking-stuff” now for my trip to DW next week.


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Want to live in a Historical Tent?

I could call myself somewhat of a pro at living in historical tents, or more accurately, sleeping bad and freezing in historical tents… Therefore, I present to you a guide on how to choose your tent and live comfortable in that!

(This turned out to be a really long blog post- I have apparently missed talking to you. I marked all my personal thoughts and anecdotes with cursive, for easier reading)

Which period?

Different models are based on finds from different periods, so if you are going on viking adventures the Geteld or A-frame models are most often used. For medieval adventures, Getelds and Pavilions are good choices. Small shelters called “Soldier’s tents” are also often used.

When looking at websites selling tents, many will show you models that are not based on finds or pictures but called “historical” anyway. The openings could be placed in new ways, the seams made to save fabric widths or moved to be able to sew on a machine. The poles and ropes holding the tent up might be done in different ways that can not be seen in manuscripts and so on… These tents may still be good tents, but it is always good to know what you buy, and what it is based on for the future. If you are unsure about a model, ask!

A-frame tents at a viking market

What says finds and historical pictures?

Viking type tents are based on ship burials which have included a tent with a wooden frame and canvas. We don’t really know if people actually slept in these on land as well, and they probably did not bring them to different markets all summer… But what to do, when you are a modern person wanting some comfortable living?

Medieval type tents are seen in numerous manuscripts and paintings, both used by nobility and commoners. Brightly painted, large tents are used for festivities, tournaments and for avoiding that pesky sun, while small sleeping tents and shelters can be seen in military settings. A quick search gave me this board.

Round pavilions at Double Wars.

Where are you going?

Many events have lists or recommendations about what tent models are allowed on their events. Mostly, you can bring Getelds and A-frames to viking events, as well as small canvas pieces as simple roofs. To medieval events, Getelds are often allowed, as well as square, round and oval-shaped Pavilions. Materials may also be advised to be linen or wool.

Sleeping tent in the middle, and large pavilions in the background.

The event organizer will want to have as pretty a camp as possible, but at the same time, they know tents are really expensive and that guests will stay at home if their living investment is not allowed. The same is true with market tents; most of them are not strictly historical since a modern seller will need light loads to carry and transport, as well as a big enough tent to be able to bring enough products to earn a living. Not everyone can sell jewellery and candy, so some will need big, bright and roomy tents.

Other things to consider are the campgrounds; is it rocky and hard to put down tent pegs? Then an A-frame tent might be good. Is it often stormy and windy, then perhaps a smaller tent with a sturdy frame and long tent pegs is a good choice. Have you ever seen a jumping A-frame tent in a storm? I have, they can really get quite far…

Cotton, linen or wool?

Cotton is by far the most common tent canvas today since it is cheaper, lighter and easy to come by in the right thickness and waterproofing. I use cotton in my Pavilion to be able to lift the canvas pieces myself and to have a tent that is bright enough for customers to see my products, even if it is rainy outside. But oooh, my old linen pavilion was prettier!

Linen is heavier but more resistant to mold, and unbleached linen will keep your tent cooler and darker. Perfect for sleeping in, not so good if you are a market vendor selling fabrics. Linen gets bleached over time in the sun, giving the canvas a really good look.

Wool is mostly used in A-frames and a good, felted wool fabric will keep you dry, cool and comfortable in all kinds of weather. May be waterproofed with modern products, or with lanolin (wool fat) which is more historical.

Different types of fabrics; brown wool tent, white cotton tents and the unbleached linen pavilion in the background.

Consider this when choosing your model:

  • Packing space available (how much space do you have in your car for a tent canvas and wooden frame?)
  • Storing space (where will you keep the tent off season?)
  • How many people and how much stuff do you need to fit?
  • Is it important that you can put up the tent fast?
  • Is it important that the tent is easy to lift/carry? (consider a canvas in several pieces)
  • Should the door be big (welcoming/good shop) or small at one edge (more sleeping space)?

I have always been partial towards Geteld models since they are often economical, easy to transport and fast to put up and down.

With that said, after living for weeks in this model you will get really tired of the sloping walls, giving you almost no space to hang clothes for drying (except in the middle). Storing all your things around the base of the tent will save lots of space to allow you to walk around in the middle, but it will also mean you crawling around on your knees looking for things every day.

A-frame tents also seem very practical and I am slightly jealous of my friends when we are putting up camp at rocky, hard grounds. While I am sweating and swearing trying to put down the tent pegs in the ground, they simply fold their tent in place, secure the canvas by the frame and move in. I usually get my revenge when the carrying distance between car and camp is long since I can carry my poles in one go…

A-frame tents are practical, economical and if you have the storage and packing space for the frame it is a good choice. It is also considered the easiest tent to make yourself.

Pavilions often have a roof with separate walls, allowing you to open up different sections of the tent if you want the breeze to get in, or want a nice display area. Straighter walls with poles or wooden wheels mean you can place furniture along the walls, and hang clothing from the wooden frame, which is both practical and pretty. More sloping walls on the other hand might ride out storms better.

Round and square pavilions may be sensitive to hard winds and storms; during the Medieval Week in Visby you may see knocked down tents of these models, or tents laid down by choice before a storm. If the round pavilion has a sturdy roof frame, you can remove the middle pole, fold the walls and secure the roof down to the ground covering all your furniture and belongings while you wait for the storm to pass. You might not fit inside, but your tent will survive…

If you only want a sleeping place, tents called “soldier’s tent” or one-man tents might be the right choice for you. I would advise you to get a tent big enough to fit a bed inside, then you will always have a dry space, and can store your things under the bed.

Will I get wet?

