HANDCRAFTED HISTORY


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The Ultimate Packing List

In Sweden, the historical camping season has begun, and with that lots of clever reenactors are sitting at home, working on their packing lists and piling their things in large heaps. For your convenience and enjoyment, I have asked around after the best packing tips, clever hacks and what-not-to-forget as a beginner.

Here it is, the Ultimate Packing List! Containing everything and more, just what you need to plan your event. Just adjust after your preference and need, and print it out!

Tent:

  • wooden pegs
  • tent pegs
  • tent walls/roof
  • rope
  • sledge
  • extra rope, pegs and mending stuff

Sleeping arrangements:

  • bed/cot/mattress/air mattress
  • bedding: sheep’s skin, wool blankets, pillow, duvet, sleeping bag.
  • mosquito net
  • sleeping clothes; warm socks, cap, shift/shirt etc

In the tent:

  • tarpaulin floor
  • cloth/fabric floor
  • carpets/furs
  • furniture like stools, benches, table, chests
  • curtains for privacy

Clothes:

  • underwear
  • a change of modern clothes for travelling
  • two pairs of shoes (or more)
  • swimwear historical or modern depending on the rules
  • socks, and extra socks. Some more socks.
  • shifts/shirts
  • middle layers for warm days
  • overlayers for cold and rainy evenings
  • headwear that protects against the sun

Food, eating and cooking:

  • eating utensils: spoon, knife, pick/fork, plate, bowl, jug and glass
  • food storage: cloth bags, chests, plastic bags, cool bag with freezing blocks
  • water container to carry with you during daytime
  • fire maker (matches, striker etc)
  • towel/rags for hot kettle, table, dishes
  • fire extinguisher
  • fire pit/somewhere to make your food
  • tripod for your pot
  • firewood, coal
  • pot to cook in (frying pan or cauldron)
  • dish brush and dish soap
  • towel
  • tasty drinks
  • snacks
  • food for all your meals
  • trash bag or bin with a plastic bag inside for icky trash

Necessities:

  • toilet paper
  • towel
  • soap
  • hand sanitiser
  • plastic bags
  • wet wipes
  • your regular medicines and toiletries like toothbrush etc
  • menstruation pads
  • abrasion patches (band-aids for your feet)

Good Things to have:

  • power bank
  • extra socks
  • extra medicines (for cold, pains, band-aids etc)
  • extra blanket/sleeping bag for warmth
  • sunscreen
  • earplugs
  • mosquito repellent
  • snacks
  • first aid kit
  • cloth sacks to store things in
  • cloth sacks, baskets, fässing, bags to carry things in
  • mending/sewing bag
  • fluid replacement (to put in water if the event is very warm)
  • axe
  • small broom for the tent

To make the stay more enjoyable:

  • candles in lanterns, and/or led candles for lighting your tent in a safe way
  • heater for the tent + fuel for the heater
  • toys according to your hobby; sewing projects, swords, bow, armour etc

*Please be advised that some events have restrictions on fire and cooking or modern equipment etc so be sure to learn what rules apply to the event you want to visit!

Good luck with your packing and adventuring! I am going to pile some more “important-looking-stuff” now for my trip to DW next week.


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Want to live in a Historical Tent?

I could call myself somewhat of a pro at living in historical tents, or more accurately, sleeping bad and freezing in historical tents… Therefore, I present to you a guide on how to choose your tent and live comfortable in that!

(This turned out to be a really long blog post- I have apparently missed talking to you. I marked all my personal thoughts and anecdotes with cursive, for easier reading)

Which period?

Different models are based on finds from different periods, so if you are going on viking adventures the Geteld or A-frame models are most often used. For medieval adventures, Getelds and Pavilions are good choices. Small shelters called “Soldier’s tents” are also often used.

When looking at websites selling tents, many will show you models that are not based on finds or pictures but called “historical” anyway. The openings could be placed in new ways, the seams made to save fabric widths or moved to be able to sew on a machine. The poles and ropes holding the tent up might be done in different ways that can not be seen in manuscripts and so on… These tents may still be good tents, but it is always good to know what you buy, and what it is based on for the future. If you are unsure about a model, ask!

A-frame tents at a viking market

What says finds and historical pictures?

Viking type tents are based on ship burials which have included a tent with a wooden frame and canvas. We don’t really know if people actually slept in these on land as well, and they probably did not bring them to different markets all summer… But what to do, when you are a modern person wanting some comfortable living?

Medieval type tents are seen in numerous manuscripts and paintings, both used by nobility and commoners. Brightly painted, large tents are used for festivities, tournaments and for avoiding that pesky sun, while small sleeping tents and shelters can be seen in military settings. A quick search gave me this board.

Round pavilions at Double Wars.

Where are you going?

