Thursday, November 3, 2016

1570s Germans Continued: The Jerkin

This has been a rather long journey, and it is finally nearing its end with the completion of this project--a slashed jerkin as part of my 1570s Germans suit.  The suit consists of pluderhose, doublet, jerkin, and hat, all drafted from my own patterns.  Like the other garments in the don't get to see it being worn until the debut (probably in January).  Because the two garments are so closely related in pattern and design, I highly recommend reading my documentation for the doublet first. 


The sources for construction and the primary inspiration are essentially the same as those for the doublet; with a few changes to show slashed jerkins.

My primary--indeed, my only true reference--is Patterns of Fashion 3, by Janet Arnold.  For the most part, this is pictorial based project; even Patterns of Fashion 3 (henceforth PoF) wasn't used for more than to note the shapes of doublet pieces from this period.  My primary inspiration (if not for the doublet specifically) for the outfit is the above drawing from Kostüme der Männer und Frauen in Augsburg und Nürnberg, Deutschland, Europa, Orient und Afrika (23v), supposedly labeled as being of a "Man from Brunswick".  This book is one of the few "travel guides" from period, which show what the fashions look like in other regions.

 He is wearing a fairly normal, elegant, suit of clothing for the region and period.  I like it enough that I wrote an article on the specifics of the clothing in this image, back in February.  If you look closely, you can see that the bottom edge of the jerkin skirts consist of tiny dags--you can also see examples of this in the fencing manual of Henry de Sainct Didier, which dates to 1573. Yes, I recycled the above from the doublet documentation.  No, I don't feel guilty.
Portrait of Sir Thomas Coningsby, 1572, attributed to George Gower.
 As for further documentation, my slashing pattern was somewhat based on the above, although not specifically; likewise the contrasting edging around the slashes.  I suspect that gilt velum strips were used in this example, secured with buttonhole stitching.  You can also clearly see that there are only a handful of buttons closing the garment at the neck; on my rendition, I chose to button all the way down (more on that later), but use contrasting buttons for the top four.

Franz Isaac Brun 1559
 While a good 12-15 years earlier than my primary inspiration image, it is being included to show that the slashing was not just on the front--garments were slashed on the back as well.

Much like the doublet, the pattern of which the jerkin mirrors, it is based on that of Nils Sture, and has a straight front and more or less straight bottom edge.  Loosely based, anyways--the actual pattern was found by my experimental numberless tape system.  Like that Sture suit, the collar is interlined, padded, and padstitched to stiffen.


In period, it is unlikely a garment like this would have been worn by the maker--he would have been wearing similar clothing in fit and construction, true, but perhaps not of velvet.  Most likely, that is--there are accounts of tailors stealing fabric from their customers (I.e. asking for four yards of velvet for a doublet, when it only required a scant three yards), and I suppose it's possible said fabrics could have been used for personal garments but it's more likely the material was sold on the side [Wage].  The maker of a "bespoke" jerkin such as this would have been a professional tailor, most likely a member the local guild.  It would have been purchased and worn by a member of the court or other noble.

My Goals:

Like the doublet, the jerkin was a secondary test for my drafting system (which is still not published.  Sorry; I need testers) to see if it would work to make a fitted outer garment.  I really didn't have all that many goals in making this project, beyond the obvious of "I needed the garment for this outfit"--I have wanted to have a slashed jerkin for quite some time now, for...reasons.

Installing the lining.
Per usual (with the exception of my handsewn bog recreations) my intent was not to make is completely historically accurate--I would have needed to spend more on materials for me to consider it worth hand sewing.  That said, I did try to get the construction as close as I could, with the exception of sewing some of the seams by machine.

Garment Description:

The garment--as you probably surmised by the post title--is a jerkin; the closely fitted, short/no sleeved, article of clothing often worn over and with the doublet.  While it may seem like quite a few layers of cloth (recall that the doublet has at 4-5 layers, and a pinked jerkin would have the same) remember that this was a time of no central heating and a minor Ice Age.  As such, the jerkin was usually shaped the same as the doublet worn underneath, albeit with moderate changes such as a slight difference in skirt length, lack of most of the buttons, and slashing (to better show the doublet beneath). The collar also matched that of the doublet, being the same height or a touch higher.

