Norse Hood (a tale of delayed gratification)

Norse Hood

Norse Hood. Worn over my early-mediaeval bliaut, which would be roughly age-appropriate but not at all culturally accurate.

Last year sometime (or maybe before), my stepsister started dating a SCAdian (again), and thus was once again in need of garb. Early Viking, in particular. At Christmas last year, I was looking for a last-minute, minimal-to-no-cost gift, I had spent some thoroughly enjoyable time researching Viking garb and thought a hood like this would make a lovely, simple, not-overly-fit-dependent gift, with at least a nod to accuracy. Then I had no time and decided I would just give her some bits of vaguely-period-appropriate fabric from stash. Then our Xmas times with the Dads didn’t coincide, so I hadn’t had a chance to give her anything yet. So shortly after Christmas I cut out and started hand-stitching this nice wool(ish) remnant into a hood. It actually didn’t take too long, maybe about a day and a half from first cut to finish. (And then I didn’t see her, and didn’t see her, and then they were going to get married so I thought it would make a decent wedding present considering they were going for the most low-key and under-the-radar kind of ceremony…)

But eventually I managed to deliver it, and so finally I can share a post about it! Not that she reads my blog, that I know of, but you never know. 

Hand-stitching. Never my forte. Not improved by using rough-spun irregular yarn.

It’s a simple pattern—rectangles for the hood part (Or one long one, as I used) and squares for the front and back gores. My construction isn’t quite true to the historical base, but I’m cool with that. I’m less cool with my craptacular hand-stitching, but such is life. I wish I’d had grey matching yarn, but I was sticking with the stash. It also seems to be The Single Most Typical Viking Costume Piece On The Internet. Ah, well. She can get creative and do in depth research for her own stuff. At least it’s not a horned helmet.

Laid out flat

My remnant was big enough for the main part of the hood, with a very narrow strip left over. I was, however, able to cut that narrow strip into four and piece two chunks together to get two squares—the front and back gores. Symmetrical? No. A reasonable abuse of the principles of rectangular construction? I think so.

I did the stitching around the hood last, and I was getting a little better at it by then. It`s still not pretty.

The seams are butted and completely flat. I love doing things like that with heavy felted fabrics like these.

Laid out flat another way. This is more how it sits on your body.

One of the sources I read talked about how well-constructed Viking clothes were, it is often hard to tell which side was the inside. That would be the case here, although I’m pretty sure my coarse stitching would be an affront to any self-respecting Viking seamstress.

Back view

I actually really like how it looks as a whole, though, and the scale worked out well (which is fortuitous since there was no measuring involved, just a quick “I have this much fabric, will it fit if I do it this way?”) I think it’s quite a bit bigger and more drapy than the original find the pattern was based on. Not actually worried about that.

No head-shots please… Xmas holidays are exempt.

It’s actually pretty warm, even just being worn for a few pictures.

Another back view

The hood is quite big, luxuriously so. It hangs over the face in a satisfyingly Sith-like manner.

Give in to the Dark Side, Luke…

Yeah, so. She’d better like it, or next year she’s totally getting bath oil.

(Edit: I think they like it. Based on the argument over who got to wear it first when I gave it to the happy newlyweds.😉 I should probably make another one so they don’t have to fight over it. Pretty sure I have some other remnants of coating that would work…)


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So there’s a bit of a gap in my coat collection, in that the Springy Coat is pretty lightweight, and my winter coat is fairly heavy, and I don’t have much in between. Technically my Lady Grey coat should be in the middle, but, um, much as I love the Lady Grey, that thing’s got short sleeves. -10 for practicality, Madam. Especially when made up in a hefty boiled wool.

So something in between would be pretty sweet, and it’s been a pretty long time since I made a coat that wasn’t for a tiny person.


McCall’s has some pretty cute coat patterns; I find them hard to resist, even though they aren’t terribly well drafted. (And by this I mean they use shortcuts, like having you use the same pattern pieces for the shell and the lining, not that the pieces don’t line up or anything like that.) It can take a fair bit of RTW Tailoring to get the pattern to a point I’m willing to go at it. McCall’s 7442 was better than some—at least it has a proper front facing piece and a front bodice lining piece to go with it—but I’d still recommend going over that sewalong or some other lining-drafting info before tackling it.

2016-09-05-11-07-08-1My first thought was a version of view C with the hood, but after trying out the little flounce at the waist I decided to skip it. It’s cute in theory but a little too much ruffle right at the waist for my liking.

