Sunday, July 20, 2014

Tablet Weaving... Also Known as Tablet Heaving

I like order. There! I admit it!

I took to rigid heddle weaving like a duck to water because it's so damn orderly. Everything perfectly in its place. There's a beauty to that.

But eventually, if you're going to leave your comfortable nest and stretch your wings into greater authenticity, things will get messy.

That's what my first attempt at tablet weaving has been. Messy. Now, I kept it as gloriously ordered as I could, but in the end I did spend some time screaming verbal... let's call it encouragement... at a rather stubborn section that did not want to cooperate.

Okay, I may have had to seriously restrain myself from heaving it out a window.

But I didn't start there. I actually started moving towards greater authenticity in my trim weaving by going to the local weaving store: White Rock Weaving. I wasn't sure what sizes/types I'd need, so I relied heavily on the staff recommendations. In addition to some 5/2 pearle cotton I wanted to play with, I bought three ounces of Hammersmith 100% virgin wool and two kinds of 100% flax linen by a brand called Fibra Natura.

Rigid Heddle Weaving with Wool

The first new fibre to test out was wool. To sum it up in three words: It breaks. Often.

It's possible that this was just a problem because of the specific wool type, but every foot or so the weft would break on me. That's not horrible, but when one of the warp threads actually broke I was more than a little verbally abusive to it. In the future, I'll try to get a more finely spun wool... if that's possible.

Dyeing and Rigid Heddle Weaving with Linen

After the frustration of the wool came the relief of the linen. As I mentioned in my last blog post, I wasn't able to get my hands on a natural blue dye. RIT to the rescue!
For another length of my white linen, I decided to try one of the natural dyes from the dyeing workshop I attended last January at Runs with Scissors, Plays with Fire.

I took a couple tablespoons of Jake's turmeric and put them into two disposable tea filters. I didn't want the actual spice to get out and gunk up my yarn, and I was very pleasantly surprised that they worked so well.
The weaving store only had a small selection of colors - I didn't realize that the blue I dyed (the remnant is shown in the middle of the wooden spool) was nearly the exact same color as the company's Regata (#103)!

The turmeric yellow is shown here on the end of the wooden spool, and is so bright it's nearly neon!

And, finally, here are the three lengths I've woven with a rigid heddle. The left two are what remains after I finished my last apron dress project. The turmeric-dyed yellow and white looks like an albino python!

I thought there would be a little more contrast between the two, but if I remember correctly, turmeric is one of those dyes that fades with light exposure.

Card/Tablet Weaving with Cotton and Linen

And, finally, we come to the pieces I wove today as I experimented with tablet weaving. The pattern I used came from "Forward Into the Past: Beginning Tablet Weaving."

The green and white piece came first, while I figured out how to set up the loom and move the cards. I chose a 3/2 pearle cotton because I'm trying to phase it out of my collection. I've been really gravitating towards the finer yarns lately, so I figured it would do well for a potentially throw-away piece.

The design I chose was a repeating chevron pattern that used six cards at a time, for a total number of 24 threads. I cut them to only two yards, because that length allows me to get a feel for a project but isn't long enough to feel terribly wasteful if things don't go terribly well.

I learned a lot of things from this project: 1) How the threads at the end will wrap around each other as you weave, 2) That as cool as the diamonds are, the "X" designs are just as necessary, and 3) Counting things is very, very important.

I tried to put those lessons to their best use with the blue and white piece. Instead of letting my design go straight to the edge, I added a single color card to both sides. I was also very careful to count the numbers of chevrons between each element, in order to keep things balanced, even, and not to wound up at the back.

Since I figured this piece would eventually be attached to a neckline, I decided to go ahead and make it like I meant it: Enough length to be used in a garment and with an authentic fibre content. I decided to go with the linen.

I had no idea at all what I was in for. In case you don't know, the movement of the turning cards is a whole heck of a lot more intense on your threads than a nice, simple rigid heddle. I generated a small flurry with all the linen fibers coming off this project! Let's just say it's not good for those of us with allergies and leave it there.

