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White Wolf Fian Challenge

At the SCA Event, Practicum (February 20, 2016), I made my challenge into the Order of the White Wolf Fian and was accepted. This order was first conceived as the Argent Wolf Fian by my mentor, Dame Eleanor Cadfan, and can only be entered through making a successful Arts & Sciences challenge. Once you have presented your project to the Queen, who is the head of the Order, you have one year in which to complete it. You must re-challenge every three years if you wish to remain in the Order.

Presenting my challenge to the Queen. Photograph: Kyle Andrews (Two Ravens).

I have been struck by what I will describe as a 14th-century slow fashion movement. I want to make my own clothes from the yarn up, slowly and deliberately. I have decided, having almost no weaving experience, to weave my own cloth for most of my clothing and accessories from this point onward.

My inspirations include:

  • the video for the Reconstruction of the Hammerum Girl's Dress (produced by Museum Midtjylland, Denmark, (www.museummidtjylland.dk/). Although the entire video is amazing, it was the warp weighted weaving that I really enjoyed watching: the slow and deliberate placement of each weft thread, followed by skilled manipulation of the string heddles.

Images from Reconstruction of the Hammerum Girl’s Dress (Museum Midtjylland, Denmark). These details show the manipulation of the three string heddles in order to produce the 2/2 twill cloth for the gown. The fourth image show the loose placement of the weft in the warp shed in order to accommodate the over/under path of the weave.

  • Riina Rammo’s PhD thesis on the TEXTILE FINDS FROM MEDIEVAL CESSPITS IN TARTU: TECHNOLOGY, TRADE AND CONSUMPTION (Rammo, 2015). The majority of these 13th and 14th century textiles from Tartu, Estonia were either tabby weave or 2/1 twill. There are really wonderful close up images of some of these textile fragments on the Hibernaatiopesäke blog (http://hibernaatio.blogspot.ca/2015/12/aarreaitta-tarton-keskiaikaiset.html). In her thesis, which is available for download in a Finnish and English version, Dr. Rammo talks about the differences in the coarseness of the fragments and whether it can be assumed that some of the more more coarsely woven examples were produced locally from rural home looms, as opposed to being imported. The discussion concerning the post weaving treatment of the cloth (fulling, teasling, and shearing) is also very interesting. And, Dr. Rammo provides thread counts for both fine and coarse fragments.

  • I also became very interested in producing my own archaeological-type textiles in my home, using a simple loom. I found abstracts online from the NORTH EUROPEAN SYMPOSIUM FOR ARCHAEOLOGICAL TEXTILES, held in Copenhagen in 2008. At the conference, Riina Rammo gave a presentation on the Tartu textiles, and Barbara Klessig from Holmbold State University gave a poster on re-creating archaeological textiles using a rigid heddle loom:

    Barbara Klessig (Humboldt State University, USA)

    Re-creating archaeological textiles: a comparison of tools, techniques and structures

    “… By using techniques developed in weaving with multiple rigid heddles, archaeological textiles can not only be re-created but can also show the mechanics of how they could have been created on a warp weighted loom. This poster will show a comparison between a warp weight loom and the rigid heddle loom using multiple rigid heddles. Along with photographs and diagrams comparing the actions of the two types of looms, there will be samples of archaeological textiles re-created with multi rigid heddle techniques. Although the ends per inch or centimeter are limited, the use of this type of loom can give one insight into the workings and structures of archaeological textiles and how they could have been woven on early historical looms.”

    I became convinced that a rigid heddle loom, which can easily do 2- and 3-shaft weaving, would be the perfect instrument to reproduce the tabby weaves and 2/1 twills that were recovered from the Tartu archaeological site. My hope was to produce coarser cloth similar to what was made in the medieval household - slowly and deliberately purpose-crafted. As it is possible to buy up to 15 dent heddles, this means that tabby weaves with 30 ends/inch (EPI), and 2/1 twills with 22-23 EPI are possible if two heddles are used. This density can be increased further when the cloth is fulled.

    The Challenge: weaving the cloth

    The gown that I intend to make is based on the Herjolfsnes 42 dress (Accession no. D10584) (Ostegard, 2009; Fransen et al., 2011). This is a loose dress that can be pulled on over the head, yet it is relatively close-fitted to the waist. The long sleeves are close-fitting, but without lacing or buttons. Instead, there are short slits in the lower arms, which would allow the sleves to be foldes back during messy work. The centre front gores are inserted into a rounded slit shape. The fullness at the bottom is aided by two gores on each side which run from the underarm to the floor (one set of side gores on the original dress is actually one piece with a false seam running through the middle to make it appear as though it is two).

