HANDCRAFTED HISTORY


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Camping inspiration

This post is a collaboration with Korps and contain advertisement for fabrics from their webpage.

Are you longing for some historically-inspired life and camping? Now is a great time to get inspiration and ideas for the next event and plan what you would like your living place to look like!

Look at this lovely place, I am longing to be outside in a camp again! Imagine sitting in that corner while it is raining, having cookies and wine and chatting with friends.

I spent lots of time at the beginning of my reenactment adventure life pondering over what I would need and what I would like to bring to different events. I also collected lots of photos of things that looked practical or just pretty and wrote lists of things that would be good to have next time. Kitchen towel, water flask, bucket and extra wool blankets are things that piled on those lists, helped there by experience or inspiration from other reenactors.

Mmm, look at this cozy place! Wouldn’t you love to eat lunch here? I would put the bread in a basket, have extra napkins and plates for guests ready and decorate the table with some fruits.

My main inspiration to improve my camping life have come from SCA events, since these often are quite long and you’ll meet lots of others that have been in the hobby for a long time, thus having created pretty and comfortable living areas.

Far from everything in these photos is as historically close as possible; most tents are machine sewn, furniture is made with modern tools and practical solutions mostly won over historical ones, when it comes to food prepping and hygiene. With that said, here are lots of options for camping life, with amazing handcrafting and historical techniques and materials.

Capturing all the good ideas

The feeling of homeliness; look at these camps! The furniture, the kitchenware, pennants, lanterns… Even if everything is not based on historical finds from a specific period, the overall look is awesome. The ropes and tent walls actually add to the feeling of spaciousness, of having a living place outside in the woods. (I like the table cloth, thinking about making one to my kitchen)



My best practical ideas;

A good blanket! I put my heavy wool blanket on top of my bed to keep it dry and warm, use it as a picnic blanket, and a cloak during cold evenings. To get a really big, affordable wool blanket; buy a good quality wool fabric and make one yourself! This fabric is a good choice, super thick and sturdy!

Get the fire up from the ground! On many sites, fire safety dictates that the fire pit should be 30-50 cm above the ground. Plan for that by building a fire bowl with legs, and you have a convenient cooking place so you don’t have to crawl on the ground to cook.

The drink’s on the house! Naw, you don’t have to give out free beer, but it’s good to have water available. Bring jugs and bottles for the stylish table, as well as tanks/containers that fit larger quantities of water. If you don’t have historical options, use a plastic one and hide it in a cloth sack.

A fabric roof! Cheap, practical and good for both sunshade and rain. Make your own by sewing two pieces of fabric together (150*400 cm), and add some sturdy holes in them. To put up your new roof you also need some ropes and wooden poles with nails going through the holes. You can find good tent/canvas fabrics here. (You could also use these fabrics to sew your own tent on your regular sewing machine.)

Do you have any goals for your camp, or fun ideas you want to do? Here is my wish-list for improving our camp: (hopefully I will get around to these, and now when I have put them down here I think the probability will be even higher…)

A fireplace like this. Sooo practical! I wish someone would build me a square fire bowl. I would stack the wood neatly underneath, make coffee in the morning and feel like a queen while doing so!
Making the packing a bit less… plastic. It is convenient to store and transport lots of things in plastic bins, but they are Oh So Ugly. I am working on using wooden boxes instead, and cloth sacks.
Painted silk flags! It is so pretty, I want a whole bunch of them hanging by our camp, and then I will give everyone directions to our tent by telling them “just go to the big tent with all the pretty pennants”.


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Research post: Medieval straw hats in art

Introduction: Straw hats of different shapes got my interest a while ago, and I made some research around them. They seem to appear in art from around the 13th century onwards while changing design over the centuries.

My thoughts are that they are mainly seen in rural landscapes and working conditions; farmers and labourers working outside. They also appear on travellers, commoners being outdoors, harvest time etc. Some examples exist of straw hats on higher social status persons (but the artwork might be allegorical or symbolic rather than contemporary portraits).

Based on what I´ve seen in the artwork, I believe the straw hat to have been in use in a similar fashion as today; as an outdoors option for sunny weather, mainly to act as a sun barrier. They are often depicted in manuscripts like The labours of the months (Medieval calendars) during field labour in June, July and August on both men and women. Decorations are scarce, with the occasional headband in black or some other neutral colour the only decor visible.

15th century harvesting woman

Fashionable shapes? In art, the straw hat appears in many different forms. Some shapes seem to have been used for longer amounts of time (like the round one with a brim or the slightly unshaped hill form) while the conical shape of the 13th and early 14th century (seen in the Maciejowski bible) seems to be out of fashion later.