Many events have lists or recommendations about what tent models are allowed on their events. Mostly, you can bring Getelds and A-frames to viking events, as well as small canvas pieces as simple roofs. To medieval events, Getelds are often allowed, as well as square, round and oval-shaped Pavilions. Materials may also be advised to be linen or wool.

Sleeping tent in the middle, and large pavilions in the background.

The event organizer will want to have as pretty a camp as possible, but at the same time, they know tents are really expensive and that guests will stay at home if their living investment is not allowed. The same is true with market tents; most of them are not strictly historical since a modern seller will need light loads to carry and transport, as well as a big enough tent to be able to bring enough products to earn a living. Not everyone can sell jewellery and candy, so some will need big, bright and roomy tents.

Other things to consider are the campgrounds; is it rocky and hard to put down tent pegs? Then an A-frame tent might be good. Is it often stormy and windy, then perhaps a smaller tent with a sturdy frame and long tent pegs is a good choice. Have you ever seen a jumping A-frame tent in a storm? I have, they can really get quite far…

Cotton, linen or wool?

Cotton is by far the most common tent canvas today since it is cheaper, lighter and easy to come by in the right thickness and waterproofing. I use cotton in my Pavilion to be able to lift the canvas pieces myself and to have a tent that is bright enough for customers to see my products, even if it is rainy outside. But oooh, my old linen pavilion was prettier!

Linen is heavier but more resistant to mold, and unbleached linen will keep your tent cooler and darker. Perfect for sleeping in, not so good if you are a market vendor selling fabrics. Linen gets bleached over time in the sun, giving the canvas a really good look.

Wool is mostly used in A-frames and a good, felted wool fabric will keep you dry, cool and comfortable in all kinds of weather. May be waterproofed with modern products, or with lanolin (wool fat) which is more historical.

Different types of fabrics; brown wool tent, white cotton tents and the unbleached linen pavilion in the background.

Consider this when choosing your model:

  • Packing space available (how much space do you have in your car for a tent canvas and wooden frame?)
  • Storing space (where will you keep the tent off season?)
  • How many people and how much stuff do you need to fit?
  • Is it important that you can put up the tent fast?
  • Is it important that the tent is easy to lift/carry? (consider a canvas in several pieces)
  • Should the door be big (welcoming/good shop) or small at one edge (more sleeping space)?

I have always been partial towards Geteld models since they are often economical, easy to transport and fast to put up and down.

With that said, after living for weeks in this model you will get really tired of the sloping walls, giving you almost no space to hang clothes for drying (except in the middle). Storing all your things around the base of the tent will save lots of space to allow you to walk around in the middle, but it will also mean you crawling around on your knees looking for things every day.

A-frame tents also seem very practical and I am slightly jealous of my friends when we are putting up camp at rocky, hard grounds. While I am sweating and swearing trying to put down the tent pegs in the ground, they simply fold their tent in place, secure the canvas by the frame and move in. I usually get my revenge when the carrying distance between car and camp is long since I can carry my poles in one go…

A-frame tents are practical, economical and if you have the storage and packing space for the frame it is a good choice. It is also considered the easiest tent to make yourself.

Pavilions often have a roof with separate walls, allowing you to open up different sections of the tent if you want the breeze to get in, or want a nice display area. Straighter walls with poles or wooden wheels mean you can place furniture along the walls, and hang clothing from the wooden frame, which is both practical and pretty. More sloping walls on the other hand might ride out storms better.

Round and square pavilions may be sensitive to hard winds and storms; during the Medieval Week in Visby you may see knocked down tents of these models, or tents laid down by choice before a storm. If the round pavilion has a sturdy roof frame, you can remove the middle pole, fold the walls and secure the roof down to the ground covering all your furniture and belongings while you wait for the storm to pass. You might not fit inside, but your tent will survive…

If you only want a sleeping place, tents called “soldier’s tent” or one-man tents might be the right choice for you. I would advise you to get a tent big enough to fit a bed inside, then you will always have a dry space, and can store your things under the bed.

Will I get wet?

A good tent will keep you dry even in heavy rains, as long as you can stay of the ground (in a folded camp bed or wooden bed for example). Also, never put clothes or bedding up close to the canvas, ideally, nothing should touch the canvas walls except the framework.

Our oval pavilions have kept out heavy rains on several occasions, with the single drop or two from a slacking corner joint between roof and wall. During one event, the rain was so heavy that small runlets formed and travelled through the tent. Everything above ground kept dry, but a turn shoe almost floated away…

Look for a tent construction that has sloping roof/walls, and a canvas that is thick, sturdy and treated with a waterproofing agent. Even so, after some years out and about the canvas may need to get additional waterproofing.

