Friday 10 July 2015

14th Century Kirtle Makeover

I’ve been meaning to give my maroon kirtle a makeover for a long time. I wanted long sleeves, instead of the short ones. As so often happens, it didn’t get done until just before the event, when I realised that, due to breastfeeding related reasons, my yellow kirtle just would not close. Something I'd only wished to do now became absolutely necessary.  I removed the short sleeves just a few days before the event, cut out new ones, and began to stitch as fast as I could. 

But then I decided I wanted quite a few buttons – the quality and colour of the fabric is really rather nice, so I might as well give it the most fashionable trait of the century. 

I made twenty-four small (less than a centimetre in diameter) cloth buttons, a round dozen for each sleeve. Here’s an illustration of the whole progress of button making.

When we went to the event I still had a few button holes left to sew, which I did when only the one-year-old and myself were awake of all the camp.

I had pictures taken by Andrea, and as I planned to submit the made over dress to the manuscript challenge, I did my best to imitate the inspiration image. The veil is a bit too long, but it will have to do. In the inspiration image you can't see the front of her dress, nor if there are any buttons on the sleeves. Most likely the dress is one that pulls on over the head, but as you can't tell for sure, I call it good anyway. Same with the sleeves.

Stained glass window of Adam and Eve working. It was made in the late 14th century, 
and was originally from Marienkirche, Frankfurt an der Oder, Germany
but after WWII it was taken by the Soviet Union and is now in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.
Though I forgot which way she was turned, I still think it ended up rather nice. Thanks to Vix for lending me her distaff and spindle. I'm afraid I made a mess of her work. I'm a decent enough spinner on a beginner's level, but I haven't figured out how to work with the distaff yet.

I am a bit disappointed that I didn’t get the greyish-blue kyrtil made for hubby, but sometimes life does not co-operate. I did achieve half the challenge anyway.

Wednesday 8 July 2015

14th Century Child's Shoes

Now I’m back from the medieval event, and it will be mentioned in a few posts, as I didn’t have time before to blog about all the things I made for it. If you want to see pictures now, you can go to my groups Facebook page.

My one year old could use his brother’s old shoes, though being a wee bit too large, but my three year old needed new ones. I have been to this event before, and know the terrain. Though our usual camp spot is grassy and pleasant, you have to walk on both cobblestones and gravel to reach the bathrooms. Also, there’s no knowing what the weather will be like, not to mention the possible danger of sharp objects. So I had to make him shoes.

 His old shoes were boots, which were secure enough to stay put even on small toddler feet, but now he’s old enough not to kick of his shoes by accident. I decided to make him a small version of the Bocksten Bog man’s shoes, dated to the 14th century. It’s a model I’ve made before, so I had an idea about how the pattern pieces should look. Now, I’m decidedly not a shoemaker, so if you are proficient at this, brace yourself. If you have any handy advice, please share. I hope to become a decent shoemaker sometime in future.

First I traced his foot on a piece of paper, and then used that to draw a sole. I drew an upper to. I made a mock-up from them - too small. The second attempt, seen here, worked well, with minor alterations.

And this was the final pattern.

 I used leather I had at home, 1 millimetre for the uppers, and 2 millimetres for the soles.

I put a welt between the sole and upper as I sewed, for strength and durability.

I also stitched a piece of leather to support the back of the shoe. Not puncturing the right side of the leather uppers was tricky, but I only messed up once.

Medieval shoes were really sewn on a last, like this one (number 5) for a child’s shoe in Malmö Museer, but I’m not there yet. I’m terrible with woodwork.

 I did try one thing to get closer to historical accuracy though: I did not use needles when sewing. In period, the waxed linen thread was twisted round a bristle, but as I don’t have any, I used fishing line instead, as advised by Sofia and Henrik. It took a bit of practice – at first it wouldn’t work at all, but after more advice and practice, it worked quite well, and I can see it working excellently with more practice.
In short, and to my understanding, this is how it works: you take your linen thread, and unravel the ends a bit, and pluck at the ends to make them uneven. You wax the thread, and twist it, with its unravelled ends, round the fishing line, which has been sandpapered for friction. The plucked, uneven ends of the thread makes the transition from thread to line smooth, and will slide through the holes made by the awl easy enough. This makes for smaller holes than a doubled thread and needle would require, and in shoes, this is a good thing.

 I believe that to be more accurate, I should have let the holes in the soles be at an angle, from inside to the side of the sole, instead of straight trough from inside to outside, but I decided one new thing was enough for his project, for which I had some time pressure. I’m keen to try to make angled stitches though, they make for a much smoother and more elegant result.

After sewing was finished, I dipped the shoes in water to make them more flexible (of course the shoes were also wet when I stitched them), and then turned them, letting them dry with rolled up pieces of terry cloth in them to keep their shape. I then greased the shoes (which darkened them a lot – rather nice, I think), added laces, and they were ready to go. 

 They were finished before the deadline of the HSM challenge #6 – Out of Your Comfort Zone.

The Challenge: # 6 - Out of Your Comfort Zone

Fabric: 1 millimetre leather for the uppers, 2 millimetre for the soles.

Pattern: Drafted and draped my own, based on period shoes.

Year: 14th century

Notions: Linen thread.

How historically accurate is it? OK, I suppose – I don’t think it would stand out too much if sent back in time, though likely seen as the early work of an apprentice. There are a couple of period techniques that I did not use, and of course that affect the result. Still, one point to me for giving up sewing with needles!

Hours to complete: Not sure, possibly about 20.

First worn: At a medieval event last weekend.

Total cost: Not sure how much it would have been if the materials were bought new, but at this time it didn’t cost me anything, as everything was in my stash.