Cheating For Costumes

You all know me. You know I have a Thing for being accurate. I feel like I’m cheating using metal needles at this point, let alone a sewing machine or inappropriate fabrics. This is not a post about that. This is about straight up theater costumes.

What do I mean by theater costumes? Not, surprisingly, costumes intended for theater, but rather outfits you make Just Because. You don’t have to justify them. Maybe you just want one outfit from a specific time period you don’t normally play in, maybe you’re making something for a friend who has a specific look in mind, maybe you’re doing something like the Birka fashion show and decide speed is more important that perfection. This is perfectly 100% acceptable. Do it up.

Lets talk about How. Yes my darlings there is an art to faking it and having it look right.

1. Patterning.

Look at your inspiration piece or pieces. What is most important to evoke the correct look? Is it the neckline? The skirt? The pants? The pattern of fabric? What needs to be there to have it have any hope of the final product passing for what you want? From there find modern patterns with similar lines to form your base. This’ll save you from drafting everything and gives you a solid place to start from.

You will need to edit your pattern. For example you can take a modern fantasy pattern and use it to make the structured bodice for Italian ren, so long as you trim off the bits that don’t look right compared to your inspiration piece.

2. Know what corners you can cut.

Are you planning on wearing this once? Indoors? Screw it, get cheap synthetic fabrics that look right. You don’t need it to breathe if you’re not worried about over heating. If you are worried about over heating? Spring for cotton. Does it need to be supportive? No? Awesome, use plastic boning and just make sure you can wear modern underwear under it. Can you get the right shape without multiple layers? Cool, sew what look like under garment sleeves right onto the outerwear. Will you see the fastenings? No? Now is the time for machine button holes and/or metal grommets (don’t use them anywhere they’ll be seen please. Nothing screams ‘deadline’ or ‘lack of fucks’ like metal grommets). Only going to see about 6in of what should be a full additional dress? Only make those 6in and pin them into place.

3 Machines are your friend.

Seriously. Machine stitch every bit you can. Don’t have a serger? No problem, finish those seams by running a wide zig zag stitch over the raw edge of your seam allowance. If this is for a one shot, or a just for fun situation then no one is flipping your seams. And if they are then they have other things they could be focusing on rather than how your seams were finished.

4. Safety Pins Hide Sins.

Making a German gown but can’t get that front stomach portion to stay up or closed? Pin it to your bra. Don’t have time to sew in ties for 14th century fancy sleeves? Pin those suckers in. Missed sewing in a button? You guessed right, pin it.

5. Know where you need to do it Right.

Yes you can cheat on damn near everything. But there are places you Have to do something correctly or by hand. Either it’s a fairly blatant spot (like eyelets down the front of the gown) or something your machine just isn’t designed for (like stitching down pearls). When you get to these spots it is just So Much Faster to just do it by hand than it is to try and make up a solution, get frustrated, then do it the way you should have in the first place.

Are there more tips? Yup! Sure there are! Ask anyone how they cheat on quick and dirty garb (my favorite is bias tape as hem treatments) and they’ll have a trick or two. But remember, these won’t win you any accuracy awards. So don’t do them all the time, yeah?

Coats for Saxon Women

Are pure conjecture. As are coats for Danish, Norwegian, Finnish, and other Viking cultures. There I said it. We’ve got evidence for coats! We do. We have carvings on the helmet at Sutton Hoo showing warriors wearing what look like (to my entirely professional and serious eyes) fighting bathrobes. Observe:

Bathrobe of death

Note how they are crossed in the front and belted as opposed to clasped closed. We also don’t see this kind of garment on civilians or figures that are clearly female. I say clearly female because women fought too damnit, so they *might* have worn something like this, but not in a peaceful context. If you’re fighting and feel like making a killin’ robe you go right ahead, and feel free to stab anyone who complains that you’re in men’s wear. I mean, you’re already dressed for stabbin’ it’d be a shame for that to go to waste.

And so ends our solid documentation for jackets at all in this era. Everything else is conjecture. Not entirely baseless conjecture! We have things like brooches at throats, or mid chest. The issue is those could also hold closed shawls, wraps, or cloaks. The point is we’ve got nothing to support the very popular style of coat that’s cut close to the body, comes to about mid-calf, and is pinned closed mid chest but otherwise hangs open. For an image use your search engine of choice and look up ‘Anglo Saxon Women’s coat’ and you’ll get examples. Because we lack period images everything that comes up are private photos, and I’m not cool with putting some random person on my blog for the sake of saying their clothes are unsupported. That’s just rude as hell.

All that being said? Early period textiles are conjecture. From weaves, to colors, cuts, styles, materials, we’re making educated guesses. Our body of extant items is small enough that we *have* to guess. I can’t really support apron panels as a separate garment for Viking apron dresses, but they make sense and are pretty and plausible. We’ve got no clue how long under dresses were for Saxon women, or what color. We’ve got a couple images of the Virgin Mary looking like she’s wearing two different dresses, one shorter than the other. So we run with it. Necklines for women? Who knows! Veils, shawls, and the like cover them in every image we’ve got.

Coats for women make more sense to me than shawls and cloaks. Women worked and worked hard. It makes very little sense to navigate fire, looms, spindles, and the other day to day bits of womens’ lives while trying to keep a shawl or cloak wrapped around you to stay warm. I’ve done it. Trying to spin in a bulky cloak becomes a balancing act with sudden, jarring, bursts of cold air. Weaving on a warp weighted loom knocks the shawl off when you beat the weft up. Tending a fire with that much loose fabric, while entirely possible, is a pain. Those who came before us were not stupid. Coats with sleeves were, and are, an elegant solution to these issues.

