Handcrafted History

Historical and modern handcraft mixed with adventures


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Slashing and cutting fabric- a tutorial

During the 16th century it became high fashion to slash or cut fabrics in a decorative manner, and this was taken up by landsknechts and their women as well. Being a fashion for richer or high-born persons, it was quite the dare for mercenaries to wear, but such a good way to show that you were a high earner with lots of status and gold on your pocket…

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So, I wanted to share with you all my best tips for getting that slashed and cut look that you may want for your outfit!

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But first, some good things to know:

  • The most important thing is the material to work with; wool is by far the easiest. In finds and manuscripts you will also find garments made by linen, silk or a mix of these and wool, but those garments will have very small cuts (also called pinking) made with a knife, and is a whole different story. So; chose a wool fabric. A felted, dense and tightly weaved wool is the best, this will give you a sturdy garment that wont fray easily.
  • The slashing is not hemmed. I know many people do this because they chose a sensitive fabric, they are afraid it will fray and tear, or they have just been told that all raw edges should be hemmed or sewn. Right? While there are examples of special kinds of garments being hemmed at cuts, the standard is to not hem or sew the slashes. They should be raw, made with a very sharp tool, and yes- they will wear out faster than a garment that is not slashed.
  • Yes- slashed and cut garments may not last as long as more sensible ones, or look very pretty after using and washing, that is the point with this fashion! You’ll have to be rich enough to order fine materials, pay a tailor to sew it for you, pay even more for the slashing and cutting, and then don’t mind that you will have to exchange the garment once it looks worn. If you are a more economically laid modern person, pick a wool fabric for your outfit, since this lasts longer than silk or linen.
  • Almost all slashed garments that I have seen have been lined with a second layer of unslashed fabric. This could be a regular lining, or a whole garment that holds together the one laying over, providing stability and fitting. I often use a linen fabric for wool and silk fabrics, but in the case with slashed guards (strips of fabrics) I place the guards on top of the main fabric, to make it visible through the slashing.

Feeling ready for some slashing now?

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The pictures are mainly from my trossfrau dress project, this from a woodcut that I have copied and coloured to get a feeling for the dress to be.

I usually wash my wool fabrics, iron them and then cut out the pieces I want for the garment. Before I sew them together I draw out my slashes on the wrong side with a fabric marker, and then cut them before I put the garment together. If you are not sure about the fitting, it is good to baste the garment together and try it on before this, since it is difficult to adjust fitting after the slashing is made.

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I usually also draw out helplines during this stage; everything that helps you make good sharp lines placed exactly were you want them is good. A ruler, some mathematics and a marker goes a long way. I also like to make a template to use while drawing out the slashes.

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Do not slash all the way to the edges, remember the seam allowance and leave 2-3 cm along the edges to make it easier to sew the pieces together.

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This is a larping outfit (only inspired by historical fashion) as an example of a durable slashed garment. The arms have slashes, but not the armpits or body, and the slashes ends some cm before the seams. Sewn in melton wool from Medeltidsmode.

If you want the garment to be sturdy and hold together, slash less along the armpits, side seams and crotch; all areas were the fabric gets more wear. If you look at historical woodcuts and painting, you may notice that tight fitted pants has no slashes at the backside of the legs near the seams, neither over the butt (there might be exceptions, as always)

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The finished dress, a hot day in Visby a couple of years ago

 


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The Herjolfnes dress

Last year I made a woolen dress, based on the cut, sewing technics and seams from the finds from Herjolfnes, Greenland. I really didn’t plan it, I just had this sudden burst of creativity and had to make a plain, undyed working dress… The fabric is from Medeltidsmode, and it is an undyed natural wool that was just lovely to work with, the seams went very well, and the drape of the shirt is really good to. It is based on two different models, but with my measures- so it is a historical reconstruction with a practical use in mind.

Cutting out the pieces

And sewing them together with running stitches in wool thread

Sewing gores from the right side of the dress, with a whip stitch

The hems are made by a single fold, whip stitched and then sewed with another seam according to the finds. To finish of the hems two times was a bit tiring, but the result went very well, with especially the neckline and wrist coming out nice and stable for wear.

