HANDCRAFTED HISTORY


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Viking apron dress, part 2

Are you longing for that perfect iron age (viking) look of square awesomeness, yet still wanting to show off some womanly curves? Fear no more, this is how you make your apron dress fit really nicely! (Yes, we are going to be more serious real soon)

This apron dress is the same style as you can find in this tutorial, but back then I never guided you through the fitting, straps or stitching. Kind readers have asked for more details, so now this part 2 is here for you.

Ok, so let’s start with the dress already cut out and basted together (white machine thread). It looks something like this, hanging a bit boring…

Step one- try it on!

I pinned two pieces of ribbon onto the dress to be able to try it on easily. These will later be my guides for making the sewn linen straps.

In the back, I put the straps closer to the middle. I find them more comfortable and less likely to slip off my shoulders.

Now it is time to do some shaping! I like to wear my apron dresses higher up on my body, which means I get fabric bulk under my arms. To avoid that, I draft a curved line under my armpit and then cut away the excess fabric. You don’t have to make a full “arm hole”, just add some space for your arm.

Drafting the curved line in the armpit with a fabric marker.

The next step is to pin away fabric in the seam above the bust. Here the seam stood out a bit, so in order to follow the shape of my body, I pinned away a little fabric. As you can see in the photo it is not much, only to add a soft shape.

Marking the fitting with pins will allow you to feel the new fit.

Next are the side seams in the front. I pin away fabric under my bust, turn at my natural waist and continue out in a soft line to the basting line again. The goal is not to achieve a super snug fit, just to highlight that you have a body underneath.

Pinning the shape loosely.

Continue with the back seams and pin away fabric to add some shape to your waist here too. I hold my hand by my natural waist, and as you can see I did not aim to make the apron dress tight. Just removing a couple of cms to add shape.

My goal here was to be able to wear the apron dress with a woollen kirtle underneath, so I needed the fit to be loose. If you want a tighter fit you can try pinning away more fabric- just remember to try it on with new basting seams afterwards to make sure you can get it on and off. Apron dresses never have lacing or such.

Pinning the back seams by the waist.

Now it is time to check out the new fit! Mark the position of your pins on both sides of the seams, remove them to be able to take off your dress easily, and then bast along the drafted lines.

Basting can be done on a machine or by hand.

Here you can already see the added shape of the bust and waist, even without the seams properly finished. When you are satisfied with the fit, remove the old basting from places with double basting. This is needed to finish the dress by hand with a historical stitch.

Trying on the dress again to check the fit.

Press all seams with the basting still in place. (This step is important if you want to try out the seam below, but if you use a sewing machine for your dress you should first sew all seams on the machine, remove the basting thread and then press.)

Pressing the seam allowance to either side will make the sewing easier.
This is what the new shaping looks like after the pressing.
Sewing with wool thread.

Turn the apron dress so the right side is out (yes, we are sewing the dress from the outside) and start by the hem with a small whip stitch. Work your way up on the outside, fasten the thread on the inside of the garment as needed, and repeat with all four seams.

This is a sketch of how the seam looks, side to side with the actual seam.

The key to making this seam look neat is to make small stitches mainly running on the inside of the garment. I like to start from the bottom up, so I can try out the best thread tension and width between the stitches where it does not show so much. The pressing in the step before also helps a lot, as well as the basting on the inside, keeping the garment together while I sit comfortably on the sofa, sewing.

Close up on the seam. If you sew with wool thread, choose a thread with a high twist and 2-3 ply. Take shorter threads and a needle somewhat thicker than the thread. This will make the thread last longer when you work.
Finish the dress with a double folded hem and whipstitches. Press all seams when you have finished.

When the dress is done, it is time to make some straps! Use the ribbons from earlier as your mockups /guides to decide how long your straps should be, but remember that the tortoise brooches will take some space too. Add seam allowance (3 cm) and extra for your loops. If you are unsure, make the strap 10 cm longer and then cut away the end you don’t need when you have made the loop and finished off everything else.

Linen fabric going to be apron dress straps.

The measure for my dress straps was approx 30 cm long and 4 cm wide. I made 2, and then 2 really short ones to make the loops attached to the apron dress above the front seams. Then I pressed the straps in the middle, folded them, and then folded in the edges. Very smooth!

Use waxed linen thread for sewing in linen fabric. Linen straps on wool dresses can be found in grave finds from the period.

Whipstitch the folded straps along the edge. When you have finished, press them again but with the seam in the middle. This way the stitching will be protected in the middle and the straps will be looking really nice and even.

Nice and even, I love pressing seams!
Making loops for the tortoise brooches.

To make the loop in the edge of the strap, finish the seam along the line and then fold the edge back and fasten it with some stitches. I like these loops, they keep the brooch in place and look neat. The small fabric pieces for the lower loops get treated in the same way. Double fold, press, whipstitch along the line and fold to a loop.

The loops are sewn to the inside of the upper hem, beside the front side seam.

Fasten the lower loops to the front, and remember to put them where you pinned your ribbons on in the beginning. The placement will help the shaping of the garment. If you wear a modern underwire bra, the placement of the loops is often towards the middle from the bra straps. Remember that your tortoise brooches should have a fairly even place to rest on your body.

Sewing the straps onto the back of the apron dress.

Before attaching the straps to the back, try the dress on with your tortoise brooches, to adjust the length needed for your straps. When you are satisfied, pin the straps in place on your back, and sew them with some waxed linen thread. I like to work my way around the strap and through the wool fabric to make them sturdy.

That’s it! We’re done with all the fitting and sewing, and owners of a splendid apron dress with a perfect fit! Did you like this post? Support me on Patreon to help me make more!


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Medieval jacket for a woman

15th c outfit at Oslo Middelalderfestival

This is a fun garment since it is both practical and in my opinion, also cute. But it took me several years of studying medieval manuscripts and art before I got interested in this type of garment. It seems so modern? But once I noticed it, I found more examples in different places and even a contemporary pattern diagram in Drei Schnittbucher dated from the 16th century. Most sources I have saved originate in central Europe, mainly today’s Germany.