Now, what about style? What arguments can we make here? Honestly the close fitting coat doesn’t really hold up. The style of it does! Just not the body skimming nature. You want a baggier coat for trapping more air between the layers to stay warm, and to easily cover whatever you’re wearing under it. Otherwise, what’s the point of a coat at all? A clasped in front cloak does make more sense for a woman than the crossed over warrior coat when you factor in baring children. A coat with a single clasp over the chest wouldn’t change how it fits or hangs over a pregnant belly like the crossed warrior coat above. If it’s baggy as opposed to body skimming (as I am arguing it should be) it could still cover the belly without needing to be remade or worn with additional bits and pieces. Breast feeding would be easier in the crossed over coat, it’s true. But it would still be easier in a baggy clasped coat over redrapping a shawl or cloak. A baggy coat just needs one clasp undone, baby tucked in, and the edges pulled back over mom and child.

In order to test my theory on ease of wear for a baggy clasped coat, I made one yesterday. It is quick and dirty (and ugly as sin to modern taste) but this sucker is *warm*, even being made out of a very light weight wool. It’s warmer than my modern winter coat. Which makes me mad because, again, this thing is ugly. But! It is a period herringbone twill, in all natural wool colors (plus blue and white twill edging, but the blue is a color we can produce with available dyes in period) and a plaid-ish pattern. With a thread count we’ve found in extant scraps. So it may be ugly as sin, but it’s documentably ugly.

I’m going to wear this thing next weekend to Falling Leaves and get joy out of the looks of horror.


The Black Magic of Boob Math

This is the first of a series.

Alright folks this essay is going to be as genderfree as possible. Women make and wear men’s clothing, men of a certain size also have to navigate this issue, and third gender or gender eschewing folks need clothing too. To that end I’m avoiding terms like ‘the girls’ ‘the ladies’ ect. I’m also making the conscience choice to refer to the body parts we’re navigating around as ‘boobs’. Yes ‘breast’ is the more scientifically accurate term, but that (to me at least) reads as decidedly politely-feminine in a way boobs just doesn’t. I also just like saying boob. I am a cis woman, so I’m not going to even pretend that I know best, just explaining my choices here. Feel free to substitute your favorite word of choice, gods know the internet is full of ’em.


What is ‘boob math’?

Boob math is the complex calculations needed in order to make clothing fit correctly and as intended over boobs. Whether that intent is to downplay their existence, draw attention in a flattering manner, or  just support them so you fricken back isn’t killing you after a couple hours, determines what kind of structural physics you need to do here. You’ll note that high fashion uses models with fairly straight lines, even they acknowledge boob math is hard. It’s not just as easy as throwing more fabric in the boob-zone, it’d be awesome if it was.

Today we’re going to start going over how to alter existing patterns designed for those folks without boobs to fit properly with boobs. This is the most simple kind of boob math and why we’re starting here. This will also work for adjusting patterns meant for the boob’d that don’t fit around *your* boobs. I’m assuming you are starting with a commercial pattern. I do not use them (I draft everything every time like someone who refuses to let love into their life) so my photos and such for this are all hand drawn with the shapes you’r’e looking for. Excuse the laughably terrible art.

You will need:

-Your pattern

-Paper to draft on (no special kind, you can use printer or notebook paper and tape it onto your commercial pattern if need be)

-Measuring tape

-A pencil

-Scrap paper for writing measurements on

-Comfort beverage or food of choice

Ok, so the goal here is to be as non-disruptive to the original pattern as possible for ease of sewing it. That being said there’s a bit of pattern drafting involved here. Don’t run away! It’s ok, I’m going to walk  you through how to make 2D shapes fit a 3D body. First we’re going to take measurements. I’m going to have you take measurements on both sides of your body, the beauty of pattern drafting means custom fitting and boobs are never the same size. The difficult bastards.

If you intend to wear a bra with this garment, put it on now. For each side of your body you are going to measure:

(A) -From the top center of your shoulder to nipple

(B) -From outer side center (or wherever the seam of your pattern lies) of the rib cage to nipple

(C) -STRAIGHT UP from directly under the boob to nipple (do not follow the curve, trust me)

(D) -From center top of shoulder straight down the side body to directly under the boob (do not follow the curve of the boob, you want a straight line)

(E) – Straight across the front of the boobs from nipple to nipple.

Now look at the bodice pieces for your pattern. There should be a front piece, and a piece with the arm hole cut in. Modern patterns generally give you one of each and say ‘cut 2’. You may need to make a copy and label one Left and one Right. Measurement D is how far down the pattern pieces we’re altering. Clearly mark that on each piece by measuring from the top edge (shoulder) of the pattern down.

Starting side (left) and front (right) pattern piece examples.

Grab the side pattern piece (the one with the arm hole cut out). We’re making adjustments to the front of it. Now, using measurements A, B and C you’re going basically make a triangle on the side piece of your pattern. Starting from the bottom of measurement D (so as far down the pattern as we’re adjusting), measure up C. Make a dot or a line or some mark you can see. Measure down and out from the top of the shoulder on the pattern for the length of A, adjusting the angle until the point of it lines up with measurement B straight out from the point we made by measuring C up from the bottom point of D. Make a dot or a mark at this point.

