This is my walk-through on how I made my green 15th c kirtle/dress in wool. It is not a complete tutorial with all details, so if you have never sewn before I recommend starting with a shift or other straight garment. If you want more good sewing tip, you will find many problems addressed in my other tutorials.
This is a common late 15th c middle dress for women, it is quite easy to make, practical and is shown in many different pictures from the period. Your choice of colour, neckline, clasps and other details will make it different, and if you choose a thicker wool fabric it will work as an overdress too. The artwork I have used is from 1470-1485.
You will need about 3-4 meters of thin wool fabric, I bought mine from Handelsgillet, they have a thin twill fabric that is easy to work with and quite historically accurate for the period. I fell in love with the perfect green colour… And you can see some examples of green kirtles at the bottom of this blog post and in other artworks from the period. The shade can be achieved with plant dying but is more expensive than a madder red or yellow, and I think it makes a good option for my outfit; a well of burgher from a city.
I lined my dress with prewashed, unbleached linen, but you only need to line the upper body for some stability, and that will need a maximum of 1 meter. I sew my dress by hand, with waxed linen thread. Running stitches for the main seams, back stitches in armholes and sides, and whip stitches for the seam allowances and hems, are all you need. The dress closes with hooks and eyes, be sure to have lots of them!
This is what the model looks like, it is really simple, and if you have a personal toile/mock-up for your upper body you can use that with some small modifications. The front opening should have a slightly curved seam to follow your body, and the closure makes the front pieces lay edge to edge.
Comparing to a supportive kirtle, you need a bit more room now for your bust area, it should be quite loose and lay over your breast, to get the shape of the period. Make a new mock-up in fabric and make the front pieces a bit wider, and try it out.
The sleeves are regular S-sleeves or a sleeve with a curved upper edge and seam under your arm. You can see both from the period, though the S-sleeve seems to be more common. The skirt is made up of 4 pieces in my dress. Here are the pieces I used together with my measures (around 36-38/small European size)
The dotted line on one of the skirt panel indicates a gore to save some fabric, but I wrote out the wrong number of pieces; the left panel is the front and you only need one of them. But this is just one way to create the skirt; you can use more pieces, gores, or just 2 wider parts.
The upper body back piece is whole, you can shape the back in the sides and with the help of the waist seam.
I lost my sketch of the outlay but made another one just to show you. Since I am a rather petite person, I can use the width of the fabric for most outlays, but if you are longer than I am (around 160 cm) you may want to lay the skirt panels out the other way. In this picture the panels are a bit wider in the back than that above, so you only need two. The front is straight or almost straight. Note also that I apparently drafted regular sleeves instead of S-sleeves, but you will get the idea…
After I cut out all the pieces, I basted the dress together to try it out. When happy with the fit and measures, I started to sew all the seams by hand. If you keep the correct basting stitches while sewing, you don’t need to pin and can easily work on the sofa, super cosy!
Make the dress in the following order:
Sew the upper body together, front and back pieces, and then sew the sleeves before you insert them in the body.
Sew the skirt panels together, but leave around 20 cm at the top centre front, to be able to put the dress on (the slit shown on the first sketch). I hemmed the body and the skirts upper circle separately, and then attached them to one another with whip stitches. This seam will get a lot of wear, so it is nice to make it twice or use a sturdy thread, like the buttonhole silks or a thicker linen thread, like 35/2.
When the whole dress was assembled together, I put it on my doll to hang out for some days, before I cut and hemmed the skirt and sleeves. If you have a doll, it is really good to leave the dress hanging for a couple of days before hemming, this will make the fabric in the skirt stretch out, and you can cut away excess fabric to make the hem even.
The front with its lining is sewn from the right side, first with basting and then with a seam. To make the front opening and the neckline more durable I added a second row of stitches around.
The hooks and eyes are fastened last. This is what it looks like on the inside, note that I have sewn the hooks and eyes not only in the loops but also at the stems/higher up. This will make your opening lay flat and give that characteristic look at the closure you can see on 15th c paintings.
And finally, some of my favourite artworks that I used during my research. As you can see, they are all green kirtles, of the same models, but with some different cuts, necklines, closures and headwear.
Historically accurate? My main aim with making this outfit was practicality, durability and a dress I would feel comfortable in, based on period clothing. With this said, I aimed to make the dress (and outfit) as historically believable as possible from my means.
The fabric is machine woven and dyed to cut on costs, but the pattern construction, sewing techniques, material and look aims to be close to the dresses from the period. Another modern take is the hooks and eyes, which are machine-made instead of handmade.
I rarely work with metal due to some problem with my joints, but I tried to make a couple of hooks and eyes by hand. It is not hard work, they got quite pretty, but I didn’t make enough of them for a dress.
One thing I did give a lot of thought was the lining. My experience is that lining a skirt with a different material that is sewn down in a slim hemline rarely gives a good result. But I was curious and gave it a try with the method of letting the skirt and skirt lining hang down before cutting and hemming. It worked quite well but gave me a lot more work than leaving the skirt unlined. In artwork, you can often see a lining inside the dresses, and this was a try to make one without adding warmth with another wool layer.