It could be made to contrast or compliment the doublet beneath (either in colour or texture), and had a similar variety of fabric choices; satins and other silks, velvets, wools of various weights, and leather--the latter two appear to be the most common for slashed jerkins, as the material didn't fray and wouldn't need turning.  It doesn't appear that the jerkin was a required garment.


I cheated again...  At least I used natural fibers this time.  For a slashed jerkin, a heavily fulled wool, or a leather would have been the most common, as those materials can hold up without a hem.  For my rendition, I used the same cotton velveteen as the pluderhose panes for reasons of cost.  The interlining is better, a cotton canvas rather than linen canvas.  The lining is fine, being of dyed linen.

The other materials are DMC cotton floss for all top stitching, where it should be silk.  Portions of exposed stitching were in linen thread, or a cotton machine thread since I ran out of red linen thread partway through the project.  Silk thread is not particularly available in my area; while I can order it, it would both take longer and cost more.

The buttons likewise have the same issue with the threads being mercurized cotton rather than silk. The wool core is theoretically period, although it's far more likely to have been wood. Happily, the silk covering is fine (to the best of my knowledge).

Again, one of these years I will do a suit properly, with almost all correct materials (I will probably continue using cotton canvas for the interlining).


The pattern is essentially the same as the doublet underneath, with fresh measurements being taken over doublet and shirt.  Something I learned there is you need to add additional ease over the doublet.  I thought that it wouldn't really be required...obviously, I was wrong since I had to redo my measurements.  You can see below that the body pieces are fairly simple, with a slanted back seam, fairly straight front seam, and straight front edge.

You can see that the sleeves are fairly short, coming only to the bicep, and of the "S" curve style, with a single seam down the back of the arm.  Pretty much the same as the doublet sleeves, although I did shift the seam slightly so it wouldn't be in the exact same place as that of the doublet.


Well...the information is still somewhat proprietary, since I haven't yet published my drafting system (again, folks...I need beta testers.  If interested, contact me!).  The measurements were taken with a strip of fabric, and the measures marked directly on that.  This was used to draft out the pattern, in a "direct measure" system.  The location of the shoulder and side seams were based on that of the doublet underneath, just shifted slightly to reduce bulk from multiple seams in the same location.

The seam locations on the doublet were estimated based on the Nils Sture doublet.


Ok.  So I've already said that the exterior seams--the sides, shoulders, collar, skirt, sleeves, and facing edge of the shell were all machine sewn, primarily to save time.  The seams of the lining, on the other hand, were hand felled into place, lapping the seam edges and whipstitching them.  Unfortunately, I do not know whether this is the method they used to line this kind of garment--I have a feeling it may not be, but I believe it was my only option, given that all layers had to be worked as one around the slashes. 

All of the slashing was edged in slightly contrasting (dark red) buttonhole stitch to prevent fraying.  Originally, I was trying to turn the edges under, but that ended up looking terrible.  There are a couple of portraits I can use to document contrasting edges to the slashes.

In the above: Portrait of Francois de Montmorency. By Corneille de Lyon, 1570-74, you can see that some of the slashes on his jerkin are edged or bound in a complimentary colour.

I don't believe I can document the use of buttonhole stitch for such a thing.  Binding would have been the best option for the materials I used, but would have been far more of a pain to do than I wanted to deal with.  So, it is an intentional anachronism.

The original plan for hemming.  Hail Oertha!
 The bottom hem of the jerkin is also edged with buttonhole stitch, this time in matching black.  I had planned to machine sew the skirts right sides together, and turn it...I'm glad I came to my senses and did it by hand, since I sincerely doubt the results would have been as clean.

What I ended up doing.

Like the collar of Nils Sture's doublet, the jerkin collar was interlined with heavy wool and canvas, then padstitched with linen thread.

Order of Operations:

The order of operations actually isn't that's all the handsewing of the slashes that bumped my time up lot.

After finalizing my pattern, and deciding on the design of slashes, I turned the edges under to seal the raw edges and prevent raveling.  Then changed my mind and did them over without turning the edges under because it looked terrible and I found the buttonhole stitch secured the edges well enough.  However, I did trim the interlining away from the edges, partly to reduce bulk/stiffness (which I should have gone for), and partly to keep any white threads from showing through.