    Herjolfsnes 42, Accession no. D10584

    I calculated that I require (after washing) approximately 10.5 m of 40 cm wide cloth. I will be using Vuorelma Vippela yarn (100% wool) from Finland, single ply, tight z-twist in brown for the warp and mustard for the weft, 380 m/100 g. Requirements: approximately 1250 g. I have sketched the pattern cutting design based on my measurements and one that has the least waste of the woven fabric. I think that this is the perfect width of cloth to produce the pattern pieces I need, with minimal waste. After washing, the cloth shouldl be 40 cm wide.

    Here is a photograph of the fabric in progress:

    The Challenge: sewing the dress

    I have been practicing sewing seams, seam finishing and edge finishing as discussed by Ostegard (2009). My attempts to make tiny invisible stitches in linen thread for the seams have turned out very pleasing, although it takes a bit of time to get used to sewing the seams from the front of the cloth. I’ve also practiced my seams finishing and singling edge finishing. In this latter technique, small running stitches are made in a serpentine pattern on the inside surface of a cloth edge for reinforcement.

    As I weave the cloth for my challenge, I have decided to construct a hood from the brown and red 2/1 twill. This will give me a chance to practice these sewing techniques on home-woven coth and I hope to iron out all my inexperience before I move on to the dress!

    Fransen, L., Norgaard, A., and Ostergard, E., Medieval Garments Reconstructed: Norase Clothing Patterns, Aarhus Universtiy Press, 2011, 66-72.

    Ostergard, Else, Woven into the Earth: Textiles from Norse Greenland, 2nd Ed., Aarhus Universtiy Press, 2009, pp. 171-173.

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

I have finished making my first usable length of 2/1 twill cloth. The devil is in the details.

Here  is the twill pattern of the loom state cloth (pre-washing):

Using a brown warp and a red weft. The front face of the fabric is very red, but the back is mainly brown. I love how this is going to look when both sides are visible - like in an unlined hood!

Before washing, I threaded 48cm width of warp, which during weaving (and off the loom) had a draw in to about 47cm. I was only able to weave about 145cm of cloth because of the way the warp yarns were wrapped around the cloth beam - the sheds became unnavigatable far sooner than I would've like. But, I have a cunning plan for next time that will give me several more prescious inches of fabric: crochet chaining across just in front of the warp dowel to squeeze the warp into a single plane.

After washing the fabric fulled up beautifully! Here is the recto:

And the verso:

With a bit of steam and pressing:

It's a nice medium-heavy weight cloth. Here are the dimensions:

width of warp threaded: 48cm
width on loom: 47 cm
length woven: 145cm
width after fulling (with soap in washer on delicate cycle): 39cm
length after fulling: 129cm

My plans are to make a hood with medium length shoulder cape: Norlund no. 67 (Acc. no D10598).
In October I learned about the Herjolfsnes Challenge on the Neulakko blog; there is also a FaceBook page. Basically the rules are to choose an item from the Herjolfsnes site, using Woven into the Earth and Medieval Garments Reconstructed as resources. Then publish your goals and progress on the FaceBook site. The challenge is 1 year in length and ends in September 2016.

So, I ordered the book and have been carting it around the house for months, pouring over fabulous details and learning! My first goal was to practice making the tiny stitches that haven been found on the garments. I used scrap lengths of 2/2 twill and linen thread.

I learned to sew narrow (7 mm) seams invisibly from the right side of the fabric:

I learned how to make very small overcast stitches on the wrong side to fell the narrow seams:

I learned how to do singling stitches on the edge of the cloth, snaking the thread up about 1.5cm every other warp yarn, to reinforce the edge (used for hems and buttonhole edges):

All this practice was so much fun, and I feel that I have fundamentally changed the way I think about costuming.
There are some goregeous images of medieval textiles from Tartu, Estonia on Mervi Pasanen's gorgeous blog. What I find really exciting is the abundance of tabby weaves and 2/1 twill weaves (Rammo, 2015). These are simple cloths made with only 2 and 3 shafts, respectively. And, I can do that with my rigid heddle loom! And, using 12 dent and 15 dent heddles you can make lovely fine cloth.

