HANDCRAFTED HISTORY


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Lacing on medieval dresses

Lacing is a really easy solution when you would like to make a tightly fitted garment and need an opening to be able to get in and out easily. During the medieval period, lacing comes and goes as a popular fashion and practical solution choice, so if you aim for a historically believable garment make some research first to determine if lacing is the best option!

Historical garments may also be closed with fabric or metal buttons, hooks and eyes, pins or a regular whip stitch.

spiral lacing with a lucet woven wool cord, on a 14th century dress

Lacing can be seen on male and female clothing, but today I wanted to show you how I make lacing on a dress. The most common lacing method is spiral lacing; one cord for closing the open space by going through lacing holes spaced a little uneven from each other. This is easy and quick, and you only need one cord.

Fastening the lacing; a double round at the top prevents gaping.

To unlace; thread the point back again, or as below: use a loose knot at the start of the lacing (at the bottom) and unravel the lacing from the bottom up.

Use a knot at the start of the lacing, on the inside of the dress.

I place the lacing holes like this; the first two and the last two are aligned but the rest is spiralled. This gives you a tighter lacing, that looks better and is historical. By making the first and last pair even you will get the front panels even to each other. This kind of lacing can be seen in paintings by Weyden for example.

Lacing holes needs to be quite close to each other; between 1,5 to 2,5 on one side, depending on the fabric and the amount of support you need. A tighter gown supporting a heavy bust needs a closer lacing, while a looser garment might have more space between the holes.

To make lacing holes I use a sharp awl to make a small hole, and then a fitting thicker awl in metal, wood or bone to make the hole bigger. I do have real awls, but since they seem to always be “somewhere else” a bunch of different objects has been used; needle binding needles, hairpins, chopsticks… You don’t need anything fancy, was my conclusion. Yeah…

After the hole is made the right size, I sew around it with a buttonhole silk thread or a waxed linen thread (depending on social status, period, colour etc) I never bother with any fancy stitch, just sew around like this, and cover the hole equally with thread. Practise makes perfect; don’t bother if your first holes are a bit uneven, if you start from the bottom and work your way up they will look really nice by the time you reach the area others actually look at.

A tip for making the hole more even is to first sew one round of stitching around the hole, and then another turn, dense enough to cover any gaps.

On the inside of the lacing, you can see a thin strip of tabby woven, sturdy linen fabric. I always use a piece of fabric on the inside (if I don’t have a whole lining in place) to strengthen the edge and make the lacing look better. You can use linen fabric scraps: cut it in a straight piece, fold in the raw edges and sew in place with whip stitches or slip stitches.

I prefer to make the cord in either wool or silk thread. The wool thread is cheaper, flexible and will stay put. The silk one gives a nice shine, is very strong and easy to lace with. Decide based on your project. To finish the cord (this one is done with a lucet but they could also be braided or tablet woven) I like to use a point. That will make it easier to lace the dress, but if you don’t have one a thick needle will do the trick too! Just thread the cord on a needle, and use that to lace yourself in. Another option is to make a cord long enough to just loosen up, without having to lace up the whole garment.

the green dress in the tutorial


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How to put in a gore in a medieval garment

Remember my latest spring green wool dress? I took lots of photos during the process so I could show you how I made it, and share some great handsewing tip if you want to handsew a garment yourself. This post is a step-by-step on inserting gores in a garment, like front and back gores, small sleeve gores and gores for a hood.

The pattern? Here is a tutorial on how to make one.

Here’s an old post about a recreated Herjolfnes dress.

Lets start with my favourite way of inserting gores! With this method you will always get at gore that looks nice and ends in a smooth top.

Start with cutting up the back panel, make it around 1,5 cm shorter than the side of your gore.

Press the sides (the seam allowance) of the cut on the inside/wrong side of the dress.

Pin or baste the gore into place. If you are a bit new to handsewing, working on the inside might be easier, but you can also do this from the front/outside of the dress. The photo above shows the inside.

Start sewing from the outside, with a version of the whip stitch. Here you can se the bottom of the gore where I start; and the waxed linen thread going in from under the folded seam allowance to hide the knot. Vaxed linen thread (35/2) or a thin 2-ply wool thread are my favourite choices, but for an upper class garment silk is also an option.

To make the seam as invisible as possible, sew it like this; making my progress upwards on the inside of the fabric. The result is a seam that is only visible by small dots.

When I reach the point of the gore I just continue around, sewing small whip stitches all the way around the cut. The result is a set in gore that looks tidy, like this! But we are not finished yet, the seam needs to be finished of on the inside to be durable and neat.

This is what the inside of the garment looks like now.

Time to trim and fell the seam allowace! I start with cutting the seam allowance of the back panel down a bit, so the overlaying gore covers it. This looks tidy, and makes it easier to sew down.

When I have cut all around, I press the seam flat and whip stitch it into place. This will give me two seams holding the fabrics together, creating a very durable garment.

And the finished gore at the back of the dress. The small shadowed hollows around the gore is were the whip stitch from sewing down the seam allowance shows, these are nothing to be afraid of; it is a result of handsewing.


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Making a sleeveless dress in easy steps

I decided to make another sleeveless middle dress to wear under my velvet houppelande. The other one (similar to this one, also in black silk tafetta) I made before apparently shrinked on its own in the wardrobe during the winter, and come spring was a little to small over the waist. Can’t imagine how this could happen..?

This style of dress may also be worn on it’s own with sleeves, in the Italian style. The amount and choice of fabric and decorations does all the difference in placing this dress on the fashion time line, as well as the waist seam is a clear indicator of region and time. I fancy the waist seam placement in the natural waist so I took inspiration from these paintings, as well as the Italian examples further down the post.

