HANDCRAFTED HISTORY


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Medieval jacket for a woman

15th c outfit at Oslo Middelalderfestival

This is a fun garment since it is both practical and in my opinion, also cute. But it took me several years of studying medieval manuscripts and art before I got interested in this type of garment. It seems so modern? But once I noticed it, I found more examples in different places and even a contemporary pattern diagram in Drei Schnittbucher dated from the 16th century. Most sources I have saved originate in central Europe, mainly today’s Germany.

Research

The jacket or short coat can be seen in both late 15thc entury and 16th century artworks, but all examples I have seen are worn by working women, from farmers to ladies’ servants. One source in Drei Schnittbucher mentions a short jacket owned by a burgher class member, which indicates that it might have been a fashionable item and not only something worn for “survival”.

The jacket above is similar to the pattern diagram I found, though it has cuffs. The front closure is hidden but might be hooks and eyes, and the sleeves are S-sleeves put into a shaped armhole. The skirt part hangs in soft folds, probably a circle shape.

source: Württembergische Landesbibliothek

In the left corner, the lady wears a green jacket over a dress. She might be a maid or retainer of some kind, based on her dress and position in the picture. The jacket is fitted with a narrow sleeve and a fashionable neckline. The skirt part hangs in soft folds.

The blue jacket is fitted but the sleeve is a bit looser than the green one, and the neckline higher and rounded. I decided to base my jacket silhouette mainly on this picture (late 15th century).

source: Stadbibliothek Nurnberg, Jorg Urlaub, 1568 (PB)

Based on contemporary sources the jacket seems to be a practical garment to keep you warm while still allowing you to go on your daily chores (and keeping that fashionable silhouette!) I have found several sources from the middle of the 16th century onwards, often with the skirt part shortened like the jacket above. The black jacket has a short skirt, straight narrow sleeves and a collar of some kind. The collars seem to belong to the 16th century.

Differences between the 15th century and the 16th century styles:

Late 15th century jackets seen in art are all colourful, with straight sleeves narrow or loose, longer skirts (the lenght of the skirt and the length of the upper body seem to be similar) and with simple, rounded necklines.

16th century jackets transform from this softer style to a more shaped and fitted garment with details to accentuate the tailoring such as collars or sleeves starting farther down the shoulder.

This time I decided to make a jacket to be worn with my 15th century wardrobe. Some years ago, I tried out this pattern by making a black jacket to be worn with my 16th century working woman’s outfit, but I sold it and wanted to try some variations. The blue jacket above became my inspiration, and I used the pattern diagram from the 16th century source to draft the jacket. The side seam is adjusted towards the back on that pattern, but in retrospective I think that is a bit too modern for the late 15th century style, but I got curious to try it out.

Back with the side seams visible.

Drafting the pattern pieces

I decided on a straight S-sleeve to get good movement even when wearing dresses under the jacket, a longer skirt and a rounded neckline. The front closes with hooks and eyes. The original tailoring book states the lining needed for the jacket which is roughly half of the amount needed for the jacket. The fabric widths could be different since the pattern mention different amount of lining for different skirt lengths, or the skirt was not lined. I decided to put lining into the skirt too, to see how it would turn out as well as to make it more wind resistant.

The best way to create a skirt with even, soft folds, like the longer versions seen in the sources, is to use a circular cut on the skirt, rather than straight panels and gores. The contemporary pattern also suggests this style, so I went with that option.

The length of the skirt in 15th century sources seems to be around the same lenght as the torso, around 40-50 cm long perhaps. I decided to go with that. The tailoring pattern suggests a skirt lenght between 39 cm to 52 cm, which can be seen in the woodcut by Beham above.

To draft the correct size for the skirt pieces, measure around your waist and use that measure to calculate the inner circle diameter of the half moon, and draft the piece from there.

Example: Measurement around waist: 80 cm = circumference of the inner circle. That makes the diameter approx 26 cm, and the radius 13 cm. The length of the skirt = 40 cm. Mark 40 cm + 26 cm + 40 cm on a straight line = diameter on the skirt pattern piece (the straight side of the half moon). To draft the rest of the skirt, start with drafting the half-circle waist hole (measure from the middle of the line and draw a half-circle 13 cm from this point all around). Use this line to draw out the bigger half moon shape, by measuring 40 cm outwards all around the curve. Make 2 pieces for the skirt.

