HANDCRAFTED HISTORY


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Easy ways to make your medieval clothing last longer

I really love historical clothing, and fabrics, and sewing and trying out new things… But I also think it is important to care for what you have, and make your historical garments last long and look the part. This is also some good advise to those new in the hobby, and to customers wondering how to care for their new garments. Basically; a post with “good to knows” and things I try to think about with my own wardrobe.

Here is my best tips to care for and wear your garments so they will last longer!

Only wash if needed.

Ok, linen garments used as underwear need to be washed often, and they withstand the wear of the washing machine for years. Don’t tumble them dry, hang them to dry instead.Really dirty clothing can be presoaked in water before washing.

Wool garments will last longer if you only wash them when they are really dirty, and instead hang them out to air after each event. Grime, dirt, food stains and blood on the other hand need to be washed out after each use; sometimes it is enough to only wash the soiled part but other times a good hand wash is needed for the whole garment. Use a detergent for wool, and cold/luke warm water. If you are machine washing your clothes, use the wool or hand wash program.

Don’t step on the hem.

It is easy done walking in a camp or climbing a stair, but it will wear out the hem or cause seams to rip.

If you are wearing long dresses and skirts draping on the floor, it means you portrait a person that have the time and money to care for such a garment, and doesn’t have to do heavy work, instead strolling around and holding up the dress with a hand or two. Look at historical paintings; all the dresses that pools on the floor or has a train is worn by ladies holding them up while walking.

If you have your hands full, hike up the dress with a (extra) belt around the waist.

Getting dressed and undressed.

Historical garments often feels differently on the body than modern ones, and many persons experience that they moves differently while wearing them. This is a que to the action of dressing to; don’t jump into your hose like you would do with a pair of sweatpants. Instead, take time to dress carefully, adjusting the garments so they feels good on your body.

Never jank jackets, tunics or dresses down, instead carefully slip them on. If they are tight, move them slowly on and always unbutton or lace up the parts needed. Buttons and lacing are not just for show, they are essential parts for getting the clothes on, and then creating a smooth fit.

When pulling a tight dress over the head, ask for assistance when dressing or undressing. After all, the highly fashionable medieval person would have help getting dressed.

Care for and mend garments at once.

Most modern people are not used to mending clothes, but rather throwing them away. Create habits after each event when you wash, air and mend clothing at once. Don’t leave dirty clothing laying in the wardrobe, it could attrach moths, and remember to mend holes and ripped seams at once, before the hole gets bigger.

Store your garments well.

Hanging light clothing is good, but heavy dresses and coats should not be stored on hangers, they may be stretched. Fold or roll them loosely and put them in the closet. I also like to keep my clothing in plastic containers to avoid moths, and take them out to air every once in a while (like, autumn and spring).

What are you using the outfit for?

Weapons practice, heavy work, sweat and dirt will wear your clothes out much faster than strolling around on events and markets. I have dresses in mint condition that are 8 years old, while a customer of mine completely ripped his garment up in under a year doing weapons training and fighting. Consider what you will use your clothing for, and consider doing dirty work in your undergarments or a sturdy kirtle made for the purpose. Switch to your nice clothing afterwards or for shows (just like they did during the medieval times).

A sturdy and practical dress, made a bit shorter and with good stretch for moving


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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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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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Getting dressed in the morning

Follow me on one of my historical adventures and take a look inside our medieval pavilion, to find out what I do in the morning to get ready- medieval style! (Yeah, just like a regular blog person I post getting-ready photos and todays-outfit. I just do it in my way… super serious, promise!)

When the sun rises it gets bright, and during summer it also gets quite warm in the tent, if the sun shines on the roof. Our new tent is a little better; you can easily sleep until 9 if you don’t have to rise early for breakfast duty. We have curtains to create a sleeping area in the tent, and here I sit on the bed, dressed in a linen shift.

Combing out my hair before braiding it. I could say that I get pretty every morning before going out for breakfast and coffee, but the truth is that most often I just put on a simple kirtle or my brown coat over the shift to have my breakfast as soon as possible. But let’s pretend this is a morning with plenty of time…

Then I put on my woolen hose, my medieval shoes, and the garters that holds the hose in place.

After that it is time to put on the dress or kirtle. This is my green woolen 15th c dress, fastened with hooks and eyes at the front. An apron is good to protect the clothes and to finish of the outfit. Under the shift I sometimes wear a lengberg bra, a modern bra or a sports bra to get the support I need. They all work well, but the lengberg bra or a balconette model will give you the 15th c silhouette. If you have smaller breast, going natural works well too!

