HANDCRAFTED HISTORY


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Sewing machine school- part 1

The sewing machine is a tricksy being, with a mind of its own. On the paper it promise to make whatever your heart desire, but home alone it tend to do as it pleases… Happened to you? It does not have to be like that!

In my Sewing Machine School I will give you all my best tips for making friends with the sewing machine. As a sewing crafts teacher I have great experience with dealing with struggling pupils… And struggling machines too.

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in the beginning:

  • Before sewing, make sure the machine is correctly threaded. It is easy to miss a part, get a loop or lose the tension. Use the instruction manual if you are unsure, or even better-check out youtube to find a video on your model! Older models may be available on internet as free pdfs, or check in with the sewing machine store.
  • To check the tension of the threads, pull carefully at the top and bottom threads. They should be moving but with a slight resistance. If everything seems fine, try sewing on a scrap bit of cotton fabric. Fine? Then try out a scrap bit of the fabric you intend to work on. Check to see if you need to make adjustments in the stitching length, or the presser.

A short note about caring:

It is very important to take care of your sewing machine! Wipe it down and clean it after each project. A can of compressed air is perfect for blowing away dust inside the machine, and a small brush can be used to remove threads etc.

You can also grease your machine with a special sewing machine oil, to make it run smoothly for longer periods of time, between the paid services. Do this after each sewing project or sewing period, and you will have a machine that runs smoothly. (Note; it is very important to use sewing machine oil, and to only apply small drops of it in order to not stain your fabrics after. If you are unsure if you might have applied to much, sew in a scrap fabric piece first.

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Change the needle after each big project (like a dress) or if you have accidentally pulled your fabric so the needle touched the machine going down. A sharp needle will make the seem prettier, more even and make the sewing easier.

While working:

Always start with a scrap bit of fabric to check the stitches and the tension. The threads should lock with each other in the middle of the fabric. If not, try adjusting the tension of the upper thread first.

Adjust the presser according to the fabric. Thick woolen fabric needs a lighter presser than thin silks. If the presser is to hard, your upper fabric will be pressed forward during sewing. If you have a problem with the fabric pieces always ending up different in lenght at the end of the seam, this could be your problem.

The feeder teeth underneath your fabric moves the fabric during sewing, but some machines also have an upper feeder that you can attach to the presser. Check to see if your machine have one, or if you can buy one. This is a very good device as it helps get the fabric even during longer seams. (If you dont have one, pinning the fabric pieces before sewing helps really nice too)

Use a needle fitting for your project. Thinner needles for fine linen and silks, a bit sturdier for wools.

Are you unsure about thick layers or sharp corners? You can always sew “by hand” on your machine. Instead of using the pedal, use the wheel on your right side, pulling it towards you. This makes the machine go very slowly and you will have plenty of time to check were you go and if the needle can take all the layers without breaking. Once past the hard part, just use the pedal again!

Be attentive to the sound of your machine. It should run smoothly and even, if everything is ok. When you have learn your machine, you will quickly discover if anything is amiss.

If sewing together two pieces for a dress (like a straight panel and a diagonally cut gore) always put the part that stretches the most (gore) under the other part. This will lessen the risk of the parts stretching out uneven, and make the seam a bit nicer.

To turn in a corner: Stop were you want to turn, and lift your fot from the pedal. Move the needle down into the fabric with the wheel, lift the presser and adjust the fabric to the new direction. Let down the presser, and continue forward with the pedal. The needle hold your fabric in place while turning and make sure the seam continue nicely.

This was my first part, and whenever I have the time I try to translate more sewing tip for you. Do you like it? Consider supporting me by Patreon, to make it possible for me to create more free tutorials!

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Houppelande tutorial- part 2

Last tutorial was about how I made my first Houppelande (medieval over dress) that was an early houppelande, with a pattern layout that saved in on the fabric.

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Now we move on to the opposite; a full circular houppelande dress that was the high fashion during the 15th century, and where worn by both men and women (with different lengths and fashion details of course) The construction method for this one is open for discussion; there might have been gores and more pieces according to different fabric widths during the medieval period. This layout is practical and simple if your fabric is 150 cm wide and you want the houppelande to be of as much fabric as possible, the small pieces allowing you to save in on the fabric a little.

