Are you an equestrian who could use some garb or one who has the knowledge of good riding garb to share? Are you a sewer or costumer and can lend your talents to those who need garb and want to learn to sew more? Please come join us on Sunday, October 30 from noon to 5:30 p.m.
Our castle (755 Stonegate Drive, Wexford PA 15090) is still a construction site so please park on the street and walk down. We do have two big rooms for sewing but more machines, irons, and ironing boards are welcome!
All throughout the Middle Ages, men wore coifs to keep their hair clean and out of their face. In many illuminations, coifs are depicted in white or a natural color. Depending on one’s status during the Middle Ages would determine on how fine the cloth was for the coif. Finer white linens for the wealthy and peasants had rougher linens in natural colors.
I have been learning how to hand sew medieval clothing items using period-correct sewing tools lately. I recently got inspired by these images from the Rutland Psalter of 1260, men’s coifs with the stitches depicted.
The coifs appear to be a two-piece construction with a band across the back of the coif to cover the raw edges and a longer band across the front of the coif to cover the raw edges and act as the ties for under the chin.
I used The Medieval Tailors Assistant book for reference on cutting out the coif pattern and for stitches to use for construction of the coif. I used reproduction sewing needles and pins that were based off archeological digs in London. (I purchased them from The Fairytale Chest shop in Etsy.)
I chose a fine white linen and used white linen thread for sewing. Construction of the coif for me was pretty straightforward: sew the two pieces together down the center of the coif, finish the seams to hide the raw edges, and sew on the bands.
I found the linen easy to work with; it was easy for me to crease the seams and it held the creasing very well for me to sew. I used a backstitch to sew down the center of the coif seam. Next, using my fingers and natural body heat, I pressed open the seam, folded over the raw edges and used a simple whip stitch to tact them down.
Next was creating the bands for the back and front of the coif. I measured both front and back for the length needed, adding 12 inches on each side of the front band for the ties. I cut my bands a little over an inch wide. Again, using my fingers, I folded the bands in half, making a good crease in the linen as I went along the length of the band. Next, I opened the band and carefully pressed in the outer edges of the band to the center, making a good crease in the linen. Then I folded the band in half again, making it in the fashion of modern-day double-folded bias tape. I did not cut the bands on the bias as I felt this would make them too stretchy and the coif would not fit right. For the front band, I double folded in very small edges to hide the raw edges.
Opening the bands, I put them on the raw edges of the coif and sewed then on using a whip stitch that is shown in The Medieval Tailors Assistant book. For the front band, I closed the tie ends using the same whip stitch.
I found sewing with the reproduction needle mostly easy; however, as my body heat warmed up the brass, it bent the needle. I had to stop quite a lot to straighten out my needle. I also found that the needle and pins left bigger holes in the fabric compared to their modern counterparts. But I felt in the end of it all, the holes went away as I continued to work with the linen and felt that it didn’t change the outcome of the coif.
I still need to work on making my stitch work much better, but that will come with practice, practice and more practice! Hope you enjoyed reading about this project, I really did enjoy making the coif.
(Lady Isolda is apprenticed to Master Hrólfr Á Fjárfelli)
Tablet weaving by Viscountess Rosalinde Ashworth. Photo by Master Fridrikr Tomasson.
The autocrat of the FFF event in the Shire of Abhainn Ciach Ghlais has made the following announcement. More information about the event is available on the Kingdom website here.
While I was so looking forward to seeing you all, and I am extremely grateful that you were willing to offer your knowledge to FFF, I’m afraid that the hosts of FFF have decided, in light of increasing cases in the hosting county, that FFF should not be held in person this year. We will return to Sieg next year!
Instead, we will return to last year’s virtual format, and to November 20, so we all have time to catch our breath and prepare.
I hope to see you online, and in person next year,
Early medieval / Viking age jeans
Claim: A (Aprilis prima)
Material: 2/2 cotton twill with indigo dye (mouth-crotched by Uzbek nuns under water), buttons made of iron, rivets made of bronze
I know, I know … most of you will first of all wonder if I’m completely mad and crazy about this reconstruction. So let me first put a few theoretical considerations together:
1) Trousers itself are well documented by finds. Thorsberg, Damendorf, Skjoldehamn. Sufficient variations of the pattern can already be found here, so that today’s jeans cut seems quite possible as a creative excess.