The upper body pieces are based on my toile/mock-up I already have (check out my Patreon for a video on how to make a mock-up yourself). To move the side seams I cut off a bit from the back piece and taped this side to side with the front piece instead. After that, I added seam allowance and some extra movement in the sides, shoulder and front to make the garment suited to wear over other clothing.

The sleeves are based on my existing S-sleeve pattern, cut in two. I added new seam allowance and made the sleeves a bit wider than my dress sleeves to get more movement.

Adjustments from the original pattern from the Leonfeldner tailor book (grey) to my jacket (dotted lines).

Differences between the pattern from Drei Schnittbucher and mine: The waist seam got rounded to create a soft fall and looser fit, and the shoulder seams were shortened to make the sleeve fit the anatomical arm, creating a softer look more suitable to the late 15th century style. I removed the collar piece on the back and decided to make the back piece as one, instead of having a seam in the middle back. Both options are represented in tailoring from late 15th century art sources, I just didn’t need the back seam to achieve a good fit. The last alteration I did was to piece the skirt parts to save on fabric. In the tailoring book, the sleeves are made in two pieces, probably to save on fabric, and I wanted to do the same to be able to cut them out from the scraps left over after cutting body and skirt pieces.

My jacket needed around 1,5 meters of fabric with 1,5 meters width for both outer fabric and lining, but I would recommend at least 2 meters of both if you have, if you are not smaller than I am!

Fabric: I decided on a medium thick wool twill for the jacket to keep me warm, with a soft muted madder tone. The lining is made in thin unbleached linen. I aimed to make the jacket a working garment and not too fancy, but neither coarse nor homemade.

Jacket worn open

Sewing order

When I have made all pieces (back, front *2, sleeves *2, skirt *2) I like to cut these out in a mock-up fabric (like an old sheet) bast them together and try the garment on over the dress, to ensure I have enough space for movement. Adjust if needed, and then I use the mock-up as my pattern and draft the pieces on the wool fabric and lining.

I like basting- here are some more benefits:

  • no pins will disappear or hurt you
  • no slippery fabric moving, giving you uneven seams
  • easy to try it on several times
  • easy to adjust
  • basting is so secure you can sit on the sofa with your project in your knee, without messing up the fit.

I prefer to sew one seam completely finished before the next, which is faster and more ergonomic than first assembling the garment, and then reaching all the seams for felling the seam allowances.

Sewing thread: unbleached linen 35/2 for most seams, paired with a sewing wool yarn for felling seams and create softer seam allowances. These are the materials I work with fastest. You can also use linen thread for the whole jacket, which would be a bit more historical as far as I have researched.

For me, the most important thing when hand-sewing is to make easy, fast seams without adding unnecessary strain to my fingers. The lining is put in at the same time as I sew the pieces together, in seams that need more sturdiness like shoulders and sides. In the skirt, the lining is fastened in the seam allowance when felling this down. The sleeves are made as 4 separate sleeves, and then the lining is put in. This minimizes the bulkiness in the sleeve seams.

Notes: linen thread if nothing else is stated. Sa= seam allowance.

This is my sewing order for hand-sewing the entire garment:

Start by joining the sleeve linings into whole sleeves with running stitches. Press the sa and whipstitch down to one side or leave them unfinished. Join the wool sleeves with back stitches. Fold down the sa, whipstitch down to one side and repeat with the back seam to get 2 complete wool sleeves.

Sewing the sleeve parts together.
Whipstitch the sa (photo shows the inside and outside of the sleeves.)

Sew the shoulder seams with backstitches, wool + lining at the same time. Press down sa to either side, whipstitch down. I leave the basting in while sewing, and place my seam 1 mm to the side to avoid sewing into the basting thread. This makes it easier to remove the basting thread once I am done.

Backstitching on shoulders 1mm inside the basting seam.

Backstitch the side seams together in the same way. I like to leave these open to adjust the fit if my weight changes, so I just whipstitch the sa but leave it loose from the main body. Then I put the sleeves in the armholes and sew them with backstitching. Cut down the sa and fell it towards the body with whipstitching.

Assembling the garment, with different ways to finish the seams shown.