A good tent will keep you dry even in heavy rains, as long as you can stay of the ground (in a folded camp bed or wooden bed for example). Also, never put clothes or bedding up close to the canvas, ideally, nothing should touch the canvas walls except the framework.

Our oval pavilions have kept out heavy rains on several occasions, with the single drop or two from a slacking corner joint between roof and wall. During one event, the rain was so heavy that small runlets formed and travelled through the tent. Everything above ground kept dry, but a turn shoe almost floated away…

Look for a tent construction that has sloping roof/walls, and a canvas that is thick, sturdy and treated with a waterproofing agent. Even so, after some years out and about the canvas may need to get additional waterproofing.

How to care for a historical tent:

Let’s start at the beginning; oil all your wooden poles upon arrival, and once a year after that (or when needed). When you put up your tent; find the right way to do so without adding unnecessary tension to the pole, canvas or ropes. The same goes for taking down the tent; do so slowly and controlled, and get some friends to help you in the beginning. Always mend loose ropes, or broken seams at once. Make sure the tent canvas is really dry before folding it away in the storage, and that it is reasonably clean since rotting mud, grass and insects may cause damage to the canvas over time. Brushing away loose bits before folding the tent is good. I also brush off the dirt from the tent pegs and ropes. The canvas should be stored in a dry space, outdoor sheds are not ideally. I can give you several examples of people having their tents destroyed by mold and rats during winter…

More tips to be comfortable in the tent:

  • Furniture like a bed, table and chairs (so you don’t have to sleep and sit on damp ground)
  • A heater for those chilly events (if you live in an area with cold nights and rains). We have a portable gasoline radiator (the same type you might have in a trailer van).
  • A mosquito net to drape over the bed at night
  • Look for opportunities to hang things inside the tent; a lantern and a rope for drying clothes make life easier.

Things to ask (or look for) when buying a tent:

  • What material is the canvas made of, and is it waterproof? Treated to withstand mold? Treated to slow fire down?
  • How much does the canvas weight? Does it come in 1 or several pieces?
  • How long are the frame/tent poles?
  • Are rope and tent pegs be included?
  • How should you take care of the tent?
  • If the tent canvas breaks, is it possible to buy additional fabric for mending?

Pricing?

Historical tents are expensive. Or at least, there is lots of money involved. The cheapest way is often to make one yourself if you have the time, space and skill. The second-hand market is also a really good choice, when people get tired of their small, practical tents and want to level up, they will often sell them for a good price. But try to inspect the tent yourself before you pay for it (ideally put up) to avoid bad canvas, mold, rips or a cracked frame.

A short sneek view over the camping ground at Double Wars; here you can see many different kinds of tents!


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A look into my wardrobe; Veils!

Welcome! Today I’ll show you some of my favourites from my historical wardrobe and give you my best advise on what to choose for your own outfit. Let’s start with veils.

My current favourite is the semicircle veil in different sizes. It is easy to drape and style, and the semicircle cut gives it a smooth and flowing drape. Here are some examples:

large semicircle veil
medium veil from behind

The measures on my different veils:

small: diameter 85 cm (the straight front edge) length 55 cm (from front head to the back).

medium: diameter 100 cm, lenght 58 cm.

large: diameter 140 cm, lenght 60 cm.

small semicircle veil

This is a larger semicircle veil in wool muslin fabric, worn over braids, cap and wimple. Pinned in place by the temples and in the back of the neck:

winter wool veil

To make one: Use a thin tabby linen (90-120 gram/m2) with an even weave. Presoak and wash before sewing to avoid shrinking in the future. I draw the measures directly on the fabric; a semicircle shape following the measures above. The reason for not making a mathematical semicircle is more a matter of taste; how long you want the front edge to be and how much fabric you want in the back. Try it out and see what you like!

I make small double folded edges and whip stitch them with silk sewing thread or 60/2 thin linen thread, vaxed before sewing.

The rectangular veil is a very useful veil that can be worn in several ways. It has a straighter fall than the semicircle, but is ideal for wrapping or draping around the neck, like this:

rectangular veil
rectangular veil with decorative edge

If you make the rectangular veil longer it becomes what I call a Great veil:

great veil for wrapping

The great veil above measures 55*250 cm and is great for creating turban styles seen in the 15th century.

The measures of some of my veils:

Simple rectangular veil: 55*150 cm

Veil with a decorative edge in linen: 50*150 cm

Great veil: 50*250 to 55*350 cm

Use the same quality linen fabric as above, and the same seams.

Shorter Great veil (200-250 cm) worn wrapped around the head, the end folded over the head and resting on top.

When sewing veils for wrapping, I find it easier to use them if they are not to wide. 50-55 cm is enough.

silk veil

Square veils are the hardest to style in my opinion. This model was the first I tried out, but we never made a great team. I do have one left though; my silk veil with freshwater pearls. Silk veils are high status veils, and look great. They are also very light, so you barely feel them on your head.

If you want to make a silk veil for yourself, use a fabric with a heavy drape and thin enough to be a little transparent. Sew the edges double folded with running stitches or even better; make a rolled hem with invisible stitches. (Or buy one ready-made from me with an email/pm).

Measures for a square veil: 80*80 cm or bigger (the silk one above is around 90*90 cm.)

This style is actually two or three different pieces: a cap with a folded strip of fabric pinned on, and a great veil on top. It is a simplification of the large head dress the fashionable woman wore during a preiod of the 15th century. Painting shows headwear with many folds or layers, held in place with pins, basting (or some kind of magic). But since I live in a tent during summer events (and not a comfortable house with a maid) I need simplified ways to dress myself. This was one option that came out nicely, it is both easy to pack and manage during medieval camping, and easy to dress myself in. It should be more tightly pulled in the neck though- contemporary pictures shows no such fabric volume in the neck.

simple style turban

This is another way to style the Great veil, for that “I am hard working but yet fashionable” look. The veil is pinned directly around the head without any shaping braids, padding or cap, and wrapped around the head a couple of times. It is then pinned down to the layers below, and the end left hanging.

