HANDCRAFTED HISTORY


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Making a 15th c dress with a waist seam

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 over dress to. The art work 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 art works 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 maximum 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 is 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 is 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 during cut out, but I wrote out the wrong number of pieces; the left panel is the front and you only need one of that. 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 (how to place the pieces on the fabric) 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 my 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 in the sofa, super cozy!

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 center 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 se, 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 vowen 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.

 

 

 

 


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Tutorial; the simple medieval & viking dress

This is my tutorial with a very detailed step-to-step instruction, 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! The translation was done in 2018, and the original tutorial is from 2015/16. Some things differ, and the changes I made is for a beginner to be able to make the dress as easy as possible. If you feel more secure; feel free to experiment!

It is also suitable to make mens 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 differs 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 have to make that for doublet, jackets and 2. I saved fabric

Good tips:

If sewing on a sewing machine, pin from right to left, over the seam to make it easy to remove the pins while sewing. If sewing by hand, pin the seams along the seamline so as not to get the pins in your hand, or baste the seams.

When pinning; always lay your pieces on a flat surface and work on that while pinning. Pick a table or the floor, not some furniture with a fabric surface. If you work on a somewhat slippery surface the pieces will lay better and wont stretch in uneven ways.

Basting seams are an easy way to try the fit, size, movement and drape of skirts while sewing. basting the armhole before sewing make 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 and the seam will be nicer.

Dont 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. To shallow an armhole will make your sleeve hang, but to wide will make movement hard. Experiment on scrap fabric first.

How many gores? Two are enough for undergarments and kneelong 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 now 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 s.a in this post.

Wash and iron your fabric before sewing. The fabric is prepped with heavy amounts of chemicals to avoid mold or bugs during 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 upper body widest part (over the bust).
  • Length of garment; from shoulder to hem.
  • Length of arm; from shoulder-elbow while bent 90 degrees-to wrist.
  • Around your wrist (for tight buttoned sleeves) or around your hand to be able to take on and off the garment)
  • 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).
  • 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 upper body widest part: 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-elbow while bent 90 degrees-to wrist: Example: 64 cm. This is a good measure for your sleeve, including s.a but not hem. So sleeve pieces should be 64 + 2 cm= 66 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 in 2, for measure of armholes on 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 measured (yes, measure the curve). The sleeve should be 2-4 cm longer than the complete armhole. 56 cm + 2-4 cm= 58-60 cm (measure around the S curve of the arm)

Length from shoulder to natural waist (for women) to hip (for men). This is where I attach the gores. 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 back and front, cut a straight line to 1 cm below this measure (39 cm from shoulder).

Length of gores: length of dress – length from shoulder – waist/hip + 3,5 cm s.a. Example: 143,5 cm -38 cm = 105,5 cm + 3,5 cm = 109 cm. Width depends on what kind of dress you would like to do, your over all size and how much fabric you have. I recommend a measure between 50-80 cm for each gore.

When calculating all these measures, draft them out on your pattern pieces.

Then, draft all the pieces on your fabric with a fabric marker and ruler. Control that you made all the pieces with the right measurements and that all fitted on your fabric. Mark them with front/back/sleeve/gore and so on.

Cut them out. If I work with linen, silk or brocade that will fray, I will now zigzag around all the pieces.

Sew the pieces together in this order:

  • Sleeves (to make tubes)
  • Gores to dress front, back, sides
  • Front and back shoulder seams
  • Front to back side seams/side gores
  • Sleeves in armholes
  • Hemming

Some notes: This work order goes for both sewing machine and handsewing. When I make a seam I finish it of before starting the next one. That means;

  1. pinning/basting
  2. sewing the pieces together front to front
  3. pressing down the seam allowance on the wrong side (the inside)
  4. cut down the seam allowance on one side
  5. press again, the wider over the cut one
  6. 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 on crossing the first. I really advise to at least press the seam allowance once, it makes such a difference!

A detailed step-to-step for sewing the dress.

Sleeves:

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 sewing machine. Remember to fasten/lock all seams at start and finish. Here 1 cm s.a is shown. I prefer 1,5 cm to easy fell the seam and whip stitch it down.