This kind of dress may also be made in wool or cotton, depending on the area you would like to get your inspiration from. Cotton was more common in Italy, while wool is much more common in Northen Europe. (For more information about cotton dresses, I recommend “The Italian cotton industry in the later middle ages 1100-1600” by Mazzaoui.)

I used a black silk tafetta, because I wanted a cool dress, matching the silk and velvet outfit and taking as little room as possible in my event packing. If you are going for a silk fabric, tafetta is more similar to historical fabrics than, for example, uneven dupioni or raw silk. Medieval dress silk should be shiny and evenly woven as far as I have seen.

I also have a similar one in amber wool twill, recreated to be worn by a woman not as high in social status as this black silk one will belong to. I took photos from both processes to be able to show you some different techniques.

Want to see how I made it?

1. This is a basic sketch of the pattern pieces. Really simple; a front and a back upper body + linings. Also 2 different ways to make the skirt; the black one are made of the rectangle, and gathered in the waist. The wool dress is made of panels (opt 2) to create more width in the bottom hem, but wide enough in the waist to gather.

2. Upper body pieces: I started with a front and back, loosely based on my toile/mock up pattern, and added 5 cm in each side to be able to adust the fit and have some extra fabric to fold to the inside for support. If you go for side lacing you can have a whole front piece, and the curve from the front seam will instead be moved to the sides. I will show you later!

3. Cut two of the outer fabric, and two lining pieces. Then baste them together to be able to work with the pieces without risking any movement.

You also need to decide if you are going to have lacing in both sides (seems to be usual in Italian portraits and handy if you often change your size) or in one side (faster to sew, allow you to get the dress on quickly).

4. Pin or baste the body pieces together and try them on. Having a friend to help you will be really helpful! Adjust and take in the side seams to create a smooth fit. You can also adjust the shoulders by gently pulling the front upwards if necessary. The fit doesn’t have to be all smooth, if you have lots of curves there will be some room in the dress (just decide on wearing a bra or not, or making the dress supportive before you finish).

Basting the skirt into place for the fitting is really good if you want to see how the fabric falls, and where the waist is going to be placed. Skirts usually “hang down” the bodice and make it look longer. Not the silk though- silk is such a light fabric.

5. Here is the body, inside out, after the fitting above. The line is really curved to make a god fit, and support the bust thanks to the stretch in the fabric and lining (lining is really important, don’t forget the lining!) If you are going to sew one side, use backstitching to create a durable seam.

Or if you are going to lace both sides, press the fabric to the wrong side of the body so you have 4 layers of fabric to sew the lacingholes through (if you work with a medium to thick wool this might not be necessary, you may instead trim some fabric down and whip stitck it into place. Remember that all the sewing allowance needs to be pressed down- don’t be tempted to leave “a little extra” as this might lead to the dress being a little bit too big…

6. The bodice during the sewing phase. I closed one side seam with backstitching, but left the sewing allowance. It is nice to have if you need to adjust the size or fit in the future. To keep it from fraying you can baste or whip it loosely to the lining of the bodice. The other side gets folded and pressed down.

7. The neck opening and arm openings I fold down (once for thicker fabric and twice for thin and fraying fabric) and whip stitch into place. To make it both pretty and durable, you can then press the openings and sew them one more time with a stab stitch.

Or you may finish the openings with a separate strip of fabric on the inside, as a reenforcement. Here I overlocked the lining and the outer silk fabric together after basting and fitting, and finished it of with sewing a fabric piece to the outside around the opening. That one I then folded and pressed down on the inside. This technique is good for sensitive, fraying fabrics and machine stitching.

Here you can also see the clamps; some silk fabrics get small marks by pins, and I therefore use clamps when working on visible places like the neckline. But they are very handy for all kinds of fabrics, so if you are not a fan of pins- try them out! (Search for sewing clamps or fabric clamps on an internet or sewing store of your choice)

8. The skirt part of the dress I usually sew separately from the bodice when I make garments with waist seams. Sewing the skirts together with running stitches, occacionally locked with a back stitch every needle lenght or so, will give you a fast and good seam. Press the seam allowance to one side, trim, and whip stitch it down. This is my favourite way of making long seams faster by hand. Or use a sewing machine, it is your choice!

9. After that, I hem the upper lining of the skirt, before gathering it (see the tiny stitches at the top of the skirt below?)

10. There are several different ways to gather or pleat a skirt to a bodice. I use different methods depending on the look I want. The wool skirt got gathered in soft pleats, and then sewn onto the bodice. I used a vaxed linen thread, to make the seam steady. Silk would have been another option, but as I wanted to create a working class garment I mainly used linen thread.

The black silk dress got a pleated skirt instead. The skirt part is simply made out of two rectangles that I have stitched together in the sides, leaving the seam at the top open for around 15 cm, to be able to get inside the skirt when it is attached to the bodice (if you have side lacings on each side, leave both side seams open a bit)

I use something to measure with, and then mark the pleats with a pen, or make them at once with pins or clamps. You could also calculate the amount and size of pleats if that is to your taste, but I usually just roll with it. There might be an extra pleat or some uneveness- but it won’t be visible.

In the front the folds are sewn towards the side of the body, while in the back the folds meet in the back. By arranging them this way you create a flatter front, with more volume at the hips and back. After the entire waist is gathered/pleated, I often secure the folds with a basting stitch, or pins before I sew it to the bodice. (See the photo of the wool dress above, I use this method for most waist seams.)

