HANDCRAFTED HISTORY


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Kirtles and dresses during the 15th century

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

And here is my pinterestfolder on different houppelandes and overdresses.

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

 


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How I make my 15th century braids

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

You will need:

Longer hair, or hair extentions.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

And from behind

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

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


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15th century Headwear as a beginner

I actually started to write this in spring 2017, and now more 1,5 year later I finally feel that I can post it. Why did it take such a long time? Because it was a new subject I approached, and I was not confident enough to post something I didn’t really know that much about. But now, looking back, I can see that the post is just right for that moment in my work. It is the first in a long series of try out, and I wanted to show you some part of my learning process.

I’m really in the beginning of reenacting the 15th century, but find both the clothing and the headwear so interesting! One of the things I have learned while trying to do the headwear myself, is that it really is important to look at the details to get the over all look for your outfit.

This is what I came up with for the event my local SCA group had early in the summer. It looks ok, but really only is a lot of linen veils pinned down on top of each other, with a really long one then draping over the head at the end. But this chaotic look actually resembles some of the paintings…

Want to try it for yourself? I start by putting up my hair in braids, and then a Birgitta cap for a secure base. Then I add one or two thin linen veils on top of that, wrapped and pinned to the head like a turban, to get the volume and shape of the headwear. On top of those, I then add a very long veil that is pinned down, and then hangs loosely from one side. This is folded and laid over the head, quite loose. And that is all. I’m yet to learn the best way to put the pins, how many is needed, and most of all; remember how I did the headwear some months later when I want to redo it again.

 

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From a winter event + dress warm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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Tutorial; the simple medieval & viking dress

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

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

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

Good tips:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Start with your measures:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sew the pieces together in this order:

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

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

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

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

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

Sleeves:

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Gores:

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 different ways to insert gores:

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

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

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

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

Neckline:

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

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

Arm holes:

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

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

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

Attaching the sleeves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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How I attach buttons on a sleeve

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This is my method for attaching pewter buttons to a garment. It is easy, simple and makes it doable to remove the pewter buttons before washing or to use on another garment, and then re-attaching them quick afterwards. Another great thing with this method is that you will not lose your buttons as easily as if you sew them onto the garment one by one, since you will have a secure ribbon to hold them in place.

Here is where I start; the sleeve at the top is finished, and the sleeve at the bottom already have its buttonholes and hems. You will need to make S-sleeves (with the seam at the back of the arm, going just over your elbow) and then fit them snugly over your underarm. I recommend doing a mock-up sleeve first in a cheap fabric to try it out. Do you notice the curved edge of the bottom sleeve? That will create room for the wrist and the start of the hand which are also inside the sleeve.

Start by marking out where to place the buttons, use a pen and compare with the already made buttonholes. Work on the inside of the sleeve. Depending on the size of your buttons you will need different seam allowances, I had small buttons and used 1 cm, but recommend that you use at least 1,5-2 cm.

Use an awl and make small holes in the fabric, for the buttons to go through. If you have a thin or sensitive fabric, you need to reinforce the sleeve before you begin, otherwise the buttons may rip through the fabric when put on stress, such as moving or lifting when wearing the dress. A simple piece of fabric would do the trick, like on the sleeve above where the buttonholes has a strip of silk (sturdy linen is better to work with). Sew it into place before making the holes.

Aha, do you see my trick now! I do not sew each button in place separately, but pull them through the holes I made with the awl. When I have them in the right place, I thread a sturdy ribbon (this one is in linen, but a braid, twisted linen threads or anything similar will go) through each buttons loop, to keep them in place.

The ribbon makes the buttons stay in place, and makes it impossible to lose them. Note that the ribbon is twisted from left to right to pass through each button from the same direction, this will give you a smoother seam later. The buttons are placed with the flatter side towards the bottom.

When the whole set of buttons are attached and the ribbon threaded through them, fold the ribbon back, and leave a piece of it laying under the loops to keep it in place.

Final step! Fold the seam allowance over the buttons stem, loop and the ribbon, and whip stitch it in place. To remove the buttons, you will just have to rip the whip stitch open, remove the ribbon and take out the buttons to wash the dress in the machine, or use them elsewhere on another garment. To replace the buttons, repeat the steps above (the marking and holes should be left so you don’t have to redo them).

It takes me about 30 minutes to reset a sleeve, so quite doable instead of having to buy new buttons for each garment you make. This also works on bronze buttons of course, but fabric buttons I usually sew onto the garment one by one as is visible in finds from London (Dress Accessories 1150-1450). Also note that you need the typical medieval button with its long stem, most modern buttons are flat and doesn’t work with this technique.

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Tutorial; the bathing dress

Some time ago I made a medieval bathing dress in unbleached linen, and I wanted to share it with you. It is a simple project, perfect for an evening or if you want to practice hand sewing.
20180713_163324There are plenty of bathing dresses in paintings from late 14th to 15th century in Europe, they can also be seen in different cuts and models, and some are clearly supportive shifts that you could wear under your medieval clothing. Mine is very simple but with an intake under the bust to allow some support, but still being easy to get in and out from. No lacing is acquired.