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Press the seams with an iron. If you use a fine wool or silk, a damp pressing cloth (cotton cloth) can be used between iron and garment pieces to avoid pressing marks. On the photos below you can see the difference between a pressed and a new seam. Totally worth the effort!

When pressing: press the s.a to both sides. Let it cool. Cut down one of the sides to half the width. Press the other s.a over the cut one, pin down if necessary. This will create a sturdy seam if sewn down, saves you time and looks neat on the right side.

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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 bord. Try to avoid the folds in the sleeve with the iron.

 

 

These photos show the technique with and without a sleeve ironing board

Gores:

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 (were you are slimmest) to accentuate the curve of hip and belly. On men along with the hips to give movement but no feminine curves.

Oh, right! I always forget to mention this; 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 exact 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.

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Why? To get the right measures, and a good shape at the bottom hem, as described in this picture:
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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.121sykil

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.

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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 loose. 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 s.a on the front and back to either side of the slit, like 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 to 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 from the wrong side of the garment, and continue with your sewing machine seam to the top of the gore, making the s.a 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 this side (still on the wrong side, you 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!

Neckline:

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 neckline, and arm holes. Put the front and back on top of each other, mark the middle and draft a small neckhole. 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, wrong side 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 s.a; when you hem the neckline it will be a bit bigger than before.

Arm holes:

Making arm holes is much easier if you already got a toile/mock up to copy, but you can try this to. Put the dress on, wrong side out, and draft the arm holes 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. Magically do this at the back/ask a friend/ take the dress of and draft on a flat surface.

Now you should have a drafted line at front and back. Measure these ones, and compare with the measure you took for your arm hole 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 good fitted sleeve. The front curve is deeper, and the back more shallow, but they should start and finish at 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 on the front and back sides on 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, to 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 over all fit is, put on the dress and (make a friend) baste the sleeves around the armholes so they fit you nicely. Not the dress/armhole; but you. Move around, stretch. Then check if they seem to be by the s.a of the armhole. If they are= pro work! If not, just adjust them, maybe the armhole can be adjusted to fit you. Do not bother if the sleeve get 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 shoulder seam) and the bottom (armhole towards 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.

Take apart the sleeve and body, take of the dress (if you tried them out) and turn the dress inside out. Turn the sleeves to the right side. Put the sleeves inside the dress, and fit them into the armhole. They should lay right 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 hole, so it should make small waves, like in these pictures. This will be solved with the basting thread you sew on the sleeves. 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. Then remove all the basting stitches.

To finish of the seams, press them on a sleeve ironing board, or roll a bath towel firmly and put inside the arm if you don’t have one. Press the s.a down on 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 length, hemline, sleeve hems and neckline if needed. The sleeves should be a little to 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, pin a new hemline if needed. Remember to check the length with the correct shoes/belt since these can make a different to how long the dress look.When satisfied, cut away any excessive fabric and hem the dress. I prefer to fold the edge twice, and whip stitch it down by hand. Remember that our s.a for hemming was 2 cm. Thick wools only need a single fold before sewing.

Thats it! Now you have made your very own garment! And you can use this tutorial, or parts of it to make other garments as well.


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14th century cotehardie

I have been reading up on 15-16th century medieval Europe, including art and clothing, for some years now and haven’t really been into 14th century for a while; I even sold of my Moy Bog gown and some other dresses. But then my friend J told me she wanted to brick stitch embroider a couple of purses; and I could have one in exchange for a minor handcraft effort (at least I thought so- I’m not really into embroidery…) and then I would need a fitting dress to that… And in almost no time I had this one finished, a hand stitched woolen cotehardie with silk lining, silk lacing at the front and short sleeves.

The dress is for the higher classes, and in pictures from the late 14th century it is worn with a kirtle underneath (a tight-fitting dress often with buttoned sleeves). Then it seems like the dress remain into the beginning of the 15th century, and is worn as a kirtle/middle dress with loose sleeves for a more fashionable look. After that, the dress seems to change a bit into the waist seam dresses (like my blue Weyden dress). This kind of dresses is very common on contemporary art and you can see them in different countries, with long or short sleeves, laced front or a hidden side lacing, and with buttons or lacing at the sleeves.

