I have already cast on for a tall sock, and my winter clothing collection is becoming much more comfortable.
Here's an early medieval mitten, in the collection of the National Museum of Iceland (www.nationalmuseum.is),
I am in the midst of a 14th century life crisis. I purposefully did not bring my woollen cloak because it is de-dazzled with glass pearls that are more fitting for a Renaissance painting than real life (and I am now more focussed on real life in my 14th century play/study). So, I had on two layers of wool: a rust-red short sleeve wool kirtle, mostly hand-sewn with tablet woven edges at the side and front lacings (a piece of garb that at present makes the wardrobe cut). And, my new navy wool gown (I promised action photographs, and will provide them...soon). And, I grabbed a length of wool fabric to wrap around my shoulders because wool fabric is better than a be-dazzled cloak, I guess. Brrrrrrr. It was windy and dark and about 3-5 degrees Celcius.
So, I am a knitter. I am a damn good knitter. I have cables and stranded Norwegian sweaters that may bring tears to your eyes. But, no knitting for the 14th century, in northern Europe. The solution is simple. I must start nalbinding.
So, six days ago I decided to teach myself left-handed nalbinding. Of course, with the the help of a wonderful website: Neulakintaat
And, here is my progress. Two mittens made down to the thumb in Finnish 2+2 stitch, using the thumb method. It is an amazing art! My new favourite! This is the beginning of my new plan - to have clothing appropriate for a cold winter.
And, there are more plans. I have been reading a paper by Brandenburgh (2010), which is very interesting and describes "Early Medieval Textile Remains from Settlements in the Netherlands. An evaluation of Textile Production," which is definitey going to be earlier than the 14th century, but is very, very interesting and important, nevertheless. Lovely drawings of seams and hems, if you are interested. There is a picture of naturally white wool, woven in 'veil weave' open tabby (approx 10 threads/cm), recovered from the Leens site that the author thinks was probably used as a headdress. Ah. Wouldn't a woollen wimple and veil be a nice addition to my closet for the winter months.
And, here I have some fine tabby wool, natural white, just waiting to keep me winter-warm! My next hand-sewing project this winter.
Stay warm, friends! Let your bodies be wrapped in wool, and tiny stitches.
Crystel R. Brandenburgh, "Early Medieval Textile Remains from Settlements in the Netherlands. An evaluation of Textile Production," Journal of the Archaeology in the Low Countries, May 2010, pp. 41 -79.
I made a new late 14th century gown with 2 side gores, interlined to the waist with natural linen. I had so much fun drafting the sleeves with eased elbows that are snug, yet really fit well when I bend my arm - not tight and binding. I made the armskyes deep at the back and have plenty of forward arm movement. The sleeves are my favourite! I used buttons that were made be my friend and mentor who does spectacular pewter smithing. I sewed the gown with silk thread that I dyed in small batches as I went, and used wool filler yarn for the overcast seam stitching. I love this. The wool fibres from the wool yarn will felt together with use with the wool fibres from the fabric. Fabulous! Also, on bias cut pieces, like the neckline, the strong wool yarn keeps the fabric from drooping and sagging. Wonderful and seen on Herjolfsnes garments. Oh! Herjolfsnes! I have a beautiful copy of Woven into the Earth by Else Ostergard. A marvelous trove of information. I've spent the most time reading about the dyes and the weave of the fabrics. Because, almost as soon as I finished sewing and tablet weaving on my new gown, it was not quite good enough and wouldn't it be so much nicer to weave my own 2/2 twill and dye it on a fire in my garden? Well, back down to earth for the time being.
I am going to an SCA event this weekend and will wear my new gown and hopefully come home with action photographs and more posts. In the meantime, I here are a few details.
Sleeves and buttons! Petits fleurs!
Inside seams under the arms.
Neckline with woollen filler yarns caught in the overcast stitches. Little blue eyelets up the flat front. Narrow tablet woven edging - I think that the next time I will carry on around the entire neckline.
From the outside. Seams sewn in small backstitches and little flecks from the overcast seams in the inside. Because of the bulk from the linen interlining, I opened the seams flat for the torso of the dress, then felled them to one side for the lower portion (only lined to the hips).
The bottom of the front opening. Staggered eyelets for spiral lacing. I need to try cord making with a lucet!
I re-made a little purse with a fettered fleur for the household. It was longer before and the tablet weaving wasn't correct. Now the sides are attached with four tablets ZS ZS in all four holes. Then separated the tablets into two packs and took each one up and around the top, then re-joined the four tablets to continue connecting the remaining purse sides together. Just like in MoL Dress Accessories. I love the wool tassels.
Oh look! I made another little leather and wool bag to give away at the event! I love red and green together!
A new hair-do on a thin, tablet-woven silk band. The cornets are natural flax and I spun the binding cords myself, very slowly.