To avoid bulky fabric in the neck, I have found that it is better to pin all models of veils in place instead of tying them.

Veil measures: 55*250 cm, thin linen with double folded edges.

Buying fabrics for veils?

Thin linen 90-120 g/m2 with an even weave, a semitransparent and drapey silk, or a fine wool muslin fabric are the materials used above. There’s no find of wool veils, but I use the fabric when I need to stay warm, and for its beautiful colour tone and drape. It is hard to find linen good enough for veils today.

Threads: I use 60/2 thin linen thread for linen veils, and silk sewing thread for wool and silk veils.

Type of stitch: Hand stitching is a good choice for veils since they are very visible, and the drape will look very different with a machine seam. I always fold the hem twice, as narrow as I can before sewing. Whipstitching is always a good choice, but running stitching will do the work faster and create a more discreet seam. Perfect if you have a very thin fabric, or are in a hurry. Silk fabric edges I like to roll and sew with an invisble seam.

variations; linen rectangle worn double folded.

You can vary your veils in many different styles to fit different periods, fashion and status. Above is the rectangular veil with a decorative edge, folded twice and pinned onto a birgitta cap.

The best way to find your styles is to look at contemporary paintings and portraits and try to replicate the look in front of the mirror. When satisfied- take some photos to remember how you did it. I always end up in early spring wondering what veil style I should wear for which outfit…

The 16th century Working Woman

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At DW University on a weekend event

Back in 201something (2016 maybe?) I made this outfit with a brown woolen overdress, based on Drei Schnittbücher by Katherine Barich/Marion McNealy. I wrote a research post to summarize my background research and thoughts but never got around to writing about the finished outfit. The research focused on middle Europe in the early 16th century, but when I found the book with pattern drafts I took the sidestep to try and make the gown after one of the models presented, even though it might be more probable to have made a dress with a waist seam like my trossfrau dress. But who can resist a fun pattern draft from a medieval tailoring book?

Since then, I have been wearing this outfit several times and even adjusted the dress with a lower neckline and a piece of mending over one of the skirt folds. I like this outfit since it is both pretty and comfortable for working, so I thought I would share it with you.

Winter event, with all three layers

I start with a basic linen shift in half bleached linen, based on my tutorial. It has a square cut neckline to match the dress and kirtle, and long sleeves.

Over that, I wear a kirtle or middle dress in wool, sleeveless and simple. This is a really practical working garment, and allow me to roll up the shift sleeves when doing dishes. Back then, I had a yellow sleeveless dress, that got sold to make a new one, one size larger.

Unfortunately, I got sidetracked when making that and decided on an Italian styled dress that is also shown in this tutorial. After that, I realised I really needed a middle layer to make this outfit complete, and made another kirtle in grey-blue wool, with a decorative fabric strip in black wool.

Both the middle layer and the overdress is rather tight fitted, giving me bust support when worn.

(This is what it looked like at first before I moved the neckline down a bit)

The overdress is made in brown wool with decorative borders in amber coloured wool. I liked this dress pattern since it is quite different from others I had tried, and I fell for the challenge. Sadly, the tailor books do not come with much information about how one should assemble all the pieces, so you could best describe this as a try on a medieval pattern, rather than something strictly copied.

I adjusted the cutting out of the fabric pieces to fit the fabric I had available, which was around 300*150 cm of wool. I also choosed to widen the skirt at the back to make it look more like the artwork from the period. The tailoring book shows the centre back (and front) straight, but that does not give the desired folds seen on women. Maybe a gore was supposed to go in there, or some other adjustment that was so obvious none bothered to write it down? To accommodate for the skirt width, I had to piece the sleeves with three different fabric scraps to get the dress together.

The front piece is folded at the centre front, making the skirt without a seam in the front.
The back pieces are pieced at the hem for fuller width
One of the sleeves, basted for trying on.
pattern pieces from the book

The overdress (well, the entire outfit) is sewn by hand, and on this dress, I only used linen thread, a choice I based on research for the period. Sadly, I have misplaced many notes and sources so the only reference I have left is a note saying “linen thread common for working-class clothing, do not bother with silk or wool). Ok, I apparently did that…

The skirt panels and some longer seams are made with running stitches, and the rest of the dress is sewn with backstitching, and the seam allowances are sewn down with whipstitching. The decorative fabric pieces are also whip stitched in place. On the inside, the dress is lined with a piece of sturdy linen fabric in the body, and the front closing is reinforced with a piece of linen canvas and closed with hooks and eyes. Another possibility would be lacing, but I like how fast the dressing is with hooks and eyes!

I found this model harder to fit than the 16th c models with waist seam, since you can’t adjust the waist placement during fitting. It has to be cut out at the beginning. I like to raise the waistline 1-2 cm above my natural waist to achieve the early 16th c silhouette, and that was more difficult here. But the dress made up for it by being really fun to assemble with the skirt folds.

I folded the skirt part that stretches outside the body in several folds and fastened these to the sides and centre back of the body. This gave a lot of strain on specific parts of the dress, causing the folds to rip when someone accidentally stepped on the dress hem. So I mended that side with a piece of fabric.

Here you can see the folds in the centre back and sides.

If I were to remake this whole pattern, I would choose to cut a slit between the body and skirts and fit the skirt in folds as you do on 18th c clothing. But this was several years ago and I hadn’t tried that technique yet.

Side view showing the gathered skirt fabric in the side; drapey and voluminous!

