HANDCRAFTED HISTORY


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How to take care of your historical shoes

At the end of each historical adventure-season I try to clean, mend and grease all our shoes. Outdoors in the autumn sun is of course the most enjoyable, but as long as you get it done it is fine. (Ideally, one would do this after each event to keep the shoes in top condition. But I am lazy…)

Shoe care: soft brush, leather grease with rag and paper.

After each adventure:

Treat your shoes with some grease after each event/market/adventure and also during longer trips. If the shoes get wet, dry them in room temperature or outdoors (never put them by the fire). You may fill them with paper to get them to dry quicker.

How to deep-clean your shoes before putting them away for the winter:

  1. Brush away loose bits and dust, and clean the space between leather and sole by separating these and brushing away small scraps in the crack. Use a soft brush.
  2. Wipe the shoes clean with luke warm water, and a bit of leather soap/regular soap if dirty. Scrub the soles clean with water and soap.
  3. Dry well, filled with paper to hold the shape better.
  4. Treat the leather parts with leather grease. I also grease the soles on turnshoes.
  5. Dry for a day or two, and then store the shoes in a dry space. I usually keep the historical shoes in the wardrobe.
Clean between the sole and leather
Now these pair are cleaned, dried and greased!

Before the next adventure, take out your shoes and grease them again before use!

Mend your shoes as soon as you discover they are broken! A ripped seam or a loose strap needs to be sewn (you can use vaxed linen thread) and a loose rubber sole needs to be glued in place. If you are unsure how to mend the shoe, the shoemaker you bought them from should be able to help you or give you advise. A modern shoemaker/cobbler could also be of help.

Shoes might not be as visible as other garments, but they add to the historical look and experience!

Store your shoes:

Shoes should be kept in a dry space, and can be filled with paper to better hold their shape. Wardrobes, airy shelves or paper boxes are good. Shoes might get moldy if kept damp or squashed together.

How to use your shoes:

Leather turn shoes (with a leather sole) wears out quickly if you walk with them on gravel and asphalt. If you are walking a lot on those grounds, consider to bring a pair of pattens (wooden soles with straps) to protect your shoes. Or change to modern shoes if walking longer distances. I do that during Medieval week in Visby to spare both shoes and knees.

Mud is equally bad for your shoes; try to avoid it, wear pattens, or brush your shoes clean as fast as you can after a muddy experience.

When walking, remember to not drag you feet against the ground, but properly lift your feet to spare the sole. Avoiding glass and sharp stones is also good. If the shoes get a bit large, use an inner sole, a pair of extra socks or leather straps to keep the shoe firmly on your foot. A shoe that moves on your foot will get uncomfortable and wear out faster.

Buying or making historical shoes can be expensive, but with the right use and treatment they will last a long time. I use mine approximately 30 days a year, and they are several years old now!

(Want to make your own shoes? I have a weekend workshop in shoemaking planned for 13-14 November 2021 in Sundsvall, Sweden. Send me an email if you want to know more and join us!)


Welcome!

Welcome to Handcrafted History, a small business located in the middle of Sweden. I am Linda, and have been handcrafting and travelling on historical adventures for 20 years! I offer made-to-measure historical clothing, lectures and workshops from Viking age to Late medieval period.

On my page, you can find information on How to order clothes, Book me for workshops or browse the free Tutorials on Sewing or Swedish Larping. Below, you find the blog that I’ve been writing for about 10 years. I share research projects as well as fun guides and inspiration for your handcrafting.

Please contact me by email at linda.handcraftedhistory @ gmail.com for invites to markets, ordering clothing, booking workshops or for collaborations regarding the blog.


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What’s my life like?