How to care for a historical tent:

Let’s start at the beginning; oil all your wooden poles upon arrival, and once a year after that (or when needed). When you put up your tent; find the right way to do so without adding unnecessary tension to the pole, canvas or ropes. The same goes for taking down the tent; do so slowly and controlled, and get some friends to help you in the beginning. Always mend loose ropes, or broken seams at once. Make sure the tent canvas is really dry before folding it away in the storage, and that it is reasonably clean since rotting mud, grass and insects may cause damage to the canvas over time. Brushing away loose bits before folding the tent is good. I also brush off the dirt from the tent pegs and ropes. The canvas should be stored in a dry space, outdoor sheds are not ideally. I can give you several examples of people having their tents destroyed by mold and rats during winter…

More tips to be comfortable in the tent:

  • Furniture like a bed, table and chairs (so you don’t have to sleep and sit on damp ground)
  • A heater for those chilly events (if you live in an area with cold nights and rains). We have a portable gasoline radiator (the same type you might have in a trailer van).
  • A mosquito net to drape over the bed at night
  • Look for opportunities to hang things inside the tent; a lantern and a rope for drying clothes make life easier.

Things to ask (or look for) when buying a tent:

  • What material is the canvas made of, and is it waterproof? Treated to withstand mold? Treated to slow fire down?
  • How much does the canvas weight? Does it come in 1 or several pieces?
  • How long are the frame/tent poles?
  • Are rope and tent pegs be included?
  • How should you take care of the tent?
  • If the tent canvas breaks, is it possible to buy additional fabric for mending?

Pricing?

Historical tents are expensive. Or at least, there is lots of money involved. The cheapest way is often to make one yourself if you have the time, space and skill. The second-hand market is also a really good choice, when people get tired of their small, practical tents and want to level up, they will often sell them for a good price. But try to inspect the tent yourself before you pay for it (ideally put up) to avoid bad canvas, mold, rips or a cracked frame.

A short sneek view over the camping ground at Double Wars; here you can see many different kinds of tents!


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Magical places and Viking living

With this blog post, I am celebrating 10 years worth of blog posts on this blog. I had another blog before this, so I have been writing for a longer time, but when I moved here I decided to take with me the handcrafting posts, and the first one is dated to late October, 10 years ago.

So with this, I am sending a big THANK YOU to all of you who read and support the blog; by reading, sharing, liking, talking, supporting the blog on Patreon and doing business with me whenever we meet. It is thanks to you the blog still remains, without your support I would probably have lost the heart to continue writing here. Let’s hope we stay together for 10 more years to come!

This summer I visited the island Björkö again, where the viking city Birka flowered as a centre for trade and cultural influence during the Iron Age. Birka is such a magical place, and I can really see how people have chosen to live here for such a long time.

I wore my most recent viking outfit, I call it my Västerbotten Viking (which I explain in the blog post about the garments) and enjoyed wearing a comfortable and practical outfit as I strolled the pastures, enjoyed magical light and amazing sunsets.

One evening my friend Rand I enjoyed a nice view of the harbour when we got company from a friendly sheep and her lambs. Apparently, vikings give the best scratches, and handmade beads and bronze jewellery is great to nibble at. Yes, I now have lamb drool all over my things. Totally worth it.

We also enjoyed some adventuring; rowing out with this viking boat (…ship? Do you call it a boat or a ship? I know nothing about boat-things) which was fun, sweaty and a great experience.

In the viking harbour, several reconstructed boats were available for admiration and occasional trips around the island. Here another group of vikings set sail out into the evening sun. In Sweden, there are several viking groups specialising in maintaining and using these ships, and we met lots of friendly and knowledgeable persons that gladly shared their knowledge with us.

One evening we had a great feast in the village, with skilful cooks preparing a meal and festive-dressed vikings enjoying it. After a long time with pandemic restrictions, it felt almost unreal to meet so many other people at the same time and eat by the same table. But alas, some work was required to take nice photos without the hand sanitisers visible…

Pretty vikings with pretty flowers and glass replicas.

And even more pretty vikings up at the hill, enjoying a guided tour ending by the sunset. This year we got a guided tour by Max, who kindly shared all his knowledge and told us about strange finds from around the site.

Viking age clothing; linen sark, wool apron dress, wool shawl and a veil. From my brooches, my knife and needle case is hanging by chains.

Birka is one of my latest infatuations and I long to go back there. This is really one of the most amazing things with my work and hobby; getting to visit and live at these historical and lovely sites. It is also really hard, because I now harbour a deep love and longing to visit places all over Sweden such as Visby and Birka, but also Tällberg where the larping area is, as well as southernmost Sweden for Double Wars, and Hamar in Norway to mention a few… How will I have time for it all?

Do you also have a magical place that you keep in your heart?


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How to make a medieval linen shirt

Welcome to this step-by-step tutorial, perfect for beginners. It might seem long, but explains everything you need to know. Follow it as you go, or look up the section where you might need extra guidance!

This is a great project to begin with! Easy, straight forward and the fabric won’t be too expensive.