Research

The jacket or short coat can be seen in both late 15thc entury and 16th century artworks, but all examples I have seen are worn by working women, from farmers to ladies’ servants. One source in Drei Schnittbucher mentions a short jacket owned by a burgher class member, which indicates that it might have been a fashionable item and not only something worn for “survival”.

The jacket above is similar to the pattern diagram I found, though it has cuffs. The front closure is hidden but might be hooks and eyes, and the sleeves are S-sleeves put into a shaped armhole. The skirt part hangs in soft folds, probably a circle shape.

source: Württembergische Landesbibliothek

In the left corner, the lady wears a green jacket over a dress. She might be a maid or retainer of some kind, based on her dress and position in the picture. The jacket is fitted with a narrow sleeve and a fashionable neckline. The skirt part hangs in soft folds.

The blue jacket is fitted but the sleeve is a bit looser than the green one, and the neckline higher and rounded. I decided to base my jacket silhouette mainly on this picture (late 15th century).

source: Stadbibliothek Nurnberg, Jorg Urlaub, 1568 (PB)

Based on contemporary sources the jacket seems to be a practical garment to keep you warm while still allowing you to go on your daily chores (and keeping that fashionable silhouette!) I have found several sources from the middle of the 16th century onwards, often with the skirt part shortened like the jacket above. The black jacket has a short skirt, straight narrow sleeves and a collar of some kind. The collars seem to belong to the 16th century.

Differences between the 15th century and the 16th century styles:

Late 15th century jackets seen in art are all colourful, with straight sleeves narrow or loose, longer skirts (the lenght of the skirt and the length of the upper body seem to be similar) and with simple, rounded necklines.

16th century jackets transform from this softer style to a more shaped and fitted garment with details to accentuate the tailoring such as collars or sleeves starting farther down the shoulder.

This time I decided to make a jacket to be worn with my 15th century wardrobe. Some years ago, I tried out this pattern by making a black jacket to be worn with my 16th century working woman’s outfit, but I sold it and wanted to try some variations. The blue jacket above became my inspiration, and I used the pattern diagram from the 16th century source to draft the jacket. The side seam is adjusted towards the back on that pattern, but in retrospective I think that is a bit too modern for the late 15th century style, but I got curious to try it out.

Back with the side seams visible.

Drafting the pattern pieces

I decided on a straight S-sleeve to get good movement even when wearing dresses under the jacket, a longer skirt and a rounded neckline. The front closes with hooks and eyes. The original tailoring book states the lining needed for the jacket which is roughly half of the amount needed for the jacket. The fabric widths could be different since the pattern mention different amount of lining for different skirt lengths, or the skirt was not lined. I decided to put lining into the skirt too, to see how it would turn out as well as to make it more wind resistant.

The best way to create a skirt with even, soft folds, like the longer versions seen in the sources, is to use a circular cut on the skirt, rather than straight panels and gores. The contemporary pattern also suggests this style, so I went with that option.

The length of the skirt in 15th century sources seems to be around the same lenght as the torso, around 40-50 cm long perhaps. I decided to go with that. The tailoring pattern suggests a skirt lenght between 39 cm to 52 cm, which can be seen in the woodcut by Beham above.

To draft the correct size for the skirt pieces, measure around your waist and use that measure to calculate the inner circle diameter of the half moon, and draft the piece from there.

Example: Measurement around waist: 80 cm = circumference of the inner circle. That makes the diameter approx 26 cm, and the radius 13 cm. The length of the skirt = 40 cm. Mark 40 cm + 26 cm + 40 cm on a straight line = diameter on the skirt pattern piece (the straight side of the half moon). To draft the rest of the skirt, start with drafting the half-circle waist hole (measure from the middle of the line and draw a half-circle 13 cm from this point all around). Use this line to draw out the bigger half moon shape, by measuring 40 cm outwards all around the curve. Make 2 pieces for the skirt.

The upper body pieces are based on my toile/mock-up I already have (check out my Patreon for a video on how to make a mock-up yourself). To move the side seams I cut off a bit from the back piece and taped this side to side with the front piece instead. After that, I added seam allowance and some extra movement in the sides, shoulder and front to make the garment suited to wear over other clothing.

The sleeves are based on my existing S-sleeve pattern, cut in two. I added new seam allowance and made the sleeves a bit wider than my dress sleeves to get more movement.

Adjustments from the original pattern from the Leonfeldner tailor book (grey) to my jacket (dotted lines).

Differences between the pattern from Drei Schnittbucher and mine: The waist seam got rounded to create a soft fall and looser fit, and the shoulder seams were shortened to make the sleeve fit the anatomical arm, creating a softer look more suitable to the late 15th century style. I removed the collar piece on the back and decided to make the back piece as one, instead of having a seam in the middle back. Both options are represented in tailoring from late 15th century art sources, I just didn’t need the back seam to achieve a good fit. The last alteration I did was to piece the skirt parts to save on fabric. In the tailoring book, the sleeves are made in two pieces, probably to save on fabric, and I wanted to do the same to be able to cut them out from the scraps left over after cutting body and skirt pieces.

My jacket needed around 1,5 meters of fabric with 1,5 meters width for both outer fabric and lining, but I would recommend at least 2 meters of both if you have, if you are not smaller than I am!

Fabric: I decided on a medium thick wool twill for the jacket to keep me warm, with a soft muted madder tone. The lining is made in thin unbleached linen. I aimed to make the jacket a working garment and not too fancy, but neither coarse nor homemade.

Jacket worn open

Sewing order

When I have made all pieces (back, front *2, sleeves *2, skirt *2) I like to cut these out in a mock-up fabric (like an old sheet) bast them together and try the garment on over the dress, to ensure I have enough space for movement. Adjust if needed, and then I use the mock-up as my pattern and draft the pieces on the wool fabric and lining.