Are you curious about what life is like for historical market sellers and historical interpreters? Let me show you how my workdays and life looks like during a normal market season! (you know, before the pandemic when we actually travelled and met friends)

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What everyone sees (hopefully); standing in the market stall in pretty clothing

What life is like, nr 1: Driving

I live in the middle of Sweden so all markets during the season are typically a 4-8 hours drive away from home, and about 12 hours if I want to reach the southern parts. 2 years ago I bought a small van that I can drive on my regular driver’s license and it gives me the opportunity to bring all my market things, sleeping arrangement, restocking items and food. I can sleep in the van if I have to, and a small field kitchen keeps me sustained so I don’t have to stay at expensive restaurants along the way.

Nr 2: Freedom

Driving may be boring and takes a lot of time, but it also gives me a great feeling of freedom, driving across the country, over mountains, and stopping at interesting places to see the view or buy a local drink. Being your own also means freedom to plan, to decide when to work and how, and how much…

But sometimes I plan poorly and end up having to pack away the whole market stall and all my belongings in the heat of summer before I can take the van to go and find food. That happened a little too often in 2019, I will definitely plan better in the future.

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Nr 3: Actual working clothing

Regular working clothing when packing the camp; shift (linen underwear) sturdy shoes, working gloves, sunglasses and not much more. Fashionable deluxe!

Or, half-clean pants (they never stay clean for long when packing…) and a sweaty t-shirt after driving for hours without a working AC in summer. We really do save the best looking clothing for visitors and customers!

Nr 4: Lots of really hard work

From unloading the van to the ready-to-open market stall several hours of hard work lies in between. Packing up, lifting, packing down, carrying… If someone would make an employment ad for my work, there would totally be lines like “You really enjoy carrying things around and loading vans”.

I do so much heavy lifting during summer that I need to keep my weight lifting up during the winter so I won’t hurt my back when the summer season comes. Who could have guessed?

Because I am a one-person business, I sometimes travel alone (though I like to bring Love or friends along- it’s so much more fun!) which means I need to do the work myself, and also find some helping hands to raise the tent. We often help each other out which means running around helping with several tents, but also laughter and company while working!

Nr 5: Simple living conditions

Living in a medieval camp. This is the most awesome, and the hardest thing all season. I absolutely love sleeping in the cosy medieval tent, listening to the wind and sounds of camp all around. In the morning there is a fire with fresh coffee, friends to talk with and birds singing all around.

It is also the hardest. 2019 was a really cold and damp year sleeping outside, I regularly wore double woollen dresses and in bed, I had two layers of woollen clothes, covets, blankets, woollen socks and a cap- and was still freezing. When I arrived late at a market I barely got the tent up before darkness, and then there was only a cold meal in a messy space before sleeping. It can be uncomfortable, dark, cold… or a storm threatening to tear your home down.

Still worth it!

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Nr 6: Tourists

Not the same thing as customers, or visitors. The tourist will ask you things like “Do you really live in there” (yes) “Is this ware really from the Viking age?” (no) “Where do you take a shower?” (…) and sometimes you can be really, I mean really, tired of those questions. But at the same time, meeting people and making new friends is the best part of travelling.

But it is ok to be tired sometimes. And tell them you never shower… (On some events there are no showers. A lake or a bucket of water might be good for a couple of days, but every once in a while a girl needs a warm shower!)

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When the tourists leave… Ok, I admit that some of the best times during the market weekends are the evenings. The work is done, the market stall closed and you have time to cook, hang out with others at the market and enjoy entertainment, feasts, fire shows or just relax.

Nr 7: Moving from the modern world to the historical dream

The mix between the historical dream and the modern world.  Vans, heavy work and lots of things you need to build, carry, organise… But after that; a beautiful dress, a cosy area with medieval tents, cooking and that amazing feeling of visiting another time.