Examples of medieval shirts with slits, gores and seams.

Most people wore linen underwear during the medieval period, and a man’s kit was made up of breeches or a type of loincloth, and the shirt. While you are at it; make two shirts! It is really nice to be able to change and wash your clothes during longer events, and a pleasantly smelling shirt will make it easier to make new friends…

Linen shirt with a slit at the neckhole

Buying fabric:

The amount of fabric you need depends on your size and the width of the fabric. This example will use cloth 150 cm wide. To decide how much you need to buy, calculate the measures on your pieces and how much fabric you need for those, then add another 10% minimum to allow for shrinking or uneven edges. (Fast tip: just buy 2 meters up to XL, a bit more if you have a larger size. Extra fabric may always be used for other projects.)

Look for linen fabric of 120-180 gram, I prefer a thin and even weave. (That is more historical and comfortable than a coarse and lumpy weave.) Bleached or unbleached linen, according to the status you would like to aim at. Bleached linen was a bit more expensive, but don’t go for the super-white ones in modern stores.

Pick a shirt model of your choice

Preparing the fabric:

Zigzag the raw edges to prevent them from fraying while washing, or buy a bit of extra fabric if you don’t want to bother with machine work.

Pre-soak, wash and iron your fabric before starting to cut and sew your shirt. Washing will avoid future shrinkage, make the weave even and remove any pesticides. Pre-soaking the fabric will lessen the wrinkles and make it easier to iron. 40-60 degrees c machine washing, hang dry.

Things you will need:

Needle, linen thread, beeswax, scissor, measuring tape and something to mark your fabric with (fabric chalks or just a pencil). A ruler or straight piece to draw against is nice, but not necessary.

Tools for handsewing

Measure:

  • 1. Lenght of finished shirt from shoulder to hemline.
  • 2. Circumference around the widest part of your upper body, often the chest.
  • 3. Length of sleeve from shoulder to wrist.
  • 4. Circumference around your hand/wrist (make a loop with the measuring tape, and try to pull your hand through it, it should be big enough to be easy, in order for you to be able to take the shirt off.)
  • 5. Armhole (measure around your should/arm as the picture shows, then make the measuring tape into a loose circle, and when you find it comfortable-check the measurement.) I usually add about 25% extra from my body measure, from 40 cm body measure to making the sleeve hole 50 cm.

Example (with measures) so you can see how I do this:

  • 1. Lenght of finished shirt from shoulder to hemline: 100 cm
  • 2. Circumference around the widest part of your upper body, often the chest: 100 cm.
  • 3. Length of sleeve from shoulder to wrist: 70 cm
  • 4. Circumference around your hand/wrist: 28 cm
  • 5. Armhole: 60 cm. This means the sleeve base will be 60 cm, and the armhole on the body parts will be 30 cm on front and 30 on back.

Add ease of movement:

What is that? If you were going to cut out your pieces with the above measures, the shirt would fit tight along your skin, making it impossible to move, or take it on and off. Therefore, we will add extra space for movement. I usually calculate 6% of the circumference around your body, 10% if I want a loose fit.

Example: 100 cm + 6 cm (6% of 100 cm) =106 cm. Split this measure in 2 for front and back: 53 cm each.

That’s it! (we already added ease into the sleeve by making sure we could pull the hand through, and the sleeve base by adding extra room there)

Add seam allowance:

What is that? Seams always need to be a bit from the edge of the fabric in order to be durable. The space between seam and fabric edge= seam allowance. Short= SA. I will add 1 cm, between 1-2 cm is recommended.

Example: Add 1 cm to all edges around your pieces, like this:

Seam allowance can be added directly in your calculating and drafting the pieces, to paper pattern pieces, or drafted on the fabric outside the pattern. We use the first method here.

Example:

  • 1. Lenght of finished shirt: 100 + 2 cm SA= 102 cm (I like to add another 1 cm to hems; so 103 cm)
  • 2. Circumference around chest: 100 + 6 cm movement + 2 cm SA= 108 cm
  • 3. Length of sleeve from shoulder to wrist: 70 + 2cm SA= 72 cm
  • 4. Circumference around your hand/wrist: 28 + 2 cm SA= 30 cm
  • 5. Armhole: 60 + 2 cm SA = 62 cm sleeve base. Armholes: still 30 cm *2.

Draft your measures into a pattern:

Now you are ready to draft your pieces! I like to do this on paper first, to save as a reference, for future projects, and to determine how to save on fabric. I draw my piece of fabric onto paper, making 10 cm=1 square:

Nr. 1 is the front and back pieces, nr. 2 sleeves. As you can see; if you would like to have side gores instead of slits in your shirt, nr. 3 would be excellent to use. This is just an example, do a draft with your measures and lay out the pieces in a way that suits you.