Maciejowski bible 13th c

During the second half of the 15th century and onwards you can spot a greater diversity in hat shapes and design, possibly mimicking the fashion for headwear during this period. The late 15th century is, after all, a rather crazy fashion period with lots of options in sizes, shapes, design and silhouettes! During the 16th century, heads with a flat top and flatter shaped hats become more common in the artwork I have looked through.

1519-28 man harvesting wines

The artwork in this blog post is mainly collected from today’s Germany, England and Italy, but this excellent webpage has a collection of more hats in period artwork if you are interested.

http://www.larsdatter.com/strawhats.htm

Differently shaped straw hats made by Handcrafted History

Materials: Based only on the artwork, it is impossible to determine which kind of straws were used to make hats, and my guess is that it also depended upon local traditions and what material was readily available to the artisans. It is not impossible to weave or braid straw yourself even if it takes practice to make it look good, and since the material is available for free in most areas I think it likely that these hats were commonly made in the local community rather than imported. Most hats are also seen on workers in the field (though the occasional more fashionable straw hat appears in city settings), supporting the theory on local manufacturing.

Detail from the Merode Altarpiece, Robert Campin

To continue on the line of guessing, both straw from agriculture, grass straw and wetland reed may be used to weave straw hats. If you want to find yourself a nice historical hat, look for something grown where your persona/character would live, and avoid exotic plants like palm leaves.

Book of hours, Morgan Library

Diffferent kinds of straw available today:

Wheat straw is soft, shiny (and if you ask my horse, super cosy come winter) and very possible material for hats, at least in those parts of Europe cultivating wheat regularly. Oat straw I have no handcrafting experience with, but the horse likes it in his bed, and there’s always some oats left to munch on. Barley was a common grain in Sweden during the Middle ages, and is a rather stiff and durable straw, like rye.

Rye straw is a traditionally used material in Sweden for making straw crafts because of it’s length and durability, and rye is a hardy crop. For handcrafting material today, rye is being grown for its straw and harvested before giving grain, whereas the medieval straw was probably taken during the grain harvest.

Wheat straw hat made by Handcrafted History

One important difference between the straw today versus the medieval straw is the mechanical machines munching up straw during harvest, making it usable mainly for animal bedding or farming. Before machines took over, the harvest was done by hand and a scythe takes off the straw at the ground without crushing it. After the grain was collected, you would have great amounts of material. Very handy!

How were straw hats made? I believe contemporary artwork show different methods in use for making straw hats. There seems to be evidence for different kinds of weaving techniques and patterns (when you braid the straw together until you have formed a whole hat) as well as sewn hats with braided straw tape as a base (when you first make a tape and then sew it into a hat shape). The find looks to be made from woven or braided tapes, layered on top of each other.

Several straw hats on female field labourers

I have only found one extant find of a straw hat from today’s Germany, rather beaten up but at least you can see what it is. Do you know of any more finds? I would love to check them out!

Kempten, Germany 15-16th c

Conclusions if you want to sport a straw hat yourself:

Go for a hat made with natural straw, such as those mentioned above. Handwoven in one piece, or made out of braided tapes sewn together depending on what you can find (avoid the obviously machine-stitched ones). Pick a shape that fits in with the period you would like to reenact, and don’t decorate it overmuch. Use your hat outdoors as a nice shade from the sun, but replace it with a smarter looking hat or veil/hairdo during winter and indoor festivities.

Early 15th c Les Tres Riches Heures de Duc de Berry

Some practical tips from this very experienced hat-wearer:

Straw hats during summer will shade you from the sun and help you avoid sunburn and heatstroke. If it is really hot, use a cap, coif or linen wrap drenched in cold water under the hat. A ribbon may be pulled through your hat at the base to hold it in place on your head, or you could use pins to secure it to your linen layer underneath. If your hats get a bit crooked or bent, spray it with some warm water and set it to dry in the shape you want.

Harvesters, man wearing a straw hat, Tacuinum Sanitatis

Feel the need for a good straw hat? I am currently making and selling different models; check out my FBpage to look at the different hats and place an order! This last bit is totally advertising my own business. Yep. Send me your money.

Deutsche Bibel, 1463


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Lacing on medieval dresses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the green dress in the tutorial


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Care for clothing from Handcrafted History

This is a guide covering the usual pieces of garments and accessories you may order or buy from Handcrafted History. I always aim to create garments for actual reenactors who will be playing, working and eating in their outfits, living life and going to parties! With this said- garments that can take the wear of everyday life and get washed afterwards!

