Thursday 13 April 2017

Easter Witch

Last year I wrote this on my private Facebook page, and since I made a broomstick last summer I've been planning to take pictures to match the text. Last Saturday I did.

"In parts of Sweden and Finland it's rumoured that on the 
Thursday before Easter - "Skärtorsdag" - the witches travel 
to Blåkulla to feast with the devil. That is of course rubbish, 
a story made up by Muggles to explain something they fear
 and don't understand. There are in fact lots of brooms in 
the air around Easter, as the annual (and mostly friendly) 
Quidditch match between Sweden and Finland takes place 
Easter weekend, a tradition going back to the late 1700's. 
One would hope that not too many brooms are spotted* though, 
what with the International Statue of Secrecy and all that..."

The post led to discussions on how it began as a national game (Finland had long been a part of Sweden by the late 18th century), and when Finland became Russian, the match was kept as a way to preserve friendliness despite the Muggle wars and politics. By now it's been going on for so long it's unthinkable to stop. Whether or not a certain 18th century Muggle war was the horrid result of arguments over World Cup tickets, or are nothing but slander, also came up.

My outfit was inspired by the way in which Swedish Easter withes (påskärringar) are often depicted, like lower class women from about the turn of the last century. Of course witches don't wear such styles today, but you know I like to dress up historically. I wore my insanely pieced dress, a quilted petticoat, knitted mitts and stockings, a headkerchief, an apron from my kitchen, and a piece of fabric for a small shawl. Besides the broom I also carried a copper coffee pot, often seen in images of Easter witches. One needs a refresher if the Quidditch game gets long, and April in the North is often cold.

*Especially important as Swedish Muggle Police said they'd be keeping a lookout for airborne nuisance and other nasty things this weekend. Just a head's up ;)

Saturday 1 April 2017

Hankasärk II - A Swedish Folk Costume Shift

Some years ago I made a hankasärk, a sleeveless shift from the very South of Sweden, to wear with my folk costume. Now I’m working on a Ca 1810 everyday version of that folk costume for an event I hope to attend in a few weeks, and need a new hankasärk. The old one is a bit too loosely woven for my taste, and a smidge tight. In the beginning of March I made a new one, but I never got round to blogging about it until now.

I had the cover of an old mattress, probably used in the early/mid 20th century in a military or hospital setting. It was made from a very sturdy, handwoven linen, and though it was stained here and there and had a few unsightly mends, I thought I could get a hankasärk from it. The densely woven fabric, with nice selvedges, was too good to pass up.

I had a 1:10 scale pattern, taken from an extant hankasärk, that I used as a guide when making my first one, so I knew what the pattern pieces should look like, and I looked at pictures of extant hankasärkar to see what similarities and variations there were. I then decided on the measurements for mine, measured on the fabric, and cut to a thread. All the pieces are rectangles of various sizes: one for the front and back (there are no shoulder seams), one in each side, two narrow ones to form the waistband, and four to make up the skirt. In the originals there are usually three skirt panels, but my fabric was a bit narrower than the ones originally used, so I chose to use four to get a similar width in the finished garment.

The bodice part is made up with back stitches, with all seams neatly felled to one side. I then hemmed the sides, that would be arm openings. After doing this I discovered that I’d sewn one side inside out – oops. Several friends advised me to let it be; similar mistakes are seen in extant shifts. I pondered what to do while working on the skirt part, and then unpicked the armhole hem that was inside out, and stitched it again, to the right side this time. I left the side seams be though: they were discreet enough not to bug me. All seams and hems were made as narrow as the fabric would allow.

The skirt panels had neat selvedges, so to make maximum use of the width, I whip stitched them together. This made almost completely flat seams when pressed. As I have upcycled the material, there are holes from the previous seams, but hopefully they’ll mostly go away in the wash. 

The skirt is attached to the waistband with stroked gathers. They turned out a bit less tight than I’d wanted (I might be  bit wider than the original wearers, or I didn't do the gathers fine enough), but it’s acceptable. 

The waistband and bodice (with all edges, including the bottom, hemmed) were then joined by whip stitching.

I managed to avoid the worst stains when cutting out the hankasärk, but there are still a few fainter ones. I decided not to let them bother me though. There were also the few holes that had been mended by machine. Though reasonably well done, machine mending on a shift I intend to be from well before a proper sewing machine was invented just wouldn’t do. I unpicked the mending, and redid it by mending a larger hole with a patch, and two smaller ones by sewing/weaving linen thread over them. These flaws make the shift look well worn and cared for, something I don’t mind at all. There’s no fun in looking all sparkling new, like you wore a fancy costume instead of proper clothes, especially not in a lower class living history setting.

For all sewing I used linen thread that I strengthened with bees wax. For the monogram – common in large households in a time were all linens looked more or less the same – I used cotton embroidery floss. Most people in early 19th century Sweden used patronymic surnames, so the first letter stood for the person’s first name, the second for their father’s first name, and the third for son/daughter. It’s a practice still used in folk costumes. You can also see the seam that ended up wrong side out.

This will be my first entry in this years’ Historical Sew Monthly. It could have fit under February’s 'Re-Make, Re-Use, Re-Fashion'but obviously it was too late for that, so instead I’ll put it under April’s ’Circles, Squares and Rectangles’.

The Challenge: #4 Circles, Squares and Rectangles.

Material: Handwoven linen.

Pattern: Based off of period examples.

Year: Ca 1800-1850.

Notions: Linen thread, bee's wax, cotton floss.

How historically accurate is it? Pretty close in both material,construction and sewing.

Hours to complete: No idea.

First worn: Hopefully at an event in a few weeks.

Total cost: About 50 SEK (5,25 Euro, £4,49, $5,6), not counting the work.