When I switched from 3/2 pearle cotton to linen, I was expecting a much thinner profile. With all the threads turning and moving through the project, the band itself is about twice as thick as what I'd make on a rigid heddle. I figured the thinner fibers of the linen would keep it a little less bulky, but it' still pretty thick. I think I'll have to find an even finer linen if I'm going to make something that can go around the neckline of an undertunic or underdress.

But that being said, I'm still pretty proud of myself. I taught myself how to do a simple tablet-weaving pattern - and completed two small projects - less than 24 hours after receiving my cards in the mail!

The last project I did used a period method, with period fibres, and period colors. It's the most authentic trim I've ever made, and while it was incredibly frustrating at times, I do look forward to making garb that is even more authentic.

I still love my rigid heddle, and while I am not going to be putting it aside, I do see myself adding projects like this one to my future queue... especially with Steppes Artisan coming up!

Apron Dress Hand Stitching Techniques: Part 2

As I mentioned in the blog post for Part 1 of this project, this summer vacation is dedicated to bumping up the authenticity (and documentation) of our garb, using materials I have on hand. This apron dress was originally an Edwardian style linen skirt, and has been paired with a bit of silk I'd been hoarding for a while.

To finish up the project, I need to complete the hem, decide on the pattern and colors of the trim I'd like to use, weave it on my rigid heddle loom, and attach it to the garment.

To the left is an image from my sketchbook, where I took notes on the documentation, construction, and stitching types that I was planning on using. There have been some slight changes, but for the most part I have been able to follow this plan.

The first item on the agenda was to learn how to do the decorative hemstitch style. I've chosen to use a contrasting thread for this, simply because it's supposed to look cool and if I'm going to do something like this, then I want it to stand out!

It took a little messing around, but I eventually got the hang of it. I ended up working on the wrong side, so that I was better able to use the fold of the fabric as a guide. That allowed me much better control in terms of spacing. Looking back at it now, I wish I had chosen another color, but there's no way I'm going back over it now!

In the last image you can see the recently woven trim I chose for the top of the apron dress. I made the pattern using that absolutely wonderful tool, the Inkle Loom Pattern Generator. It's just awesome.

The actual weaving was done with linen yarn. I went to see the lovely ladies at White Rock Weaving and they suggested the Flax 100% Linen yarn from Fibra Natura. They only had a couple colors, so I picked up Tarragon (#12) and White (#14) and then promptly hit the craft store on the way home to pick up some RIT.
While RIT may not be the most authentic dye, it was a lot closer to my budget than the smallest quantity of woad I could find. I measured out the approximate yardage I would need, looped it into a nicely loose knot, and then tossed it into the dye pot with a couple random things that I thought deserved to be blue.

 I love how this trim turned out - and it looks simply gorgeous next to the purple silk and teal linen!

But I wasn't done there! I wanted to make sure I'd have an underdress to coordinate with it, so I pulled out a white linen dress I made a couple years ago and covered up some of my old hand-stitching with a more delicate version of the trim I used on the apron dress. This element is not quite as authentic - only the top-stitching has been done by hand - but the cut and construction are correct to the period. While not perfectly accurate, it fits into my goal of using materials on hand where possible.

And, finally, it all comes together...

The underdress is still a little on the tight side, but I think the trim looks wonderful on it - and you wouldn't believe how close my stitching had to be to get that sucker to lie pretty in the curve you see here!

My brooches are TB-26 from Raymond's Quiet Press, and are very, very close to the examples shown on pg. 61 and the first color page (after pg. 64) of Ewing's Viking Clothing. While modern, the beads were chosen specifically for their resemblance to examples from pg. 19, 40, and 120 of Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga. Also attached is a replica needle case based on a find in Birka and two more replica pieces from Raymond's Quiet Press: A Viking ear spoon (X-12) and a Viking key (N-53).

While I would normally wrap it up there, I do feel the need to address something that came up since the first posting...