All inside seams are felled and whip stitched down, to make them more durable and the inside smooth and pretty.

There are several gores in the dress, both in the shirt and in the sides, that goes up to the arm holes. This gives the dress lots of hem line, as well as a nice drape. If you would like to make a dress more modern flattering, you could begin the width in the side seams by the waist. My dress is lose almost under the bust, which makes for a warm dress, that is easy to get in and out of, and probably good for medieval pregnancy if you are interested in trying that out…

The dress is so comfy, and despite a rather smooth fit over arms and shoulders it is easy to move in it.

On these photos I have rolled up my sleeves a bit and you can see the linen shift, a good way of keeping your sleeves dry when doing dishes.

Definitly one of my favourite dresses right now, it being so simple and yet pretty!


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15th century clothing part 1- Research overview from art

The last 1- 1 1/2 year the 15 century has been one of my main interest. It is a really interesting period in history, with lots of changes in both politics, society and how trade, money and people moved. My main interest has been the clothing in middle Europe, around what is today Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands (more or less, influences and fashions spread and yuo can see similar styles in areas boarding to these ones). From these areas came several great artists, there are lots of paintings and artistic work left, and Scandinavia were greatly inspired by the clothing and fashion movements from the German area.

To both challenge and inspire myself I decided to make a Golden Egg challenge on the topic of 15th century clothing. The Golden Egg is a household in the SCA; you can read more about it here. My goal is now to research and make a whole outfit from the late 15th century for myself, and the timeline is one year between start and presentation.

I wanted to share some of my research, as well as some good sources for you to read for yourself. My main interest is the clothing for women- but you will find lots of good inspiration for men’s fashion as well.

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Some important points to remember when studying 15 c fashion (or any historical fashion really) is:

  • The diversity of the period. Fashion shifted over a certain time, and during the 15th c it shifted quite fast. It also differed over areas (such as towns, countries) as well as social classes. It is not possible to sum up the period by stating “a women wore this and this, in such a way” but some things are similar, like wearing a linen shift, middle kirtle and over dress of some kind. How these looked, what materials they were made in and how you wore them differed greatly, as did the accessories.
  • The art and paintings of the period is a really good source, since there’s a lot of them, and the fashion of art suggested a natural, realistic reproduction of the people living during that period, with lots of details regarding seams, models, fashion and materials. This was also the period when portraits became popular for others than the nobility, with the ever-increasing burgher class economy as a base for portraits. This give us a source of good depictions of people of the time, and also gives a good clue on what kind of clothing and headwear was in fashion. It is important to note that there also were sumptuary laws regarding what you could wear, and how you were to be portrayed according to your status in society, making the understanding of art and symbolic meanings very important.
  • Religious art was also very important, and great artworks were often the result of a whole workshop with different painters, studies and sketches from different areas and periods, as well as saints depicted with biblical clothing and symbolic tokens. This means that you can find different styles in one and the same painting, both considering fashion and the style of the artist, even though the master overlooked the work on each artwork. It also means that flowing robes and cloaks that appear might not be the fashionable items like the gowns and doublets right beside them, but more some kind of biblical clothing.
  • Colours, technics and styles regarding painting developed greatly during this century, with the use of different mineral sources etc as a way of getting vibrant, expensive and fashionable colours. But this does not mean that the colour tone on a painting was the same as the depicted garment from sketches and models; the colour was foremost the result of the client’s budget, where vibrant reds, dark blues and golden inlays were important for the fashionable and rich client. Does this mean that paintings can’t be the source for fashion studies? No- of course you can look at art for getting an idea of the clothing of the time. Just keep in mind that the colour that you see on your computer screen is the result of both a computer screen setting, the photography of the painting (with editing) how well the painting has withstood time (mineral paint tend to change over time) as well as the idea of what a really expensive colour looked like in art versus fashion.
  • Artists of the time was more handcrafters and less artists in our modern use of the word. They trained for masters, belonged to workshops and worked with paintings as a team, not as one expressive personality. The money came from churches, rich nobility and the burgher class who commissioned art pieces  (or bought ready-made pieces) such as piety paintings, portraits and, later on, everyday scenes from their home. This means that art was the result of society, fashion, study and individuals, greatly inspired by the ongoing social development as well as other painters. Of course there were room for personal style; compare Rogier van der Weyden to Durer and you will find style differences, even if you are not a trained art historian.
  • The artist had knowledge about the fact that fashion shifts; and that what was worn everyday when the paintings was made, was not the clothes of the time depicted in them. So in a painting of Christ’s birth; you can se both people dressed in the high of 1470’s fashion, as well as mythical and religious figures dressed in cloaks and robes that were meant to be seen as “some kind of long time ago clothing”. This might be pretty obvious, but to make it a bit trickier there is also paintings with 14th century fashions depicted (in a rather loose style) in 15th century paintings.
  • Dress for your age; as for society today, people tend to dress after their age, with the young girls and women of that time preferring high fashion dresses, loose hairstyles or flowing hair for the unmarried (or soon to be crowned queens) while older women seems to be more covered, with additional layers and more elaborate veils. Older women can also be seen in “unfashionable” garments; what was the thing 10-20 years ago at their prime seems to hang along.

