Friday, May 1, 2015

1370s Blue Cottehardie. HSM: April - War and Peace.

The Project:
This project is a men’s cotehardie, from the 1370s.  I wanted a garment which would work equally well for outdoors (“hunting”) and for less formal functions—not court clothing, but certainly not low class, either.  It is somewhat more modest in length than the average for that time—however, as you can see in the German Effigy, not everyone wore garments which showed off the majority of your legs.

Base Sources:
              I based the garment on several illustrations from the period.  A couple illuminations of soldiers (or one soldier), and a German effigy.  I don’t believe there actually are any finds of this kind of garment, beyond the Charles du Bloise pourpoint[i] (which is a silk gold brocade).

BNF Nouvelle acquisition française 15939 Miroir Historial (Vol 1) Folio 122r

Garment Description:
              This garment is a cotte or cotehardie, the second and main layer of men’s clothing in the 14th century.  Cotehardies are somewhat short—ranging from high-knee to mid thigh in length, generally getting shorter as the century progresses.  They are typically closely fitted (depending on personal preference, like length) and getting closer fitting as the century progresses—at least until the sleeves begin to loosen in the 1380s (the body still remains close and short).  It is not exactly a low class garment—other than the skills required to make something this closely fitted being  somewhat specialized, close fitting garments by their nature waste fabric.  It appears that they were at least occasionally quilted.
BNF Nouvelle acquisition latine 3093 Très Belles Heures de Notre Dame de Jean de Berry Folio 189
Dating  1380
Notice the Quilted cottehardie.
              Men’s cottehardies typically feature large quantities of buttons—the main source of decoration, other than perhaps a luxurious silk brocade being used for the garment.  In general, cottes would button all the way down the front, as well as on the sleeves (sometimes up past the elbows[ii]!), although examples of non-buttoning sleeves are evident in artwork (however, I cannot discard the possibility that the artist simply chose to leave them off, or that they are just not visible due to the angle). 

              The pattern is deceptively simple, since I decided to not use the Charles de Blois (CdB).  There is essentially a back piece, two fronts, and the one piece sleeves (with a gusset in the back).  That is it; no gores.  All the shaping is at the side seams and front opening.
Charles de Blois Body.  From Here.
              Even though I chose not to use the CbD pattern, I did use it as the basis, simplifying it and eliminating the Grande aissette sleeve style.  Not only is the majority of the narrowing for the waist at the side seam, but it is at the back-side seam—the front-side seam is straight, at least until it begins to flare out.  The front edges curve out at the chest, in at the waist, and then slants out slightly to the hem.

My Goals:
              My goal in this was to make a garment to my taste which uses all (almost all) period correct material, and the period correct methods of construction.  I was also trying to get fairly close to the inspiration images.  I chose this style because I have actually always wanted an outfit from this period—I think it looks good on me.  I originally was trying to make this for the Historical Sew Monthly Blue Challenge, back in January…obviously, I did not succeed, but determined that it could work for the War and Peace challenge as well, since one of my documentation pictures is of a soldier.

              The main fabric is a 100% wool, twill woven, flannel—the fabric is left over from my “Viking” poofy pants, in fact (which I made several years ago, and have been saving the fabric for this project).  The fabric has been somewhat fulled by washing.  Lining is a medium weight 100% linen, tabby woven.  It seems to me that the majority of the garments from this period (at least in Northern Europe, where my interests are) are made of wool, and so that is the best option.  General consensus of the Re-enacting community is that cottes need to be lined in a less stretchy material—which would be usually be linen—to prevent distortion.  Theoretically, a fabric which is far denser would hold up without the lining; my material sadly does not quality.

              The threads are where I fail.  The majority of the construction is a bleached white cotton thread—the period would be linen.  The buttonholes and finish work should have been stitched in a dyed silk thread—again, I chose cotton.
              The main reason is availability—linen and silk threads are not available in my town.  I could have ordered them online, but chose not to for my own reasons.  In addition, I really dislike doing plain sewing with linen thread—I’ve found it breaks far too often, even when heavily waxed; after being sewn, it is also nearly indistinguishable from the cotton of the same shade.  I do admit that a top quality linen thread probably would not have the breakage issues.