Notes on Fabric Widths:

In Part I, I mentioned that Countess Gwen covered fabric widths in her Viking Clothing class at Gulf Wars XXII. While the class was riveting, we were crowded under a small shelter at the Early Period Life section of camp during a downpour and had to make frequent seating/standing adjustments for new roof leaks. Suffice it to say that my notes on her documentation did not survive, but she said that typical looms of the Viking period would make up to 24" wide fabrics but that an 18" fabric width was more common. That sparked some interesting debate on the Viking Clothing Facebook group and a couple members were kind enough to point me in the direction of any documented linen fabric widths they could find.

Bránn Mac Finnchad pointed me in the direction of the 11th century Viborg shirt. According to author Mytte Fentz, who included a rather fabulous cutting layout in Fig. 10, the linen that the shirt was cut from was 95cm by 235cm, which is approximately 37.4" wide by 92.5" long.

Unfortunately, that was the only piece mentioned, so I'm going to continue to keep an eye out.


Baker, Jennifer. "Stitches and Seam Techniques Seen on Dark Age/Medieval Garments in Various Museum Collections." 2009. <> 11 June 2014.

Ewing, Thor. Viking Clothing. Gloucestershire: Tempus Publishing, Inc. 2006.

Fentz, Mytte. "An 11th Century Shirt from Viborg Søndersø, Denmark." Archaeological Textiles in Northern Europe - Report from the 4th NESAT Symposium. Ed: Lise Bender Jørgensen and Elisabeth Munksgaard. Tindens Tand 1992, nr. 5 pp 83-92 <>

Fitzhugh, William W. and Elizabeth I. Ward, eds. Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga. Smithsonian Institution Press. Japan, 2000.

Geijer, Agnes. "The Textile Finds from Birka." Cloth and Clothing in Medieval Europe: Essays in Memory of Professor E.M. Carus-Wilson. Ed. N. B. Harte and K. G. Ponting. Pasold Studies in Textile History. 1983.

Hägg, Inga. "Viking Women's Dress at Birka: A Reconstruction by Archeological Methods." Cloth and Clothing in Medieval Europe: Essays in Memory of Professor E.M. Carus-Wilson. Ed. N. B. Harte and K. G. Ponting. Pasold Studies in Textile History. 1983.

Stewart-Howard, Stephanie (aka Countess Gwendolyn Isabella Stewart of Meridies). "Viking Clothing." Gulf Wars XXII. Lumberton, MS. 11 March 2014. Workshop.

Thunem, Hilde. "The Apron Dress from Køstrup (Grave ACQ)." 21 October 2013. <>

Thunem, Hilde. "Viking Women: Apron Dress." 25 February 2015. <>

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Apron Dress Hand Stitching Techniques: Part 1

The skirt, post seam-ripping

This summer vacation, I'm trying to step up the authenticity (and documentation) of our garb, using materials I have on hand. As such, I'm recycling projects that either turned out a little wonky or just don't fit into our current costuming needs.

For today's endeavor, it was a teal linen Edwardian skirt that hit the block. I adored this skirt, but it's been a year and I didn't have a single excuse to wear it. I decided to go the Viking apron dress route, because a) I wanted another linen one for summer wear and b) It was constructed of six narrow wedges, so an apron dress would be the most efficient use of the fabric without extensive piecing. 

Planning notes and documentation
After several days (and evenings) with the seam ripper, the only machine stitches that remained were a couple edges that I had done a zig-zag stitch on to keep it from fraying. Taking that out would have encouraged more raveling, so I went ahead and stopped there. 

I decided to base the construction on Countess Gwen's Viking Clothing class at Gulf Wars XXII. She had made some interesting arguments for using period weaving widths when considering garb construction. Today's linens tend to be around 50" wide, while she said period widths would be up to 24" wide, but generally closer to 18" due to the human arm span. Because of this, she suggested that the apron dress would most likely be constructed with loom widths and gores. The construction diagram she showed us had three rectangles and three gores.

I like my apron dresses to be 41" long, so with a top and bottom 1/2" seam allowance I'd need rectangles that were 42" long. For the width, you take your bust measurement, divide it by three, and add seam allowance.

