HANDCRAFTED HISTORY


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Viking apron dress, part 2

Are you longing for that perfect iron age (viking) look of square awesomeness, yet still wanting to show off some womanly curves? Fear no more, this is how you make your apron dress fit really nicely! (Yes, we are going to be more serious real soon)

This apron dress is the same style as you can find in this tutorial, but back then I never guided you through the fitting, straps or stitching. Kind readers have asked for more details, so now this part 2 is here for you.

Ok, so let’s start with the dress already cut out and basted together (white machine thread). It looks something like this, hanging a bit boring…

Step one- try it on!

I pinned two pieces of ribbon onto the dress to be able to try it on easily. These will later be my guides for making the sewn linen straps.

In the back, I put the straps closer to the middle. I find them more comfortable and less likely to slip off my shoulders.

Now it is time to do some shaping! I like to wear my apron dresses higher up on my body, which means I get fabric bulk under my arms. To avoid that, I draft a curved line under my armpit and then cut away the excess fabric. You don’t have to make a full “arm hole”, just add some space for your arm.

Drafting the curved line in the armpit with a fabric marker.

The next step is to pin away fabric in the seam above the bust. Here the seam stood out a bit, so in order to follow the shape of my body, I pinned away a little fabric. As you can see in the photo it is not much, only to add a soft shape.

Marking the fitting with pins will allow you to feel the new fit.

Next are the side seams in the front. I pin away fabric under my bust, turn at my natural waist and continue out in a soft line to the basting line again. The goal is not to achieve a super snug fit, just to highlight that you have a body underneath.

Pinning the shape loosely.

Continue with the back seams and pin away fabric to add some shape to your waist here too. I hold my hand by my natural waist, and as you can see I did not aim to make the apron dress tight. Just removing a couple of cms to add shape.

My goal here was to be able to wear the apron dress with a woollen kirtle underneath, so I needed the fit to be loose. If you want a tighter fit you can try pinning away more fabric- just remember to try it on with new basting seams afterwards to make sure you can get it on and off. Apron dresses never have lacing or such.

Pinning the back seams by the waist.

Now it is time to check out the new fit! Mark the position of your pins on both sides of the seams, remove them to be able to take off your dress easily, and then bast along the drafted lines.

Basting can be done on a machine or by hand.

Here you can already see the added shape of the bust and waist, even without the seams properly finished. When you are satisfied with the fit, remove the old basting from places with double basting. This is needed to finish the dress by hand with a historical stitch.

Trying on the dress again to check the fit.

Press all seams with the basting still in place. (This step is important if you want to try out the seam below, but if you use a sewing machine for your dress you should first sew all seams on the machine, remove the basting thread and then press.)

Pressing the seam allowance to either side will make the sewing easier.
This is what the new shaping looks like after the pressing.
Sewing with wool thread.

Turn the apron dress so the right side is out (yes, we are sewing the dress from the outside) and start by the hem with a small whip stitch. Work your way up on the outside, fasten the thread on the inside of the garment as needed, and repeat with all four seams.

This is a sketch of how the seam looks, side to side with the actual seam.

The key to making this seam look neat is to make small stitches mainly running on the inside of the garment. I like to start from the bottom up, so I can try out the best thread tension and width between the stitches where it does not show so much. The pressing in the step before also helps a lot, as well as the basting on the inside, keeping the garment together while I sit comfortably on the sofa, sewing.

Close up on the seam. If you sew with wool thread, choose a thread with a high twist and 2-3 ply. Take shorter threads and a needle somewhat thicker than the thread. This will make the thread last longer when you work.
Finish the dress with a double folded hem and whipstitches. Press all seams when you have finished.

When the dress is done, it is time to make some straps! Use the ribbons from earlier as your mockups /guides to decide how long your straps should be, but remember that the tortoise brooches will take some space too. Add seam allowance (3 cm) and extra for your loops. If you are unsure, make the strap 10 cm longer and then cut away the end you don’t need when you have made the loop and finished off everything else.

Linen fabric going to be apron dress straps.

The measure for my dress straps was approx 30 cm long and 4 cm wide. I made 2, and then 2 really short ones to make the loops attached to the apron dress above the front seams. Then I pressed the straps in the middle, folded them, and then folded in the edges. Very smooth!

Use waxed linen thread for sewing in linen fabric. Linen straps on wool dresses can be found in grave finds from the period.

Whipstitch the folded straps along the edge. When you have finished, press them again but with the seam in the middle. This way the stitching will be protected in the middle and the straps will be looking really nice and even.

Nice and even, I love pressing seams!
Making loops for the tortoise brooches.

To make the loop in the edge of the strap, finish the seam along the line and then fold the edge back and fasten it with some stitches. I like these loops, they keep the brooch in place and look neat. The small fabric pieces for the lower loops get treated in the same way. Double fold, press, whipstitch along the line and fold to a loop.

The loops are sewn to the inside of the upper hem, beside the front side seam.

Fasten the lower loops to the front, and remember to put them where you pinned your ribbons on in the beginning. The placement will help the shaping of the garment. If you wear a modern underwire bra, the placement of the loops is often towards the middle from the bra straps. Remember that your tortoise brooches should have a fairly even place to rest on your body.

Sewing the straps onto the back of the apron dress.