One last new thing: A St. Birgitta cap! So much more comfortable than a tied kerchief.
Figure 1: gown based on Moy gown, front
The diagram in Figure 2 was made by Carlson, based on the actual tracing of the garment by Margaret Lannin of the National Museum of Ireland and allows for a detailed view of the remaining fragments. The most prominent characteristic of its construction is undoubtedly the trapezoidal shoulder blade gussets at the back of the bodice, which help to form a very large arm scye, which is labelled by some as “aux grande assiettes”. Newton discusses the grand assiette design Fashion in the Age of the Black Prince and gives examples of its usage post-1350 (eg., the poupoint of Charles de Blois, d. 1364). Geijer also discusses the grande assiette type design in her book, The Golden Gown of Queen Margareta in Uppsala Cathedral (trans.). This gown with grande assiette sleeves was purportedly worn by Margareta on her wedding day in 1363 when she was 10 years old.
Figure 2: Moy Gown fragments. Drawings by Marc Carlson based on a tracing of the garment made by Margaret Lannin of the National Museum of Ireland.
"A coarsely woven twill of lightly spun wool, and may have had some slight felting on the inner surface. It has a low round neckline, with the bodice buttoned at centre front and tight sleeves buttoned to underarms. The skirt is shaped with a double gore at centre back and at either side. The front of the skirt did not survive. This Moy gown is of interest since it shows the sewing techniques of the time. Selvedges were used when possible, otherwise the fabric edge was thickened to avoid ravelling. All seams were welted but the neckline was finished neatly with backstitch on the inner face and the bodice fronts were hemmed. The seams of the skirts were sometimes left unfinished towards the bottom, the lower edge of which is so fragmentary that it would be unwise to conjecture as to whether it was ankle or calf-length. The difficulties surmounted in accommodating the sleeves are of interest. The fabric was wrapped around the arm and cut to extend close to the neck. A welted seam attached this to the body of the gown and continued into the sleeve. In this way the weakness of a shoulder seam was avoided. For further strength the two foreparts of the bodice were cut with narrow straps which extended over the shoulders and into triangular gussets between the shoulder blades. A gusset was placed at the front of each armpit for ease of movement and comfort."
Figure 3: aux grande assiettes
Figure 4: triangular gores inserted under the arm, and at the front of the sleeve head
Figure 5: wrist to elbow button closures
- My wool gown has been hand dyed with synthetic dye, not natural dye.
- I varied the dimensions of the gown in order to fit my body, please see Table 1.
- I sewed the gown by hand using synthetic button hole twist thread and a modern steel needle.
- The cloth buttons I constructed are made from circles of cloth which are self-stuffed to create a firm button with no raw edges.
- The button holes are bound in silk thread, not wool.
- The buttonholes on my gown extend only from sleeve hem to elbow, not to the top of the arm.
- My gown has linen facings for the buttonholes and the button edges, whereas the edges of the Moy gown were just turned over and neatly hemmed. The cloth with which I constructed my gown is not as coarse and I felt that the buttonholes and button edges required further reinforcement.
- The lower front portion of the extant gown did not survive, but I have added triangular gores in the front of my gown based on the symmetrical gores placement seen in other extant garment of the 14th and 15th centuries
- I have finished the seams on my gown by pressing them open and tacking them down with a running stitch as indicated in the MoL Textiles and Clothing book for seam finishing in the 14th and 15th centuries.
Figure 7: gown based on Moy gown, back
Extant Moy bog gown
Shoulder gusset (grand assiette)
Sleeve side: 3”
Centre back edge: 5”
Top: 8 ¼" to 8 3/8"
Bottom: 8 ¼" to 8 3/8"
Sleeve side: 6 ½"
Centre back edge: 8”
Attach to bodice: 2”
Shoulder ridge: 1”
Strap length: 9”
Attach to bodice: 2”
Shoulder ridge: ¾”
Strap length: 8”
Front side: 5”
Back side: 4”
Front side: 3 ½”
Back side: 4 7/8 “
Top: 2 ¾”
Sides: 3 – 3 ½”
Top: 3 ½”
Sides: 4 – 4 ½”
Top: 17 ½”
Buttonhole side length: 28”
Button side length: 23”
The length of the sleeve is not known
Distance between: ¾”
Number and distribution: 13 from sleeve hem to elbow
Distance between: 1.1”
Number and distribution: unknown number from sleeve hem to shoulder blade gusset
McGann, Kass, What the Irish Wore. The Moy Gown – An Irish Medieval Gown,
This gown was constructed of red wool flannel and lined with blue silk. It is in the Italian/Southern European style late 15th century. I generally wear the gown with a square front, supportive kirtle (see images and description below) and a stuffed roll headdress created from a linen roll, wrapped in burgundy silk and banded with velveteen and pearl strips. In the two images below I am wearing a long transparent silk veil under the roll. The gown laces up the back, is closely fitted through the torso, and features full upper sleeves and tight fore sleeves. The back seam in the fore sleeve is slit and very small puffs of my linen smock can been seen.
