HANDCRAFTED HISTORY


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Care for clothing from Handcrafted History

This is a guide covering the usual pieces of garments and accessories you may order or buy from Handcrafted History. I always aim to create garments for actual reenactors who will be playing, working and eating in their outfits, living life and going to parties! With this said- garments that can take the wear of everyday life and get washed afterwards!

Some notes:

  • Remember, garments from other vendors might have other caring instructions, as well as bespoke items ordered from me. Always follow the personal care instructions received with your items if more than one caring option is available.
  • I wash almost all my clothing in my washing machine, including wool clothes. Because I am lazy. The garments will get a little more wear from the machine washing, and it would be kinder to the wool fabrics to wash them by hand, and because of that, I recommend hand washing to my customers, so they will get the most use out of every single garment!
  • Wet garments are more sensitive than dry ones, so always handle your clothes with care when wet. Bring them out from the machine gently, and don’t put a strain on sensitive parts like a smocked collar or sleeve details by pulling or hanging the garments from these.
  • Oh, no! Blood or red wine on your party outfit? Rinse immediately with bubble water if you can find any. For small blood stains; your saliva might be used to remove these. Silk fabric, however, might get stained by these too, so you will have to decide if a water stain or a red stain would be more visible…
  • Sunlight will bleach even modern dyes if you hang the garments out to air or dry. Don’t leave garments out in the sun for too long, or hang them inside out. But a white shirt with stains might be bleached in the sun intentionally; leave it out for a couple of days to let the sun take care of stubborn stains that didn’t disappear in the wash.

General care:

  • Soak or rinse stains at once to avoid permanent marks on garments. Avoid bleach and heavy detergents, as well as chemicals, flame… Well, you get it.
  • Air your clothing after every use to reduce how often you need to wash them. Steaming will let wrinkles out easy. Mend holes or broken seams at once.
  • Store your garments in a dry place, check them for vermin every season and fold or roll them gently in place. Never hang heavy garments while storing, they might stretch or get marks from the hanger.
  • Have a care when getting dressed or undressed, look at your historical clothing more like a suit than a sweatshirt set. Your clothing will last much longer if you don’t jump into your hose or rip the shirt off in a hurry.

Linen garments:

I always use prewashed linen when sewing clothing for customers, this means that the linen fabric has been pre-shrunk and is safe to water wash for years to come. Wash your linen fabric in 40 degrees C, and pre-soak stains that have dried in or chunky pieces of mud. Use a regular mild detergent, no bleach.

Afterwards, gently take out your garments from the machine (or handwashing tub) and gently stretch the fabric lengthwise, especially the sleeves. Even prewashed garments may “shrink” (the fibres will pull together) which may cause, for example, the sleeves to appear shorter. After this, hang lighter garments or flat dry heavy pieces.

Ironing your underwear such as shirts and shifts make them look nice, feel smoother and resist sweat and dirt stains for longer. Use the recommended settings on your iron (normally 3 dots) and steam.

Wool garments:

I always prewash all wool fabrics before sewing, which many others don’t bother with. Instead, they tell their customers to never wash their historical clothing. I guess they have never come home from an event covered in sweat, dirt, food stains and wine? I have. And I want to be able to wash my clothing. So I make this a standard for all my customers too!

Start with airing out your garment, brush of dirt with a brush and close lacings, buttonholes etc.

Handwash your wool garments in cold to lukewarm water, with a wool detergent. Handle with care; do not knead, twist or pull violently on the garment. Rinse several times to get all the detergent out of the fabric. Lift carefully, press out excess water (with a clean towel) and arrange on a flat surface to dry. Smooth out the fabric so it looks neat and has the form it had before washing.

Iron on 2 dots with steam, and a pressing cloth (a kitchen towel or cotton sheet will do)

Silk, silk brocade, silk velvet etc

Silk is a fabric that doesn’t like water washing. But if you need to remove food stains, mud and such you don’t have much choice. If you soak your silk fabric, soak all of it to avoid water stains or lines. Follow the wool washing instructions and use a natural fibres/silk detergent (I use the same on both wool and silk) and always use a pressing cloth when ironing. Airing and steaming your fabric will make it look nice longer.

