Saturday, January 31, 2015

Historical Sew Monthly, January: Foundations

Being worn without an outer layer--I was rather cold...

For the first entry this year, I have a simple undertunic.  Those who know me, know that I tend to play in early medieval Northern Europe, so this was a much needed addition to my wardrobe (all my old undertunics died.  Horribly).  I threw it together a few days before an event, once I remembered that I would need a new one, and did the hand finishing (sewing down the yoke and cuffs) in the car on the way to the event, as well as late that night while partying.

The pattern is simple—two body pieces seamed at the shoulders (it would have been one long one, but I wanted the stripes running lengthwise on the garment), two sets of gores, and two trapezoidal sleeves.  The gores were made approximately as wide and long as I could.  I may stitch rip, then inset gussets in the underarm at some point in the future.

I chose the off center keyhole neck for practical purposes—to minimize skin being shown when wearing more than one layer.  In addition, it was also chosen as a medieval Russian style (where they show up in the Pskov manuscript, 12th century[Kies]), since this garment is intended to be worn with that outfit as well.

There is running and stab stitching around the neck, yoke, and cuffs.  The stab stitching helps support and stiffen the fabric.  I cannot document the use of linen fabric trim on a wool garment--it comes under the category of "possible, but we'll never know", since linen would not survive in the same environment as an extant, early period, wool garment [Huisman, pp.88].

The hem was sewn as a rolled hem.  While I chose that stitch for ease of sewing while traveling, before looking up the accuracy, I am pleased I found that several finds from Viking age York (silk headdresses, primarily) which use the stitch [Varangian, pp. 20].  While that doesn't mean the rolled hem stitch was used to hem a tunic, I do feel that the material was fine enough to call for it.

The Challenge: Foundations.

Fabric:  A lightweight tabby woven wool, and linen trim.

Pattern: Geometric—my own.

Year: Up to the 14th century, depending on location. Mainly 12th and prior.

Notions:  None

How historically accurate is it?:  So, so.  The wool is fine, as is the pattern.  The style and material for trim was chosen for practical purposes—the linen going across the shoulders re-enforces the neck and shoulder seams (as does the trim at the cuffs) so it doesn’t wear out as quickly.  Maybe…60-65%, being as it was a quick project, and was mostly machine sewn (but hand finished).

Hours to complete: 6-8ish--I didn't really pay attention on this project. 

First worn:  Winter Coronet (January 17/18, 2015)

Total cost:  Unknown.  The materials were from my stash.

Closeup of the stitching at the neckline.

Rolled hem, inside and out.
Worn under the Moselund Kirtle.  You can see my entry peeking out at the center front and neckline.

Brief Bibliography:

Kies, Lisa. Men's Layer 1 in Early Rus. <>[Accessed 1-31-15] (paragraph 3)

New Varangian Guard. Stitches and Seam techniques. <> [Accessed 1-31-15] (pp. 20)

Huisman, Hans.  Degradation of Archaeological Remains.  (Sdu Uitgevers b.v; Den Haag, 2009) <>[Accessed 12-1-2014] (pp. 88) 

© John Frey, 2015. The Author of this work retains full copyright for this material. Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this document for non-commercial private research or educational purposes provided the copyright notice and this permission notice are preserved on all copies.  Photographs of my work may not be duplicated.

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