11. Lacing: if you are a bit unsure, you could save the lacing holes to last and do them after one last fitting with the dress on, with the right shift/chemise under. Otherwise I like to sew them before attaching the skirt, I feel it is easier to sew with less fabric on my knees. I use a spiral lacing and finish it of at the waist seam. Often my skirt will stay closed enough without any further closure, but if I have a more narrow skirt that fits snugly over my sides I might need to add a fastening like a hook and eye, to keep it closed.

Spiral lacing on another project, just to show you what it looks like. If you need lots of support from you dress, make the lacing holes tighter together. If you have a looser dress style, you don’t need as many. I usually have 2-3 cm between each hole on one of the sides.

12. Last; finish of the bottom hem. Check to see if it is even and adjust if necessary (a friend is a good help here but modeling yourself and adding pins might work) I usually just finish the hem with a single or double fold and a whip stitch. After that, just try on your new dress!

If you want to add loose sleeves, here is my tutorial on the black ones with ribbon. 

 

 


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Viking woman’s coat

This tutorial was made 4 years ago, in Swedish, but my dear blog reader Eva Bolinder took the time to translate it for you. Thank you Eva!

Fancy blue coat in thick woolen twill, with silk decorations and woolen tablet weave

The existence of an open coat for women during the viking age is not a sure thing. We don’t know enough about the viking woman outfit to say for sure that this was what it looked like, or that they even were a thing. Why are they so popular in the reenactment world? They are practical for the kind of reenactment we do! A coat is easily added or taken of as we move between cold outdoors to heated housing, and excellent to add to your viking summer outfit for those colder events, without having to make a complete new outfit.

Coat nr 2, superfun to make! Woolen twill that was woven in two layers, I remember. Decorated with wool tablet weave, silk and fur. Not very practical though…

With that said, here’s the tutorial- feel free to make one if you would like one! Also, as a bonus you’ll get to see many different coats I’ve done during my years as a viking. Some more inspirational with freely designed decorations, some more historically believable.

(This description is shorter than for the Medieval Dress, since I skipped details and tricks that I describe there. So if you want a lot of extra tips, read that description too!)

I started with an inspirational sketch, very important. The sketch were four years older than the sewing project and not what I ended up with (I guess sometimes a project needs a really long thinking time, you know what I mean..?) On top of it are newly drawn pattern parts and a sketch of the coat when it is sewn together.

Sewing this coat is not so different from sewing a typical dress, with the difference that it is open in the front, of course. Since the coat is an over garment I also want a slightly looser fit, since I usually have two-tree layers underneath.

When I took measurements for the coat I based them on the ones below, changed “klänningens längd” (dress length) to the length of the coat. I also added 2-4 cm around the armhole/sleeve insertion to get more movement, as well as the circumference around the upper body. 4-6 cm extra will give you room for more clothes underneath.

The coat also has wider front pieces than half of the total circumference, since I wanted to be able to overlap the front pieces when it’s cold and rainy. I seem to recall that I added 6-8 cm for each front piece after I had calculated the circumference the finished garment would have, divided it into two for back and front pieces. The front pieces are thus a fourth of the total circumference + about 6 cm.

¤ Coat length is measured from the highest point of the shoulder “klänningens längd”

¤ Gore length = coat length – from shoulder to natural waist “från axel…”

¤ Coat width = the widest point of the upper body + extra width for clothes underneath “överkorppens…”

¤ Armscye is measured loosely around the arm/shoulder joint “ärmhål”

¤ Sleeve length is measured from the shoulder, past a bent elbow, to the wrist “ärmlängd”

¤ Measure loosely around the wrist to be able to easily take the coat on and off

¤ Add 1.5 cm seam allowance on all sides

Draw the pieces and write down all measurements on a piece of paper. The base of the gore (C) depends a bit on your other measurements, but don’t be afraid to make wide gores. 60-80 cm is needed to be able to wear the coat over several layers of dresses, and have a nice drape. If you have a larger size; choose the larger measurement to avoid having a square shaped garment with little body form. Generously made gores will give you a nicer drape and more shaping to the garment.

The sleeve (D) has a sleeve cap/shaped sleeve and the seam is underneath the arm. The sleeve cap is about 6-10 cm high, depending on your size and measurements. If you don’t have a sleeve pattern, make a mock up sleeve in cheap fabric to try it out. My sleeve (size small-medium) is around 46 cm around the top, 60 cm long, and the curve of the sleeve cap is around 6 cm higher than the edges.

The little square gore (E) is called a sleeve gusset and is in the middle of the armhole under the arm. It is sewn to both the sleeve and the front (A) and back piece (B) and gives width and mobility. It is a way to save fabric as the sleeve can be cut more narrow, and then gain width in the arm hole with the help of the gore. You can also sew the coat without a gusset, just make the sleeve a bit wider.

Sew the coat together in the following order:

1. Start by sewing the side gores to the front piece, cut up the back piece and attach the back gore, or sew the gore in a split back piece. Press seams.

2. Sew the shoulder seams, press.

3. Sew the sleeve gussets to the sleeves along one side so they are attached, press.

4. Pin the sleeves to the front and back piece while they are on a flat surface (no sewn in sleeve is needed here), sew them together and press.

5. Baste (or sew everything at once) the sleeves together into two sleeves, baste the gussets into the arm hole and then baste the side seam (straight piece to side gore). Try it on, and if it feels good- sew it. If you are new to the square gusset under arm thing- it can be easier to insert that one first, basting it into place before you close the sleeve and the side seam.

6. Sew the coat together in the sleeves and sides, press.

7. Try the fit of the neckhole and cutout in the front, fold the fabric first until you’re happy with form and fall, then cut away the excess fabric on the front pieces.

