Tuesday 29 June 2010

Best Foot Forward

Yesterday I finished sewing the second shoe, and I let it soak while I was at work, and turned it when I came home. It has now dried, and I have greased them both a couple of times, and will do it several more times before wearing them outside. Why is it, when you make a pair of anything, that one is invariably better/nicer than the other?

I’ve also finished the soles of my pattens – yay! It doesn’t seem likely to rain this weekend, but my shoes might need protection from gravel and the like. I took the pattens home to my parents when I visited last weekend, and it went rather quicker to finish them when I had access to my Dads’ wood chisels than it did with just my knife. They might not be pretty, or 100 % accurate, but hopefully they’ll be functional. As I’ve said before, it’s a good thing my feet will mostly be hidden by my skirts. If all goes well, I’ll nail the uppers to them tomorrow – doing it now would, I fear, upset the neighbours.

I’ve also made some linen sewing: when I was at my parents’ I finished a new veil. The weather forecast says it’ll be horribly hot and sunny this weekend, so I’ll really need the protection. Yesterday I finished changing an apron (narrowing the waistband) I made years ago. It’s made from half bleached herringbone weave linen, and has simple embroidery over the pleats, keeping them in place.

This might not be accurate, but since I have a bit of an emotional attachment to this apron, having made it during a period of enormous stress and grief in my life, I will wear it anyway and hope no one will censure me for it. Anyway, a lot of people have made smocked aprons lately, it seems to be all the rage amongst female 14th century reenactors at the moment - some variety might be a good thing. I'd like a smocked apron too, but not when everyone else wears them, and they (or what have been interpreted as smocking, and as far as I know) have only been portrayed in the Luttrell Psalter. The apron was made from five scrap pieces: one for each tie, one for the waistband and two for the apron skirt. The skirt parts where whipstitched together, having nice selvages. As if that weren't enough, I’ve begun to change one of my shifts a bit.

I’ve got a lot to do, and less time to do it in.

Saturday 26 June 2010

Not Like I'd Planned...

So, yesterday was Midsummer's Eve, and I'd planned to wear my folk costume for the first time. But I didn't - I slept. I'd been working from nine pm to seven am for two nights, and was dead tired. Too bad. Still, there's the YSA activity in Finland in a month, and with some luck I'll be able to wear it complete with the spedetröja.

The coming week I'll be busy preparing for the event next weekend, finishing my second shoe, my pattens, hopefully resew an old shift etc. More about that will follow.

Thursday 24 June 2010


Since I won’t have the spedetröja finished in time for Midsummer’s Eve tomorrow, I’ve made a stomacher to fill in the wide opening in front. Stomacher doesn’t really seem like the right word, but it’ll have to do, the purpose is the same. In Swedish this particular piece of clothing (at least when talking about folk costumes) is called a bröstduk or bröstlapp, which could be translated with bosom cloth. It’s embroidered with glass beads in red, white and black, and both the colours and pattern is inspired by a picture of one I saw. The beads are sewn on with grey linen thread, like on one in Nordiska Museet. The material is black velvet sewn to green wool, and between them are a few layers of newspaper glued together with glue made from flour. Most period bröstdukar where stiffened with newspaper, but one or two had love letters sewn into them. Sweet. Rose coloured silk decorates the top.

The sewing along the edges and back looks crude, but it’s not supposed to be seen, and is also true to the examples I’ve seen pictures of.

The embroidery is really simple, compared with most bröstdukar. Most of them have a pattern of stars, hearts and flowers, but unlike the one I used as inspiration, most have beads in blues, greens, reds and whites, and using different kinds of beads. Like the one I used for inspiration, I have my initials and the year embroidered on it. A bit hard to see, unless you know what it says... First it says SAD and below that 2010.

Now, there is a problem: I haven’t been able to find any pictures of bröstdukar from my area. They weren’t worn at the same time as the spedetröja, but I have read that they did exist. The spedetröja were not always worn during the very hottest days in summer, and the bodice had to be filled in with something else. So, what to do when you can’t find the right thing? You look at what was worn by others, close by. If you go a few miles to the east, there are plenty of bröstdukar to be found, and I used one of those for inspiration. It doesn’t feel quite right, but it’ll have to do for now. I will much prefer to wear the costume with the spedetröja

I have resewn the hems and waistband on my apron, with linen thread this time. It looks so much better now.

Monday 21 June 2010

Gryffindor Scarf Finished

Last week I finished the Gryffindor scarf for my little sister. I haven’t given it to her yet, it’s still a few weeks until her birthday. As it is her eleventh birthday, I will put her card in a “parchment” envelope with her address written in green; those of you who’ve read the books will know what I mean.

Hopefully she will like it and not feel too old for such things.

Sunday 20 June 2010

Skirt and Apron

Here comes the information on the folk costume skirt and apron I promised a week or so ago. Excuse the dust particles, I havent got round to brushing the skirt yet.