I like basting- here are some more benefits:

  • no pins will disappear or hurt you
  • no slippery fabric moving, giving you uneven seams
  • easy to try it on several times
  • easy to adjust
  • basting is so secure you can sit on the sofa with your project in your knee, without messing up the fit.

I prefer to sew one seam completely finished before the next, which is faster and more ergonomic than first assembling the garment, and then reaching all the seams for felling the seam allowances.

Sewing thread: unbleached linen 35/2 for most seams, paired with a sewing wool yarn for felling seams and create softer seam allowances. These are the materials I work with fastest. You can also use linen thread for the whole jacket, which would be a bit more historical as far as I have researched.

For me, the most important thing when hand-sewing is to make easy, fast seams without adding unnecessary strain to my fingers. The lining is put in at the same time as I sew the pieces together, in seams that need more sturdiness like shoulders and sides. In the skirt, the lining is fastened in the seam allowance when felling this down. The sleeves are made as 4 separate sleeves, and then the lining is put in. This minimizes the bulkiness in the sleeve seams.

Notes: linen thread if nothing else is stated. Sa= seam allowance.

This is my sewing order for hand-sewing the entire garment:

Start by joining the sleeve linings into whole sleeves with running stitches. Press the sa and whipstitch down to one side or leave them unfinished. Join the wool sleeves with back stitches. Fold down the sa, whipstitch down to one side and repeat with the back seam to get 2 complete wool sleeves.

Sewing the sleeve parts together.
Whipstitch the sa (photo shows the inside and outside of the sleeves.)

Sew the shoulder seams with backstitches, wool + lining at the same time. Press down sa to either side, whipstitch down. I leave the basting in while sewing, and place my seam 1 mm to the side to avoid sewing into the basting thread. This makes it easier to remove the basting thread once I am done.

Backstitching on shoulders 1mm inside the basting seam.

Backstitch the side seams together in the same way. I like to leave these open to adjust the fit if my weight changes, so I just whipstitch the sa but leave it loose from the main body. Then I put the sleeves in the armholes and sew them with backstitching. Cut down the sa and fell it towards the body with whipstitching.

Assembling the garment, with different ways to finish the seams shown.

I sewed the wool skirt parts together with back stitching and pressed the sa to either side. After that, I put the lining into the skirt pieces by folding the sa down to either side and whipstitched the lining in place.

Attach the skirt to the body with backstitches. Try on the jacket and mark out the hemlines; check the length of sleeves and skirt hem.

The skirt is finished by cutting down the lining a bit to avoid a bulky seam, and then the wool hem is double folded over the lining and whipstitched in place.

Trimming down the lining.

The front got a reinforcement strip in wool on the inside before the closure was added. I use running stitches and sew it front to front, then fold it over, press it to a good shape and whip stitch the loose part to the lining. A row of stitching along the edge makes it neat and durable (shown in the assembly photo).

The sleeve wool fabric is folded over the lining by the wrists and whip stitched in place. The neckline is also folded down twice and whipstitched. After that, I like to press it and then add a row of stitching around the opening to make it even neater!

Last, I added hooks and eyes to the front to be able to close the jacket.

This was a really fun project to do, and I have used the jacket a lot this season. It is easy to work in and doesn’t get as heavy as my coat does. Useful for medieval adventures!

Finished!


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How to insert a small sleeve gore

14th c overdress

In this tutorial, a gore is a triangular-shaped piece of fabric sewn into the garment. A gusset is a square piece of fabric, sewn into the armpit to add movability and space, used on shifts and shirts to take a few examples.

How do they work?

A gore inserted in your sleeve will add space and freedom of movement. Depending on the placement of the gore in the sleeve, it will add space to different effects, like moving your arm up and forward or adjusting your sleeve to larger muscles in your arms.

Why do you want to use gores in sleeves?

Gores might have several reasons to be where they are:

To save fabric while cutting out your fabric pieces.

To add movability by cutting the gore on another grain than the rest of the sleeve.

To mend a broken sleeve or seam.

To enlargen a sleeve being to narrow.

Gores might be inserted while making your garment, but also afterwards if you feel a need to adjust the fit. This guide shows you how to put in a gore in a cut slit at the front of the sleeve, but you can also add gores to the seam on an S-shaped sleeve. The principle is the same; fitting the sleeve into the armhole and then adding as much gore as you need to make the sleeve ”whole”.

An example of how this method was used during the medieval period is the Moy Bog dress, which has a similar gore. Maybe an adjustment to add space to a new wearer that had more mass over arms and shoulders?

The easiest way to make well-fitted sleeve gores is to cut out a piece of fabric, pin/baste it on the inside of the assembled garment, and sew it in place. Here is a step to step guide on how I do:

14th-15th c short sleeved dress

This dress has a tight fit, and I decided on a small gore in the sleeve front to add a bit more flexibility and movement.

I started with inserting the sleeve in the armhole and then cutting up a slit in the front to make the sleeve fit all around (this means you will have to make a sleeve that has a slightly smaller measure than the armhole if you make a new dress.) When I am satisfied with the inserted sleeve and slit, I press the seam allowance to the inside and start with the pattern for the gore.

Put a piece of paper on the inside of the dress, and smooth the fabric on top of this. Draw a paper draft for the gore by tracing the ”hole” on your paper. Very easy!

Add seam allowance around the draft, and cut out.

Put the paper pattern onto fabric and draw + cut two gores, one for each sleeve. Remember to mirror the pattern and mark the gore with up/down and front/back.

Fit the fabric gores into the sleeve slits, and pin in place (here I worked on the inside, but if you find it easier you can work from the outside of the garment).

This is what it looks like from the right side of the dress:

With pins in place, baste or sew the gore into your garment. Here I used small whip stitching, not bothering with basting. But if you are unsure or want to test the fit before sewing, basting is a great way to do that. Fastening the gore from the right side of the garment makes it easy to get a good result, since you can see the result while sewing.