8. Hem edges, fell seams ( nowadays I usually fell the seams at the same time I sew them together if I hand sew the garment) and decorate your coat if you feel like it.

Simple and practical coat made in woolen twill

Tips:

All these coats are made based on the same pattern, with some variations. With or without sleeve gussets, with or without the back gore, and with different lengths, widths and hemlines. The fabric also matters a lot; a loosely woven twill will drape differently than a sturdy thick twill or tabby woven fabric. If you want a warm and practical coat; choose a heavy, fulled fabric that will protect you from rain.

The gores in the coat are wide, it gives a nice fall and makes it possible for me to wrap the coat around me even if I have several dresses underneath.

I cut the neckhole/neckline in the front piece when the coat is sewn together, before hemming. This way I can put it on and draw out the opening as I want it.

Don’t make the coat all the way to the ground, it will just get wet and dirty.

I think this was my first viking coat, green woolen twill with fantastic wool embroideries made by my friend Kim, inspired by viking age decor elements

This was the finished coat that I made for the blog post. It has been sold since then, and I now own a similar blue coat made in warm wool twill, with rabbit fur in the neck and hand openings. I use it as my go-to cozy, warm coat on events, for keeping warm when I don’t want to get dressed properly, and on larps as a middle layer. So practical!

 


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Early 14th century outfit

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This is my early 14th century outfit, hand stitched and made with inspiration from medieval manuscript sources, like the Luttrell Psalter from early 14th c England.

I made the dress for my video project and wanted to put together a whole outfit that would fit in the same time period. It turned out super comfy, maybe I could wear it instead of my comfy pants indoors..?

I also made it so it would be usable in the viking outfit if I would be in need of a thin woolen dress/kirtle under the apron dress. Hence the looser sleeves, shorter length and not so wide neckline. It is certainly not the most fashionable 14th c outfit, rather an outfit for work, like in my market stall. (Uhum, much suitable, very nice thinking there…)

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This dress will be featured in my online lecture about Medieval Dress (only in Swedish right now!) and as I know that many of you readers are Swedes or understand Swedish, I will post a link to the lecture here. For you non-Swedish speakers; I have not forgot you, and will strive to translate interesting parts of the video to English and post it on a Youtube channel in the future.

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Until then, here’s a list of the materials used in the outfit if you get interested in making your own.

What items do you need?

For my outfit in size small-medium, based on fabrics 150 cm width

  • Linen shift, 2 meters. Linen thread and bees wax for sewing.
  • Wool kirtle as the visible layer. 2,6-3 meters of wool fabric. Wool, linen or silk thread for sewing.
  • Birgitta cap + linen half circle veil. 60 cm thin linen. Thin linen thread and bees wax.
  • Linen apron. 100*80 cm of sturdy linen, linen thread and bees wax.
  • Wool hose/socks. Around 70*100 cm wool twill.
  • Leather turn shoes.
  • Garters in wool or silk for the hose. Fabric scraps, vowen ribbons or braids can be used.
  • Purse, here in brick stitched silk with silk tassels and a silk tablet woven band. Made by my friend Jenny!
  • Thin belt in leather or fabric.
  • Decorative brooch in brass with stones.
  • 3 dress pins in bronze.

14thcoutfit


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How to make a Herjolfnes pattern

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I promised you some insights into the Herjolfnes dresses with the many side gores, and here’s my take to understand the patterns!

(This guide is a “make it work for you” guide, if you want to make a dress as similar to the extant finds as possible, you might want to use the published materials mentioned below instead)

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First, if you have “Medieval Garments Reconstructed”, it might be fun to try these patterns out. But remember that these are just general patterns, and they are not made for your body, nor your measurements. The risk is therefore that they will not fit very well, and you will be kept wondering what to do with this new and mysterious pattern.

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Furthermore, the original clothing (and patterns) were made to a very different person, with a different life style than yours, a body marked by another way of living, and the clothes were being worn and as a last thing, used instead of coffins for the dead last rest. Translating these clothing into patterns is important to understand the general pattern construction, but after this I believe it to be more useful that the dress you finally make is going to fit you well.

To achieve this, I recommend you start with a personal pattern; a mock up or toile. Once you have this one, you can then transform it into a pattern with as few or many side gores as you wish. To demonstrate this I made a model in paper for you. You can try out this method in regular paper first if you want, or go straight for patterning paper and 1:1 modeling.

Step 1: The shadowed picture is my toile/mock up for my upper body. I have made a start pattern with the skirt attached to these (by the waist line) and two integrated gores; middle front and middle back. On my standard dress pattern my back piece is whole (no seam along the spine).

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Step 2: I cut the front and back out, along with a side gore. This is the pattern for my red cotehardie.

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Step 3: Time to go sideways! I mean sidegores… I mean, just cut the pattern pieces apart like I did here. I place the cut where the arm holes start to bend, or around 10 cm in from the sides. The bigger size, the bigger piece you will get.

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Step 4: Cut the side gore in half, and tape each half to the new side pieces.

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Step 5: To make it easier, I draw the new side pieces on a piece of paper, and add some width to the other “side” of the side gore; where it is straight. I don’t need a lot, between 30-40 cm on a full pattern.

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Step 6: The front and back pieces also gets added width at the bottom hem. It’s illustrated by the orange part on the picture. The width gets added to both front parts and back parts. This will give you pieces that has no straight vertical lines on the skirt, but flared lines resulting in a lot of hem (fancy!)

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Step 7: Now I have a pattern with added side gores, 2 on each side. The gores at the front and back pieces have been added as a part of the pattern to simplify, but you could also piece everything together.