I did a little math and discovered that none of my pieces of fabric would be wide enough, so I decided to increase the number of rectangles to four. Luckily, that finally did the trick. I chopped up what was left into my gores - now four as well, to match the number of rectangles.

But that's just cutting out the pattern! 

Strap Construction 

The straps and front loops were a little more problematic. There are a lot of opinions out there, and even less in terms of actual facts.

When you look at Viking SCAdians and re-enactors, about half the time you're going to see the loop strap construction, while the rest have a wider strap that only has a small loop at the end. This style looks a lot more like the Russian sarafan, so it's origins may have been drawn from an intuitive leap based on a more modern garment.

For this garment, I decided to go ahead and use the double-loop strap construction. I do not like them aesthetically - they're ugly and roll around - but after re-reading a lot of my documentation, In the grave finds, it seems like only the loops underneath the tortoise brooches have been preserved, and nothing any higher than that. 

Probably the most damning thing for the wider strap construction is that when I wear my apron dress, that part is covered by my tortoise brooch. Since that's the area that tends to be preserved, the fact that the construction's not in evidence leads me to believe the double strap is the way to go.

After all that, making the straps themselves was the easy part. I had a bias-tape maker on hand from one of my quilting projects, so it was easy to iron them quickly into submission. While I may have used a little technology to help, I did adhere closely to Thunem's example.

From there it was just some whip-stitching to close the gap. I decided to skip the running stitch I'd originally planned, as the first couple inches of it looked like more stitching than fabric!

Seams and Body Construction

Next I needed to figure out what kind of sewing techniques would be period... and sturdy enough to keep my linen from raveling! I decided on four stitching types for the body of the garment: A backstitch (stronger than a running stitch on its own) with a flat fell, hem-stitch, and herringbone stitch. 
I used the same gore construction technique as the gray apron dress. Instead of matching up the edges, I made sure the gore seam allowance was longer than the rectangle I was sewing it to.
I used a backstitch initially, then went back over it by rolling the longer seam allowance over the shorter one and finished it neatly with a hem stitch.

Here you see the point of the gore between two of the rectangles. I made sure to stop the backstitching when the seam allowances from both sides came together.

Next, I pinched the tip of the point under, and then...

I pinned it down so I could start rolling the seam allowance over and cover the raw edge.

To save my fingers, it was easier to sew down one side at a time. Rolling and pinning both sides at once would turn my fingers into pin cushions!

From there I was able to just continue sewing up the side with hem-stitch. I wanted two continuous lines of stitching on either side of the gore - not some random stitches to break up the lines - so I just came back to the top of the gore when I came back down the other side.

See? I took a quick detour over the flattened tip of the gore, but I was careful to only stitch the seam allowances together. I didn't allow my needle and thread to come out the front at all.

Here's the same seam from the front side. Just a perfectly flat gore with two lovely continuous lines of stitching.

And the final step in the construction was to add the silk at the top. I've been hoarding about half a yard of this silk for the better part of a decade, and I decided it was about time to make use of it! I ended up using it structurally, and sandwiching the ends of the loops between the silk and the linen. I'm not sure how good of an idea that was, but we'll have to wait and see how it wears.

I'm just glad it's finally sewn down. It frays like a mother &#@%$#! I considered using pulled threads to sew it, but my teal silk thread was a better match because the warp and the weft are different colors. I sewed it together with backstitch, turned it right side out, then used a backstitch at the very top and a hem-stitch at the bottom.

And here I am in it. For now the basic construction is complete. It still needs to be hemmed and have the trim woven and attached, but that will be shown in Part 2.


Baker, Jennifer. "Stitches and Seam Techniques Seen on Dark Age/Medieval Garments in Various Museum Collections." 2009. <> 11 June 2014.

Ewing, Thor. Viking Clothing. Gloucestershire: Tempus Publishing, Inc. 2006.