The greatest thing about this pattern was the drape of the skirt. It is full and generous and the folds look great in the centre back and sides. The front on the other hand is straight, with just an extra 15 cm overlap to allow for getting out of the dress. I just fold the gap shut and wear an apron above, but you could pin or hook it in place, or make a slit in the front. The straightness of the front makes the skirt great to work in; when I bend forward the skirt rearrange itself towards my legs, avoiding any flames or obstacles before me. Someone gave this thought “back then”!

The gollar I already made a tutorial for, and you can find it here. The early photos show an amber coloured English broadcloth gollar, fully lined with fur. The red one only has fur strips, enough to add some warmth but still be conveniently small for packing in a suitcase… Erh, I mean historically stylish yet cheap. Yeah?

The cap is a simplified Birgitta cap, and should be worn with a veil on top to be considered “well dressed for the public”. These caps are unusual in contemporary finds from the 16th century, I have seen a model doll and some “maybe” examples in art- it could be a cap but could also be a folded veil or other headwear. Hairnets, veils, braids, straw hats and other kinds of headwear are also visible. The most important is to have your head “dressed”; either with a hairstyle or headwear appropriate to the period.

You can find my pattern on the Birgitta cap at my Patreon or in my Etsystore.

The hoses are the same knee-high wool hose I use for other outfits, and here is a tutorial to make your own.

The apron is made in handwoven linen and smocked with linen thread. Two double folded strips of fabric were sewn shut to form the bands that I tie the apron with. The rest of the apron is only double hemmed and sewn with whipstitching.

When I went back to my old research post I also remembered that I wrote that I needed a jacket and a cloak, amongst other things. I actually made several examples of wool jackets, but they never made it to the blog for some reason. A black wool jacket based on the same tailoring manuscript book as the dress got photographed at an event, but then I sold it to make another one and try out some variations.

photo: Annika Madejska

Phew! So this was a lot of thoughts, and sewing, and years gone by without finishing up the writing on this project. I seldom return to old projects like this one, but since I still like it I thought it would be fun to share it with you. It is not a tutorial of any kind, more of a diary or a presentation of a project done.

Sometimes when you see others on the internet doing cool projects and posting photos of fancy dresses it is easy to feel like you don’t get anything done, but sometimes the road to finished projects can be long, windling and a bit unsure. It is ok too!

My Patreons wished for more research to be published, and I am happy to do so! Want to support the blog and be able to ask for content? Consider joining my supporters here!


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Lucia

In Swedish tradition, Lucia comes at the winter’s darkest night, bringing light and hope. But the night is not only hopeful and joyous but also dangerous. It is best to stay awake, keeping watch over the darkness and your loved ones.

Lucia is the bringer of light, but also a fierce and strong soul, being murdered for her faith and her belief. She is sometimes depicted with a sword or a dagger as well as a light; symbols of her martyrdom. Her role as a light bringer, today often overshines her darker side; that of a dark magical being bringing trouble during the night in Swedish folklore.

In Swedish folklore, the night before Lucia was dark and full of magic; the animals might talk to you and many people stayed up all night- a tradition that still remains today. The celebration of Lucia as a turn of the year (Midwinter) toward lighter times is older than Christianity, and Lucia exists somewhere between an ancient goddess of light, a Saint and a white-clad girl coming with lights and cakes in the morning. With the modern calendar, Lucia is no longer at the Midwinter night but is celebrated 13th December.


The history of Saint Lucia (or Lucy) comes from Syracuse, around the 3-4th century CE. Lucia is the patron saint of the blind, as well as a number of professions, and the patroness of Syracuse in Italy.
If you want to learn more about the Christian martyrdom https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Lucy is a good start.

This is my Lucia, a being existing somewhere between a magical place and the everyday life of people. She comes dressed in clothes from a thousand years ago, with both candles and a sword. She is a strong soul, bringing both light and darkness at the same time.


I have always loved the traditional Lucia celebrations with song and cake in the early morning, coming together to enjoy the light and music as well as longing for brighter days. To me, Lucia is both the Lightbringer and the Dark magical being. A reminder to both enjoy the light and the darkness of the year.


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A gown fit for a Queen

You know when you are browsing fabrics, looking for something practical and discreet to make a working garment with? Yeah, that didn’t go as planned here…

I fell in love with this silk brocade and bought several meters of it during Double Wars. I had no plan at the moment, but it was lovely and the pattern a replica from the 15th century, so I figured I would find it useful. However, it took a couple of years to come around to cutting the fabric and making it into this gown.

Research:

I collected some examples of dresses that I liked that would fit the time period, social status and use for this fabric. This one is a favourite, painted by Pedro Berruguete around 1485, but I already made a tight fitted one when I made my velvet overgrown for the wedding, so I opted for a looser style now.

The weave, material and pattern of the fabric place this project at the top of the social structure in 15th century Europe, something to be worn by royalty. Brocades are most often seen as outer garments, with wide panels and a loose fit (the better to be taken apart and remade for the next wearer?) Here’s my pinterest board with examples. This fits my fabric well, since it is quite stiff, with a dramatic drape.

The model is best described as an overdress or houppelande, with narrow S-sleeves. The panels starts to get wider below the armhole, and adds as much volume as possible to the hem. The neckline is cut in a V-shape and slightly rounded in the back. I made the back panels longer to get a train and cut the middle front straight and floor-length to be able to walk in it without tripping over the hem.

Working with brocade fabric:

When making silk brocade garments for yourself, remember that you need more seam allowance than you use when sewing in wool or linen. First, the fabric will often shred and loose threads everywhere, and second, the brocade is often stiff and does not give any flexibility when worn. I calculated 1 cm extra seam allowance (2,5 cm instead of 1,5 cm) and another 2-4 % of the total measure for movement (if your pattern is 100 cm around the bust, the total will be 102-104 cm + seam allowance).