Silk fabrics are the only fabrics I do not wash before sewing, I only steam them to loosen up any weaving tension to avoid shrinking later.

Other materials:

If your garment has tin/pewter or bronze buttons, removing these will make them stay shiny for longer. Fur does not like water washing, so removing this and then stitching it back might be good. Otherwise, the fur will be dry and a bit brittle with a papery feel after a couple of washes. Or maybe you can wash the garment leaving the fur hanging outside the tub?

Jewelry, Viking age wire posaments, brocaded silks, straw and real pearls don’t do good with washing, try to avoid that for as long as possible, remove these pieces if you can before wetting the garment.

Leather doesn’t like being water washed either, but can usually take a wash or two. Just remember to grease it up afterwards.

Hats:

Wool hats: try not to crush, but if they have gotten a fold or dent you can steam them with an iron or boiling water, reshape and put the hat to dry in the shape you want. Might be handwashed the same way as wool fabrics in cold water, handle gently and always shape and store standing on a flat surface. Brush of loose dirt and dust.

Wool hats treated with shellack: do not crush, wet or wash with water. Carefully brush surfaces, leave them out to air and store standing on a flat surface. Stains might be carefully removed with a damp cloth.

Straw: Clean by airing or gently rub stains with a damp cloth. If folded/crushed and the fibres are intact; soak in lukewarm water, reshape when soft and put to dry in the exact shape as before. Use weights and support to make the hat dry in the wanted shape. Crushed fibres are damaged but might be supported by a hatband, or reinforced with a decorative fabric border being stitch on, so you may get more use out of the hat.

There you go! With the right care, you will be able to enjoy your historical garments for many years to come. And if you are uncertain about a specific piece of clothing you’ve got from me, always feel free to ask for caring advice!

I also do mending and size adjustments on garments I have made myself, just seek me out and we’ll see what we can do to make your garments more useful, and last longer!


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Thoughts on making medieval garments

I wanted to share some thoughts with you today; things I have learned and things I find important when I design medieval clothing. Both for myself and for customers. Being new in any branch of historical reenacting or costuming can be overwhelming, and just like with all other things in life there’s no simple answers or an ultimate guide. “Just read this book, and then you will know everything”… I haven’t found it at least.

But don’t feel overwhelmed! It is such an interesting journey you have ahead, exploring and experiencing other times and new handcrafting. And there are lots of others that love to share their knowledge in this field as well. Here are some great things I have learned over the years, that I like to share whenever I can!

Choosing materials is clearly one of the more difficult things when starting with historical handcrafting, and often the simplest way to succeed in making a good outfit is to pay the price for good material and buy the same as everyone else. Seems boring at first, right? But instead of wanting to make that perfect deal on super-cheap wool in a really unique colour; think about what historical look you want to achieve with your outfit, and what qualities you would like the garment to have.

The places that sell fabrics especially for reenactors often produce high-quality fabrics, and their customers will come back to buy more if they like it. The chance will also be that they are knowledgeable in historical fabrics so you can find materials, colours and qualities that resemble the historical originals, whilst giving you a fabric that will last for a long time at an affordable price.

The quality of the fabric will differ with manufacturers, places of origin, type of material etc so make sure to read up a bit on what material would be good for your individual project. Look at what others say about the seller and the different fabrics they offer and learn some useful words: tabby and twill are weaving techniques, and twill is often more stretchy. Felted means the fabric has been fulled and is often less stretchy, but more weather resistant and smooth. Thin, medium and heavy are different weights in wool fabrics, whereas 120 grams etc are the weight of an m2 fabric.

Fabric shopping at The historical fabric store

It is always best to be able to see and feel the fabric yourself, and now when we stay at home, fabric samples are a good choice. If you have friends, a group of other people around you that are good at different fabrics, ask them for advice (or use a forum online) and always state what kind of garment you would like to make (a kirtle) for what period (14th century) and for what kind of use (reenactment event during winter etc). That way you may save both money and effort instead of buying the first fabric you find, and then get disappointed.