14145381_1858178704410629_773238572_nThe fabric is a “wool blend” lightweight coating (or possibly a heavy flannel) that’s only 10% wool—eyeroll—but I sure do like the look. Plus the colour scheme will work really well (if boringly) with lots and lots of the other things that I have made. To make it a bit warmer, I underlined with some heavy flannel from stash, the same stuff that I used for the flannel petticoat an age or so ago. This has made it full-on coat-like, although definitely not Canadian Winter Coat Grade. Also, underlined coating is the sweetest stuff in the world to work with. My machine blind-hem is COMPLETELY invisible because not a single stitch penetrated the outer fabric… but that’s getting ahead of myself.

dsc08591Running with the inspiration of the lace-bedecked original, I also got as much of this black cotton cluny lace as I could fit in the project budget.

2016-09-07-16-21-05And I had just enough to go to town, covering not only the front and back yokes, but getting bands at the hem, waist, and sleeve hems as well. With only the tiniest sliver to spare!

dsc08592You might find this a bit unbelievable, but this is the only coat I have with a hood. It’s not quite big enough, from my point of view, to look good up, but it’s just right for wearing down. And I’m sure if I wear this far enough into the fall (assuming I can wear it, when the chips are down) I’ll test it out for warmth. At a certain point in the Canadian winter you give up on caring about what things look like.

I did, however, screw the pooch pretty big time on this one. I mean, it’ll pass for what it needs to do—it’s a work project, and it’ll hang and look decent on a mannequin for a month, but whether I’ll actually be able to wear it? Grum.

dsc08597Basically, I botched the plaid matching. Since it’s such a simple check, I guess I thought I could kinda wing it and, ah, no. Not a good idea. I should have spent much more time reviewing/researching. Or just thinking. Gah. All the different seam-lines (yoke, waist) didn’t help either.

Anyway, despite way more effort than it deserves, I totally failed at the most crucial of match-points—vertical lines right down the centre front. WTF, Tanit? HEADDESK.

dsc08586And I stretched and eased and fudged and tweaked and made it work, kinda, but, there was a price, which was that I had to trim off some of the centre front bodice. And that I lost what had been a vertical stripe match from left side to right side, in order to match bodice and skirt. Maybe not the right call in hindsight, especially since this meant I also lost inches, where you don’t really want to lose inches in a fitted coat that I was already making down a size. Which means the whole damn thing is tight, bordering on way too tight. Not what I wanted in a brand new coat. And you can see the awkward pulling across the front, especially above the bust, where there just isn’t as much fabric as there should be.

dsc08601Otherwise, I was pretty happy with my fit alterations. I started with a size 10 in the shoulders & bust, grading to a 12 at the waist, and squaring the shoulder down to the size 6 height. I did a petite through the armscye (but then forgot to take anything out of the sleeve cap, which led to a bit too much ease there, oops. My fabric was forgiving enough to accommodate it, but I wish I’d remembered in time to just trim it off. I’m glad I didn’t go with the straight 12 though as the shoulders are still a little boxy. I should have lowered the dart point a little bit, but the pulling above the bust bothers me a LOT more than the high dart.

2016-09-07-16-20-41I do like the two piece sleeve, although I did need to taper it in a couple of inches at the wrist—the bicep width is great, though. After comparing it with the sleeve for my Springy Coat, I added only 3cm of length, but then I lost about half of that trying to get the stripes to match up between my under and over-sleeve, and it’s still long enough. Which means that’s a very long sleeve to begin with, since it’s not unusual for me to add 3″ of length, not 3 cm. I wish I’d been able to keep the full 3cm, though—somehow with turn of cloth and everything it wound up about the same exact length as the Springy Coat sleeves, which are just a little shorter than I’d like. (Keeping in mind that I am obsessed with overly-long sleeves. Probably the length would be perfect for a normal person.)

dsc08594Oh, yeah. It comes with pockets! They are obscenely tiny. Make them bigger. BIGGER.

2016-09-07 16.20.23.jpgI do enjoy my lace, even though it adds to the business of my busy fabric. I used two rows to cover the yoke parts, and just had to piece in a tiny bit right along the shoulder-line.

dsc08603I think that’s it. I like the pictures. I love how it looks on the hanger. It just remains to be seen if tight is actually TOO TIGHT.

dsc08588The hood looks perfect when it’s down. Just the right amount of fabric to sit nicely.
Oh, I almost forgot the buttonholes! I did them on the Rocketeer using my vintage buttonholer. I was terrified because of the thickness of the fabric, and it OWNED. Not a hesitation, not a bunching, nothing. Even on the sections that were covered with lace. Perfect. I went around three times to get the coverage nice. 

dsc08604All in all, I think I will be happy once the plaid-related trauma fades…



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I want to blog but I really should clean…

We’re in the midst of prep for the local comic con right now (which is in a couple of weeks). 