Before attaching the straps to the back, try the dress on with your tortoise brooches, to adjust the length needed for your straps. When you are satisfied, pin the straps in place on your back, and sew them with some waxed linen thread. I like to work my way around the strap and through the wool fabric to make them sturdy.

That’s it! We’re done with all the fitting and sewing, and owners of a splendid apron dress with a perfect fit! Did you like this post? Support me on Patreon to help me make more!


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Lucet tutorial

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

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

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

Fotokälla: Ulrik Skans

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

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

Here is a written instruction:

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

And here are videos showing you how to start…

…And how to finish!

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

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


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Magical places and Viking living

With this blog post, I am celebrating 10 years worth of blog posts on this blog. I had another blog before this, so I have been writing for a longer time, but when I moved here I decided to take with me the handcrafting posts, and the first one is dated to late October, 10 years ago.

So with this, I am sending a big THANK YOU to all of you who read and support the blog; by reading, sharing, liking, talking, supporting the blog on Patreon and doing business with me whenever we meet. It is thanks to you the blog still remains, without your support I would probably have lost the heart to continue writing here. Let’s hope we stay together for 10 more years to come!

This summer I visited the island Björkö again, where the viking city Birka flowered as a centre for trade and cultural influence during the Iron Age. Birka is such a magical place, and I can really see how people have chosen to live here for such a long time.

I wore my most recent viking outfit, I call it my Västerbotten Viking (which I explain in the blog post about the garments) and enjoyed wearing a comfortable and practical outfit as I strolled the pastures, enjoyed magical light and amazing sunsets.

One evening my friend Rand I enjoyed a nice view of the harbour when we got company from a friendly sheep and her lambs. Apparently, vikings give the best scratches, and handmade beads and bronze jewellery is great to nibble at. Yes, I now have lamb drool all over my things. Totally worth it.

We also enjoyed some adventuring; rowing out with this viking boat (…ship? Do you call it a boat or a ship? I know nothing about boat-things) which was fun, sweaty and a great experience.

In the viking harbour, several reconstructed boats were available for admiration and occasional trips around the island. Here another group of vikings set sail out into the evening sun. In Sweden, there are several viking groups specialising in maintaining and using these ships, and we met lots of friendly and knowledgeable persons that gladly shared their knowledge with us.

One evening we had a great feast in the village, with skilful cooks preparing a meal and festive-dressed vikings enjoying it. After a long time with pandemic restrictions, it felt almost unreal to meet so many other people at the same time and eat by the same table. But alas, some work was required to take nice photos without the hand sanitisers visible…

Pretty vikings with pretty flowers and glass replicas.

And even more pretty vikings up at the hill, enjoying a guided tour ending by the sunset. This year we got a guided tour by Max, who kindly shared all his knowledge and told us about strange finds from around the site.

Viking age clothing; linen sark, wool apron dress, wool shawl and a veil. From my brooches, my knife and needle case is hanging by chains.

Birka is one of my latest infatuations and I long to go back there. This is really one of the most amazing things with my work and hobby; getting to visit and live at these historical and lovely sites. It is also really hard, because I now harbour a deep love and longing to visit places all over Sweden such as Visby and Birka, but also Tällberg where the larping area is, as well as southernmost Sweden for Double Wars, and Hamar in Norway to mention a few… How will I have time for it all?

Do you also have a magical place that you keep in your heart?


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Tutorial; the Euradress

This blog post is made with the support of my Patreons

According to my notes, I made an update on this sewing project when moving it to the current blog address, in 2014. 2014? That is some time ago… With that said, I hope you have patience with this old version, and hopefully, it will help you make one of your own.

Materials and tools needed:

  • Fabric 150 cm width, 200-240 cm length
  • Measuring tape
  • Scissors
  • Chalk
  • Threads + needle
  • Long ruler or a stick

Measure:

The measuring and construction for the Euradress are quite a bit different than other viking and medieval garments, but it is a fun project. The first measures to take here are the base and lenght of the sleeve-piece, everything else will be based on these measures

Hold the measuring tape in the middle of your throat and measure along your arm to the thumbnail. This measure will give you a little bit of extra range of movement to avoid making too short a sleeve.

My measure is 74 cm (my regular sleeve pattern is 66 cm long.)

Measure the base (width) of your sleeve by holding your measuring tape one hand width below your collarbone, drape it over your shoulder towards your back, and take the measure from the back when you are parallel with the start by the front of your body (a friend might be useful here).

My measure is 40 cm, this might be a good measure for size small-medium, while larger sizes will probably have a longer measure (if doing this pattern with measures that differs greatly from mine, be sure to draw your own pattern pieces in a way that works for you. This might be quite different from my draft, but the principle would be the same).

Note: the base of the sleeve is also the upper measure of the front and back pieces. “15 cm” is where my wrist would be, it is not the whole circumference since I will have a long gore adding width for my arm to fit. As a reflection, I would probably have made this measure at least the circumference around my wrist (can’t remember why I did not) but I advise you to do that.

euraskiss

This is my draft of the pieces, on a folded fabric. The width is folded in halv (75 cm) and the dress pieces are drafted along the length of the fabric. Here you can see how much fabric you need after taking your measures: the length of the sleeve + the length of the dress from 1 hand below your collarbone to the bottom hem. Remember to add SA, I have not done that on this old draft.