Having this in mind, you can clearly se that if you aim to make an outfit as historical accurate as possible (…possible for your means, skill etc) an important start is to choose a certain time and period. The social standing is also important, so a good starting point could be a woman from south Germany (or a city of your choice) from the wealthy burgher class, who lived during 1450-1470.

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I have chose to focus on the area of Germany, the Netherlands and the Flemish region. This because there were some great artists living there that I want to study further, but I also enjoy the fashion of that area and how the geographic areas and countries influenced each other. If you compare this areas to (for example) Italy or France, you will find that both style in art and fashion differs greatly.

Another thing to consider, is to search for sources besides art; like finds, surviving clothing items, sketches, written documentation etc. This will give a depth for your understanding of the period, where the beauty ideals and painting technique might touch up certain details to the point of it being difficult to interpret (like, how did all the women have those small round breasts sitting high up on the body?)

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These are some important painters and artists from the German/Netherland/Flemish (Belgium)/Burgundy region during the century that I have chose to study in more detail:

(About the dating: Sometimes it is difficult to find the year of birth/death for individuals, so the dating in uncertain, but it will provide with a overwiev of when they lived and were active)

  • Limbourg brothers (1385-1416) Germany
  • Hubert van Eyck (1366-1426) Flemish
  • Jan van Eyck (1395-1441) Netherlands
  • Rogier van der Weyden (1399-1464) Netherlands
  • Petrus Christus (1410-1476) Netherlands
  • Hugo van der Goes (1440-1483) Netherlands
  • Hans Memling (1430-1494) Netherlands
  • Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1504) Netherlands
  • Gerard David (1460-1523) Netherlands
  • Hans Holbein the Elder (1460-1524) Germany
  • Albrecht Durer (1471-1528) Germany

If you are interested in this period and want to learn more about the art, there’s some good books about different artists, and this really good (and free) article at Wikipedia about the subject.

I have also studied books on different artists, the Prestels “Masters of Art” series have been very interesting. There you can find both Van Eyck, Durer and many more.

Want to see more artwork from the time? Check out my Pinterest folder!

 


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Fur lined gollar- step by step

Fur can be tricky, so here’s some help on the way if you are going to fur line your garment (like this late 15- early 16th century gollar).

I don’t know how the fur lining were made historically, but I am guessing that you either treated the fur like a garment of your own (sew the fur together to a garment, then attach it to the outer fabric) or as a fabric lining (cut out the pieces of fur and stitch it to the seam allowances of the outer fabric once this is sewed together). A mix of these two might also be the case, due to the different challenge you face when fur lining a garment without it getting bulky.

