HANDCRAFTED HISTORY


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Viking apron dress, part 2

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

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

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

Step one- try it on!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pinning the shape loosely.

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

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

Pinning the back seams by the waist.

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

Basting can be done on a machine or by hand.

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

Trying on the dress again to check the fit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Linen fabric going to be apron dress straps.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sewing the straps onto the back of the apron dress.

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

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


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Magical places and Viking living

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pretty vikings with pretty flowers and glass replicas.

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

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

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

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


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Tutorial; the Euradress

This blog post is made with the support of my Patreons

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

Materials and tools needed:

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

Measure:

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

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

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

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

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

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

euraskiss

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

How to make a draft of your own:

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

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

euraskiss3

Sewing order:

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

Adjustments and fitting:

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

eurakil

About the find:

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

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

Sources/learn more?

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

Article on the Uvdal dress

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