If you would like to make a dress like this for yourself, search late 14th and early 15th art sources (I have some at my reading tips) or look at my Pinterest bord about cotehardies.

Here’s my best tips for making the dress fit nicely:

  • Fit the sleeves in carefully, they should be snug around the arm for both good movement and the right look.
  • Make the lacing holes 1,5-2 cm from each other, no more, to make sure the lacing will not show the shift underneath.
  • Use a lining inside the dress to make it more supportive for the bust, to add shape and draping to the skirt. If you have a tight fabric budget; just line the upper body.
  • Try the dress on often during your work with it, and make the lacing before hemming and neckline. Also, you may fit in the dress at the end for that perfect look by leaving the side seams open until last. These are also good to leave open (just back stitch them and secure the selvages if necessary by zigzag or whip stitches) for adjusting shape, support or weight loss/gain in an easy and fast way.

On these pictures it is worn with loose silk brocade sleeves, but I’m planning on making a kirtle for it with long sleeves to wear under. On the head I wear my hair in temple braids, and then a silk tablet woven hairband. The veil is pinned down to that, and then I have a woolen hood for warmth. The gloves are modern and just for warmth, it was really chilly to go out with just one dress.

This was the first event trying it out, and after that I have been adjusting the dress a bit. Inside lining; the silk fabric getting snowy outside.

 

Hairband, pins and veil.

Historical accurate? The model is quite common for the late 14th and early 15th century, and the siluette of the period is a rather straith and smooth one, which I have tried to achieve by making the dress a bit loosely fitted around waist and hip area, in order to get the lean look of the time (I am built a bit to curvy for the 14th c ideal). The woolen twill fabric with it´s blue colour is representative for the periods upper class, blue is a common colour in women´s clothing during the medieval period, and the twill weave is fine and good looking. Dresses shown in period art often has a contrasting coloured lining, but it seems that this was most often in wool, linen or a cotton blend, while silk blends seems to be more common during the 16th century. For a more historical dress I would have lined the dress in a very thin wool, or made the whole dress out of silk. The pink, hand woven silk was chosen for it’s cheap price (1/3 of a wool fabric of the same weight), it’s look and the lightness of the fabric, making the dress comfortable and not hot at all.


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The Medieval Wedding Dress- the velvet gown

This is the final layer I made for my wedding outfit, it is a silk velvet dress inspired by the late 15th century over dresses. The gown is open at the front to allow for easy undressing, and to show more of the white dress underneath. This can be seen in paintings, though a closed gown would have been more common.

This was one of the most difficult garments I have ever made. The fabric is a silk velvet, sensitive, very thin and extremely flimsy; I so understand why silk velvet has been replaced by synthetic alternatives on the market (and it is not just a matter of price). The gown is fully lined with silk dupioni for support and look, and has linings in black silk taffeta and on the bottom, the same black high quality wool as in my love’s joined hose. I opted for the golden coloured silk because it did so well under the velvet, and made the velvet shine even more. if using a transparent velvet; try out different shades of lining fabric to find the one that gives you the look you want.

The gown closes with a small hook and eye at the waist, and then this belt is added. The bronze buckle and strap end is made after a painting from the period, and can be seen on houppelandes and similar overdresses from the period.

Working with the fabric. Here you can see the silk lining being laid out at the velvet to act as a pattern piece. The velvet was very sensitive, so pinning was only an option in seam allowances.

The fabric being so thin and flimsy, pinning it to the sturdier silk lining was a good help for cutting, basting and sewing. I treated the two layers as if they were one when sewing, making the seam allowances visible on the inside of the dress. Since the velvet is transparent where the pattern is, it was not an option to have the seams between the both fabric layers.