How to make a draft of your own:

  • Fold your fabric in half
  • Make a line to mark out the middle on the fabric’s surface (red dots).
  • Draft the width of the sleeve around your wrist by the start of the line (highest up) 1/2 width on either side of the line.
  • Mark the length of the sleeve from the wrist to the base (green line)
  • Draft the base of the sleeve where the green line ends, 1/2 width on either side of the line. (purple line) make sure the line is at a 90degree angle to the green line.
  • Draw out the rest of the sleeve (blue area) by drawing lines from the edges of the purple line to where the wrist is (thin lines surrounding the blue area).
  • Draft the front and back body pieces (pink area), starting from the sleeve base edge, down to the corners of the fabric surface, basically continuing on the lines making the sleeves (pink lines). The measuring tape or a long ruler is a great help here.

That’s it! The blue is your sleeves, the pink your front and back piece and the yellow area being “leftover” is your side gores, you will have 1 whole and 2 halves. Cut the pieces out through the folded fabric, if it wants to move around you may pin the fabric layers together with pins along the lines.

euraskiss3

Sewing order:

  • One side gore is cut out in halves; sew this one into a whole gore. You may also make a false seam along the middle of the whole one, creating two identical side gores. “False seams” are seen in finds, made by sewing a very narrow seam in a whole piece, to create the look of a symmetrical garment.
  • Sew the base of the sleeves against each other, but only a short seam of 1-2 cm on each edge. This will make it easier to sew the rest of the dress. The opening left on either side of the sleeve bases is your neckline. Finish that later.
  • Sew the sleeves to the front piece, I find it easiest to start in the centre front and sew the sleeves out to the edge of the front piece on either side. Repeat with the back piece.
  • Add the side gores. I started by the hemline of the dress, sewing in the gores from the bottom and up to the wrists. I did this to be sure to get use of the whole width of the base of the gore since the gore might be a bit longer than the pieces it fastens against (I guess this was also the reason I made my wrist cf so small, I got additional width from the side gore before I cut off the abundance. Looking back on this method, starting by the wrist and sewing down you would get a better opportunity of shaping the bottom hem evenly, by trimming away the corners of the side gores). I would recommend pinning/basting the side gores in place first before sewing.
  • Try the dress on, and adjust the bottom hem and sleeves before folding down the hem and whipstitch it in place.
  • Adjust the neckline on your body by deciding how low you want the opening to be front and back. I closed mine in the back around 4 cm from the base and then hemmed the rest of the opening with whipstitching.
euraskiss2

Adjustments and fitting:

  • The side gores might be a bit too long; check before sewing and cut off the abundance after the wrist.
  • This garment might be a bit loose-fitting; adjust the seams between the gores and the front/back parts if needed.
  • Check out the bottom hem by putting the garment on and measure + adjust to make it look good.

eurakil

About the find:

The Eura finds are from Finland and dated to the Iron Age. It is a great find with lots of information about the Finnish clothes and how they were worn, and have been documented and recreated mainly in the Finnish historical clothing culture.

The Eura dress is a different outfit than the Swedish and Norwegian viking outfit, but the peplos/overdress is similar to other early finds on peplos and to the Gotlandic early viking outfit. The Euradress in the tutorial above, with its special construction method, do have similarities with other finds from Scandinavia, such as the medieval Uvdal find from Norway.

Sources/learn more?

“Ancient Finnish costume” by Pirkko-Liisa Lehtosalo-Hilander

Article on the Uvdal dress

“Prehistoric Eura” offers some insight into the region and photos of the recreated costume


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The Ultimate Cloak Guide

This post is a collab with Korps and contains advertisement for fabrics

Want to own a really nice cloak? Who doesn’t? (yeah, it was a leading question)

Here is my guide to the perfect cloak; we are going to look at different styles, periods, how to wear it and how to choose the best fabric.

Sources:

Let’s start with some local finds, and the oldest one first: The Gerum cloak is dated to 360-100 BCE and is an oval cloak, worn folded over the shoulders. It is a great cloak woven in a patterned twill, and wearing it folded in the middle, it will look a bit like a semicircular cloak. Wearing a big cloak folded in half, is a good way to add warmth if you don’t have a thick fabric or a lining in your cloak.

Rectangular shawl in tabby wool to a simple viking dress

Viking age cloaks can be seen on runestones, decorations, small figurines and are also mentioned in written sources. I usually call it cloak for a man’s outfit and shawl for a woman’s, but since they have the same function we will just call everything cloaks in this post.

If you fold a square piece of fabric into a triangle and wear it, it will look similar to some female figurines. Rectangular cloaks are another option, where figures are shown wearing an outer garment with corners. If you want to learn more about Viking age cloak theory; check out Viking clothing by Ewing, 2007.

Woad blue cloak or shawl, tabby woven wool fabric

The cloak from Leksand was found in a woman’s grave and is dated to the period 1100-1200. It was made from diamond twill wool, and most likely was a semicircular cloak with an opening at the front, it was also decorated with tablet woven bands at the opening (along the straight side).

The cloak worn by the Bocksten man was also semicircular with a cut hole for the neck, and a seam over one shoulder (the opening was not centered at the front) The cloak was made of several pieces of fabric, pieced together. (Kläderna och människan i medeltidens Sverige och Norge, Eva Andersson, 2006.)

How to draft a semicircular cloak on 150 cm wide fabric; it is really easy!

The cloak that supposedly belonged to St Birgitta of Sweden was also made of several pieces of fabric, but this garment is believed to have been remade from a dress.