This is a tutorial with very detailed step-to-step instructions, and I will base other tutorials on this one and simply state “do as in the simple dress tutorial but…” so this is a go-to for many different garments. I call it the simple dress since it is so versatile, the base for so many other garments!
It is also suitable to make men’s kirtle, tunics and coats, just adjust measures and fitting to a male body. Most garments are more difficult to make for women’s bodies since the measures differ more, and therefore you will find more tutorials on my page for women’s clothing.
This is the dress we are going to make. Note that a regular S-sleeve does not have two seams, only one at the back. The reason my dress have two seams in the sleeves are 1. you will learn how to make that for doublets, jackets and 2. I saved fabric that I was short on.
If sewing on a sewing machine, pin from right to left, across the seam, to make it easy to remove the pins while sewing. If sewing by hand, pin along the seamline so as not to get the pins in your hand, or baste the seams before sewing.
When pinning; always lay your pieces on a flat surface (a table or the floor) and work on that while pinning. This will make the work easier, and the seams better.
Basting seams are an easy way to try the fit, size, movement and drape of skirts while sewing. Basting the armhole before sewing makes that seam easier to finish nicely. When you pin/baste together long seams, such as a diagonal cut gore with a straight panel, put the gore (the diagonally cut stretchy part) under the other one, when sewing on a machine the gore will not stretch.
Don’t be afraid to cut out your armhole according to your body. The sleeve should cover your arm, the arm joint, but fit snugly under your arm (in the armpit). A too shallow armhole will make your sleeve hang, but too wide will make movement hard. Experiment on scrap fabric first.
How many gores? Two are enough for undergarments and knee-long kirtles, four or more will give you more width, a smoother and more even fall of fabric and more movement when walking. Regular seam allowance is 1,5 cm. For hems 2 cm. You can pick whatever measure you want between 1 cm-3 cm, just remember what you chose. Seam allowance is mentioned as SA in this post.
Wash and iron your fabric before sewing. The fabric is prepped with chemicals to avoid mould or bugs during the shipping and selling process and could be stretched uneven after the weaving. It will also most likely shrink a little, so this makes you able to wash your clothes after using them.
Start with your measures:
Around your widest part on your upper body(often over the bust).
Length of the garment; from shoulder to hem.
Length of arm; from shoulder-elbow, while bent 90 degrees, to the wrist.
Around your wrist (for tight buttoned sleeves) or around your hand to be able to take on and off the garment.
Create your armhole (if you find this hard; try to measure around a loose shirt or blouse. The armhole should be a bit loose without hanging).
Length from shoulder to natural waist (for women) to hip (for men). This is where I attach the gores.
Draft the pieces you need on a bit of paper. Calculate the measures you need:
Around your widest part of torso: Divide in 2. Add seam allowance: 3 cm/piece. Add some extra for movement: around 6%. Example: around bust: 100 cm. Divide in 2= 50 cm. Add s.a = 53 cm/piece. Add movement = 53 + 6% = around 56 cm. Each piece is now 56 cm wide.
Length of garment; from shoulder to hem. Add seam allowance: 2 cm = hem + 1,5 cm for shoulders. Example: dress should be 140 cm when finished. Length of piece: 143,5 cm.
Length of arm; from shoulder (around elbow while bent 90 degrees) to wrist: Example: 64 cm. Add SA., so sleeve pieces should be 64 +1,5 +2 cm= 67,5 cm. Try on before hemming to adjust the length to your taste.
Around your wrist (for tight buttoned sleeves) or around your hand to be able to take on and off the garment): The narrow part of the sleeve. Check so you can put it on/off. Shape the sleeve to your taste so it fits comfortable around your arm while sewing the sleeve. This is just the starting measure.
Around your armhole (if you find this hard; try to measure around a loose shirt or blouse. The armhole should be a bit loose without hanging). The measure you got is divided into 2, for a measure of the sleeve hole on the front and back piece. Example: around my armhole, I have 56 cm. 56/2=28 cm. Each armhole on the pieces should be no more than 28 cm (measure the curve).
The sleeve base should be 2 cm wider than the complete armhole. 56 cm + 2 cm= 58 cm (measure around the S curve of the arm) add SA: 58 + 3 cm= 61cm is the sleeve base measure.
Length from shoulder to natural waist (for women) to hip (for men). This is where I attach the gores. For example: my measure is 38 cm. From the shoulder, I measure 38 cm and make a line, here is where the gores should be attached on front and back pieces. For gores in the middle back and front, cut a straight line to 1 cm below this measure (39 cm from shoulder) to insert them. Check out my tutorial on how to make these
Length of gores: length of the dress – length from shoulder to waist/hip + 3,5 cm SA. Example: 143,5 cm -38 cm = 105,5 cm + 3,5 cm = 109 cm.