Then I usually braid my hair, and/or pull a cap and veil over it, or a cap and straw hat if I am working outside in the sun. The hairdo I will post in a separate blog post, with a DIY guide. This photo is from Double wars, being out in the forest in really nice and warm weather.


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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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15th century headwear

There are many looks on headwear during the late 15th century. Everything from maiden hair hanging loose with soft waves, to several layers of linen veils wrapped around the head, with wimples or jewelry worn. There is both visible and hidden hairdos, fake hair pieces, caps, hairbands and circlets, as well as decorations such as pins, jewelry and braids.

In this post, I wanted to show you a few of my favourite looks and how to achieve them in simple ways.

 

This is a great veil, and it is simple a very long veil wrapped in layers about the head. The result gives you a turban, or if you prefer, a layered look with a loose end hanging. To keep the veil in place, add pins.

Fabric: thin linen 52*250 cm (or longer; up to 4 meters would be doable I think)

The short side should reach from forehead to neck, the long side wraps around your head in several layers. Cut out a square piece of fabric, and hem it around all sides with a small double folded or rolled hem. Use vaxed linen thread, and whip stitch or tiny running stitches.

Put the long side over your head, drape the veil around your head and pin it at the neck (do not make anknot, that will be to bulky and doesn’t look right in the end). Wrap the veil several times around your head, and secure it with more dress pins. Alternatives; wear it on top of a cap, headband or hairband. Let the end hang loosely, over one shoulder.

You can also wrap the veil folded, to achieve a more smooth look. The “secret” with making the look hold and look nice? Practice, mostly. I like to wear a base, like a version of the Birgitta cap, and then pin the veil to this one. When I wrap the veil around my head, the layers will go a little different each time, to cover the whole head in a good way.

In this look, the layers are wrapped from behind, and then swiped from the ear, over the forehead and a little back, to achieve the V shape at the forehead. This looks need some more pins at the top of the head to stay in place.

Veil with sewn layers. This veil is an experiment to achieve the look seen on many paintings from the period, in very easy means. A more historically accurate way would probably be to use a very long great veil, or the “strip with sewn folds” with a veil on top. But if you want to look the 15th century part easy and fast; this is it!

Fabric: thin or medium thin linen 64*250 cm

Cut out a square piece of fabric, and hem it around all sides with a small double folded or rolled hem. Use vaxed linen thread, and whip stitching or tiny running stitches. Then measure and mark folds on one short side, as many as you would like (between 6-20 folds). Make the folds by hand, press them down, and sew them with running stitches. At the ends (the long sides of the veil) you can make the folds go together to add some shape to your piece.

Put the veil over your head with the folds at the forehead, and pin it at your neck. The veil should hang over the pin and hide it. Then twist the veil fabric around your head until you have used the whole length. Tuck the end in under some layers, and pin everything in place.

Strip with sewn folds

Fabric: thin linen 64*20 cm (64*30 cm for more folds)

This is made either to pin on a cap, or fasten on your head with pins or ribbons at the neck. On top of it your wear one or more veils. A practical way to style your existing headwear into the 15th century style.

Cut out a square piece of fabric, and hem it around all sides with a small double folded or rolled hem. Use vaxed linen thread, and whip stitching or tiny running stitches. Then measure and mark folds along the long side, as many as you would like and can fit (between 6-20 folds). Make the folds by hand, press them down, and sew them with running stitches. At the ends (the long sides of the veil) you can make the folds go together to add some shape to your piece. At the ends you can make the folds go together to add some shape to your piece. Use two thin strips of linen or silk ribbon to fasten the piece at your neck, if you don’t want to pin it.

Here is the strip, pinned down on a cap, and covered with layers of veils.

I have been experimenting with some other veils too, but I’ll have to come back to them another time when I have put together my experience and drafted some patterns for you.


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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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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.


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From a winter event + dress warm

This weekend we traveled north to visit friends at our old hometown Umeå. The local SCA group had an event, se we had a great weekend with a mix of old and new friends, medieval archery, feasts and a bit of work, since I brought my small shop with me.

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Thank you everyone who came by to shop; thanks to your support we get to visit all lovely events!

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During Saturday we were outside practicing archery, it was a little below freezing, with a cold wind blowing. I though I brought enough clothing, with a thin woolen dress, a wool jacket, and my brown wool coat, but the wind managed to sneak inside the layers of clothing and I soon became chilled.