I recommend drafting the front, back and side gores either along or across the length of the fabric (do all these in the same direction) the sleeve may go along or across, depending on what is more convenient (the shirt will look better with this method).

A note on sleeve measures: this sleeve doesn’t sit on top of the shoulder when finished, it hangs on your upper arm (see photo at the beginning), which makes this measuring method work. When measuring for a fitted sleeve, always measure around your bent elbow.

Design your neckhole:

These are my general measures: small-medium: 1 = 18 cm. large-xlarge: 1= 20 cm. The back I cut out around 5-6 cm deep, the front (2) is cut 10-15 cm deep. If I want a slit at the front (3) I cut it around another 10 cm deep. If you don’t want a slit, you might need to make the neck opening a bit deeper/wider in order to fit your head. You can always draw it out, cut a little, try it on, draw a bit more, cut and so on, until you are satisfied with the look.

Shape your armholes:

If you feel that the shoulders are a bit wide, you may shape the armholes a bit (common if you have a large chest but narrow shoulders). Cut 4 cm (small/medium) to 6 cm (large/xl) from the shoulder top (4) and create a gentle curve to the armpit, or draw a straight line from the top (4) to the armpit (see photo further below). Then sew the sleeves as described. The seam should still be hanging slightly below your shoulder, not at the top of it.

Cut out the pieces:

When you have drafted all your pieces on paper as above, you are ready to draft them onto your fabric! Iron the fabric and lay it down on a flat surface, draft all your pieces and check the measures with a measuring tape. Use a piece of chalk suitable for fabric, or if you don’t have that; a pencil. A ruler, a large book or a straight stick can be used to make the lines even. Everything seems good? Cut the fabric pieces out! (you may also want to mark them Front, Back, Sleeves if you are unsure.)

Sewing time!

The order of sewing is as following, I will walk you through every step below: shoulder seams if any, sleeves to shoulders, side gores if any, sew together sleeves and sides. Adjusting neck-hole, adjusting sleeve length to your wrist, hemming.

1. Start with pinning the shoulder seams. Putting in pins alongside the fabric edge makes it easier to avoid stabbing yourself when handling the project.

2. Cut a piece of linen thread, the length of your arm. Coat it with bee´s vax by pulling the thread over the vax piece a couple of times. Thread a needle (the needle should be as small as possible, but thicker than the thread to make it easy to sew), and make a knot at the other end.

The needle is thicker than the thread

3. Sew the shoulder seams with backstitches. 3 stitches/cm is a good guide, and 10-15 mm seam allowance depending on what you drafted on your pattern. If you find it difficult to make the seam straight, draw a thin line with a pencil where you want it to be.

4. Press the seam allowances to either side. Use your fingernail, a pressing tool or ironing. Fold the seam allowances double, and pin down.

5. Use running stitches (or whip stitches) to sew the folded edge down to the shirt. The stitching should only be visible at the right side as small dots.

6. Try out the neck hole by pulling it over your head. Cut out more if you need, and check in the mirror to see if you like the look. When you are satisfied, hem the neck opening. Start with folding the edge twice and pin it in place. Make the folds as narrow as possible, to make it easier to sew nicely, mine is 5 mm. Sew the edge down with whip stitches.

7. Pin one sleeve to the armhole of the shirt, right side against right side (this photo show a shaped armhole). Sew it in place, using running stitches or back stitches. Pin and sew the other sleeve in place. Press the seam allowance to either side.

8. Now we are going to save some time with a folded over seam allowance! (photos below in 10.) Trim one side of the seam allowance down to approx half-width (5-6 mm) and then fold the larger one over this, press in place. To avoid fraying and loose threads, fold in the edge of the fabric under the seam allowance. Press down, and pin in place. Now you have a neat looking fold, ready to be fastened down. When sewing the seam allowance down like this, you save time and make the seam more durable since the fabrics will be sewn twice to each other. I prefer whip stitching for this seam, it is easy and durable.

Which way should you press the folded over seam allowance? I often go for pressing and sewing down to the biggest fabric piece. So for the sleeve seam, the seam allowance will be pressed down onto the body parts. On side gores, the gores will be pressed out onto the body piece. It makes it easier to sew and gives the garment a nice drape.

9. Time to sew the side seams and sleeves! Lay the shirt down inside out on a flat space, and pin the side seams and sleeves. Make sure the fabric is smooth and the edges lays on top of each other. Mark where you want the seam to be if needed, and then sew from the sleeve wrist, all the way down the side seam. I like to leave the bottom 10-20 cm open on the side seams to create a slit in the shirt, if I don’t have side gores. Backstitching will make the seam durable, but if you are in a hurry a running stitch with some backstitching in the armhole will also suffice.

Slits at the bottom

10. Finish of the side seams by pressing the seam allowance flat, and make a folded over seam allowance. Press, pin and sew this down.