Front and back pieces of the body being laid out. With a patterned fabric, you might want to consider where to put your pieces, and in what direction. I let the two front pieces have the pattern laid out in the same direction, and then turned the back piece upside down, since the skirt would have the pattern visible in the same direction at the back of the gown. The two fronts doesn’t have to be similar in pattern, all contemporary art depicts uneven patterns on the front of dresses.

You may also note that the front lining pieces have the selvage running along the openings, since the velvet was stretchy, and silk stretch when cut on bias, I laid the pieces out diagonally on the silk fabric to have a non stretchy front, and instead add some flexibility across the body. This way, there is some small movement allowed over the rib cage, while the front lays flat against the body.

I sewed the gown together on the overlock machine, this was one of my best choices ever since the seam both helped with protecting the seam allowance and allowed for some stretchiness in the skirt. After the gown was put together, I hang it on my doll to let the skirts fall out. Fabric cut circular like in this case always seems to hang out unevenly…

And yes it did! I ended up cutting away between 10-15 cm in some places, but only 2 in the areas running along the fabric length. I was quite nervous- cutting a little each time and allowing for the fabric to adjust. There was some massive pinning and measuring and swearing going on at this part and frankly, I just forgot to take pictures because I was so frustrated. Here you can see the velvet skirts hanging out, the silk lining behaving all nicely and staying in shape.

After this, I worked with the hems and inside seams by hand. All the seam allowances were folded down, basted to the lining and then covered by a strip of silk fabric, whip stitched down. No ironing though; velvet does not go along with pressing so the seams were just smoothed out by hand. The front opening and the sleeves were lined with black silk taffeta, the same as love’s doublet were edged with.

The bottom needed a little more heavy lining, and I wanted something that could take some more wear than silk so I chose a thin wool tabby weave. Here it is, laying on the floor.

One of the seams, seen from the outside when finished of. The whip stitches securing the strip inside is not visible on the outside velvet, neither is the machine seam that holds it together.

I am very pleased with the dress, I really plan on using it in the future on events. It was not easy to make, but hopefully some of my experience shared with you will make you want to try one for yourself if you wish!

 

 

 


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Houppelande in velvet and silk

This was a very spontaneous project with no customer commissioning it, and not for my own wardrobe either. I just wanted to try out how the velvet would work in a full circular houppelande (late medieval over dress) and experiment a bit with pattern construction, seam techniques and silk fabric. I am actually very satisfied with the result; for a cotton velvet the fabric is in a nice quality and with a good drape, the pattern turned out very well, and the silk lining in the sleeves add that extra touch I wanted.

The materials in the dress is cotton velvet (black) viscose/rayon velvet (moss-green) and silk (sleeve lining) with a total of about ten meters for the whole dress. The cotton velvet is really affordable comparing to silk velvet, and is very easily maintained; I actually just put it in a washing machine, air dried it and it came out as new; no shrinkage, no creasing and no sad silk velvet after water washing… If you want to learn more about velvet fabrics, I have a guide about the subject under “tutorials”.

I finished the dress during our brewer’s guild meeting in early December, and would usually iron the silk lining first before wearing it, but it was such a good opportunity to take good photos in gear so the sleeve lining is a bit bulky still. But soon to be fixed!

The skirts are really full; the pattern is based on a circle and the houppelande is also called a full circular houppelande. Lots and lots of fabric.

I have some tutorials about making your own houppelande if you are interested (and also makes them on order by your measures). To make them dramatic, historical and with this massive draping of skirts, it does take more meters of fabric and patience than difficult sewing techniques…

I fell in love with the colour combo of black, moss-green and bright grass-green in the dress. Under is my late 14th century dress, going historical there shouldn’t be a visible lacing underneath this kind of over dress. The gloves are also modern, but was so very nice to avoid freezing my fingers of.


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The Herjolfnes dress

Last year I made a woolen dress, based on the cut, sewing technics and seams from the finds from Herjolfnes, Greenland. I really didn’t plan it, I just had this sudden burst of creativity and had to make a plain, undyed working dress… The fabric is from Medeltidsmode, and it is an undyed natural wool that was just lovely to work with, the seams went very well, and the drape of the shirt is really good to. It is based on two different models, but with my measures- so it is a historical reconstruction with a practical use in mind.