The skirt is made from heavily fulled, dark blue (it looks like washed out green in most of the pictures) wool. The facings and pocket are made from unbleached linen. The whole skirt is sewn using unbleached, waxed linen thread. The original was made from four panels of 27” wide fabric. The fabric I used was 60” wide, but wanting it to be as much as the original as possible, I divided it into four lengths, with seams off-centre back and front.

It is tightly pleated in the centre back, similarly to, but not exactly like, cartridge pleating.

Most of the front is sewn in plain, and the rest of the skirt is pleated with double knife pleats.

The skirt is sewn to a waistband and opens at the off-centre left seam. It closes with a heavy brass hook and eye, and have a sewn bar protecting the seam from ripping when putting the skirt on and off. The blue colour in this picture is almost the same as the skirts in real life.

In the off-centre right seam a pocket is sewn in – some originals seam to have had this, which is very convenient. Both the pocket and the opening in the skirt will be hidden by the apron.

The skirt is long, coming to about 1½ inch from the floor, which is like it should be in my area – in most other parts of the county though, skirts was usually much shorter than this.
Just below knee level there is a 2” tuck in the skirt. When I can find one, I’ll add a silk ribbon with woven in flowers between the tuck and the hem. Problem is, it’s impossible to find real silk ribbons with woven in flowers in Sweden. I found some pretty ones in Norway though, where folk costumes and bunads are much more popular than here; I might order one from there sometime.

The waistband and skirt opening are faced with linen, as is the hem facing which is 6” wide. All the seams are sewn down to lie flat. I have sewn in one linen loop in each side of the waistband, to hang the skirt on a hanger.

The apron is woven with wool weft on a linen warp. The pattern and dark colours are very typical of the time and place, though lighter ones might have been worn in summer - not many of them being made anymore though. At this time (first half of the 19th century) cotton aprons in the same patterns and colours was appearing, and being thought fancier than the woollen ones. Mine has ribbon ties in cotton, which will wrap around my waist to be tied in front, but a little to the side. I haven’t done any of the weaving myself. As a matter of fact, I bought the apron second hand, so the sewing was already done. It was done, however, in blue polyester thread, and that just won’t do, so I’ll re-sew it this coming week.

Regrettably, I won’t get the spedetröja finished in time, so I’ll have to use the costume without it on Midsummer’s Eve.

Monday 14 June 2010

One Sad Shoe

Today was my first day back at work after a very long spring term. It was great, I really like working as a nurse, as I’ve said before. I had the evening shift, and got off at half past nine pm. The sun had not yet set; it had just started to sink behind the hills on the horizon as I waited for the bus. I love the light summer evenings of the Nordic countries. Now I can hear a bird singing in a tree outside my window and another one is answering it.

I took a picture of my sad excuse for a shoe this morning – although not very good, it could have been worse, I suppose. If they can only last this event I’ll be content, and hopefully I’ll get my real, pretty shoes after that.

There has been some concern about my safety when making the pattens, and I appreciate it. I will try my best to be careful, not work on them while tired, annoyed, or afraid of getting hurt. I have days when I can picture injuries too well, and other days when I’m confident I can make something that looks sort of all right. I will choose the latter to work on the pattens. It might be a good idea to invest in some protective gloves as well, huh?

Oh, and I have to apologise to a young girl who wrote a comment on my last post, which I accidentally deleted. I’m sorry! I did appreciate your comment…

Sunday 13 June 2010

A Sad Excuse for Shoes

In three weeks I’ll be going to an event with a late 14th century group I’m hoping to join. I have ordered a pair of shoes from England, but they won’t be arriving in time. My old ones are impossible to wear, being more holes than anything else – a picture of them can be seen in this post. So, there’s nothing to be done but to make a new pair. And I really, really dislike making shoes.

Furthermore, I have a few problems. I have a good material for the soles, but not the uppers. There’s no way I’m wasting good leather on shoes that are just made as a last resort, and would have had really bad uppers. So what I’ll do is making a pair of rather ugly, thin shoes with the other material I have at hand. They won’t be pretty (in fact, the first one is so ugly right now, still wet as it is, that I won’t even post a picture of it just yet), but they’ll be better than nothing at all. It’s a good thing they will mostly be hidden by my skirts.

I made most of the first one yesterday, and even if the material is thin, and I made holes for the sewing beforehand, and using pliers to pull the needles, my hands are so sore today that I could hardly open the right one this morning, and my nails had dug deep into the palm, which really hurt. A piece of the skin on my right little finger is torn of from pulling the thread. The shoe is turned and drying, but I won’t start the other one for a few days yet.

Since the shoes are so thin and could use some protection in case of gravel, asphalt, rain or mud, yesterday I took up an old project again. Some years ago I started making a pair of very basic pattens, but not being very good with wood work, it ended with the ER and three stitches. Yesterday I felt brave (or desperate) enough to start working on them again. It went better this time; at least there has been no shedding of blood so far.