Some notes:

  • Remember, garments from other vendors might have other caring instructions, as well as bespoke items ordered from me. Always follow the personal care instructions received with your items if more than one caring option is available.
  • I wash almost all my clothing in my washing machine, including wool clothes. Because I am lazy. The garments will get a little more wear from the machine washing, and it would be kinder to the wool fabrics to wash them by hand, and because of that, I recommend hand washing to my customers, so they will get the most use out of every single garment!
  • Wet garments are more sensitive than dry ones, so always handle your clothes with care when wet. Bring them out from the machine gently, and don’t put a strain on sensitive parts like a smocked collar or sleeve details by pulling or hanging the garments from these.
  • Oh, no! Blood or red wine on your party outfit? Rinse immediately with bubble water if you can find any. For small blood stains; your saliva might be used to remove these. Silk fabric, however, might get stained by these too, so you will have to decide if a water stain or a red stain would be more visible…
  • Sunlight will bleach even modern dyes if you hang the garments out to air or dry. Don’t leave garments out in the sun for too long, or hang them inside out. But a white shirt with stains might be bleached in the sun intentionally; leave it out for a couple of days to let the sun take care of stubborn stains that didn’t disappear in the wash.

General care:

  • Soak or rinse stains at once to avoid permanent marks on garments. Avoid bleach and heavy detergents, as well as chemicals, flame… Well, you get it.
  • Air your clothing after every use to reduce how often you need to wash them. Steaming will let wrinkles out easy. Mend holes or broken seams at once.
  • Store your garments in a dry place, check them for vermin every season and fold or roll them gently in place. Never hang heavy garments while storing, they might stretch or get marks from the hanger.
  • Have a care when getting dressed or undressed, look at your historical clothing more like a suit than a sweatshirt set. Your clothing will last much longer if you don’t jump into your hose or rip the shirt off in a hurry.

Linen garments:

I always use prewashed linen when sewing clothing for customers, this means that the linen fabric has been pre-shrunk and is safe to water wash for years to come. Wash your linen fabric in 40 degrees C, and pre-soak stains that have dried in or chunky pieces of mud. Use a regular mild detergent, no bleach.

Afterwards, gently take out your garments from the machine (or handwashing tub) and gently stretch the fabric lengthwise, especially the sleeves. Even prewashed garments may “shrink” (the fibres will pull together) which may cause, for example, the sleeves to appear shorter. After this, hang lighter garments or flat dry heavy pieces.

Ironing your underwear such as shirts and shifts make them look nice, feel smoother and resist sweat and dirt stains for longer. Use the recommended settings on your iron (normally 3 dots) and steam.

Wool garments:

I always prewash all wool fabrics before sewing, which many others don’t bother with. Instead, they tell their customers to never wash their historical clothing. I guess they have never come home from an event covered in sweat, dirt, food stains and wine? I have. And I want to be able to wash my clothing. So I make this a standard for all my customers too!

Start with airing out your garment, brush of dirt with a brush and close lacings, buttonholes etc.

Handwash your wool garments in cold to lukewarm water, with a wool detergent. Handle with care; do not knead, twist or pull violently on the garment. Rinse several times to get all the detergent out of the fabric. Lift carefully, press out excess water (with a clean towel) and arrange on a flat surface to dry. Smooth out the fabric so it looks neat and has the form it had before washing.

Iron on 2 dots with steam, and a pressing cloth (a kitchen towel or cotton sheet will do)

Silk, silk brocade, silk velvet etc

Silk is a fabric that doesn’t like water washing. But if you need to remove food stains, mud and such you don’t have much choice. If you soak your silk fabric, soak all of it to avoid water stains or lines. Follow the wool washing instructions and use a natural fibres/silk detergent (I use the same on both wool and silk) and always use a pressing cloth when ironing. Airing and steaming your fabric will make it look nice longer.

Silk fabrics are the only fabrics I do not wash before sewing, I only steam them to loosen up any weaving tension to avoid shrinking later.

Other materials:

If your garment has tin/pewter or bronze buttons, removing these will make them stay shiny for longer. Fur does not like water washing, so removing this and then stitching it back might be good. Otherwise, the fur will be dry and a bit brittle with a papery feel after a couple of washes. Or maybe you can wash the garment leaving the fur hanging outside the tub?

Jewelry, Viking age wire posaments, brocaded silks, straw and real pearls don’t do good with washing, try to avoid that for as long as possible, remove these pieces if you can before wetting the garment.

Leather doesn’t like being water washed either, but can usually take a wash or two. Just remember to grease it up afterwards.