Folded over seam allowance, above the side slit in the shirt

11. Now it is time to fold the edges and sew them down. On linen fabric, I like to make a double fold to avoid fraying threads from the fabric edges. Start with the hem around the bottom of the shirt. Fold two times, around 0,5 cm each (or the SA you choose), and press the fabric in place with an iron or your nail. Sew with whipstitching, travelling on the inside of the shirt, which will make small dots of threads visible on the right side of the shirt.

After that, finish the sleeves in the same way. I like to try the shirt on before hemming, to be able to adjust the sleeve length. If they are a little too long, just create a deeper fold, or cut off the extra fabric. If you have made them too short you can sew on another piece of fabric and make a hem on that one. Piecing is always historical.

How to fasten the thread:

When there is about 10 cm thread left (approx the width of your palm), it is time to fasten the thread and take a new one. Sew another stitch, pass through that loop before pulling tight, and repeat at the same place a couple of times. Then you can pull the rest of the thread down into the fabric before snipping off the leftover, hiding the thread inside the seam. Neat! Take another thread, prepare, and start sewing at the same place you stopped.

Uhm, this is a lot of steps for a simple shirt? Yes, it is. Can you cut the corners, get a bottle of beer and sew it all on the sofa? Of course you can, but each step may not be as easy, and it will be harder to have a nice view of the process. What I mean is- this is just my way of describing the process as easy as possible for you, to allow a handcrafting process where each step is straightforward, and where the sewing will be as fast as possible to do.

General advice:

  • Always pin on a flat space to make sure your seams will be even.
  • Be nice to yourself; sit comfortable, take lots of breaks, use tools to make your sewing easier.
  • Remember to actually try out the fit, the length, the neck hole etc before finishing sewing. It is very easy to just continue sewing once in a flow, but if you end up with a garment you don’t like, you will have to redo lots of work.
  • Is the measuring a bit off? No worries; in this project, a 1-2 cm difference will not matter. You can probably go on sewing. I sometimes have wonky measures. Medieval finds are full of uneven pieces, wobbly seams or piercings. Don’t worry!

Other types of shirt models:

Shirt with side gores: adding side gores is easy, and give you extra movement on a longer shirt. Sew them in place before sewing the side seams closed. Use the same stitches and folded over seam allowance as above.

Shirt with sleeve gussets: small square pieces of fabrics get stitched in under the arm, to add more movement and to save on fabric instead of making larger sleeves. I usually sew these after the sleeve, while sewing the sleeve and side seams closed.

That’s it on shirt sewing! These techniques will also do well on a number of different projects, and is somewhat of a basic go-to. Enjoy sewing!


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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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Viking glass beads

Today I just wanted to show you some of my new viking age glass beads that I bought this summer, and tell you a little about viking age beads!

There is plenty of finds from the viking age of glass beads of various colours and types. The most common way of wearing them seems to have been on a string between the tortoise brooches on a woman’s outfit, but the have also been found in necklaces, in small metal circles and loose in grave (also in men’s graves but I have no notion as to how many).

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The world of viking era glass beads is big and interesting, but I am not an expert in any way. There are those who are though, and there is research going on about the subject. Glass beads were both imported by the hundreds and made in viking workshops, with different styles and quality from different geographical areas and time periods. This makes it possible to trace them back to their original area, and tell an estimated time they were created.

You can also find lots of free information on Historiska Museets database (The Swedish historical museum) and here is a search ready-made for you on viking age glass beads, with pictures on the finds; http://mis.historiska.se/mis/sok/resultat_foremal.asp

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I like glass beads because they are one of few materials that withstand the turning of time and looks something like what they used to be, even after 1000 years in the earth. They are of course also pretty, and the handcrafting behind each bead are often outstanding.

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I have tried to make some glass beads myself with the same technique used during the viking age, but with modern tools (such as gas, safety glasses and an oven for slower cooling) and find it difficult but very interesting. This summer I also, kind of accidentally, bought some beads from other makers, and now I have put everything together in new strings and necklaces for my outfit. These are not identical with specific finds, but more inspired by several different finds and graves. I will probably not keep everything, but they are so lovely I just had to experiment with them.

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All the beads you’ll see in this post is handmade, by me and others. The blue-themed set will be used for festive occations I think, along with my new blue apron dress.

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And for fun, this is one of the earliest strings of beads I made for my viking outfit. The photo is crap, half of the beads are modern, I used a thread that broke and didn’t know much about historical beads at all. Everything from this picture is sold or given away by now, but the brooches I still have and use since they are based on a find from the area of Sweden were I live.

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From a Viking market

Gunnes gårds yearly autumn market is a really cozy place to be, and me and love traveled there to have a viking weekend together. There was a downpour when we arrived on Friday afternoon, but the rest of the weekend offered lovely weather and fun meetings. I hade a really busy time, and didn’t get as many photos as I would have liked, but maybe that is just a sign of having fun?