When I have inserted the gore, the seam allowance is most often pressed to either side (down to the sleeve) and whip stitched down. I always press the s.a towards the bigger fabric piece. For example, sewing it down onto the sleeve and/or body piece. After that, it is all done!

The new blue gown also has a gore in the front of the sleeve, barely visible but great for movement!


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Lucet tutorial

Welcome to this blogpost about luceting! This post was made with the support from my Patreons!

A lucet cord is made out of interlocking loops and is a really practical way to make cords/strings for lacing garments, garters, shoelaces and more since it is stretchy and durable. I prefer working with wool or silk thread, a thin 2ply yarn or an embroidery yarn with a higher twist. Avoid chunky or uneven yarns since these will offer you problems and break.

This is how my luceting fork looks, but you may use practically anything with two pointy things and a handle, for example, a regular fork with the middle part removed. The historical finds looks quite different, here is one medieval example from Historiska Museet:

Fotokälla: Ulrik Skans

I find this a bit harder to use, but with a crocheting needle or pointy stick, it is easier. Lucet forks can be found from both the late iron age/viking age and medieval period. Susanna Broomé writes about viking finds in her booklet Cords and braids (I recommend her booklets.)

Finds of lucet cord are made of wool or silk (and in one case even silk and gold thread). If your thread of choice is too thin and you want a thicker cord, you can use two threads at the same time, treating them as one. But learning with a single thread is faster at the start!

Here is a written instruction:

Start with a thread, making an 8 figure around your fork. Hold the thread end with your hand, and twist the lucet fork ½ a turn, while you make a new loop with the other hand and pull the old one down into the cord. The loops should be pulled tightly into knots. Continue with this until you have a cord the lenght you desire. If you lose yourself, the loop that is easiest to tighten is the newest one, so continue with the old loop first.

And here are videos showing you how to start…

…And how to finish!

Also, a photo series showing the finishing if you prefer that:

Cut off your thread, leaving a bit for fastening.
Put this thread through the old loop, the one you would work with next. Remove from the fork.
Pull it tight.
Put the thread through the new loop, and remove this from the fork. Pull tight. Done!
Now your lucet cord is finished and ready to use. If you cut it in the future, you can either redo this finishing by unravelling a bit of cord or just make a knot at the end.


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How to mend your straw hat

You really like your straw hat, but it´s starting to look a little worse for wear? Here is how I mended love’s hat!

The poor hat looks alright on the head, but take a closer look and you will find several holes and broken straw. The thread around the head was put in to be able to adjust the size of the hat to the head and make it fit snugly. It was a great idea, but have also put some strain on the straw around the head, causing it to break at several points. Time to put in some reinforcements so it will last longer! (Note that this particular material is not the one I am selling, the grass straw I use is a bit different. This hat is several years old by now)

A straw hat doesn’t need any fancy materials, it is after all mainly a working hat. I used unbleached linen, linen thread (waxed) and a little glue. When working with your hat; be gentle if the straw is thin/dry and sensitive. I will make a hatband around the outside to support and protect this area, then glue broken parts together. Lastly, I will put a ribbon inside the hat to make it more comfortable, since the broken straw tends to poke inside.

I started with measuring around the hat and cutting out a strap of fabric 4 cm longer than the circumference and 6 cm wide. This will give me a fabric piece of 60*6 cm.

Fold in the seam allowance (1 cm) and press it down on the inside of the strip, and then pin it around the hat.

Be sure to stretch the fabric carefully and evenly, to keep the size of the hat as it was before. Fold the end of the strip inside to finish it off, and then stitch it into place with linen thread. Use a thin, sharp needle and pull gently on the stitches so you don’t damage the straw while working.

You need two rows of stitches, at each edge of the fabric. Start with the one at the base of the hat.

If the straw is very broken, try to find some whole pieces to sew the fabric onto. Here you can see the seam on the inside of the hat, and me trying to find something to sew the fabric onto.

Add the second row of stitching, and sew the fold down onto the fabric for a nice finish. These steps you may use for decorating or reinforce your new hat if you like, using for example linen or black wool fabric. If the hat is a bit big, pulling the fabric around the hat will make it fit better. Remember to try it on after the initial pinning or first row of stitches so the fit is good.

Fabric strip done! Both decorative and supportive, and great if you want to pin or fasten straps or a badge to your hat!

Let’s move on to the next step! Here I use modern glue to mend rips and broken sections in the brim. Braid the straw together over the broken parts or just gently push the edges together, apply a thin coat of glue and let it sit and dry. Pick a glue that is transparent when dry, and a bit flexible (trying it out on a small piece of the hat is always a good idea). A glue that gets rock hard when drying will only put stress on the straw on the side of the mended hole, causing more damage in the future.

Here is another good method for adding support to your hat; a thin ribbon on the inside. This is loosely glued around the base, covering broken pieces and adding a softer base for the head. After the glue has dried, baste or sew the ribbon to the other fabric layer (not all the way through, use the seam allowance) and you´re done!

If the hat is a bit loose, you could use this ribbon the same way as the fabric on the outside; putting it in with a bit of strain to adjust the size of the hat.

And done! Now the hat is ready for some more adventures. Remember to always take good care of your hats so they may accompany you to many adventures in the future, clean them when necessary and store them in a flat and dry space. Good luck!


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Martebo bag in linen fabric

This is one of my favourites; the “Fässing” (in Swedish), Martebo-sack (from Martebo church on Gotland) or a Wallet (18-19th century). It is a simple, practical linen bag made for carrying loads. I have seen medieval examples worn over your shoulder like below or larger ones strapped over a donkey.

I actually have several of these for my medieval adventures; for grocery shopping, for the picnic, for my showering things like schampoo…

martebo_01
Martebo bag

The bag is made with a piece of sturdy linen or hemp canvas (chose a sturdy tight-woven fabric in linen, or a piece of tent fabric for a large sack).