Hats:

Wool hats: try not to crush, but if they have gotten a fold or dent you can steam them with an iron or boiling water, reshape and put the hat to dry in the shape you want. Might be handwashed the same way as wool fabrics in cold water, handle gently and always shape and store standing on a flat surface. Brush of loose dirt and dust.

Wool hats treated with shellack: do not crush, wet or wash with water. Carefully brush surfaces, leave them out to air and store standing on a flat surface. Stains might be carefully removed with a damp cloth.

Straw: Clean by airing or gently rub stains with a damp cloth. If folded/crushed and the fibres are intact; soak in lukewarm water, reshape when soft and put to dry in the exact shape as before. Use weights and support to make the hat dry in the wanted shape. Crushed fibres are damaged but might be supported by a hatband, or reinforced with a decorative fabric border being stitch on, so you may get more use out of the hat.

There you go! With the right care, you will be able to enjoy your historical garments for many years to come. And if you are uncertain about a specific piece of clothing you’ve got from me, always feel free to ask for caring advice!

I also do mending and size adjustments on garments I have made myself, just seek me out and we’ll see what we can do to make your garments more useful, and last longer!


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15th century inspo

Here’s an alternative look for you 15th-century geeks out there! I took the photos in 2018 but apparently put them in that “good to have” pile on the computer, and they were forgotten. This happens quite often for me…

Linen shift closest to the body, wool socks and leather shoes. Over the shift I wear the easy 15th century dress, here used as a middle layer/kirtle. I like to be able to use my clothes in different layers, and this dress is a perfect summer over dress, but also works as the middle layer once it gets colder.

The overdress is a wool houppelande, lined with silk and with openings in the sleeves. This style is popular by the 50s and 60s, and can be seen in Rogier van der Weydens paintings. I keep the dress closed with a broad belt with a bronze clasp; a copy from an original find. This is one of my favourite dresses, since it is comfortable to wear but looks fancy. It is quite heavy with the high-quality woollen cloth draping around my body, but hey- you have to give a little effort to fashion sometimes?

The temple braids and turban-looking great veil is perhaps a bit “simple” for the dress, and I could also pair it with elaborate headwear. But I really like this look since it is comfortable and, above all, I can manage it myself in 15 minutes by the mirror. If you want to see how I do them; I have a braid tutorial here and a paper on the 15th-century veils I use here.

If you want to research the 15th c yourself, feel free to use my Pinterest as a starting point! This fashionable period has much interesting things to offer!


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2020 in review

There’s a lot to say about this year, but at least I’ve been having plenty of time for sewing. Unfortunately, a bad shoulder gave me some pains, but with rest and a training program, I think we are mostly friends again!

I thought it would be fun to share some projects with you here, as an inspiration and a kind of journal to myself: I always forget what I have been sewing, and find myself longing to finish yet another personal “small project” but not understanding why I don’t make any progress…

72 garments finished during 2020; both for customers, friends and myself. I am not going to write about them all, and many have not been photographed yet. I also have a whole bunch of things not yet ready; commissions, old projects known as UFOs (unfinished objects) and some rather new ideas I have been working on.

Easy, simple and comfortable blue Viking dress. Want to make a similar? Use the Shift-making tutorial and the Insert a Gore-tutorial to make a long shift with 4 gores.

It was time to make some new viking clothes and I managed this blue dress, the red apron dress and some matching items, like the handwoven and woad plant-dyed shawl. I am really pleased with how the outfit turned out, even if the outfit might not be sexy to the modern eye… I love experimenting with different historical cuts that could have been in use, trying out how they look and feel when I make and wear them.

Later I made this early 14th century outfit as I finally, after a long period of 15th century-romance, have laid my eyes on new conquests. The 13th and 14th centuries are very nice, and I want to get to know them a little more. The next project will be something from the Maciejowski/Morgan Bible.

I have made several complete outfits for customers based on viking age and medieval clothing, and this was the year when I only met GOOD CUSTOMERS! I kid you not! Everyone has been polite, fun to work with and sent their payments. For those of you working regularly in customer service; you know my feeling here! How did I get to be so lucky? And, will this continue during 2021?

A hand-sewn 16th century shirt inspired by the Sture shirt (without decorations and embroidery). This shirt took over 40 hours to make, more than most dresses… Is it pretty? Yes. Was it worth it? Give me another year before I answer…

I have also worked on 18th century clothing, learning more about the period and the methods in use. There’s a couple of skirts, a jacket in wool and one in printed cotton, as well as a small linen cap. I am looking forward to going to new kinds of events and trying out the kit to see if it will work.