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This really got me thinking, since I plan to go to medieval Christmas in Visby in the middle of December. Maybe I need to make a warmer coat with a lining and closure at the front? I am also going to bring my hood, better socks, and a woolen layer of underclothing. And woolen veils. Yeah, that will probably do the trick!

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Are you going to a medieval or historical event during the winter season too? Here is some tips I have for keeping warm (they were published 4 years ago in a Swedish version then) I also wrote this post in Swedish about keeping warm.

  • Layers are really nice, and loose layers will create isolation thanks to the air between them.
  • The choice of materials; silk and wool will warm you even if wet, while cotton and linen will cool you. Wear you wool dress or tunic against your skin, or add a thin modern layer of wool underclothing.
  • Fur is very warm, even a trim will keep the warm air inside the garments and warm you.
  • Leather is not warm at all (don’t trust the fantasy movies) but protects against wind if worn over woolen layers.
  • Do not let the weather chill your skin, protect hands, face and head. You lose lots of warmth from the head, chest and shoulder area, so a hood can make quite the difference! Use it as a way to adjust your temperature; take of when indoors, put on if cold.
  • Isolate your feet from the ground. Cold ground or wet feet will make you cold. Use woolen socks, and if you have medieval shoes a pair of pattens (wooden soles) will protect you. I often wear modern shoes to winter events to be sure I will stay warm enough.
  • If standing still in a market something on the ground will help you keep warm; straw, a woolen blanket, a sheepskin, a wooden board. Anything is better than nothing!
  • Wind chills you down; if it is windy or rainy another layer will help you keep warm, like a thick cloak, coat, shawl or a wool blanket.
  • As a woman it is the right time to be fashionable; headwear like veils and wimples will keep you warm. Even silk and linen veils will warm you and protect you from winds.
  • Eat and drink lots to get energy to warm yourself. Tea, hot chocolate, snacks; whatever you fancy!
  • When going indoors; remove some layers of clothing to get warm, but not too warm. To go in and out without undressing will only chill you further.
  • Already cold? Go on a brisk walk to make the movement warm you, do a little dance, or just jump up and down. Movement and energy intake (snacks!) makes your body produce heat.

Thats it- with some more planning I think I will do great during this winter!

 


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Tutorial; the simple medieval & viking dress

This is my tutorial with a very detailed step-to-step instruction, and I will base other tutorials on this one and simply state “do as in the simple dress tutorial but…” so this is a go-to for many different garments. I call it the simple dress since it is so versatile, the base for so many other garments! The translation was done in 2018, and the original tutorial is from 2015/16. Some things differ, and the changes I made is for a beginner to be able to make the dress as easy as possible. If you feel more secure; feel free to experiment!

It is also suitable to make mens kirtle, tunics and coats, just adjust measures and fitting to a male body. Most garments are more difficult to make for women’s bodies since the measures differs more, and therefore you will find more tutorials on my page for women’s clothing.

This is the dress we are going to make. Note that a regular S-sleeve does not have two seams, only one at the back. The reason my dress have two seams in the sleeves are 1. you will learn have to make that for doublet, jackets and 2. I saved fabric

Good tips:

If sewing on a sewing machine, pin from right to left, over the seam to make it easy to remove the pins while sewing. If sewing by hand, pin the seams along the seamline so as not to get the pins in your hand, or baste the seams.

When pinning; always lay your pieces on a flat surface and work on that while pinning. Pick a table or the floor, not some furniture with a fabric surface. If you work on a somewhat slippery surface the pieces will lay better and wont stretch in uneven ways.

Basting seams are an easy way to try the fit, size, movement and drape of skirts while sewing. basting the armhole before sewing make that seam easier to finish nicely. When you pin/baste together long seams, such as a diagonal cut gore with a straight panel, put the gore (the diagonally cut stretchy part) under the other one, when sewing on a machine the gore will not stretch and the seam will be nicer.

Dont be afraid to cut out your armhole according to your body. The sleeve should cover your arm, the arm joint, but fit snugly under your arm. To shallow an armhole will make your sleeve hang, but to wide will make movement hard. Experiment on scrap fabric first.

How many gores? Two are enough for undergarments and kneelong kirtles, four or more will give you more width, a smoother and more even fall of fabric and more movement when walking.Regular seam allowance is now 1,5 cm. For hems 2 cm. You can pick whatever measure you want between 1 cm-3 cm, just remember what you chose. Seam allowance is mentioned as s.a in this post.