CF= center front (where my lacing is on the green dress) and CB on this pattern means you will have a seam along the back, since the gore is integrated. You could also keep the back piece whole, and insert a gore in the middle. I will show you how I do this in another post. (Also note that I show you a half dress in these photos; when you do your dress there will of course be another half of dress too.)

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Step 8: Want more side gores? Not a problem! Repeat the cutting-party, and cut each of the side gores in two. Here I have done it on the front side gore. I recommend marking your pieces with front, back, and arrows to show where they belong, and I also keep my waist line (dotted line). It can get confusing otherwise…

After this, you can add more width at the hemline to each of the new gores, drawing out more width from the straight side like shown above. You can also add A Lot More Width as shown below, if you want to have a fancy dress with a great amount of fabric.

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Step 9: Very important. After you have cut all your pieces and redrawn them, it is time to add the seam allowance. Add 1,5-2 cm of seam allowance around all pieces, either on paper or directly on the fabric. If your starting mock up had seam allowance integrated, do not add more to those lines that you have not touched this time.

Step 10: Whoho, a new herjolfnes based pattern has emerged! Cut it out in mock up cotton fabric to try out the fit, or just do like I did and cut out all the pieces in wool, with a bit of extra seam allowance. Extra? Just to be able to baste the dress together and try out the fit + if you are satisfied with all the new side seams. I did not need the extra seam allowance, but I intend to use the photos to make even another tutorial on the subject of fitting a dress pattern.

Remember that the side seams are not “princess seams” which are put over the bust to give it a modern form. The herjolfnes seams are more on the side of the bust, and gives you movement, a good drape and lots of hem.

I made the sleeves based on a regular S-sleeve pattern I already had, and for this construction method you should not need to adjust the sleeves much (if you have a working pattern), just check so the armhole doesn’t get to wide; measure your seam allowance when making the dress, and then insert the sleeves after sewing all the side gores and front + back panel together.

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The finished dress in medium thick twill wool fabric. The dress is actually quite loose, and I cut the sleeves short, and the hem above the ground, to make it into a good working kirtle for historical markets.

The original herjolfnes patterns doesn’t have lacing, but I decided to add that and take in the dress a bit to get a fit I am comfortable with. I also hate pulling a tight dress over my head as I always mess up my hairdo and cap, so the laced ones are my favourites. Once again, if you aim for a recreated pattern rahter than an inspired one, you might leave the dress a bit looser and skip the lacing.

Useful notes:

Remember to add seam allowance to your new pieces, I like to add a bit extra (2-3 cm) in order to easier make adjustments during the fitting.

When you have achieved your new pattern in mock up fabric (or cut it out in your wool fabric) baste all the side pieces together to try out the fit. The many side gores will adjust the weight and fall of the fabric and there might be more stretching that needs to be adressed.

You also have a lot of seams now were you can make adjustments to make the dress fit perfectly to your body. If you need to take it in; don’t take in all the extra width in just one seam, instead spread it out between the seams.

Also; remember to wear your medieval supportive garment or modern bra of choice when fitting the dress so the dress will fit the bust nicely.

Sources:

Woven into the earth, Else Ostergaard, 2004

Medieval garments reconstructed, Ostergaard mm, 2011

 

 

 


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My 10 best dresses

Hi! So nice of you to drop by to read! This time, I wanted to take you with me on a small tour to my virtual wardrobe, showing you some of my favourite dresses I have made so far. Be prepared to see some really old stuff now, because it wouldn’t be very fun if I just posted photos of the 10 most recent, high quality dresses I made right?

(Yeah, you wouldn’t think it was as nice sneeking a peek into my actual wardrobe, it’s quite full and maybe not in the best order. Have you seen my sewing box? Then you’ll have a feeling for what my wardrobe looks like…)

Let’s start at the beginning; my first buttoned cotehardie. This one is an old dress (the photo is from an event in 2010) long gone to someone else. It was my first try doing a 14th century dress with a closer fit. I can’t say I really knew how to make medieval fitted garments but somehow I managed this one and I was sooo happy with it. I remember looking up to others at the event, pondering how to make such awesome garbs like they wore, and how to manage a really good sleeve.

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This early in my erhm, blogging career (can you call it a career if you are not making any money..?) I didn’t get much photos of my own outfits, but rather took photos of everything I saw, trying to capture those magical moments and that cool things others wore. Like these outfits- I still remember thinking I would totally want to be that skilled when I grew up!

Oh, I had completely forgot about this one; the green herringbone twill wool was a really expensive (in 2011) fabric in an awesome quality, and I made some kind of Herjolfnes dress with lots of gores in the side and skirt. It was so comfy, fitted me well and I used it quite a lot before selling it. Actually still missing it. Here I am wearing it as a middle dress under my viking apron dress. Couldn’t find any good photo of just the dress.

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Oh, my green moy bog gown! Somewhere around 2010-2011 my real interest in medieval pattern construction techniques began and I wanted to try the moy bog sleeves. I remember that I first made a short sleeved one, wore that for a while and then remade it with long sleeves and better fitted gores in the skirt. Another dress I was really satisfied with at the time I finished it and wore a lot over several years. Then I wanted to make new experiments and sold it to be able to afford new fabrics.

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The 16th century trossfrau dress is one of my oldest that I still use (I tend to get tired of old projects and sell them of…) But I still like it. I put a lot of effort into research and actually making it historically accurate and fun at the same time and finished it in early 2015. It is hand sewn, the pattern and construction methods still holds up to my standard, and the colour is just sooo… fugly. The purple hue is actually based on a natural dye, so the thing that is least accurate with the whole outfit is the slashing on the hat; I was to fast and made it pretty rather than historical believable.

