Aethelflied Battles Maldon part 5

Wherein our heroin realizes she’s bitten off more than she can chew in the time allotted.

I have to start memorizing. This means that sadly I need to put my own translation aside and work from someone else’s translation of the section I want to perform at Pennsic. Trying to be ok with the feeling that I’ve failed. I am still editing the poetics and word choice in the section I want to do, so it’s not like I’m not trying to make it my own. Life just got busy and I didn’t finish everything I wanted to do.

I am going to resume translating when I get back from Pennsic. I got some lovely textbooks in the mail from a friend of mine last week that’ll help a lot more than the internet has so far. So maybe it’ll go faster/easier when I’m not stressing over the one major event and deadline.

This isn’t giving up or failing. This is pausing. Right. That’s what I need to remember.

Make it Pretty – A quick guide to simple seam detailing

It was requested that I follow up my last post on seam finishing with a post about seam embellishment, the kind that looks like embroidery. Ladies, gentlemen, and those who eschew either term? The reason it looks like embroidery is because you’re running embroidery stitches along the seam. It looks like embroidery because it is embroidery. Don’t let that scare you away! Trust me, if you can handle a simple running stitch you can handle any of the three stitches I’m going to show you.

First, the ever present question of why? Why on earth would you decorate seams? Adding seam detailing is an easy way to make your garment stand out. It also helps machine stitched garb give the appearance of being hand stitched, and frankly I do it because it’s one of the few ways I have of feeling fancy in early period garb.

Stitch one: Split Stitch.

Split stitch is one of the easiest to explain. When it’s finished it looks like the yellow lines on this:

split stitch

Split stitch strongly resembles chain stitch, but in my mind it’s easier to do/teach. So here goes.

Step one: make a single stitch.


Step two: poke your needle up from the back of your project through the center of the stitch you just made.


Step three: make poke your needle back through the front of your fabric in order to make a stitch that is in line with and half over laps the previous stitch.


Repeat steps two and three until you reach the end of the line of work.

Stitch Two: Herring Bone Stitch

This one is one of my favorites. It’s quick, it’s simple, and it looks awesome. See?


That is a double herring bone, I went over the seam once with green, then went back over it with gold, staggering the Xs. That’s all. This is a bit more complicated to explain but here goes:

Step one: Sew one long diagonal stitch.


Step two: poke your needle up next to and a little behind the end you just made.


Step three: Sew one long diagonal stitch in the opposite direction of the last one, forming an elongated X


Repeat steps two and three.


Stitch Three: Blanket Stitch.

This is an awesome stitch for edging a piece, or at least that’s what I use it for.

Step one: Make a horizontal stitch sewing along your edge but do not pull the thread all the way though.


Step two: Poke your needle up, aligned with the end point of that stitch, but perpendicular to it.


Step three: Pull your needle through the loop created in step 1.


Step 4: pull the thread all the way though, tightening the perpendicular stitch AND the loop created in step one.


Repeat steps 1 -4.

There you go! Three stitches that I know you can do if you can manage a running stitch. These are the only three stitches I use to decorate garments I make. That’s it. Go forth and sew my dears.

Seam Finishing

In my post yesterday ( ) I made a passing comment about how to finish the seams was dealer’s choice, but didn’t explain the differences in seam finishing techniques. Then did a quick scan of my archive and realized I’ve always assumed my readers know how to finish seams. Well guys, you know what they say about assuming. And so here is a brief description of a couple seam finishing techniques. This list isn’t exhaustive, but it’ll get you started.

First off: Why finish seams in the first place? The thing is sewn together, that’s enough right?

Technically speaking yes. I’ve got some garments that I never bothered to finish the seams on. Because they’re wool, I’m lazy, and the worst that happens is I pop a seam. That’ll be embarrassing when it happens, but I won’t die.

That being said! Finishing your seams adds reinforcement to the seam itself, and stops the raw edges from fraying, shedding bits of thread all over you/your under clothes, helps make the garment last longer, and just generally makes the whole piece look better and more professional.

Seam finishing technique 1: Serging

How to do it: after you’ve sewn your garment together, right sides pressed together with the wrong sides out, you run those same seams through another machine called a serger. This is what you generally see on commercial garments when you see the 8,000 threads running along the seams.

Pros: Fast, neat, minimal effort.