Tyo is going as Terry Bogard from Fatal Fury

Zera is the dark-haired girl on the right.

Syo is being Zera from Fairy Tail Zero. If you know what either of those are, good for you. Right now Tyo just needs some fingerless bike gloves and a red hat with a metal plate; Syo is getting another dress/top, and it’s in pieces in a corner of the kitchen. Where it’s been all week because I had to go out of town for work for a couple days. And my boss totally brought her sewing machine, and I was super jealous, but on the other hand I had two evenings of glorious time to myself reading, so I can’t be too sad. (Please note, this is my boss at my non-fabric-related job. :D)

Hotel room

And the kids have gone back to school, but only just barely and now it’s the long weekend already. And the house is a mess which is squicking my husband out so if I’m a good supportive spouse I will help do something about that. Especially since at least some of the mess is sewing related (see the part about the dress in the corner of the kitchen.) And the sewing room is so deeply buried it’s almost unusable, which is the point where even I get a little squirrelly.  

Which didn’t stop me from bringing home a September project, because I’m an idiot.  I’m thinking view C but with a hood. The coating isn’t very thick but I have some plain heavy flannel in stash I’ll use for interlining to make it a bit more warm, so maybe I’ll be able to wear it a bit when I get it back from the store in October. Fall slips quickly into winter here, though. 

At least I won’t be bored?


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That Mediaeval Shirt

Finally I got pics (and got around to posting them😉 ) of the Mediaeval shirt that consumed most of June.  Here is Carl looking dashing, and below is the whole group performing. 

FYI, they are the Winnipeg Early Music Society, also on Facebook


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This is (not) a tent dress. 

See the comments on my last post for LinB’s take on the definition of a tent dress.😉 Ah, fickle fashion terminology. Also, boo to uniforms. I really really hate imposed uniforms.

13767482_217730211958560_1695701657_nAnyway, I bit the bullet with Butterick 4249 by John Kloss. Incidentally this also reminds me of Daughter Fish’s Future Dress from way back in the mists of blogland. Mine is more fitted, obviously. Though not initially. Hers was more fun.

This dress is a fabric hog. It used the full three and 3/8 yards it called for, easily. (Well, I think it did, I’m not used to measuring in yards.) Although I did end up hacking three or four inches off the bottom, and it’s still pretty long, so I could’ve saved a bit that way. Just for reference I can get one of my Jalie maxi dresses out of about 1.5 m.

img_4528So, um, tent-y it was. I should’ve taken pictures, but, um, no.

Part of the problem is that it’s designed for a “moderate stretch knit” (probably abut 20%, based on the handy little stretch guide on the back), while my fabric of choice is a very modern slinky jersey with about twice that, plus stretch vertically too. More of the problem is my back. Or, arguably, my head.😉


In hindsight, a slit in the back would’ve been fun, too. But I like how it sits now.

I have a really curvy lower back. I guess I mention that every time I whine about swayback adjustments.😉 anyway, pre-sewing everything was just always loose and baggy in the back, which was annoying. Almost as annoying as too short sleeves… So yeah. I like things to fit close to my back like, almost always. Partly because my tummy’s fairly prominent (which I’m fairly good at camouflaging in blog pics) so if the back is loose I feel like I look bigger than I am.


So as soon as I tried it on, I knew I would be taking in the back. A bunch. And the sides—less, but still a couple of inches.  Unfortunately to get the back where it wasn’t giving me eye-twitches meant that a lot of that fun swoosh and flow around the tummy and hips also went away. I probably need to work on that (either with a gym membership or some mental health work. I’ll get back to you on which is least likely.😉 )

DSC08582I made a couple of adjustments to the construction. The pattern had faced armholes; I used a band instead. I interfaced the sides of front opening with a fusible knit. Both of these were very good ideas. I cut the neckband on the cross-grain (pattern piece called for it to be on the lengthwise grain, not that that would have helped a whole lot with this stretchy fabric.)

