As I am studying at Newcastle University this year, I decided to join the campus SCA group, which is essentially Medieval re-enactment and other fun stuff. I have always had an interest in historical clothing, and did actually attend a few SCA meetings almost 10 years ago when I lived in Sydney, but until Winterfest last year, hadn't really made much in the way of (mostly) historically accurate garments. Now, after only 2 meetings with this new club, I already have 3 more pieces of garb underway (some of which may take longer than others to finish) My inspiration for my new pieces is to create a complete wardrobe for a specific time and place, and taking inspiration from my husband's last name, I have chosen to focus on Scotland, probably around the 15th or 16th centuries, as any earlier than that seems even harder to find reliable information on (and later is no longer medieval)
The first item I began on is a yellow leine, which is essentially the medieval gaelic version of an undershirt. They were worn by both men and women, throughout Ireland and Scotland, particularly by those who refused English rule. According to the research I have been finding, they were quite often dyed bright yellow, although I am finding conflicting information about whether they were dyed with saffron to get the colour, or merely dyed a saffron yellow, by way of a description of the brightness. From what I have been looking at, they fairly often had long, bagged sleeves and simple necklines. There are many variations of course, but I wanted a fairly simple design, but liked the bagged sleeves, as they can also be used as pockets.
I found a piece of light yellow cotton in my stash, that was just over 2m in length. Ideally I would have liked more fabric to work with, but I also like to work from my stash instead of buying more fabric, and I also believe that trying to make historical clothing work from as little fabric as possible would be quite in the spirit of historical accuracy, as working class people would not have been able to afford to be extravagant and wasteful with their cloth. Traditionally the leine would be made from linen, but I can't really afford that sort of fabric, so cotton will suffice just fine for my needs. To start my leine, I simply folded my fabric into quarters, so that the middle of the fabric, where the neck opening will be, was at a corner, then using my measurements and pins, marked where I was going to cut. I cut the front, back and upper sleeves as one piece, with no shoulder or sleeve seams. I then pieced some extra length onto my sleeves from the fabric next to the skirt, to make sure they would be (almost) full length, and also to utilise the most out of the fabric. The way I have cut and constructed my leine is almost certainly not historically accurate, however, with such limited fabric, this is they way I chose to do it.
|Sorry for the wrinkles, but this gives you|
an idea of the sleeve shape
The construction was very simple, sewing on the extra sleeve lengths, then just sewing the 2 side seams. I plan to use a simple facing for the neckline, which I will hand stitched down once it has been turned in and pressed. The sleeves and bottom still need to be hemmed by hand. I can leave it there, but I am considering trying my hand at a little bit of decorative embroidery along the hem as well.
I also decided to make a bodice/corset/stays/pair of bodies, or whatever term you wish to use, as so far my kirtle is the only support garment I have, and I thought a second one, without an attached skirt, would be handy to have. I decided on a simple design, back lacing, sort of straight Tudor style front, with tabs at the waist and ties on the front of the shoulder straps. I quickly drafted a pattern for these straight onto my calico when I was at my brothers one day, but when I pinned the pieces together to check the fit, discovered I had made quite an error in my measurements and needed to add an extra panel either side. so I then used those initial pieces to trace out new pieces, cut out 2 layers, sewed the seams, pressed them open, then sewed the 2 layers right sides together along the back edges only. I then turned it right side out and began carefully hand sewing boning channels along several of the seams and back edges. I used a tiny prick stitch, which should be fairly strong.
|Progress shot. Tabs will be cut into the bottoms of the panels|
Once I had added boning channels and boning to both front seams and the 2 back edge seams, I began working on the lacing eyelets, stretching them out with an awl (actually a knitting needle, but whatevs) and hand stitching around them with the same sort of reverse blanket stitch I used on the eyelets for my kirtle. After I had inserted a couple of the eyelets, I tried it on to get an idea of the fit. It wasn't perfect, but it certainly wasn't bad either. There seems to be a little too much room under the arms, but that may sit better when the rest of the eyelets are done and it is fully laced up, if not, I can remove some of the excess with a dart on each side. Also, the shoulder straps are far too short, however, I can just use a longer piece of sting to tie them to the front, so that isn't too detrimental. At the moment I am thinking of using some dark green cotton for the binding around the edges, but I am not completely decided on that yet.
|Sock progress. cake in use on the left, finely spun cake in the|
middle, and the second rough spun cake on the right
I still have plenty more garments in the planning stages for my SCA persona, which I will share once I get started on them. Has anyone else been working on any historical clothing?