I do not wash silk brocades before sewing, instead, I steam them with an iron. This will lose the weaving tension without altering the fabric appearance overly much.

When drafting the pattern pieces, remember to adjust them to the fabrics pattern and right/wrong side. This means that if you want to use your fabric wisely, half the dress will have the pattern running in the ”wrong” direction. On my dress, the pattern is ”upside down” on the back panels, and the right way in the front. The fronts are not matched pattern-wise but cut out to maximize the use of the fabric. To the modern eye, this might feel wrong, but never mind modern ideals! Also, piecing in the skirt or sleeves does not have to follow the pattern direction, just use what scraps you have.

zigzag your edges after cutting

After cutting your fabric pieces, I recommend zigzagging or overlocking the edges on your sewing machine, even if you are about to hand sew your garment and will have to rip away the threads while you work. This will prevent the seam allowance to disappear before you have even finished sewing the pieces together.

For hand sewing, silk thread and running stitches or backstitching will do fine. Try pinning only in the seam allowances to avoid damage to the fabric, or use small clamps instead of pins. I also like to bast; here is the sleeve sewn into the armhole with a linen basting thread, before backstitching it with silk thread.

brocade sleeve inserted to armhole

If you prefer to sew your garment on a machine, use a silk thread and a little longer stitches than normal, to allow for a good looking seam. You might want to adjust the thread tension a bit- try on some scraps first!

I press all my seams while working (with steam and a cloth), to make them tidy and easier to sew down. If you don’t want to fell the seams, leave a zigzag or overlock on the inside. If you prefer to fell the seams, use silk thread and try to press and fold the seam allowance as tight as possible for a nice finish. The hem is also pressed and folded over twice before I whip stitch it in place.

The gown, before the finishing pressing with steam. Notice that the sleeves pulls a bit toward the back? The seam is a bit on the tight side, I should have used looser stitches when closing the sleeve. Now I had to adjust it with a good steam and press to reset the shape. Never underestimate steam!

trying the dress on a mannequin

I have yet to wear the dress to an event, and I am really looking forward to it. This type of dress needs to be paired with nerdy headwear, sparkly jewellery and a great party!


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How to take care of your historical shoes

At the end of each historical adventure-season I try to clean, mend and grease all our shoes. Outdoors in the autumn sun is of course the most enjoyable, but as long as you get it done it is fine. (Ideally, one would do this after each event to keep the shoes in top condition. But I am lazy…)

Shoe care: soft brush, leather grease with rag and paper.

After each adventure:

Treat your shoes with some grease after each event/market/adventure and also during longer trips. If the shoes get wet, dry them in room temperature or outdoors (never put them by the fire). You may fill them with paper to get them to dry quicker.

How to deep-clean your shoes before putting them away for the winter:

  1. Brush away loose bits and dust, and clean the space between leather and sole by separating these and brushing away small scraps in the crack. Use a soft brush.
  2. Wipe the shoes clean with luke warm water, and a bit of leather soap/regular soap if dirty. Scrub the soles clean with water and soap.
  3. Dry well, filled with paper to hold the shape better.
  4. Treat the leather parts with leather grease. I also grease the soles on turnshoes.
  5. Dry for a day or two, and then store the shoes in a dry space. I usually keep the historical shoes in the wardrobe.
Clean between the sole and leather
Now these pair are cleaned, dried and greased!

Before the next adventure, take out your shoes and grease them again before use!

Mend your shoes as soon as you discover they are broken! A ripped seam or a loose strap needs to be sewn (you can use vaxed linen thread) and a loose rubber sole needs to be glued in place. If you are unsure how to mend the shoe, the shoemaker you bought them from should be able to help you or give you advise. A modern shoemaker/cobbler could also be of help.

Shoes might not be as visible as other garments, but they add to the historical look and experience!

Store your shoes:

Shoes should be kept in a dry space, and can be filled with paper to better hold their shape. Wardrobes, airy shelves or paper boxes are good. Shoes might get moldy if kept damp or squashed together.

How to use your shoes:

Leather turn shoes (with a leather sole) wears out quickly if you walk with them on gravel and asphalt. If you are walking a lot on those grounds, consider to bring a pair of pattens (wooden soles with straps) to protect your shoes. Or change to modern shoes if walking longer distances. I do that during Medieval week in Visby to spare both shoes and knees.

Mud is equally bad for your shoes; try to avoid it, wear pattens, or brush your shoes clean as fast as you can after a muddy experience.

When walking, remember to not drag you feet against the ground, but properly lift your feet to spare the sole. Avoiding glass and sharp stones is also good. If the shoes get a bit large, use an inner sole, a pair of extra socks or leather straps to keep the shoe firmly on your foot. A shoe that moves on your foot will get uncomfortable and wear out faster.

Buying or making historical shoes can be expensive, but with the right use and treatment they will last a long time. I use mine approximately 30 days a year, and they are several years old now!

(Want to make your own shoes? I have a weekend workshop in shoemaking planned for 13-14 November 2021 in Sundsvall, Sweden. Send me an email if you want to know more and join us!)


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Tutorial; the Euradress

This blog post is made with the support of my Patreons

According to my notes, I made an update on this sewing project when moving it to the current blog address, in 2014. 2014? That is some time ago… With that said, I hope you have patience with this old version, and hopefully, it will help you make one of your own.

Materials and tools needed:

  • Fabric 150 cm width, 200-240 cm length
  • Measuring tape
  • Scissors
  • Chalk
  • Threads + needle
  • Long ruler or a stick

Measure:

The measuring and construction for the Euradress are quite a bit different than other viking and medieval garments, but it is a fun project. The first measures to take here are the base and lenght of the sleeve-piece, everything else will be based on these measures

Hold the measuring tape in the middle of your throat and measure along your arm to the thumbnail. This measure will give you a little bit of extra range of movement to avoid making too short a sleeve.