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Nailed it! Getting that perfect photo that shows you standing effortless in a beautiful surrounding, with your medieval outfit perfectly in order. The wind is right, the light is right. Not showing;

  • I was sick as a dog
  • There were one zillion visitors in the garden at the same time, appearing in the background and beside me
  • Battery remaining in camera; around 4%

Do you think this seems to be the most amazing job ever? (even after reading this whole post?) Well, here are my tips for starting:

  • Visit lots of markets to see what people want to buy, and what others are selling. Is there a gap in the market you might fill with products of your own? Thinking you can do the exact same thing as others, only cheaper/faster/better is not a good way to start- most markets and events want diversity in their sellers and won’t invite too many shoe/pottery/cake vendors.
  • What can you make/produce and what do you need to buy? If you have lots of costs (like importing fabrics) you will need bigger markets to sell more, whereas if you sell homemade cookies and honey you have lower costs but need more time preparing products.
  • Calculate costs; purchases, travel expenses and a salary for yourself, and then make a budget for the market season. How much do you need to sell to get a salary? To pay for all the costs going to a market? Many beginners make the mistake of not charging enough for their products and are struggling to make the ends meet until they get exhausted and quit. You need to charge enough to both cover your costs, get money for yourself and build a small amount for emergencies like a flat tyre or a broken tent.
  • Patience. No matter if you have a good budget and great products in place, the first season might not be great. It takes time to discover which markets suit your products, what customers want, how to sell things… Be patient. Have a backup plan to cover your living costs (like a side job, savings, etc) while exploring the market life.
  • Get to know people; everything is easier with friends. Maybe you can collaborate with someone, or help out somewhere in the beginning to make new friends. Being kind and helpful to others is a great first step!

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Fun fact about my business: Some time ago I got a call from a television show producer, wanting to know more about my life as a historical market seller and maker. She was very disappointed when I explained that I live my life like most people do, in a house, driving a car and eating everyday food for the better part of the year…

I am, after all, a pretty normal person with a business, that takes me out on adventures and travelling for the summer season, while I am living quite the normal life for the other half of the year.

traveling


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Camping inspiration

This post is a collaboration with Korps and contain advertisement for fabrics from their webpage.

Are you longing for some historically-inspired life and camping? Now is a great time to get inspiration and ideas for the next event and plan what you would like your living place to look like!

Look at this lovely place, I am longing to be outside in a camp again! Imagine sitting in that corner while it is raining, having cookies and wine and chatting with friends.

I spent lots of time at the beginning of my reenactment adventure life pondering over what I would need and what I would like to bring to different events. I also collected lots of photos of things that looked practical or just pretty and wrote lists of things that would be good to have next time. Kitchen towel, water flask, bucket and extra wool blankets are things that piled on those lists, helped there by experience or inspiration from other reenactors.

Mmm, look at this cozy place! Wouldn’t you love to eat lunch here? I would put the bread in a basket, have extra napkins and plates for guests ready and decorate the table with some fruits.

My main inspiration to improve my camping life have come from SCA events, since these often are quite long and you’ll meet lots of others that have been in the hobby for a long time, thus having created pretty and comfortable living areas.

Far from everything in these photos is as historically close as possible; most tents are machine sewn, furniture is made with modern tools and practical solutions mostly won over historical ones, when it comes to food prepping and hygiene. With that said, here are lots of options for camping life, with amazing handcrafting and historical techniques and materials.

Capturing all the good ideas

The feeling of homeliness; look at these camps! The furniture, the kitchenware, pennants, lanterns… Even if everything is not based on historical finds from a specific period, the overall look is awesome. The ropes and tent walls actually add to the feeling of spaciousness, of having a living place outside in the woods. (I like the table cloth, thinking about making one to my kitchen)



My best practical ideas;

A good blanket! I put my heavy wool blanket on top of my bed to keep it dry and warm, use it as a picnic blanket, and a cloak during cold evenings. To get a really big, affordable wool blanket; buy a good quality wool fabric and make one yourself! This fabric is a good choice, super thick and sturdy!

Get the fire up from the ground! On many sites, fire safety dictates that the fire pit should be 30-50 cm above the ground. Plan for that by building a fire bowl with legs, and you have a convenient cooking place so you don’t have to crawl on the ground to cook.