During the 13th century, you can see lots of cloaks in contemporary sources (such as the Morgan bible), as the cloak was an important part of the outfit. During the 14th century, there are some really pretty examples of statues with buttons down the front or over one shoulder, and in 15th c paintings, they are often artfully draped in biblical scenes, but not very common in everyday portraits.

Simple semicircular travelling cloak in brown wool twill

16th century cloak patterns from Drei Schnittbucher shows examples of circular cloaks with a front opening, slits, collars and even sleeves sewn onto the cloak.

Full circular cloak pattern, look at that piecing!
Full cloak with sleeves, collar and decorative borders

Interesting thoughts:

In written sources, cloaks go under many different names depending on the time, period, appearance and who the wearer is. There is also evidence of cloaks lined with fur or fabric, cloaks with slits or trains, and of different lenght. Clearly, the garment was both used in a religious context as well as an everyday travel item.

I have not found evidence of hoods or head covering sewn onto the cloak in any finds, and when a hood is shown in contemporary art it is commonly separate from the cloak, even though it might be in the same colour as the larger garment. So if you want to make an outfit close to historical sources, make a cloak and a separate hood that correspond with the fashion of the time. (Hoods on cloaks can be seen in 18th c fashion, but let’s leave that century to another time)

Cloaks may be fastened with a seam, pin, clasp, strings, ribbons, brooch, ring brooches or buttons. Choose your method based on which period you would like it to reflect. Cloaks are fairly common in period art sources, so if you browse through a bunch of paintings you might get the idea on what to choose.

The length of the cloak seems to vary with the wearer; a travelling cloak between the knee and below the calf on men, and a bit longer on women, with ceremonial cloaks trailing behind the wearer. But paintings and prints show evidence of shorter cloaks too, with everything from decorated court cloaks to simple peasant women cloaks. Pick the length that suits your need; too much length and fabric will only weigh you down if you want a practical garment.

example of a semicircular cloak

And as always; piecing is very ok to make use of the fabric!

Different models of cloaks:

Oval cloak, square cloak, rectangular cloak, semicircular cloak (or 1/2 circle cloak), cloak with shoulder seams (or 3/4 circle cloak) and full circle cloak. The Viking age square cloak folded in half is not based on finds but more of an experiment, as is the shoulder seam cloak ( I included that in the picture though, so you may see what I am talking about). The latter I often use when I need to make a larger cloak than the semicircular one but don’t have fabric or historical evidence for a full circular cloak. The seams or piecing could as well be made on other parts of the cloak.

I have found no evidence for the cloak with vertical sections/seams to create a fit (which is popular when buying modern cloak patterns) instead, I would recommend you to choose a simple cut and then drape it on your body to your liking. Small shoulder seams or darts can be made as a more modern solution to make the cloak stay over your shoulders.

The cloak does not need to have an even hem, many examples are just draped over the body or longer back. If you want to make a full circular cloak more even by the hem, you may cut the neck hole nearer the front hem than the back hem (my full cloak is 70 cm at the front, and 80 cm long at the back). Putting the cloak on the body and adjusting the hem afterwards is another method.

Decorations:

Finds, paintings and statues indicate that embroidery, woven bands, silk or a combination of these were used to decorate the cloak, however, these examples are mainly seen on religious or high-status garments. For an everyday cloak, I would go with a sturdy, fulled fabric without decorations. If you want to decorate your cloak; try to find artwork from the period you want to recreate.

Fabric choises:

Wool, unlined or lined with wool or fur is both practical, and the most used material in cloaks during the medieval period. There are examples of velvet and silk cloaks, but only for ceremonial or high-status wearers. A sturdy, dense wool fabric that has been fulled would do well for a cloak, and beyond that, it is more a matter of when you need it (a lined winter cloak or a thinner, fashionable draped summer cloak?) There are examples of both twill and tabby woven cloaks, so again- to find the perfect cloak fabric for your period, status and adventure you would have to do some research for yourself.

Generally speaking, the right kind of fabric and the way you drape your cloak is more important than which model you choose, if you want to look dramatic. Buy enough fabric to give you the size of the cloak you need!

If you just want a good, affordable fabric right now; I include some links here to Korps.se that sells good thick woollen fabrics for cloaks. Very thick and warm fabric, or a softer and warm choice.

Colours:

The best colours for your cloak is: “yeah, it depends on..” you are starting to get this right? Period, area, status, wearer… like with all the other garments the medieval person would buy or make a garment according to what they could afford and what was available/allowed for them. Use artwork again; blues, reds and browns are seen often, and during the late medieval period dark hues and black seems to be popular. A commoner or person living in rural areas maybe had an undyed homemade cloak, while a fashionable burgher would wear something bought, dyed and cut to their taste. The cloak also differed between a garment of fashion and an everyday outer wear for bad weather; let this reflect the colour you choose.

Or, if you prefer, use this information to inspire you into making an awesome fantasy cloak for your next fantasy adventure!



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(how to choose) Viking age colours

This post is a collab with Korps and contains advertisement for plantdyes and fabrics

I wanted to put down what I have learned about coloured garments and fabrics from the Viking age, so you may use it as a guide when deciding on the colours for your viking outfit.