Geijer, Agnes. "The Textile Finds from Birka." Cloth and Clothing in Medieval Europe: Essays in Memory of Professor E.M. Carus-Wilson. Ed. N. B. Harte and K. G. Ponting. Pasold Studies in Textile History. 1983.

Hägg, Inga. "Viking Women's Dress at Birka: A Reconstruction by Archeological Methods." Cloth and Clothing in Medieval Europe: Essays in Memory of Professor E.M. Carus-Wilson. Ed. N. B. Harte and K. G. Ponting. Pasold Studies in Textile History. 1983.

Stewart-Howard, Stephanie (aka Countess Gwendolyn Isabella Stewart of Meridies). "Viking Clothing." Gulf Wars XXII. Lumberton, MS. 11 March 2014. Workshop.

Thunem, Hilde. "The Apron Dress from Køstrup (Grave ACQ)." 21 October 2013. <>

Thunem, Hilde. "Viking Women: Apron Dress." 25 February 2015. <>

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Medieval Necklines - Green Wool Dress

I made this dress recently to repay a local lady for her incredible kindness in caring for our kitties while we were at Gulf War. She has a tremendous love of Pendleton Wool, so Mom swung by their outlet in Washington and sent a care package my way.

The cut and construction is a straightforward long tunic, which I've seen classified as Nockert Type 1. The lady I'm sewing this for wanted it nice and simple, so it could do double duty as Viking or Medieval, depending on her layering and accessories.

After cutting everything out, I usually sew the neckline first. They always turn out so much better for me when I do them flat. I used a bowl to help me create a pattern for a perfect circle and my measuring tape to center it up and put the correct ratio in place. Her preferred placement is three quarters of the circle in front, with the remaining quarter in back.

Once my circle was cut out, I pinned down my hem. I didn't cut the front "v" open yet, though, because the wool was misbehaving. It was a blend, and a little thinner than I'm used to. Usually wool doesn't really ravel on you, but this fabric was certainly trying its hardest!

I used a hem stitch to go around the neckline and waited until the absolute last moment to cut the "v".

Once cut to the six inches she wanted, I turned it and continued to use hem stitch. At the very tip of the "v" I switched to a couple small stitches of button-hole/blanket stitch and then continued the rest of the way around. (See Notes on Necklines, below)
And the finished neckline! Now on to the rest of the garment!

And that means on to the dreaded underarm gores. They're period for the era I like to costume in, but I hold a chilly hatred for them. I decided to try to tackle them with the same technique I used for the gray wool apron dress. Østergård's illustration and notes about figure 67 on pg. 99 directly mention them: "Gussets on sleeves and hoods are inserted to lie under the cloth..." so I pinned it open in order to sew it down that way.

And this is what it looks like. It wasn't terribly fun, but I made it happen!

I actually don't remember what part this was, but isn't it a pretty picture? It's probably one of the bottom gores, and it shows the stitch I used pretty much throughout, plus the technique I mentioned earlier of getting the gores and gussets to lay flat.

All together, the hand sewing on this project took around 40 hours. What can I say? We love our kitties and she took wonderful care of them!

I actually finished this garment at an event, and sent it home with her that day. She's promised to send me a picture of the finished dress, so I'll post an update when that happens.

Notes on Necklines:

The "v" neck with button-hole stitching at the point is a style I distinctly remember going over during a hand-sewing class at an event - I think it was Gulf Wars 2014 - but for the life of me I cannot find the handout, which forces me to do my research backwards. That's never a good thing.

As the lady I'm making this dress for intends to use it for both Viking and Medieval styles, (hence its simplicity) it's opened up a couple more resources than I typically use for my Viking garb.

The only necklines that Østergård mentions in Woven into the Earth are turned, but no mention is made as to how the small "v"s were finished, despite the fact that they appeared on several garments.