My measure is 74 cm (my regular sleeve pattern is 66 cm long.)

Measure the base (width) of your sleeve by holding your measuring tape one hand width below your collarbone, drape it over your shoulder towards your back, and take the measure from the back when you are parallel with the start by the front of your body (a friend might be useful here).

My measure is 40 cm, this might be a good measure for size small-medium, while larger sizes will probably have a longer measure (if doing this pattern with measures that differs greatly from mine, be sure to draw your own pattern pieces in a way that works for you. This might be quite different from my draft, but the principle would be the same).

Note: the base of the sleeve is also the upper measure of the front and back pieces. “15 cm” is where my wrist would be, it is not the whole circumference since I will have a long gore adding width for my arm to fit. As a reflection, I would probably have made this measure at least the circumference around my wrist (can’t remember why I did not) but I advise you to do that.

euraskiss

This is my draft of the pieces, on a folded fabric. The width is folded in halv (75 cm) and the dress pieces are drafted along the length of the fabric. Here you can see how much fabric you need after taking your measures: the length of the sleeve + the length of the dress from 1 hand below your collarbone to the bottom hem. Remember to add SA, I have not done that on this old draft.

How to make a draft of your own:

  • Fold your fabric in half
  • Make a line to mark out the middle on the fabric’s surface (red dots).
  • Draft the width of the sleeve around your wrist by the start of the line (highest up) 1/2 width on either side of the line.
  • Mark the length of the sleeve from the wrist to the base (green line)
  • Draft the base of the sleeve where the green line ends, 1/2 width on either side of the line. (purple line) make sure the line is at a 90degree angle to the green line.
  • Draw out the rest of the sleeve (blue area) by drawing lines from the edges of the purple line to where the wrist is (thin lines surrounding the blue area).
  • Draft the front and back body pieces (pink area), starting from the sleeve base edge, down to the corners of the fabric surface, basically continuing on the lines making the sleeves (pink lines). The measuring tape or a long ruler is a great help here.

That’s it! The blue is your sleeves, the pink your front and back piece and the yellow area being “leftover” is your side gores, you will have 1 whole and 2 halves. Cut the pieces out through the folded fabric, if it wants to move around you may pin the fabric layers together with pins along the lines.

euraskiss3

Sewing order:

  • One side gore is cut out in halves; sew this one into a whole gore. You may also make a false seam along the middle of the whole one, creating two identical side gores. “False seams” are seen in finds, made by sewing a very narrow seam in a whole piece, to create the look of a symmetrical garment.
  • Sew the base of the sleeves against each other, but only a short seam of 1-2 cm on each edge. This will make it easier to sew the rest of the dress. The opening left on either side of the sleeve bases is your neckline. Finish that later.
  • Sew the sleeves to the front piece, I find it easiest to start in the centre front and sew the sleeves out to the edge of the front piece on either side. Repeat with the back piece.
  • Add the side gores. I started by the hemline of the dress, sewing in the gores from the bottom and up to the wrists. I did this to be sure to get use of the whole width of the base of the gore since the gore might be a bit longer than the pieces it fastens against (I guess this was also the reason I made my wrist cf so small, I got additional width from the side gore before I cut off the abundance. Looking back on this method, starting by the wrist and sewing down you would get a better opportunity of shaping the bottom hem evenly, by trimming away the corners of the side gores). I would recommend pinning/basting the side gores in place first before sewing.
  • Try the dress on, and adjust the bottom hem and sleeves before folding down the hem and whipstitch it in place.
  • Adjust the neckline on your body by deciding how low you want the opening to be front and back. I closed mine in the back around 4 cm from the base and then hemmed the rest of the opening with whipstitching.
euraskiss2

Adjustments and fitting:

  • The side gores might be a bit too long; check before sewing and cut off the abundance after the wrist.
  • This garment might be a bit loose-fitting; adjust the seams between the gores and the front/back parts if needed.
  • Check out the bottom hem by putting the garment on and measure + adjust to make it look good.

eurakil

About the find:

The Eura finds are from Finland and dated to the Iron Age. It is a great find with lots of information about the Finnish clothes and how they were worn, and have been documented and recreated mainly in the Finnish historical clothing culture.

The Eura dress is a different outfit than the Swedish and Norwegian viking outfit, but the peplos/overdress is similar to other early finds on peplos and to the Gotlandic early viking outfit. The Euradress in the tutorial above, with its special construction method, do have similarities with other finds from Scandinavia, such as the medieval Uvdal find from Norway.

Sources/learn more?

“Ancient Finnish costume” by Pirkko-Liisa Lehtosalo-Hilander

Article on the Uvdal dress

“Prehistoric Eura” offers some insight into the region and photos of the recreated costume


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The Ultimate Cloak Guide

This post is a collab with Korps and contains advertisement for fabrics

Want to own a really nice cloak? Who doesn’t? (yeah, it was a leading question)

Here is my guide to the perfect cloak; we are going to look at different styles, periods, how to wear it and how to choose the best fabric.

Sources:

Let’s start with some local finds, and the oldest one first: The Gerum cloak is dated to 360-100 BCE and is an oval cloak, worn folded over the shoulders. It is a great cloak woven in a patterned twill, and wearing it folded in the middle, it will look a bit like a semicircular cloak. Wearing a big cloak folded in half, is a good way to add warmth if you don’t have a thick fabric or a lining in your cloak.

Rectangular shawl in tabby wool to a simple viking dress

Viking age cloaks can be seen on runestones, decorations, small figurines and are also mentioned in written sources. I usually call it cloak for a man’s outfit and shawl for a woman’s, but since they have the same function we will just call everything cloaks in this post.