The drink’s on the house! Naw, you don’t have to give out free beer, but it’s good to have water available. Bring jugs and bottles for the stylish table, as well as tanks/containers that fit larger quantities of water. If you don’t have historical options, use a plastic one and hide it in a cloth sack.

A fabric roof! Cheap, practical and good for both sunshade and rain. Make your own by sewing two pieces of fabric together (150*400 cm), and add some sturdy holes in them. To put up your new roof you also need some ropes and wooden poles with nails going through the holes. You can find good tent/canvas fabrics here. (You could also use these fabrics to sew your own tent on your regular sewing machine.)

Do you have any goals for your camp, or fun ideas you want to do? Here is my wish-list for improving our camp: (hopefully I will get around to these, and now when I have put them down here I think the probability will be even higher…)

A fireplace like this. Sooo practical! I wish someone would build me a square fire bowl. I would stack the wood neatly underneath, make coffee in the morning and feel like a queen while doing so!
Making the packing a bit less… plastic. It is convenient to store and transport lots of things in plastic bins, but they are Oh So Ugly. I am working on using wooden boxes instead, and cloth sacks.
Painted silk flags! It is so pretty, I want a whole bunch of them hanging by our camp, and then I will give everyone directions to our tent by telling them “just go to the big tent with all the pretty pennants”.


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Lacing on medieval dresses

Lacing is a really easy solution when you would like to make a tightly fitted garment and need an opening to be able to get in and out easily. During the medieval period, lacing comes and goes as a popular fashion and practical solution choice, so if you aim for a historically believable garment make some research first to determine if the lacing is the best option!

Historical garments may also be closed with fabric or metal buttons, hooks and eyes, pins or a regular whip stitch.

spiral lacing with a lucet woven wool cord, on a 14th century dress

Lacing can be seen on male and female clothing, but today I wanted to show you how I make lacing on a dress. The most common lacing method is spiral lacing; one cord for closing the open space by going through lacing holes spaced a little uneven from each other. This is easy and quick, and you only need one cord.

Fastening the lacing; a double round at the top prevents gaping.

To unlace; thread the point back again, or as below: use a loose knot at the start of the lacing (at the bottom) and unravel the lacing from the bottom up.

Use a knot at the start of the lacing, on the inside of the dress.

I place the lacing holes like this; the first two and the last two are aligned but the rest is spiralled. This gives you a tighter lacing, that looks better and is historical. By making the first and last pair even you will get the front panels even to each other. This kind of lacing can be seen in paintings by Weyden for example.

Lacing holes needs to be quite close to each other; between 1,5 to 2,5 on one side, depending on the fabric and the amount of support you need. A tighter gown supporting a heavy bust needs a closer lacing, while a looser garment might have more space between the holes.

To make lacing holes I use a sharp awl to make a small hole, and then a fitting thicker awl in metal, wood or bone to make the hole bigger. I do have real awls, but since they seem to always be “somewhere else” a bunch of different objects has been used; needle binding needles, hairpins, chopsticks… You don’t need anything fancy, was my conclusion. Yeah…

After the hole is made the right size, I sew around it with a buttonhole silk thread or a waxed linen thread (depending on social status, period, colour etc) I never bother with any fancy stitch, just sew around like this, and cover the hole equally with thread. Practise makes perfect; don’t bother if your first holes are a bit uneven, if you start from the bottom and work your way up they will look really nice by the time you reach the area others actually look at.

A tip for making the hole more even is to first sew one round of stitching around the hole, and then another turn, dense enough to cover any gaps.

On the inside of the lacing, you can see a thin strip of tabby woven, sturdy linen fabric. I always use a piece of fabric on the inside (if I don’t have a whole lining in place) to strengthen the edge and make the lacing look better. You can use linen fabric scraps: cut it in a straight piece, fold in the raw edges and sew in place with whip stitches or slip stitches.