I made a new short-sleeved kirtle with a waist seam, similar to the blue Weyden-inspired dress from years ago. This dress is rather loose (I might need to take it in a bit in the side seams) and it’s made with a curved front seam. It is going to be a great working kirtle! The long-sleeved green 15th c dress also got sold, they mysteriously shrank in the wardrobe during last winter)

Apart from sewing I also dived into some video making, filmed lectures for the digital Medieval Week as well as setting up a new Youtube channel, and working with content for my Patreon page. Video editing and voice-overs still make me sweat, but my plan is to continue to improve in these new areas, creating more and better content for you readers. Patreon makes this possible since I get support to work with my content, and my hope for 2021 is that my page will continue to grow, inspire and teach handcrafting ideas to everyone interested!

It feels like it is early yet to plan for this year, but of course, I am hoping for a market season of some kind, and I have so much new content for sewing workshops and material for a new viking lecture as well. As for the blog, there is a long list with tutorials to make, as much as I have time for. All concluded, it really feels like 2021 will be a Great Year!


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How to put in a gore in a medieval garment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Åka på lajv del 4: Att skapa en roll

Va, kommer inte rollskapandet förrän nu? Borde man inte börja här?

Jag trodde rollskapandet och ett detaljerat skrivande av rollen var viktigt, och ett sätt att vara en bra lajvare på, när jag började min lajvkarriär i tonåren. Det verkade ju viktigt på hemsidan? Efter att ha lajvat i 20+ år har jag dock insett att det finns andra saker som är viktigare, sett till hur roligt lajv jag kommer att få.

Det finns också väldigt många typer av spelare, och spelstilar när det kommer till att utveckla roller. H föredrar att klottra ner namn, yrke och ett par egenskaper att spela på, för att sedan ge sig ut och improvisera resten efter lajvet han är på. Andra älskar att hitta på namn, släktträd, ny mimik eller beteenden eller ge sig in i en roman om rollens tidigare liv.

Foto från Eterna, Sagors slut 2014. Två roller med både annan dräkt och mimik än spelarna.

Det spelar egentligen ingen roll. Vad är det då som gör en Roll till en Bra Roll på ett lajv?

Du är inte dig själv. Att lajva är spännande, händelserikt och rätt jobbigt. Du kommer uppleva allt det som din roll upplever, men filtret med att rollen och du är olika gör det trivsammare, och minskar risken för missförstånd. Det är ju trots allt inte Du som blir förråd, misstrodd, skrattad åt eller dödad- det är bara din roll. Du får nöjet att följa med på resan och uppleva saker som du inte skulle få i ditt vanliga liv.

Att lajva leder ofta till mycket känslor innan, under och efter lajvet som behöver bearbetas. Att då på efterlajvminglet kunna prata med andra om vad era roller råkat ut för är både roligt och skönt. Rollen och du är inte samma, ni är olika.

Din roll behöver alltså ha andra drag än du; en annan personlighet, bakgrund, andra färdigheter, en annan mimik, ett förändrat kroppsspråk. Det är alla olika knep som du kan använda för att berätta för andra, och för dig själv, att du faktiskt bara spelar en roll nu- det här är inte du.

Även om du skrivit och spelat en roll som är olik dig själv, så kan du uppleva det som kallas för Bleed efter ett lajv; det innebär helt enkelt att du har känslor kvar efter lajvet som egentligen hörde till din roll. Det är inget konstigt! Du har precis ägnat flera dagar åt att programmera om hjärna och kropp till att reagera på andra personer (roller), du har upplevt en massa, fått känna en mängd känslor- och helt plötsligt bryts allt. Om du fortfarande känner dig avigt inställd till dina inlajvfiender, eller har det där lilla pirret i magen vid tanke på din inlajvromans så kan det kännas skönt att få prata med spelarna efter lajvet (antingen på plats eller på internet). Tacka dem för att de lajvat mot dig, prata om de scener ni spelat och lär känna personen bakom rollen.

Din roll är spelbar. De flesta erfarna lajvare har nog gjort misstaget att någon gång skapa en roll som är för mycket; för ond, för glad, för skicklig, för olik en själv…För att orka hela lajvet behöver du en roll som är olik dig själv på några punkter (namn, bakgrund, dräkt, mimik, personlighet) men som ändå är nog lik dig för att du ska orka spela. Jag gjorde en gång misstaget att spela en magiker som var för ond; inom en dag hade jag gjort av med all min energi på att spela antagonist mot andra, gjort av med alla elaka saker att göra och var rätt less. Det är ok att göra fel, du kan fixa till det! (tex genom att dö, försvinna eller ändra sin roll med hjälp av arr).

