HANDCRAFTED HISTORY


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How I attach buttons on a sleeve

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This is my method for attaching pewter buttons to a garment. It is easy, simple and makes it doable to remove the pewter buttons before washing or to use on another garment, and then re-attaching them quick afterwards. Another great thing with this method is that you will not lose your buttons as easily as if you sew them onto the garment one by one, since you will have a secure ribbon to hold them in place.

Here is where I start; the sleeve at the top is finished, and the sleeve at the bottom already have its buttonholes and hems. You will need to make S-sleeves (with the seam at the back of the arm, going just over your elbow) and then fit them snugly over your underarm. I recommend doing a mock-up sleeve first in a cheap fabric to try it out. Do you notice the curved edge of the bottom sleeve? That will create room for the wrist and the start of the hand which are also inside the sleeve.

Start by marking out where to place the buttons, use a pen and compare with the already made buttonholes. Work on the inside of the sleeve. Depending on the size of your buttons you will need different seam allowances, I had small buttons and used 1 cm, but recommend that you use at least 1,5-2 cm.

Use an awl and make small holes in the fabric, for the buttons to go through. If you have a thin or sensitive fabric, you need to reinforce the sleeve before you begin, otherwise the buttons may rip through the fabric when put on stress, such as moving or lifting when wearing the dress. A simple piece of fabric would do the trick, like on the sleeve above where the buttonholes has a strip of silk (sturdy linen is better to work with). Sew it into place before making the holes.

Aha, do you see my trick now! I do not sew each button in place separately, but pull them through the holes I made with the awl. When I have them in the right place, I thread a sturdy ribbon (this one is in linen, but a braid, twisted linen threads or anything similar will go) through each buttons loop, to keep them in place.

The ribbon makes the buttons stay in place, and makes it impossible to lose them. Note that the ribbon is twisted from left to right to pass through each button from the same direction, this will give you a smoother seam later. The buttons are placed with the flatter side towards the bottom.

When the whole set of buttons are attached and the ribbon threaded through them, fold the ribbon back, and leave a piece of it laying under the loops to keep it in place.

Final step! Fold the seam allowance over the buttons stem, loop and the ribbon, and whip stitch it in place. To remove the buttons, you will just have to rip the whip stitch open, remove the ribbon and take out the buttons to wash the dress in the machine, or use them elsewhere on another garment. To replace the buttons, repeat the steps above (the marking and holes should be left so you don’t have to redo them).

It takes me about 30 minutes to reset a sleeve, so quite doable instead of having to buy new buttons for each garment you make. This also works on bronze buttons of course, but fabric buttons I usually sew onto the garment one by one as is visible in finds from London (Dress Accessories 1150-1450). Also note that you need the typical medieval button with its long stem, most modern buttons are flat and doesn’t work with this technique.

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The Medieval Wedding Dress; the silk dress

I am sooo behind writing about my different projects. I kind of have a bad conscience about it too, and I really try to work through all of my drafts, notes and old photos. I guess it has been quite the autumn and winter here, I really never post about those parts of life, but I like everyone else have tough periods in life. Life, dead and bills happens to everyone, as the saying goes. I am not going to talk about that today; I am going to show you my wedding dresses!

I made three different layers for the wedding outfit. A linen shift, a cream-white silk dress and the velvet silk over dress. The linen shift is made tight fitted, with thin shoulder straps and a supportive body, and then a loose skirt. Over that I also wore a linen petticoat with a strengthened hemline. It never shows, but it adds important stability to the cream silk dress so the skirt drapes the correct way.

Over these I have the silk dress, cream-white and lined on the inside with a really thin wool muslin fabric. The silk fabric is a taffeta, and even if that quality is a lot sturdier than other silks, it still needed to be lined for a better draping skirt and a smoother upper body. Here you can see some of the effect the petticoat has; making the dress skirt stand out a bit instead of hanging down. The taffeta also helps a lot.

The sleeves are unlined, instead I have the thin silk sleeves that is shown underneath. I didn’t want another layer underneath the silk dress, so the thin silk sleeves are just lose sleeves, attached by the arm hole on the dress. The lacing is made with silk thread, the same as I did the lacing holes with, and also the white freshwaterpearl belt. Around the wrist small pearls are fastened, kind of like a bracelet but easier to wear.

For these dresses I made full mockups in cotton fabric to get a feeling for the pattern drafting and models. Usually I like to improvise a bit, but now I somehow was patience herself while drafting… The skirts in both dresses are based on a full circle of fabric, that is what gives the dresses that magical drape and the deep folds in the fabrics. The mock-up was then taken apart and used as a pattern, here is half the skirt on the cream silk. Yeah, I actually cut out my fancy white silk dress on the floor, with heaps of fabrics laying everywhere. Creativity, you know…

More fabric, this is the other half of the skirt.

To prevent the silk fabric from fraying I sew all edges with a overlock. You can use a zigzag as well, but it is good to prep them in some way. I would have liked to sew all our garments by hand, but neither time nor my fingers allowed for it, so edges and some inside seams were made with sewing machines. The overlock really was my best friend when it came to the fraying silk fabrics.

I also reinforced the hemline of the dress with a thin fabric strip. This was pinned around the hem, and then sewn with a machine stitch. After that the lining was added so the strip was hidden on the inside between outer and inner fabrics.

Here is a nice close up on the silk lucet cords, the lacing holes and the matching silk belt with freshwater pearls. I really liked how the cream-colored fabric, the silk thread and the pearls matched each other

   

The dress has a waist seam, so it really is a circular skirt, a regular body with side seams/side lacing and set in sleeves, all in all a simple dress. Here you can see the waist line, the seam done by hand to get a good drape of the skirt and because the different layers of fabrics really liked to slip against each other.

A good view of the laced up sleeves from the side

And a view from the back, while walking in to get married.

This actually became quite the long blog post, so I’ll get back to you with the velvet over dress in a post of its own!