White Wolf Fian: Warp-weighted loom re-challenge

Three years has come and gone since I created my Herjolfsnes dress and it is necessary for me to re-challenge to remain in the Order of the White Wolf Fian. For the re-challenge, I decided to make a warp-weighted loom and weave a piece of 2/2 twill cloth approximately 80 cm in width. Although I have read about them and seen many photographs and videos, I have never seen a full-size warp weighted loom in real life or used one. But, it's been a dream of mine. For this project I have been inspired by four main documents, Woven into the Earth, 2nd Ed. (book, 2009) by Else Otstergard, "Twill Weaving on the Warp Weighted Loom: Some Technical Aspects," (article, 1975) by A. E. Haynes, "Shape of Things: Understanding a Loom Weight," (article, 2009) by Linda Martensson et. al., and Hammerum Girl, (video, 2015) by Museum Midtjylland, Denmark.

The overall approximate dimensions of the completed loom are shown in this schematic diagram, and the story of the making is below:

I wanted to make a nice big loom and install it in my home so that I could work on it thoughout the year. I began by finding just the right paper birch saplings for the cloth beam, shed rod and heddle rods. They needed to be as straight as possible. The shed rod is just a bit thicker (approx. 5 cm in diameter) than the heddle rods. After felling the saplings, I cut them to approximately 175 cm, de-barked them with a sharp knife, and let them dry before I sanded them smooth so that they would not catch my yarn.

For the uprights I needed something thicker. We have some sugar maple trees in our backyard and two of them were very sick and needed to come down. Perfect! Each had a straight section of heavy limb with a "y" notch at the top. I found a number of smaller branches with "y" shaped ends to use as the heddle bar supports. And, some thicker branches to use as dowels to support the fixed shed rod. I chiseled out deep grooves (7 cm in length) about 18 cm in from each end of the cloth beam so that it would rest easily on the uprights and not slide around.

Figure 2. The sacrificial maples. Nice for the loom, and nice for winter fires in our hearth.

One of my uprights had a branch on the side that made a lovely hook! I was happy to trim it down and keep it for hanging tools.

Figure 3. Don't cut off all the branches, some are very useful.

For the cloth beam, I also drilled a hole to insert a "brake" to lock it in place so that the weight of the loom weights wouldn't unroll the cloth.

Figure 4. The brake.

In order to find the optimum dimensions for the height of the fixed shed rod and the lengths of the heddle rod supports, I used a few weighted strings (and an extra hand or two would have been useful as well). The heddle rod support sticks each have a "y" at the end to hold the heddle rods in place when they are in use. The length of these support sticks is about 25 cm from the bottom of the "y" to the upright when it is inserted in the hole. Based on experimental work by Haynes, I created a middle stopping point in the top and bottom heddle rods. This mid-way point would be used to draw out a single layer of threads to the same plane as the threads on the fixed shed bar. In practice it's very handy and it minimizes the interference of the loom weights when these sheds are in use.

I decided to use dowels that I made from tree branches to hold the fixed shed in place. The dowels can be set into a lower set of holes about 40 cm form the ground, or a set of holes about 15 cm up from those as weaving progresses and the loom weights are drawn up.

Figure 5. Using a few weighted strings to determine optimum hieght for the fixed shed bar and the length of the heddle support rods.

Figure 6. A heddle support rod that can be used at the full- or half-position.

Figure 7. Weighted strings to help optimize the sheds.

The lowest heddle bar support sticks were set into holes in the uprights that measured 88 cm from the bottom of the upright for the lowest stick, and the second and third row of sticks were spaced out by 15 cm each, moving up the poles.

The assembled loom looked like this:

Figure 8. Everything is ready for weaving!

