Handcrafted History

Historical and modern handcraft mixed with adventures


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Tales from Double Wars

We went to the SCA event Double Wars in southern Sweden (Skåne) and traveled from early snowy spring to full summer in a day. Magical event on a beautiful site, and a really large historical camping ground. The drive took about 15 hours, so we divided it in two days and made some small stops and side trips along the way, like visiting historical buildings and eating ice-cream.

I am working on photos from the event, so the following blog post will be about the event, site, camp and lots of inspirational photos for you- hope you enjoy it!

The new red dress, late 14th century, in red wool with pewter buttons and front lacing. Since the event took place in early May, a warmer dress like this was a good choice. Being photographed in the camp site

Out new tent from Tentorium; we are really satisfied with the quality and the rainproof fabric, it kept us dry and comfortable living during the week-long event. Took the photo one morning, getting dressed in the late 15th c green kirtle (I will come back to this outfit later in a separate blog post)

One day we went for a short stroll down to the lake, through magical green forests with woodgarlic and birdsong

Do you remember my green houppelande with rabbit fur? I sold it, and tried out a new  model (how else to learn?) in a green high quality wool, lined with silk and trimmed with the same silk fabric, to imitate a painting I got inspired by. I call it the Weyden outfit; and I will write more about it when I got the time.

Love is feeling very well now, and was spending most of his time hanging around the archery, practicing or just having a good time. He is wearing a 14th century outfit, made of wool.

I also like archery, and discovered that most of my outfits was wearable for shooting and handling the bow. Even the fancy new red dress, with large veil was ok. What I didn’t like? My straw hat and the temple braids; they got in my way.

Here with love, practicing archery

Strolling around the camp groundsMarket day, love is jumping in to help some customers, while I had a snack and talked about clothing with friends.

jagochaleydis

Me and Aleydis by the lake, she was swimming in the cold water, while I was minding the sun…

Do you like what you see? SCA is a big organisation that is active in lots of European countries, USA, as well as other places around the world. Google SCA and your country or city to find out if you have a local group to join- SCA is friendly for beginners and there is lots of help and friends to have if you want to join in and journey with us to long-ago-times!


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Quick update and a new dress

Just wanted to give you a short update, and show you my new dress. This time of the year my work is quite intense, with workshops, markets, events and commissions coming up. Lots of sewing, planning and packing is done, so there will be less time for making good tutorials and other free stuff for the blog. But I will come back with new clothing, inspirational photos and reports from events!

Today, I am driving north here in Sweden to hold a two days workshop in pattern construction for a medieval group, stopping along the way to meet with friends. I love this time of the year, when all the summer’s events is ahead and everyone is thawing out after winter.

For this season I have made some new clothing to replace pieces I ‘ve been selling, and I just wanted to post a few pictures of my red dress- it is so comfy and also pretty in that medieval way…

The dress is a late 14th c cotehardie, which is french for “kirtle” or “dress”, indicating the over garment that is shown, worn by both men and women (the garments looked different but was made in similar ways). Mine is made with long sleeves, and buttoned from wrist to elbow with 40 small pewter buttons. The front closes with lacing, and the whole dress is handsewn with silk thread, the buttonholes and lacing with buttonhole thread (I do sell it on my Etsy shop- have you visit it?)

The dress does not have a super tight fit- you don’t have to do a super tight dress if you don’t want to for the late 14th century. This one can be worn over a linen shift, or with a middle dress/kirtle under it. The important thing is rather to get the fit and silhoette right.

The back, showing the movement of the sleeves and my new thin linen veil =) I am planning on making a tutorial for this dress, but since it is lots of hours of work it will have to wait, probably until autumn. But I do make them on commission, so if you would like one of your own and don’t want to sew one…


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The 16th century working woman part 1- The research

This is a post about (one of) my 16th century outfits; and due to several years of research, work and sewing experiences it will probably be more than one post- with focus on different garments. In this, I will give you an overview and some background research. The outfit is already finished, worn, mended and in line for some redoing, so I will be able to share the whole process with you; both good and bad outcomes and what I could have done different.

My aim was to make a good recreation of a whole outfit for a woman from early 1500s German area. She is not poor, but works for her living- maybe on a larger farm or in a smaller city. She is well dressed; as is the ladies on all the art I have studied, but like other working women, she own practical clothing with a skirt short enough to stay out of her way, and a cut to the clothing that is both economical and practical. Contrary from the trossfraus (the women who follows the mercenary armies) she does not wear slashed and mismatched clothing, but items that belong to each other and to a certain class in society. She follows sumptuary laws (such as wearing her rosary in plain view) and does her hair in the braided fashion, or covers it with a simple cap and veils while working.

I wanted to show you some interesting images of 16th century women in art so I put together some examples for you;

Three women; wearing work tools but also lots of interesting clothing. The shoes are practical and the skirts reach the foot, not the ground. 