I brought my work with me, as usual, and we were hanging in our new market tent, meeting new friends and just having a good time. The tent is a market tent for all those viking markets (and for me when I travel alone) since the larger pavilion is medieval style, and also quite heavy to bring by myself. I am happy with the tent, though the large double bed we have is a bit big for it, but hey- it is hard to have it all!

During Saturday and Sunday I held two lectures about viking age clothing from a visitor’s perspective, hoping to lure more people into the interesting world of viking age… Love sat by the tent during that time, to try to help customers with questions. He is not by far as handcrafty or interested in clothing as I am (being more of a brewer/archer/gamer), but he sure looks the part in his outfit =)

Tried out a new hairstyle inspired from a find from pre viking age. It is a french braid from the top of the head going down, and then another regular braid with all the hair, twisted into a bun and pinned into place with the hair pin made of wood. Quite simple, doable without a mirror, but holds in place during the day. I like it, I will definitely try it out again!

I also got to try out my new apron dress. It is made in a very thin blue wool fabric, with a matching veil/thin shawl in the same fabric. Perfect for those warm market days during summer. Under I have a bleached linen shift. The jewels and beads I think you have seen before; it is all old and the glass beads are those I made myself. Here is also the hairstyle from the side, a bit worn since it was afternoon by the time we took the pictures

We also got the most awesome neighbours to hang out with! Two really talented spinners, one of them here with Susanna who runs Viking age clothing. I really recommend her patterns if you want to sew viking clothing for yourself, she is very knowing and talented in viking era clothing!

S, our neighbour, also had a very cool minimalistic camp, with just a small sleeping area, a cooking fire and some personal equipment.

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Now I am back home, and since this was the last market for the season, I am doing some after-season work; washing and mending clothing, taking care of camping equipment, packing everything down, writing lists and such. I am also doing a look over of the wardrobe and camp, and plan to sell of some things that has not been used during the season. Most things will be up shortly on facebook or my Etsy, so be sure to check in there every once in a while!

 


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My best tips for making a matching outfit

Making that matching outfit doesn’t have to difficult or impossible expensive, but it does take a fair bit of planning: before. Yes, I know it is the most boring part, but thinking before shopping is what makes the thing. So I put together a list of my best tips for making an outfit that makes everyone go “Wow” when they see it.

1. Decide on a colour scheme that you like, and follow it. You should have 2 base colours, with additional tones to match. In my case, orange and warm yellow is my main colours, as you can see on the amber necklace, the woven belt, the shawl and the apron dress. The hair band have a darker orange colour, but it is warm and intense to match the other tones. The red coat and the middle woolen dress brings in the additional colours to make the outfit interesting but have likewise a warm toned base.

2. Add some contrast or mismatch to intensify your matching outfit (yes, it works like that) it could be the opposite colour (red-green or yellow-blue) or a really dark detail to an otherwise light outfit. In my case, the green glass beads does match the yellow tones, but breaks nicely with the red ones. Still, they are in the same warm tone as the rest of the outfit. The uncoloured beige dress is another example; it doesn’t follow the main theme but have a warmer undertone so it works fine with the other  warmer shades.

3. Patterns or texture adds interest and depth to any colour. My apron dress is woven in a herringbone twill, and the coat is a bit uneven in its colour due to different dyes in the fabric, which is barely visible but adds texture and interest to the finished garment.

4. Darker and lighter shades; when choosing your colours make sure you have different shades and not only different colours. For example; yellow-orange-red make for a change in both colour and shade, but a light blue paired with a similar light green makes the outfit a bit flat. Add a darker green or blue-green tone and you will make the outfit more interesting!

5. Layers; plan for all the layers at once, and make sure they have different tones, shades or textures if they follow the same colour theme. In this case, you won’t end up having two orange dresses on top of each other, and can make sure that details will be visible.

6. Details; don’t we all love a well put together outfit? Making details lifts an outfit, and it can be both jewelry, accessories as well as useful tools, a knife, a jug or something like. Match it in colour, tone, shade or shape to your outfit. In my case, I chose to make a tablet weave to reinforce the apron dress, make the straps, and a matching headband. Having the same colour/pattern appear in different places adds interest and makes the outfit look well planned and matching.

7. Consider your own colours; colour schemes and matching is a whole science on its own, and there is plenty to read or check out on YouTube. Matching colours, creating interesting outfits and the like works the same way on historical clothing as on modern outfits or make up. Consider your own colours, if you have a warm or cold undertone in your skin, and consider what you like to wear. Using those kinds of colours will both make you more comfortable and happy during historical events. But also consider the historical finds; if you love to wear black and dark blue maybe that is not the best choise for your farmer viking outfit. But as these are considered as neutral colours in our modern eyes, maybe a dark grey with soft, plant dyed blues will do great for your viking outfit?