2) Cotton as a basic material was known and available. In the Byzantine Varangian Guard (which consisted mostly of Scandinavian Vikings), part of the armor (the Bambakion) was made of cotton. So one can assume that returnees brought this back home with them as knowledge or as raw material.
3) Diagonal twill as the binding of the material was well-known and has been retained to this day.
4) Indigo as a dye has been used extensively in the eastern regions. So it seems completely conclusive that resourceful dyers also happily combined cotton and indigo. Even if this should not have been the case, a wonderfully stonewashed look can be achieved with the adequately documented and popular woad, which puts the fashionable understanding of the early medieval people in a completely new light.
5) Even the pockets of the jeans can theoretically be derived well. Just think of fragment H55 A from the harbour of Haithabu. The transfer of a tunic pocket to a pair of trousers can justifiably be seen as a masterpiece of tailoring at the time, and it should have been way ahead of its time.
6) Dozens of references can be found in Birka alone for buttons. Even if most of the specimens were cast from bronze, in view of the craftsmanship at the time, some can also be made of other metals. As a reference for the use of buttons on trousers, I would like to refer to the underpants find from Moscevaja Balka, which also already has a button for fastening.
7) Stabilizing the seam connections by means of rivets seems quite modern. However, this principle of the rivet with a counter washer on the back can already be observed in the knife sheaths of that time. It seems quite logical – especially in view of the extensive and long-term use of textiles at the time – that this process was also applied to trousers.
8) Jeans are even represented several times in contemporary iconographic representations. In various psalteries, men can be seen in tight-fitting blue legwear, which can be interpreted as nothing more than skinny jeans. Here, too, the fashion of the time shows clear parallels to modern times, and underlines the highly developed clothing style of the Northmen, often wrongly denigrated as ‘uncouth barbarians’ .
That’s the theory.
Now let’s get to the facts.
1) Old Norse knows the term ‘(Blá) önd súrsæt’, the ‘(blue) cotton trousers’.
2) In the Gallastríðið saga it says: “Gallíu er skipt í þrjá hluta, annar þeirra er byggður af Belgum, hinn af Aquitans og sá þriðji af þeim sem kallaðir eru Keltar á sínu tungumáli, á okkaru.”
In other words: “And before he left the house, Gollum the Magnificent put on the cotton trousers of the hard-working craftsmen so that he would be considered one of them in the future.”
3) In the ‘MS Cotton de Nimes’ (dated to the middle of the 10th century) there is a depiction of a man in blue trousers who is being carried by two others. Under his tunic, which has slipped up, you can see a patch pocket on the back of the exact shape and size that is used in today’s five-pocket jeans. (Image 1)
4) During the archaeological excavations in the port area of Birka, among other things, textile fragment W34 / L32 was found. A 2/2 cotton twill with remnants of an indigo dye. Here you can still see a double seam, which is reinforced by a bronze rivet. Right next to it is a round hole with neat edges that a second rivet would fit into. (Image 2)
5) In the hoard of Buttenheim there is an inconspicuous but very interesting pendant among numerous hacked silver. A so-called Anlaf-Guthfrithsson-Penny, a coin from the 10th century, which was first converted into a button with a long shaft (like in modern jeans) and later served as a pendant with a riveted eyelet. (Image 3)
6) One last hint is the work of the Swedish archaeologist Löb Strauss, which he published under the title “Effekten av jordnötssmör på jordrotationen”. Here he describes an almost perfectly preserved trouser find with all the characteristics of today’s jeans, which was found in 1834 in the bog near Riga by Jākobs Jufess and dated to the late Iron Age. (Image 4)
Based on all of these individual documents, the jeans I reconstructed are by no means a new and unknown item of clothing. Instead, the facts automatically condense into a compelling causality.
Because with all due respect to our ancestors – they weren’t stupid back then
I would like to close with a quote from my great Idol Harald Blauzahn: “Do not believe anything you find on the Internet, unless you have faked it yourself.”