Colour pigments available during the Viking age according to Ewing in “Viking Clothing”: blue (woad), lichen (purple), red (madder) and yellow (not identified) but also…

Blue could range from soft, muted grey-blue, watered blues, to saturated deep blue tones. The same goes for other colours; white wool, lots of dye and a skilled dyer will get you deeper and more even colours than mixed wools, and so on. The range of red is very wide; orange hues, muted brown-red tones, to saturated reds and cold red such as wine red. Lichen purple range from violet and almost lavender tones to purple hues with red and pink tones. Yellow dyes can be made with a great number of different plants all the way from a beige soft tone to brilliant yellows, or light green tones.

Walnut shells found in Hedeby and Oseberg gives you rich reddish browns, or warm browns.

Natural colours from the sheep’s wool ranged from white to muddled white tones, browns and dark browns. Black fabric would not have been as black as the fashionable 16th c fabrics, but more brown-black from the sheep’s natural colour.

The shawl and silk cap are dyed with natural colours (woad), while the dress and apron dress are dyed with modern dyes.

By sorting the wool into different qualities and colours you can make fabric that is white and therefore gives a very brilliant colour when dyed, but also mottled fabrics, or striped ones by weaving with threads of different colours. Some weaves from the Herjolfnes finds (medieval period) are made this way; by having one colour in the warp and one in the wheft.

Different ways of dyeing: the wool, the spun yarn or the finished fabric. Dyeing spun yarn and then weaving gives you a fabric that is a bit mottled, but was also used to make patterned fabrics. Dyeing the woven fabric make sure you get the exact amount you need for a garment in as even a tone as possible. Dying the wool before spinning is mentioned in later sources from the medieval period, and one madder-red example was found in viking settlements in York.

Many people probably wore undyed clothing in natural beige, browns, dark brown tones, woven in an even tone, mottled hues or patterned by the use of different natural shades during weaving.

Muted and soft colour tones, as well as mottled hues, were easier to make than deeply saturated colours and thus cheaper. Plants used for dyeing have been found growing in the same regions as the viking settlements, as well as being imported as raw materials, or already coloured fabrics.

Brilliant red and blue tones are being mentioned as high-status markers worn by royalty and their followers or being important gifts. Especially blue seems to have been a popular colour with lots of examples from finds and written texts. Old sagas and literature describe people donning coloured garments (a blue kirtle for example) before going out on important business, so if you are planning on attending an important meeting, a great feast or avenging a friend, you could always wear your best red cloak or blue kirtle for the occasion!

Linen was unbleached, or bleached. A linen shirt being “white as snow” was a status marker clearly standing out to those around the wearer. A finer weave and brighter white were seen as superior and would give higher prices.

(There are examples of dyed linen fabrics in red and blue colours, but they are uncommon so I will not go into details here.)

Shades based on cochineal

What should you look for when buying fabric?

Vibrant and saturated: blue and red were popular but expensive, if you would like to create a high-status viking these are good choices. Combine these with high-status jewelry, good quality shoes and white linen for undergarments.

Muted, soft shades: if you want to create everyday garments, softer tones are better: soft blues, reds, yellows, dyed browns, but also all in-between hues that are hard to describe in text: rust-red, red-brown, yellow-greens, light purple-pink hues, warm tones between yellow-orange-brown-apricot. Combine with unbleached, half bleached or almost white linen underwear.

Uncoloured wools are a good choice for the everyday clothes of people living farther from cities and other trading areas. For underwear, unbleached or half bleached linen, or another layer of wool fabric will do nicely. (Finds from Norway and Gotland indicates that an all wool outfit were more usual there).

Sometimes it can be difficult to find good fabric choices, so here are some examples from Korps that I would recommend. Avoid the darkest reds/greens/blues/turquoise and go for the softer shades. The beige/natural coloured wool is a great example of an undyed fabric choice.

I always order fabric samples to be able to see and feel the fabrics for real before buying (you should do it too, they have lots of samples!) It also gives you the opportunity to match shades with each other for a great outfit. For more on that subject; check out this post.

Korps have plant dyes if you want to try plant dying yourself, along with a free booklet (in Swedish) with information and formulas. Look for fabrics that are sold for plant dying, or ask for those, to avoid already coloured or treated fabrics.

Remember: not all plant dyeing available today was used during the Viking age, some are imports from a later date, or was not effective enough without chemicals. If you want to learn more about plant dyes and colouring there’s much to read on the internet, even at Wikipedia.

Plant-dyed examples found in a second-hand store.


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How to make a medieval linen shirt

Welcome to this step-by-step tutorial, perfect for beginners. It might seem long, but explains everything you need to know. Follow it as you go, or look up the section where you might need extra guidance.

This is a great project to begin with! Easy, straight forward and the fabric won’t be too expensive.

Examples of medieval shirts with slits, gores and seams.

Most people wore linen underwear during the medieval period, and a man’s kit was made up of breeches or a type of loincloth, and the shirt. While you are at it; make two shirts! It is really nice to be able to change and wash your clothes during longer events, and a pleasantly smelling shirt will make it easier to make new friends…

Linen shirt with a slit at the neckhole

Buying fabric:

The amount of fabric you need depends on your size and the width of the fabric. This example will use cloth 150 cm wide. To decide how much you need to buy, calculate the measures on your pieces and how much fabric you need for those, then add another 10% minimum to allow for shrinking or uneven edges. (Fast tip: just buy 2 meters up to XL, a bit more if you have a larger size. Extra fabric may always be used for other projects.)