The width of gores depends on what kind of dress you would like to do, your overall size and how much fabric you have. I recommend a measure between 50-80 cm for each gore. A lower-class garment might have narrower gores, a fancy dress wider. If you calculate on a larger size than this example, let the width of the gores follow the other measures. For example: if your circumference around your torso is 20% more, also add 20% width to the gores. This will make sure the dress keep good proportions and all the drape.
When calculating all these measures, draft them out on your pattern pieces to remember them.
Then, draft all the pieces on your fabric with a fabric marker and ruler. Check that you have made all the pieces with the right measurements and that all are drawn onto your fabric before cutting. Mark them with front/back/sleeve/gore.
Cut them out. If I work with linen, silk or brocade that will fray, I sometimes zigzag around all pieces on my sewing machine.
Sew the pieces together in this order:
Make the sleeves
Attach the gores to dress front, back, sides
Side seams; front to back and gores so the sides will be completely closed
Sew the sleeves into the armholes
Hemming and adjusting length
Note: This work order goes for both the sewing machine and hand-sewing. When I make a seam I finish it off before starting the next one. That means;
sewing the pieces together front to front
pressing down the seam allowance on the wrong side (the inside)
cut down the seam allowance on one side
press again, the wider over the cut one
whip stitch the seam allowance down (can also be done when the dress is ready if you want to try the fit during sewing)
The reason to press the seams before sewing another one is that you will have flat and nice looking seams, and it will be easier to make the next one crossing the first. I really recommend you to at least press the seam allowance once, it makes such a difference!
Step-to-step for sewing the dress.
Pin the seam on the S-sleeve (the back seams if you have a sleeve in two pieces.
Sew the seam with running stitches or a sewing machine. Remember to fasten/lock all seams at the start and finish. Here 1 cm SA is shown. I prefer 1,5 cm to easy fell the seam and whip stitch it down.
Press the seams with an iron. If you use fine wool or silk, a damp pressing cloth (cotton cloth) can be used between iron and garment pieces to avoid pressing marks. In the photos below you can see the difference between a pressed and a new seam. Totally worth the effort!
When pressing: press the SA to both sides. Let it cool. Cut down one of the sides to half the width. Press the other SA over the cut one, pin down if necessary. This will create a sturdy seam when sewn down, saves you time and looks neat on the right side.
Pin and sew the other sleeve seam (if any). Press it the same way as the first seam. This is easiest with a sleeve ironing board, but if you don’t have any; press the seam with the sleeve laying flat on the board. Try to avoid creating folds in the sleeve with the iron.
These photos show the technique with and without a sleeve ironing board
This dress use 4 gores, one at the middle front, one back, and one in each side seam. The gores give you movement and a good drape to the skirt. On female garments I want the gores to start by the natural waist (where you are slimmest) to accentuate the curve of the hip and belly. On men’s garments, I start at the hip bone to give movement but no feminine curves.
Tip: When drafting your gores, do not make them into straight triangles, but make them slightly curved at the base. Like in this example: the gore should be 100 cm long, and as you can see the rectangle is just that, so the gore will be exactly 100 cm at the middle, but at the sides, you need to measure from the top and down, 100 cm, and that will be a bit shorter than to the line.
Why? To get the right measures, and a good shape at the bottom hem, as described in this picture:
The gores are cut at a diagonal/bias on the fabric. This means they tend to stretch more than the front and back pieces when pinning and sewing. To avoid this, work on a smooth surface and pin + sew the seams with the gore under the front/back piece. This is mainly a problem on a sewing machine with too much pressure on the presser, but also a good tip for hand sewing.
One gore has a seam in the middle to save fabric. Pin, sew and press this seam first. I like to place this gore in the back so it wont show, and to create symmetry in the dress. Then, cut the front and back center to be able to attach gores there. Make the cut line about two cm shorter than the gores; like this:
Start with the side gores, pinning them to the front. Sew them in place, and press both seams the same way you did with the sleeves.
Pin the front and back gores to the front/back pieces, right side to right side, one seam at a time. Sew it but leave the last 6-8 cm at the top. Repeat with the other seam, so you will have two gores with the tip lose. I prefer to make the tip by hand, from the right side of the garment
3 different ways to insert gores:
Press the seams you made, and press the SA on the front and back to either side of the slit, as if it was already done, from the wrong side. When reaching the end of the slit, the s.a will become narrower, and then disappear. Turn the piece and work from the right side. Pin the gore in the slit, so it lays flatly under the already pressed s.a of the front/back. Then sew it in place with a small whip stitch. With this method, you can check the gore to be sure it fits nicely, and it does not matter if it turns out a little bit too big; it will look perfect!
Another method is to sew the whole gore with this technic, if you sew your garment by hand. This is also historically accurate. Start with pressing down the s.a on the front and back slits, and then pin the gore along each side, and sew it from the right side using whip stitches. Press the s.a on the wrong side, and sew this down with whip stitches on the wrong side to, like when felling the seams in the sleeves.
