Handcrafted History

Historical and modern handcraft mixed with adventures


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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.


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Houppelande tutorial- part 2

Last tutorial was about how I made my first Houppelande (medieval over dress) that was an early houppelande, with a pattern layout that saved in on the fabric.

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Now we move on to the opposite; a full circular houppelande dress that was the high fashion during the 15th century, and where worn by both men and women (with different lengths and fashion details of course) The construction method for this one is open for discussion; there might have been gores and more pieces according to different fabric widths during the medieval period. This layout is practical and simple if your fabric is 150 cm wide and you want the houppelande to be of as much fabric as possible, the small pieces allowing you to save in on the fabric a little.

The construction idea is from an article I found ages ago (that is now lost on the internet?) And later tailor’s books which shows very full dresses for women and coats for men. The shape, style and drape of this method also looks similar to paintings of houppelandes.

First of, you need a lot of fabric. How much depends on your length, in this example I make a pattern that gives you a dress around 150 cm long; good for the shorter woman or for a man (since houppes for men usually leaves at least the shoes visible) That means you will need 5,2 meters of fabric for the dress itself, and then another 1,5 to 3 meters for the sleeves. Oh, and maybe a full lining to?

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The pattern is basically 4 quarters of a circle; forming a full circle when put together. The small pieces saves you some fabric, but you may cut out the full quarter circles if you prefer. If you go with the pieces, then sew them together with the quarters the first thing when you have cut them out, so you have 4 whole quarters.

Then, sew the shoulder seams together, that is the short straight seams above the arrows. Leave the arm holes (on the pattern they are cut out as half moons) and sew the sides together. To know how wide your arm holes should be; measure yourself loosely around your armpit, or use a previous pattern. Add extra cm for movement; at least 5-6 cm.

The seam length of the shoulder should follow your shoulder; between 10-14 cm depending on how long shoulders you have. The arm holes should be laying on the body, not falling down from the shoulder to your upper arm. Cut away what you don’t need, a little at a time if you are unsure.

When you are satisfied with the shoulder, arm holes and side seams, sew the back and front together with each other, front to front, back to back. In the front you leave an opening big enough so you can dress and undress easily. On paintings some dresses are open almost to the hip. In the back you need to leave an opening big enough for your neck, try it on and you will understand! The open seam will give you the neckline on the back, and can then be cut for a rounder style if you like, or you could add a collar.

So, that was it- quick and easy yes? Now the dress should look something like the sketch above, and you can attach the sleeves to the dress. Sleeves? Well, that is for the next part of the Houppelande tutorial series. Stay tuned!

Spara


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Slashing and cutting fabric- a tutorial

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

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

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But first, some good things to know:

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

Feeling ready for some slashing now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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15th century clothing part 1- Research overview from art

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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Fur lined gollar- step by step

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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Loose sleeves with ribbons- a tutorial

More sleeves! If you have checked my “Pin on sleeves” tutorial, you will find some likeness with this garment, but I wanted to share my work and some nice tips. First some inspiration:

I started by drafting the sleeves from the pin-on pattern; the same as I used for my golden sleeves below (laying under them, you can se my original sleeve pattern for comparison)

First, I have tried out two kinds of sleeves that are tied at the arms; my wedding dress and lately, my 15th century Italian silk dress. The difference between these two sleeves is that my wedding dress is just opened at the seam in the arm and then closes with strings, while my green/black sleeves are cut out to make the chemise even more visible. Also, the green sleeves are tied at the shoulders and therefore loose; I can change them for others at any time. The wedding dress is sewn together, the sleeves sewn after the sleeve tutorial (in swedish) I have on my blog.

Here you can see the wedding dress, the sleeves are quite straight, and the chemise is puffing out between the laces. When making these sleeves, you just sew a regular S-sleeve which you leave open above the elbow. Hem the edges, and make lacing holes and sew on laces on the edges. These ends with a pearl decorated cuff, but just a regular sleeve will do fine.

The green sleeves look like this when cut out:

I started with my basic loose sleeve pattern in a scrap fabric, pinned it on my arm and tried out were the gaps with chemise sleeves visible should be, then I just cut away some excess fabric there, and here you can see the result. The sleeves are in pure silk fabric, and I wanted to make them reversible to be able to choose between green or black ones for my dress. So I cut out two identical pieces of fabric for each arm, here you can see the black sides. Remember to make them mirrored, one for each arm.

I then pinned the fabrics together, and marked out where the ties were going to be. Here you can see both layers of fabric.

I decided to sew them on sewing machine, since they are going to be turned inside out afterwards, so the seams would not be visible. But if you like; just follow the steps but sew them with running or back stitches instead.

To make it easier; sew the ribbons at the same time as you sew the sleeves together. I cut out the silk ribbons (40-50 cm each) and then pinned them by the seam allowance around the sleeves, on the inside between the two fabrics.

And sew around the sleeves. Leave an opening for turning them; I left the wrist open. Here you can see the silk ribbons in the seam allowance, just make sure they don’t slip away or get under a seam when sewing.

All done! Trim the edges by cutting away pointy corners and seam allowances at the corners, turn the sleeves inside out and iron them flat. Since I want them to be reversible, I will make sure the two layers of silk fabric lays smooth and even edge to edge around the garment so the black wont be visible when turning the green out, and vice versa.

Right; all ironed. Now it is time for some hand sewing; start by making lacing holes for the ribbons, and then fold the fabric edges at the wrist to the inside of the sleeves, and sew that side closed. If you use fake silk ribbons, you might be able to burn the edges carefully to make them melt and not thread. If using pure silk, you will have to sew the edges, or finish them of in some kind of way. I folded mine twice and sewed them down. This part took the most time on the sleeves, with the making of the sleeves on around two hours and the ribbon edges around 2,5 hours. I failed to photograph this part, apparently there was some movietime in the sofa instead. But this is what it looks like when done:

The silk ribbon has two edges and is pulled through the hole and then knotted. Either a simple knotted loop like this or a regular bow can be seen on art. At the shoulders the sleeve is attached to the dress by similar holes and ribbons, three in each shoulder.

Taking a picture on your outfit by yourself, in the middle of the night is not the best for getting that good light, but I so wanted to show you what it looked like. The raised sleeve is properly put on while the other one is still loose and hangs a bit.

And finally, some good advice when making silk sleeves:

  • Silk often needs to be lined to get that really good look, chose a thin fabric in silk, cotton or linen or a mix of these to get a historical lining which also works great.
  • Silk is not a stretchy material, so make your silk sleeves a bit larger than your woolen ones.
  • Try them on at a regular base while working to be sure you get the look you want.
  • Straight sleeves lay more flatly on your arm, while cut out sleeves gives more volume, pick the model that fits your project.