The inspiration for this gown was drawn from several images in art work from the late 15th century, but mainly from a detail on the central panel of Memling's St. John Alterpiece. I love the sleeves, and the dress has a modest scoop neckline and lovely full skirt. In Memling's image there is no visible lacing and I have made an assumption that the lacing is in the back.
St John Altarpiece (central panel detail) by Hans Memling, 1474-79
Memlingmuseum, Sint-Janshospitaal, Bruges
The two photos below show the back lacing and the only additional embellishment on the gown - a nine strand braid, made in three parts and sewn to the neckline and the lacing edges.
Under the gown I am wearing a square front kirtle constructed of blue tabby-woven lightweight wool, with side lacing. The bottom edge of the kirtle features a pleated border beaded with glass pearls and glass beads. The embellishment on the hem is generally the only part of this garment that is ever on view. There are numerous examples in 15th century artwork whereby a non-embellished outer gown is lifted ever so slighty and modestly to reveal an elaborate gown underneath.
Details from the kirtle: side lacing (both sides, fulled wool strips sewn into the lacing edges for stiffness and hand-sewn eyelets); and beading on the lower pleated edge.
The image below depicts a lady in waiting helping Bathsheba from her bath. The lady is wearing a heavy, fur-lined gown over a kirtle with a square front and a deep, pleated border on the lower edge. One cannot discern from the painting if the under gown has sleeves or not.
Bathsheba by Hans Memling, ca. 1485
I am wearing a late 15th century style linen coif with the kirtle. It is contructed like a bonnet with a turned back front edge, and two tails which are brought up and around the head and then tied again in the back. A similar coif is shown below in a detail from the MS Douce 195 Romance of the Rose Manuscript. The coif is very simple to construct being made from one piece of linen cut on the fold with a clean selvage edge in front. The two tails are attached about 5 cm out from the central back seam.
Ms. Douce 195, f. 118
Peppered throughout the Luttrell Psalter are very pretty and practical aprons. They have a honeycomb smocked appearance and since smocking was a technique known and used in that time period, it is a reasonable assumption that this is indeed the manner in which these aprons were created.
From the Luttrell Psalter, 1305-1340.
Since I have been long craving my own apron, I set out to make a smocked one using a medium-heavy weight linen. I am wearing it below with an early 14th century gown, and linen headdress.
The apron was constructed using a smocking technique starting with gathering stitches set 3/8" apart on a piece of linen approximately 26" wide. I used 6 rows of gathering stitches to make the smocking pleats. The picture below shows 7 rows, but I removed one as the honeycomb pattern I intended to create is based on an even number of rows.
The gathering threads are pulled tightly and then the threads knotted off. I used heavy button-hole thread in a high-contrast colour so that I could easily see the threads while making my smocking stitches.
The photo below shows the smocking stitches all set into the pleats. The honeycomb pattern was created by linking pairs of pleats together with two satin stitches, then using alternating pairs of pleats in the row below. Using this method, two rows of gathering stitches are smocked at a time.
The finished smocking pattern is shown below. The gathering stitches have been removed, and the pattern stretched out gently. The linen has been effectively gathered into half its width making a band approximately 13" long.
Some Clothing of the Middle Ages -- Kyrtles/Cotes/Tunics/Gowns -- Herjolfsnes 39, by I. Marc Carlson, Copyright 1997, 2003
Two images taken from June in Les Tres Riches Heures du Jean, Duc de Berry, created in 1416. These working women are wearing short-sleeve kirtles. The kirtle in the image on the right is central-front lacing, however the kirtle on the left is either central-back lacing or side-lacing.
The gown is made from warm brown coloured wool in a heavy hand. The trim is also heavy weight wool. The gown closes in front with lacing rings, as were quite commonly used in the 15th century. The rings are hidden from view on the underside of the gown.
This is a very simple garment. It adds an easy and loose layer of warmth and is always worn over a kirtle. In the King Rene manuscipt, Le Cueur d'Amours Espris, women are depicted removing their Burgundian-style gowns to reveal short sleeve kirtles which lace up the front. The kirtles have black inset pieces pinned to them, which gives the characteristic filled neckline seen in many portraits. This is how I typically wear the gown. The photo below shows the placket pinned to a short-sleeved kirtle which is worn under the gown.
The gown is worn with a wide belt, cinched above the natural waist. This high placement of the belt and fullness of the gown gives the illusion of roundness and fertility, so prized at the time. The images below show full frontal view, placket placement on the kirlte worn beneath the gown, side view, and the sleeve back.