Cutting out the pieces

And sewing them together with running stitches in wool thread

Sewing gores from the right side of the dress, with a whip stitch

The hems are made by a single fold, whip stitched and then sewed with another seam according to the finds. To finish of the hems two times was a bit tiring, but the result went very well, with especially the neckline and wrist coming out nice and stable for wear.

All inside seams are felled and whip stitched down, to make them more durable and the inside smooth and pretty.

There are several gores in the dress, both in the shirt and in the sides, that goes up to the arm holes. This gives the dress lots of hem line, as well as a nice drape. If you would like to make a dress more modern flattering, you could begin the width in the side seams by the waist. My dress is lose almost under the bust, which makes for a warm dress, that is easy to get in and out of, and probably good for medieval pregnancy if you are interested in trying that out…

The dress is so comfy, and despite a rather smooth fit over arms and shoulders it is easy to move in it.

On these photos I have rolled up my sleeves a bit and you can see the linen shift, a good way of keeping your sleeves dry when doing dishes.

Definitly one of my favourite dresses right now, it being so simple and yet pretty!


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15th century clothing part 1- Research overview from art

The last 1- 1 1/2 year the 15 century has been one of my main interests. It is a really interesting period in history, with lots of changes in both politics, society and how trade, money and people moved. My main interest has been the clothing in middle Europe, around what is today Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands (more or less, influences and fashions spread and you can see similar styles in areas boarding to these ones).

From these areas came several great artists, there are lots of paintings and artistic work left, and Scandinavia were greatly inspired by the clothing and fashion movements from the German area.

To both challenge and inspire myself I decided to make a Golden Egg challenge on the topic of 15th century clothing. The Golden Egg is a household in the SCA; you can read more about it here. My goal is now to research and make a whole outfit from the late 15th century for myself, and the timeline is one year between start and presentation.

I wanted to share some of my research, as well as some good sources for you to read for yourself. My main interest is the clothing for women, but you will find lots of good inspiration for men’s fashion as well.

olika modeller

Some important points to remember when studying 15 c fashion (or any historical fashion really) is:

  • The diversity of the period. Fashion shifted over a certain time, and during the 15th c it shifted quite fast. It also differed over areas (such as towns, countries) as well as social classes. It is not possible to sum up the period by stating “a women wore this and this, in such a way” but some things are similar, like wearing a linen shift, middle kirtle and over dress of some kind. How these looked, what materials they were made in and how you wore them differed greatly, as did the accessories.

 

  • The art and paintings of the period is a really good source, since there’s a lot of them, and the fashion of art suggested a natural, realistic reproduction of the people living during that period, with lots of details regarding seams, models, fashion and materials. This was also the period when portraits became popular for others than the nobility, with the ever-increasing burgher class economy as a base for portraits. This give us a source of good depictions of people of the time, and also gives a good clue on what kind of clothing and headwear was in fashion. It is important to note that there also were sumptuary laws regarding what you could wear, and how you were to be portrayed according to your status in society, making the understanding of art and symbolic meanings very important.

 

  • Religious art was also very important, and great artworks were often the result of a whole workshop with different painters, studies and sketches from different areas and periods, as well as saints depicted with biblical clothing and symbolic tokens. This means that you can find different styles in one and the same painting, both considering fashion and the style of the artist, even though the master overlooked the work on each artwork. It also means that flowing robes and cloaks that appear might not be the fashionable items like the gowns and doublets right beside them, but more some kind of biblical clothing.

 

  • Colours, technics and styles regarding painting developed greatly during this century, with the use of different mineral sources etc as a way of getting vibrant, expensive and fashionable colours. But this does not mean that the colour tone on a painting was the same as the depicted garment from sketches and models; the colour was foremost the result of the client’s budget, where vibrant reds, dark blues and golden inlays were important for the fashionable and rich client. Does this mean that paintings can’t be the source for fashion studies? No, of course you can look at art for getting an idea of the clothing of the time. Just keep in mind that the colour that you see on your computer screen is the result of both a computer screen setting, the photography of the painting (with editing) how well the painting has withstood time (mineral paint tend to change over time) as well as the idea of what a really expensive colour looked like in art versus fashion.