Cons: Requires access to a serger (which are not cheap), not period in even the slightest way, can be tricky with small/tight seams.

Seam finishing technique 2: French Seams

How to do it: Sew your garment together RIGHT SIDE OUT. That’s the biggest difference. Either sew as close to the edge of your pieces as you feel comfortable, or trim down to close to your stitches once you’ve got it sewn together. Now, flip your garment inside out and sew the seams again. This basically encases the raw edge in a tube of fabric.

Pros: Can be done with a modern machine, fast, arguably documentable.

Cons: creates a ridge on the inside of your garment, uses more seam allowance, really bad along curves for some reason.

Seam finishing technique 3: Flat felling. 

How to do it: Sew your seams, right sides pressed together and wrong side facing out. Trim one side of your seam allowance down close to the stitches, fold the other side over as if to hem. Run a whip/invisible hemming stitch along the fold.

Pros: Better in tight spaces/ along curves, arguably documentable, no ridge along the inside of your garment.

Cons: Best done with hand sewing. I mean, you could use a machine if you don’t mind a line of thread on the right side of your garment, but this really is better done by hand.

Seam finishing technique 4: Bias tape (option 1). 

How to do it: Sew your seams, right sides pressed together and wrong sides facing out. Sandwich the raw edges in bias tape/ribbon and run another seam.

Pros: Can be done on a modern machine, doesn’t require extra seam allowance,.follows curves.

Cons: Need bias tape/ribbon, can be tricky in tight spaces, can be finicky to get the bias tape seam to line up with the original seam to avoid puckering on the front, creates a ridge on the inside of your garment.

Seam finishing technique 5: Bias tape (option 2).

How to do it: Sew your seams, right sides pressed together and wrong sides facing out. Press your seams open and trim so they are no wider than your bias tape. Lay bias tape over the seam and sew along either edge of the tape.

Pros: Can be done with a modern machine, doesn’t require extra seam allowance, creates a smooth, flat, seam.

Cons: Need bias tape/ribbon, can be tricky in tight spaces, if you use a machine you will have two lines of thread showing on the right side (which you can use contrasting thread for and make a Feature), takes a little longer since you’re basically sewing each seam three times.

Fighting Tunic for Ciar

Trying to get better about documenting my work so here’s what I’m working on right now. This is Ciar’s fighting tunic. She commissioned a fancy tournament tunic for, well, fighting in tournaments. So here is a quick and dirty Norse-ish tunic tutorial! (In the following pictures kindly ignore Baldr, supervisor pup extraordinaire, also my bare feet. I’m too lazy for photo editing)


I use the following:

Around the widest part of the chest/torso.

Around the hips.

Across the back of the shoulders.

Around the neck.

Top of shoulder to wrist.

Around the wrist.

Around the armpit.

From collarbone to as long as you want it to be.

Drafting the pattern and cutting the fabric:

The basic shapes for a tunic are two long rectangles(front and back), four tapered rectangles (sleeves) and two triangles (side gores). I am not doing any shaping or fitting here. This is slightly more complicated than a tee tunic, but not by much. Trust me. If you can handle a tee tunic you can handle this.

What you’re going to do is take the chest measurement and divide it in half. Make sure that number is longer than the across the back of the shoulders measurement. Because we want this baggier for freedom of movement I added about 5 inches to this measurement. That’s the short side of your two front and back rectangles. Take your measurement from the collarbone to as long as you want it to be, add 7-8 inches to account for seam allowance, hem, and meeting at the top of the shoulder. That’s the long side of your two front/back rectangles. Cut two of these.

Next up are sleeves. Take your shoulder to wrist measurement and add 2, that’s your length, mark this in a straight line. Take your around the armpit measurement, cut it in half and add 5. That’s the widest edge of your sleeve, mark this in a straight line out from one edge of your length line. Take your around the wrist measurement, divide it in half and add 2, that’s the short edge of your sleeve, mark this in a straight line out from the other side of your length line. You should now have three lines, one long one with two lines coming off the edge.

Now, from the point of the wrist line that’s NOT connected to the length line measure 2 inches in toward the shoulder. Mark that point and draw a straight line back to the wrist line. From the point of the shoulder line that’s NOT connected to the length line measure in 5 inches toward the wrist. Mark that point and draw a straight line back to the shoulder line. These two dots mark the beginning and end of the sleeve taper. Draw a diagonal line connecting them. Cut four of these.

