Friday 10 February 2012

An Old Shift and a New Pair of Socks

After finishing the pillow cases I posted about before, I decided to make nursing slits in one of my medieval shifts. You can sometimes see nursing slits in period art, situated on the dress in front of each breast, and as you have to be able to gain access through the shift as well, I decided to make some in mine. I put them slightly to the side, to prevent the breasts from poking through. I have heard of reenactors making one deep slit in front, or a neck opening wide enough to pull down, as well as nursing slits, but for me, this seems the most discreet and warm method – I wouldn’t want to risk blocked milk ducts…. (I had it last week, and it was unpleasant, I felt really ill, and it hurt!) As my dresses laces in front I think I’ll be able to wear them unaltered while nursing.

I made the nursing slits by simply cutting a slit where I wanted it (following the grain of the fabric exactly to prevent stretching), cutting a corresponding slit in a narrow strip of linen, folding each under three millimetres or so, and whipping them together. I then sewed the outer edges of the strip to the shift. I suppose you could just sew buttonhole or blanket stitches around the edges of the slits, or make simple hems, but this seemed the best method to make them strong as well as preventing them from gaping more than necessary. I’ll let you know how they work out in action.

Right side of nursing slit

Wrong side of nursing slit

This past week’s project has been a pair of needlebound (nålbundna) socks for Tobias. They’re made from wool yarn, bought at an outrageously low price at our local grocery store of all places. This is my second pair of needlebound socks, and I think these turned out better than the first pair. Not perfect though, the heel on one of them turned out a bit funny, but it won’t affect the fit that much. I think my needlebinding will improve with practice though, I felt I understood the technique much better this time. We have not yet decided if we will full them or not.

I love my wooden needle, it's a joy to work with :)

I have a long list of things I want to do now, but although I may have time to sew by hand or needlebind when little B is sleeping close to me, he sometimes find it hard to come to rest if not in my lap. That effectively prevents me from doing more advanced things, like drafting patterns, cutting out new dresses or machine sew, so we’ll see what the future may give me opportunity to work on.


  1. I didn't comment on your post about your pillows yet, and now you have yet another post up! Lovely work on everything. . .the nursing slits look so practical and handy! I will have to do the same, I think, as my shift neck is not big enough to pull down without it pulling oddly and then everything having to be rearranged afterwards!

    I love the needlebound socks. How long does it take you to make a pair of needlebound socks? Is the technique difficult to learn?

  2. It took me just over a week to make theese, and as I said it's my second pair. Difficult? A bit tricky if you can't have it demonstrated, but easy enough once you get it. Luckily there is a good website explaining, and linking to videos of how to make the different stitches:

    It's a Finnish site, but all information is in English, or I wouldn't have understood a thing :)

  3. Really interesting post. It's unusual (though it totally shouldn't be) to consider breast feeding modifications to historical garments. Thanks for the lightbulb moment! :)


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