Preparation of fabric

Wool and Linen

I always prewash fabrics before sewing, even for my customers. I know that many in the field claim that you can’t wash wool fabrics in water, but that’s just bullsh*t. Of course you can wash fabrics, at least good ones. Bad ones? Might shrink uneven, get too much wear or completely change the look, feel and even the colour in contact with water. But you know what? That is not ok for garment fabrics. They should be made to endure everyday wear and wet weather, washing, food stains and so on. Those things totally existed in the medieval ages, it would be strange if your medieval outfit couldn’t endure the same right?

Furthermore, prewashing fabrics will release the weaving tension in the warp, making it shrink slightly and give you the fall it will have after ironing/washing/a rainstorm. You could get the same result by steaming the fabric with an iron before sewing, but that won’t remove the…

Chemicals and anti-mould treatments. Fabric today needs to last for longer times during shipping and warehousing, and look good when arriving on the shelf in the fabric store. To achieve this most fabrics (and ready-made garments) are treated with different kind of chemicals, which will wash out in the washing process. Or rub off on your body… Not a good thought, right? Always prewash your fabrics!

Linen: soak in water a while before washing, to get a smoother fabric. Not necessary, but worth it. Fold it loosely in the bathtub for example. Wash the wet fabric in 40- 60 degrees C (the temperature you would like to wash your linen shift/shirt in later) hang to dry and then iron on a high temperature.

Wool: wash by hand or use the wool setting in the washing machine. Use cold to lukewarm water and wool detergent. If you don’t have that, use a little shampoo, because wool is hair, and will not look its best after strong detergents. Also, hot water might felt it and make it look dull.

Silk and silk velvets are the only fabrics I don’t wash before use, but rather iron very gently and hang out to air before use.

This dress has been washed several times in water, and still looks like new.

Which thread?

That depends on what fabric you want to use, and what you want to make. But I prefer natural materials and “same for same”: silk for silk fabric, linen threads for linen, and wool for wool fabrics. Oh, or silk and linen for wool fabrics too, because that is a historical choice and very easy to work with. If you prefer to use a sewing machine, cotton thread for linen and silk for wool garments work nice. A polyester thread is a bit too “sharp” and might lead to breakage in the fabric rather than the seam if you happen to get stuck in something with your garment. But yeah, it will work on a sewing machine if that is what you have, I just don’t recommend it.

Where to start?

It is always good to start with underwear like a shirt, shift and breeches. They will make up the base, are often easier to make and linen is not as expensive as wool. Also, you’ll get to try out the fit, the seams and some techniques.

After that, it is more a question of what you need versus what you are inspired to start with. Remember, handcrafting should be fun and not only practical! I like to make a middle/base layer next, often in wool, to be worn on warm events or when I work. After this is done, I adjust and finish of necklines at under-garments so they are not visible (if that is not fashionable) and start with some accessories and another layer for warmth and weather protection. The medieval period (and others too) often have an outfit made up of several layers, and that is really practical when going to outdoor events!

Wearing a thin wool gown on a summer event. Photo taken by Catrine Lilja Kanon

Another good tip is to make a mock-up or toile, basically a try out on the garment you desire, made in a cheap/recycled cotton fabric. It might seem as you are doing the work twice, but this is really handy as you get to try out the pattern, fit and look on the garment without risking that really expensive fabric. And if the mock-up gets really good, you just pick apart the basted seams and use it as a pattern!

Basting is also a good investment; long-running stitches will hold together your fabric pieces enough for a final fit before sewing and will make it both faster and easier to sew all the seams by hand. I will confess, when I started sewing medieval clothing I NEVER basted anything and rarely pinned the seams, but after several surprises (Whot, how come I got this fit?) I learned it was both better and faster to check the fit, before sewing the final seams…

How to decide on social class and status?

Ohh, don’t ask me, I always change between working-class garments and fancy party outfits depending on the event, place and what I feel like… But generally, just go for whatever catches your fancy! Or pick clothing after your preferred activities; are you going to stroll around a market fair with friends? Visit a fancy banquet? Or do you prefer mud wrestling, archery, beer taverns or outdoor cooking? Not only will you look much better with the right kind of clothing, but you will also find that your activities will be much more fun with the right garments! A short dress and practical hood for the forest archery, or a thin and cool kirtle with hose for the indoor festivities.