My wedding dress from 2017. This has a special place in my heart, I don’t know if it is the dress itself (it is rather plain) or the event it got used at… It’s a 15th century silk dress with open sleeves below the elbow, lined with a really thin wool, and decorated with silk cords and small freshwater pearls. I would like to redo it a bit as it doesn’t fit right know, and therefore I don’t use it. But I do feel a bit unsettled everytime I take it out from the wardrobe and think about cutting it apart to redo it. Maybe I am lazy, or a bit nostalgic. Yeah, I will probably remake it anyyy minute…

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I loved this one! It is a 15th century houppelande (overdress) in black velvet with moss green edges. The sleeves got lined with my last pieces of gren silk that I owned, and they made for a very good contrast to the rest of the dress I thought. The dress was only worn once during this photoshoot in 2017, and then I sold it to a happy customer abroad. I loved it, but I didn’t need it. I mostly made it to practice sewing in velvet and to try out the pattern, as it was my first try to make a full circular houppelande.

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My red 14th century wool cotehardie, completly handsewn, and with 20 pewter buttons in each sleeve. What is not to love? It is red, fancy, a really serious try on reenactment clothing and I feel Amazing every time I get dressed in it. Some time around here I also started to feel like handsewing a whole garment wasn’t such a big deal. Nowadays I handsew most of my wardrobe, with exceptions for some of my undergarments, and projects that has a short time frame.

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Ok, I know, it’s a whole outfit rather than just a dress (I can cheat right?) but I couldn’t leave this one out. The amber dress project was just that; a very serious and creative project which was so much fun to make. The process actually took several years, but somehow this outfit came to be a milestone where I felt that I had learned new things and evolved as a handcrafter.

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Yes, I have a thing for green. But you knew this one would show up here right? It is green, comfy, dramatic and 15th century. What is not to love? This was actually my latest houppelande after making several tryouts to explore drape, patterns, construction methods and different fabrics (you can see them below) and it is handsewn in a high quality woolen cloth, lined with a silk fabric. On this photo I wear it full “Weyden style” to portrait a well of woman from the middle 15th century, dressed in rich fabrics to the height of fashion of the time.

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Mmm, this is not a clear participant in this post just by the look of it. It is a really simple dress with panels and gores, handsewn in undyed ecological wool (in 2018 like so many of my other dresses). But it is one of those dresses that makes you feel awesome, comfortable and just warm enough whenever you wear it. It’s magical. If I was going to wear medieval/viking clothing everyday I would probably wear this one 9 out of 10 days.

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So, there you have it! Some of my projects over the years. It was a bit challenging to pick out favourites, and I know I left my new 15th century wardrobe out (but hey, you’ve seen that one a lot lately) as well as my viking apron dresses I’ve made that I really liked. Sometime I’ll have to put together another viking-wardrobe post maybe.

What do you think? You have any favourites that you would like to make a version of, or do you already have “the best dress ever” in your wardrobe? I would love to see it!

 

 


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Learning new things

The longer I’ve been doing historical handcrafting, the clearer it is that I find it important to improve myself and my knowledge all the time. The first half of 2019 I spent making lots of outfits for customers, and some for myself as well. The projects were all fun and turned out nice, but I had the feeling I was missing something.

New challenges.

So, during the autumn I decided to spend time learning new things, and chose some things I haven’t explored before. The result was attending a distance tablet weaving workshop to get new inspiration for patterns and workshops, and trying out a new handcrafting technique in the form of felting hats. The black one is my first, it got a bit uneven but I am getting better!

I also researched and made a (inspired) mid 18th century outfit and went to a historical ball event with that outfit, dancing and dining historical style.

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I feel very satisfied with learning new things, and got new energy to continue to work on lots of projects. Yes, at once- of course. I am one of those handcrafters that fill the entire room with projects, stash them in baskets and have them lying around the whole house in periods.

I also felt inspired taking up some old research on brocades. I am interested in late medieval style brocades, and have somewhat of a stash hidden in the shop (for customers, of course!) with small samples suitable to make pouches, purses, sleeves and details. Mainly, it is because I get so curious about the different weaving patterns and styles that I just Have To Order a small bit… (this is my pinterest board on the subject)

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I also, kind of unexpected, happened to buy several meters of a lovely silk brocade that is going to be a new medieval dress. I am in the progress right now of sewing it together, taking photos and notes as I work to make it into a new tutorial when I have the time.

Alas, I do have time… But I am also working on a tutorial on Herjolfnes side gores, how to make a pair of medieval pattens and a handsewn project for a customer. I am not good at doing one thing at a time…

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As late as February I still thought I would have a normal, busy season with workshops, road trips and market work, beginning with next week. Now the world feels more unsure and I don’t even know if there will be enough work to put food on the table. On the other hand, I do have lots of time now to experiment and learn new things. Really trying to decide this might yet be a good thing, I am working on new tutorials, garments for myself and lots of new things to sell when there will be markets again.

I also put up a small webshop at my Fbpage in order to give all my followers and customers a chance to order handcrafting tools and have a sneek peek at all the nice stuff I’ve got for the markets. It would help a lot if you would like to check out the shop, follow me on social media or show my page to a friend. This too shall pass, and until then all we can do is our best.

How are you doing out there? I know I have readers from both Australia, USA and many places in Europe as well as here in Sweden. I am praying for your good health, and hoping for a spring and summer that will be better than today.