Now what you’re going to do is draw a line from the top of the shoulder to the mark made where measurements A and B meet. Then draw a curve down from that to meet the bottom of measurement D. Smooth out where the curve meets the line from the shoulder into a curving transition to avoid awkward nipple points.

Repeat this process for the other side. Grab your measuring tape again and measure how long the total curve your just made is, from shoulder, around the nipple point, down to where it meets the pattern again.

Now take your front pieces. These should be more or less rectangles since most of the fiddly bits on patterns are the side pieces. There may be a concave curve on the edge that meets your side piece, that’s fine and is useful. We’ll get to that. The measurement you just took off your side piece curve is how long the new measurement of your front piece from shoulder to point D is. The concave curve is added to avoid having odd darts and ruffles along where the front and side pieces attach on that curve. You’ll need to rough in a concave curve that matches the convex curve you made on your side piece.

Where all your measurements go. Side (left) and front (right)

Repeat this process for the other side.

Measure from the center point of one of your concave curves to the center point of the other. This needs to be AT LEAST as long as measurement E. If not you will have that dreaded button gaping boob pull situation happening. If there are no buttons or front closure then you’ll still have uncomfortable boob flattening/tugging going on.

Altered side (left) altered front (right)

WHEN YOU GO TO CUT THIS ALL OUT DO NOT FORGET TO ADD THE SEAM ALLOWANCE SPECIFIED IN YOUR ORIGINAL PATTERN TO YOUR FINAL LINES. This is the pitfall I make most often and how I end up with poorly fitting tops even though I know how to draft for boobs.

What we just walked through is basically drafting a princess seam.

Birka Gown, The Making of and Documentation

Here it is! The moment you’ve all been waiting for! And by that I mean I’m actually writing down the last week and providing you my paperwork.

So 8 days prior to Birka I decided to do the fashion show. Why not? I had a woven silk table runner (it was supposed to be something else and epic failed) that I could wear as a front panel, and the simple plan I told you about before. So without further ado, my write up:



A hand stitched blue wool dress sewn with handspun wool and using a bone sewing needle. Dress is embellished at the seams with purple, gold, and blue silk and strapped purple and gold linen and blue hand spun trim adapted from an arguably 10th century Saxon belt find.

Long form documentation:

The dress itself is commercially available wool. The thread count matches the 10th century scraps found under the brooches of “The Lady In Blue” (Ketilsstathir Iceland, uncovered in 1938) of an almost balanced weave of 11 warp threads and 10 weft threads per CM. Chemical analysis of the dress found in the burial indicates a blue dye with a lighter tablet woven band around the top. To mimic such a starting band I have chosen to leave the contrasting color selvadge along the top edge of the gown. The wool selected also follows the Icelandic convention of weaving with unplyed yarn.

The creation of a checkered pattern by alternating different colored yarns in either the warp, weft, or both, is found in early textiles wherever we have existing examples. The commercial wool forming the basis of this project follows the same pattern by having an entirely white warp and alternating pale blue and antique gold weft.

It is unconfirmed whether the textiles in the find were from a blue dyed apron with linen under dress, full gown with linen under dress, or gown with a linen lining. There is also debate as to how the gown, if it was an over gown rather than apron, was constructed.  The three common interpretations of such a gown are:

  1. A pair of rectangles, stitched together at the sides, with side panels inserted for movement, suspended from straps at the shoulders
  2. A pair of rectangles, not stitched together, suspended from straps at the shoulders.
  3. A long tube suspended from straps at the shoulders

I have chosen to create the first option as I find it the most practical for everyday wear. A pair of rectangles, unattached, would flop open. This creates a fire hazard as well as exposing more of the linen under layer to cold air, rather than keeping the torso and body core protected by the warmer wool. A long tube without any gores would need to be baggy along the top edge in order to allow freedom of movement of the legs. This creates the same draft problem as well as making it more likely to bunch and become uncomfortable under the arms. A dress tight enough to avoid armpit bunching and drafts would bind up the legs, making walking and daily work difficult.

The over dress is hand stitched using a bone needle and handspun wool thread. The thread itself has been processed from a raw Icelandic top coat, using combs rather than hand cards in order to produce a hard woolen spun thread. This matches the extant 10th century finds of Icelandinc textiles for spin style (S-spun and used as a single rather than being plyed) as well as type of wool used. The spindle used is a bottom whorl soapstone spindle, with a weight roughly matching the weight of an extant 10th century stone spindle whorl I have in my possession. I have used a stitch length found in Dublin caps of 3-5 mm.

Over dress stitches and needle

Seam Treatments:

There is little evidence for seam embellishment on extant textiles, due in part to how rarely they are found. However I have chosen to add silk herringbone stitches to the seams of the over dress due to references in period texts of rich adornment. Herringbone, being a very simple embroidery stitch, is an excellent candidate for use in seam embellishment as it is unobtrusive to the modern eye. The small stitches on the underside of the fabric also allow it to double as a seam finishing technique as it can be done as part of the period finishing practice of flat felling. This is what I have chosen to do on this gown. The use of a bone needle, rather than a modern metal needle, is carried throughout the seam treatments, back stitched hem, and strap attachment.


Seam treatment detail.