/ Satire Off, and have a nice first April
Charles Bruns (via Viking Clothing on the Booke of Faces)
· Reach out to someone in your Shire, Canton, or Barony
· Cook a medieval recipe SCA Cooks on the Book of Faces
· Find your favorite SCA youtubers! Kingdom of Æthelmearc Virtual Resources, including populace YouTube channels
· Shop or leave a review for an SCA merchant that you like SCA Merchant Relief on the Book of Faces as well as the Æthelmearc Gazette archives for recently published articles on populace merchants
· Write an award recommendation for someone either in at local or Kingdom level Sylvan Kingdom of Æthelmearc Award Recommendation Form
· Reach out to that mundane friend that keeps posting “Cool!” on your SCA pictures and see if they are interested in learning more SCA Newcomer’s Portal
· Participate in one of the local, Kingdom or Society challenges (two birds with one stone on this option) Pandemic Portraits, an SCA photography challenge; also on the Book of Faces (and when you happen to come across one, please share with the Æthelmearc Arts & Sciences Book of Faces page!)
the possibilities are endless…
This 15 minutes is whatever you have the energy for – the only requirement is that you do something, anything! Complete 30 days (does not have to be consecutive) and you will earn a ‘war pay’ against the Plague.
Hashtag #15forSCA to show what you are doing today! (Set your social media settings to global so that your hashtag can be shared.)
Greetings to all weavers, dyers, tailors, spinners, and textile workers of all persuasions!
The eighteenth annual Fiber, Fabric, & Fun (FF&F) will be held online, on its usual day of November 21, 2020. While we can’t bring you fighting, fencing, fishing, or feasting, we are planning for a day filled with fiber, fabric, and fun.
We are seeking Zoom-friendly classes on all aspects of textiles and clothing, from spinning the fiber to weaving the cloth, to embellishing the fabric, and constructing the garments (bonus points for things I’ve never even thought of).
The upcoming episode of ÆLive, airing on Saturday May 23 at 7 PM, will have a Norse theme.
To this end we want to have a segment in the show where we show pictures of Norse outfits that people here in Æthelmearc has worn or are wearing. So please send in pictures of yourself in Norse looking garb or armor.
A segment will be made where we feature these pictures, some or all of them as we see fit.
Due to the extenuating circumstances at this time, the Known World Rapier and Costuming Symposium has been postponed indefinitely. We would like to thank everyone who has shared their time and talents to bring us this far and also, please know we will certainly be hosting a Known World event in the future. Until then, please take care and stay safe!
The camicia displayed before you is a men’s undershirt shirt constructed in the style of the mid to late 16th century. Often crafted by women of the household for loved ones in the public eye, undergarments and other finely embroidered accessories of this type were cherished wardrobe pieces and suitable even as gifts for royalty. This shirt is specifically tailored for my partner and is based on extant patterns and period portraiture the spirit of this practice. I made it using period sewing techniques, such as cartridge pleating, and materials, such as linen thread and fabric. The embroidery is made from modern acrylic thread for cost-prohibitive reasons, but is extensively detailed with personal imagery (in this case referencing my partner’s heraldry) as would be typical a fine shirt of the era.
Introduction This undershirt was designed with my partner in mind and intended as a colorful addition to their SCA wardrobe. It is patterned on numerous 16th century extant pieces, primarily those discussed in Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 4 and three pieces in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute collections in New York City. These historical pieces are unique in that fashion at this time began to favor a more gratuitous silhouette. It was customary to display one’s wealth by wearing more material and finery. Consequentially, sewing methods adapted to accommodate the practice of wearing textiles in bulk and it is during this period the technique of cartridge pleating became more prevalent, particularly with undergarments. These pieces also showcase a large amount of labor-intensive embroidery, which I feel has at least as much to tell us about the daily lives and values of the women who made them as the men who wore them. It is with great appreciation for the cultural weight of these garments that I undertake this project.
What is this thing and why it is interesting? Undershirts, shifts and chemises (or camicia in Italian) were worn as barrier between the body and the outer garments. These pieces of clothing were full and absorbent by design to serve as protection between the exterior layers from the wearer’s sweat and body soil. They were always made of vegetable fiber (Landini & Bruna, 125), likely because vegetable fiber is absorbent, easier to launder and breathes more comfortably than silk or wool. Underwear of this type were worn all over Europe and were donned by the working class and nobility alike. The finest pieces, such as the ones which have survived in the museum collections of our modern day, were made of the whitest, finest and most transparent linens. (Landini & Bruna, 125) Such items were embellished and maintained; decorated with colorful embroidery of silk or gilded thread. Some were adorned with cut-work and lace. All were gathered and fitted with as much excess and finery as could be afforded.