Clockwise: full-length frontal view showing fit of gown through upper body, increasing in fullness to the floor; placket pinned on kirtle worn beneath gown; side view; and sleeve back showing triangular gusset.
King René, Le Cueur d'Amours Espris, placket pinned on bodice of kirtle.
The pattern for this gown is based on portraits from the era and cutting styles seen in the Herjolfnes dresses. I have added fullness to the gown by using underarm-to-hem side gores. The sleeves are tailored to the arms, but not as tight as may be found in the full-sleeve kirtles of the time – this dress was meant to be worn on top of a kirtle and the sleeves and arm scyes are more relaxed.
The hand-stitching that I used in the construction of this gown consists of running stitch, hem stitch and back stitch. The seams are all finished by flattening out the seam allowances and then tacking them in place with rows of running stitch. This adds a stability to the vertical line of the seam. As both pieces are constructed of wool, the seam allowances full naturally when hand washed and there is little to no unraveling.
The gown was inspired by the style of dress often depicted in early-mid 15th century art work. The female donor figure from Memling's Last Judgement tripych, below, wears a gown of similar cut (note the interesting sleeve attachment). Her gown has a thin white border which might be fur or textile, and the long sleeves are fitted to the wrist and then flare and extend to cover her hands to the first knuckle.
Hans Memling, Last Judgment Triptych (left wing),1467-71
This dress is of the style observed in the first quarter of the 14th century in northern Europe. It is constructed of unlined, fine, tabby-woven wool. In the photos below I am wearing the gown with a fine linen wimple and veil and a smocked linen apron. The dress is fitted through the shoulders only, and hangs in long elegant folds. It has a deep slit in the front neckline for nursing.
Photo by Ron Gebhardt, August, 2006
The dress was inspired by two pieces of clothing found at the Herjolfsnes archaeological site in Greenland. The two gowns, shown below in pattern drawings based on Nörlund, are both thought to have belonged to men, however, the construction of clothing in this time period were very similar for both genders. My gown has six gores, two under each arm and extending to the ground, one in the centre front set high in front at the start of the opening slit, and one in the centre back set at the waist. The dress was designed to be very loose as I made it when I was pregnant.
Herjolfsnes number 43
Some Clothing of the Middle Ages -- Kyrtles/Cotes/Tunics/Gowns -- Herjolfsnes 42 and Herjolfsnes 43, by I. Marc Carlson, Copyright 1997, 2003
The sleeves of the gown are semi-fitted and feature a triagular gore in the back of each sleeve head (see Herjolfsnes number 42, above). They are tapered through the wrist and forearm, but not so tight that they need buttons or lacing. This is an everyday, working garment.
The neckline of the dress is faced with a narrow strip of tabby woven silk, as is the deep front opening. The opening also has a tablet woven border in light blue wool, made with two tablets and eight strands of yarn.
The dress is a simple design, made for everyday life. Belted with a smocked apron, below, it blouses nicely and is reminiscent of those seen in the early 14th century depiction.
From the Manesse Codex, 1305-1340.
Here are some additional photos of the dress in action!
This costume is a short-sleeve kirtle, circa late-15th Century. It is constructed from unlined medium weight olive wool and features a wide front opening with rust-coloured wool placket. The spiral lacing across the placket is definitely the attention-grabbing feature of this simple dress. I am wearing the kirtle with a fine linen smock, a simple linen headdress and a beautiful belt from Fettered Cock Pewters.
Memling, Lamentation, 1475. Detail of belt.
The wide front opening was inspired by many depiction in late 15th century art, including the two below by Memling. In the first image, the gown is worn over a very beautiful brocade dress and the front opening is filled with a black placket. The second image also shows the front opening filled with black fabric, but we cannot be certain whether this fabric belows to a placket or an undergown.
Triptych of Adriaan Reins (central panel), 1480, Memling.
Allegory of True Love, 1485, Memling.
The cut of the costume is similar to that of Herjolfsnes 39, show below after conservation and in pattern layout. It is constructed on a six-gore system, with two gores at each side and one at front- and back-centre. The bodice in my kirtle is very form-fitted, and I added the wide opening in the front.
Some Clothing of the Middle Ages -- Kyrtles/Cotes/Tunics/Gowns -- Herjolfsnes 39, by I. Marc Carlson, Copyright 1997, 2003
Detail of side gores
The front lacing edges of the kirtle are reinforced with a tablet woven band of brown wool, made with two tablets and eight strands of yarn. The tablet weaving offers an enhanced stability to the bodice and lessens puckering.
The front edges and neckline are faced with fine tabby-woven silk.
The there is triangular gore (see Herjolfsnes pattern, above) in the sleeve back which aids in flexibility and stretch of the sleeve.
All in all, this is a very comfortable dress.