If you only want to use the sewing machine, work on the inside of the garment, and continue with your sewing machine seam to the top of the gore, making the SA narrower as you go along the last 4-6 cm. If it is hard to see, fasten the seam, turn the gore up and sew it from the other side (still on the inside, just flip the garment from front/back to gore side). This might take a few tries before you get it right, just go slow and be prepared to rip the seam and try again if not satisfied.
When the gores in front and back are finished, sew the side seams; the side gores to the back piece and then the side seams (leave a hole for your arms for now. When all the gores are finished, remember to press all the seams!
I like to draft the neckline by hand for each garment, to be able to adjust it to each look I want. The secret is to try it on often, and just cut away a little at a time. You can choose between pinning, basting or sewing the shoulder seams before this. Make them the same way you did the other seams, but don’t press them yet.
Start with drafting a neckline, and armholes. Put the front and back on top of each other, mark the middle and draft a small neck-hole. Mine is 18 cm across, 9 on each side of the middle. Make it shallow, about 4 cm, just in order to try it on. You can then draft the shape and size of your neckline directly on your body in the shape you want (just put the dress on, inside out and draft in front of a mirror. Copy the side you liked best to the other side, left or right. The neck will probably just be cut down with some cm, depending on your size, while the front will be deeper. Remember to leave 1-1,5 cm SA; when you hem the neckline it will be a bit bigger than before.
Making armholes is much easier if you already got a toile/mock-up to copy, but you can try this too: Put the dress on, inside out, and draft the armholes where your shoulder joint start, follow the curve at the front. Mark where the holes should meet at the side, as tight under the arm as possible. Do this at the back (ask a friend) or take the dress off and draft on a flat surface.
Now you should have a drafted line at front and back. Measure these ones, and compare them with the measure you took for your armhole in the beginning. Redo if necessary, the armhole should be a bit narrower than the sleeves (about 2-4 cm) in order to make a well-fitted sleeve. The front curve is deeper, and the back more shallow, but they should start and finish at roughly the same place on the shoulder seam and side seam. It does not matter if one line is a bit longer (front/back) than the other, as long as the circumference is correct.
This is the difference between the front and back of my dress. Note that I also cut down the shoulder seams to become a bit sloping. This is optional for you, if you have very sloping shoulders it will help you with the fit. If needed, do this before the shoulder seams are finished. Then sew the shoulder seams and press them.
Attaching the sleeves
The next step is to attach the sleeves, and I will be honest with you; it can be a bit tricky at first, so don’t give up if you have to rip the seam a couple of times before you get satisfied. The most important thing is to take the time to pin/baste the sleeve to the body and check it out. Don’t hurry!
You will have two sleeves, sewn together to tubes. Baste the sleeve cap (top curve of the sleeve) with loose running stitches.
If you want to check out how the fit is; baste the sleeves around the armholes, and try the dress on. Move around, stretch. Bulkiness at the front might be trimmed down a little. If the sleeve seems tight on top of the shoulder a bit more sleeve fabric might be moved upwards. Do not bother if the sleeve gets a little creased or has small folds, that will be possible to fit inside the armhole, that is what the basting is mainly for. When you think you have something:
Mark out the top of the sleeve (towards the shoulder seam) and the bottom (armpit on sleeve towards the side seam) with a marker or pin. Maybe there will be more sleeve on the back of your body, but that is just fine, you use it when reaching in front of you. Now you are ready to sew the sleeve into the dress!
This is a step-to-step on how to insert a sleeve in the armhole and make it fit. Use it as a guide if you felt unsure about the above: Turn the sleeves to the right side. Put the sleeves inside the inside out dress, and fit them into the armhole. They should lay right side to right side now.
Pin the sleeve marked shoulder – shoulder seam and marked armpit – side seam. Continue to pin the armpit, the part under the arm. Lay the fabrics smooth against each other, no folds.
The sleeve is a bit wider than the armhole, so it should make small waves, like in these pictures. This will be solved with the basting thread you sew on the sleeve. Gently pull them to gather the fabric of the sleeve a bit, in order to fit it inside the armhole. As the sleeve follow the arm hole curve better, pin it in place. The fabric should not make folds, but only gentle crinkles or waves. Adjust if you need. The basted and pulled together fabric should only be pinned to the upper half of the sleeve, never in the armpit.
When you have worked your way around the hole with pins and like the result, baste it in place with big running stitches. Make the other sleeve up in the same way, or try to make it the same… When satisfied; flip the dress to the right side, and try it on. Check the fit of the sleeves and your movement. A bit bulkiness around the armhole is ok, but there should not be folds or stretched fabric sections.
If it looks good, turn the dress back inside out, and sew the sleeves following the basting (with machine or backstitches). Then remove all the basting stitches.
To finish the seams, press them on a sleeve ironing board, or roll a bath towel firmly and put it inside the sleeve if you don’t have one. Press the SA down in each direction, then finish the seams like the ones before. I press them towards the body and whip stitch them down.
