Understanding the Herringbone Stitch on the St. Birgitta’s Coif

I’ve made a lot of basic St. Birgitta style caps without the embroidered band on the center seam of the cap, but finally decided to sit down and figure out the embroidered band recently. I have not been able to find a good image of the embroidery on the original cap and I’ve seen a few different interpretations so I selected one to try. The original linen cap is two halves joined with an interlaced double herringbone stitch similar to a modern faggoted seam, from the front edge to about 2 inches above the bottom edge.

A couple of few weeks ago I taught a class on how to do the stitch at a local event and I would add that if you want to do a trial run of the stitch on a short piece of fabric using multiple colored threads definitely helps the stitches to be more visible.

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Recreating a 14th-century Pourpoint

Research

The Pourpoint is a quilted and padded garment adapted from the military silhouette of the mid-14th-century into a civilian garment and can be found in imagery and extant garments in the later 14th-century throughout much of Western Europe. The silhouette is very common on effigies of English and French knights from the 1340’s-1370’s identified by a rounded chest and narrow waist, such as in this effigy of Thomas Beauchamp.

Thomas Beauchamp, 1369, St. Mary, Warwick, England. Combat Society website, http://www.themcs.org/armour/14th%20century%20armour.htm

Thomas Beauchamp, 1369, St. Mary, Warwick, England. Combat Society website, http://www.themcs.org/armour/14th%20century%20armour.htm

This silhouette can also be seen in the Pourpoint of Charles de Blois (pictured below) and the Pourpoint of Charles VI (not pictured) as well as many manuscript images. The first set of images below from the Wailsche Gast manuscript show the rounded chest, but not the deep-set armscye, also known as the Grande Assiette Sleeve, of the Charles de Blois Pourpoint.

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New year, new goals and new ideas!

Looking back at 2015

Last year one of my favorite historical clothing bloggers posted her clothing goals for the new year which got me started on goals for myself. A common phrase is to try to improve ten percent every year, but how do you quantify ten percent when you are talking about aesthetics or appearance? An easier goal for me to quantify is to select an area or topic I want to improve and then identify specific goals to achieve.

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Recreating Veils and Hairstyles of the Middle Ages: 14th Century Italian Hair Styles

When looking at images of 14th Century Italian hairstyles a couple of styles are definitely more prevalent, hair that is braided or wrapped with ribbons or cloth and then wrapped around the head. While the hair wrapped with ribbons or cloth can be held in place by wrapping the long ends of the ribbon around the head and tying them at the base of the neck, the braids would most likely be held in place by either hair pins or sewing.

Ambrogio Lorenzetti - Allegory of Good Government - Good Goverment - Detail 1338-40 Fresco Palazzo Publico, Siena, Italy web

This image from Siena, Italy circa 1338-40 shows both braided and wrapped styles.

BLR - 6 E IX - Regia Carmina - f 13r

ca 1335-1340 Tuscany, Italy

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How to make a St. Birgitta Coif/Cap

The St. Birgitta’s coif/cap (also, Bridget, Birgitte, Brigid), currently owned by the conservation department of Sweden’s Riksantikbarieambete (National Heritage Board) is attributed to the fourteenth-century century Swedish saint of that name. The original linen cap was at some point, most likely in the sixteenth-century, covered with silk taffeta which has since been removed by the conservation department. According to the article in Clothing and Textiles the linen has not been carbon dated, so while it most likely dates to the 14th century, the exact age is unknown.

St Birgitta Cap 2

St. Birgitta’s Cap, Source unknown

The original linen cap is two halves joined with a complex herringbone stitch similar to a modern faggoted seam, from the front edge to about 2 inches above the bottom edge. The bottom edge is then gathered into the binding strip that runs across the front edge and then continues on as the ties that help to secure the cap on your head.

Images of similar looking caps can be found in many 13th and 14th century manuscripts. While most images of women wearing only a cap during the day appear to be servants, it is not inconceivable for many of the upper class women to be wearing one under their wimple and veil as there are also images of women sleeping in what appears to be a similarly shaped cap.

Through experimentation I, and many women that I have talked to, have discovered that fastening the wimple and veil to the St. Birgitta’s cap does help everything to stay in place far more easily and comfortably, for hours at a time.