If I had started them now I would have had the front “heel” further back (making the movement of the foot more natural), but I think I’ll be able to walk in a somewhat normal fashion anyway. At least it worked tolerably well when I tied it on yesterday.

The only tools I have for this has been a saw, to get the shape of the soles, and a knife for carving out the heels. Pathetic. Let me tell you, it is hard work for someone with no talent in this area, and probably quite dangerous as well. I’ll try to be careful, and hopefully I'll get them done in time. Right now I feel scared of working with the knife again, imagining every kind of accident that could happen, so we'll see what I'll do...

Wednesday 9 June 2010


All this week I have been studying, and so – no time for sewing. I have been doing a little knitting in the evenings though. Since reports on schoolwork are mildly boring at best, here’s a teaser on the folk costume skirt and apron, taken last week.

The skirt is made of heavily fulled wool and the apron is linen (warp) and wool (weft), woven in a pattern typical of the area and time period. More info and pictures on them will come soon.

Tuesday 8 June 2010

Summer Hymn

Last Sunday in church we sang a beautiful, Swedish hymn, written by Carl David af Wirsén. It’s about the beauty and glory of summer, and the praise that nature give unto the Lord. It is also about how all things in this world will pass, but that we will come to a world that is eternal. It’s a beautiful hymn, and I tried to translate it, but it’s a poor translation - you will however get the meaning of the lyrics. I have illustrated it with pictures taken in my parents garden and close by their home.

En vänlig grönskas rika dräkt
Har smyckat dal och ängar.
Nu smeker vindens ljumma fläkt
De fagra örtesängar.
Och solens ljus
Och lundens sus
Och vågens sorl bland viden
Förkunna sommartiden.

(A rich attire of kindly green
Have adorned the valleys and meadows.
The mild breeze of the wind
Caresses the fair herb gardens.
And the light of the sun,
And the whisper of the grove,
And the murmur of the wave amongst the willow
Declare the summertime)

Sin lycka och sin sommarro
De yra fåglar prisa:
Ur skogens snår, ur stilla bo
Framklingar deras visa.
En hymn går opp
Av fröjd och hopp
Från deras glada kväden,
Från blommorna och träden.

(Their happiness and the peace of summer
Is praised by the giddy birds.
From the thickets in the woods, and the serene nests
Their song resounds.
A hymn ascends
Of joy and hope
From their happy songs
From the flowers and the trees.)

Men du, o Gud, som gör vår jord
Så skön i sommarns stunder,
Giv att jag aktar främst ditt ord
Och dina nådesunder.
Allt kött är hö,
Och blomstren dö,
Och tiden allt fördriver;
Blott Herrens ord förbliver.

(But thou, oh God, who makes our earth
So beautiful in the summertime
Grant that I first esteem thy word
And thy wonders of grace.
All meat is hay,
And the flowers die,
Ant time expels all things;
Only the words of the Lord remain.)

Då må förblekna sommarns glans
Och vissna allt fåfängligt;
Min vän är min och jag är hans,
Vårt band är oförgängligt.
I paradis
Han, huld och vis,
Mig sist skall omplantera,
Där intet vissnar mera.

(Then let the glory of summer fade
And all the vain things wither;
My friend is mine and I am his,
Our bond is unperishable.
In paradise
He, kind and wise,
Will replant me at last
Where nothing ever wilts.)

Thursday 3 June 2010

Folk Costume Bodice

This morning I finished my folk costume bodice. The style is very typical for the south-west corner of the county Skåne, in the very south of Sweden, with its deep front opening (to be laced with a chain through the buckles), the narrow back and shoulder straps and the padded roll to support the skirt. It’s made of silk, lined with unbleached linen. The visible stitching is made with silk threads pulled from the fabric (just because I didn't have the money to buy silk thread at the time), and the lining and roll are sewn with unbleached linen thread. All thread has been waxed for strength. The buckles are also sewn on with the linen thread. The bodice is based on a pattern drafted from an extant bodice.

The bodice could (for the ones who had money enough) be made of silk brocade and trimmed with silk ribbons, but I will as usual keep a lower profile. The buckles might have been made in pewter or silver, sometimes even gilded, all according to wealth. I bought mine second hand, and I’m not sure what they’re made of – they each have two stamped marks on the back, but I have not found any that match them – the fact that I have a problem seeing what the stamps say doesn’t make it easier. Anyway, they do the job.

The stuffed roll at the bottom is sewn in plain in front, gathered at the sides, and again plain in the back, where a seam makes it very small. Not sure why it should be like that, but the original was made that way, so nothing else to be done. When the skirt is worn over the roll, it makes the silhouette very much like the fashionable late 16th century ladies’. It also looks similar to period pictures (1830s) from the area the costume's from, so I suppose I made it right.

A seam is sewn a little bit from the edges, to keep the lining from pulling, just like all the originals I have seen. At the lower front the bodice is closed with three pairs of hooks and eyes that I made from brass wire. The point in front is worn inside the skirt.

The skirt, too, is finished (I think), but it’s too dark now to take pictures of it, so some other day.