I decided that I would make a practice 2/2 twill warp, about 1/5 the width of the final piece of cloth, to make sure that everything was working correctly. I created the starting border and 4 layers of warp threads using the method shown in the "Hammerum Girl" video. The warp loops are drawn through and place on two separate fixed points (C and D). When you have made the number of loops at both fixed points that correspond to the number of threads that you wish to tie to each loom weight, you carefully snip the loops, keeping the two sides separated. This produces 4 sets of threads because you have two fixed end points. Then all four lengths can be individually braided up and fixed - ready to begin the next set. For this practice piece I made 4 sets of double loops, each loop contains 4 x 6 threads because I made my loom weights specifically to hold 6 threads.

Figure 9. How to make four layers of warp threads for 2/2 twill.

Figure 10. Each set of 24 threads (6 threads per layer) is about 3.5 cm wide.
Figure 11. Lovely little braided warps!

This may be a good time to talk about loom weights! I had practiced making a starter boarder with the wool yarn that I intended for this project. I knew that I had about 24 threads across my starting border for each 3.5 cm. Those 24 threads would be divided by 4 to give me my four sets of threads for 2/2 twill. So, 6 threads per 3.5 cm per layer. According to Martensson et al., I needed about 30 g of weight per thread for this coarse wool (fingering weight, about 400 m/100 g). I made each loom weight in a pyramidal shape, and their thickness is about 3.5 cm. I made 80 weights that were about 205 g when wet, and 195 g when dry. The air-dry clay (20 kg) was obtained from Potter Supply House in Oakville, Ontario.

Figure 12. Making loom weights in the open air; a lovely springtime chore.

Here is a photograph that shows the practice warp lashed to the cloth beam (I do need to drill many holes through the cloth beam to fix a future warp in place and keep it from sliding). You can see the 4 layers of warp threads, each a little bundle waiting for it's own loom weight.

Figure 13. Four layers of warps, ready for weights. Photograph by my daughter because I ran out of hands.

The heddles were knitted in this order: The back layer (d), closest to the wall was knitted to the upper heddle rod. The second layer from the back (c) was knitted to the middle heddle rod. The third layer from the back (b) was knitted to the bottom heddle rod.
Then, the front layer (a) was laid over the fixed shed bar.

Figure 14. Four layers of loom weights. Each chained across to stop the layer form moving through the one next to it when the sheds are being made.

Shed 1 is made by pulling the lowest heddle rod out 1/2 way. This is a rear shed and is comprised of (a+b)/(c+d).

Figure 15. Shed 1, lowest heddle rod 1/2 way out.

Shed 2 is made by moving the lowest bar all the way out. And, pulling the middle heddle rod all the way out. This is front shed and is comprised of (b + c)/(a + d). See how this shed naturally pulls out the top heddle a bit? That's okay, it's a HUGE shed, and very easy in which to lay the weft.

Figure 16. Shed 2, lowest heddle rod fully out; middle heddle rod fully out.

Shed 3 is made by closing the lowest heddle rod (as much as possible), and moving the upper heddle rod fully out. This is a front shed and is comprised of (c + d)/(a + b).

Figure 17. Shed 3, middle heddle rod all the way out, upper heddle rod all the way out.

Shed 4 is made by closing the middle heddle rod all the way, and closing the upper heddle rod 1/2 way. This is a rear shed and is comprised of (a + d)/(b + c).

Figure 18. Shed 4, upper heddler of 1/2 way out.

And, there you have it. Repeat Sheds 1 through 4 as often as you like for 2/2 twill.

Figure 19. 2/2 twill for practice warp.

I'm going to work on this little warp this week to create enough length for a few purses. In my next post I hope to show you some heddle knitting for the crazed (360 warps to knit) and a bit of weaving. Stay safe, wear your mask.

Else Ostergard, Woven into the Earth, 2nd ed. (Gylling: Aarhus University Press, 2009), pp. 53-60.

A. E. Haynes, "Twill Weaving on the Warp Weighted Loom: Some Technical Considerations," Textile History, vol. 6, 1975, pp.156-164.