I prefer to make the cord in either wool or silk thread. The wool thread is cheaper, flexible and will stay put. The silk one gives a nice shine, is very strong and easy to lace with. Decide based on your project. To finish the cord (this one is done with a lucet but they could also be braided or tablet woven) I like to use a point. That will make it easier to lace the dress, but if you don’t have one a thick needle will do the trick too! Just thread the cord on a needle, and use that to lace yourself in. Another option is to make a cord long enough to just loosen up, without having to lace up the whole garment.

the green dress in the tutorial


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15th century inspo

Here’s an alternative look for you 15th-century geeks out there! I took the photos in 2018 but apparently put them in that “good to have” pile on the computer, and they were forgotten. This happens quite often for me…

Linen shift closest to the body, wool socks and leather shoes. Over the shift I wear the easy 15th century dress, here used as a middle layer/kirtle. I like to be able to use my clothes in different layers, and this dress is a perfect summer over dress, but also works as the middle layer once it gets colder.

The overdress is a wool houppelande, lined with silk and with openings in the sleeves. This style is popular by the 50s and 60s, and can be seen in Rogier van der Weydens paintings. I keep the dress closed with a broad belt with a bronze clasp; a copy from an original find. This is one of my favourite dresses, since it is comfortable to wear but looks fancy. It is quite heavy with the high-quality woollen cloth draping around my body, but hey- you have to give a little effort to fashion sometimes?

The temple braids and turban-looking great veil is perhaps a bit “simple” for the dress, and I could also pair it with elaborate headwear. But I really like this look since it is comfortable and, above all, I can manage it myself in 15 minutes by the mirror. If you want to see how I do them; I have a braid tutorial here and a paper on the 15th-century veils I use here.

If you want to research the 15th c yourself, feel free to use my Pinterest as a starting point! This fashionable period has much interesting things to offer!


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2020 in review

There’s a lot to say about this year, but at least I’ve been having plenty of time for sewing. Unfortunately, a bad shoulder gave me some pains, but with rest and a training program, I think we are mostly friends again!

I thought it would be fun to share some projects with you here, as an inspiration and a kind of journal to myself: I always forget what I have been sewing, and find myself longing to finish yet another personal “small project” but not understanding why I don’t make any progress…

72 garments finished during 2020; both for customers, friends and myself. I am not going to write about them all, and many have not been photographed yet. I also have a whole bunch of things not yet ready; commissions, old projects known as UFOs (unfinished objects) and some rather new ideas I have been working on.

Easy, simple and comfortable blue Viking dress. Want to make a similar? Use the Shift-making tutorial and the Insert a Gore-tutorial to make a long shift with 4 gores.

It was time to make some new viking clothes and I managed this blue dress, the red apron dress and some matching items, like the handwoven and woad plant-dyed shawl. I am really pleased with how the outfit turned out, even if the outfit might not be sexy to the modern eye… I love experimenting with different historical cuts that could have been in use, trying out how they look and feel when I make and wear them.

Later I made this early 14th century outfit as I finally, after a long period of 15th century-romance, have laid my eyes on new conquests. The 13th and 14th centuries are very nice, and I want to get to know them a little more. The next project will be something from the Maciejowski/Morgan Bible.

I have made several complete outfits for customers based on viking age and medieval clothing, and this was the year when I only met GOOD CUSTOMERS! I kid you not! Everyone has been polite, fun to work with and sent their payments. For those of you working regularly in customer service; you know my feeling here! How did I get to be so lucky? And, will this continue during 2021?

A hand-sewn 16th century shirt inspired by the Sture shirt (without decorations and embroidery). This shirt took over 40 hours to make, more than most dresses… Is it pretty? Yes. Was it worth it? Give me another year before I answer…

I have also worked on 18th century clothing, learning more about the period and the methods in use. There’s a couple of skirts, a jacket in wool and one in printed cotton, as well as a small linen cap. I am looking forward to going to new kinds of events and trying out the kit to see if it will work.