Stretchy neckband was a mistake. I had to go back and fuse interfacing to it, after sewing the back pieces in place with those teeny zig-zag machine stitches that are basically impossible to pull out. Even then, I think I should’ve used the heavier knit fusible, not the featherweight stuff, though I like the weight now that it’s on. It took me a couple of tries to get the neck pieces basted in the right place. Incidentally, I think the neck piece is actually half the length it should be… I think it was probably meant to be two pieces joined at the back with a seam. I guess I could check that, but I kinda like the shorter tie. I’m not really a bows kinda girl. The first time I basted the front portions to the neck tie, it was too big and the whole dress sagged (basically the weight of that whole damn dress is hanging from your neck). I overshot a bit the second time, but I kinda like the wider split that this gives the front opening. I was a bit nervous about the neckline as I don’t usually like high-necked things, but the slit and the tie give plenty of front interest so I don’t feel at all like I have the Great Front Upper Chest of Flat Emptiness.

Stitching the neckband and turning it inside out was a bit touch and go; in theory you should only have to leave a small opening at the centre back, but in practice it got dodgy trying to stitch neatly with part of the dress inside the band—I wound up stitching just the front dangly portions of the ties inside out, then turning them, tucking the seam allowance under and fusing it in place with 1/4″ Steam-a-Seam, and then topstitching around the bottom of the neckband. On the upside, it feels just the right amount of stable now.

DSC08584Anyway, pretty happy with this, despite all the surgery and limited tent-osity. This was the last sewing of my vacation (I kept doing family stuff. Jeez. Darn family, getting in the way of important things), “finished” in the afternoon after we put Tyo on a plain for Vancouver Island, but before I had to go to my first shift back at 5:00 pm. So at least I got to wear a new dress back to work. And then on my first full day back it was nasty and rainy, so I did get to wear my unseasonable wool dress. One of the best things about sewing is having winter (or winter-y) clothes that I actually miss wearing in the summer… I have read about this feeling before, but never actually felt it myself. It’s probably a sign that it’s been a good summer, though I do wish Kristin would send some of that Toronto heat-wave she`s been writing about out this way. A week or two of 40C temperatures are just what I need to get me ready for winter. (Not actually joking. If summer is completely hot and miserable the prospect of winter is much less agonizing. I think this is some bizarre mental adaptation to our severe climate…)

As it is, I’m guessing I get about two more wears out of this before winter. Here’s hoping for a nice fall!


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I love the look of this Kwik Sew nightie—but I have a sinking feeling it would look less glamorous in reality (and it takes a LOT of fabric)

Gillian at Crafting a Rainbow is on a tent-dress tear right now. And she’s making it look good. Off-handedly I commented that she’s making me think more seriously about the whole shape and the several vintage patterns I have that use it, when I’m really not sure about the shape on my actual body. Of course she said she’d love to see one made up. Wait, you mean I should actually SERIOUSLY think about this?

Sleepwear again, but the version on the left is a pretty basic pillow-case dress.

Well, I haven’t gotten that far, but here’s what a quick trawl through the pattern stash turned up.

Here’s a sort of half-pillow-case.

This 90s McCall’s might be a good woven option—it would be perfect in a soft rayon, with the bust dart for a nice fit through the bust.

Have I mentioned lately how much I adore McCall’s old Carefree pattern line? All the cute and sweetness. I love the sleeves on the short red version. As far as I can tell, this one is shapeless with the tie extending from the bottom of the V neckline to tie under the bust.

This John Kloss  (Wait, better yet, here’s a whole post on Madalynne about him) Butterick pattern is probably my favourite in theory—fitted through the bust and then flowing free below. The maxi version looks especially yummy. I worry about those cut-in shoulders on my actual body, however—I tend to not actually like that look when I see it on me. I do love the long slit at the throat, though.

I guess this one is not actually a tent-dress—I’d call it more of a babydoll. I’m totally seduced by the Carefree cuteness again, though. I’ve had the fabric for this one picked out for years…


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The Kohler Chemise (or, Because I need more Mediaeval underwear…)

I’m on vacation! Ten glorious days away from BOTH jobs—ten days that are already shaping up to be way busier than I would ever have wanted—but anyway. One of my goals was to take the kids to my mom’s family farm.

One of the things I like doing down there is hand-sewing. It lets me scratch the creative itch while still socializing with the relatives. But my ongoing project (sewing miles of trim on a Victorian skirt) is a bit bulky. So, I wanted something else. And, because I’m on a linen tear, I wanted to make a stab at a simple Mediaeval chemise (or shift, if you prefer.)

The Karl Kohler chemise, in fact.

Anyway, using a particular historical item as the basis for what you want to create is great because it cuts down a LOT of the uncertainty. But not all of it, nor does it stop you screwing up.😉

Anyway, I first ran across the rather grainy images above on Pinterest; they derive from this site, which identified the source of the image and said the shift was from the 14th century. (1300s)

Some more digging turned up a study on 14th century shifts that by Barefoot Sewing included a version of this same shift. It looks as if Reconstructing History has a pattern for it as well.