This picture is upside down. The long straight side is the top of your sleeve.


Note: Sleeves can be tricksy little jerks because armpits are hard to fit, this is why the gods gave us gores. If you follow my directions and your armpit is too small to allow for freedom of movement do the following: cut two squares of fabric, unpick the armpit seam, fit the square so that one point is aligned with your under arm seam, one point is aligned with each seam holding your sleeve to your tunic, and the forth point is aligned with the side seam of your tunic, (it’ll form a diamond) and sew that sucker in. Hopefully you won’t need to, but knowing how to add armpit ease WITHOUT CUTTING WHOLE NEW SLEEVES is a life/sanity saver. 

Side gores! Super easy peasy. My basic rule of thumb is to take the long side of the front/back rectangle, subtract the shoulder/armpit measurement, and use 2/3 of the remaining measurement for side gore length on a tunic. Measure a 2-3 inch line (I like having the flat line at the top of my triangle rather than having it come to a point, I find it makes it easier to sew in later) From there measure out your length on a diagonal. Do the same from the other side of the line, try and get the angles the same. Alternately you can fold your fabric in half long ways and just measure out one diagonal line. Make sure the space between your diagonal lines is AT LEAST as wide as the difference between your chest/hip measurements (if any) Cut two of these.


Sewing together: 

Figuring out your neckline. I do keyhole necklines. I just think they look better than a round hole and they’re more forgiving size wise. Basically you can fit the neckline closer to your actual neck and still get your head through the head hole. So what you’re going to do is find the middle of the short edge of your front/back rectangle. Take your around the neck measurement and cut it in half. Add about two inches of give here. Measure it out so the middle of this measurement lines up with the middle of your front/back rectangle. Pin either edge so you know where to stop sewing the shoulders together. Determine which rectangle is the front one. Along that middle line cut a 3in slit. At the base of the slit snip two small notches angled away from the slit toward the bottom corners of the tunic. Very small, I’m talking quarter of an inch tops. What these do is allow you to hem a keyhole neckline. Yes you need them.

Sew the sleeves along the straight top edge, and along the tapered bottom edge. Set aside for a minute.

Sew the top of the tunic from your neckline pins out to the edge.

Take your sleeves, line the top seam up with the seam you just made on the top of your tunic. Shoulder to main body please. I know you’re all smart enough to not sew your wrist where your shoulder goes, but I’ve done weirder things so I’m specifying. Sew the front and back of the main body rectangles to the sleeve. Repeat for the other side.

Line your side goes up so the bottom of your side gore lines up with the bottom of your main body tunic. Pin into place. Sew from the armpit, down the main body, and down either side of the gore. Repeat for the other side.

Finish your seams (serge them, flat fell them, french seams, dealers choice here), and hem that sucker. Congrats on your new made-by-you tunic.

Fancy stuff:

Everything beyond this point is the embellishment I’m doing to make it a tournament tunic instead of just a basic Norse-ish shirt. This is all optional.

Cuffs. Ciar likes wide bands of contrasting color. So while I was cutting out the main tunic I cut out rectangles that I’m going to fit around the cuffs, collar, and hem, that I over dyed black. They came out more deep, deep red rather than a true black. But such is the nature of over dying. These will be folded around the hem, cuffs, and collar to finish them. I’m going to run a line of gold blanket stitch around them to make it extra pretty/ provide reinforcement on the edges.

They don’t look like much now, but trust me this’ll be pretty.


Side gores. Ciar uses a fox on her heraldry. So I embroidered the line work for a celtic style fox design on each side gore. I put them here rather than in the front or back because she is going to be fighting in this and it seems like the embroider may stand up better if it’s not directly in the front or back. Don’t know why, don’t know for sure if it’ll make a difference, but this is the choice I have made.

I use the sew through paper and trace your lines method of embroidery. Basically you lay a sheet of paper with your design over your fabric. Like so:

design layout

Then sew through it, tearing the paper out as you finish a section, like this:


Until you get this:

finished fox

Looks awesome and complicated and I didn’t have to free hand anything. It’s just tracing with string.

Seam embellishment. I’m debating running a line of herringbone stitch along each of the seams. We’ll see how time shakes out.

Pictures of the finished product (hopefully on her) once I actually, ya know, finish it.