Din roll är lagom svår. Hänger ihop med ovan; men här tänker jag på dina verkliga färdigheter. Om du ska spela en roll med otrolig kondition, skogsvana och vakenhet, så kommer du få ett fysiskt tungt lajv om du vill spela trovärdigt, det kan till och med vara läge att konditionsträna innan lajvet för att orka med att ha roligt (true story…) Spelar du en skicklig bågskytt är det bra att träna med båge några gånger innan lajvet, så du vet hur du hanterar den. Spelar du skrivare, träna med ditt bläck hemma så du vet hur man gör och inte förstör fina dokument. Lajv handlar om att låtsas och att spela, men samtidigt att göra det så pass trovärdigt att du bjuder andra på en upplevelse (jämför med första inlägget och hitta en balans).

Foto från Eterna, Sagors Slut 2014. Här står jag och är en hård skogslevande krigare.

Också med skavsår, träningsvärk och en stukad vrist. Ibland är det hårt att lajva…

Din roll har Intrigöppningar (se även spelyta i del 1). En roll som bott hela sitt liv i ett hus, ensam i skogen och inte har några mål med livet är väldigt svår att erbjuda ett roligt spel. En roll med familj, en förlorad barndomsvän, borttappad skatt, med 2 fiender och ett mål att bli borgmästare däremot- här finns det massor av intrigöppningar för arrangörerna, och andra medspelare, att skapa intressant spel på. Kom ihåg att du som spelare inte behöver skriva in alla detaljer, om det delas ut personliga intriger så kan du be om en fiende, en barndomsvän, gammal bekant osv. En roll blir alltid bättre om den passar in i den fiktiva världen, bland lajvets övriga roller och med din spelidé.

På ett krigslajv kan du spela veteran utan att behöva vara hårdast; andra halvan av lajvet är också krigsveteraner.

Var ärlig med dig själv och arrangörerna. Är ditt största mål på lajvet att uppleva äventyr? Att vara cool? Exempel: Att spela en ny soldatrekryt ger dig möjlighet att möta spel med skräck, upphetsning, spänning eller rädsla. Är du däremot en gammal krigsveteran kommer äventyren rullas upp framför dig utan att du låter dig imponeras, du har ju redan sett allt förr. Ditt kalla handlande och din lugna min får däremot de nya rekryterna att se upp till dig. Bägge spelupplevelserna har sina fördelar; be arrangörerna om hjälp med att välja en roll som passar den upplevelse du vill ha på lajvet.

På mitt första lajv spelade jag piga, fast jag egentligen trodde att jag ville vara soldat. Arrangörerna var genier! Jag blev omhändertagen på värdshuset, fick mat och en varm sovplats, och kunde uppleva allt fantastiskt med lajv och låta mig imponeras, skrämmas och råka ut för äventyr.

Har du redan provat väpnade roller? En grupp utan vapen måste lösa sina intriger på andra sätt. Och behöver andra egenskaper…

När du har lajvat ett tag kanske du blir sugen på att utforska dina begränsningar och utmana dig själv, eller spela roller som vidgar din förståelse för andra. Gör gärna det! Jag har valt roller som är modigare, pratar mer, eller har andra mål än mig själv och därigenom utvecklats både som spelare och medmänniska. Många lajvare provar också andra upplevelser genom att byta status (högre eller lägre) att spela på handikapp (stumhet, skador, enhänt osv) eller att prova nya relationer (kärlek, lojalitet, familjeband).

Att lyckas göra en Bra Roll är inte lätt, och du kommer kanske inte att lyckas på ditt första lajv, eller ens varje lajv när du väl är erfaren. Det gör ju inget det heller- det fina med lajv är ju att du kan försöka igen och prova nya saker hela tiden!

Foto från Skuggsagor 2020, Tinah Ekwall. Ett handelshus innehåller många olika roller att utforska.

 

 


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Making a sleeveless dress in easy steps

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

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

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

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

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

Want to see how I made it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Thoughts on making medieval garments

I wanted to share some thoughts with you today; things I have learned and things I find important when I design medieval clothing. Both for myself and for customers. Being new in any branch of historical reenacting or costuming can be overwhelming, and just like with all other things in life there’s no simple answers or an ultimate guide. “Just read this book, and then you will know everything”… I haven’t found it at least.

But don’t feel overwhelmed! It is such an interesting journey you have ahead, exploring and experiencing other times and new handcrafting. And there are lots of others that love to share their knowledge in this field as well. Here are some great things I have learned over the years, that I like to share whenever I can!