Linda Martensson, Marie-Louise Nosch and EvaAndersson-Strand, "Shape of Things: Understanding a Loom Weight," Oxford Journal of Archaeology, vol. 28, 2009, pp. 373-398.

Hammerum Girl, (video, 2015) by Museum Midtjylland, Denmark. https://vimeo.com/146693682/description

Sleeveless Outer Gown

My most recent weaving has been enough yardage of 2/1 wool twill to make a sleeveless outer gown. I used 3-ply peruvian highland wool for the project and the resulting cloth (after washing) has 6 weft threads/cm and 7 warp threads/cm. It's a nice crimson red, a colour that could have been achieved quite simply using Rubiaceae dyes, over-dyed in a weak woad vat. Iron mordants also give blue-red to purple shades with red anthraquinone dyes. Interesting to note that hard water was an important part of the Rubia (madder-type) dye bath, because the calcium ions take part in the fibre-mordant-dye complex that forms, giving more brilliant shades. When we analyse threads that have been dyed with madder-type dyes, it is very common to find high relative abundances of calcium, as well as other mordant elements (such as aluminum or iron).

[Sciency notes: On a side note, identifying mordants on dyed textiles is complicated by the fact that elements lighter than silicon aren't excited efficiently using an electron beam. This means that Scanning Electron Microscopy/Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy (SEM/EDS), an instrumental technique commonly used to analyse dyed textile fibres, is adequate to detect aluminum (alum mordants), but can utterly fail to find iron. I have seen it happen numerous times. So, the best way to look for metal ions that are involved in making dye-mordant complexes on fibres, is to use both SEM/EDS and X-ray Fluorecence (XRF) spectroscopy. As the name suggests, XRF uses x-ray energy to excite elements, and it works really well for iron.]

I wove just enough fabric that after washing there would be minimal leftovers (Figure 1). Boy, was I stingey (Figure 2)!

Figure 1. After cutting pattern pieces for the sideless surcote; making use of the selvage edges for long pattern pieces.

Figure 2. All the leftover scraps!

Making maximum use of the yardage, the side gores are pieced from three triangular pieces. In Figure 3 you can see a completed gore, as well as the pieces for the second gore, still in place as they were cut out. Dorothy Burnham would be proud (Burnham, 1997).

Figure 3. Piecing the garment together to maximize yardage and minimze waste.

Seams for the garment were sewn in fine, plyed worsted wool thread using the techniques laid out in Woven into the Earth (Ostergard, 2009). The long seams were sewn from the front of the garment, using tiny hem stitches, which when pulled taut nearly disappear into the fabric. On the verso of the garment the seams were overcast using the loom waste yarn. This ensured that there was very little fibre wasted. Narrow hems were turned under for the neckline and armholes. The edges of these hems were stab-stitched, then overcast with two lengths of filler yarns. The filler yarns have two purposes, to felt together with the cut edge of the narrow hem, and to ensure that the curves edges do not stretch. An image of an armhole seam with stab-stitched fold, and overcasted, filler-yarn edge is shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4. A narrow turned hem on an armhole. Finshed using stab stitches along the folded edge, two filler yarns running laong the cut edge, which have been overcast.

Once the seams, neckline and armholes were sewn, the final job was to secure the lower hem. There were just a few corners and dangling threads to trim on the hem, so not much preparation was required before the processes of singling and slynging (Ostergard, 2003, pp. 99, 105). Singling is used to stabilise an edge that will take an abundance of wear, such as the lower hem of a garment. The singling stitches are serpentine arches that are between 1-2 cm in height (measured from the edge of the cloth), and spaced just 2-3 warp threads apart. They are made on the verso of the fabric and do not show through to the front. Adding this much yarn to an edge increases the stiffness and reinforces it. The singling stitches are nearly invisible when viewed from above (Figure 5, zero incidence angle), but using raking light at nearly 90% incidence (Figure 6) they can clearly be seen. When I do the singling stitches on my garments I make sure to end the last little stitch in the downward direction on one side of the cloth and then take the first little stitch in the upward direction on the opposite side of the cloth. In this way the sewing thread loops over the lower weft thread. This negates any ravelling.