Wash and iron your fabric before sewing. The fabric is prepped with heavy amounts of chemicals to avoid mold or bugs during shipping and selling process, and could be stretched uneven after the weaving. It will also most likely shrink a little, so this makes you able to wash your clothes after using them.

Start with your measures:

  • Around your upper body widest part (over the bust).
  • Length of garment; from shoulder to hem.
  • Length of arm; from shoulder-elbow while bent 90 degrees-to wrist.
  • Around your wrist (for tight buttoned sleeves) or around your hand to be able to take on and off the garment)
  • Around your armhole (if you find this hard; try to measure around a loose shirt or blouse. The armhole should be a bit loose without hanging).
  • length from shoulder to natural waist (for women) to hip (for men). This is where I attach the gores.

Draft the pieces you need on a bit of paper. Calculate the measures you need:

Around your upper body widest part: Divide in 2. Add seam allowance: 3 cm/piece. Add some extra for movement: around 6%. Example: around bust: 100 cm. Divide in 2= 50 cm. Add s.a = 53 cm/piece. Add movement = 53 + 6% = around 56 cm. Each piece is now 56 cm wide.

Length of garment; from shoulder to hem. Add seam allowance: 2 cm = hem + 1,5 cm for shoulders. Example: dress should be 140 cm when finished. Length of piece: 143,5 cm.

Length of arm; from shoulder-elbow while bent 90 degrees-to wrist: Example: 64 cm. This is a good measure for your sleeve, including s.a but not hem. So sleeve pieces should be 64 + 2 cm= 66 cm. Try on before hemming to adjust the length to your taste.

Around your wrist (for tight buttoned sleeves) or around your hand to be able to take on and off the garment): The narrow part of the sleeve. Check so you can put it on/off. Shape the sleeve to your taste so it fits comfortable around your arm while sewing the sleeve. This is just the starting measure.

Around your armhole (if you find this hard; try to measure around a loose shirt or blouse. The armhole should be a bit loose without hanging). The measure you got is divided in 2, for measure of armholes on front and back piece. Example: around my armhole I have 56 cm. 56/2=28 cm. Each armhole on the pieces should be no more than 28 cm measured (yes, measure the curve). The sleeve should be 2-4 cm longer than the complete armhole. 56 cm + 2-4 cm= 58-60 cm (measure around the S curve of the arm)

Length from shoulder to natural waist (for women) to hip (for men). This is where I attach the gores. Example: my measure is 38 cm. From the shoulder I measure 38 cm and make a line, here is where the gores should be attached on front and back pieces. For gores in the back and front, cut a straight line to 1 cm below this measure (39 cm from shoulder).

Length of gores: length of dress – length from shoulder – waist/hip + 3,5 cm s.a. Example: 143,5 cm -38 cm = 105,5 cm + 3,5 cm = 109 cm. Width depends on what kind of dress you would like to do, your over all size and how much fabric you have. I recommend a measure between 50-80 cm for each gore.

When calculating all these measures, draft them out on your pattern pieces.

Then, draft all the pieces on your fabric with a fabric marker and ruler. Control that you made all the pieces with the right measurements and that all fitted on your fabric. Mark them with front/back/sleeve/gore and so on.

Cut them out. If I work with linen, silk or brocade that will fray, I will now zigzag around all the pieces.

Sew the pieces together in this order:

  • Sleeves (to make tubes)
  • Gores to dress front, back, sides
  • Front and back shoulder seams
  • Front to back side seams/side gores
  • Sleeves in armholes
  • Hemming

Some notes: This work order goes for both sewing machine and handsewing. When I make a seam I finish it of before starting the next one. That means;

  1. pinning/basting
  2. sewing the pieces together front to front
  3. pressing down the seam allowance on the wrong side (the inside)
  4. cut down the seam allowance on one side
  5. press again, the wider over the cut one
  6. whip stitch the seam allowance down (can also be done when the dress is ready if you want to try the fit during sewing)

The reason to press the seams before sewing another one is that you will have flat and nice looking seams, and it will be easier to make the next on crossing the first. I really advise to at least press the seam allowance once, it makes such a difference!

A detailed step-to-step for sewing the dress.

Sleeves:

Pin the seam on the S-sleeve (the back seams if you have a sleeve in two pieces.

Sew the seam with running stitches or sewing machine. Remember to fasten/lock all seams at start and finish. Here 1 cm s.a is shown. I prefer 1,5 cm to easy fell the seam and whip stitch it down.