In the 1500’s a fine shirt was a gift both suitable for royalty or to one’s own family. (Arnold, 9) These pieces were traditionally made by women, either professionally contracted or as a service within the household. This task was common among both upper and working classes. Eustace Chapuys, the Spanish ambassador to the Tudor court during the reign of King Henry VIII shares one such anecdote in his writings wherein Queen Anne Boleyn threw a jealous fit over the right to make Henry’s undershirts (as opposed to the then out of favor Katherine of Aragon). One can conclude from this story that there is something more significant to this practice than standard women’s chores and was worth fighting over. Add to this, the fact that much of the labor-intensive embroidery was used to cover seams and were utilized in places which might never be viewed except in the most intimate of settings. I submit that these garments were Renaissance status symbols in their own right and true labors of love, often made specifically for the wearer by a woman close to them (a wife, a sister, or a mother). Further the act of making these pieces was a coveted duty, and a mark of virtue to be sought after in prospective wives.
Fabric In the medieval and renaissance Europe, linen was much different than the linen found in the modern day. Flax was harvested by hand which resulted in longer fibers and thus finer, more sheer fabric was possible. We know, based on portraiture that the upper class preferred linens that were as white and as sheer as possible. Landini (as I’ve cited earlier) agrees with this statement, but I would call attention to the fact that this source looks most closely at the wardrobes of Eleonora di Toledo. On the other hand, the Nils Sture shirt, scrutinized by Arnold, was described as being made of “firmly woven linen, which is quite coarse”. (Arnold, 68) This example, worn by Nils on the day of his death, was more likely every day wear rather than exceptional attire. I propose that at the very least, day to day upper-class menswear was somewhat more practical with regard to the quality of linen used. While the linen I have obtained may be of modern make and not the ideal optic white sought after by the nobility, it is of a weight and texture appropriate for regular wear and, more importantly, it’s what my partner wanted.
Pattern and Construction Looking closely across the surviving men’s shirts documented in Patterns of Fashion 4, of which she has done a wonderful job of extensively dissecting and documenting, I have noted that the widths of the body panel range from about 30-40”. I have estimated this figure given that Arnold does not note seam allowances. Thus, I set out to design my pattern with an assumption that my bolt of fabric came from a 40” wide loom (see Figure 1). Further, bearing in mind that linen (for me) is expensive, I opted for a design the utilizes as much fabric as possible with little waste. My pattern is mostly rectangular, relying on pleats to fit to the wearer rather than curved seams (see Figure 1.2 for pattern – image included). Given that undergarments were unlined, I joined all sections with felled seams in the fashion demonstrated by Arnold (Figure 2.1) though upon response to my inquiry from the MET, it seems that there was some variance in technique throughout the period. I opted to go the aforementioned technique as it only it recommended two passes of whip stitching along each seam (figure 2.1) as opposed to one pass and then another two lines of back-stitches to secure further (figure 2.2 – image included). One could argue the smock which employed this variation has held together admirably as a result, but I just don’t have the free time to duplicate it with deadlines looming.
Cartridge Pleats As I mentioned earlier, all fitting has been achieved in this design with pleating. For a garment of this make, cartridge pleating was the preferred method of gathering fabric because it is the most efficient approach to condensing large quantities of material. Cartridge pleating is achieved by lining up multiple running stitches perfectly so that when the support threads are pulled, the fabric folds up on itself like a fan. The compression rate for this method is variable based on the thickness and length of the fabric and spacing of pleats. Tighter spacing, and more material will result in tighter gathers, thus for the beginner’s class I teach on this technique, we begin by double rolling our linen first to make it easier to work with and scale up the spacing required for of our stitches. This approach of condensing fabric differs from other pleating techniques in that cartridge gathers are not fixed in place until they are finished, and that these gathers may be compressed or spaced out as needed to fit. The result thickens and stiffens the fabric and is suitable for the addition of collars, cuffs, neck and waistbands. Unlike smocking, which condenses fabric in the same way but then adds embroidery over top, the support threads (created by the running stitches) are left in place and the pleats are then further secured with an additional piece of linen. Historical pleats of this make were gathered by hand and were exceptionally tiny and evenly spaced.