The construction idea is from an article I found ages ago (that is now lost on the internet?) And later tailor’s books which shows very full dresses for women and coats for men. The shape, style and drape of this method also looks similar to paintings of houppelandes.

First of, you need a lot of fabric. How much depends on your length, in this example I make a pattern that gives you a dress around 150 cm long; good for the shorter woman or for a man (since houppes for men usually leaves at least the shoes visible) That means you will need 5,2 meters of fabric for the dress itself, and then another 1,5 to 3 meters for the sleeves. Oh, and maybe a full lining to?

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The pattern is basically 4 quarters of a circle; forming a full circle when put together. The small pieces saves you some fabric, but you may cut out the full quarter circles if you prefer. If you go with the pieces, then sew them together with the quarters the first thing when you have cut them out, so you have 4 whole quarters.

Then, sew the shoulder seams together, that is the short straight seams above the arrows. Leave the arm holes (on the pattern they are cut out as half moons) and sew the sides together. To know how wide your arm holes should be; measure yourself loosely around your armpit, or use a previous pattern. Add extra cm for movement; at least 5-6 cm.

The seam length of the shoulder should follow your shoulder; between 10-14 cm depending on how long shoulders you have. The arm holes should be laying on the body, not falling down from the shoulder to your upper arm. Cut away what you don’t need, a little at a time if you are unsure.

When you are satisfied with the shoulder, arm holes and side seams, sew the back and front together with each other, front to front, back to back. In the front you leave an opening big enough so you can dress and undress easily. On paintings some dresses are open almost to the hip. In the back you need to leave an opening big enough for your neck, try it on and you will understand! The open seam will give you the neckline on the back, and can then be cut for a rounder style if you like, or you could add a collar.

So, that was it- quick and easy yes? Now the dress should look something like the sketch above, and you can attach the sleeves to the dress. Sleeves? Well, that is for the next part of the Houppelande tutorial series. Stay tuned!

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The handcrafting camp at Hägnan

During Hägnans Medeltidsdagar in Luleå this summer, (that the local SCA group Frostheim organized) I had the over all responsibility to make the handcraft camp work out well. We had a camp outside (or inside if the weather was bad) with different kinds of handcrafts that each participant brought (so you could do whatever was in your interest and current project, as well as trying out some new things others had.) My work was mostly about saying “yes, good job!” and checking that the guard schedule was working. And reminding people of lunch – lunch is important!

Basically, it’s not that much work – happy handcrafters of different kinds gather and sit down during the days to craft, talk and show different kinds of handicraft to interested visitors. I usually try to make them bring many different things to work with, and to show different stages in the handcrafting process so that visitors can grasp what it really is about. Good ways of doing this is showing step-to-step pictures or unfinished objects, talk about the handicraft, lay out your tools etc. People get really interested when handcrafting is actually done – my love even got attention for winding yarn by hand when he sat down and helped me…

I also brought my market shop with me; but as usual I’m just not that interested in selling things from a specific place, when there is an opportunity to go around, talking handicraft, taking photos, sewing on projects and drinking coffee. So my market stall was mostly empty (but my friends checked it for me – thanks!) Anyway, it is good to have the shop with me because it usually spread the costs and make me afford all the traveling expenses.

Johan and Erik from Trix were performing just behind us during the week- first class entertainment while you are sewing!

I really recommend visiting handcrafting areas if you are a visitor on a medieval/viking market. Bring a project, some snack or just questions about different handcrafts and you will be almost sure to find someone who is willing to share and talk about how things are done.

  

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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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A new outfit for A

My friend A visited some time ago and since he is the one making all my folders and paper handouts it was time that I made him a new medieval outfit. A really likes the 13th and early 14th century, so we decided to make a “bladkjortel”- a rather long kirtle with an opening at the front. The kirtle is made of two different colours since A bought the fabric on a second hand store for a bargain, and I added some buttons by the wrist to make it more fashionable for the period. The slits at the front is really common in different paintings, and good to have on a warm day. There are also two slits at the front of the sleeve seams, which is another thing very common in paintings from the period.

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I got some fabric left, so I also made him a pilgrim bag and a hood. Under is a simple linen shirt. I think the whole outfit took about 2 days to make, with lots of coffee breaks. It will be nice to see the whole outfit with the pieces A already had, maybe I could get him to take a photoshot when he’s home…

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