Figure 5. Singling sewing the lower hem. Photographed using light with zero angle of incidence.

Figure 6. Singling sewing the lower hem. Photographed using raking light.

After the singling has been completed, the final step is to add a narrow woven border in a process called Slynging or footweaving. To do this for the gown I cut 16 warp yarns long enough to follow the circumference of the hem plus about 50% more. String heddles are attached to every other warp and fastened to a heddle stick. I use a thin strip of leather to attached the heddles securely and to keep them spaced out throughout the weaving. The hem edge and the beginning of the warp are attached to the weaver to keep it taut. Then, the weaving can begin by anchoring the tied warp behind your foot with the heddle yarns running under your heel and the non-heddle yarns running between your toes. The weft is inserted into the two sheds that are thusly created, using a needle. Weaving only takes place in one direction - from the cut edge through the shed. Then, on the other side of the warp the weft needle is stabbed through the fabric and the weft thread drawn tightly through to the verso of the cloth, thus anchoring the warp in place. The shed is changed, the warp threads are separated and pulled tightly against the weft pick, and the weft is inserted again from the cut edge. This produces a woven border on the recto of the cloth, and a series of overcast yarns behind the border on the verso. Photographs showing the two sheds that are possible using footweaving (slynging) are presented in Figures 7 and 8.

Figure 7. Footweaving (slynging). The natural shed made when the warp is placed around your foot.

Figure 8. Footweaving (slynging). The shed that is created by lifting the heddle rod.

The resulting footwoven edge is shown in Figure 9. From the recto of the garment the perpendicular, plain weave slynging border can be seen, and from the verso you can see the backing weft yarns from the border and the singling arches. This doubly-reinforced edge will be very useful in protecting such a hard warking part of the garment from fraying, ravelling or being worn through.

Figure 9. Completed lower hem.

For the next entry I'll post pictures of the garment in action!


Burnham, Dorothy K., Cut My Cote, 2nd Ed.,  Toronto: Royal Ontario Museum, 1997.

Ostergard, Else,
Woven into the Earth: Textiles from Norse Greenland, 2nd Ed., Aarhus Universtiy Press, 2009.

Herjolfsnes 41: lower sleeves with buttons

The original Herjolfsnes 41 garment has 26 cm slits up the lower sleeves with 16 fabric buttons, spaced about 1.5 cm apart (Ostergard, 2009). Hold onto your hats because the buttonhole sides of the slits are not hemmed! However, the twill fabric of these edges was ingeniously engineered with reinforcing, which include:

— singling stitches, serpentined up the length of the buttonhole region, spaced every couple of weft threads

— a twisted cord attached directly to the unfinished edge (Ostergard has commented that this cord is "possibly attached with the stitches that form the singling." However, so little of the preserved cord remains on the original garment that she could not be certain.

From photographs in WitE, it appears as though the buttonholes on the original sleeve are just a few mm from the edge, and the slits themselves are noted to be 7-10 mm in length. Ostergard also wrote that the original reinforcing singling stitches only extend about 8 mm in from the edge. That means that they only reinforce the half of the buttonholes next to the edge.

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Herjolfsnes Challenge: Acc. no. D10583 (Norlund no. 41)

I finished my plain weave green and white cloth! After gentling washing it measures 41.5 cm wide and 8.8 m in length. Here's what almost 9 m of cloth looks like like on the rigid heddle loom, on the floor, and washed, pressed and folded!

The weave of the cloth is 1/1 plain weave and here are photos of the loom state cloth, and after washing on the "hand wash" cycle with a gentle detergent for woollen textiles.