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How to make medieval hose

This blog post was made possible by my Patreon supporters, thanks for helping me bring more free tutorials into the world!

Woolen hose was worn by both men and women during the medieval period, with the difference that the men’s was higher and usually tied to the belt/to the waist in some kind, and as the fashion developed became higher until joined to a pair of pants. Get it? A pair of hose- a pair of high hose- a pair of joined hose- a pair of pants. (I have never understood the english saying of a pair of pants but this make so much sense!)

Anyway, the women’s hose was usually tied under or above the knee. Here’s a quick view of some, but there’s lots of different models, colours and designs from the period. If you wish to reproduce a garment for a specific time and location, you’ll need some more research to choose what you need, this tutorial is more of a “here, let’s make a garment!”

I wanted to show you how you can make a pair yourself, using your body’s measures for drafting a pattern or constructing the fit directly onto yourself. Hose isn’t very difficult to make, not even to get a pair of closely fitted ones. It just takes some practise and patience to pin them on your body and adjust the fit until you are happy with it.

First, you need some wool fabric, preferably a twill with a nice stretch to it. Not to thin but neither fulled into a bulky cloth, I love Medeltidsmodes Melton Wool (shown above as the white hose). To calculate the amount you need you can either first make a mock up/toile or you can take measure 1 + measure 3 (as shown below) and draw them as a square on the fabric. Add some extra material around. The most stretchy part of the fabric should go diagonal over the hose. I usually make mine from left overs from other projects and fit smaller pieces together.

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You can start with a ready made pattern, or make your own. Either way you will have to adjust the pattern to you body, by fitting your hose onto your body for the perfect fit. Each wool fabric you use may be different, so if you are making several pairs in different fabrics adjustments might be needed for each pair.

Also note that I make my hose right and leftsided, you don’t have to do this but I find that the over all fitting is nicer when I mirror the pattern I have.

If you decide to make your own pattern from start rather than buying one readymade, I prefer to draw some straight lines on a piece of scrap fabric and then drape this directly to the body. Of course, a friend to help you is great but not necessary.

You can also create a pattern on a flat piece by measuring and draft lines.

Start with taking the measurements:

1. Length of hose

2. Width just under the knee

3. Width around calf (thickest part of leg)

4. Width around ankle (thinnest part of leg)

7. Measure around the heel like shown on picture

(5 + 6 will show up later)

To make a flat pattern, also take measurements between the numbers above. Take the measure along line 1; what is the measure between 2,3, 4 and 7? Then you can use this to draw up this starting pattern for your hose; draw line 1, and then horizontally draw the lines 2,3,4 and mark the placement for 7 with just a dot.

This is my ready-made hose pattern. Yours will have the straight lines now, but lacking the sole and the form of the foot as well as the triangular gore.

Make the sole by drawing your foot on a piece of scrap fabric/paper. Make sure you stand straight while doing this. Add 1 cm of seam allowance around. This is piece number 5, and you make it the same way for both methods.

Now you can either try drawing the upper foot part on the flat pattern, or cut out what you have and continue draping the hose directly on your body. If you want to draft the shape, line 7 is the width you need to fit your heel inside the hose. Draw that in a curved line like shown on the picture above. Then loosely draft the form of the foot and add some space needed for fitting around your drafted pattern. Don’t make any gores or slits yet (number 6) do these while you are trying on your pattern instead.

The measure of line 7 is worth taking into consideration while trying on your hose. You may pin it perfectly close to your body, but if you have a thin ankle you might not get the hose of because that measurement (4) is smaller than that around your heel (7). Remember to check this measurement while drafting the pattern or when trying on the mock up. The hose should just go on and of your foot.

Draping rather than drawing

I prefer the draping method and use it on my beginners workshops because I think it is effective and easy. If you would prefer to drape the whole pattern, just mark line 1 on a scrap fabric and then pin it to your body (use stockings, leggings or shorts but nothing bulky like jeans). To use the fabrics stretch, you should draw line 1 horizontally over a piece of tabby weave or along the edge on a twill fabric. The stretch should go over the hose, not alongside line 1. Does that make sense?

Step 1 of the draping method. A piece of scrap fabric pinned above the knee, hanging loose. Line 1 will go from the pinned point to the toes, straight down on the middle front of the leg.

Steg 2: Loosely pin the fabric to the leg, following the natural shape of the leg. Make sure you dont pin in fabric folds. The pins (the future seam) should be at the backside of your leg, running straight down over your heel. When you have an approx fitting; cut away the excess fabric leaving only 2 cm seam allowance. Stand with the leg straight, foot on floor when fitting the fabric.

Or you could get a friend to pin you in, while you stand on a table…

Step 3: Pin the hose more closely to the body. Pin on the sole from toe to middle of foot. To make the fabric lie smoothly on the body, stretch it gently in the directions of the darts. Toward the toes, down the side of the foot, towards the heel. Above the ankle you change the direction and smooth the fabric out upwards. Every little crease will not disappear yet.

Step 4: When the general fit is good, it is time for the heel and the slit with the gores (number 6). Cut this one while the hose is on the body, from were the heel meets the sole, straight up on each side of the foot. Cut a little at a time, and check how the fabric behaves.

Straighten out folds and creases by stretching the fabric and pinning it more fitted to the body. This step is a process, and your personal foot shape will decide how long you will have to cut before all fabric lies smoothly. When you are satisfied, pin the rest of the sole to the upper fabric, leaving the new slit open.

Step 5: Now you have the over all shape of your new hose. You can baste it together if you want, and try the fit by taking it on and of.