Tablet Weaving:

The straps of the dress was woven using the Cambridge Diamonds pattern. My recreation is a 17 card pattern using the Saxon technique of only turning every other card, every other pick. In other words every odd card was given a quarter turn forwards, the weft was packed, then every even card was turned in the same direction. This elongates the center diamond and creates a sturdy band that has the same pattern on the front and back, making it perfect for structural bands such as straps or belts. In order to ensure the edge was bound correctly to the piece the two edge cards were turned every pick, rather than every other.

The fragment itself was unearthed in 1931 as a double sided linen strip attached to the end of a belt fixture. There is some debate as to the age of the extent example, it is unknown whether it is 10th century Anglo-Saxon or a later medieval piece, but as diamond patterns in textiles are common to nearly every time period and region I am interpreting this pattern as reasonable to the 10th century.

The scrap unearthed shows what appears to be a diamond pattern done in three colors, a dark background color, a second diamond color, and a light color as a highlight and outline around the center diamond. The original find was woven in linen or another bast plant fiber, potentially nettle, and measured roughly 1cm wide.

My textile was created using purple and yellow linen, per the original find, with the addition of hand spun blue wool to create the diamonds. The blue wool was S-spun on the same soapstone spindle used to spin the internal sewing thread. My recreation is wider than the original at 1.5cm wide on average. I elected to use part of the band showing my attempts to reverse engineer the pattern as the back half of a strap in order to show my process in recreating the original.

Original fragment unearthed from St. John Crick’s Field, Cambridge (left) my recreation (right)

Front Panel:

This was woven using a starting band. Starting bands are strips of tablet weaving, from which an extra long “fringe” is suspended, creating the warp for the final textile. This allows the warp to be evenly spaced without the use of a reed, which is required for modern horizontal looms, and is the hallmark of warp weighted loom woven textiles. This piece was woven on a modern horizontal table loom, but with a vertical loom starting band, to mimic the look of 10th century Northern European textiles. The starting band features a common greek key pattern.

The front panel itself was woven as a balanced tabby weave of 30 ends per inch. Tabby was chosen, rather than the more appropriate diamond twill, in order to create stripes with mild iridescence. This is also the reason silk, rather than linen or wool, was chosen as the fiber. Due to contact, through sites such as Birka and trade routes through the Byzantine Empire, with China silk was known to 10th century Northern Europeans. The samples we have are small in size and point towards the thread being used to create trims that could be easily removed and added to new garments. It is unlikely, though not out of the realm of possibility, that a garment the size of this front panel would have been made of silk.

Front panel thread count and starting band


  1. _Viking Age Headcoverings from Dublin_. Dublin: Royal Irish Academy, 2003

Smith, Michèle Hayeur Excerpt of Bundled up in Blue, the re-investigation of a Viking grave, Publications of the National Museum of Iceland; pp.25-43. 2015. Located under: The Lady in Blue-Bláklædda Konan: the textiles. National Museum of Iceland.

Crowfoot, G.M. (1952). “Anglo-Saxon Tablet Weaving”. The Antiquaries Journal. 32 (3-4): 189–191.

Starting band pattern located at

Østergård, Else. Woven into the Earth: Textiles from Norse Greenland. Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, 2004. Print.

Christensen, Arne Emil; Nockert, Margareta. Osebergfundet IV, Tekstilene. Universitetet i Oslo 2006.

Geijer, Agnes. Die Textilfunde aus den Gräbern. Birka: Untersuchungen und Studien III. Uppsala: Kungl. Vitterhets Historie och Antikvitets Akadamien, 1938.

Lehtosalo-Hilander, Pirkko-Liisa. Ancient Finnish Costumes. Vammala, 1984.

Barber, E. J. W. Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years : Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times. New York: Norton, 1994.
Barber, E J. W. Prehistoric Textiles: The Development of Cloth in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages with Special Reference to the Aegean. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 1991. Print.

Effing Gloves

So a couple months back I find out a dear friend of mine is getting elevated to Master of Defense. This is super awesome and well earned. I offered to help out with anything that needed doing. A hot minute later I got asked to make regalia, specifically gloves. 

I’ve only ever knit gloves before, but I didn’t have time for that. 

I had never worked in leather before (my bog shoes don’t count here.) 

He’s late period, which means super fancy/sparkly. I don’t generally do super flashy. 

Of course I said yes without thinking this through. You guys know me well enough to know that by now.

From the beginning I’d known I’d wanted the gloves to be list legal. MoD is a fencing peerage, so regalia should be able to be fought in (in my opinion, I do not speak for or judge anyone elses views on the subject). So I researched late period leather gloves. And by “researched” I mean “asked someone with a late period persona what the hell I should be looking at.” They pointed me at a pair of white gloves with cutwork and emboridery with beads and couched embellishments. 

Using that as a jumping point I decided to get red leather gloves sent to me (his MoD paid for the gloves since surgery two months back has me pretty cash strapped). Using those as a base I’d line the cuff with white linen, cut his arms into the red so they showed white, and add gold and silver where appropriate. I had the linen, 14ct gold thread, and sterling silver thread. 

Note: metal threads are really just metal foil wrapped around a paper or silk core. This means they are for couching only, not actually embroidering with. If you try to actually sew with them you will strip the metal off. 

So here is what I started with. Plain red leather gloves. First step was to get the excess dye out since I was going to be backing the cuffs in white. And I wanted that to stay white, not turn pink as I worked or as he wore them. So I soaked them in plain water, wrung them out, and let them air dry. This had the added bonus of making the leather super soft and easy to work with. The next step was to void the non-existent warranty and rip the seams out that held the cuff to the hand, and held the cuff in a circle. No turning back now guys.