If you only want a strip of fur on your garment, I find it easiest to cut out the fur pieces, and treat them like fabric lining; cut them straight and clean, join small bits if necessary before sewing them to the outer fabric. In contemporary art the fully fur lined garment seems to be the most common one, it is more like you could interpret some pictures as only having trims in fur. Fur was both fashionable and warm and used in many garments, and I have a fully lined gollar. This one becomes to warm during summer, and also take a lot of space in the bag when packing, so I though this new one would be a good alternative; fashionable, with the fur to warm me against wind, but lighter in both warmth and packing space.

I started with my wool gollar; I cut out the main piece and the collar, and sewed them together with running stitches. The most common thread for the period seems to be uncoloured linen thread, so I used unbleached linen that I waxed to make it more durable while sewing. After the pieces were joined together, I pressed down the seam and cut down the seam allowance on one side, to get a laid down seam. This makes the seam more smooth, and adds durability to the garment.

I tried to lay the gollar out flat, for you to get a good look. Note that it is not a full circle, you want it to lay flat against your back and shoulders in a tight fit. The fit on the gollar you’ll have to try out for yourself; so make one out of scrap fabric if this is your first one.

I then measured the collar and the front where I wanted the fur to be, and cut out strips of fur to match them. I then sewed them into place with linen thread and a small, regular needle. A thinner needle makes it easier to sew in fur, and pinning the fur into place makes sure it doesn’t stretch or slides.

At the corners I just sew the fur to the fabric, and leave the left over fur for later. Note that I treat the fur like fabric; sewing the furry side to the right side of the fabric.

When the fur is sewn onto the fabric, I cut away the left over and trim the edges down.

At the corners I trim away enough fur so when I fold the fur inside the garment it will not get bulky but fit together edge to edge.

At the bottom edge I want the fur to follow the curved front of the gollar, so I mark this with a pen, and then cut it away.

After trimming down the fur, I fold it to the inside of the gollar, and pin it in place. Make sure it lays flat when wearing the garment; fur can be tricky and does not adjust the way fabric do. When you are happy with the fit, sew the fur in place with whip stitches, or attach it to a lining. In the corners the two pieces of fur should barely meet, the hair will hide the seam, so just sew them together loosely.

I chose to have a lining inside my gollar in a thin woolen fabric, to add warmth, make it easier to sew the fur down with no visible stitching, and because a fully lined gollar can be seen in art. For the lining, I cut out another gollar, without collar (because the fur strip for that part covered the inside of my collar) and without the parts that would be covered with fur. When fastening the lining in the gollar, pin it in place and then sew it at the same time as you attach the fur on the inside. Start with the collar, and then the front opening going down.

Sewing in fur is time-consuming and quite tiring for the fingers. Nice company or a movie is good to have!

When the fur (and lining) is attached around the gollar I stitched the lower hem with whip stitches. To make the seam smooth, I cut away some excess lining fabric, as can be seen at the photo. So; adjust the lining, cut of excess seam allowance, pin and whip stitch.

To fasten the gollar you can use dress pins, small fabric strips, ribbons or lucet braided strings, hooks and eyes or do as I did; add a fancy clasp at the throat. At the end of the sewing I didn’t really like that the fur was so visible at the bottom, so I trimmed it down quite hard. Another option would have been to let the fur finish on the inside of the gollar, so it was not so obvious that the gollar was not fur-lined all the way around. Cheating is hard sometimes…

The clasp is a late 15th century find from Sweden, with A standing for “amore”. It added nicely, but for a commoner a hidden fastening would do better.

A note about fur; I recommend you to put some thought and money into the purchase of fur. There are still many fur-fabrics and farms that treat animals like shit, where the animals suffers greatly to become your hobby-based garment. If you buy rabbit skin for 7-9 Euro/skin you probably support these farms, even if not buying directly from them. A better option would be to buy fur from local farms where you can visit the animals, and get to leave the skin at the tanner yourself. You can also find good choices on internet, buy second-hand or choose fake-fur from the fabric store (not the most historical accurate, but I rather go modern than use unethical furs)

Some examples of gollars being worn by 16th century common people during dances. Some of them clearly seems to have a fur line around the hem as being fur-lined, while others could be unlined or lined with fabric.