A painted glass piece showing the milking and making of butter. A (probably) younger woman has her hair in two braids, and a covering apron to protect her clothing. the older woman has a veil, a jacket and a dress hiked up in her belt.

This lady is described as a dancing farmer and has probably done her fine dress for a festive occasion, with her hair braided in a nice up do and what looks like a headband around them. She wears a dress, and a gollar that looks fur-lined or with a whole lining in fur.

Another dancing farmer- with a gollar fastened by her neck, and an apron around her waist. The shoes look sturdy and practical (not like the cowmouth shoes you can se on trossfraus) and she has some kind of decorative border at the hem on the skirt, and on her loose sleeves. No slashes though!

This piece shows the women working with flax, the process from plant to fabric demanded both time and hard work in numerous steps. The sitting lady wears a cap or veil around her head, with hair showing at the front. Her jacket is fastened at the front and is cut in the fashion of the time; low and square. The standing lady has her hair in braids around her head, and has rolled up her sleeves while working. The dress has a decorative guard at the front, and is hiked up at the waist. Clearly, she is doing some heavy work!

Dressed for cold weather? She has done her veils around her head, chin and neck, and wears a short cloak against the cold. She wears both shoes, socks and hose, and a bag at her belt.

Ah, time for cutting some fleece! The sheep does look dead, but is probably just laying at a convenient working pose for the woman, who use a shearing scissor for the work. She wears a simple cap or tied veil over her hair, and a dress with decorative guards at the front. It is hard to say if the brown skirts are part of her yellow dress, discoloured by time, an apron or a piece of cloth.

Festivities again! Do peasants and workers anything else than working and dancing? This lady has the common braids, a gollar and a dress. What is so interesting with this picture is that you can se the back of her dress, which is clearly more dense pleated than the sides. Uneven pleating in the skirts is visible in more pictures, and seems to be the result of a tailor work.

Summer time, and work in the fields this time. Now we can see her shift; a plain linen shift with a long sleeve, and either a high collar, or more believable, a thin gollar/linen cloth to protect her against the sun, as is seen on the woman with the red dress. She wears a straw hat, and her dress is sleeveless; it is a tight-fitting middle kirtle or under dress that gives you the bust support you need, without being in the way for hard work. This layer can be found on other women too, plan, sleeveless and intended to be worn under the woolen over dress. It is only during heavy outdoor labor such as field work, washing and shoveling it is openly worn, older omen and others always have their over dress on.

Based on my research, I have found that I needed the following items for a whole outfit:

  • linen shift
  • kirtle or under dress
  • wool dress as an over dress
  • apron
  • belt
  • purse (and maybe a rosary to)
  • cap, veils, a straw hat and/or a braided hairstyle
  • hose
  • shoes
  • gollar
  • jacket
  • cape/cloak

This much? I wanted to make a whole outfit, that would be practical during different kind of events with both cold and warm weather. I also wanted to try to make all the pieces of clothing and accessories that I have found during my research, to better understand how they worked together.

For more research, I have a Pinterest board on the theme if you want to learn more!


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The Medieval Wedding Dress- the velvet gown

This is the final layer I made for my wedding outfit, it is a silk velvet dress inspired by the late 15th century over dresses. The gown is open at the front to allow for easy undressing, and to show more of the white dress underneath. This can be seen in paintings, though a closed gown would have been more common.

This was one of the most difficult garments I have ever made. The fabric is a silk velvet, sensitive, very thin and extremely flimsy; I so understand why silk velvet has been replaced by synthetic alternatives on the market (and it is not just a matter of price). The gown is fully lined with silk dupioni for support and look, and has linings in black silk taffeta and on the bottom, the same black high quality wool as in my love’s joined hose. I opted for the golden coloured silk because it did so well under the velvet, and made the velvet shine even more. if using a transparent velvet; try out different shades of lining fabric to find the one that gives you the look you want.

The gown closes with a small hook and eye at the waist, and then this belt is added. The bronze buckle and strap end is made after a painting from the period, and can be seen on houppelandes and similar overdresses from the period.

Working with the fabric. Here you can see the silk lining being laid out at the velvet to act as a pattern piece. The velvet was very sensitive, so pinning was only an option in seam allowances.

The fabric being so thin and flimsy, pinning it to the sturdier silk lining was a good help for cutting, basting and sewing. I treated the two layers as if they were one when sewing, making the seam allowances visible on the inside of the dress. Since the velvet is transparent where the pattern is, it was not an option to have the seams between the both fabric layers.

Front and back pieces of the body being laid out. With a patterned fabric, you might want to consider where to put your pieces, and in what direction. I let the two front pieces have the pattern laid out in the same direction, and then turned the back piece upside down, since the skirt would have the pattern visible in the same direction at the back of the gown. The two fronts doesn’t have to be similar in pattern, all contemporary art depicts uneven patterns on the front of dresses.