I sewed the wool skirt parts together with back stitching and pressed the sa to either side. After that, I put the lining into the skirt pieces by folding the sa down to either side and whipstitched the lining in place.

Attach the skirt to the body with backstitches. Try on the jacket and mark out the hemlines; check the length of sleeves and skirt hem.

The skirt is finished by cutting down the lining a bit to avoid a bulky seam, and then the wool hem is double folded over the lining and whipstitched in place.

Trimming down the lining.

The front got a reinforcement strip in wool on the inside before the closure was added. I use running stitches and sew it front to front, then fold it over, press it to a good shape and whip stitch the loose part to the lining. A row of stitching along the edge makes it neat and durable (shown in the assembly photo).

The sleeve wool fabric is folded over the lining by the wrists and whip stitched in place. The neckline is also folded down twice and whipstitched. After that, I like to press it and then add a row of stitching around the opening to make it even neater!

Last, I added hooks and eyes to the front to be able to close the jacket.

This was a really fun project to do, and I have used the jacket a lot this season. It is easy to work in and doesn’t get as heavy as my coat does. Useful for medieval adventures!

Finished!


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Summer adventures

Hi there!

If you know me, you know I am travelling and living my medieval/viking adventure life right now, and both blog and social media conversations are running low. If you are new- welcome here! I will not leave you bored in the middle of the event season, but have prepared some interesting posts for you to check out.

Last year at Visby; only a week left now!

The best way to reach me right now is by email. I also try to keep Instagram updated, but rarely use Facebook since it doesn’t work great on the phone. https://linktr.ee/handcraftedhistory for more ways to reach me!

If you are attending Medeltidsveckan in Visby, you can find me at Kapitelhusgården from Sunday to Sunday. The shop is open, and I also have workshops in pattern drafting and tablet weaving. These are currently fully booked, but you can check out the full schedule here: https://medeltidsveckan.se/programme/

Last years pattern drafting (sleeves)


Are you attending one of my workshops and have questions? Send me an email! The info at the program states if you need anything special (like a modern t-shirt or similar clothes on your body for the pattern making) othervise you can just stroll in with a snack and a ticket- I will bring everything else!

If you want to check out more about Medeltidsveckan I have written about past adventures here; https://handcraftedhistory.blog/?s=visby where you also find the old guide and the packing list in Swedish.

If you are planning your packing, this blog post is new and improved:
https://handcraftedhistory.blog/2022/05/15/the-ultimate-packing-list/

In my shop you will find lots of straw hats and felted wool hats- but be sure to come by early in the week to secure the colour/size you want. Last year they sold out. For you readers interested in straw and wool hats but not attending Medeltidsveckan- I will open up my Etsy store and start accepting commissions when I am back home and can start packing and shipping regularly again. Thank you for your patience! (Yes- I remember you who have emailed/pm/contacted me)

At Kapitelhusgården

New blog posts, patterns and research articles will be coming again this autumn- I look forward to share new and interesting stuff with you! With that said, I will continue with my packing/working/panic sewing days. Yes, I also have late projects. Yes, I will also sew on the ferry over… It is tradition, is it not?


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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…


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How to insert a small sleeve gore

14th c overdress

In this tutorial, a gore is a triangular-shaped piece of fabric sewn into the garment. A gusset is a square piece of fabric, sewn into the armpit to add movability and space, used on shifts and shirts to take a few examples.

How do they work?

A gore inserted in your sleeve will add space and freedom of movement. Depending on the placement of the gore in the sleeve, it will add space to different effects, like moving your arm up and forward or adjusting your sleeve to larger muscles in your arms.

Why do you want to use gores in sleeves?

Gores might have several reasons to be where they are:

To save fabric while cutting out your fabric pieces.

To add movability by cutting the gore on another grain than the rest of the sleeve.

To mend a broken sleeve or seam.

To enlargen a sleeve being to narrow.

Gores might be inserted while making your garment, but also afterwards if you feel a need to adjust the fit. This guide shows you how to put in a gore in a cut slit at the front of the sleeve, but you can also add gores to the seam on an S-shaped sleeve. The principle is the same; fitting the sleeve into the armhole and then adding as much gore as you need to make the sleeve ”whole”.