Choosing materials is clearly one of the more difficult things when starting with historical handcrafting, and often the simplest way to succeed in making a good outfit is to pay the price for good material and buy the same as everyone else. Seems boring at first, right? But instead of wanting to make that perfect deal on super-cheap wool in a really unique colour; think about what historical look you want to achieve with your outfit, and what qualities you would like the garment to have.

The places that sell fabrics especially for reenactors often produce high-quality fabrics, and their customers will come back to buy more if they like it. The chance will also be that they are knowledgeable in historical fabrics so you can find materials, colours and qualities that resemble the historical originals, whilst giving you a fabric that will last for a long time at an affordable price.

The quality of the fabric will differ with manufacturers, places of origin, type of material etc so make sure to read up a bit on what material would be good for your individual project. Look at what others say about the seller and the different fabrics they offer and learn some useful words: tabby and twill are weaving techniques, and twill is often more stretchy. Felted means the fabric has been fulled and is often less stretchy, but more weather resistant and smooth. Thin, medium and heavy are different weights in wool fabrics, whereas 120 grams etc are the weight of an m2 fabric.

Fabric shopping at The historical fabric store

It is always best to be able to see and feel the fabric yourself, and now when we stay at home, fabric samples are a good choice. If you have friends, a group of other people around you that are good at different fabrics, ask them for advice (or use a forum online) and always state what kind of garment you would like to make (a kirtle) for what period (14th century) and for what kind of use (reenactment event during winter etc). That way you may save both money and effort instead of buying the first fabric you find, and then get disappointed.

Preparation of fabric

Wool and Linen

I always prewash fabrics before sewing, even for my customers. I know that many in the field claim that you can’t wash wool fabrics in water, but that’s just bullsh*t. Of course you can wash fabrics, at least good ones. Bad ones? Might shrink uneven, get too much wear or completely change the look, feel and even the colour in contact with water. But you know what? That is not ok for garment fabrics. They should be made to endure everyday wear and wet weather, washing, food stains and so on. Those things totally existed in the medieval ages, it would be strange if your medieval outfit couldn’t endure the same right?

Furthermore, prewashing fabrics will release the weaving tension in the warp, making it shrink slightly and give you the fall it will have after ironing/washing/a rainstorm. You could get the same result by steaming the fabric with an iron before sewing, but that won’t remove the…

Chemicals and anti-mould treatments. Fabric today needs to last for longer times during shipping and warehousing, and look good when arriving on the shelf in the fabric store. To achieve this most fabrics (and ready-made garments) are treated with different kind of chemicals, which will wash out in the washing process. Or rub off on your body… Not a good thought, right? Always prewash your fabrics!

Linen: soak in water a while before washing, to get a smoother fabric. Not necessary, but worth it. Fold it loosely in the bathtub for example. Wash the wet fabric in 40- 60 degrees C (the temperature you would like to wash your linen shift/shirt in later) hang to dry and then iron on a high temperature.

Wool: wash by hand or use the wool setting in the washing machine. Use cold to lukewarm water and wool detergent. If you don’t have that, use a little shampoo, because wool is hair, and will not look its best after strong detergents. Also, hot water might felt it and make it look dull.

Silk and silk velvets are the only fabrics I don’t wash before use, but rather iron very gently and hang out to air before use.

This dress has been washed several times in water, and still looks like new.

Which thread?

That depends on what fabric you want to use, and what you want to make. But I prefer natural materials and “same for same”: silk for silk fabric, linen threads for linen, and wool for wool fabrics. Oh, or silk and linen for wool fabrics too, because that is a historical choice and very easy to work with. If you prefer to use a sewing machine, cotton thread for linen and silk for wool garments work nice. A polyester thread is a bit too “sharp” and might lead to breakage in the fabric rather than the seam if you happen to get stuck in something with your garment. But yeah, it will work on a sewing machine if that is what you have, I just don’t recommend it.

Where to start?

It is always good to start with underwear like a shirt, shift and breeches. They will make up the base, are often easier to make and linen is not as expensive as wool. Also, you’ll get to try out the fit, the seams and some techniques.

After that, it is more a question of what you need versus what you are inspired to start with. Remember, handcrafting should be fun and not only practical! I like to make a middle/base layer next, often in wool, to be worn on warm events or when I work. After this is done, I adjust and finish of necklines at under-garments so they are not visible (if that is not fashionable) and start with some accessories and another layer for warmth and weather protection. The medieval period (and others too) often have an outfit made up of several layers, and that is really practical when going to outdoor events!