The weave of the cloth has a subtle random pattern, that looks a bit like diamond twill in some places. I talked to a textile conservator about this and she thinks that it may have to do with different twists in the warp and weft, different tensions in individual warp threads, or just because of the differences between the warp (which was 3-ply and strong with very little stretch) and weft (single play, high twist). Whatever the reason, I really like it.

This fabric is going to be a second 12-month Herjolfsnes gown. It has taken about 7.5 months just to weave the fine cloth on my rigid heddle loom (about 100 hours of weaving). Now I will try to have it sewn and finished for the fall. My plan is to make a modified Herjolfsnes 41 gown. The biggest modification is the number of side panels. The Herjolfsnes 41 gown has 4 panels on each side and the overall hem circumference is over 4 m!! Given the limited (and slowly produced) yardage of my own cloth, I will only be able to have 2 side panels on each side. The pattern for Herjolfsnes 41 is not presented in Medieval Garments Reconstructed (Fransen, et al.), so I have decided to use similar shaping of the front and back panels as we see for Herjolfsnes 42. In that gown, there is no shaping for the arm scyes in those panels, they run in relatively straight lines from the floor to the top of the shoulder, and all arm stye shaping takes place with the curved tops of the side panels.

I am very excited to attempt, for the first time, the highly engineered centre gusset shaping and insertion. Rather than a single point (which is a stress point on a garment, often producing tears and holes), the gusset is shaped with round double points on either side, with a "tongue" extending down through the middle of the points. Herjolfsnes 41 has these beautiful, and intimidating gussets.

Another reason why I have chosen Herjolfsnes 41, is the long, buttoned sleeves. The sleeves each have a 27 cm slit from the wrist, with 16 buttons, spaced 1.5 cm apart. I think that this will look marvellous for a dress I intend to wear as an under gown beneath my yellow Herjolfsnes 42.

I am looking forward to sharing this journey!

Common medieval weaving in Europe: tabby and 2/1 twill

One of my favourite textile reads of the past year has been the thesis, Textile Finds from Medieval Cesspits in Tartu: Technology, Trade and Consumption, by Riina Rammo (Rammo, 2015). Dr. Rammo discusses thousands of fragments of medieval cloth (14th and 15th centuries) from the town of Tartu, Estonia. She described the types of yarns used in textile construction (i.e., coarseness, mixed fibres, dyes, twist, diameter, etc.) and also the weave of the fragments.  The vast majority of textiles (>99%) were made from 100% wool. Dr. Rammo found that 58% of the textile fragments were plain 1/1 weave, and 32% were 2/1 twill weave. Less than 10% of the fragments were 2/2 twill.

Then, in October I attended Dyes in History and Archaeology 35, where I gave a talk on a new method of natural dye analysis and heard many excellent presentations. One interesting talk presented by David Kohout, was applicable to the topic of medieval woven cloth, entitled, "Textiles from Medieval Waste Layers in New Town Prague - Identification of Organic Dyes" (Kohout et al., 2016). The research team found that the majority of the textile fragments that were uncovered in New Town, from a time contemporaneous to the Tartu finds, were plain weave and 2/1 twill fabrics (see photograph below). It's tremendously interesting and although the weave of cloth during this period has quite a bit to do with the production of felted, fulled, teasled and shorn wool broadcloth, as you can see from from Kohout's slide, not all the fabrics that they found were felted - in fact, far from it. In New Town, only approximately twice as much fabric was felted as was determined to be unfelted.

Slide from presentation by Kohout et al. at DHA35. Threads per cm and colours for the most common types of weaves found at New Town, Prague: plain and 2/1 twill.

As an owner and operator of a small rigid heddle loom, I couldn't be more pleased. You can prepare metres of plain and 2/1 weave using a simple loom!