Cut out a rectangle with the measure 140 * 70 cm, to make a bag suitable for a picnic and your warm hood. Or design your own measures by laying a measuring tape over your shoulder and let it hang down on either side. Adjust and decide on a length you like on the bag, and then decide on the width; between 60-100 cm (makes a bag that is 30-50 cm wide) might be nice. Add 3 cm of SA (seam allowance) to each measure.

Sewing instructions:

1. Mark out the opening on the long sides on the rectangle. It should be in the middle, and between 30-40 cm wide.

2. Put the long sides on top of each other, and sew a seam on either side of the opening. Backstitches with waxed linen thread (if you are using the sewing machine, start with zigzagging the whole fabric piece, then sewing this seam).

3. Press and fold down the SA and whip stitch it down to one side for extra strenght.

4. Hem the opening with whipstitches, working from the inside. It is also good to reinforce the edges of the opening by sewing a couple of extra stitches through each fabric piece to make it less prone to rip open.

5. Now you have a tube, adjust it so the seam is in the middle of the fabric piece inside out, and pin the short edges closed.

6. Sew the edges with backstitching, and repeat the pressing and folded down SA. Done!

The sack may be carried over your shoulder, or wrap it around your wrist and hand to carry it like a grocery bag. If you have valuables in it, you can also make a knot in the middle over the opening to prevent anything from falling out. Very convenient!


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Making a sleeveless dress in easy steps

I decided to make another sleeveless middle dress to wear under my velvet houppelande. The other one (similar to this one, also in black silk taffeta) I made before apparently shrank on its own in the wardrobe during the winter, and come spring was a little too small over the waist. Can’t imagine how this could happen..?

This style of dress may also be worn on its own with sleeves, in the Italian style. The amount and choice of fabric and decorations does all the difference in placing this dress on the fashion timeline, as well as the waist seam is a clear indicator of region and time. I fancy the waist seam placement in the natural waist so I took inspiration from these paintings, as well as the Italian examples further down the post.

This kind of dress may also be made in wool or cotton, depending on the area you would like to get your inspiration from. Cotton was more common in Italy, while wool is much more common in Northern Europe. (For more information about cotton dresses, I recommend “The Italian cotton industry in the later middle ages 1100-1600” by Mazzaoui.)

I used a black silk taffeta, because I wanted a cool dress, matching the silk and velvet outfit and taking as little room as possible in my event packing. If you are going for silk fabric, taffeta is more similar to historical fabrics than, for example, uneven dupioni or raw silk. Medieval dress silk should be shiny and evenly woven as far as I have seen.

I also have a similar one in amber wool twill, recreated to be worn by a woman not as high in social status as this black silk one will belong to. I took photos from both processes to be able to show you some different techniques.

Want to see how I made it?

1. This is a basic sketch of the pattern pieces. Really simple; a front and a back upper body + linings. Also, 2 different ways to make the skirt; the black one are made of a rectangle and gathered in the waist. The wool dress is made of panels (opt 2) to create more width in the bottom hem, but wide enough in the waist to gather.

2. Upper body pieces: I started with a front and back, loosely based on my toile/mock-up pattern, and added 5 cm in each side to be able to adjust the fit and have some extra fabric to fold to the inside for support. If you go for side lacing you can have a whole front piece, and the curve from the front seam will instead be moved to the sides. I will show you later!

3. Cut two of the outer fabric, and two lining pieces. Then baste them together to be able to work with the pieces without risking any movement.

You also need to decide if you are going to have lacing on both sides (seems to be usual in Italian portraits and handy if you often change your size) or on one side (faster to sew, allow you to get the dress on quickly).

4. Pin or baste the body pieces together and try them on. Having a friend to help you will be really helpful! Adjust and take in the side seams to create a smooth fit. You can also adjust the shoulders by gently pulling the front upwards if necessary. The fit doesn’t have to be all smooth, if you have lots of curves there will be some room in the dress (just decide on wearing a bra or not, or making the dress supportive before you finish).

Basting the skirt into place for the fitting is really good if you want to see how the fabric falls, and where the waist is going to be placed. Skirts usually “hang down” the bodice and make it look longer. Not the silk though- silk is such a light fabric.

5. Here is the body, inside out, after the fitting above. The line is really curved to make a good fit, and support the bust thanks to the stretch in the fabric and lining (lining is really important, don’t forget the lining!) If you are going to sew one side, use backstitching to create a durable seam.

Or if you are going to lace both sides, press the fabric to the wrong side of the body so you have 4 layers of fabric to sew the lacing holes through (if you work with a medium to thick wool this might not be necessary, you may instead trim some fabric down and whip stitch it into place. Remember that all the sewing allowance needs to be pressed down- don’t be tempted to leave “a little extra” as this might lead to a little bit too loose dress.

6. The bodice during the sewing phase. I closed one side seam with backstitching but left the sewing allowance. It is nice to have if you need to adjust the size or fit in the future. To keep it from fraying you can baste or whip it loosely to the lining of the bodice. The other side gets folded and pressed down.

7. The neck opening and arm openings I fold down (once for thicker fabric and twice for thin and fraying fabric) and whip stitch into place. To make it both pretty and durable, you can then press the openings and sew them one more time with a stab stitch.

Or you may finish the openings with a separate strip of fabric on the inside, as a reinforcement. Here I overlocked the lining and the outer silk fabric together after basting and fitting and finished it off by sewing a fabric piece to the outside around the opening. That one I then folded and pressed down on the inside. This technique is good for sensitive, fraying fabrics and machine stitching.

Here you can also see the clamps; some silk fabrics get small marks by pins, and I, therefore, use clamps when working on visible places like the neckline. But they are very handy for all kinds of fabrics, so if you are not a fan of pins- try them out! (Search for sewing clamps or fabric clamps on an internet or sewing store of your choice)

8. The skirt part of the dress I usually sew separately from the bodice when I make garments with waist seams. Sewing the skirts together with running stitches, occasionally locked with a backstitch every needle lenght or so, will give you a fast and good seam. Press the seam allowance to one side, trim, and whip stitch it down. This is my favourite way of making long seams faster by hand. Or use a sewing machine, it is your choice!