I made a new short-sleeved kirtle with a waist seam, similar to the blue Weyden-inspired dress from years ago. This dress is rather loose (I might need to take it in a bit in the side seams) and it’s made with a curved front seam. It is going to be a great working kirtle! The long-sleeved green 15th c dress also got sold, they mysteriously shrank in the wardrobe during last winter)

Apart from sewing I also dived into some video making, filmed lectures for the digital Medieval Week as well as setting up a new Youtube channel, and working with content for my Patreon page. Video editing and voice-overs still make me sweat, but my plan is to continue to improve in these new areas, creating more and better content for you readers. Patreon makes this possible since I get support to work with my content, and my hope for 2021 is that my page will continue to grow, inspire and teach handcrafting ideas to everyone interested!

It feels like it is early yet to plan for this year, but of course, I am hoping for a market season of some kind, and I have so much new content for sewing workshops and material for a new viking lecture as well. As for the blog, there is a long list with tutorials to make, as much as I have time for. All concluded, it really feels like 2021 will be a Great Year!


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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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Medieval pattens (research post)

I wanted to buy myself a pair of really nice wooden pattens to protect my handmade medieval shoes during events, like 6 years ago. I didn’t find any, so then I tried to trade for a pair with some woodworking friends, but none knew how to make a pair or didn’t want to, so I set out to fix my non-pattens-problem on my own. That took a while, and believe me, I have gone through some bad options before I ended up happy.

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Making a wooden sole with a leather strap, and then put it on your foot seems like a simple task, but in the end, I didn’t get it right before I researched the extant finds, looked at the artwork and then tried making a pair with some serious hands-on experimenting. I wanted them to both look good, feel right and be comfortable to move in. Now I have finally made a pair I am satisfied with, so I wanted to share my research and process with you! Because of the amount of research, text and pictures I ended up with, I am splitting the posts into research and step-by-step. Easier to read!

Period: Europe, mainly 14th to 15th century.

About pattens

Pattens are a pair of soles with straps, to wear with your everyday medieval shoe to raise the foot above the ground, avoiding snow, dirt and water. Though they might look like sandals their purpose was to protect the wearer and the expensive shoes all year round, and the thick soles meant you came up from the ground, keeping you dry and warm as well as making the shoes last longer. Pattens were shaped after the foot and the leather shoe, changing form as the shoe fashion did.

They may also be referred to as clogs or galoshes, all names for a medieval overshoe meant to protect the leather shoe, though I will use the term pattens like Grew and Neergaard does in Shoes and Pattens. There are finds of pattens from the 12th and 13th century, making them an useful accessory for the medieval person. Finds of 14th century pattens in London are often decorated for the higher classes and gets more common later in the century. In the 15th century, they become increasingly popular, with many different models and variations. Lots of extant finds show this trend, as well as the pattens being frequently showed in contemporary art. Based on this knowledge, I decided to focus mainly on the late 14th and 15th century variations of pattens.

Materials and models

Pattens can be found with soles in joined layers of leather, as well as wood, and with a solid sole or a two-pieced variant, joined with leather almost like a hinge. Examples with a wooden platform on top of stilts or wedges in wood or metal can also be found.

Examples of wood being used in finds; alder, willow, poplar and one example of beech. Aspen was prohibited for use in England in 1416 (which tells us it was probably a popular choice) but 1464 it was stated that it was allowed to make pattens of aspen wood not suitable for arrow shafts (Shoes and Pattens).

15th and early 16th century pattens, both wood and layers of leather were used for soles.

Straps made of leather

All extant examples I have studied have straps made of leather (vegetable tanned cowhide seems to be the choice), though there are lots of different strap fastenings. Some pattens have one strap over the front part of the foot, almost like flip flops, while others also have straps at the sides or behind the heel, joining in a strap around the ankle. The heel straps can be first seen in late 14th century finds.

Looking at contemporary artwork, many working persons from the period wear practical pattens with a sturdy strap over the foot, while higher classes have more formed soles with delicate straps, sometimes decorated, and sometimes with a buckle.