And so, I have been labouring slowly away for months on a new project: enough plain weave cloth to construct a closer fitting gown to wear under my loose Herjolfsnes 42 gown (2/1 twill). I am using finer wool than my previous Herjolfsnes project. The warp yarn is approximately 800 m/100g (while the Herjolfsnes 42 dress yarns were 380 m/100g), it's 3-ply natural white wool with very little stretch. The green weft wool is only slightly thicker and loftier, and a single ply, with less twist and less strength. In the plain weave set up, using two heddles at 8 threads per cm, I can weave about 10  to 15 cm every hour. I've warped up 9.3 m on my little loom at 43 cm in width and will be able to get about 9 m of cloth from it, and after gently washing I should have about  8.5 m x 40 cm. This means about 60 to 90 hours of weaving. When I find my modern self growing impatient at my rate of textile production I try to focus on the goal of slow medieval fashion. The completed garment isn't the target, the whole process is the target. And, taking a year to make a gown is much more in line with medieval household productions and it gives me a more accurate feel for the importance of each line of weft and stitch.

I thought that today would be a great time to make a post because I am halfway through! Here's how it looks on the loom. And, a close up of the loom state cloth. I'm really happy with it, and looking forward to washing, cutting and sewing.

So, that's it for now and the next little while. When I'm closer to being done I'll have to make a decision on which dress I will make. I prefer constructions with full-length side gores, as we see in the Herjolfsnes garments, so that's the direction in which I am leaning.


David Kohout, Helena Brezinova, Josef Chudoba and Ivan Viden , "Textiles from Medieval Waste Layers in New Town Prague - Identification of Organic Dyes," presented at Dyes in History and Archaeology 35, PIsa, Italy, October 5-8, 2016.

Riina Rammo, Textile Finds from Medieval Cesspits in Tartu: Technology, Trade and Consumption, (Tartu: Tartu Ulikool Kirjastus, 2015).

White Wolf Fian Challenge: Herjolfsnes 42 - complete!

This is the fun post - just action shots!

I love this gown. For now it will be the layer I wear over my linen shift, and once I have made another dress that is a bit more fitted, this one will get pocket slits and become an over dress. I feel absolutely beautiful when I am wearing it. Thanks to Elina and all of the Herjolfsnes Challenge supporters for inspiring me to become a weaver and make something this glorious!


White Wolf Fian Challenge: Herjolfsnes 42 (lower hem: singling and slynging)

The last step of this project is to complete the lower hem of the garment, which measures approximately 3 m.

The hem of Herjolfsnes 42 was not folded, it was finished with 'singling' and then 'slynging'. Singling is a serpentine stitching pattern sewn into the topmost threads on the reverse side of the hem, so that is is not visible from the right side. The singling stiches travel about 1-2 cm up into the fabric and then curve back to the edge. There are approximately 5 mm between each arch. Slynging is the attachment of a tabby-woven band along a reinforced edge. This can be done via heddles or using tablets if only two holes are threaded and the tablets are turned forward and then backward to open the same two sheds as you move along the edge (Ostergard, 2009, pp. 97-106).

I was very careful with the fitting of my pattern toile and the hem of my gown did not require much trimming before beginning the finishing techniques. I just needed to trim a few weft threads. Because the gore panels of the gown have bottom edges cut on curves, the weft threads do become a bit shaggy, even with careful handling. I could see the reason why reinforcement was required for the original garment. When I was done trimming I had just a small amount of wasted yarn.

In Woven into the Earth (2009, p. 99) Ostergard mentions the nearly invisible nature of singling stitches. They are more visible when light falls across the fabric (raking) than straight towards. This can been seen in the photographs of my singling stitches, below. In the first picture the singling is difficult to see, but in the second, veiwed at a slight angle, the stitches clearly stand out. You can see by the position of the needle in the first picture, that I left about two warp threads between every singling arch. This is a continuation of my 'rule of two' that I used for stitching seams and overcasting. My singling are approximately 17-20 mm tall. These stitches do a remarkable job of adding firmness and strength to this edge. I looped the lower singling arches around the last yellow weft thread to help negate any ravelling.