"On the costumes from Herjolfsnes we see seams that are almost invisible from the right side and seams that are visible and decorative as well as reinforcing....A cut-off edge, folded towards the wrong side, can also have a decorative element, as can be seen along the front edge of most hoods, where the tight overcasting of one or more extra (filler) threads, placed along the cut-off edge, marks the termination of the fold. A similar edging is found around the neck openings of garments, and it is likely that this or the extra threads helped to preserve the neck edge from curling. The inlaid threads lie there, apparently unaffected by the thread from the overcasting, and could therefore be tightened so that the edge was held in against the neck," (Østergård 97-98).
Caption for figures 62 and 63: "A turned back border (hem), with overcast stitches sewn on the top of one or several (filler) threads that cover the raw edge, was prevalent in Norse Greenland. This type of needlework can be found along face openings on hoods and in neck openings; almost always seen together with one or two rows of stab stitches placed some few millimeters from the outermost edge," (Østergård 97).

In Wild's Textiles in Archeology, only hems are mentioned and that's a simple, concise caption form (pg. 54).

Ewing's Viking Clothing spends a little more time on stitching, and while he doesn't mention necklines in the Seams and Sewing section (pg. 158-9), he does have a men's Neckhole section on pg. 90 where he mentions other kinds of necklines but not their construction.

I had much more luck in The Museum of London: Textiles and Clothing. No mention is made of necklines in the Hems section, but a couple are referenced in the Bindings and Facings section.

"Where a single or double hem was an inappropriate finishing for an edge, and particularly where some additional strength was required, strips of material could be applied as facings or bindings. All surviving facings and bindings are of a fine tabby silk on the straight grain of the fabrics; no bias strip is know to have been used for this purpose on bias-cut or curving edges," (158).

Figure 132: "Neckline of a wool garment with a narrow silk facing, No 50, shown from the reverse, from a deposit dating to the second quarter of the 14th century," (160).

So for right now it looks like I messed up in one of two ways: Not using a running stitch for stability OR not using a silk facing. But that's only on the round part of the neckline. I still have yet to locate anything about the stitching used on the small "v".

We did have an interesting discussion about it on the Viking Clothing Facebook group, but no one else was able to find explicit pre-15th century documentation.

I was able to find one website that mentioned this technique (scroll down to the very bottom), but there was no documentation for it, which always makes me wary. I'll keep searching, because I love the look of this style but also want to be able to thoroughly document it.


Baker, Jennifer. "Stitches and Seam Techniques Seen on Dark Age/Medieval Garments in Various Museum Collections." 2009. <> 11 June 2014.

Crowfoot, Elisabeth, Frances Pritchard, and Kay Staniland. Museum of London: Textiles and Clothing c1150-1450. The Boydell Press, Woodbridge: 2002. Page 150-7.

Østergård, Else. Woven into the Earth: Textile Finds from North Greenland. Denmark: Aarhus University Press. 2004. Page 98-99.

Wild, John Peter. Shire Archaeology: Textiles in Archaeology. Shire Publications LTD. Great Britain, 2003. Page 54.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Finishing Gores and Hiding Knots - Gray Apron Dress

While I have been in the SCA on and off since 2000, I've never had a partner who was a heavy fighter. I had absolutely no idea how much armor costs, so when Jake decided to learn we both suffered a little sticker shock.

Luckily, my sewing is a marketable skill in the SCA (or in the event of the apocalypse, as Jake and I like to joke) and a lovely lady on Facebook's SCA Medieval Barter Town group offered to trade a helm for a Viking apron dress. I promised that it would be wool, with hand-finished seams, contrasting fabric at the top and bottom, with hand-woven trim. No light project, but a fair trade to keep my husband's noggin safe from swinging rattan!

Looking at it now, I am incredibly proud of how well it turned out - and I think I finally figured out the best way to finish the seams with gores!

I started by weaving a little under five yards of trim, using a pattern I'd made previously on an online pattern generator. It's designed for an inkle loom, but works perfectly for my rigid heddle loom as well. A couple days and a lot of 5/2 cotton pearle thread later, and I had a lovely chain woven in copper, gold, and cream.  Here's a screen capture from the pattern generator:

But that was just the beginning! Once I had the fabric, I needed to draft the pattern and actually create the garment. I chose a fairly standard apron-dress pattern, which I have seen on so many different sites that I don't know who to credit. Essentially, it's a tube with a slightly fuller skirt: three body pieces that flare at the bottom and three gores sewn between them. Add in straps and loops, and you're done.