              The majority of the construction was with a fine running (or technically, stab stitch, which I prefer) stitch.  In certain areas—the elbows and around the armscye, mostly—I used a fine backstitch for strength.  Both stitches are common to the period, although theoretically in the case of the back stitch.[iii]  The seam allowances were then felled to either side with a whip-stitch going only through the linen flatlining, thus encasing the linen, which easily frays. 
              The exception is the seam up the back of the sleeve—in that case, the seam allowance is graded, and felled in one direction (towards the top), and I turned the linen (which was on top of the layers) and felled it separately.  For the first part, there is documentation in WitE[iv], but the method for finishing the linen separately is my own.
Stab stitched then felled.  Ignore the basting stitches.

              The neckline and cuffs are bound, in the same wool as the shell.  Evidence of bound edges is somewhat inconclusive, and not particularly common, but does exist[v].  I chose to do this primarily because I did not leave enough of a seam allowance to turn it under and use a facing.

              The front and sleeve facings are linen, and are there to provide a extra layer to help stiffen the openings.  I stitched them on with a fine stab stitch on the outside (both the wool and linen turned under), and an overcast stitch on the inside. 
              In surviving period example of facings (often the only recognizable part), the facing is often (but not always) a fine silk.  I chose not to, not because I don’t have a silk which would work, but because that fabric is earmarked for another project.
Front facing.  The puckering is due to using a straight strip (there is no evidence of bias cut facings) on a curve.
  The hem is somewhat unique, and I’m not sure how accurate it is with the two stitches together.  I turned the linen flatlining under, and carefully hemstitched it, making sure not to go all the way through the wool.  I then treated the raw woolen edge with singling, a stitch found in the Herjoflsnes finds that helps support a raw edge[vi].  Singling is essentially a cross stitch…running through the threads of the fabric and emerging with small stitches on the right side and edge of the material.  I chose to use this method because it would provide maximum durability, while allowing the fabric to remain flexible (which I am afraid it would not have, if I had turned the wool.
              It now occurs to me that I should have done a flexibility test with single turning the wool under to cover the linen, then hemstitching that…
Singling.  You can't see the stitches, but can see the effect.

Drafting the Pattern:
              As I addressed earlier, I went off of the CdB pattern.  In all, the garment has very little ease, at least down to hip level, so drafting is fairly easy when you know the desired shape (which I did).  In addition, I have made a CdB gambeson in the past, and so was able to go off of that.  I found that by not including the horizontal waist seam in the back, it (other than making it difficult to get the waist close enough) gave me ease to bend over without the back hem riding up.  I went through two mockups for this garment.
My worksheet, used to figure out the pattern before using fabric.

              It did take a couple of tries to get the flaring and skirt circumference correct.  Again, you want most of the hem to be towards the back, otherwise it messes with the lines by causing the seam to stand out at the sides.  Likewise for the flare in the front opening—it really needs to be almost minimal and not go out much further than the chest curve.

The front.
              Something interesting I found was that the back shoulder seam ended up being a full half inch larger than the front shoulder seam—this is something you do see on modern coats (handmade ones, anyways) to provide room for your back muscles to expand and move.  I began to frantically research (thoroughly enjoying the process), searching through the images in Medieval Garments Reconstructed (which covers the Herjolfsnes finds), and Patterns of Fashion (which is 16th century clothing).  I measured the shoulders in the majority of the garment patterns (using the extant outline in Medieval Garments) and found that the difference between front and back was not unknown, in either source (in PoF it was more common on a certain type of doublet—unfortunately I cannot remember what, did not note it down, and currently cannot find it on my FB timeline, where I had a discussion on the subject.  I suspect it had to do with the decorations and whether matching pattern/trim at the shoulder seam was wanted).
The back, on the fold.

              The sleeves were a good bit more difficult.  I knew I wanted one piece sleeves, which contain what I call an “elbow pocket”, and have a gusset.  It also needed to have a fairly shallow cap, to allow more movement.  The other challenge was that the hindseam needed to go over the top of the elbow, rather than over the point (which could be uncomfortable).  In part, I based my theories on the CdB, but mainly on the G63, from the Herjolfsnes find.  Because there needed to be an elbow pocket, the sleeve needed to be slightly wider at that point, so I curved it out—on the underside of the sleeve.  This actually worked quite well, although I did use too much of an angle coming down to the wrist, so the seam is slightly under the arm at that point, rather than being where it should (over the ulna).  Discussing the topic of  sleeves with a co-conspirator, we came to the conclusion that the wrist of the sleeve should be centered on the sleevehead (assuming the hindseam is in a line with the elbow, or would be if not slightly modified).