Look for linen fabric of 120-180 gram, I prefer a thin and even weave. (That is more historical and comfortable than a coarse and lumpy weave.) Bleached or unbleached linen, according to the status you would like to aim at. Bleached linen was a bit more expensive, but don’t go for the super-white ones in modern stores.

Pick a shirt model of your choice

Preparing the fabric:

Zigzag the raw edges to prevent them from fraying while washing, or buy a bit of extra fabric if you don’t want to bother with machine work.

Pre-soak, wash and iron your fabric before starting to cut and sew your shirt. Washing will avoid future shrinkage, make the weave even and remove any pesticides. Pre-soaking the fabric will lessen the wrinkles and make it easier to iron. 40-60 degrees c machine washing, hang dry.

Things you will need:

Needle, linen thread, beeswax, scissor, measuring tape and something to mark your fabric with (fabric chalks or just a pencil). A ruler or straight piece to draw against is nice, but not necessary.

Tools for handsewing

Measure:

  • 1. Lenght of finished shirt from shoulder to hemline.
  • 2. Circumference around the widest part of your upper body, often the chest.
  • 3. Length of sleeve from shoulder to wrist.
  • 4. Circumference around your hand/wrist (make a loop with the measuring tape, and try to pull your hand through it, it should be big enough to be easy, in order for you to be able to take the shirt off.)
  • 5. Armhole (measure around your should/arm as the picture shows, then make the measuring tape into a loose circle, and when you find it comfortable-check the measurement.) I usually add about 25% extra from my body measure, from 40 cm body measure to making the sleeve hole 50 cm.

Example (with measures) so you can see how I do this:

  • 1. Lenght of finished shirt from shoulder to hemline: 100 cm
  • 2. Circumference around the widest part of your upper body, often the chest: 100 cm.
  • 3. Length of sleeve from shoulder to wrist: 70 cm
  • 4. Circumference around your hand/wrist: 28 cm
  • 5. Armhole: 60 cm. This means the sleeve base will be 60 cm, and the armhole on the body parts will be 30 cm on front and 30 on back.

Add ease of movement:

What is that? If you were going to cut out your pieces with the above measures, the shirt would fit tight along your skin, making it impossible to move, or take it on and off. Therefore, we will add extra space for movement. I usually calculate 6% of the circumference around your body, 10% if I want a loose fit.

Example: 100 cm + 6 cm (6% of 100 cm) =106 cm. Split this measure in 2 for front and back: 53 cm each.

That’s it! (we already added ease into the sleeve by making sure we could pull the hand through, and the sleeve base by adding extra room there)

Add seam allowance:

What is that? Seams always need to be a bit from the edge of the fabric in order to be durable. The space between seam and fabric edge= seam allowance. Short= SA. I will add 1 cm, between 1-2 cm is recommended.

Example: Add 1 cm to all edges around your pieces, like this:

Seam allowance can be added directly in your calculating and drafting the pieces, to paper pattern pieces, or drafted on the fabric outside the pattern. We use the first method here.

Example:

  • 1. Lenght of finished shirt: 100 + 2 cm SA= 102 cm (I like to add another 1 cm to hems; so 103 cm)
  • 2. Circumference around chest: 100 + 6 cm movement + 2 cm SA= 108 cm
  • 3. Length of sleeve from shoulder to wrist: 70 + 2cm SA= 72 cm
  • 4. Circumference around your hand/wrist: 28 + 2 cm SA= 30 cm
  • 5. Armhole: 60 + 2 cm SA = 62 cm sleeve base. Armholes: still 30 cm *2.

Draft your measures into a pattern:

Now you are ready to draft your pieces! I like to do this on paper first, to save as a reference, for future projects, and to determine how to save on fabric. I draw my piece of fabric onto paper, making 10 cm=1 square:

Nr. 1 is the front and back pieces, nr. 2 sleeves. As you can see; if you would like to have side gores instead of slits in your shirt, nr. 3 would be excellent to use. This is just an example, do a draft with your measures and lay out the pieces in a way that suits you.

I recommend drafting the front, back and side gores either along or across the length of the fabric (do all these in the same direction) the sleeve may go along or across, depending on what is more convenient (the shirt will look better with this method).

A note on sleeve measures: this sleeve doesn’t sit on top of the shoulder when finished, it hangs on your upper arm (see photo at the beginning), which makes this measuring method work. When measuring for a fitted sleeve, always measure around your bent elbow.

Design your neckhole:

These are my general measures: small-medium: 1 = 18 cm. large-xlarge: 1= 20 cm. The back I cut out around 5-6 cm deep, the front (2) is cut 10-15 cm deep. If I want a slit at the front (3) I cut it around another 10 cm deep. If you don’t want a slit, you might need to make the neck opening a bit deeper/wider in order to fit your head. You can always draw it out, cut a little, try it on, draw a bit more, cut and so on, until you are satisfied with the look.

Shape your armholes:

If you feel that the shoulders are a bit wide, you may shape the armholes a bit (common if you have a large chest but narrow shoulders). Cut 4 cm (small/medium) to 6 cm (large/xl) from the shoulder top (4) and create a gentle curve to the armpit, or draw a straight line from the top (4) to the armpit (see photo further below). Then sew the sleeves as described. The seam should still be hanging slightly below your shoulder, not at the top of it.