Slynging is a more complicated technique and one that requires a bit of practice to ensure evenness in tension for the warp threads and the weft. Since it is a simple tabby band, I decided to use my rigid heddle. Ostergard reasons that it was likely done using footweaving and string heddles at Herjolfsnes, and this method is still used in modern Iceland (Ostergard, 2009, 105). The warp needs to be attached in such a way that the band isn't so tight that it pulls in the hem, or so loose that causes the hem to ruffle. I tried various tensions for the weft thread and found that loosely pulling the thread to make the band lie flat on the fabric was not optimal. The band wasn't firmly applied, and the edge threads were not caught tightly in the band and looked ragged.  Pulling the weft thread so that it lightly cupped the bottom edge was very tidey and it firmly encased the very bottom (and most fragile) edge.

In the photographs below I show the slynging from the right side and the reverse side. You can see how the little warp and weft threads from the raw hem are neatly caught up in the applied band. The reverse side shows the slynging weft threads as they cross underneath the band. Images of extant slynging on the lower edge of a hood have been provided in Woven into the Earth (2009, p. 218). In that case, the band measures about 7 mm in width (very similar to my band), and it looks rounded, as if it is cupping the the raw edge. The extant slynging looks like the band may be slightly longer than the edging length, causing a slightly ruffled look. Although, with the age and history of the object, that ruffling may have other causes. I'd like to think that it's been applied a bit ruffled, though, because I have more than a few spots on my hem that aren't perfect either!

There's no need to beat the weft during slynging. I used my fingers and thumb to pry the shed open and push each weft thread into place.

In slynging the weft is on a needle, so you are limited in the length of the weft by comfort in drawing the thread through. You probably should not cut a weft thread that is longer than your arm length when doubled or the first few passes will be a bit awkward. I was very carful when drawing my weft through each time to make a big loop (below), then pull it slowly smaller (next photo, below) to catch the little raw threads, then pull it snug (last photo, below).

So, that's the end of my gown - it has been completed!!!

My next post will show the finished product.


Ostergard, Else, Woven into the Earth: Textiles from Norse Greenland, 2nd Ed., Aarhus Universtiy Press, 2009.

White Wolf Fian Challenge: Herjolfsnes 42 (sleeves)

The sleeves are one of my favourite things about this dress. The width of the upper arm is just perfect - not too narrow as to be tight when this gown is worn over top of a more fitted dress - and narrow at the wrist, with that very, very useful slit. These sleeves can be turned up in a moment to tackle wet and messy jobs.

Here's what they looked like before they were attached to the armscyes, and the wrist slits:

Based on my experience fitting the the muslin toile for this pattern, I was disappointed when I found that the sleeves could not be sewn in without much puckering of the armscye. This may be due to a number of reasons: cutting the fabric slightly larger than the outline of the muslin pattern, sewing narrower seam allowances in the gown than the toile, or the use of a thicker fabric for the gown. At any rate, I was left with a decision: take in the width of the gown at the side, upright seams to make the armscyes smaller; or add a gusset to the sleeve to make the sleeves wider. I dove back into Woven into the Earth for help, and it wasn't long before I found a lovely Herjolfsnes solution: garment #45 has two-part gussets at the underarm of each sleeve, described by Ostergard as "a 155 mm long, 120 mm wide two-part gusset...The sleeve is placed such that the bottom gusset seam is opposite the side seam of the garment" (Ostergard, 2009).

So, I used some small fragments left over from the woven fabric to cut four pieces that would fit the underarm of the sleeves and be similar to those described by Ostegrgard,  above. Here is a photograph of the new, two-part underarm gusset, from the reverse side and the right side. The angled sides of the gusset form continuous seams with those from the side-front and side-back gores.

Here is the what a sleeve, with new gussets, looks like from the front, and back of the gown (reverse side).