If you fold a square piece of fabric into a triangle and wear it, it will look similar to some female figurines. Rectangular cloaks are another option, where figures are shown wearing an outer garment with corners. If you want to learn more about Viking age cloak theory; check out Viking clothing by Ewing, 2007.

Woad blue cloak or shawl, tabby woven wool fabric

The cloak from Leksand was found in a woman’s grave and is dated to the period 1100-1200. It was made from diamond twill wool, and most likely was a semicircular cloak with an opening at the front, it was also decorated with tablet woven bands at the opening (along the straight side).

The cloak worn by the Bocksten man was also semicircular with a cut hole for the neck, and a seam over one shoulder (the opening was not centered at the front) The cloak was made of several pieces of fabric, pieced together. (Kläderna och människan i medeltidens Sverige och Norge, Eva Andersson, 2006.)

How to draft a semicircular cloak on 150 cm wide fabric; it is really easy!

The cloak that supposedly belonged to St Birgitta of Sweden was also made of several pieces of fabric, but this garment is believed to have been remade from a dress.

During the 13th century, you can see lots of cloaks in contemporary sources (such as the Morgan bible), as the cloak was an important part of the outfit. During the 14th century, there are some really pretty examples of statues with buttons down the front or over one shoulder, and in 15th c paintings, they are often artfully draped in biblical scenes, but not very common in everyday portraits.

Simple semicircular travelling cloak in brown wool twill

16th century cloak patterns from Drei Schnittbucher shows examples of circular cloaks with a front opening, slits, collars and even sleeves sewn onto the cloak.

Full circular cloak pattern, look at that piecing!
Full cloak with sleeves, collar and decorative borders

Interesting thoughts:

In written sources, cloaks go under many different names depending on the time, period, appearance and who the wearer is. There is also evidence of cloaks lined with fur or fabric, cloaks with slits or trains, and of different lenght. Clearly, the garment was both used in a religious context as well as an everyday travel item.

I have not found evidence of hoods or head covering sewn onto the cloak in any finds, and when a hood is shown in contemporary art it is commonly separate from the cloak, even though it might be in the same colour as the larger garment. So if you want to make an outfit close to historical sources, make a cloak and a separate hood that correspond with the fashion of the time. (Hoods on cloaks can be seen in 18th c fashion, but let’s leave that century to another time)

Cloaks may be fastened with a seam, pin, clasp, strings, ribbons, brooch, ring brooches or buttons. Choose your method based on which period you would like it to reflect. Cloaks are fairly common in period art sources, so if you browse through a bunch of paintings you might get the idea on what to choose.

The length of the cloak seems to vary with the wearer; a travelling cloak between the knee and below the calf on men, and a bit longer on women, with ceremonial cloaks trailing behind the wearer. But paintings and prints show evidence of shorter cloaks too, with everything from decorated court cloaks to simple peasant women cloaks. Pick the length that suits your need; too much length and fabric will only weigh you down if you want a practical garment.

example of a semicircular cloak

And as always; piecing is very ok to make use of the fabric!

Different models of cloaks:

Oval cloak, square cloak, rectangular cloak, semicircular cloak (or 1/2 circle cloak), cloak with shoulder seams (or 3/4 circle cloak) and full circle cloak. The Viking age square cloak folded in half is not based on finds but more of an experiment, as is the shoulder seam cloak ( I included that in the picture though, so you may see what I am talking about). The latter I often use when I need to make a larger cloak than the semicircular one but don’t have fabric or historical evidence for a full circular cloak. The seams or piecing could as well be made on other parts of the cloak.

I have found no evidence for the cloak with vertical sections/seams to create a fit (which is popular when buying modern cloak patterns) instead, I would recommend you to choose a simple cut and then drape it on your body to your liking. Small shoulder seams or darts can be made as a more modern solution to make the cloak stay over your shoulders.

The cloak does not need to have an even hem, many examples are just draped over the body or longer back. If you want to make a full circular cloak more even by the hem, you may cut the neck hole nearer the front hem than the back hem (my full cloak is 70 cm at the front, and 80 cm long at the back). Putting the cloak on the body and adjusting the hem afterwards is another method.

Decorations:

Finds, paintings and statues indicate that embroidery, woven bands, silk or a combination of these were used to decorate the cloak, however, these examples are mainly seen on religious or high-status garments. For an everyday cloak, I would go with a sturdy, fulled fabric without decorations. If you want to decorate your cloak; try to find artwork from the period you want to recreate.

Fabric choises:

Wool, unlined or lined with wool or fur is both practical, and the most used material in cloaks during the medieval period. There are examples of velvet and silk cloaks, but only for ceremonial or high-status wearers. A sturdy, dense wool fabric that has been fulled would do well for a cloak, and beyond that, it is more a matter of when you need it (a lined winter cloak or a thinner, fashionable draped summer cloak?) There are examples of both twill and tabby woven cloaks, so again- to find the perfect cloak fabric for your period, status and adventure you would have to do some research for yourself.

Generally speaking, the right kind of fabric and the way you drape your cloak is more important than which model you choose, if you want to look dramatic. Buy enough fabric to give you the size of the cloak you need!

If you just want a good, affordable fabric right now; I include some links here to Korps.se that sells good thick woollen fabrics for cloaks. Very thick and warm fabric, or a softer and warm choice.

Colours:

The best colours for your cloak is: “yeah, it depends on..” you are starting to get this right? Period, area, status, wearer… like with all the other garments the medieval person would buy or make a garment according to what they could afford and what was available/allowed for them. Use artwork again; blues, reds and browns are seen often, and during the late medieval period dark hues and black seems to be popular. A commoner or person living in rural areas maybe had an undyed homemade cloak, while a fashionable burgher would wear something bought, dyed and cut to their taste. The cloak also differed between a garment of fashion and an everyday outer wear for bad weather; let this reflect the colour you choose.