9. After that, I hem the upper lining of the skirt, before gathering it (see the tiny stitches at the top of the skirt below?)

10. There are several different ways to gather or pleat a skirt to a bodice. I use different methods depending on the look I want. The wool skirt got gathered in soft pleats and then sewn onto the bodice. I used a waxed linen thread, to make the seam steady. Silk would have been another option, but as I wanted to create a working-class garment I mainly used linen thread.

The black silk dress got a pleated skirt instead. The skirt part is simply made out of two rectangles that I have stitched together in the sides, leaving the seam at the top open for around 15 cm, to be able to get inside the skirt when it is attached to the bodice (if you have side lacings on each side, leave both side seams open a bit)

I use something to measure with, and then mark the pleats with a pen, or make them at once with pins or clamps. You could also calculate the amount and size of pleats if that is to your taste, but I usually just roll with it. There might be an extra pleat or some unevenness- but it won’t be visible.

In the front, the folds are sewn towards the side of the body, while in the back the folds meet in the back. By arranging them this way you create a flatter front, with more volume at the hips and back. After the entire waist is gathered/pleated, I often secure the folds with a basting stitch, or pins before I sew it to the bodice. (See the photo of the wool dress above, I use this method for most waist seams.)

11. Lacing: if you are a bit unsure, you could save the lacing holes to last and do them after one last fitting with the dress on, with the right shift/chemise under. Otherwise, I like to sew them before attaching the skirt, I feel it is easier to sew with less fabric on my knees. I use a spiral lacing and finish it off at the waist seam. Often my skirt will stay closed enough without any further closure, but if I have a more narrow skirt that fits snugly over my sides I might need to add a fastening like a hook and an eye, to keep it closed.

Spiral lacing on another project, just to show you what it looks like. If you need lots of support from your dress, make the lacing holes tighter together. If you have a looser dress style, you don’t need as many. I usually have 2-3 cm between each hole on one of the sides.

12. Last; finish off the bottom hem. Check to see if it is even and adjust if necessary (a friend is good to help here but modelling yourself and adding pins might work) I usually just finish the hem with a single or double fold and a whip stitch. After that, just try on your new dress!

If you want to add loose sleeves, here is my tutorial on the black ones with ribbon.

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Viking woman’s coat

This tutorial was made 4 years ago, in Swedish, but my dear blog reader Eva Bolinder took the time to translate it for you. Thank you Eva!

Fancy blue coat in thick woollen twill, with silk decorations and woollen tablet weave

The existence of an open coat for women during the viking age is not a sure thing. We don’t know enough about the viking woman outfit to say for sure that this was what it looked like, or that they even were a thing. Why are they so popular in the reenactment world? They are practical for the kind of reenactment we do! A coat is easily added or taken of as we move between cold outdoors to heated housing, and excellent to add to your viking summer outfit for those colder events, without having to make a completely new outfit.

Coat nr 2, super fun to make! Woollen twill that was woven in two layers, I remember. Decorated with wool tablet weave, silk and fur. Not very practical though…

With that said, here’s the tutorial- feel free to make one if you would like one! Also, as a bonus, you’ll get to see many different coats I’ve done during my years as a viking. Some more inspirational with freely designed decorations, some more historically believable.

(This description is shorter than for the Medieval Dress, since I skipped details and tricks that I describe there. So if you want a lot of extra tips, read that description too!)

I started with an inspirational sketch, very important. The sketch was four years older than the sewing project and not what I ended up with (I guess sometimes a project needs a really long thinking time, you know what I mean..?) On top of it are newly drawn pattern parts and a sketch of the coat when it is sewn together.

Sewing this coat is not so different from sewing a typical dress, with the difference that it is open in the front, of course. Since the coat is an over garment I also want a slightly looser fit, since I usually have two-three layers underneath.

When I took measurements for the coat I based them on the ones below, changed “klänningens längd” (dress length) to the length of the coat. I also added 2-4 cm around the armhole/sleeve insertion to get more movement, as well as the circumference around the upper body. 4-6 cm extra will give you room for more clothes underneath.

The coat also has wider front pieces than half of the total circumference, since I wanted to be able to overlap the front pieces when it’s cold and rainy. I seem to recall that I added 6-8 cm for each front piece after I had calculated the circumference the finished garment would have, divided it into two for back and front pieces. The front pieces are thus a fourth of the total circumference + about 6 cm.

¤ Coat length is measured from the highest point of the shoulder “klänningens längd”

¤ Gore length = coat length – from shoulder to natural waist “från axel…”

¤ Coat width = the widest point of the upper body + extra width for clothes underneath “överkroppens…”

¤ Armscye is measured loosely around the arm/shoulder joint “ärmhål”

¤ Sleeve length is measured from the shoulder, past a bent elbow, to the wrist “ärmlängd”

¤ Measure loosely around the wrist to be able to easily take the coat on and off

¤ Add 1.5 cm seam allowance on all sides

Draw the pieces and write down all measurements on a piece of paper. The base of the gore (C) depends a bit on your other measurements, but don’t be afraid to make wide gores. 60-80 cm is needed to be able to wear the coat over several layers of dresses, and have a nice drape. If you have a larger size; choose the larger measurement to avoid having a square-shaped garment with little body form. Generously made gores will give you a nicer drape and more shaping to the garment.

The sleeve (D) has a sleeve cap/shaped sleeve and the seam is underneath the arm. The sleeve cap is about 6-10 cm high, depending on your size and measurements. If you don’t have a sleeve pattern, make a mock-up sleeve in cheap fabric to try it out. My sleeve (size small-medium) is around 46 cm around the top, 60 cm long, and the curve of the sleeve cap is around 6 cm higher than the edges.

The little square gore (E) is called a sleeve gusset and is in the middle of the armhole under the arm. It is sewn to both the sleeve and the front (A) and back piece (B) and gives width and mobility. It is a way to save fabric as the sleeve can be cut more narrow, and then gain width in the armhole with the help of the gore. You can also sew the coat without a gusset, just make the sleeve a bit wider.