Now for the cut work. Effingham’s heraldry involved 6 white crosses, and a white slash, with a gold orobouros in the center. That means the cut work is going to be 6 crosses and a slash per glove. I had husband help me for this part since he’s much better than me with a knife.


All cut out.

Now I added the linen since couching the embellishments on would have the effect of securing the linen to the leather.

Note the linen edging at the bottom. MoDs get a white collar as part of their regalia and I wanted to echo that in his gloves. So now we come to the part where I started carrying these around and got less reliable about progress shots. 

The original plan was to couch down the orobouros in gold, then put the three crossed swords of the MoD symbol on the back of the hand. However someone who was doing a different part of the regalia mentioned they were putting the crossed swords inside the orobouros. Which was a cool idea and I clearly needed to match that. Unfortunately I didn’t get that memo until I was almost done with the linen patches I was going to sew to the back of the hand. 

Work not appearing in final product. 

Orobouros roughed in.

One cuff “finished”. I put it in quotes for a reason. Just wait.

Behold what happens when I don’t pay attention.

Sewn together and finished! Right?

No. Why no? Because the day before they were due I decided I wanted to outline the crosses. Note! There is a strand of silver down around the linen edging AND down the cuff seam. I just didn’t get a picture of that. 

Actually done and how they were presented. All hand work aside from reattaching the cuff. 

Floppy Topper

Beloved internet, I am not late period. Aethelflied lived and died before the year 1000. Yet I am led to believe that some of you insist on living after I died, centuries after even. And a few of you even have the nerve, nay the sheer bold faced audacity! To be people I like and want to give textiles to.  So for the purposes of this post, and the one following on how I made my apprentice sister’s French Hood, assume Aethelflied found a time machine for the sole purpose of going forward in time to make awesome folks hats. So without further ado I present:

Donovan’s Floppy Topper

What in the name of Alfred is a floppy topper?! A floppy topper is the super technical proper term (that I made up) for an Elizabethan men’s hat. You know the one. It looks like a half risen loaf of bread got in a fight with a non-rigid plate and the plate lost.  You can see them in several portraits. For example, this one by Ludger Tom Ring the Younger (Self Portrait – 1547)


So how do you make one of these stunning bits of fashion? To be honest I have no idea if any of what follows is technically correct, or how anyone else does it. I reverse engineered off of portraits because I was too impatient to wait to borrow my apprentice sister’s copy of Tudor Tailor; and I was making this in a time crunch so didn’t want to take too much time letting perfect be the enemy of good or good be the enemy of finished.  That being said, this seemed to work. So it’s at least plausible.

Because I wanted this to be entirely machine washable I skipped any kind of stiffeners. Normally I’d use glue, but I wasn’t sure how that’d hold up, and being able to wash it (as it’s intended to live in a gear bag, and those can get…fragrant) was more important than strict accuracy. That is also why this version is made out of cotton I had on hand.

First we are going to do math to figure out how much fabric you need. Yes, math is scary, but I’ll walk you through it I promise. I am not a math person (in spite of what previous posts would lead you to believe), which is why I tend toward early period; straight lines make for less math. But we will get through this ordeal together.

Step 1: Measure around the intended wearer’s head where they want the hat to sit. In my case that was 23.25 inches.

Step 2: look up how to figure out the diameter of a circle from the circumference because you forgot middle school math. Because I love you I did this step for you. Divide the number you got above by Pi (Use 3.14, don’t go further, you’ll drive yourself bonkers trying to get that accurate. This is fabric, not a life support system). For me this looks like 23.25/3.14 = 7.40.

Step three A: Take that measurement, add 4 inches (11.40 for me) and multiply by 4 (45.2). For the internal of the brim I will need a piece of fabric 11.40in x 45.2 in.

Step three B: Take that measurement, add 6 inches (13.40 for me) and multiply by 2 (26.8). For the shell of the brim I will need one piece of fabric 13.4in x 26.8in.

Step three C: to determine how big you need the flopsy loaf part to be take your brim shell diameter (13.4 for me), subtract 3 inches (so 10.4 for mine) and multiply it by 2 (20.8) that is the diameter of your flopsy loaf. So you need a piece of fabric 20.8in x 20.8 inches.

Total fabric needs: 11.40 + 13.40 + 20.80 = 45.6in x 45.2in if you’re doing it all out of the same fabric.

Interior fabric needs: 11.40in x 45.2 or a little less than ½ a yard of 60in wide fabric.

Shell fabric needs: 13.40 + 20.80 = 34.2in x 20.80in or a yard of 60in wide fabric to be safe because that math looks weird to me and I don’t fully trust it even though I did it 3 times. Better safe than not.

YOU WILL ALSO NEED: a 2-3in wide strip of fabric about 2 inches longer than your circumference/Pi measurement for an internal brow band thing.

Ok so we have our fabric. Now what? Cutting. I’m not going to lie, I hate cutting out circles. Circles are hard. Therefore my circles are not perfect because I do not own a compass (I know, I know, eventually I will get one, or make one out of a stick, string, and tailor’s chalk. But I’m lazy guys, you know that.)