So, I've been experimenting using 2 rigid heddles. 2/1 twill is 1.5 times more dense than plain weave. So, in direct warping the heddles you need to pull half again as many threads through the slots as you would for 1/1 tabby. Even though you will weave with two heddles, you direct warp with just the back heddle in the loom. Using the warp beam to tie on your warp, then pull one loop through the first slot in the heddle and wind it on the warping peg at the distance you have calculated. Then loop your yarn around the warp beam for the second loop and pull it AGAIN through the FIRST slot in the heddle, and place the loop over the warping peg. around the warping peg. You now have 2 loops (which wil become 4 ends) thorugh the first slot. The next slot in sequence will only need one loop. Continue this pattern to achieve the 1.5 density required for 2/1 twill. Here's a diagram:

Then wind the warp under tension, and thread it very carefully using the following pattern (keep your wits about you! Constant Vigilance!):

Then , ta da! You've got a three shaft loom set up.

shaft 1: back heddle up, front heddle neutral
shaft 2: front heddle up, back heddle neutral
shaft 3: both heddles down

The sheds are very generous with this set up. It's so much fun to weave 2/1 twill this way!

note about selvages: once every 4th pick or so you'll find that just slipping the shuttle through the shed will skip the outermost selvage thread. When you notice it's about to happen, just slip the shuttle underneath that first thread on it's way through the shed. Then having caught the outer thread, everything will be fine and smooth. No gaps!

So, here are some samples:

1. woven by changing the direction of the shaft at 2.5 cm intevals (1,2,3,1,2,3...1,2,3,2,1,3...2,1,3). 2. playing around with weft stripes. 3. 1,2,3 weaving with dark weft and light weft.

Here's what my fine wool 2/1 twill looks like. I've folded it over to show the back.

Specs for the red and brown fabric:
100% wool (Finland) 2-ply fingering weight, 320 m/100g
48cm threaded in heddle, approx. 285 ends, 1.9 m long warp
required approx. 175 g brown wool for warp.
progress: approx. 40 cm completed

draw in: 5%


Pasanen, Mervi, "Aarreaitta: Tarton keskiaikaiset tekstiilit / what a treasure: Medieval textiles from Tartu, Estonia," in: Hibernaatiopesake (blog), 2015.

Rammo, Riina, Textiles Finds from Medieval Cesspits in Tartu: Technology, Trade and Consumption, (Thesis) Tartu Uliooli Kirjastus, 2015.
I was watching (and re-watching) the Reconstruction of the Hammerum Girl's Dress video (https://vimeo.com/146693682) and completely enamoured by the deliberateness of the process, but also the slow and steady progression of arts required to complete the cloth. The process of the weaving was wonderful. The careful placement and beat of each weft pick was beautiful to me. The warp weighted loom is quite a similar set up to the modern rigid heddle loom, albeit a different plain of weaving. Both looms are basically a frame with the warp stretched or weighted between the 2 ends and the heddles are moved by hand to created different sheds.

The rigid heddle loom is such a useful tool. With just a single heddle you can make plain tabby (plain weave 1 warp thread over each weft thread), repp tabby (plain weave with 2 warps threads over each weft thread (warp faced) or plain weave with 1 warp thread and 2 weft threads (weft faced)), and panama tabby (plain weave with 2 warp threads over pairs of weft  threads). But, with two heddles you can make twills! 2/1 twill is very simple with 2 heddles (3 shafts). All of these weaves have been recovered from Northern medieval sites, like Herjolfsnes, Greenland (Ostergard, 2009) and Tartu, Estonia (Rammo, 2015). However, whereas they represent a minority of the cloths found at Herjolfsnes (most were 2/2 twill), they account for over 95% of the cloths recovered from Tartu.

Repp weave:

7.5 DPI heddle, warped 50 cm with 10% draw in: 45 cm finished width (loom state)
2 ends in each slot and hole: 300 ends
warp length: 2 m
Yarn: 100% wool (Finland), 2-ply 320 m/100g

Direct warping sequence: draw two loops of warp through each slot on the rigid heddle.

Threading sequence: wind the warp under tension, then thread with two warp ends through each slot and each hole.

I was able to make over 1.5 m of repp fabric! It is just the right amount to make a shoulder cape hood. The density of my weave is 6 threads/cm for the warp and 4.5 threads/cm for the weft. This corresponds really well to the more coarser weaves found at Tartu (Rammo, 2015).