Cut out the pieces:

When you have drafted all your pieces on paper as above, you are ready to draft them onto your fabric! Iron the fabric and lay it down on a flat surface, draft all your pieces and check the measures with a measuring tape. Use a piece of chalk suitable for fabric, or if you don’t have that; a pencil. A ruler, a large book or a straight stick can be used to make the lines even. Everything seems good? Cut the fabric pieces out! (you may also want to mark them Front, Back, Sleeves if you are unsure.)

Sewing time!

The order of sewing is as following, I will walk you through every step below: shoulder seams if any, sleeves to shoulders, side gores if any, sew together sleeves and sides. Adjusting neck-hole, adjusting sleeve length to your wrist, hemming.

1. Start with pinning the shoulder seams. Putting in pins alongside the fabric edge makes it easier to avoid stabbing yourself when handling the project.

2. Cut a piece of linen thread, the length of your arm. Coat it with bee´s vax by pulling the thread over the vax piece a couple of times. Thread a needle (the needle should be as small as possible, but thicker than the thread to make it easy to sew), and make a knot at the other end.

The needle is thicker than the thread

3. Sew the shoulder seams with backstitches. 3 stitches/cm is a good guide, and 10-15 mm seam allowance depending on what you drafted on your pattern. If you find it difficult to make the seam straight, draw a thin line with a pencil where you want it to be.

4. Press the seam allowances to either side. Use your fingernail, a pressing tool or ironing. Fold the seam allowances double, and pin down.

5. Use running stitches (or whip stitches) to sew the folded edge down to the shirt. The stitching should only be visible at the right side as small dots.

6. Try out the neck hole by pulling it over your head. Cut out more if you need, and check in the mirror to see if you like the look. When you are satisfied, hem the neck opening. Start with folding the edge twice and pin it in place. Make the folds as narrow as possible, to make it easier to sew nicely, mine is 5 mm. Sew the edge down with whip stitches.

7. Pin one sleeve to the armhole of the shirt, right side against right side (this photo show a shaped armhole). Sew it in place, using running stitches or back stitches. Pin and sew the other sleeve in place. Press the seam allowance to either side.

8. Now we are going to save some time with a folded over seam allowance! (photos below in 10.) Trim one side of the seam allowance down to approx half-width (5-6 mm) and then fold the larger one over this, press in place. To avoid fraying and loose threads, fold in the edge of the fabric under the seam allowance. Press down, and pin in place. Now you have a neat looking fold, ready to be fastened down. When sewing the seam allowance down like this, you save time and make the seam more durable since the fabrics will be sewn twice to each other. I prefer whip stitching for this seam, it is easy and durable.

Which way should you press the folded over seam allowance? I often go for pressing and sewing down to the biggest fabric piece. So for the sleeve seam, the seam allowance will be pressed down onto the body parts. On side gores, the gores will be pressed out onto the body piece. It makes it easier to sew and gives the garment a nice drape.

9. Time to sew the side seams and sleeves! Lay the shirt down inside out on a flat space, and pin the side seams and sleeves. Make sure the fabric is smooth and the edges lays on top of each other. Mark where you want the seam to be if needed, and then sew from the sleeve wrist, all the way down the side seam. I like to leave the bottom 10-20 cm open on the side seams to create a slit in the shirt, if I don’t have side gores. Backstitching will make the seam durable, but if you are in a hurry a running stitch with some backstitching in the armhole will also suffice.

Slits at the bottom

10. Finish of the side seams by pressing the seam allowance flat, and make a folded over seam allowance. Press, pin and sew this down.

Folded over seam allowance, above the side slit in the shirt

11. Now it is time to fold the edges and sew them down. On linen fabric, I like to make a double fold to avoid fraying threads from the fabric edges. Start with the hem around the bottom of the shirt. Fold two times, around 0,5 cm each (or the SA you choose), and press the fabric in place with an iron or your nail. Sew with whipstitching, travelling on the inside of the shirt, which will make small dots of threads visible on the right side of the shirt.

After that, finish the sleeves in the same way. I like to try the shirt on before hemming, to be able to adjust the sleeve length. If they are a little too long, just create a deeper fold, or cut off the extra fabric. If you have made them too short you can sew on another piece of fabric and make a hem on that one. Piecing is always historical.

How to fasten the thread:

When there is about 10 cm thread left (approx the width of your palm), it is time to fasten the thread and take a new one. Sew another stitch, pass through that loop before pulling tight, and repeat at the same place a couple of times. Then you can pull the rest of the thread down into the fabric before snipping off the leftover, hiding the thread inside the seam. Neat! Take another thread, prepare, and start sewing at the same place you stopped.

Uhm, this is a lot of steps for a simple shirt? Yes, it is. Can you cut the corners, get a bottle of beer and sew it all on the sofa? Of course you can, but each step may not be as easy, and it will be harder to have a nice view of the process. What I mean is- this is just my way of describing the process as easy as possible for you, to allow a handcrafting process where each step is straightforward, and where the sewing will be as fast as possible to do.

General advice:

  • Always pin on a flat space to make sure your seams will be even.
  • Be nice to yourself; sit comfortable, take lots of breaks, use tools to make your sewing easier.
  • Remember to actually try out the fit, the length, the neck hole etc before finishing sewing. It is very easy to just continue sewing once in a flow, but if you end up with a garment you don’t like, you will have to redo lots of work.
  • Is the measuring a bit off? No worries; in this project, a 1-2 cm difference will not matter. You can probably go on sewing. I sometimes have wonky measures. Medieval finds are full of uneven pieces, wobbly seams or piercings. Don’t worry!