Sew the coat together in the following order:

1. Start by sewing the side gores to the front piece, cut up the back piece and attach the back gore, or sew the gore in a split-back piece. Press seams.

2. Sew the shoulder seams, press.

3. Sew the sleeve gussets to the sleeves along one side so they are attached, press.

4. Pin the sleeves to the front and back piece while they are on a flat surface (no sewn-in sleeve is needed here), sew them together and press.

5. Baste (or sew everything at once) the sleeves together into two sleeves, baste the gussets into the armhole and then baste the side seam (straight piece to side gore). Try it on, and if it feels good- sew it. If you are new to the square gusset underarm thing- it can be easier to insert that one first, basting it into place before you close the sleeve and the side seam.

6. Sew the coat together in the sleeves and sides, press.

7. Try the fit of the neck-hole and cutout in the front, fold the fabric first until you’re happy with form and fall, then cut away the excess fabric on the front pieces.

8. Hem edges, fell seams ( nowadays I usually fell the seams at the same time I sew them together if I hand sew the garment) and decorate your coat if you feel like it.

Simple and practical coat made in woollen twill

Tips:

All these coats are made based on the same pattern, with some variations. With or without sleeve gussets, with or without the back gore, and with different lengths, widths and hemlines. The fabric also matters a lot; a loosely woven twill will drape differently than a sturdy thick twill or tabby woven fabric. If you want a warm and practical coat; choose a heavy, fulled fabric that will protect you from rain.

The gores in the coat are wide, it gives a nice fall and makes it possible for me to wrap the coat around me even if I have several dresses underneath.

I cut the neck-hole/neckline in the front piece when the coat is sewn together, before hemming. This way I can put it on and draw out the opening as I want it.

Don’t make the coat all the way to the ground, it will just get wet and dirty.

I think this was my first viking coat, green woollen twill with fantastic wool embroideries made by my friend Kim, inspired by viking age decor elements

This was the finished coat that I made for the blog post. It has been sold since then, and I now own a similar blue coat made in warm wool twill, with rabbit fur in the neck and hand openings. I use it as my go-to cosy, warm coat on events, for keeping warm when I don’t want to get dressed properly, and on larps as a middle layer. So practical!

 


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Comfortable and easy outfit for the 15th C

I wanted to tell you about my blue 15th century dress. It is made in a thin twill wool fabric and super comfortable and easy to wear!

This is one of the dresses I wear most when it is hot outside, but made in thicker wool it will give you a really cosy overdress for colder weather too. I have used lots of 15th century pictures as a start for the pattern drafting and overall look, and you can find some sources + more info at the end of the post. Also, there is lots of posts about 15th century garments and fashion here so click the tags for getting to know more. I made this one as a pattern experiment, and it turned out so nice that I am tempted to make another one…

The pattern is basically the same as the one I used for my coat. The skirts are longer and closed in the front with the opening reaching to the waist (easy to get in and out of) and the sleeves are S-sleeves (the seams are in the back) with an option to save on the fabric by inserting a gore in the back of the sleeve. This is the pattern outlay from the coat; if you want to make it to a dress just give the skirts more length, and redraft the sleeves to S-sleeves if you want.

The measures you need:

  • Lenght of garment (from shoulder to floor for example)
  • Armhole (or use a toile or pattern that fits you, the armholes are made in “the regular way” but will be a little deeper due to the width of the garment starting already from the shoulder. If you use a toile as a start, place the neck-hole around 20 cm (size s-m) from the selvedge and draft neck-hole, shoulder and armhole from the toile before continuing the sides in a straight line.)
  • Sleeve length and wrist circumference (for the sleeves)
  • Shoulder width (around 8-13 cm) from the neck hole to where the sleeve starts.
  • Upper body circumference. Measure your body, and split the measure in 4. Use this as a guide for drafting the start of the pattern; the neck-hole, shoulder and armhole.

As a reference, I started the neck-hole 20 cm from the selvedge/fabric edge and then drafted the pattern from there. To make sure you get the measures right and will fit in the dress; measure the width of the fabric pieces before cutting, especially if you have broad shoulders. Compare with the width needed over your shoulders.

It is easier to start from a corner, with the front piece and front sleeve gore 1.

If you are a beginner in drafting patterns, it really helps to start on a piece of paper with your measurements. Experiment until you feel more secure, and if you like, you can even cut the paper pieces out and tape them together to check the fitting. You don’t have to make the pattern a full scale, you can work on a checkered paper with a scale of 1:10 (1 cm being 10 cm in reality)

The gores for the front and back skirts are just there to give some additional width to the skirt (F1, F2, B1, B2) and they should be half the lenght of the back/front seam. So they will get longer if you draft the skirt longer.

Give the pattern a try! This is one of those outlays that may seem more complicated than it really is.

After you have cut out all the pieces, sew them together:

  1. back seam and gores
  2. shoulder seams
  3. side seams
  4. sleeves
  5. insert the sleeves in the dress
  6. front seam and gores (leave the dress open from the waist or the chest area up)
  7. hemming and 1-3 small clasps at the front (if you like)

When I made the dress I tried different ways to achieve the folds; basting, gathering, and with a strip of fabric on the inside… But I like it best when it is loose and flowing so I removed all the stitching. Every time I put it on now I arrange the folds after putting on the belt. They may slip around a little but is easy to adjust again to your liking.

Most of the fabric is gathered at the front and back to drape the skirt nicely, without adding bulk on the sides. When choosing fabric, a thin but tight weave will give you a good fall and heavy drape to your dress.

There are lots of pictures of this style of dress, with draped folds, and what appear to be sewn ones. The sleeves can be made rather tight or looser, and the neckline higher or lower. Check out my pinterest for more inspiration!