Here's the loom state cloth:                                               And, after washing and fulling:

On the loom the warp threads are pulled taut, so there is open space between the threads during weaving. When the cloth is removed from the beams, these spaces fill in somewhat. And, after washing, the threads get fuzzier and everything evens out. I have heard that this from wence the phrase, "It will all even out in the wash," originates.

Happy weaving!!


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

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

My first nalbinding project

Here are the finished product, lovely mittens in very rustic wooly wool from the MacAusland Mill in PEI. Although the colour of the wool is synthetic, I think that it looks very much like pale woad. :-)

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),


Winter is coming - solution: nalbinding

I had a lovely time at the Feast of the Hare last weekend here in Caldrithig. But, it was November, in Ottawa, and I spent several hours outdoors. Brrrrrrrrr.

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.

Has it really been seven years?

I've been sewing in the past couple of months. I was completely inspired by the work I found online by several amazing women, including Mervi at Hibernaatiopesake, Elina at Neulakko, and Cathrin at Katafalk. Artists, teachers, and scholars. Wonderful!!

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.

The Moy Gown

Figure 1: gown based on Moy gown, front

This garment, presumed to be a woman’s, was discovered in a bog in Moy, County Clare, Ireland in 1931. The age of the gown is not known, but it is presumed to be from the mid 14th century to late 15th century based on its construction.
There are at least two very detailed accounts of this garment available. One authored by Kass McGann, who saw the gown in person and was allowed to make measurements, and one by Marc Carlson, who was in close contact with McGann. Both Mcgann and Carlson have made reproductions of the Moy bog gown.

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.
Carlson quotes this paragraph from Dunlevy in his documentation:

"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."
Carlson writes:

“Contrary to what Dunlevy claimed, there were no welts in the seams. The seams are simple running stitches. The inside of the dress does appear "fulled", but it seems clear that this was because of wear and not fabric processing (it was more "fulled" in the folds where fabric rubbed against fabric and not "fulled" in other areas).”

Figure 3: aux grande assiettes
 Other points of construction include triangular gussets in the front of the sleeve to aid fit, and triangular gussets under the arm to shape the bodice. The gown has long triangular gores set at the waist in the front, at the sides and in the back to fit the hips and create sweeping fullness to the finished length. Additionally, the gown has cloth button closures down the centre front (although how far down the gown they originally extended is not known as those pieces are missing) and on the back opening of the sleeve. Marc Carlson writes “these buttons appear to be made from wads of cloth that is then covered in cloth, in a fashion consistent with other archaeological examples.” However, McGann states that no one had taken a button apart to examine its construction.  The buttonholes are set very close to the edge of the garment with the buttons attached directly to the opposing edge, which is consistent with other 14th-15th century examples. The sleeve pieces in existence do not extend past the mid-upper arm and although it is presumed that the gown had long sleeves, it is not known for certain.

Figure 4: triangular gores inserted under the arm, and at the front of the sleeve head

Figure 5: wrist to elbow button closures
The gown is constructed of 2/1 twill wool, with a thread count of 18 to 21 per inch along the horizontal and 20 per inch along the vertical.
The gown on display today is not a reconstruction. It is based upon the Moy gown, but the dimensions, materials, and construction methods have not been followed as an exact copy. Some of the differences are listed below.
  • 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 6: Pattern created based on that of the Moy gown
The gown was entirely hand-sewn, using running stitch (main seams), back stitch (reinforcing main seams and gussets), hem stitch (hems and facings), and buttonhole stitch. As noted above, I used a synthetic, and heavy-duty buttonhole twist thread for the main seams and seam finishing. At the time I did not have access to any linen, or silk thread. Later I did, however, manage to procure some silk thread which I used in the construction of my 46 buttonholes. I have to say that sewing with finely corded silk is much more finicky than with the sturdier buttonhole twist, as it is prone to twisting and kinking. In the future I will try coating the silk cord thread with beeswax.
Of the diagrams depicting this gown, there are none that I know of which show the sleeve shape and how to adjust it to fit to the shoulder blade gusset and arm scye. This was by far the most challenging aspect of constructing this gown. It required 4+ mock-up versions of the bodice portion. And even then, some tweaking of the seams was necessary. This is definitely a dress that needs to be personally tailored to an individual in order to achieve the fit that makes it a superior working garment. 
Of the sleeve construction, McGann writes:

The sleeves of the gown are very curious. Their construction is extremely simple, but almost demands that they be fitted on the body of the wearer. The sleeves are simple rectangles, each about 16" wide. The 16" edge is sewn to the straps described above, with the edge of the sleeve being sewn to the top of the shoulder gussets. The rectangular sleeve then wraps around the arm and attaches to the outside edge of the same shoulder gusset (the 6 ½" side) being turned 90 degrees in its journey. A 3 ½" by 4" by 4 ½" triangle is inserted in a slit in the front of the arm, around the area of the armpit. This gore helps the sleeve fit better. The result is a sleeve that hugs the shoulder but doesn't have the stress of a shoulder seam.”

In the construction of my gown you can see this 90 degree turn which McGann describes, above. It occurs where the back corner of the underarm gusset meets the bottom corner of the shoulder blade gusset.

In my opinion, the beauty of this gown lies in the wonderful arm movement it allows, while not causing stress on the arm scye seams. Of the gowns I have made in the past with fitted sleeves and small arm scyes, the weakest link in their construction was always at the back of the arm scye where the sleeve was set. Inevitably, it is this point which undergoes the most stress when the arms are extended in front. And, if anyone reading this document has ever performed light to moderate labour in a cotehardie-type gown, you know that the ability to extend your arms forward to cook, clean dishes, sweep floors, and perform a plethora of other normal household (and Event) tasks is vital. This is one reason why I believe that the Moy bog gown is a working-class construct. Another reason is the coarse wool cloth from which the gown was made. McGann describes the individual threads from the cloth as varying in thickness from 1 mm to 1.5mm.
I generally construct 14th and 15th century gowns which utilise the underarm to floor method of inserting side gores, and this was my first attempt at an out garment with side gores set from the waist to the floor. The triangular gores set into the sides, back and front of this gown do add the fullness that is desirable, yet, they also create a stress point at the gore insertion point which requires much reinforcement. In the extant gown there is a roughly 2” square piece of cloth which patches a hole at the top of the gores in the back of the gown. 

Figure 7: gown based on Moy gown, back
All in all, I am pleased with the gown I made based on the Moy bog garment. I am very proud of the fit I achieved with the shoulder blade gusset shaping the large arm scye and the fit of the sleeve. If I had to do it again, I’d definitely use the fine silk cord I purchased near the end of the project to sew the seams, and I’d love to hand-dye some wool fabric with a natural dyestuff.
Table 1: A comparison of dimensions between the Moy bog gown and my gown

Construction area
My gown
Extant Moy bog gown
Shoulder gusset (grand assiette)
Top: 5”
Bottom: 7”
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”
Shoulder strap
Attach to bodice: 2”
Shoulder ridge: 1”
Strap length: 9”
Attach to bodice: 2”
Shoulder ridge: ¾”
Strap length: 8”
Underarm gusset
Top: 4”
Front side: 5”
Back side: 4”
Top: 2”
Front side: 3 ½”
Back side: 4 7/8
Sleeve gusset
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”
Top: 16”
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


Carlson, I. Marc, A Reconstruction of a Garment from the Moy Bog, Co. Clare, Ireland

Carlson, I. Marc, Some Clothing of the Middles Ages. Historical Clothing from Archaeological Finds,                                              

Crowfoot, Elisabeth; Frances Pritchard and Kay Staniland. Textiles and Clothing, c.1150-c.1450. (Medieval Finds from Excavations in London: 4) London: HMSO, 1992

Dunlevy, Mairead. Dress in Ireland.  London: Batsford, 1989 (as referenced and quoted by Carlson)

Geijer, Agnes m.fl., Drottning Margaretas gyllene kjortel i Uppsala Domkyrka, Stockholm 1994

McGann, Kass, What the Irish Wore. The Moy Gown – An Irish Medieval Gown

Newton, Stella Mary, Fashion in the Age of the Black Prince. A Study of the Years 1340-1364. 1999

Gown with full sleeves, 15th century

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.

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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. 

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Bathsheba by Hans Memling, ca. 1485
Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart

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.

   Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting  Ms. Douce 195, f. 118
                                                                                                                                                                                 The Romance of the Rose
                                                                                                                                                                                 Bodleian Library, Oxford.