The most complete info I could find about it, though, comes from Medieval Baltic. This little PDF digs into the history of the image and the find a bit more, and has what seem to be pretty good citations although as I don’t read German I can’t confirm that. Anyway, according to her translation:

 “It was made from very coarse linen and the doubled-seams are sewn together with thick stitches. There is evidence the bottom of the shirt of inserted wedges on both sides – so-called ‘Spiele’[lit. games?]. It is 68 cm long and, between the shoulders, 29 cm wide. Of interest are the narrow shoulder-straps.”

She also says:

Qaantz (1907; 188) then goes on to describe the chemise, as being made from very coarse linen, hemmed by folding over the edge of the fabric twice, and sewn together with “thick” stitches. At the bottom of the shift, there is evidence for wedges being inserted on both sides – ie. gores. He then goes on to give it’s measurements as 68 cm long, and 29 cm wide at the shoulders.

Now, based on the translated quote I was inclined to think “double seams” refers to felled seams (typical for finishing chemises in the much later periods with which I am more acquainted) but her description seems to be talking about the hemming of the garment. I can’t comment, again, as to which is correct—I did both.

Unfortunately, I found this great PDF after I had already made my pattern and disregarded the alleged gores since you basically can’t see them at all in the photo. Ah, well.



Wardrobe malfunction waiting to happen.

I did not use the commercial pattern above; I opened the diagram picture up in Inkscape, resized it to match the scale, and then traced over the lines to make a digital half-pattern. Some flipping determined that yes, indeed, the diagram suggested the same piece would work for front and back. I did a tiny bit more tweaking, widening the whole (based on the diagram scale the bust only looks about 32″, and I needed at least a couple more than that.) but otherwise didn’t change anything.

Mediaeval shift pattern from diagram

Click the link above to see a non-tiled PDF (Adobe reader is pretty good at printing tiled versions these days, though.) There are no markings and no seam allowances, and I’m pretty sure there are some issues with the diagram anyway, so use at your own risk. The finished bust is about 34″ on my version.

From the word descriptions and the gores on the diagram, if I were to draft this up again I would probably make the main fabric a rectangle about 16-17″ wide (note—this is wider than the 29cm at the shoulder the text describes. That measurement doesn’t really make sense looking at the diagram, but there’s no scale on the photo and I’m not sure how the measurement was taken) and add the gores at the centre front and back. (Though the text seems to indicate they should be at the sides.) the text also says the whole length should be about 70cm, while mine is more like 110 cm based on the diagram. And that’s not including the long straps. All things being equal, I suspect the diagram is more likely incorrect than the text, but anyway. I was working with the diagram first.

So here’s a couple more thoughts.

Those straps are whack.

DSC08569I mean, if they are made by just hemming the edges, that’s a method prone to stretching, and they do look stretched out in the picture to me. (Apparently it was found wrapped around a wooden plate, and I almost wonder if the straps had been stretched around the plate to secure it in place) anyway. WAY whack long.

I had to cut off about 3″ from each side to get it to KINDA sit right, but it’s still a little long (low under the arm). And wide. Again, I wonder if the original was stretched, and also how accurate the diagram was. Maybe this wide angle is an artifact of stretching exaggerated by the diagram. Super wide, and I don’t have narrow shoulders. I do have a slightly short torso, but we’re talking 1/2″ shorter, not 3″ shorter. And the scoop under the arm is still rather uncomfortably low. If I had kept the full strap length, my boobs would fall out the side. Even looking at the photo, the straps would easily go wider than the chest circumference.

Oh, my version has a back seam. Pure fabric conservation. I took it in a bit to reduce some of the crazy folding my swayback was generating.

DSC08573Anyway, fun experiment, and successfully completed in about a day and a half of lackadaisical hand-stitching. People who make historical costumes seem to be fond of grading themselves on their accuracy, but I’m never clear on how you would do this. So what do you think? Fabric is reasonable but not accurate—linen-cotton blend, not pure linen; thread is cotton. Completely hand-stitched, possibly with period techniques although I haven’t done extensive research into mediaeval hand-stitching (they would work for the Victorian stuff I have read, except that my stitch lengths are way huge by those standards. On the other hand the original apparently had “thick stitches” so I’m not too fussed.) I feel like overall that’s pretty good, except for the weirdness of the pattern.

Also, is it weird that I love flat felling as a hand-stitch finish, but I hate doing it by machine? I really hate it by machine. But I kinda just want to sit and pet those hand-felled seams.


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