I am so happy that I added the gussets! With fabric this thick, I would have been unhappy with tighter armscyes, and I think they would have been uncomfortable. Plus, taking in the sides of the gown would negate my wish to keep this garment with a comfortable amount of positive ease around my torso.


Ostergard, Else, Woven into the Earth: Textiles from Norse Greenland, 2nd Ed., Aarhus Universtiy Press, 2009, p. 180.SaveSaveSaveSave

White Wolf Fian Challenge: Herjolfsnes 42 (the main seams)

My Herjolfsnes 42 gown is coming along very well. I work on it most evenings for at least an hour at a time.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself and think I should post some of the photos of the project on its way to becoming a gown.

At the end of my last post I was finishing up the fabric weaving and beginning the toile of the pattern. I scaled up the diagram from Medieval Garments Reconstructed (MGR), using the smallest size for the most part and making sure that none of the pattern pieces were wider than the finished width of my fabric (about 41 cm). I was most careful with the hemline, because I did not want any of my fabric to go to waste. Since the gown is not hemmed, but rather edged with singling stitches and then a tablet woven band, there was no need to add extra fabric.  Here's the toile pieces laid out on my completed, washed and pressed twill:

After the cutting there was very little waste. If this was a garment that required buttons my scraps would have been completely used up. As it is, I think that I may make some buttons from the waste, just in case I want to alter it some time down the road and require buttons. I will keep the larger fragments for future mending.

If you are familiar with the Herjolfsnes 42 garment, you may notice one change in my pattern pieces. I found that I could cut the front and back waist-height gores out very economically with the front in one piece, and the back in two pieces. In the original garment, both were cut in two parts.

The long body seams are sewn mainly from the right side, with small and invisible stitches. However, the centre side seams were sewn with right sides together and stand upright. The text describing this treatment of the seams reads thusly:

"...aside from the seams that are laid into the fabric, there are seams where the two raw edges are overcast with very close overcast stitches, but instead of lying flat, the edges stand up."(Fransen et al., 2011)

The two longest of these upright seams occur at the exact sides of the garment. Could this be for ease of adjusting the size of a garment? It would be much easier to take in this type of seam, or insert a filler piece.

To sew the inlaid seams, I used a line of basting stitches to mark the seam line, while a 1 cm seam allowance of the top layer was pressed down and pinned in place for sewing. The seam allowances in the original garment were "never greater than seven mm" (Fransen et al., 2011). For my fabric, in which the weft threads are not as tightly packed as the original, I decided to add 3 mm to this width because the weave is looser and may come apart if a smaller seam allowance is used. Protect the seams! They are the most vulnerable part of my garment.

Here's an image that shows the two types of long seams: inlaid (sewn from the right side) on the left, and the upright seam on the right. All the seams were sewn using white, plied wool thread, les than 1 mm in diameter; while the overcasting was done using single-ply brown warp wool left over from weaving the fabric. I sewed the seams and did the overcasting using what I have dubbed 'the rule of two'.

The length of the sewing stitches and the distance between the overcast stitches are just two warp/weft threads each. You can see my little white stitches below.

The front and back central gores each have a rounded insertion point. This is an engineering marvel! Instead of on small point on which all the strain and weight of an entire gore has been placed, this pressure point has been increased to spread out the stress and weight. This makes the top of the gore very strong.

These gores were intentially cut about 2-3 cm longer than the slit so that they could be fit without worrying about the top edge fraying. Here are some images from the wrong side, showing the insertion of the back centre gore. The extra length can be smoothly trimmed away, leaving an intact and strong seam allowance for overcasting.

An overast inset gore (front pattern piece):

An overcast inset gore (back pattern piece):

All the long seams have been completed, and the next step is the neckline and sleeves.

Fransen, L., Norgaard, A., and Ostergard, E., Medieval Garments Reconstructed: Norase Clothing Patterns, Aarhus Universtiy Press, 2011, p. 30.