I started off the project by making a muslin out of... well, muslin. Since I do so much Medieval and Viking sewing, it's just easier to make my pattern pieces out of an inexpensive fabric. Think about the last time you used a tissue pattern. They have a bit of a flyaway issue, and serve as nearly impossible to ignore cat toys. Fabric does a much better job of sticking in place, and it doesn't tear on you nearly as easily!
A fantastic thing about this pattern is how efficient its use of fabric is, but it does mean that one of the gores needs to be pieced together. I went ahead and finished its seams first, to make it ready for the next step: Sewing it between two of the body pieces. For this I used something I read in Østergård's Woven Into The Earth. On pg. 99, she says of figure 67, "Gussets on sleeves and hoods are inserted to lie under the cloth..." Now that's a couple of centuries later than this garment, but the use of gores/gussets has a long history and I don't have any better documentation yet.

I stopped at the junction of the seam allowance and left a neat little point. After that, I finished the first side of the seam, making sure that the other side would look like an unbroken line of stitches. While this is also shown on the same page of Østergård's, I've seen it or something similar in Crowfoot and Wild as well.
After sewing up one side of the seam, I came back down the other. This time I took a little detour and, without allowing my needle to come out the front, sewed down the rest of the point before carefully coming right back to where I left off.

From there you just keep moving on down the seam! But what do you do if you run out of thread before you finish the seam? Yes, it's time to talk about knots. I've talked to a lot of other sewers over the years, and some will shout and rave about using knots and others will do the same about the opposite. It gives me a headache, so I just hide my knots.

What works best for me is to sew the last stitch I can, and then pick up the seam allowance I'm sewing down. I will then line up my needle, with fresh thread, and carefully line it up right next to my previous stitch.

I pull the new stitch through the fabric until only a short tail remains. Next I use my needle to pull out the last stitch of the old thread.

I tie the two small ends tightly together several times until it's secure, then I pull them over until they're sandwiched between the seam allowance and the fabric.

After that I just keep sewing down the seam as normal. There's no ugly knot on the inside, and the outside looks like a continuous line of stitches. It's super easy and very secure.

Here's an image of the finished seam. The garment is now stronger since the gore fabric is overlapping the piece it's attached to, and that also serves to dish up some additional fullness. Here's to a greater swish factor!

Next on my to-do list were the straps and loops. I actually made these twice. The first time I used my sewing machine for the hidden seams, but this fabric has enough of a stretch to it that the thread broke when I turned the tubes right-side out. I ended up sewing them entirely by hand in a nice backstitch. With the Guterman Heavy Duty Thread I always use for my hand-sewing, a simple backstitch was a heck of a lot stronger and more reliable.

Finally, I was able to attach the straps, loops, and the green accent wool. I ran a line stitch over the edge and sewed down the loose end by hand. This time it was for two reasons: It looks better and it's strong enough to deal with the somewhat stretchy wool. The only thing left to do was sew down the trim!

And finally we have the finished garment! I am very, very pleased about how this turned out. There was a brief and very scary issue with the delivery, but it made it safely into its new owner's hands. Hopefully she'll send pictures for me to post, but for now, here's a close-up of the top front of the garment:


Crowfoot, Elisabeth, Frances Pritchard, and Kay Staniland. Museum of London: Textiles and Clothing c1150-1450. The Boydell Press, Woodbridge: 2002. Page 150-7.

Østergård, Else. Woven into the Earth: Textile Finds from North Greenland. Denmark: Aarhus University Press. 2004. Page 98-99.

Wild, John Peter. Shire Archaeology: Textiles in Archaeology. Shire Publications LTD. Great Britain, 2003. Page 54.

And For the Heck of It:

Here's Jake enjoying his new helm, which he has been scrubbing 'till it shines!