To make/cut the pattern:

Interior brim:

Step 1: draw a circle 7.4in in diameter (or whatever your circumference/Pi measurement came out to)

Step 2: Draw a concentric circle 2in outside that one, or 11.4in in diameter with the first circle centered inside it.


Step 3: Cut 4 of these. Cut the center circle out of them too. You’ll end up with 4 floppy, hollow, Frisbee looking things.


Step 4: sew those together. I did a line around the outer edge, one around the inner edge, and a big zig zag to stabilize it. (If you want a stiffer brim and if machine washable isn’t a concern for you; feel free to stiffen this by soaking it in a solution of 1 part white school glue to 4 parts water and let it dry flat on wax paper. I did not do this, but I won’t judge you.)

Set that aside for now.

Make the brim shell:

Step 1: draw a circle 7.4in in diameter (or whatever your circumference/Pi measurement came out to)

Step 2: Draw a concentric circle 3in outside that one, or 13.4in in diameter with the first circle centered inside it.

Step 3: Cut 2 of these. Cut the center circle out of them too. You’ll end up with 2 floppy, hollow, Frisbee looking things


Step 4: With the right side of the fabric (if it matters) out run a line of running stitch along the outer edge, as close as you feel comfortable to getting, but aim for 1/8 an inch or less.

Step 5: Flip that inside out and run another line of running stitch ¼ of an inch from the edge. This will enclose the raw edges in a little tube of fabric. The astute among you will notice I just had you do a French seam. I did this because trying to flat fell in a circle, when you’re trying to avoid visible finishing stitches on the outside of the shell, is an exercise in self-hatred and I love you too much to put you though that.

Step 6: Flip that back right side out. Take your internal brim and stuff it in the little pita pocket made in the brim shell. Line up the centers as best you can, understanding that circles are fickle things and it will probably not be perfect and that’s ok. Don’t be afraid to trim the center disk if you need to in order to make it fit.

Set that whole 6 layer hollow Frisbee aside without sewing around the center.

Making your flopsy loaf:

Step 1: Cut out your circle (20.8in for me)

Step 2: Run a line of basting stitch about ¼ in from the outer edge. Do NOT tie it off at the end.

Step 3: Gather the fabric along that basting thread (if it doesn’t move freely your stitches are too small, pull your thread out and try again.) until the diameter of the gathered edge matches the interior circle of your hollow Frisbee.

Step 4:  Pin the gathered edge of your flopsy loaf around the interior circle of your hollow Frisbee.


Step 5: Take your 2-3 inch strip of fabric. Fold it into quarters long ways (hot dog bun, not hamburger roll). Iron it if need be. I didn’t.

Step 6: Pin your quartered strip along the interior edge of your hat (it looks like a hat now right?) sandwiching the raw edges inside the fold of the strip. Tuck the very end under when you get all the way around so you have no raw edges showing.

Step 7: Break your sewing machine needle trying to stitch the band/interior of hat sandwich. Skip this step if you’re smarter than me and realize your machine won’t go through 14 layers of fabric.


Step 8: Hand stitch the band into place around all the raw edges. Please use a thimble otherwise your fingers will be sad. Also use the stab stitch method, like you do with a bone needle, otherwise you’ll get super long/loose/ugly suture like stitches, sore hands, and a broken needle.

Step 9: Wear your floppy topper with pride you fancy late period person you. Or give it away and get back into your time machine and return to where textiles make sense.


(Yes I am wearing it, no it is not actually mine)

That… did not go as expected.

So my last post (way back in mid-April, remember?) I talked about weaving silk. I laid out all my glorious plan for how this was going to go and how beautiful the finished project was going to be, ect. Well…


  1. I miswarped the first time. So I tried to solve this problem by tying on additional warp when I approached the end of my first one.
  2. That was an epic failure. I needed to pull it all off the loom and rewarp like a smart not-corner-cutting person.
  3. Pearls take a long time to knot onto silk thread.
  4. Silk thread is super fine and does not want to form knots wide enough to not slide back out of the pearls.
  5. Sewing through stiffened linen is super hard guys. I don’t like it. Sewing around wire is also less than pleasant.
  6. Pleats are hard yo.

That being said”

I made my apprentice sister a french hood. Because I love her very much and she needed a hat just as glorious as the fancy dress she recently acquired AND something worthy of sitting atop her awesomeness. I think I came close and I really hope she likes it.

Materials 1/2 yard x 12in 54epi silk for the shell on the crescent and paste. 20×21 35epi silk veil. 1in x 40in 60epi silk ribbon (red). Roughly 1/2 yard of (commercial) linen for the lining and to stiffen for the interior structural bits. 10 ft of wire, 45 inches of 1cm freshwater pearls.

Total cost: ~$200 not counting time.

Total hours: sweet merciful Loki. I averaged 1in an hour weaving time and spent about 30 hours total warping. So 88 hours weaving/warping total. Sewing took about 10 hours. Knotting and applying the pearls took about 6 hours all told. Patterning/cutting materials/stiffening the linen was about 4-5 hours actual work. Let’s say 5, I tend to under state my labor.

88+10+6+5= 111 hours. Give or take.

For a hat. A really awesome hat.

French Hood

Created by Lady Ǣthelflied Brewbane

The design for this piece taken from a portrait of Anne Boleyn showing a black French hood trimmed in pearls and edged with an orangey red pleated ribbon.  I have chosen to recreate this hood in handwoven black silk taffeta, red silk satin ribbon, and cultured pearls.

