Friday 12 July 2013

A 14th Century Buttoned Cote

A few weeks ago I finished Tobias’ new cote. It’s made from a soft green wool fabric, and has 34 buttons down the front and 13 on each sleeve. That makes 60 hand made cloth buttons and hand stitched buttonholes in total. 

The cote is made to be worn as outerwear, so it’s a bit longer, and wider in the body and sleeves than his other one, but the look is rather fashionable for the late 14th or early 15th century. I placed the buttons tight over the chest and more spaced from the waist down, as in this one from about 1360.

Walter de Heylon, died 1357 or so.

The most interesting feature of this garment is the tablet woven edges on the sleeves. I’ve been planning to tablet weave on clothing for a couple of years, but never got round to do more than a trial run until now. I used two tablets with all holes threaded, so a total of eight one ply wool threads. I don't recomend that; the weft tread kept breaking, which was very annoying.

In the end it turned out very nice indeed and was quite easy (apart from the breaking thread issue). I can’t believe I’ve not tried it before this. Well, actually I can: it’s down to the two facts that it’s a bit of a hassle setting up the warp and that “everyone” is putting tablet woven edges on “everything”. It’s beginning to feel like a reenactorism. At least there is plenty of evidence for woven edges next to sleeves’ buttonholes, so I don’t feel bad about that.

Don’t have much to add on this one. It’s hand sewn with unbleached linen thread, as most of our other medieval clothes. It’s one of those projects that caused some problems along the way (the sleeves just wouldn’t do what I wanted them to) but turns out acceptable in the end. It will do very well for cold weather wear.

I’m working on some body linens for a friends son (they will go in the HSF “white” challenge), but apart from that I’m taking a break from historic sewing. I have been feeling stretched thin by too many things to do; giving my family and home enough attention, a school paper, wanting to do something about my woefully neglected modern wardrobe, all the period clothes I wanted to make and all the events I wanted to attend, my other (a beginner’s guide to the Middle Ages) blog that needs a lot of research and work. I had to drop something. At the moment I try to dedicate my mornings to school (Tobias is on paternity leave all summer and takes care of B), my afternoons to my family and some modern sewing, and my evenings to my husband, modern sewing or occasional blogging. I have several future historic projects planned, but for the time being they will have to wait. It’s time to get my priorities right.

Anyway. Though it’s finished a bit early I thought I’d enter this to one of the HSF challenges.

The Challenge: # 16 Separates

Wool, and linen for the facings.

Made my own.

Late 14th century.

Notions: Linen thread.

How historically accurate is it?
Tolerably. It looks sort of right, and it’s made using period cutting and sewing techniques.

Hours to complete:
No idea.

First worn:
For the event two weeks ago.

Total cost:
Not sure, the fabric’s been in my stash for a couple of years.

Sunday 7 July 2013

A Medieval Paternoster

I’ve been needing things for little B to play with at events (I’ll bring some of his books and such as well, but I’d like to avoid them being seen by visitors during opening hours), and when the Historical Sew Fortnightly had an Eastern Influence challenge I decided to make a paternoster. 

A paternoster is not a toy, obviously, but a means of counting your prayers. From what little I’ve read about it, they was first used (by Christians – in Hinduism it’s been around longer) by desert dwelling hermits, called the Desert Fathers/Mothers in the 4th century or so. First it was only loose pebbles in a bag, but it soon evolved into beads on a string. I’m not Catholic, so I don’t use one when praying, but I very well might have had I lived in the Middle Ages. For me to have one therefore makes perfect sense. Even though it’s not meant as a toy, I think B might like to play with it nonetheless, under proper supervision. We don’t want a case of suffocation by prayer beads…

I bought a necklace made from wood beads in a charity shop, and as there were three sizes of beads, it would supply both the smaller Ave Maria beads and the larger Pater Noster beads.

I made the string from a three strand finger loop braid in wool. I put a tassel in each end – I chose not to tie the string up into a circlet, as they seem to have been less common during my period. 