Or, if you prefer, use this information to inspire you into making an awesome fantasy cloak for your next fantasy adventure!



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The novice guide to time-travelling

Hi there! Are you new around here? Welcome!

This is a short, and hopeful, encouraging guide to get you started with historical sewing and adventuring.

There are many paths down this hobby, depending on your interests and where you live. Look for local groups and events and what they do, and try out different things.

Some examples on activities/groups to try:

  • SCA (Society of creative anachronism).
  • Reenactment groups that specialise in different periods.
  • Friend-based groups that accept new members.
  • Larping (live-action role-playing).
  • Markets/fairs that focus on a period you are interested in.
  • Landmarks like castles, ruins or museums might have groups helping them create a living environment.
  • Online meetings, workshops, groups etc.

In some areas, you will find lots of different, open activities to choose from. In others, not so many. Remember; many time travelling enthusiasts travel a lot to get to their favourite activities so even if you don’t find the best parts close to you, there might be others living nearby that you don’t know yet.

If you find anything of interest, be sure to reach out to them, tell them that you would like to join and ask about the requirements. Some groups are open to visit, others are invites only or require you to have a certain standard to your gear before joining. Remember that most groups are voluntary based so you will meet other enthusiasts working for free, not some big business with staff readily available!

What outfit do you need?

This depends on where you are going and what groups you would like to join. Before sewing, it could be a great idea to first scout your options for activities. Some group/fairs/events require you to wear a specific time period for attending. Or if you just love to sew; start with doing different outfits and then go to events where you can enjoy wearing them!

Handcrafting camp at “Medeltidsdagar på Hägnan”.

Generally speaking; when planning your first outfit for going to an event over a day or so linen underwear (shirt/shift) under some kind of wool clothing, maybe with a hat/veil/headwear and a belt with some kind of bag will be enough. A cloak, if you want to stay during the evening, might be good. Shoes are often hard to find at first, but if you have funds to spare webshops offer different models that might do. Again; before spending your hobby budget on something it might be good to wear a pair of discreet sandals or boots on your first trip, and then inquire for tips on footwear. This might save you a lot of money and trouble!

How do you make an outfit?

Nowadays, the internet is bursting with info free to grab and make do with. Start with choosing what period you are really into; Viking age, high Medieval era or the 18th-century court will all have very different styles. The next step is to collect: information, pictures, photos, inspiration… Try to look into both contemporary sources such as books, paintings etc from the period, what research, science and finds show, as well as inspiration from other reenactors. This way, you will build up your own sense of what would be a good choice of clothing.

Buying fabric for your outfit is so much fun, but also hard!

Don’t know where to start? Say you are interested in the 15th century North Europe style; start googling that. Check out artists living in the period (find them on Wiki) and what happened politically and fashionable during this era. (Before you know it, you will be super educated about a whole new period in history…)

Were could you buy an outfit?

Not into sewing… at all? No worries, lot’s of people are not. There are plenty of businesses today selling reenactment gear of different qualities. The problem is, of course, to find the right place with garments and items with a quality that is suitable for what you intend to do. Before shopping (and risk being disappointed) decide on where you want to go and try to connect with a group around that interest/period/area and ask them for good shopping tips. I would of course advise you to go local; shop within your country from seller’s that makes the items themself and may customize them for you. Better quality might cost more, but it also has a better lasting value if you want to upgrade in the future.

Ask a friend!

I know you probably have a thousand questions. Because I had when I started. Am I allowed to bring a toothbrush? What shall I eat? How are people sleeping at that event? Is this expensive? Is it fun? I may of course not answer all questions in this text, but if you are wondering about something specific; feel free to write a comment here and I will do my best to answer everything or send you to someone better suited! And yes, toothbrushes are allowed…

Advise from others:

I asked on my FB page for more advice for beginners and had lots of great suggestions from readers and friends. I didn’t bring them all, but wanted to share some of them!

Karine “Try to find out what you really want to create. Follow your own fire. Ask as many questions as you want. And remember that everybody makes mistakes sometimes. And sometimes mistakes can turn into something even better.”

Elin (translated to English) …”remember to drink water, nap, use sunscreen and eat your meals. Even schedule rest time along with activities. Change clothing for sleeping. A headwear is fantastic! The protect you from heat stroke, sun and can be moisten (to cool you down).”

On the subject on finding new friends: Volunteer! Attend handcrafting workshops. Join Fbgroups.

Adéle “Clothes and gear as a new player: Do -not- compare yourself to others (who might have had years and years of making and gathering their stuff). If you end up having fun and sticking with the hobby, the gear will come. Focus on following the recommendations of the organizers, staying warm and dry, and having fun.”

Agnes: “Try not to fall into the trap of “everybody else has such nice things and I will never be able to create that”. We have all been beginners, everybody starts out with different possibilities to budget, knowledge and amount of time we can put in to the hobby … Most people in the reenactor/sca/larp world are kind and helpful people. If they get told “I like your thing, how did you do it?” they will just be happy to be able to geek out with someone. Don’t expect them to hand you an IKEA kit though. You will have to learn some stuff for your own…”

Maja Elise: “Just start! When I made my first attempt at kit I didn’t know anyone else who did reenactment. Those clothes suck, but I’m so glad I just got started. Fun was had and experience earned.”

Fredrik: “For living history/reenactment, research first, then spend your money. It somebody says that something is ok, ask for their sources. If they can’t provide sources, don’t follow their advice.”

Minna: “Just go for it. You’ll probably want new stuff anyways after your first few events, so keep it simple.”