Left; Bohemian, Codices vindobonenses 2759-2764 in the Osterreichischen Nationalbibliothek, in Vienna, Austria. Right: The Bathhouse Attendant, Bible of Wenceslaus IV. 1389.

Chemise ladie's undergarment, 14th century, A History of Costume; Kohler.

This find is from A History of Costume, Kohler and is dated 14th century and described as a lady’s chemise or undergarment, the photo is old but you get the general idea.

Most of the pictures I have found seems to be dated to late 14th to early 15th century, there are lots on the internet and I have a Pinterest folder on Medieval underwear Medieval underwear so I won’t go into more historical sources today.

The cutting out; prewash your linen, fold in double in the length you would like, and then cut the A shape. I used the leftover fabric for gores in the sides (and at center front + back if you like, it is optional) but this of course depends on your measures.

The first pictures shows the general cut, the second the additional front and pack gores, the third the intake under the bust that give me the support. Do not take in too much, because then you wont be able to get in and out of the dress.

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About measures: The length of the dress measures from armpit to hem. The width is your measure around your bust divided in two (for front and back) add seam allowance but nothing more. Start the gores at your natural waist (if you are unsure, rather place them higher than lower) and pin the intake under your bust while wearing the dress with gores and side seams sewn/basted. Add shoulder straps last, mine is just double folded linen cloth, whip stitched together and then fastened at the same position as I would have worn bra straps.

If you sew your dress by hand, you can use vaxed linen thread and running stitches, and then fold the seam allowance to one side and whip stitch it in place. This gives you a sturdy seam that is also quick to make. Hem the dress with running stitches or whip stitches, after your choise.

Making the dress in unbleached linen made it opaque even when it was wet, good for modesty. In pictures the dress seems to be white, maybe visible nipples was a thing, or you would have to pick a very dense fabric. In some pictures it is very clear that the fabric is transparent, but I chose the more sturdy and practical look.

The result? All considered, I am satisfied with the cut, sewing and look of the dress. It is also easy to swim in. Historically, being out in public in a bathing dress was not a thing, they can be seen on bathhouse attendants or in rare cases during the dressing/undressing at home or during dirty labor. Wearing it to the beach was certainly not a thing, but I liked to have a more historical dress instead of wearing a modern bikini when going for a swim at events.


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Going to Hamar in Norway

Me and my friend J traveled to Hamar in Norway this May to attend the medieval festival/market over a weekend, and here is a blog post about the event!

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It really was a beautiful site, with the large lake stretching around the market and camping area, inviting for a swim in the warm weather. This is the reenactment camp, very nicely done and with an area for shows, riding and the like in front of it.

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A short walk from the camp was the market, with lush green trees and an open space for market tents and performances.

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Here is my tent! In a cozy corner in the road, under a big tree. We arrived the day before the market started so the first evening we just put up the tent, made some preparations and went about greeting friends and taking in the area.

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Morning in the tent, hearing tree branches whispering in the wind and feeling the sun rise on the tent side.

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Crafthive was on the market, selling belts and nice bags, among other things.

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I also sold things from my shop, mainly historical accessories and jewelry, sewing materials and handcrafting items. It is fun to meet new people during markets, but more often than not I start talking with them and forget that I should sell my stuff… I really like holding workshops and lecturing more, but the shop is a nice way to be able to visit new places and travel more!

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When no customers needed help, I sat down with new and old friends, having a chat and sewing on my new dress. Here it is, worn for the first time! The neck opening is just basted, but it was fun to get a chance to try it on. 15th century (yes, it’s much of that century right now) with proper hair and veil for the period.

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I got a chance to visit this very interesting ruin, saved inside a glass room on the site.

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And a visit with the Madonna and Child, a wooden sculpture made between 1200 and 1300 in Norway according to the sign. (Yes, visiting only in my shift! It was sooo hot that day)
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I found Volundr on the market, and they sold the most lovely handcrafted jewelry based on different historical finds. When I laid my eyes on this 15th c necklace I promptly emptied my money-box over their table, and went back to my own tent much happier but also more broke…

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After the market on Sunday, the wind had turned and there was rain in the air. We hurried to take down the tents, pack the cars with all stuff and then went to see if others needed help. Elna from Historical fabrics is my new favourite seller of thin linen for veils (among other things) and she was packing away her tent and all the fabrics when we came by. Phew! Fabric sellers have the worst time packing, we helped with some rolls of fabric and tent gear but there was some advanced tetris before she was finished.

I really love going on historical adventures! On the road towards Hamar we traveled across the mountains, some of them with snow still left, and then over the border to Norway and some very nice views along the way. It was sunny and we had a picnic packed in the car. On the road home, I was traveling alone since J had to go by train back to Stockholm, I hadn’t any food left and the weather was cold and rainy. Then the adventure seemed a bit less fun. But as they say; it’s good to leave on a journey but it’s great to be back home!