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Press the seams with an iron. If you use a fine wool or silk, a damp pressing cloth (cotton cloth) can be used between iron and garment pieces to avoid pressing marks. On the photos below you can see the difference between a pressed and a new seam. Totally worth the effort!

When pressing: press the s.a to both sides. Let it cool. Cut down one of the sides to half the width. Press the other s.a over the cut one, pin down if necessary. This will create a sturdy seam if sewn down, saves you time and looks neat on the right side.

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Pin and sew the other sleeve seam (if any). Press it the same way as the first seam. This is easiest with a sleeve ironing board, but if you don’t have any; press the seam with the sleeve laying flat on the bord. Try to avoid the folds in the sleeve with the iron.

 

 

These photos show the technique with and without a sleeve ironing board

Gores:

This dress use 4 gores, one at the middle front, one back, and one in each side seam. The gores give you movement and a good drape to the skirt. On female garments I want the gores to start by the natural waist (were you are slimmest) to accentuate the curve of hip and belly. On men along with the hips to give movement but no feminine curves.

Oh, right! I always forget to mention this; when drafting your gores, do not make them into straight triangles, but make them slightly curved at the base. Like in this example: the gore should be 100 cm long, and as you can see the rectangle is just that, so the gore will be exact 100 cm at the middle, but at the sides you need to measure from the top and down, 100 cm, and that will be a bit shorter than to the line.

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Why? To get the right measures, and a good shape at the bottom hem, as described in this picture:
klänning (2)

The gores are cut at a diagonal/bias on the fabric. This means they tend to stretch more than the front and back pieces when pinning and sewing. To avoid this, work on a smooth surface and pin + sew the seams with the gore under the front/back piece. This is mainly a problem on a sewing machine with too much pressure on the presser, but also a good tip for hand sewing.121sykil

One gore has a seam in the middle to save fabric. Pin, sew and press this seam first. I like to place this gore in the back so it wont show, and to create symmetry in the dress. Then, cut the front and back center to be able to attach gores there. Make the cut line about two cm shorter than the gores; like this:

Start with the side gores, pinning them to the front. Sew them in place, and press both seams the same way you did with the sleeves.

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Pin the front and back gores to the front/back pieces, right side to right side, one seam at a time. Sew it but leave the last 6-8 cm at the top. Repeat with the other seam, so you will have two gores with the tip loose. I prefer to make the tip by hand, from the right side of the garment.

3 different ways to insert gores:

Press the seams you made, and press the s.a on the front and back to either side of the slit, like if it was already done, from the wrong side. When reaching the end of the slit, the s.a will become narrower, and then disappear. Turn the piece and work from the right side. Pin the gore in the slit, so it lays flatly under the already pressed s.a of the front/back. Then sew it in place with a small whip stitch. With this method you can check the gore to be sure it fits nicely, and it does not matter if it turns out a little bit to big; it will look perfect!

Another method is to sew the whole gore with this technic, if you sew your garment by hand. This is also historically accurate. Start with pressing down the s.a on the front and back slits, and then pin the gore along each side, and sew it from the right side using whip stitches. Press the s.a on the wrong side, and sew this down with whip stitches on the wrong side to, like when felling the seams in the sleeves.

If you only want to use the sewing machine, work from the wrong side of the garment, and continue with your sewing machine seam to the top of the gore, making the s.a narrower as you go along the last 4-6 cm. If it is hard to see, fasten the seam, turn the gore up and sew it from this side (still on the wrong side, you just flip the garment from front/back to gore side). This might take a few tries before you get it right, just go slow and be prepared to rip the seam and try again if not satisfied.

When the gores in front and back are finished, sew the side seams; the side gores to the back piece and then the side seams (leave a hole for your arms for now. When all the gores are finished, remember to press all the seams!

Neckline:

I like to draft the neckline by hand for each garment, to be able to adjust it to each look I want. The secret is to try it on often, and just cut away a little at a time. You can choose between pinning, basting or sewing the shoulder seams before this. Make them the same way you did the other seams, but don’t press them yet.

Start with drafting neckline, and arm holes. Put the front and back on top of each other, mark the middle and draft a small neckhole. Mine is 18 cm across, 9 on each side of the middle. Make it shallow, about 4 cm, just in order to try it on. You can then draft the shape and size of your neckline directly on your body in the shape you want (just put the dress on, wrong side out and draft in front of a mirror. Copy the side you liked best to the other side, left or right. The neck will probably just be cut down with some cm, depending on your size, while the front will be deeper. Remember to leave 1-1,5 cm s.a; when you hem the neckline it will be a bit bigger than before.