Wow, good job! Almost finished. Try the dress on again to adjust the length, hemline, sleeve hems and neckline if needed.
The sleeves should be a little too long when the arm is hanging, to fit nicely when you use your arms and bend the elbow. Check, mark any change you want to make, and do the same to the neckline.
Ask a friend to check the hemline of the dress so it looks even, mark a new hemline if needed. Remember to check the length with the correct shoes/belt since these can make a difference to how long the dress look. When satisfied, cut away any excess fabric and hem the dress. I prefer to fold the edge twice and whipstitch it down by hand. Remember that our SA for hemming was 2 cm. Thick wools only need a single fold before sewing.
Thats it! Now we have a nice dress, and you can use this tutorial for other garments as well.
Did you like this post? You can find a step-by-step video on a similar dress along with more guides and pattern on my Patreon. Join me there to help me make more tutorials!
Making that matching outfit doesn’t have to difficult or impossible expensive, but it does take a fair bit of planning: before. Yes, I know it is the most boring part, but thinking before shopping is what makes the thing. So I put together a list of my best tips for making an outfit that makes everyone go “Wow” when they see it.
1. Decide on a colour scheme that you like, and follow it. You should have 2 base colours, with additional tones to match. In my case, orange and warm yellow is my main colours, as you can see on the amber necklace, the woven belt, the shawl and the apron dress. The hair band have a darker orange colour, but it is warm and intense to match the other tones. The red coat and the middle woolen dress brings in the additional colours to make the outfit interesting but have likewise a warm toned base.
2. Add some contrast or mismatch to intensify your matching outfit (yes, it works like that) it could be the opposite colour (red-green or yellow-blue) or a really dark detail to an otherwise light outfit. In my case, the green glass beads does match the yellow tones, but breaks nicely with the red ones. Still, they are in the same warm tone as the rest of the outfit. The uncoloured beige dress is another example; it doesn’t follow the main theme but have a warmer undertone so it works fine with the other warmer shades.
3. Patterns or texture adds interest and depth to any colour. My apron dress is woven in a herringbone twill, and the coat is a bit uneven in its colour due to different dyes in the fabric, which is barely visible but adds texture and interest to the finished garment.
4. Darker and lighter shades; when choosing your colours make sure you have different shades and not only different colours. For example; yellow-orange-red make for a change in both colour and shade, but a light blue paired with a similar light green makes the outfit a bit flat. Add a darker green or blue-green tone and you will make the outfit more interesting!
5. Layers; plan for all the layers at once, and make sure they have different tones, shades or textures if they follow the same colour theme. In this case, you won’t end up having two orange dresses on top of each other, and can make sure that details will be visible.
6. Details; don’t we all love a well put together outfit? Making details lifts an outfit, and it can be both jewelry, accessories as well as useful tools, a knife, a jug or something like. Match it in colour, tone, shade or shape to your outfit. In my case, I chose to make a tablet weave to reinforce the apron dress, make the straps, and a matching headband. Having the same colour/pattern appear in different places adds interest and makes the outfit look well planned and matching.
7. Consider your own colours; colour schemes and matching is a whole science on its own, and there is plenty to read or check out on YouTube. Matching colours, creating interesting outfits and the like works the same way on historical clothing as on modern outfits or make up. Consider your own colours, if you have a warm or cold undertone in your skin, and consider what you like to wear. Using those kinds of colours will both make you more comfortable and happy during historical events. But also consider the historical finds; if you love to wear black and dark blue maybe that is not the best choise for your farmer viking outfit. But as these are considered as neutral colours in our modern eyes, maybe a dark grey with soft, plant dyed blues will do great for your viking outfit?
Got inspired? Did you find this guide useful? Please let me know by liking my FB page or leaving a comment on the blog!
The last tutorial was about how I made my first Houppelande (medieval overdress) that was an early houppelande, with a pattern layout that saved in on the fabric.
Now we move on to the opposite; a full circular houppelande dress that was the high fashion during the 15th century, and were worn by both men and women (with different lengths and fashion details of course) The construction method for this one is open for discussion; there might have been gores and more pieces according to different fabric widths during the medieval period. This layout is practical and simple if your fabric is 150 cm wide and you want the houppelande to be of as much fabric as possible, the small pieces allowing you to save in on the fabric a little.
The construction idea is from an article I found ages ago (that is now lost on the internet?) And later tailor’s books which shows very full dresses for women and coats for men. The shape, style and drape of this method also look similar to paintings of houppelandes.
First, you need a lot of fabric! How much depends on your length, in this example, I make a pattern that gives you a dress around 150 cm long; good for the shorter woman or for a man (since houppes for men usually leaves at least the shoes visible) That means you will need 5,2 meters of fabric for the dress itself, and then another 1,5 to 3 meters for the sleeves. Oh, and maybe a full lining too?
The pattern is basically 4 quarters of a circle; forming a full circle when put together. The small pieces save you some fabric, but you may cut out the full quarter circles if you prefer. If you go with the pieces, then sew them together with the quarters the first thing when you have cut them out, so you have 4 whole quarters.