Wearing a thin wool gown on a summer event. Photo taken by Catrine Lilja Kanon

Another good tip is to make a mock-up or toile, basically a try out on the garment you desire, made in a cheap/recycled cotton fabric. It might seem as you are doing the work twice, but this is really handy as you get to try out the pattern, fit and look on the garment without risking that really expensive fabric. And if the mock-up gets really good, you just pick apart the basted seams and use it as a pattern!

Basting is also a good investment; long-running stitches will hold together your fabric pieces enough for a final fit before sewing and will make it both faster and easier to sew all the seams by hand. I will confess, when I started sewing medieval clothing I NEVER basted anything and rarely pinned the seams, but after several surprises (Whot, how come I got this fit?) I learned it was both better and faster to check the fit, before sewing the final seams…

How to decide on social class and status?

Ohh, don’t ask me, I always change between working-class garments and fancy party outfits depending on the event, place and what I feel like… But generally, just go for whatever catches your fancy! Or pick clothing after your preferred activities; are you going to stroll around a market fair with friends? Visit a fancy banquet? Or do you prefer mud wrestling, archery, beer taverns or outdoor cooking? Not only will you look much better with the right kind of clothing, but you will also find that your activities will be much more fun with the right garments! A short dress and practical hood for the forest archery, or a thin and cool kirtle with hose for the indoor festivities.

A well of working-class doublet, perfect for active events…

And a silk brocade doublet for those fancy strolls in the garden

Garments you need

This is always a tricky question, as it depends on the weather, the type of event and the gender and social status you want to portray. I thought I did great at my first events wearing a linen tunic, shoes and a cloak, I neither froze too much nor died, but nowadays I confess to having higher standards… Like, I want to both look like I fit in the historical context, being comfy, not getting too many mosquito bites, and not freeze during chilly evenings. I also like to change my linen underwear every day to feel fresh, as well as having some change of outerwear/dresses just because I feel like it. (Oh, now I’m babbling again. You would never guess how much text I always have to delete because of babbling…)

Getting dressed in the morning; linen shift, wool hose and leather turn shoes

1. You generally need linen underwear and a change for longer events. Several changes, if you’re not going to wash the clothes during the event. We want to look medieval, not smell medieval…

2. A thin or medium warm wool layer for summer events, for working or for indoor events.

3. An outer layer for cold evenings, if you get wet or want to look well dressed. I recommend another layer of kirtle/dress/coat rather than a cloak to get more use out of your clothing.

4. Headwear like hats, veils, hoods etc. Both to complete the outfit esthetically, but also because it gives you cover from weather and bugs.

5. Shoes! Don’t forget shoes, make or buy a pair that is looking good and feels comfortable. Hose (long or short) with thin leather soles is also workable on warm events, paired with pattens.

6. Accessories, both fancy and practical: belt, garters, bags, purses, cloaks, headwear, gloves… You name it. These can really set the style and time period, so check out sources before you decide on what to add to complete your outfit!

A 15th c outfit in 3 layers; shift, middle kirtle and overdress complete with shoes, headwear and accessories.

Wear it!

Historical clothing should be worn, because it is awesome and comfy and looks great… You know that you’re allowed to wear it around the house right? Or take the great cloak for that chilly walk, or use the apron when doing gardening work. You shouldn’t need to be super careful with your garments, they will look even better when you have worn them a couple of times. My favourite shift is 6 years old and worn transparent thin over my shoulders and back after months of wearing, but I love it.

And make it last longer:

If you have long skirts, fold them up or pull them up into your belt when walking so you don’t step on the hem, or drag it through the mud. That will make the fabric last longer. Protect the handsewn leather turn shoes with pattens when walking through rain or mud, and always mend holes and rips as soon as you find them on your garments. At the end of the season, I always wash, mend, air and look through all my garments before putting them into the wardrobe. For this covid-year though, I recommend taking them out for airing a time or two to avoid dust and bugs.

Getting dressed in historical clothing is actually a bit different than getting dressed in your favourite comfy pants and T-shirt. If you are used to wearing stretchy clothing, you will need to be a bit more careful getting dressed and undressed with woven natural fibres. Imagine it more like a suit, pull it carefully over your head, always open lacing and buttons before removing the garment, and never “jump” into your medieval joined hose. Another tip to make your hose last longer is to always pull them up before kneeling or sitting and to wear garters under the knee to make them stay in place.

Early 14th c outfit with accessories

Yeah, I think I got the most parts down here, and it became quite the long blog post. Maybe I am tired of sitting at home, talking to the cats and love all the time? Who am I kidding? I am REALLY tired of sitting at home, I miss events, adventures and being able to go out and do fun stuff. But most of all, I miss you friends, readers and fellow history travelers! Stay safe and take care so we can meet each other soon!

Love, L