A well of working-class doublet, perfect for active events…

And a silk brocade doublet for those fancy strolls in the garden

Garments you need

This is always a tricky question, as it depends on the weather, the type of event and the gender and social status you want to portray. I thought I did great at my first events wearing a linen tunic, shoes and a cloak, I neither froze too much nor died, but nowadays I confess to having higher standards… Like, I want to both look like I fit in the historical context, being comfy, not getting too many mosquito bites, and not freeze during chilly evenings. I also like to change my linen underwear every day to feel fresh, as well as having some change of outerwear/dresses just because I feel like it. (Oh, now I’m babbling again. You would never guess how much text I always have to delete because of babbling…)

Getting dressed in the morning; linen shift, wool hose and leather turn shoes

1. You generally need linen underwear and a change for longer events. Several changes, if you’re not going to wash the clothes during the event. We want to look medieval, not smell medieval…

2. A thin or medium warm wool layer for summer events, for working or for indoor events.

3. An outer layer for cold evenings, if you get wet or want to look well dressed. I recommend another layer of kirtle/dress/coat rather than a cloak to get more use out of your clothing.

4. Headwear like hats, veils, hoods etc. Both to complete the outfit esthetically, but also because it gives you cover from weather and bugs.

5. Shoes! Don’t forget shoes, make or buy a pair that is looking good and feels comfortable. Hose (long or short) with thin leather soles is also workable on warm events, paired with pattens.

6. Accessories, both fancy and practical: belt, garters, bags, purses, cloaks, headwear, gloves… You name it. These can really set the style and time period, so check out sources before you decide on what to add to complete your outfit!

A 15th c outfit in 3 layers; shift, middle kirtle and overdress complete with shoes, headwear and accessories.

Wear it!

Historical clothing should be worn, because it is awesome and comfy and looks great… You know that you’re allowed to wear it around the house right? Or take the great cloak for that chilly walk, or use the apron when doing gardening work. You shouldn’t need to be super careful with your garments, they will look even better when you have worn them a couple of times. My favourite shift is 6 years old and worn transparent thin over my shoulders and back after months of wearing, but I love it.

And make it last longer:

If you have long skirts, fold them up or pull them up into your belt when walking so you don’t step on the hem, or drag it through the mud. That will make the fabric last longer. Protect the handsewn leather turn shoes with pattens when walking through rain or mud, and always mend holes and rips as soon as you find them on your garments. At the end of the season, I always wash, mend, air and look through all my garments before putting them into the wardrobe. For this covid-year though, I recommend taking them out for airing a time or two to avoid dust and bugs.

Getting dressed in historical clothing is actually a bit different than getting dressed in your favourite comfy pants and T-shirt. If you are used to wearing stretchy clothing, you will need to be a bit more careful getting dressed and undressed with woven natural fibres. Imagine it more like a suit, pull it carefully over your head, always open lacing and buttons before removing the garment, and never “jump” into your medieval joined hose. Another tip to make your hose last longer is to always pull them up before kneeling or sitting and to wear garters under the knee to make them stay in place.

Early 14th c outfit with accessories

Yeah, I think I got the most parts down here, and it became quite the long blog post. Maybe I am tired of sitting at home, talking to the cats and love all the time? Who am I kidding? I am REALLY tired of sitting at home, I miss events, adventures and being able to go out and do fun stuff. But most of all, I miss you friends, readers and fellow history travelers! Stay safe and take care so we can meet each other soon!

Love, L


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The 15th century coat

For the Golden Egg challenge, I made a warm, woollen coat. The purpose of the coat was to make an over-garment from sources that would be warm, practical and fitting for the period. After using it for half a year I am very satisfied; it is such an easy garment and yet it looks great, is comfortable and versatile. I use it as part of the outfit, when the weather is cold or wet, as a robe when visiting the bathroom early in the mornings, as a picnic blanket…

I drew you a basic pattern outlay if you want to try it out for yourself.

The small gores F1 and B1 are just to save fabric, so the main pieces are 2 fronts, 2 backs and 2 sleeves. If you have a toile or mock-up that works for you, you can use that as a base and then just draw out the lines from the sleeve/neck as I did on the pattern.

The fabric I used was 310 * 150 cm, if you are taller or need a size large or above, consider adding some extra fabrics for lengths and sleeves. You don’t really need as much width as I have, but it will give you a very nice drape and look.