You may also note that the front lining pieces have the selvage running along the openings, since the velvet was stretchy, and silk stretch when cut on bias, I laid the pieces out diagonally on the silk fabric to have a non stretchy front, and instead add some flexibility across the body. This way, there is some small movement allowed over the rib cage, while the front lays flat against the body.

I sewed the gown together on the overlock machine, this was one of my best choices ever since the seam both helped with protecting the seam allowance and allowed for some stretchiness in the skirt. After the gown was put together, I hang it on my doll to let the skirts fall out. Fabric cut circular like in this case always seems to hang out unevenly…

And yes it did! I ended up cutting away between 10-15 cm in some places, but only 2 in the areas running along the fabric length. I was quite nervous- cutting a little each time and allowing for the fabric to adjust. There was some massive pinning and measuring and swearing going on at this part and frankly, I just forgot to take pictures because I was so frustrated. Here you can see the velvet skirts hanging out, the silk lining behaving all nicely and staying in shape.

After this, I worked with the hems and inside seams by hand. All the seam allowances were folded down, basted to the lining and then covered by a strip of silk fabric, whip stitched down. No ironing though; velvet does not go along with pressing so the seams were just smoothed out by hand. The front opening and the sleeves were lined with black silk taffeta, the same as love’s doublet were edged with.

The bottom needed a little more heavy lining, and I wanted something that could take some more wear than silk so I chose a thin wool tabby weave. Here it is, laying on the floor.

One of the seams, seen from the outside when finished of. The whip stitches securing the strip inside is not visible on the outside velvet, neither is the machine seam that holds it together.

I am very pleased with the dress, I really plan on using it in the future on events. It was not easy to make, but hopefully some of my experience shared with you will make you want to try one for yourself if you wish!

 

 

 


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The Medieval Wedding Dress; the silk dress

I am sooo behind writing about my different projects. I kind of have a bad conscience about it too, and I really try to work through all of my drafts, notes and old photos. I guess it has been quite the autumn and winter here, I really never post about those parts of life, but I like everyone else have tough periods in life. Life, dead and bills happens to everyone, as the saying goes. I am not going to talk about that today; I am going to show you my wedding dresses!

I made three different layers for the wedding outfit. A linen shift, a cream-white silk dress and the velvet silk over dress. The linen shift is made tight fitted, with thin shoulder straps and a supportive body, and then a loose skirt. Over that I also wore a linen petticoat with a strengthened hemline. It never shows, but it adds important stability to the cream silk dress so the skirt drapes the correct way.

Over these I have the silk dress, cream-white and lined on the inside with a really thin wool muslin fabric. The silk fabric is a taffeta, and even if that quality is a lot sturdier than other silks, it still needed to be lined for a better draping skirt and a smoother upper body. Here you can see some of the effect the petticoat has; making the dress skirt stand out a bit instead of hanging down. The taffeta also helps a lot.

The sleeves are unlined, instead I have the thin silk sleeves that is shown underneath. I didn’t want another layer underneath the silk dress, so the thin silk sleeves are just lose sleeves, attached by the arm hole on the dress. The lacing is made with silk thread, the same as I did the lacing holes with, and also the white freshwaterpearl belt. Around the wrist small pearls are fastened, kind of like a bracelet but easier to wear.

For these dresses I made full mockups in cotton fabric to get a feeling for the pattern drafting and models. Usually I like to improvise a bit, but now I somehow was patience herself while drafting… The skirts in both dresses are based on a full circle of fabric, that is what gives the dresses that magical drape and the deep folds in the fabrics. The mock-up was then taken apart and used as a pattern, here is half the skirt on the cream silk. Yeah, I actually cut out my fancy white silk dress on the floor, with heaps of fabrics laying everywhere. Creativity, you know…

More fabric, this is the other half of the skirt.

To prevent the silk fabric from fraying I sew all edges with a overlock. You can use a zigzag as well, but it is good to prep them in some way. I would have liked to sew all our garments by hand, but neither time nor my fingers allowed for it, so edges and some inside seams were made with sewing machines. The overlock really was my best friend when it came to the fraying silk fabrics.

I also reinforced the hemline of the dress with a thin fabric strip. This was pinned around the hem, and then sewn with a machine stitch. After that the lining was added so the strip was hidden on the inside between outer and inner fabrics.

Here is a nice close up on the silk lucet cords, the lacing holes and the matching silk belt with freshwater pearls. I really liked how the cream-colored fabric, the silk thread and the pearls matched each other

   

The dress has a waist seam, so it really is a circular skirt, a regular body with side seams/side lacing and set in sleeves, all in all a simple dress. Here you can see the waist line, the seam done by hand to get a good drape of the skirt and because the different layers of fabrics really liked to slip against each other.