Got inspired? Did you find this guide useful? Please let me know by liking my FB page or leaving a comment on the blog!

 


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The Viking Amber Project

This is my latest just-because-it’s-nice project. I wanted to make a viking outfit on a certain theme; so I chosed my amber necklace and worked from that one to create a whole outfit.

Some pieces you might recognise from before; the shawl is my first handweaved project, and the apron dress is in fact the orange dress that I have cut out and redid into an apron dress since my shoulders and back have become a bit bigger (hello gym!) To make straps and a supporting band around the upper hem I made a tablet woven band and sewed it into place.

I also made a bit extra to wear as a headband, looks kind of cute, and is practical for keeping your hair in place and for pinning a veil to it. It is tied in the neck with a knot. I got the idea from a grave in Birka/Björkö were there was a find of the same band on both clothing and skull, though I didn’t read how the band on the skull was arranged or if it was sewed onto something.

The hairdo is inspired from an Iron age find of a woman having her hair in plaited buns (aka Leia buns almost) but to achieve a more historical look, a bit of fake hair could be applied (women seem to have had more and longer hair when washing and chemicals weren’t the thing). It is also a bit messy from having a rest in the tent earlier.

The jewelry is based on findings from mostly Sweden, the brooches from Öland, and some of the bronze items like the needle case is from Historiska Fynd. The glass beads I have made myself, the amber necklace and some other jewelry is bought on different viking markets. Amber beads is found in several graves; if you want to use amber in your viking outfit look for big, regularly shaped beads, or faceted ones. The small nuggets are very modern, the viking lady seemed to prefer her beads big and luxurious.

About the layers: the linen shift is barely visible and over that is a hand stitched woolen dress of uncoloured wool from Medeltidsmode. The apron dress is made of thin wool and have tablet woven bands on it. The coat is made of a wool, also from Medeltidsmode, and hand stitched with woolen thread. Wearing several woolen layers is a good way of staying warm in the autumn season, but they get a bit heavy, so for comfort I used my tablet woven wool belt to fasten the skirts at the waist, so my hips could carry some weight from the outfit.

To keep the shawl in place I fastened it with the brooches; in this way my neck stays warm but you can still se the rest of the outfit and the jewelry at the front. For a warmer look, I use a small brooch to fasten it at the front beneth my breasts.

Historically? There is sometimes a different amount of loops or fabric underneth the tortoise brooches in finds, indicating that several layers of clothing was held in place by the brooches, and sometimes more layers on the bottom or the top of the brooches. But there is also several graves with clasps or brooches at the front of the body with fabric in them, suggesting that the woman wore an other garment that fastened at the front, like a cloak, shawl or coat. But really, there is much we doesn’t know for sure- so this is a “suggested way of wearing viking clothes” and not a “we now this for sure-outfit”.

Without the coat and with the shawl pushed back. Still comfy and warm, without having to hold the shawl in place by myself.

 

Putting on the shawl. Here you can also se the knot at the neck for the head band.

Dramatic and cool viking woman! Yeah! (I was having a bad cold at the moment, but you can always pretend)

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Making a better Apron dress

This blog post contains a collaboration advertisement for sewing machine guides from Sewingland.

I thought 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 too. If this is your first try at an apron dress, check out my tutorials Easy apron Dress or Fitted apron dress first. At the end of my post, you’ll find a link to useful sewing machine guides if you would like to make your dress on a sewing machine.

Nr 1. Use enough fabric. I know it’s tempting to save on the fabric, but trust me. Too short and tight a dress will look like a modern dress. I use around 2 m *1,5 m to mine, and if you are larger/longer than me, you need a bit more.

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. Don’t make the straps too long. I think it looks very strange when women are wearing their dresses in the middle of their bust, or even under their nipple area. Please don’t. When you fasten tortoise brooches, you can pin them through your strap, or make a knot at the end of a strap being a bit too long.

Nr 5. If you don’t have tortoise brooches to fasten your dress with, don’t use modern buttons or fastenings in the meantime. I have learned that apron dresses were not a thing without brooches, like the dress is an accessory to the jewellery and not the other way around. You don’t have to wear apron dresses for reenacting a viking woman, a simple long kirtle will do. So skip the apron dress if you don’t own the brooches, or sew the straps directly to the dress itself if you are momentary without them.

Nr 6. The thin fabric could be lined with a strip of linen or wool to protect the hem and support the top.

Nr 7. You may 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. Another way to decorate the dress is to sew a small wool braid to the top.

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 are 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 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 choice for protecting your clothes. Or remove the apron dress and work in your shift or woollen dress. It seems the apron dress was a status symbol and finer wear, so it is probable that women didn’t wear them while labouring.

Follow this link to more help on sewing machines: http://sewingland.org/best-sewing-machine-for-cosplay/

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