To adjust the fit of the straps there are examples of metal buckles, ties and leather strips secured with a piece of leather or a nail among other varieties. The leather used for straps are generally thinner than the one used to join a split sole, and to make it sturdier a seam, a binding or a folded edge has been used. Two layers of leather sewn together is another method. The leather could be decorated with dyes or edges of contrasting colours and stamps or cut-outs in patterns.

To fasten the leather to the soles iron nails were used, both for the straps and the sole hinge. Sometimes a second leather strap was nailed down around the sole to finish the look and protect the foot straps from wear. Other words used for the nails are dubs, pins and pegs but I choose to follow the item descriptions on the online database of the Museum of London naming them nails. It also seems that the medieval examples have the same shape and size as nails to other kinds of work.

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Metal buckles and other fastenings

There are several examples of metal buckles represented in the artwork on pattens from the 15th century, and finds from the 14th and 15th century of similar buckles made in iron, brass, bronze and copper allow to mention some examples. Because most buckles are found loose it is hard to say which ones were used for belts, shoes, pattens and purses. I opted for some examples from contemporary artwork to show you, and if you want to further examine buckles from the period there are lots of finds on online museum collections as well as in Dress Accessories.

Examples of metal buckles in contemporary artwork

There are several finds from sites in Europe like London and Amsterdam as well as examples from Germany. If you want to see more extant finds, the Museum of London online collection is a great source to begin with.

Hugo van der Goes, The Portinari Altarpiece/Triptych, c 1475

Sources:

Grew and Neergaard (2001) Shoes and pattens p. 91-101

Egan and Pritchard (2002) Dress Accessories 1150-1450

Goubitz (2011) Stepping Through Time: archaeological footwear from prehistoric times until 1800.

Museum of London online collection (20200416) https://collections.museumoflondon.org.uk/online/search/#!/results?terms=medieval%20patten

Extant find at the top; Museum of London online collection. 15th c patten in wood with leather and iron nails.

A patten maker; (20200416) https://hausbuecher.nuernberg.de/75-Amb-2-317-106-v

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Early 14th century outfit

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This is my early 14th century outfit, hand-stitched and made with inspiration from medieval manuscript sources, like the Luttrell Psalter from early 14th c England.

I made the dress for my video project and wanted to put together a whole outfit that would fit in the same time period. It turned out super comfy, maybe I could wear it instead of my comfy pants indoors..?

I also made it so it would be usable in the viking outfit if I would be in need of a thin woollen dress/kirtle under the apron dress. Hence the looser sleeves, shorter length and not so wide neckline. It is certainly not the most fashionable 14th c outfit, rather an outfit for work, like in my market stall. (Uhum, much suitable, very nice thinking there…)

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This dress will be featured in my online lecture about Medieval Dress (only in Swedish right now!) and as I know that many of you readers are Swedes or understand Swedish, I will post a link to the lecture here. For you non-Swedish speakers; I have not forgotten you, and will strive to translate interesting parts of the video to English and post it on a Youtube channel in the future.

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Until then, here’s a list of the materials used in the outfit if you get interested in making your own.

What items do you need?

For my outfit in size small-medium, based on fabrics 150 cm width

  • Linen shift, 2 meters. Linen thread and beeswax for sewing.
  • Wool kirtle as the visible layer. 2,6-3 meters of wool fabric. Wool, linen or silk thread for sewing.
  • Birgitta cap + linen half circle veil. 60 cm thin linen. Thin linen thread and beeswax.
  • Linen apron. 100*80 cm of sturdy linen, linen thread and beeswax.
  • Wool hose/socks. Around 70*100 cm wool twill.
  • Leather turn shoes.
  • Garters in wool or silk for the hose. Fabric scraps, woven ribbons or braids can be used.
  • Purse, here in brick stitched silk with silk tassels and a silk tablet woven band. Made by my friend Jenny!
  • Thin belt in leather or fabric.
  • Decorative brooch in brass with stones.
  • 3 dress pins in bronze.

14thcoutfit