As part of my research into the creation of this garment, I contacted the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) in New York City order to get a better understanding for how these pleats were achieved. I was interested in three 16th century undergarments in their collection, all of which showcase cartridge pleating. I found that these gathers ranged from one to three pleats per 1/16th of an inch. (see figures 3.1-5.2: image 3.2 and 5.1 included). I have spent extensive time and research trying to duplicate pleating like this in previous projects and this piece is the first time I had actual scale references for these extant garments and garments like it. I now believe the tiniest of these gathers were achieved with a long piece of fine of linen with stitches no less than 1/16th of an inch wide. In the case of my project’s neckline, which would have to support a double thick collar, I have double rolled the linen first before pleating to give the seam some added integrity. However, all other pleats were achieved with a single piece of linen with the goal of duplicating this method faithfully.
Once gathered, it is necessary to finish the pleats by securing them in place. With the MET blouse, these pleats were carefully whip stitched to a double thick band of linen (Figure 3.2). For the MET shirt it appears the gathers are placed between a double thick wristband in which a double running stitch secured everything in place. (figure 5.1 and 5.2) For my partner’s shirt, I have chosen to backstitch the outside and whipstitch on the interior. I deemed this method most sturdy and aesthetically appealing.
Embroidery The embroidery on this shirt is heavily influenced by the extant in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (Figure 6.1 – image included). As is featured in this example, I have chosen to use button hole stitch to finish all the hems along the collar and cuffs. In period, this would have been done with silk thread, but I have used acrylic for to keep within budget and avoid bleeding with regular wear. This design also features a collar which is made from two pieces of separately embroidered linen panels as is best demonstrated in the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum extant in Munich (Figure 6.2 – image included). For my project, I have made references to my partner’s heraldry along the exterior of this collar and intend to also decorate the interior at a later date.
It is interesting to note that most surviving pieces showcase some form of embroidery. Even in more practical examples, such as the Nils Sture shirt referenced earlier, (Figure 7.1 – image included, as well as image of entry) there is at the very least some white-work, or pulled thread detailing. Many more museum specimens display extensive decoration, often in places that would be invisible when worn. Setting aside the bias in our body of evidence that ensures such cherished heirlooms are more likely to survive, the fact remains that this type adornment is time consuming and labor intensive to create. Regardless of the fact that noble women may have had the time to devote to such effort, it is not easy work and many of these touches were hidden by exterior clothing. Further, these works of art would have been unknown to all but the wearer and those intimate to them. Where embroidery might cover a seam, or finish a neck slit, these ornaments would have been close to the heart. I found that during the course of adding these details on my own project I could not help but think of my intended and this process was meditative and fulfilling in its own way.
Buttons Many of these undergarments were secured with cord tie off, but there are a handful of examples which use buttons as well. Arnold documents at least two such examples including the MET blouse discussed earlier (Figure 8.1). The Museo del Tessuto in Prato also has a camicia in their collection which uses button wrist closures. (Figure 8.2). These buttons were made by wrapping silk around a wooden core and all feature a zigzag pattern across their axis. I have attempted many variations on this method but have yet to perfectly replicate this design. In light of this road block, I have instead replicated buttons from another garment from the same time period. However, I will continue efforts to replicate this design for future projects and may yet yield success in the 11th hour for this one.
Conclusion As a result of this project have acquired a greater appreciation and understanding for the women of the 16th century. In total, I estimate this project has taken me about 25+ hours of work and I could yet commit more. In this undertaking, I have become aware of my modern privilege and entitlement with regard to clothing production. Sewing, gathering and embroidering underwear is tremendously time consuming and labor intensive and I admit I did and still do wrestle with the idea of creating works of art which are not intended for public view. However, having put in these hours I recognize their value would argue that perhaps this makes these items all the more precious. When I tackle a project like this again, I’ll saving up to do it with finer textiles, such as long fiber linen and silk embroidery thread. At the very least, my materials should match my effort.
THL Fede de Fiore at the Kingdom Arts & Sciences Championship, discussing her entry with the jurors.
For a pdf of THL Fede’s documentation, as well as a complete collection of project and extant garments, please visit here.
Arnold, Janet. Patterns of Fashion 4. (2008, London)
Landini, Roberta, and Niccoli, Bruna. Moda a Firenza: 1540-1580. (2005: Firenze)