The number of beads in paternosters seems to have varied greatly, from one decade (ten beads) up to hundreds. Mine have twenty of the smaller beads, and two of the greater. 

I’d have preferred a brighter colour on the yarn, and silk instead of wool, but this was the only yarn both thin and strong enough I had at home. Now, I’m rather partial to it.

The Challenge: # 14 Eastern Influence

Thin, two ply wool.


Generic late medieval.

Notions: Wooden beads.

How historically accurate is it?
Acceptable. Prayer beads, according to the internet, could be made in anything from stone, wood and dried seeds, to gold, precious stones and ivory. Silk for the string might have been more fashionable and durable, but wool was more affordable – and I had it at home.

Hours to complete:
One at the most.

First worn:
For the picture.

Total cost:
Just counting the necklace, 10 SEK ($1,5; £1; €1,1).

Thursday 4 July 2013

Medieval Pilgrims Satchel

I worked so hard to get my families new things finished for the event I mentioned in my last post, but to paraphrase Jane Austen “our intended excursion to Wadk√∂ping turned out very differently from what I’d expected. I was prepared to be wet through, fatigued…. ; but the event was still more unfortunate, for we did not go at all.” That is, little B and I didn’t go, as he got ill. Tobias went up on Friday afternoon, but came home again on Saturday evening to help me with the poor sick child. Little B’s been really ill, with huge, painful blisters in his mouth, and gums swelling so heavy his teeth almost disappeared from view, and it has prevented him eating very much at all. When he’s been so hungry he couldn’t help but eat, he did so crying from the pain. It was truly heart wrenching to witness. Naturally we went to the doctor, but as it was a virus there wasn’t much they could do. Now, after eight days of fever, he’s slowly on the mend – thankfully! He can eat again without more than the occasional whimper and is moving from liquids to soft solids, only has fever in the evenings, and can find things amusing once in a while. He’s still more sensitive than he usually is though.

Unfortunately Tobias and I are coming down with it now. I’ve had a fever for a couple of days, and I have a very sore throat. Bleh. So, pictures of the new tunic I finished for Tobias in time for the event will have to wait until we both feel better.

I have however managed to sew something during this last couple of days when B’s been getting better, and I’ve been getting worse: a medieval pilgrim’s satchel. (Isn’t satchel a nice word by the way? Just listen to it: satchel...) I have mixed feelings about them, as they are far more common in the living history world than they appear to have been at the time. Then, they seem to have onlybeen used by people during travelling, like pilgrims, but so many people of today feel the need to carry a lot of things with them, and must have something like their modern purse. I usually don't carry a lot of things with me, once I've left all my things in our tent all I have is my belt pouch. But having something more to pack in for events, and to carry the now needed child related things in, is important enough for me to have made one. It will be a good complement to baskets.

It’s made from rather heavy wool twill scraps I had in my stash, with white yarn in the warp and brown in the weft. Wool is a good choice for bags and purses, as it keeps the contents reasonably dry, unlike linen. Leather would have been even better, but I don’t have any I want to use for this.

The body of the satchel is made from one piece, and the strap from another. The satchel is about 30 cm wide and 32 cm deep. I made the strap rather short, as they often appear to be so in period art. I also find it more comfortable and balanced.

from Grace of God, late 14th century or early 15th century.

I had planned to tablet weave it together with blue wool yarn, but the fabric frayed too much for it to work. Instead it’s stitched together using waxed linen thread and trimmed it with wool braid. I also added tassels, which is a common feature in medieval bags and purses, including pilgrims’ satchels. 

I could have lined it, making it even prettier (I'm not thrilled about how it looks on the inside of the lid) and more sturdy, but I didn’t have any fabric I wanted to use for this, and I’m working from materials in my stash as much as possible at the moment. Still, all in all I'm pleased with how it turned out.

So that’s another of this summer’s planned projects I can cross of the to do list.