Original ^18698950_1529308743760396_786930571_o

My recreation ^

We’ve found cloth ranging from 15 to 100 epi per Textiles and Clothing 1150-1450. In an effort to recreate this I aimed for 50 epi when weaving the covering, lining, veil, and ribbon. I have woven the covering, lining, and veil in a simple tabby weave to produce taffeta per  “Anatomy of the Abuses in England” (1583) by Phillip Stubbes:

… on toppe of these stately turrets (I meane their goodly heads wherin is more vanitie than true Philosophie now and than) stand their other capitall ornaments, as french hood, hat, cappe, kercher, and suche like; wheof some be of veluet, some of taffatie, some (but few) of woll, some of this fashion, some of that, and some of this color, some of that, according to the variable fantasies of their serpentine minds. And to such escesse is it growen, as every artifices wife (almost) wil not stick to goe in her hat of Veluet everye day, every marchants wyfe and meane Gentlewomen in her french-hood, and everye poore Cottagers Daughter in her taffatie hat, or els of woll at least, wel lined with silk, veluet or taffatie. …

The silk taffeta on the shell of the paste and crescent came out to a finished thread density of 54epi. The ribbon is an average of 60epi,  and the veil was woven at 35-40epi to allow for a lighter fabric.

A simple weave, and coarser thread count, would keep costs down in creation of this piece as well as speed production. As today, fashion follows the rich, and it is not out of the realm of possibility that a gentlewoman would commission a hood in the style of one worn by the queen. Therefore it would behoove an enterprising merchant to be able to produce one quickly and comparably cheaply.

The stiffened paste and crescent that forms the center shape of the hood is composed of three layers of heavy linen canvas.  These layers are edged in 14 gauge jewelry wire to help maintain the shape of the hood and support the weight of the veil. Though we have no surviving extant French Hoods we have found wire shaping for English Gable Hoods, the direct predecessor of the French Hood, making it safe to assume French Hoods would have been constructed in a similar fashion.


Textiles and Clothing 1150 -1450 Elisabeth Crowfoot, Frances Pritchard, and Kay Staniland.

Museum of London Publication, 1992. 2001 Reprint.ISBIN 9-781-84383-239-3


The French Hood: What it is and is not Lady Alliette Delecourt mka Irina Lubomirska Accessed 3/25/2017.


Anatomy of the Abuses in England in Shakespeare’s Youth A.D 1583 Phillip Stubbes. Accessed on 3/25/2017.


Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years Elizabeth Wayland Barber.

Norton Press, 1994. ISBIN 0-393-31348-4.



Twill: Attempt the first

Is this thing still on? Hi guys, I know I know, it’s been a while since I posted. But, life happened. Today we’re going to talk about twill. Namely the twill I am making for a specific project.

The project itself is to prove a point: namely that seams sewn with period style bone needles are nearly indistinguishable from seams sewn with a modern steel needle in terms of stitch length. To do this I am weaving fabric and sewing myself a hood where half the seams are sewn with a bone needle and half are sewn with a modern steel needle. I’ll be using different colored thread for the steel vs bone seams, but only I will know which is which. The goal is to have people try to guess which is which and also to check things like long term seam durability and relative stress on the fabric as it ages. Now I could use a commercial fabric and make the WAY faster and easier on myself, but this is me and why on earth would I do that?

Lets begin with some specs: I’m making a 2×2 twill (to explain for non weavers that means each weft thread goes over two warp threads then under the next two in ultimately a diagonal pattern. Don’t worry, I’ll post pictures further down. You’ve seen 2×2 twill, you just may not have known the name.) This produces a nice strong fabric with a bit of bias stretch. Also it’s pretty and super popular in period from what we can tell.

I want 2 yards (64 inches) of 12 inch wide fabric. So here’s the math to get there:


I first I need to figure out what my wpi (wraps per inch) of my warp thread is, then convert that into epi (ends per inch) for weaving. The good news is the math for that is super simple. Divide the wpi in half to get a rough idea of the epi. My yarn was 14 wpi, which means it’s going to be roughly 7 epi. NOTE: This is a super coarse gauge. This is outer wear fabric. I should be aiming for 10 or so ends per cm or 25 epi. However I am using stash wool for this and refuse to feel ashamed.

So we need to multiply our epi (7) with how wide we want the fabric (12in) to get 84. BUT that doesn’t account for draw in (when your weft pulls your warp slightly in ward) so you should do a test swatch to see what percentage of draw in you have to enough additional warp threads to get you to what you want. I did not do this and simply doubled the thread count because I am both lazy and paranoid. So yes, I warped 168 threads.

But how long should they be? Inventive Weaving On A Little Loom (Syne Mitchell, 2015, Story Publishing) suggests adding 20% to the length to account for loom waste and take up. That means 2.2 yards or 76.8 inches. I like round numbers so went to 77 inches.

Because I’m doing a two colored warp, half grey handspun I had lying around and half white commercial yarn of unknown providence I needed 84 grey strands of 77 inches long and 84 white strands of 77 inches.

Formulas for your edification:

(wpi/2)x(width + draw in %) = number of warp threads.

length + 20% = length of warp threads


Weft math is simple. This is a balanced fabric which means my weft is the same epi as my warp. So 7, multiplied by 12 means 84 inches of weft to do one inch of fabric, times 64 = 5376 inches divided by 32 = 168 yards of weft. Notice how I didn’t need to add in the loom waste or take up or draw in to this math. Why? There’s no warp there.