 

  • Artists of the time was more handcrafters and less artists in our modern use of the word. They trained for masters, belonged to workshops and worked with paintings as a team, not as one expressive personality. The money came from churches, rich nobility and the burgher class who commissioned art pieces  (or bought ready-made pieces) such as piety paintings, portraits and, later on, everyday scenes from their home. This means that art was the result of society, fashion, study and individuals, greatly inspired by the ongoing social development as well as other painters. Of course there were room for personal style; compare Rogier van der Weyden to Durer and you will find style differences, even if you are not a trained art historian.

 

  • The artist had knowledge about the fact that fashion shifts; and that what was worn everyday when the paintings was made, was not the clothes of the time depicted in them. So in a painting of Christ’s birth; you can se both people dressed in the high of 1470’s fashion, as well as mythical and religious figures dressed in cloaks and robes that were meant to be seen as “some kind of long time ago clothing”. This might be pretty obvious, but to make it a bit trickier there is also paintings with 14th century fashions depicted (in a rather loose style) in 15th century paintings.

 

  • Dress for your age; as for society today, people tend to dress after their age, with the young girls and women of that time preferring high fashion dresses, loose hairstyles or flowing hair for the unmarried (or soon to be crowned queens) while older women seems to be more covered, with additional layers and more elaborate veils. Older women can also be seen in “unfashionable” garments; what was the thing 10-20 years ago at their prime seems to hang along.

Having this in mind, you can clearly se that if you aim to make an outfit as historical accurate as possible (…possible for your means, skill etc) an important start is to choose a certain time and period. The social standing is also important, so a good starting point could be a woman from south Germany (or a city of your choice) from the wealthy burgher class, who lived during 1450-1470.

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I have chosen to focus on the area of Germany, the Netherlands and the Flemish region. This because there were some great artists living there that I want to study further, but I also enjoy the fashion of that area and how the geographic areas and countries influenced each other. If you compare this areas to (for example) Italy or France, you will find that both style in art and fashion differs greatly.

Another thing to consider, is to search for sources besides art; like finds, surviving clothing items, sketches, written documentation etc. This will give a depth for your understanding of the period, where the beauty ideals and painting technique might touch up certain details to the point of it being difficult to interpret (like, how did all the women have those small round breasts sitting high up on the body?)

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These are some important painters and artists from the German/Netherland/Flemish (Belgium)/Burgundy region during the century that I have chosen to study in more detail:

(About the dating: Sometimes it is difficult to find the year of birth/death for individuals, so the dating in uncertain, but it will provide with a overview of when they lived and were active)

  • Limbourg brothers (1385-1416) Germany
  • Hubert van Eyck (1366-1426) Flemish
  • Jan van Eyck (1395-1441) Netherlands
  • Rogier van der Weyden (1399-1464) Netherlands
  • Petrus Christus (1410-1476) Netherlands
  • Hugo van der Goes (1440-1483) Netherlands
  • Hans Memling (1430-1494) Netherlands
  • Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1504) Netherlands
  • Gerard David (1460-1523) Netherlands
  • Hans Holbein the Elder (1460-1524) Germany
  • Albrecht Durer (1471-1528) Germany

If you are interested in this period and want to learn more about the art, there’s some good books about different artists, and this really good (and free) article at Wikipedia about the subject.

I have also studied books on different artists, the Prestels “Masters of Art” series have been very interesting. There you can find both Van Eyck, Durer and many more.

Want to see more artwork from the time? Check out my Pinterest folder!

 


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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!

Spara

Spara

Spara


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Houppelande tutorial -part 1

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 woolen houppelande:

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This was somewhat of an experiment trying out both pattern, if I would like the type of garment, 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:

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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 a 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 is 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.

medeltid 004

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 were 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.

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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 in 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 a 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.

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The style is somewhat unusual in art, but can be seen at the start of the houppelande period, 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…