An example of how this method was used during the medieval period is the Moy Bog dress, which has a similar gore. Maybe an adjustment to add space to a new wearer that had more mass over arms and shoulders?

The easiest way to make well-fitted sleeve gores is to cut out a piece of fabric, pin/baste it on the inside of the assembled garment, and sew it in place. Here is a step to step guide on how I do:

14th-15th c short sleeved dress

This dress has a tight fit, and I decided on a small gore in the sleeve front to add a bit more flexibility and movement.

I started with inserting the sleeve in the armhole and then cutting up a slit in the front to make the sleeve fit all around (this means you will have to make a sleeve that has a slightly smaller measure than the armhole if you make a new dress.) When I am satisfied with the inserted sleeve and slit, I press the seam allowance to the inside and start with the pattern for the gore.

Put a piece of paper on the inside of the dress, and smooth the fabric on top of this. Draw a paper draft for the gore by tracing the ”hole” on your paper. Very easy!

Add seam allowance around the draft, and cut out.

Put the paper pattern onto fabric and draw + cut two gores, one for each sleeve. Remember to mirror the pattern and mark the gore with up/down and front/back.

Fit the fabric gores into the sleeve slits, and pin in place (here I worked on the inside, but if you find it easier you can work from the outside of the garment).

This is what it looks like from the right side of the dress:

With pins in place, baste or sew the gore into your garment. Here I used small whip stitching, not bothering with basting. But if you are unsure or want to test the fit before sewing, basting is a great way to do that. Fastening the gore from the right side of the garment makes it easy to get a good result, since you can see the result while sewing.

When I have inserted the gore, the seam allowance is most often pressed to either side (down to the sleeve) and whip stitched down. I always press the s.a towards the bigger fabric piece. For example, sewing it down onto the sleeve and/or body piece. After that, it is all done!

The new blue gown also has a gore in the front of the sleeve, barely visible but great for movement!

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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Lucet tutorial

Welcome to this blogpost about luceting! This post was made with the support from my Patreons!

A lucet cord is made out of interlocking loops and is a really practical way to make cords/strings for lacing garments, garters, shoelaces and more since it is stretchy and durable. I prefer working with wool or silk thread, a thin 2ply yarn or an embroidery yarn with a higher twist. Avoid chunky or uneven yarns since these will offer you problems and break.

This is how my luceting fork looks, but you may use practically anything with two pointy things and a handle, for example, a regular fork with the middle part removed. The historical finds looks quite different, here is one medieval example from Historiska Museet:

Fotokälla: Ulrik Skans

I find this a bit harder to use, but with a crocheting needle or pointy stick, it is easier. Lucet forks can be found from both the late iron age/viking age and medieval period. Susanna Broomé writes about viking finds in her booklet Cords and braids (I recommend her booklets.)

Finds of lucet cord are made of wool or silk (and in one case even silk and gold thread). If your thread of choice is too thin and you want a thicker cord, you can use two threads at the same time, treating them as one. But learning with a single thread is faster at the start!

Here is a written instruction:

Start with a thread, making an 8 figure around your fork. Hold the thread end with your hand, and twist the lucet fork ½ a turn, while you make a new loop with the other hand and pull the old one down into the cord. The loops should be pulled tightly into knots. Continue with this until you have a cord the lenght you desire. If you lose yourself, the loop that is easiest to tighten is the newest one, so continue with the old loop first.

And here are videos showing you how to start…

…And how to finish!

Also, a photo series showing the finishing if you prefer that:

Cut off your thread, leaving a bit for fastening.
Put this thread through the old loop, the one you would work with next. Remove from the fork.
Pull it tight.
Put the thread through the new loop, and remove this from the fork. Pull tight. Done!
Now your lucet cord is finished and ready to use. If you cut it in the future, you can either redo this finishing by unravelling a bit of cord or just make a knot at the end.


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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:

15th century silk brocade dress
buying the fabric

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
the back of the gown after pressing, the train turned out great!

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!

Update summer 2022: I finally took the gown out during Skellefteå Medeltidsdagar! I actually packed it early in the season, but the weather was so rainy and muddy I didn’t want to wear (and ruin) the dress until July. It really turned out great, and was really comfortable to wear during the party.

first time wearing the gown!


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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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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!