Then, sew the shoulder seams together, that is the short straight seams above the arrows. Leave the armholes (on the pattern they are cut out as half-moons) and sew the sides together. To know how wide your armholes should be; measure yourself loosely around your armpit, or use a previous pattern. Add extra cm for movement; at least 5-6 cm.
The seam length of the shoulder should follow your shoulder; between 10-14 cm depending on how long shoulders you have. The armholes should be laying on the body, not falling down from the shoulder to your upper arm. Cut away what you don’t need, a little at a time if you are unsure.
When you are satisfied with the shoulder, armholes and side seams, sew the back and front together with each other, front to front, back to back. In the front, you leave an opening big enough so you can dress and undress easily. On paintings, some dresses are open almost to the hip. In the back you need to leave an opening big enough for your neck, try it on and you will understand! The open seam will give you the neckline on the back, and can then be cut for a rounder style if you like, or you could add a collar.
So, that was it- quick and easy yes? Now the dress should look something like the sketch above, and you can attach the sleeves to the dress. Sleeves? Well, that is for the next part of the Houppelande tutorial series. Stay tuned!
Underwear in linen – you can always use another one. Here is an easy and basic tutorial about how to make your own. I use prewashed white or natural linen fabric, about 150 cm in width. You need about 2 meters for a shift for size small to medium. If you are tall, take another 50-60 cm. If you need a bigger size or want the shift to be long and full, take 3 meters of fabric (or draw out the pattern pieces on paper first.)
Before you start:
Soak the fabric in water for a couple of hours, then prewash in 40-60 degrees C. Zigzaging the edges before washing will prevent fraying. Hang dry linen, and iron it on high heat after it is dry. Now you are ready to sew, without having to worry about the garment shrinking during washing.
Take your measures:
Length of shift/shirt + 3 cm seam allowance (SA).
Width of shift (around your chest or your widest part of your upper body) + 6 % for movement.
Width of armholes + some cm for movement. Compare with a modern shirt that fits you.
Length of the arm, from shoulder to wrist.
After measuring yourself; draw out the pieces you need on paper with the measurements you got. This is my layout with pattern pieces; front, back, two sleeves, two sleeve gussets, two side gores (one is split in two). Add seam allowance (SA) 1-1,5 cm on each side, 2 cm at hems (sleeve wrist, neck-line, bottom hem).
I cut out my neckline at once, but you can start with a narrow neck-hole of around 18 cm width, sew your shift together and then try it on to adjust the neckline to your taste. Note that I also cut out my armholes on the body pieces; around 4-6 cm on the shoulders and then in a straight line down. This makes the shift lay better on my shoulders.
Draw the pieces on fabric:
When everything has been drafted on paper with measurement+ SA added, it is easier to transfer it all to the fabric. Draft the pieces out on your linen, starting with front and back pieces, sleeves, then side gores and sleeve gussets (if you want any). I draft my side gores around 40-60 cm wide but use the fabric you have and adjust to your size (xs-small=minimum 40 cm, medium=min 50 cm, large= min 60 cm etc.)
If you are going to sew everything on the machine, start with a zig-zag or serger around all fabric edges. This is important so the fabric wont fray and fall apart when wearing and washing.
If you sew your shift by hand, start with assembling the pieces, and then finish off the edges. Backstitches for assembling, and whipstitch down SA and double folded edges are durable and historically accurate.
After this, it is time to sew the pieces together. Start with the sleeves + sleeve gussets and then assemble the split side-gore. Next step is to sew the side-gores to the sides of the front piece. I always pin the pieces first, on a flat surface.
Sew the pieces together, and press the SA to each side with an iron, or by hand. Repeat these step after every seam, and it will be easier to sew the crossing seams nicely and make the seams look better.
Sew the shoulders together. When these are done, lay the garment out on a flat surface, with the right side up, and put the sleeves on top of the garment right side down and pin the sleeves to the armholes. (You don’t need to do a fitted sleeve on this item, just sew the sleeves in place as a regular flat seam.) The middle of the sleeve should meet the shoulder seam, continue to sew along the sleeve until you reach the gusset, sew this in place but leave 1 cm open at the edge.
Pin the side seams and sleeves together. I start sewing from the wrist, along the sleeve to the start of the gusset. Then I sew the gusset in place from the sleeve to the armhole, fasten the thread, change directions and sew the gusset to the armhole and down towards the side gussets.
When sewing the area around the sleeve gussets you might find it a bit bulky. Don’t be afraid to finish your seam, cut the threads and then change direction or the way the fabric run on the machine (or in your hand). Pinning or basting before sewing is also a great help. Remember your SA on the gusset; leave 1-1,5 cm open at the edges of the seams to make it fit. Make it as easy as possible for you at every step and you will find it much more fun!