The raw edges of all the slashes were then covered with a buttonhole stitch in DMC floss; the stitches are about 10 per inch.

Before assembling, I had to make the front collar, the interfacing of which is a layer of canvas and heavy wool (the same used in the Dungiven Jacket), padstitched together to form a slight curve.  It was then basted to the fashion fabric and the seams graded.

 With the front collar and all shell seams in, I could finally sew up the lining.  Now, note that the lining was sewn as one with the other layers at the slashes.  So when I did the outer seam, I pinned the lining out of the way; when it was time to finish closing it up, I lapped the seams, turned an edge under, then used an overcast stitch to secure.

Like the body, after finalizing the sleeve pattern and deciding on the slashing pattern, the slashes were cut and covered with a buttonhole stitch.

Here, you can see the finished pattern of the sleeves.

 And for the skirt: You will note that I cut the lining much wider than the shell--this was so I could lap and cover the waistseam on the inside.  The skirts are also interlined, and only cut to rough measurements. After sewing them in place, I trimmed the jerkin skirts to the 1/4th inch longer than the doublet skirts that was my goal.

Something I learned here was to add both seam allowances to the bottom of the skirts--this was the first time I did it this way, rather than adding seam allowance to the top and bottom, and I didn't have to go back and trim length to make the seams line up for once.

Drawing out the individual dags prior to cutting.  They are 3/4 inch wide, and 1 inch deep; I marked the dimensions with a ruler, then shaped them by eye.

 Before cutting each dag out, I basted the layers together.  I also trimmed the white interlining away from the tip of each dag, purely to keep any white from shining through my stitching.

As you can see, the buttonhole stitches.  Like those of the slashing, they were done in DMC floss, with stitches about 1/10th inch wide.  It didn't take as long as I expect to do this step as I was dreading...only 4.5 hours.

Talking to Matthew Gnagy--a tailoring Laurel and author of The Modern Maker: Men's Doublets--, it was pointed out to me that doublets always had narrow facings, and that this is what the buttonholes were worked through, then the lining felled on top (sometime covering the bar tack at the end of the button).  The brief discussion should be found HERE.  The reasoning behind doing things this is so that the lining can be eventually replaced, plus the extra layers of canvas in there helps keep the front edge from buckling and supports the buttonholes.  Please note that when you are cutting buttonholes in more than a couple layers of fabric, using a sharp chisel makes things a lot cleaner and easier.

The facing is a layer of ticking (a medium/heavy weight, tightly woven cotton twill) and the same velveteen as the shell.  The angle is lapped and secured with a cross stitch for the interlining.  The shell is sewn regularly, with right sides together.

I stitched the facing to the front edge by machine, then trimmed the seam allowances and turned.  Then I pressed the heck out of it to flatten--the Bombay Sapphire bottle you see in the photo is what I use as a clapper to flatten seams.  Traditionally, the clapper is a smooth maple board used to quickly cool, compress, and force the steam out of a pressed seam--I am still making due.

The buttons are formed of a slightly springy brown woolen material, with my standard method for medieval cloth buttons.  Wooden bead based would be more period; however, I can't seem to locally source wooden beads small enough--these, I can make to the size I want, however small that may be.
Each blank got covered in red silk (soured from a ladies shirt I was given to use as scrap), then the detached buttonhole stitch worked over it, as in my tutorial on Renaissance covered buttons.

And a bouquet of buttons. You may be wondering why they are in two different colours...well, I'll tell you.  IF you keep reading...

 These buttons are inspired by those of a garment on page 43 of PoF.  These consist of a wooden core covered in black velvet, then with a web of black silk thread worked over that in what is probably detached buttonhole stitch.

Buttonholes were worked normally, albeit with a slight difference in the bar tacks, and sewn with the DMC floss again.  Before cutting, I basted around each buttonhole, as you can see here.