 


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Tutorial viking/medieval shift or underdress

Underwear in linen – you can always use another one. Here is an easy and basic tutorial about how to make your own. I use prewashed white or natural linen fabric, about 150 cm width. For a male under tunic or shirt in size large you need around 2 meters of fabric, the same amount for a shift or under dress for size small- medium. If you are tall, take another 50-60 cm. If you need a bigger size or want the dress shirt to be long and full, take 3 meters of fabric or draw out the pattern pieces on a paper first.

It is important to zigzag your fabric at the cut sides and then wash it on 40 or 60 C degrees, to make it shrink before you cut and sew in it. Otherwise it will tend to shrink a little, each time it get wet or washed. After you have washed the fabric, iron it flat and then lay it out on the floor/table for a better view.

Start with your measures;

  1. Length of shift/shirt + 3 cm seam allowance
  2. Width of shift (around your chest or your widest part of your body) + 6 % for movement.
  3. Width of armholes + some cm for movement. Compare with a cotton shirt that fits you.
  4. Length of arm, when bending your elbow at 90 degrees.

When you have measured yourself; draw out the pieces you need on a paper with the measurements you got from the above, it makes it easier if you are not an experienced seamstress. This is my layout with pattern pieces; front, back, two sleeves, two sleeve gussets, two side gores (one is split in two). I cut out my neckline at once, but you can first sew your shift/shirt together and then try it on to adjust the neckline to your taste. Note that I also cut out my armholes on the body pieces; around 4-6 cm on the shoulders and then in a straight line down. This makes the shift lay better on your shoulders.

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If you are going to sew everything on machine, start with a zig zag around all fabric edges. This is important so the fabric wont fray and fall apart when wearing and washing. You can also sew the garment on a overlock if you have one.

After this, it is time to sew the pieces together. Start with the sleeves + sleeve gussets and then the gores for added hem width. I always pin the pieces first, on a flat surface.

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Sew the pieces together with machine or by hand, and then press the seam allowances to each side with an iron, or by hand. Repeat these step after every seam, and it will be easier to sew the crossing seams nicely and it will make the seams look better.

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Then sew the shoulders together, and the side gores to the front (or back) piece like this. When these are done, lay the garment out on a flat surface, with the right side up, and put the sleeves on top of the garment right side down and pin the armholes. You don’t need to do a fitted sleeve on this item, just sew the sleeves in place as a regular seam.

Last; pin and sew the side seams, and the sleeves together. When sewing the area around the sleeve gussets you might find it a bit bulky. Don’t be afraid to finish of your seam, cut the threads and then change direction or the way the fabric lay on the machine (or in your hand). Make it as easy as possible for you at every step and you will find it much more fun!

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When I have sewn together my garment, I usually try it on, adjust the neckline and the length of the sleeves if necessary, and then I finish the hems by hand. The easiest way to do this in a historical way, is to fold the hemline twice and whip stitch it down (this will keep the fabric from fraying, or hide your zig zag stitch). I use waxed linen thread in the same tone as the fabric, which makes for an invisible seam.

Good luck sewing!

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Spara


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Houppelande tutorial -part 1

Since I made my first houppelande (late medieval overdress) some years ago, I have been thinking about putting together a tutorial for you, to make it easier to understand the construction techniques behind the dress.

As it turned out, the houppelande dress is a bigger project than I thought at the beginning, so I’m doing the tutorials in different parts so it will be easier for you to find the model you are most interested in, and to get a nice overview of the whole dress style.

I start with my first woolen houppelande:

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This was somewhat of an experiment trying out both pattern, if I would like the type of garment, and what it would look like finished. I could not find my original sketch for the pattern layout, but it did look something like this:

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Some notes; this type of pattern layout work well in a tabby weave since it doesn’t matter if you turn your front and back pieces, but you can also use a twill like I did. If doing this type of pattern on a patterned fabric, you can have the pattern one way on the front pieces and the opposite on the back pieces, which work really well I think, if you want to save on the fabric.