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The Busiest Time of the Year: Thoughts on the Middle Kingdom A&S Faires

This is the first in a series on the behind the scenes of the Middle Kingdom A&S Faires, one of the most exciting series of events for me each year. I will update once a week for the next few weeks.

The A&S Faires are a great way to experience many of the wonderful projects that people have been spending the last year or so working on and that they bring with great pride to share with others. The process leading up to each of the Regional Faires and then finally the Kingdom Faire is a fun-filled, even if slightly stressful, process for all involved. While the entrants are readying their items and documentation the tally room staff: which includes the Kingdom MOAS, Kingdom Deputy MOAS, Judges Coordinator, Faire Database Coordinator, Regional MOASs, and Deputy Regional MOASs, as well as a number of other people who travel to each faire to help make sure everything runs smoothly, are all making sure that there are appropriate event sites, that people are registering their entries into the system correctly, and that there are sufficient judges for each entry. Additionally, Regional MOASs are also promoting their faires, and are often providing research support.

About a week before each Regional Faire the Regional MOAS, Judges Coordinator, and sometimes the Deputy Regional MOAS all sit down on a conference call to assign judges. While the number of entries and judges is usually checked a couple of times before then, and calls for judges are usually put out about a week or so before the assignment meeting this meeting also serves to double-check that there are sufficient judges for each category. For instance this year at the North Oaken Regional Faire when we started assigning judges we found that we were short on judges for Division 5 primarily for the Brewing and Vintning, and Herbcraft and Apothecary entries, so we publicized that we needed more judges and once those additional judges were registered we were then able to finish assigning judges for the faire. On average assigning judges for each faire takes about two sessions of 2-3 hours each, the Judges Coordinator does this for each of the five Regional Faires as well as the Kingdom Faire.

Check back next week for more!:)

Bits and Bobs: Hair and Veil Accessories made from Brass Wire

            Recently when I did not want to work on my current sewing project, or leave the warmth of my couch, I decided to try and make a couple of the hair pins listed in Egan and Pritchard’s Dress Accessories. The copper alloy wire pins were found in the Finsbury Circus dig, and are dated to the 14th-century. The ones in Dress Accessories are U-shaped and about 2” long, decorated with curled wire, they are shaped similar to modern hair pins, although they are larger than most modern hair pins.

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Creating and Patterning a late 14th century Pourpoint Part 2: Patterning the Grande Assiette Sleeve.

Image

            Frequently when I tell someone that I make pourpoints I receive a response along the lines of “Wow, aren’t those sleeves really hard to figure out?”, so after considering this response I tried to figure out what part of making a pourpoint was stumping so many people who are otherwise strong sewers. The body of the garment is either three or four pieces, two front pieces and one or two back pieces depending on whether it is cut on the fold, there is an upper sleeve with added gussets and a lower sleeve, in all seven separate pattern pieces.
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Godet, Gore, and Gusset: What are they and why can’t we use just one term.

So about a week ago at Midrealm RUM (http://midrealm.org/rum/) I managed to confuse my entire class by mentioning that the triangle piece inset into the skirt of my gown was a godet. So I sort of confusingly explained with no visuals the difference between a gore and a godet. Here is that same description, now with visuals!

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Creating and Patterning a late 14th century Pourpoint Part 1: What is that garment?

            The pourpoint is a padded garment, that by most accounts began life as a fitted garment to be worn under armour and assist with fastening armour to the body. Many reenactors wear padded and unpadded pourpoints as an arming cote and fasten their leg and/or arm armour directly to the garment via points either sewn directly to the garment or threaded through leather that has been sewn to the garment. Having made a number of these garments I can attest, though others, to their general comfort while also reducing the encumbrance of the armour. An alternative to the arming cote, and a common method of fastening leg armour to the body amongst people just getting into western martial arts is through the use of a C-belt or weightlifting belt from which the leg armour is hung, this solution has the unfortunate problem of pressing on the sciatic nerve, not very comfortable. While some wear a sleeveless version of the arming cote full mobility of the shoulders and arms can be obtained in a long sleeve version as well, provided the patterning of the sleeve is done correctly.

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