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Working kirtle for the 15th century woman

This is a dress I made several years ago, to have as a simple working kirtle. I never got around to take photos and write proper documentation about it, but now I got some feeling! In these photos, the dress has been used for a couple of years and it has seen wear, washing machines and mending. So here’s my first tutorial for the autumn, and thank you for visiting and reading! (Both old friends and newcomers!)

This is a very simple working kirtle or dress, made to be practical as well as historically possible. The fabric is a plain wool weave, dyed to look like walnut dyed fabric. The skirt is partly pleated, partly flat sewn to the waist, and the upper part of the dress is fitted for bust support, side laced and has short sleeves.

I wear it with loose sleeves, pinned to the short sleeves and a gollar for warmth, under another fancier dress, or as it is if I am going to do lots of work or if the weather is warm.

The dress is hand sewn with wool thread in the same colour as the fabric, and it was one of my first garments made with wool thread instead of linen thread. I really recommend it! At first, I was a bit unsure if it was going to be durable enough, but after several years of using it, washing it in the machine (yeah, because lazy and dirty…) and treating it rather rough, it stays together really well, with only some minor mending.

I used running stitches on all long seams and folded the seam allowances to one side before whip stitching them down. The waist seam and all edges were made with whip stitches, and the sleeves and upper body seams made with back stitches to be a bit more durable than the running stitch is. The running stitch is way more durable than many believe and common in extant finds, but for heavy support, I like whip stitch and backstitching better.

The fabric is a medium tabby weave and I used around 3 meters for a dress. If you are much longer than me (1,6 m) consider buying another half metre. I did a quick pattern outlay for you, since it is old I’m not sure if I drafted the pattern along the selvedge or across the fabric but you will get an idea of what pieces you need to make one for your self.

The dress was made using two front pieces (to have a supportive seam in the front was a good choice since I didn’t have any lining in the dress.) One back piece, two sleeves and the skirt panels. I drafted S-sleeves, but the dress is made with regular sleeves with the seam under the arm. That seems to be the most common in artwork from the time on short sleeves. Your choice!

Some thoughts on skirts:

Do you see that the skirt has way more fabric in the back, while the front is straight? This will give you a nice fall as well as enough width and volume, but if you bend forward to pick up things or work by the fire, this construction will make the skirts remain away from the flames closer to your body, rather than draping forward with your movement. Hard to explain, but try it! It gives you a very practical garment.

The front panels are marked C at the centre front. The back piece is “upside-down” to use as much of the fabric as possible. You could of course piece the skirt together with more panels if you like. On my dress, the front panels lie smoothly in the waist, with only a couple of pleats to allow room for hips and stomach, while the back part is pleated around the back.

Other ways of construction would be to make more panels/gores (see my green 15th c kirtle) or pleat the skirt fabric to the waist seam all the way around (like my 16th c trossfrau dress in purple and blue). Or just make a few decorative folds in the back, like on my blue Weyden kirtle. This is simply one possible way of interpreting contemporary art.

A tip on bust support:

This is (I think) my only wool garment so far that has bust support, but no lining whatsoever. This is possible only because of the plain weave since it is not very flexible across and along the threads in the fabric. A twill weave would not have worked without lining.

The drawing with the front piece has two arrows marking out small details in the fronts seams. At the centre front there is a small bend going in under the bust, and at the side seams there’s another, making the seam run in a bend, and then changing direction after the bust and running straighter over the stomach. This way of sewing will make the bust stay better in place, allowing for bust support without lots of sturdy layers. But the bust will have a rounder form and not as much steadiness as a garment with lining.

I did however put in a narrow strip of linen around the neck opening on the inside, to avoid it getting stretched. There is plenty of ways to make hems sturdier, such as a narrow strip of fabric, running or stab stitching or using another layer or quality of fabric on the inside, for example. You can find this in extant finds such as Herjolfnes and finds from 14th c London, as well as in paintings. It is an easy way to finish your garment, make it last longer while being historically made.

The side lacing is made with sewn holes and a lucet braid in plant-dyed wool thread. A wool thread will be a bit stretchy, and won’t run as smoothly as silk, which makes it a bit slower to lace, but the cord will stay in place. In this photo, you can see the lacing which starts at the sleeve and reaches to the waist seam, a gap where the shift is visible (did I have too much good food this winter?) and also some mending is done on the sleeve. After the waist seam, I tie the cord (I lace it from sleeve to waist) and the skirts are opened another 15 cm to allow for easy undressing. The skirt is not laced, it stays closed anyway, and by sewing some folds in the sides, the opening will not be very visible.

A note on fitting a dress like this:

I always make a fitting for every single item I make, and that is especially important if it is supposed to be tight fitting. I do have a basic pattern, drafted on my own body (a toile) but after I have basted the pieces together I need to try them on before sewing the garment. Every fabric you work with is slightly different, some more stretchy, some supportive and stiff, and by trying the pieces on you can adjust the garment to your taste.

The method for adjusting and fitting a dress like this is the same as I use while making a supportive upper body toile, and you achieve the support by taking in the upper body in the sides and front, sometimes also by stretching the shoulder seams upwards a bit.

A front laced kirtle is a bit easier to adjust to a bigger bust, but you can make it work with a side lacing as well, just remember to make the same adjustments to the laced side as the sewn together side, and maybe lacing it double one turn just below the bust for greater support.

For a complete outfit; linen shift, wool hose and leather shoes under the kirtle. A simple belt to hang the money purse from (change is very important for today’s trader) and a veil on the head. Here I have a simple cap under the Great Veil, to have a base to pin it on. The veil can then be worn in many different ways, depending on how you like to wrap or fold it. 2-3 brass pins secure the veil to the cap under it.

Whoho! Finally documented this dress a bit, so now I don’t have to feel “bad” about forgetting it all the time. As you have noticed, this is not a complete step-to-step tutorial but rather a post with guidance if you want to make a similar dress.

Many readers ask me to share more sources and such material on the blog, but according to copyright laws I am not free to post all the stuff that inspires me on the internet, and therefore you will often find links, reading tips and Pinterest notions where you can find artwork and resources of your own. Hope you understand my take on this!