The cut and pattern are based on paintings and what pattern instructions I have found from the period. I think it is a possible take, though I have seen outer garments with S-sleeves, sleeve gores and more intricate patterns and constructions. The side seams can be found in some pictures, as well as in patterns of outer garments from later periods.

When you have cut out the pieces needed, pin/baste and sew the coat together in the following order:

  1. back seam
  2. shoulder seams
  3. side seams
  4. sleeves
  5. insert the sleeves in the coat
  6. hem the coat
  7. put in a closure at the front neck.

I used unbleached, waxed linen thread and a running stitch, folded the seam allowance to one side and fastened it down with whip stitches. The hems were finished with whip stitching too.

I also trimmed the neck and sleeves with fur, since that seems to be common in contemporary art. To avoid dipping the sleeve hems in food, I made the sleeves wide enough to be able to fold the fur inside the sleeves when working- this turned out very practical!

Materials:

The coat is made in warm, thick wool twill, with a rich, deep brown colour that would have been quite expensive to dye. Other good colours could have been walnut brown, red or black.

Linen thread for sewing, since this seems to be common in most finds from the period.

Rabbit fur for trims, because that was the only fur I found that was up to my ethical standards about how you should treat animals (eco, small family garden breeding, killed and tanned in the area without chemicals). White fur to match the paintings. If you don’t want to use fur a folded down hem would do just fine!

The clasp is based on a find from the period and is made in bronze

You can wear the coat loose, or close it with a belt. I often wear it with a belt, as it is more practical. If you want tips on sewing a fur trim on a garment, check out my tutorial on the subject!

Historical sources and why I did a coat

The outer garment could be a dress as well, as there are lots of warm dresses lined with furs or fabric in sources. I chose the coat as I wanted a practical garment, and know from experience that the second layer of wool dress would not be versatile enough for what I needed. The sources I have used are from the second half of the 15th century, in today’s Germany. The Golden Egg outfit is based mainly on the period 1470-1490, but the coat belongs to the end of this period rather than being the “choice of all women”. So now you can decide if you should go for the practical coat or the more common dress when making your outfit!

Sources: if you want to check out some sources on 15th century clothing, I recommend some of these links:

Lots of clothing from Dresden

My pinterest on the project

A portrait

About the black engraving


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Some of the clothes I’ve made this year

Sometimes I get the feeling that I never get anything done, or that I haven’t made a piece for sale in like, forever. So I made a list of some of the things I have done this year, both for customers and for myself and love, and then I felt that yes- maybe I have been quite productive after all!

In the beginning of the year, I think I accidentally started this Herjolfnes recreation, all hand stitched.

I made our wedding outfits for our Midsummer wedding:


Supporting linen dress, white silk dress, velvet over dress, purse, belts and for love; silk shirt, silk brocade doublet and under west, woolen hose, bag and belt. Also, I remember sewing some tunics and dresses for our families for the wedding.

Did I sew this houppelande also, or did I finish it the year before? It is also all hand stitched, on wool, silk and rabbit fur.

During autumn, I apparently needed to redo my apron dress, make a whole new viking coat by hand and put it all together to a new outfit, along with some tablet woven bands.

   Also, some commissions took place, like this coat…

… as well as a number of hoods, shirts and tunics (here’s some of them along with the silk cotehardie)

I also remember some viking hedeby trousers (baggy pants)- four of them i think.

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As well as some hand sewn viking clothing…

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I updated my shop and market stall during the spring with cloths, small flags and my own logo hand painted on a linen fabric.

  Made a whole bunch of veils in linen and thin wool for different outfits;

I studied 16th century tailoring manuscripts and sewed two jackets for women, in wool fabric (one for my friend Linnea and one for myself)

Oh, and rosaries were totally a thing- I have read a lot about them, made a whole bunch of drawings, some pieces for sale and a folder about how to do them yourself, as well as holding some workshop on the subject.

This is far from everything I have made, and some pieces have not even made it to being properly photographed though I have been wearing them on several occasions.  Also, quite a few items and commissions also are just on fb or my Instagram accounts, otherwise this post would be far to long.

All in all, I think I have; 1. made quite some things and 2. need to be even better at documenting them and writing about them here on the blog.