G63 sleeve

Blue cottehardie sleeve.

              Construction was actually fairly simple.  After drafting and testing my mockups, then cutting the real fabrics, I basted.  On every single piece, immediately after being cut out, I basted all around the edges to keep the linen and wool together.
              Side seams were sewn, then the shoulder seams.  I then cut the sleeves out—it is my practice to wait until it is time for them to go in, in case modifications need to be made. 
At this point I checked the fit of the shoulder (more basting) and found that somehow the back got widened by approximately 2-3 inches—so the shoulder seam was not where it was supposed to be (I suspect it was due to cutting on the fold with a springy fabric).  I discovered this when I basted the sleeves in and found them too long, even though their measurements were correct.  The offending material was removed (after a due amount of procraftinating), and the sleeve fitted back in.  I also had to take in the side seam by ½ inch total (on each side) because when that seam is not close enough to the body it affects how well you can raise your arm.
Front facings were next, followed by the sleeve facings, and binding the neckline. 

The most enjoyable (I am actually not being sarcastic) part was next—making the cloth buttons.  I used the standard method[vii], slightly modified.  Rather than cutting circles—which takes longer, and wastes fabric—I use squares.  The standard method is to take your little squares, run a circular line of running stitches around the edges, and pull the thread to gather.  You use a bodkin to tuck the corners into the little pocket thus formed, then gather the edges together again, and run stitching across repeatedly until they are round.  The front buttons are made of 3.5cm squares of the wool, giving a 12mm finished button size (approximately); the sleeve buttons are from ¾ inch squares (before being trimmed of the fuzz), and gave a 7mm button size.   

Based on the London finds, the sleeve buttons are on the upper end of find sizes, with 3-6mm[viii] being common.  My front buttons on the other hand are average to the upper end, based on buttonhole size[ix]—however, round buttons for the front don’t seem to have been found, just flat cloth buttons (which are slightly to quite a bit larger).  I cannot imagine how a 3mm cloth button can be made.

From Textiles and Clothing.

Once all the buttons were made, it was time for the buttonholes.  For the front opening, I decided to use ¾ inch intervals down to the hips, then 1.25 inch intervals from there to the hem.  These measurements were decided mainly by aesthetics.  The sleeve buttons are at ½ inch intervals, again for aesthetics (and because I really didn’t want to do more)—this is conservative compared to many examples (which would have approximately twice as many buttonholes)[x].
Sleeve buttonholes.  I made the sleeve buttonholes rather large, actually.  This was intentional--if I made them the correct size, I might not have been able to actually button it when worn.

Front buttonholes, somewhere near the waist.

I followed the tutorial on Cotte Simple for construction.  There are several differences between medieval buttons, and more modern (or completely modern ones), chiefly that there is no radial stitching on the ends, much less a punched hole.  The threads are not packed right next to each other—there are small gaps—, and there is no evidence of bar tacks on the ends or stitching to hold the layers in place while stitching[xi].  The last set of differences is that they seem to be worked from the wrong side of the fabric, with the needle entering the fabric at an angle towards the slit, which it then comes up through (and the stitch is completed).  This is based on the observation that the visible stitches are far wider on the wrong side of the garment.
From Textiles and Clothing.
Modern (say, starting in the 1700s) buttonholes are worked from the right side, with the needle being worked through the slit, then up through the fabric; the stitches are always packed tightly with no gaps.  Sometime in the Victorian era the hole was added for the button stem.  I have not yet studied Renaissance buttonholes, so cannot speak for differences with them.
For those curious.  Top: 1840 Frock coat
Bottom: 1750 Justaucorps

I stitched the buttons on after finishing the buttonholes—that task is fairly simple; just run a thread multiple times between the bottom of the button and the edge of the fabric, then wrap the stem.
Finished front buttons.  Basting threads still in place.
A sleeve.
The last step was to hem, in two stages, then cleanup (removing all basting stitches).