Formula for your edification:

((wpi/2) x width x length)/32 = weft yardage.

Now lets actually warp the loom! One day I’ll figure out how to love warping. That day is not today. Warping alone is an exercise in both patience and self hatred. I know there are easier ways to warp, I know there are better ways to warp. I, however, live with animals who are jerks about mama’s string based hobbies and therefore Measures Must Be Taken. Which means I warp funny. Trust me guys, if you want to weave please look online and in any of the lovely print books that illustrate better ways. Don’t do what I do.

To prove how annoying this is, I present: How Aethelfied Warps, a photo tutorial.


This is the empty back beam. Yes, it is in fact a size 15 knitting needle. I realized the loom I’m borrowing had no beams at 10pm and I couldn’t find any dowels. There’s a tiny rubberband keeping everything from slipping off the tip.


The warp tied on to the back beam in packs of 4, with all the length chained up to keep it from getting tangled.


Next we unchain one bundle at a time, put each thread through it’s heddle and dent in the reed then immediately rechain to keep everything in order.


Tie everything to the front beam


Tension the back beam. Now we’re warped. This whole process took 14 hours over 2 days. Yes I took breaks, but still. Warping takes a long time. But! Now we’re ready to weave!

As you may notice from the picture above this is a 4 harness table loom. This makes weaving twill super simple. The pattern repeat is such:

1+2 up 3+4 down.

2+3 up 1+4 down

3+4 up 1+2 down

1+4 up 2+3 down.

That produces fabric that looks like this:


Look familiar?

This piece is exactly 12 inches wide (I win!) so lets take a look at my thread count


This should be 7. It’s 17. WTF?


This should also be 7. It’s 15. I don’t even.

Let this just go to show that math and I are not friends, but my intuition is generally correct. Glad I doubled my warp. At least this is now on the coarse end of period fabric?

Haversack for Magnus

Come on guys, you didn’t think I just did words did you?

Haversacks or pilgram’s bags aren’t really documentable for either Magnus or me, but they’re damn useful and SCA appropriate regardless of persona. This is the project that made me realize my idea of ‘effort’ has gotten really skewed. I don’t feel like I put a lot of effort into this because I used modern needles and polyester thread for structural seams.

Never mind that it’s black linen, lined in raw silk, hand stitched with fully finished seams on both the lining and the shell, with a hand woven strap based on some trim located in a find contemporary to his period. Or that the embroidered panel on the front was designed by his (sneaky, clever, and wonderful) lady and embroidered with silk, linen, 14ct gold and sterling silver. Nope, clearly no effort since I didn’t spin or use period tools. Yes I can feel your eyeroll and recognize I’ve earned it.

Anyway. Pictures!



Sewing with a Bone Needle (Yes Again)

About a year or so ago, maybe a year and a half I read an article (which I have been trying to find again but can’t recall the name or author) detailing a particularly well preserved Dublin Hood. Preserved well enough to measure the space between needle holes as roughly 3mm. So fairly fine even with a modern needle. The common assumption I’ve run across is that you’ll never get stitches that fine using a bone needle, therefore metal needles had to have fully replaced bone and hawthorn as soon as they were reliably available.



THOSE ARE 3MM STITCHES. CONSISTENT 3MM STITCHES. And the needle I used to make them. Thereby proving it’s possible to make stitches that small without the use of a metal needle. Which means we can not accurately date when metal needles almost fully replaced bone, horn, and wooden needles based on stitch length and needle hole size.

That also means that this dress will be as period as I can possibly make it shy of spinning the thread and weaving the fabric myself. That’s next. After I have the space and money for a warp weighted loom. Then, oh then, I will make myself something from start to finish. Oh yes. *Ahem* right. Moving on.

Doing this I figured out a trick for getting the stitches so little. In normal hand sewing I tend to judge the distance between needle holes and aim for a consistent length in order to get even stitches. Here that resulted in big, ugly, suture like stitches of uneven length and a seam so gross looking I pulled the thread out and started over. Then I figured out why. In normal hand sewing with a modern metal needle the needle passes through the fabric, cutting threads, but leaving the weave generally smooth and undisturbed looking. Sewing with the thicker bone needle shoved the threads out of the way and left a large hole in the weave, while leaving the individual threads intact. So when I was eyeballing distance I wasn’t taking into account the added threads that would normally be in the space that is now the needle hole. So when the threads started to fill the hole back in suddenly there was more fabric between the stitch holes, and you end up with uneven ugly wonky stitches.

So how do you fix it? Count threads. Seriously. Eyeball the number of threads between the needle holes you want to make, not the distance they’re covering. 4 threads are 4 threads whether they’re spread out over 3mm or squashed into 1mm. Added bonus to doing this? You end up pushing the threads back into their original place with the new needle hole, healing the previous one, without having to rewash the garment.

Note: This only really works to heal the previous needle hole if you’re using the stab stitch method I talked about last time I discussed how to sew with a bone needle. Otherwise it won’t shove the threads back into their appropriate place in the weave of the fabric when you pull the needle through AND counting threads becomes a massive pain in the butt with a lot of fabric flipping to see both sides of the seam.

Using this method I got the stitches you see above, small, consistent, neat, with a stitch length roughly consistent with what I get out of my normal hand sewing with a modern needle. It does take a little longer, but not so much so that I’m willing to rule out “new skill slowness” as the cause.