A good view of the laced up sleeves from the side

And a view from the back, while walking in to get married.

This actually became quite the long blog post, so I’ll get back to you with the velvet over dress in a post of its own!

 


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Sewing in velvet- a guide

Today I am sharing my best tips for making garments in velvet!

Velvet has a beautiful shine to it, with highlights rather than shadows. This can be seen in paintings, where the clothing is pictured with highlighted areas rather than darker folds. Like this; (though this may also be woolen cloth, but it goes for illustrating highlights in fabric)

  • The choise of material is important. On the market today, you can find different kinds of velvets, in both high and low quality. The original velvet fabric was made of silk, insanely expensive, and probably also sensitive for wear and washing. To buy a good silk velvet for your project is of course historically accurate, but also very expensive, and you will have a garment that is sensitive. But the look and shine of the fabric will be outstanding.
  • Cheating? For a silk velvet look, you could instead choose velvet made of viscose, rayon or a mix of synthetic fibres. This fabric is a lot cheaper, more durable, and is (depending on the quality and materials) close to how silk velvet looks. Avoid fabrics made of pure polyester, since these will be warm and uncomfortable to wear; a mix based of viscose is often the best. You could also go for cotton or cotton mixed velvet, the look is a bit more matte than silk velvet but black is quite close in appearance. The good thing with cotton velvet is that it is made of natural fibres so it is easy to wash, feels good to wear and is durable and fire safe (it will not melt on your other clothes if you are unlucky) as well as cheap. As an example; my wedding gown made of silk blended velvet costs 4 times more than a medium cotton velvet.
  • Ironing velvet fabric is often unnecessary, instead just hang it out. If you need to press seams or iron out stubborn folds, you need to iron the fabric on its wrong side, with a cotton cloth over and a bath towel underneath. This will protect the fabric, and the towelling (in swedish; frotté) fabric with its pile will act as a soft bottom so the velvet pile doesn’t get flat and pressed down. Iron gently, and always try it out on a spare bit first.
  • Hang it before hemming; to make the skirt hem as even as possible; hang the dress on a doll for a couple of days to let the fabric hang out, then pin/mark the hemline and cut it. The skirt on my velvet over dress is cut in a half circular piece (almost) making the fabric drape nicely, but also hanging out uneven in the hem. Look at this picture- this is the dress skirt before cutting the hem, it differs over 10 cm!
  • The pile is what makes the velvet special, and it is important to take care not to crush or flatten it out. When ironing; do so gently. When machine sewing, choose a foot/presser that is narrower, and loosen the pressure on the machine a bit if possible. Or sew the fabric together on an overlock machine or by hand. When cutting out your pieces, don’t step on or lean on the fabric, as this may crush the pile unevenly.
  • Baste- don’t pin! Silk velvet is quite sensitive, the pins might rip threads from the fabric so basting with loose stitches is a safer way to go. If sewing in other materials, it is still better to baste because the pile of the velvet, when put together with another fabric, tend to “walk” over the surface no matter how much you pin it.

A picture from our wedding day, the velvet dress looking all nice and innocent, not at all like me and the dress really hated each other while making it…


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Houppelande in velvet and silk

This was a very spontaneous project with no customer commissioning it, and not for my own wardrobe either. I just wanted to try out how the velvet would work in a full circular houppelande (late medieval over dress) and experiment a bit with pattern construction, seam techniques and silk fabric. I am actually very satisfied with the result; for a cotton velvet the fabric is in a nice quality and with a good drape, the pattern turned out very well, and the silk lining in the sleeves add that extra touch I wanted.

The materials in the dress is cotton velvet (black) viscose/rayon velvet (moss-green) and silk (sleeve lining) with a total of about ten meters for the whole dress. The cotton velvet is really affordable comparing to silk velvet, and is very easily maintained; I actually just put it in a washing machine, air dried it and it came out as new; no shrinkage, no creasing and no sad silk velvet after water washing… If you want to learn more about velvet fabrics, I have a guide about the subject under “tutorials”.

I finished the dress during our brewer’s guild meeting in early December, and would usually iron the silk lining first before wearing it, but it was such a good opportunity to take good photos in gear so the sleeve lining is a bit bulky still. But soon to be fixed!

The skirts are really full; the pattern is based on a circle and the houppelande is also called a full circular houppelande. Lots and lots of fabric.

I have some tutorials about making your own houppelande if you are interested (and also makes them on order by your measures). To make them dramatic, historical and with this massive draping of skirts, it does take more meters of fabric and patience than difficult sewing techniques…

I fell in love with the colour combo of black, moss-green and bright grass-green in the dress. Under is my late 14th century dress, going historical there shouldn’t be a visible lacing underneath this kind of over dress. The gloves are also modern, but was so very nice to avoid freezing my fingers of.