Other types of shirt models:

Shirt with side gores: adding side gores is easy, and give you extra movement on a longer shirt. Sew them in place before sewing the side seams closed. Use the same stitches and folded over seam allowance as above.

Shirt with sleeve gussets: small square pieces of fabrics get stitched in under the arm, to add more movement and to save on fabric instead of making larger sleeves. I usually sew these after the sleeve, while sewing the sleeve and side seams closed.

That’s it on shirt sewing. These techniques will also do well on a number of different projects, and is somewhat of a basic go-to. Enjoy your sewing! Did you like this post? Support me on Patreon to help me make more.


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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 woollen twill, with silk decorations and woollen 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 completely new outfit.

Coat nr 2, super fun to make! Woollen 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 was 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-three 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 “överkroppens…”

¤ 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 armhole 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 armhole 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 underarm 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 neck-hole 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 woollen 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 neck-hole/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 woollen 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 cosy, 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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Living at Birka

IMG_5639

At the beginning of August, I took my camp equipment and moved to Björkön for a long Viking-weekend. I had such a wonderful time and wanted to show you some great photos and inspire you to maybe travel there yourself when the world allows.

As many of you fellow viking-nerds know, Björkö was the place where the viking city Birka was situated, and it is very beautifully situated outside Stockholm, in Mälaren (so it is in the inner archipelago, not towards the sea) which makes for a great climate. Wild apples and cherry trees grow over the island, and sheep grass the ancient hills, grave mounds and ancient monuments still visible from the viking era.

There are still lots of grave mounds left as they were, but also a museum, a newly built experimental viking village with boats tied to its pier, and good paths to stroll to different sites on the island. As you can imagine, I got quite excited when asked to join some friends there!

When the sun set, we took a stroll around the pasture lands, enjoying the view over the water and the surrounding islands, with a small picnic basket with us. The path took us over viking age grave mounds, past the Black Earth (where the city Birka was situated) and toward the Homelands. When darkness came, we returned to the village to lit a fire, and enjoy the company of each other.

The village is built as an experimental viking settlement which allows a group to actually live in the houses, tend the gardens and the buildings, as well as sleep, cook and go around their daily life there- as well as greeting modern visitors during the day time. Not everything is 100% accurate with what we know today about the daily viking life, but things get mended, rebuilt and used in a historical way, with old tools and knowledge (and modern safety measures…)

It was so cosy going around the settlement, with the sound of cooking and woodworking, the smell of fire and tar, and vikings going around their day tending to their business. I brought my market stall and tent, setting it up with a nice view over the water, where I spent some time drinking coffee and chatting about all things viking age. I also held a lecture about clothing and dress in the Viking society, inside the interesting museum on site.

My friends Joel and Josefin took me on a guided tour since they had been here before, and we went to see the excavations going on near the shore a short walk away. This was so interesting and I learned a lot about archaeology (which seems to be such a hard job, working on your knees for hours, patiently digging through the ground.) It was also very clear how much the field has developed since the early reports, that we base much of our understanding on when recreating viking age. I look forward to the reports from this excavation!

Outfit of the day; linen shift, apron dress in woollen diamond twill inspired by the Köstrup find, woollen shawl and tortoise brooches to fasten the outfit with.

In the photo below, I just have the blue dress and loose hair, feeling a bit undressed, but also happy to finally be cool enough…

I spent the days in the market stall selling some viking things, or strolling around with new friends in the museum, out in the landscape or by the fire. This was just what I needed after a summer of staying-at-home, and even though we weren’t many it felt really good to be outside again, doing things I love.

If you want to know more about how to visit Birka, here’s a link with useful info, there are some lovely boat trips during the summer which will let you stay to see the interesting bits and take a swim before going back.


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Summer plans for 2019

It feels like the Summer Season has started now, and I am sewing, planning market tours and writing on new workshops and lectures. Weekends are mostly planned with market visits. Have my hands full, more or less.

As many of you know, Handcrafted History is much more than this blog: it is my business and main living! For me, the summer season is both fun adventures and lots of work. I travel through Sweden and into Finland and Norway too, and I will try to keep you updated with all the fun stuff happening! I might not have lots of time to write blog posts though; so visit my Facebook page HandcraftedHistory and my Instagram with the same name for more updates.

Here is my current schedule with all markets and events I’ve got planned. If you visit one of them- please come by and say Hi! I love meeting blog readers =)

May 11; SCA event V.Ä.V

May 24-26 Oslo Middelalderfestival

May 27-June 2 SCA event Doublewars

June 14-16 Hamar Middelalderfestival

June 28-30 Alnö Medeltidsdagar

July 11-13 Skellefteå Medeltidsdagar

July 15-21 SCA event Cudgelwars

August 2-11 Medeltidsveckan

September 6-8 Gunnes Gård

On SCA events, Skellefteå Medeltidsdagar and Medeltidsveckan I also have workshops planned, if you want to learn viking/medieval pattern construction or tablet weaving. At Gunnes Gård there will be a viking themed workshop, but what is not yet decided. You can also come by during events to have your own personal pattern made by me; but you need to book a time in advance!