What I learned:
              This was actually a fun project, however much I may have been complaining about parts of it.  In the process, I learned more about buttonholes; the whole thing with the differences between front and back shoulders.  The way for making tiny buttons (that works for me, at least)—I should experiment with how small I can make them…

What I’d do differently:
              Not much, actually.  The hem is one possible major exception.  The other is to pay more attention—I made a major mistake due to…to be honest, stupidity; I will discuss this in an appendix.  I also probably should have made the armcye slightly larger.

Now I need chausses and a plaque belt...

Ah, yes.  Alaskan pale--an eye blinding white...

Trying to be an effigy.

 Historical Sew Monthly

The Challenge:  April – War and Peace.  This garment is from firmly in the middle of the 100 Years War, right after the first peace ended.  In addition, one of my source illuminations is of a soldier.

Fabric:  Wool and linen.

Pattern: My own, based on the Charles du Blois.

Year: 1370s

Notions:  Thread (embroidery floss)

How historically accurate is it?: 96% or so.  As said above, the fabrics, methods of construction, and (theoretically) pattern are period correct.  The threads, on the other hand, are not.

Hours to complete:  71 hours, 45 minutes.  This does not include drafting and mockups.

First worn:  Not yet.

Total cost:  Maybe 40-50 US dollars?  The wool was from my stash and cost 10-15$ a yard (I think). 3 yards of linen at 5$ a yard was purchased specifically for this project.


Crowfoot, Elizabeth; Pritchard, Frances; Staniland, Kay.  Textiles and Clothing 1150-1450. Boydell Press, revised edition (2004).  Abbreviation: Textiles

Ostergard, Else.  Woven into the Earth. Aarhus University Press, 2nd edition (2009).  Abbreviation: WitE

Fransen, Lilli; Norgaard, Anna; Ostergard, Else.  Medieval Garments Reconstructed.  Aarhus University Press,  (2011).  Abbreviation: Recon

Arnold, Janet.  Patterns of Fashion 3. Quite Specific Media Group, Ltd (1985).  Abbreviation: PoF

Tremayne, Merouda.  14th Century Garment Construction Techniques.  [Accessed 4-30-15].  Abbreviation: Garment Construction

Carlson, Jennifer L.  Sewing Stitches Used in Medieval Clothing. [accessed 4-30-15].  Abbreviation: Stitches

Kelly, Tasha Dandelion.  How to Sew a Medieval Buttonhole. [accessed 4-30-15].  Abbreviation: Buttonhole

Kelly, Tasha Dandelion.  Articles (articles on the Charles de Blois). [Accessed 4-30-15].  Abbreviation: Kelly CbD

Unknown.  Pourpoint of Charles de Blois. [accessed 4-30-15].  Abbreviation: CdB Pourpoint

Museum page for the Charles de Blois

[i] Kelly CbD
[ii] CdB Pourpoint
[iii]  Textiles (pp. 156)
[iv] WitE (pp.98)
[v] Textiles (pp. 158)
[vi] WitE (pp. 99)
[vii] Garment construction (pp. 3)
[viii] Textiles (pp. 172)
[ix] Textiles (pp. 171)
[x] Textiles (pp. 168)
[xi] Textiles (pp. 170)

Appendix One: Mistake
              I made a serious mistake at one point—one which put me behind by 7.5 hours of work.  I sewed the sleeve buttonholes on the wrong side of the sleeve (the bottom seam, rather than the top).  Naturally, this was not discovered until I began stitching the buttons on.

My solution was to remove the strip containing the buttonholes, and patch it.  After cutting the portion out, and cutting my layer of wool and two of linen (one was the facing), I stitched the turn for the facing.  Next was to sew the entire strip in place and turn, fell the seam, and then hemstitch the new facing in place.
              The last step is something I later found out is called Rantering the Seam.  I cannot document this to period, but here is the process.  Basically, after patching, use a blind stitch or whip stitch to bring the top fibres of the fabric together over the seam.  Moisten the surface and tease the fabric to raise the nap, then felt the fibres together over the seam (make sure your hands are completely clean…).  The last step is to shave the nap, once the fabric is dry.
Forming the piece which will be inserted.  When handsewing, I work away from me, and use a bottle as a weight to put some tension on the fabric.
All sewn in.
Rantering the seam.
Teased.  I don't seam to have one of it after felting/shaving.

© 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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