Arm holes:

Making arm holes is much easier if you already got a toile/mock up to copy, but you can try this to. Put the dress on, wrong side out, and draft the arm holes where your shoulder joint start, follow the curve at the front. Mark where the holes should meet at the side, as tight under the arm as possible. Magically do this at the back/ask a friend/ take the dress of and draft on a flat surface.

Now you should have a drafted line at front and back. Measure these ones, and compare with the measure you took for your arm hole in the beginning. Redo if necessary, the armhole should be a bit narrower than the sleeves (about 2-4 cm) in order to make a good fitted sleeve. The front curve is deeper, and the back more shallow, but they should start and finish at the same place on the shoulder seam and side seam. It does not matter if one line is a bit longer (front/back) than the other, as long as the circumference is correct.

This is the difference on the front and back sides on my dress. Note that I also cut down the shoulder seams to become a bit sloping. This is optional for you, if you have very sloping shoulders it will help you with the fit. If needed, to this before the shoulder seams are finished. Then sew the shoulder seams and press them.

Attaching the sleeves

The next step is to attach the sleeves, and I will be honest with you; it can be a bit tricky at first, so don’t give up if you have to rip the seam a couple of times before you get satisfied. The most important thing is to take the time to pin/baste the sleeve to the body and check it out. Don’t hurry!

You will have two sleeves, sewn together to tubes. Baste the sleeve cap (top curve of the sleeve) with loose running stitches.

If you want to check out how the over all fit is, put on the dress and (make a friend) baste the sleeves around the armholes so they fit you nicely. Not the dress/armhole; but you. Move around, stretch. Then check if they seem to be by the s.a of the armhole. If they are= pro work! If not, just adjust them, maybe the armhole can be adjusted to fit you. Do not bother if the sleeve get a little creased or has small folds, that will be possible to fit inside the armhole, that is what the basting is mainly for. When you think you have something:

Mark out the top of the sleeve (towards shoulder seam) and the bottom (armhole towards side seam) with a marker or pin. Maybe there will be more sleeve on the back of your body, but that is just fine, you use it when reaching in front of you.

Take apart the sleeve and body, take of the dress (if you tried them out) and turn the dress inside out. Turn the sleeves to the right side. Put the sleeves inside the dress, and fit them into the armhole. They should lay right to right side now.

Pin the sleeve marked shoulder – shoulder seam and marked armpit – side seam. Continue to pin the armpit, the part under the arm. Lay the fabrics smooth against each other, no folds.

The sleeve is a bit wider than the hole, so it should make small waves, like in these pictures. This will be solved with the basting thread you sew on the sleeves. Gently pull them to gather the fabric of the sleeve a bit, in order to fit it inside the armhole. As the sleeve follow the arm hole curve better, pin it in place. The fabric should not make folds, but only gentle crinkles or waves. Adjust if you need. The basted and pulled together fabric should only be pinned to the upper half of the sleeve, never in the armpit.

When you have worked your way around the hole with pins and like the result, baste it in place with big running stitches. Make the other sleeve up in the same way, or try to make it the same… When satisfied; flip the dress to the right side, and try it on. Check the fit of the sleeves and your movement. A bit bulkiness around the armhole is ok, but there should not be folds or stretched fabric sections.

If it looks good, turn the dress back inside out, and sew the sleeves following the basting. Then remove all the basting stitches.

To finish of the seams, press them on a sleeve ironing board, or roll a bath towel firmly and put inside the arm if you don’t have one. Press the s.a down on each direction, then finish the seams like the ones before. I press them towards the body and whip stitch them down.

Wow, good job! Almost finished. Try the dress on again to adjust length, hemline, sleeve hems and neckline if needed. The sleeves should be a little to long when the arm is hanging, to fit nicely when you use your arms and bend the elbow. Check, mark any change you want to make, and do the same to the neckline. Ask a friend to check the hemline of the dress so it looks even, pin a new hemline if needed. Remember to check the length with the correct shoes/belt since these can make a different to how long the dress look.When satisfied, cut away any excessive fabric and hem the dress. I prefer to fold the edge twice, and whip stitch it down by hand. Remember that our s.a for hemming was 2 cm. Thick wools only need a single fold before sewing.

Thats it! Now you have made your very own garment! And you can use this tutorial, or parts of it to make other garments as well.