When your garment is assembled, try it on to adjust the neckline and the length of the sleeves if necessary, and then finish the hems by hand. The easiest way to do this in a historical way, is to fold the hemline twice and whip stitch it down (this will keep the fabric from fraying, or hide your zig zag stitch). I use waxed linen thread in the same tone as the fabric, which makes for a descreet seam.
Good luck sewing!
Check out my shirt tutorial for help on how to sew a linen garment by hand.
Since I made my first houppelande (late medieval overdress) some years ago, I have been thinking about putting together a tutorial for you, to make it easier to understand the construction techniques behind the dress.
As it turned out, the houppelande dress is a bigger project than I thought at the beginning, so I’m doing the tutorials in different parts so it will be easier for you to find the model you are most interested in, and to get a nice overview of the whole dress style.
I start with my first woollen houppelande:
This was somewhat of an experiment trying out both pattern and what it would look like finished. I could not find my original sketch for the pattern layout, but it did look something like this:
Some notes; this type of pattern layout work well in a tabby weave since it doesn’t matter if you turn your front and back pieces, but you can also use an even sided twill like I did. If doing this type of pattern on a patterned fabric, you can have the pattern one way on the front pieces and the opposite on the back pieces, which work really well I think, if you want to save on the fabric.
The amount of fabric needed for this layout, in size small, is 150 cm * 280 cm (I used 3 meters of fabric, so I had a slightly larger hem.
F=front, B=back and FM= front middle gore. S1 and S2 are the sleeves. I always recommend drawing out your pattern before you do it on your fabric, it gives you the opportunity to see if all the pieces have room and if you can add some extra circumference to the skirt. I also use to draw out how the garment will look finished, to give you an extra idea of the result. The small cut out pattern piece I use to draw the pieces faster by drawing around it on the paper.
This is what it looked like once I had cut out all the pieces. After cutting, baste your pieces together to try them on, or sew them at once. I used running stitches and back stitches for parts where there was more stress on the seams (like around the body, the armholes, and the top of the front gore). I also pressed the seam allowances down and whip stitched them. You can of course sew your dress on a sewing machine if you would like, just be sure to pin or baste the skirt lengths first so they don’t stretch uneven.
Always pin or baste your pieces together when they lay flat on a surface. After this is done, you can have the garment in your knee, sitting comfy on the sofa and sewing without having the seams getting all uneven. I started with the front gore, then sew the front and back pieces together. The sleeves were made after the “fitted sleeve” tutorial.
The hem is folded twice and whip stitched down, and the sleeves and front opening is lined with soft, cut sheepskin in a matching colour.
The dress is sold since some time back, and I moved on to make another kind of pattern construction (as I usually do). I liked this one because of its simplicity, it was very comfortable and not bulky around the upper body. Another pro was that it didn’t take a lot of fabric to make it. I really liked the fluffy lining since it gave a lot of extra warmth.
The style is somewhat unusual in art but can be seen at the start of the houppelande period in some regions, though with a tighter upper body, the sleeves were full length and often somewhat tighter. For paintings and art inspiration, check out my Pinterest board about Houppelande dresses
What I didn’t like was that I dragged the hem of the dress after me everywhere, without getting the comfort of a warm and thick enough fabric to protect me from rain and chilly winds. So the next one became a bit sturdier in fabric, and with more fabric…
Sometimes I get the feeling that I never get anything done, or that I haven’t made a piece for sale in like, forever. So I made a list of some of the things I have done this year, both for customers and for myself and love, and then I felt that yes- maybe I have been quite productive after all!
In the beginning of the year, I think I accidentally started this Herjolfnes recreation, all hand stitched.
I made our wedding outfits for our Midsummer wedding:
Supporting linen dress, white silk dress, velvet over dress, purse, belts and for love; silk shirt, silk brocade doublet and under west, woolen hose, bag and belt. Also, I remember sewing some tunics and dresses for our families for the wedding.
Did I sew this houppelande also, or did I finish it the year before? It is also all hand stitched, on wool, silk and rabbit fur.
During autumn, I apparently needed to redo my apron dress, make a whole new viking coat by hand and put it all together to a new outfit, along with some tablet woven bands.
Also, some commissions took place, like this coat…
… as well as a number of hoods, shirts and tunics (here’s some of them along with the silk cotehardie)
I also remember some viking hedeby trousers (baggy pants)- four of them i think.
As well as some hand sewn viking clothing…
I updated my shop and market stall during the spring with cloths, small flags and my own logo hand painted on a linen fabric.
Made a whole bunch of veils in linen and thin wool for different outfits;
I studied 16th century tailoring manuscripts and sewed two jackets for women, in wool fabric (one for my friend Linnea and one for myself)
Oh, and rosaries were totally a thing- I have read a lot about them, made a whole bunch of drawings, some pieces for sale and a folder about how to do them yourself, as well as holding some workshop on the subject.
This is far from everything I have made, and some pieces have not even made it to being properly photographed though I have been wearing them on several occasions. Also, quite a few items and commissions also are just on fb or my Instagram accounts, otherwise this post would be far to long.