The amount of fabric needed for this layout, in size small, is 150 cm * 280 cm (I used 3 meters of fabric, so I had a slightly larger hem.

F=front, B=back and FM= front middle gore. S1 and S2 is the sleeves. I always recommend drawing out your pattern before you do it on your fabric, it gives you the opportunity to see if all the pieces have room, and if you can add some extra circumference to the skirt. I also use to draw out how the garment will look finished, to give you an extra idea of the result. The small cut out pattern piece I use to draw the pieces faster by drawing around it on the paper.

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This is what it looked like once I had cut out all the pieces. After cutting, baste your pieces together to try them on, or sew them at once. I used running stitches and back stitches for parts were there was more stress on the seams (like around the body, the armholes, and the top of the front gore). I also pressed the seam allowances down and whip stitched them. You can of course sew your dress on a sewing machine if you would like, just be sure to pin or baste the skirt lengths first so they don’t stretch uneven.

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Always pin or baste your pieces together when they lay flat on a surface. After this is done, you can have the garment in your knee, sitting comfy in the sofa and sewing without having the seams getting all uneven. I started with the front gore, then sew the front and back pieces together. The sleeves were made after the “fitted sleeve” tutorial.

The hem is folded twice and whip stitched down, and the sleeves and front opening is lined with a soft, cut sheepskin in a matching colour.

The dress is sold since some time back, and I moved on to make another kind of pattern construction (as I usually do). I liked this one because of its simplicity, it was very comfortable and not bulky around the upper body. another pro was that it didn’t take a lot of fabric to make it. I really liked the fluffy lining since it gave a lot of extra warmth.

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The style is somewhat unusual in art, but can be seen at the start of the houppelande period, though with a tighter upper body, the sleeves were full length and often somewhat tighter. For paintings and art inspiration, check out my Pinterest board about Houppelande dresses

What I didn’t like was that I dragged the hem of the dress after me everywhere, without getting the comfort of a warm and thick enough fabric to protect me from rain and chilly winds. So the next one became a bit sturdier in fabric, and with more fabric…


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Some of the clothes I’ve made this year

Sometimes I get the feeling that I never get anything done, or that I haven’t made a piece for sale in like, forever. So I made a list of some of the things I have done this year, both for customers and for myself and love, and then I felt that yes- maybe I have been quite productive after all!

In the beginning of the year, I think I accidentally started this Herjolfnes recreation, all hand stitched.

I made our wedding outfits for our Midsummer wedding:


Supporting linen dress, white silk dress, velvet over dress, purse, belts and for love; silk shirt, silk brocade doublet and under west, woolen hose, bag and belt. Also, I remember sewing some tunics and dresses for our families for the wedding.

Did I sew this houppelande also, or did I finish it the year before? It is also all hand stitched, on wool, silk and rabbit fur.

During autumn, I apparently needed to redo my apron dress, make a whole new viking coat by hand and put it all together to a new outfit, along with some tablet woven bands.

   Also, some commissions took place, like this coat…

… as well as a number of hoods, shirts and tunics (here’s some of them along with the silk cotehardie)

I also remember some viking hedeby trousers (baggy pants)- four of them i think.

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As well as some hand sewn viking clothing…

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I updated my shop and market stall during the spring with cloths, small flags and my own logo hand painted on a linen fabric.

  Made a whole bunch of veils in linen and thin wool for different outfits;

I studied 16th century tailoring manuscripts and sewed two jackets for women, in wool fabric (one for my friend Linnea and one for myself)

Oh, and rosaries were totally a thing- I have read a lot about them, made a whole bunch of drawings, some pieces for sale and a folder about how to do them yourself, as well as holding some workshop on the subject.

This is far from everything I have made, and some pieces have not even made it to being properly photographed though I have been wearing them on several occasions.  Also, quite a few items and commissions also are just on fb or my Instagram accounts, otherwise this post would be far to long.

All in all, I think I have; 1. made quite some things and 2. need to be even better at documenting them and writing about them here on the blog.