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14th century cotehardie

I have been reading up on 15-16th century medieval Europe, including art and clothing, for some years now and haven’t really been into 14th century for a while; I even sold of my Moy Bog gown and some other dresses. But then my friend J told me she wanted to brick stitch embroider a couple of purses; and I could have one in exchange for a minor handcraft effort (at least I thought so- I’m not really into embroidery…) and then I would need a fitting dress to that… And in almost no time I had this one finished, a hand stitched woolen cotehardie with silk lining, silk lacing at the front and short sleeves.

The dress is for the higher classes, and in pictures from the late 14th century it is worn with a kirtle underneath (a tight-fitting dress often with buttoned sleeves). Then it seems like the dress remain into the beginning of the 15th century, and is worn as a kirtle/middle dress with loose sleeves for a more fashionable look. After that, the dress seems to change a bit into the waist seam dresses (like my blue Weyden dress). This kind of dresses is very common on contemporary art and you can see them in different countries, with long or short sleeves, laced front or a hidden side lacing, and with buttons or lacing at the sleeves.

If you would like to make a dress like this for yourself, search late 14th and early 15th art sources (I have some at my reading tips) or look at my Pinterest bord about cotehardies.

Here’s my best tips for making the dress fit nicely:

  • Fit the sleeves in carefully, they should be snug around the arm for both good movement and the right look.
  • Make the lacing holes 1,5-2 cm from each other, no more, to make sure the lacing will not show the shift underneath.
  • Use a lining inside the dress to make it more supportive for the bust, to add shape and draping to the skirt. If you have a tight fabric budget; just line the upper body.
  • Try the dress on often during your work with it, and make the lacing before hemming and neckline. Also, you may fit in the dress at the end for that perfect look by leaving the side seams open until last. These are also good to leave open (just back stitch them and secure the selvages if necessary by zigzag or whip stitches) for adjusting shape, support or weight loss/gain in an easy and fast way.

On these pictures it is worn with loose silk brocade sleeves, but I’m planning on making a kirtle for it with long sleeves to wear under. On the head I wear my hair in temple braids, and then a silk tablet woven hairband. The veil is pinned down to that, and then I have a woolen hood for warmth. The gloves are modern and just for warmth, it was really chilly to go out with just one dress.

This was the first event trying it out, and after that I have been adjusting the dress a bit. Inside lining; the silk fabric getting snowy outside.

 

Hairband, pins and veil.

Historical accurate? The model is quite common for the late 14th and early 15th century, and the siluette of the period is a rather straith and smooth one, which I have tried to achieve by making the dress a bit loosely fitted around waist and hip area, in order to get the lean look of the time (I am built a bit to curvy for the 14th c ideal). The woolen twill fabric with it´s blue colour is representative for the periods upper class, blue is a common colour in women´s clothing during the medieval period, and the twill weave is fine and good looking. Dresses shown in period art often has a contrasting coloured lining, but it seems that this was most often in wool, linen or a cotton blend, while silk blends seems to be more common during the 16th century. For a more historical dress I would have lined the dress in a very thin wool, or made the whole dress out of silk. The pink, hand woven silk was chosen for it’s cheap price (1/3 of a wool fabric of the same weight), it’s look and the lightness of the fabric, making the dress comfortable and not hot at all.


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From the SCA event Majgreve

This May I went to a small and cozy weekend event outside Stockholm, to watch the Majgreve tournament and meet with new and old friends. It was such a nice event, the weather was perfect and the site beautiful.

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Wow, what a site! Don’t you want to go for a swim?

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During Saturday, everyone hanged outside by the lake, having lunch picknick-style, playing or chatting with each other.

The fighters got hot; so they continued to practice in the lake.

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I also got too hot, and decided for a swim in the lake. It was very cold, but very nice! I didn’t take any bathing photos because of no swimwear, but look at how happy I was afterward!

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I put up my shop on the grass and tempted children with stuffed horses and adults with shiny jewels. Works every time!

The jug sneaked around the bush, going on adventures of its own. Who owned it? Don’t know, but I know that it is based on a find of a medieval clay jug.

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Court in the shade

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Afternoon sun by the lake

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In the evening, tables was set outside by the shore and on the pier, and everyone enjoyed a pot-luck feast together!

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And finally, some photos of fellow SCAdians! I always try to take some photos and/or portraits during events, to let you meet some of all the amazing people I get to meet during my adventures!

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I had an amazing weekend, and really recommend you to visit a SCA event if you haven’t already, or to visit Majgreve next year if you live closer to Sweden and Stockholm!

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Wearing my 16th century trossfrau outfit during the event. If you want to know more about it, read my other blog posts about 16th century clothing, and check out my tutorials on the subject =)