All in all, I think I have; 1. made quite some things and 2. need to be even better at documenting them and writing about them here on the blog.
Also, some information (in swedish only since the workshops will be held in swedish) about my workshops at Kapitelhusgården during Medieval Week this summer:
Årets kurser blir några populära såsom toilekonstruktion och brickbandsvävning som varit fullbokade alla tidigare år, och så har jag satt ihop några nya efter önskemål. Dels “Medeltida sömnadstekniker” som är en påbyggnad på grundkursen i sömnad som jag hållit tidigare, eller till för dig som kan sy enkla plagg men vill lära dig svårare moment som smockning, fler stygntekniker, få sömnadstips för siden, sammet osv.
”Medeltida sömnadstekniker” 11/8 klockan 12.00
Sömnadstekniker, praktiska tips och materialkunskap, för dig som kan grunderna men vill bli bättre
på att sy. Vi går igenom olika sömmar för dekorationer, smockning, silke, sammet mm. Verktyg och
material för prover ingår, ta gärna med egna projekt för handledning i mån av tid.
Skillnaden på de olika brickbandsvävningskurserna är att “mönster” utgår från vikingatida mönster och där lär jag ut hur du ritar och läser mönster, medan “medeltiden” utgår från enklare mönstringar eller släta band och där lär jag istället ut snabbvarpning och du hinner väva mer.
”Brickbandsvävning med mönster” 8/8 klockan 8.30
Grundkurs för dig som vill väva men inte vet hur. Tydlig genomgång och handledning för att
påbörja vävning och förstå vävda mönster. Material, verktyg/brickor och häfte ingår.
”Brickbandsvävning under medeltiden” 10/8 klockan 12.00
Grundkurs för dig som vill väva medeltida vardagsföremål. Snabb och effektiv vävning av
strumpeband, bälten mm som blir enfärgade eller enkelt mönstrade. Historisk genomgång av fynd
och tekniker. Material, verktyg/brickor och häfte ingår.
”Medeltida mönsterkonstruktion efter dina mått” 9/8 klockan 12.00 och 7/8 klockan 12.00
Grunder i mönsterkonstruktion för medeltida kläder där du gör en toile för överkroppen. Kom
iklädd tajtare t-shirt/linne. Material och verktyg ingår.
Den här kursen är helt ny, och till för alla som vill göra ärmar till tidigare toiler eller egna mönster. Jag har fått mycket efterfrågningar om en ärmworkshop/kurs eftersom vi inte hinner göra ärmar på toilekurserna- så nu kommer en workshop endast till för ärmar! Ta med din tidigare (hopsydd eller tråcklade) toile eller ett pågående klänningsprojekt som har hopsydd överkropp men inga ärmar. Du kan också komma utan din överkroppstoile, men kommer då inte kunna gå igenom tillpassning i ärmhål och moybogärmar på samma sätt utan får istället följa med på andras toiler och ta med alla tips hem.
”Mönsterkonstruktion av ärmar” 12/8 klockan 12.00
För dig som gått toilekurser/har en toile för överkroppen sedan tidigare och vill göra ärmar. Gör en
ärmtoile till dig själv, få en massa sömnadstips och teori. Genomgång av svängd ärm, ärmkulle, Särm,
(tiderna hämtade från Kapitels kurssida, om avvikelser finns gäller deras schema)
På alla mina kurser så ingår allt material, alla verktyg mm som du kan tänkas behöva för att gå kursen (kom ihåg din överkroppstoile till ärmkursen bara!) men ta gärna med en frukt så du håller blodsockret uppe- det blir tre timmars intensiva kurser! Vi håller som vanligt till i Kapitelhusgårdens fina lokaler, och där äter man inte nötter, men kan ofta köpa en kopp kaffe/te att dricka under dagen. All kursbokning sker också via dem, men du kan förstås gärna maila mig om du har frågor! Tänk på att många kurser ofta är slutsålda innan veckan börjar- så boka en i förtid!
I’ve been working on this new booklets for months now, and now they are finally done and ready to send out. I know that many of you readers have asked me about new tutorials, preferably in English, but the truth is that tutorials takes a lot of time to make. I’m counting on around 8 h/tutorial and that doesn’t include the time it takes to handcraft the actual things. As you can imagine it’s quite impossible for me to continue to make a lot of tutorials for free, though there will be some new ones at the blog this year.
If you like the tutorials page and want to support it, or if you want to learn more about sewing, I can offer these new booklets as a way of doing that. They have basically the same structure as my online tutorials, but are even more hands-on and easy-following with text, pictures and useful tips. I include both instructions for hand sewing and machine sewing in each one, and you don’t need any previous sewing experience. They also include patterns in full size and a list of what you need for each project.
I’ll put them here, but you can also buy them on my facebook page or at my Etsy shop (for shipments outside Sweden).
Prices: 5 E/piece + 2 E shipping (so for two 5+5+2 E and so on) Sv: 50 kr + 15 kr frakt inom Sverige.