Handcrafted History

Historical and modern handcraft mixed with adventures


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Slashing and cutting fabric- a tutorial

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

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

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But first, some good things to know:

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

Feeling ready for some slashing now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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Loose sleeves with ribbons- a tutorial

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

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

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

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

The green sleeves look like this when cut out:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And finally, some good advice when making silk sleeves:

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


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Tutorial viking/medieval shift or underdress

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 width. For a male under tunic or shirt in size large you need around 2 meters of fabric, the same amount for a shift or under dress for size small- medium. If you are tall, take another 50-60 cm. If you need a bigger size or want the dress shirt to be long and full, take 3 meters of fabric or draw out the pattern pieces on a paper first.

It is important to zigzag your fabric at the cut sides and then wash it on 40 or 60 C degrees, to make it shrink before you cut and sew in it. Otherwise it will tend to shrink a little, each time it get wet or washed. After you have washed the fabric, iron it flat and then lay it out on the floor/table for a better view.

Start with your measures;

  1. Length of shift/shirt + 3 cm seam allowance
  2. Width of shift (around your chest or your widest part of your body) + 6 % for movement.
  3. Width of armholes + some cm for movement. Compare with a cotton shirt that fits you.
  4. Length of arm, when bending your elbow at 90 degrees.

When you have measured yourself; draw out the pieces you need on a paper with the measurements you got from the above, it makes it easier if you are not an experienced seamstress. This is my layout with pattern pieces; front, back, two sleeves, two sleeve gussets, two side gores (one is split in two). I cut out my neckline at once, but you can first sew your shift/shirt 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 your shoulders.

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If you are going to sew everything on machine, start with a zig zag around all fabric edges. This is important so the fabric wont fray and fall apart when wearing and washing. You can also sew the garment on a overlock if you have one.

After this, it is time to sew the pieces together. Start with the sleeves + sleeve gussets and then the gores for added hem width. I always pin the pieces first, on a flat surface.

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Sew the pieces together with machine or by hand, and then press the seam allowances 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 it will make the seams look better.

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Then sew the shoulders together, and the side gores to the front (or back) piece like this. 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 armholes. You don’t need to do a fitted sleeve on this item, just sew the sleeves in place as a regular seam.

Last; pin and sew the side seams, and the sleeves together. When sewing the area around the sleeve gussets you might find it a bit bulky. Don’t be afraid to finish of your seam, cut the threads and then change direction or the way the fabric lay on the machine (or in your hand). Make it as easy as possible for you at every step and you will find it much more fun!

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When I have sewn together my garment, I usually try it on, adjust the neckline and the length of the sleeves if necessary, and then I 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 an invisible seam.

Good luck sewing!

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