Handcrafted History

Historical and modern handcraft mixed with adventures


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Making a better Apron dress

I though I would share my best tips and tricks for making good apron dresses, since I have made a whole bunch of them by now, and probably most of the mistakes to…

Nr 1. Use enough fabric. I know it’s tempting to save on the fabric, but trust me. To short and tight a dress will look like a modern dress.

Nr 2. Use a thin enough fabric. Save the sturdy, felted wool fabrics for a coat or a cape and chose a thin, rather loosely woven fabric. It should be comfortable and have a nice fall, try to drape it over a piece of furniture, like a table, and look how the folds drape.

Nr 3. Try it on while sewing with all your other layers of clothing, to make sure you will have enough room under the apron dress for a shift and a possible warmer dress if you think you will be needing that.

Nr 4. Dont make the straps to long. I think it looks very strange when women are wearing their dresses at the middle of their bust, or even under their nipple area. Please don’t.

Nr 5. If you don’t have tortoise brooches to fasten your dress with, don’t use modern buttons or fastenings in the meantime. The latest thing I have read about apron dresses is that 1. you don’t have to wear them for reenacting a viking woman and 2. they wear always worn with brooches, like the dress being an accessory to the jewelry and not the other way around. So skip the apron dress if you don’t own the brooches, or sew the straps directly to the dress itself.

Nr 6. Thin fabric could be lined with a strip of linen or you can use lining inside the whole dress to make it sturdier.

Nr 7. You could also sew on a piece of tablet woven band or a thin silk strip around the upper part of the dress, to make it durable, enhance the fitting and also, for decoration.

Nr 8. Decorating your dress doesn’t have to be expensive. Use thin strips of patterned silks, tablet woven bands, viking silver posaments, or just a braided cord. On the small figurines, it seems like there is decoration around the hem of the dress, and in grave finds there is remnants of silk and decorations around the upper part, partly inside the tortoise brooches. Save money and time and decorate only the upper part of the dress, or do the whole thing!

Nr 9. Use the same type of thread as the decoration you want to sew to your dress. Silk thread for silk fabrics, wool thread for woven bands, and a very thin and fine silk thread for posaments. This will give you a nice seam, that is as little visible as possible, and doesn’t damage the decorations.

Nr 10. To protect your dress from the everyday stains; use a belt to fasten up your dress while working, this will protect the hem from mud, open fire and stains. Also, an apron is a very good choise for protecting your clothes. Or remove the apron dress and work in your shift or woolen dress. It seems the apron dress was a status symbol and finer wear, so it is probable that women didn’t wear them while laboring.

 

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The easy apron dress

This apron dress is really simple and easy to sew together- perfect if you want to save fabric, try to hand stitch your garment, or just want to try out a looser fit on an apron dress.

 The description is based on the fact that you have a fabric that is approximately 150 cm wide, and the dress in the picture is about 130 cm long. If your fabric width is different, you will have to redraw the pattern pieces and probably piece the dress together with more gores. I show you a way to make the skirt fuller with a small gore on the drawing below. The method can be used for larger gores also. B = back of the dress, F = front.
Customize the measurements according to your own measurements. The amount of fabric you need depends on your measurements + how long skirt you want. On the pattern diagram, 1 square = 10 cm, so it takes 2.2m of fabric to make the dress to my measurements. Draw a separate sketch of checked paper before you begin so you will understand how the pieces are connected and laid out!
This description is mostly about the pattern-making assembly. If you want to know more about seams and techniques, check out my other descriptions and tips on the blog here.

First calculate your measurements, and draw the pattern on checked paper. The dress consists of an entire front piece (F), and a two-piece back piece (B) that is laid out on folded fabric. To get some extra fullness in the dress lining you can cut it according to the suggestion in the picture (the back piece is then cut in the bottom with a small gore).

Measure around the bust/widest part of the chest = the measurements on the narrowest part of the dress: split the measure in two to make the front and back. Remember to add seam allowance; 1-2 cm on each side. The measures on the pattern is approximately 90 cm (40 cm on the front and 50 cm on the back piece). Because the dress does not start in the middle of the bust, but a bit above, you get enough space to move and dress/undress easily.

The length of the dress; measure from the armpit and as far down as you want the dress to go. Add seam allowance of about 4 cm. In the picture the pieces are 130 cm long. The width of the dress lining becomes 2 * the total width of the fabric so 2 * 150 = 300 cm.

Once you have cut out your pieces, you can first sew the back piece in the middle, then sew on gores if you made any. Bast the front and back together and try; cut out a little for the armpit if you want, and mark with pins where your straps should be attached (I usually like to wear them on the same position where I have my bra straps, I guess my shoulders are used to that.)

Sew the sides together, press and fold the seams, whip stitch them, and finish of the linings by folding them once (on a thicker fabric) or twice (on a more light weight fabric) and whip stitch them. Finish with sewing on thin fabric straps (I usually fold mine twice towards each other, whip stitch them together and then sew them on the garment. Then you are finished!

I really recommend buying a light weight, more loose woven fabric for this dress. Sturdier wools will not fall as nice, and might feel like you move around inside a tent-like garment…

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New tutorials/booklets

Finally!

I’ve been working on this new booklets for months now, and now they are finally done and ready to send out. I know that many of you readers have asked me about new tutorials, preferably in English, but the truth is that tutorials takes a lot of time to make. I’m counting on around 8 h/tutorial and that doesn’t include the time it takes to handcraft the actual things. As you can imagine it’s quite impossible for me to continue to make a lot of tutorials for free, though there will be some new ones at the blog this year.

If you like the tutorials page and want to support it, or if you want to learn more about sewing, I can offer these new booklets as a way of doing that. They have basically the same structure as my online tutorials, but are even more hands-on and easy-following with text, pictures and useful tips. I include both instructions for hand sewing and machine sewing in each one, and you don’t need any previous sewing experience. They also include patterns in full size and a list of what you need for each project.

I’ll put them here, but you can also buy them on my facebook page or at my Etsy shop (for shipments outside Sweden).

Prices: 5 E/piece + 2 E shipping (so for two 5+5+2 E and so on) Sv: 50 kr + 15 kr frakt inom Sverige.

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