This step with cutting the slit and inserting gores I do on every pair of hose I make, when trying out a new fabric quality. If I work with a fabric I am used to, I still make the gores while fitting the hose on the body. Note; I don’t make two mock ups for left+ right, I just have one and then I will mirror that when laying it out on the wool fabric to get a left and a right hose.

Step 6: I find it easiest to just pin or baste a piece of fabric (generally triangular) to the hose while wearing it, and then cut of excess fabric. Then I can use that as a pattern for the other gores (notice that inner and outer gores might be slightly different in shape, that is normal depending on the shape of your foot and how you work with the fabric).

Step 7: When I have come this far I am content with my pattern, and take it apart (removing basting or needles) I also cut it clean, add seam allowance and label it with size and date. I also like to add some notes on the pattern for remembering things or if I lend them to friends;

Sewing the hose from wool fabric

Draw your hose pattern on a wool fabric, laying line 1 horizontal across the fabric if you have a tabby weave (making the most stretch across the width of the hose). Cut the hose out with 2 cm seam allowance, 1 cm around the sole. Baste your pieces together; leg first, then the sole to the foot from the toes and back to the heel. Try the hose on, make adjustments and cut out the slit + fit the side gores.

Then you can sew your hose with back stitches, and fold down the seam allowance with whip stitching, or sew it on the sewing machine if you prefer. The gores I set in last, on the inside with whip stitching. Fold the edge at the top, stitch it down, and add garters to hold the hose up.

Other designs on medieval hose.

The pattern with slits and gores are one of several finds on hose designs. You can also adjust your hose pattern to another design with a sole and a separate part for the foot, and a part for the leg. This saves you a bit of fabric and is quite easy to make. On the photo above I have marked this design with a dotted line straight over the hose. The grey hose below is made with that pattern.

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There is also variations with the gores as parts of the sole piece (shown above in the photo of a find), a hose with the foot and sole joined, and several examples of patching, mending, and seams for joining small scrap pieces when making hose.

You can also add a second sole made out of thin leather to be able to walk without medieval shoes on dry ground. Avoid adding a thick sole, that will only rip your hose and be uncomfortable.

Good luck sewing!

 

 


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Comfortable and easy outfit for the 15th C

I wanted to tell you about my blue 15th century dress. It is made in a thin twill wool fabric and super comfortable and easy to wear!

This is one of the dresses I wear most when it is hot outside, but made in a thicker wool it will give you a really cozy overdress for colder weather too. I have used lots of 15th century pictures as a start for the pattern drafting and over all look, and you can find some sources + more info at the end of the post. Also, there is lots of posts about 15th century garments and fashion here so click the tags for getting to know more. I made this one as a pattern experiment, and it turned out so nice that I am tempted to make another one…

The pattern is basically the same as the one I used for my coat. The skirts are longer, and closed in the front with the opening reaching to the waist (easy to get in and out of) and the sleeves are S-sleeves (the seams are in the back) with an option to save on the fabric by inserting a gore in the back of the sleeve. This is the pattern outlay from the coat; if you want to make it to a dress just give the skirts more length, and redraft the sleeves to S-sleeves if you want.

The measures you need:

  • Lenght of garment (from shoulder to floor for example)
  • Armhole (or use a toile or pattern that fits you, the armholes are made in “the regular way” but will be a little deeper due to the width of the garment starting already from the shoulder. If you use a toile as a start, place the neckhole around 20 cm (size s-m) from the selvage and draft neckhole, shoulder and armhole from the toile before continuing the sides in a straight line.)
  • Sleeve length and wrist circumference (for the sleeves)
  • Shoulder width (around 8-13 cm) from the neck hole to were the sleeve starts.
  • Upper body circumference. Measure your body, and split the measure in 4. Use this as a guide for drafting the start of the pattern; the neckhole, shoulder and armhole.

As a reference, I started the neckhole 20 cm from the selvage/fabric edge and then drafted the pattern from there. To make sure you get the measures right and will fit in the dress; measure the width of the fabric pieces before cutting, especially if you have broad shoulders. Compare with the width needed over your shoulders.

It is easier to start from a corner, with the front piece and front sleeve gore 1.

If you are a beginner in drafting patterns, it really helps to start on a piece of paper with your measurements. Experiment until you feel more secure, and if you like, you can even cut the paper pieces out and tape them together to check the fitting. You dont have to make the pattern a full scale, you can work on a checkered paper with scale 1:10 (1 cm being 10 cm in reality)

The gores for the front and back skirts are just there to give some additional width to the skirt (F1,F2,B1,B2) and they should be half the lenght of the back/front seam. So they will get longer if you draft the skirt longer.

Give the pattern a try! This is one of those outlays that may seem more complicated than it really is.

After you have cut out all the pieces, sew them together:

  1. back seam and gores
  2. shoulder seams
  3. side seams
  4. sleeves
  5. insert the sleeves in the dress
  6. front seam and gores (leave the dress open from the waist or the chest area up)
  7. hemming and 1-3 small clasps at the front (if you like)

When I made the dress I tried different ways to achieve the folds; basting, gathering, and with a strip of fabric on the inside… But I like it best when it is loose and flowing so I removed all the stitching. Everytime I put it on now I arrange the folds after putting on the belt. They may slip around a little but is easy to adjust again to your liking.

Most of the fabric is gathered at the front and back to drape the skirt nice, without adding bulk on the sides. When choosing fabric, a thin but tight weave will give you a good fall and heavy drape to your dress.

There’s lots of pictures of this style of dress, with draped folds, and what appear to be sewn ones. The sleeves can be made rather tight or more loose, and the neckline higher or lower. Check out my pinterest for more inspiration!