The difference from my norm is that I worked the bar tacks separately from the rest of the button--i.e. I went back and did the bar tacks after the main part of the button was done.  Interestingly, it appears that the bar-tacks to be worked so that the perl of the buttonhole stitch on are towards the front edge on both ends, at least in some cases.  I'm going to have to look deeper into it, and update my Buttonholes through the Periods article accordingly.
And maybe I'll even do a video tutorial--not something needed for most people (there are decent tutorials out there, like this one from Garb-for-Guys), but I figure mine will help other lefties.

If you look at a number of portraits of gentlemen in jerkins, there are often only a few buttons down the front (at the collar and top)--hence the four gold buttons.  However, I wanted the option of wearing the garment buttoned all the way, so I decided to make the full quantity of buttons with a less contrasting black.  It also gave me a chance to practice making this style of buttons--in the end, I got it down to around 20 minutes a button.

The last step was to fell the lining down over the facing, which was done with an overcast stitch.

Conclusions (and what I learned):

This was quite an interesting garment, and while I don't have many conclusions, I did learn quite a bit.
  • Notably about the facings; that they are not particularly optional.
  • That even more ease is required even if you are measuring over the undergarment; you can't just measure flat, it seams.
  • The tidbit about 16th century bar tacks, which lead me into doing some research on the subject.. 
  •  And let's not forget all the practice I got with doing the buttonhole stitch.

What I'd do Different:

  • Not a lot in the construction but I would definitely use a more appropriate, non-fraying material, and bind the edges if not leave them raw. 
  •  Metal buttons would be quite nice. 
  •  I think I would also make sure the collar didn't end up as tight as it did, as well as figure out how to bring the back waist closer--it's a little loose in that area.  
  • I also would use a somewhat different slashing pattern, omitting the one under the arm, and closest to the armscye, since they gap and ruin the lines.  
  • Heavier/stiffer materials would also be preferred.

How Accurate is the Project:

Sadly, I have to give it a fairly low score here, because of the materials, machine stitching, and mostly the use of buttonhole stitching as an edge finish...and the two colours of buttons rather than either having a full run of matching or just the few at the top.  Maybe 60% because I do have the overall appearance.


Total, this project took 53 hours, 46 minutes.  
  • Cutting it out and stitching the slashes took 18 hours.  
  • Edging the skirts with a buttonhole stitch was about 4.5 hours.  
  • Making the 21 buttons took 10 hours total. 
  • The buttonholes themselves were another 4.5 hours.
The materials didn't cost all that much--somewhere around 20-25 US$ and were mostly from stash, with the exception of the floss, and linen lining.  Timewise, of course, the cost gets bumped up considerably; to a value of approximately 675$ (at 12$ an hour, on the low end of the current average tailor's wage).

Displayed over the doublet it is to be worn with.


Arnold, Janet.  Patterns of Fashion 3. Macmillan (1985).  ISBN 0-89676-0839

Unknown.  A Tailor's Wage. (Blog post, 11-2-2013)  [Accessed. 8-1-16]

Carlson, Jennifer L.. Sewing Stitches Used in Medieval Clothing.  [Accessed 8-1-16]

HSM Info:

The Challenge: Heroes. You may have guessed by now, but The Modern Maker (M. Gnagy) is one of the artisans I look up to and use to set a goal for the quality of my own work. In addition, he was one of the inspirations for creating my own doublet drafting system, which was used to make the pattern for this garment.

Material: Cotton velveteen, cotton duck (canvas)/ticking, linen (lining), wool (collar interlining).

Pattern: My own.

Year: 1570s Germany.

Notions: A lot of thread...DMC cotton floss, and linen thread, mostly. Fine red silk (scavenged from a ladies shirt) to cover the buttons.

How historically accurate is it?: Sadly, I have to give it a fairly low score here, because of the materials, machine stitching, and mostly the use of buttonhole stitching as an edge finish...and the two colours of buttons rather than either having a full run of matching or just the few at the top. Maybe 60% because I do have the overall appearance and pattern.

Hours to complete: 53 hours, 46 minutes. I actually did a breakdown of the major tasks this time--check it out on the blog.

First worn: Not yet. Like the red stripy doublet (pattern entry), and pluderhose (holes entry) that go with the set, it won't be worn until the whole outfit is done.

Total cost: Maybe 25 US$

© John Frey, 2016. 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.

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