While I have been in the SCA on and off since 2000, I've never had a partner who was a heavy fighter. I had absolutely no idea how much armor costs, so when Jake decided to learn we both suffered a little sticker shock.
Luckily, my sewing is a marketable skill in the SCA (or in the event of the apocalypse, as Jake and I like to joke) and a lovely lady on Facebook's SCA Medieval Barter Town group offered to trade a helm for a Viking apron dress. I promised that it would be wool, with hand-finished seams, contrasting fabric at the top and bottom, with hand-woven trim. No light project, but a fair trade to keep my husband's noggin safe from swinging rattan!
Looking at it now, I am incredibly proud of how well it turned out - and I think I finally figured out the best way to finish the seams with gores!
I started by weaving a little under five yards of trim, using a pattern I'd made previously on an online pattern generator. It's designed for an inkle loom, but works perfectly for my rigid heddle loom as well. A couple days and a lot of 5/2 cotton pearle thread later, and I had a lovely chain woven in copper, gold, and cream. Here's a screen capture from the pattern generator:
But that was just the beginning! Once I had the fabric, I needed to draft the pattern and actually create the garment. I chose a fairly standard apron-dress pattern, which I have seen on so many different sites that I don't know who to credit. Essentially, it's a tube with a slightly fuller skirt: three body pieces that flare at the bottom and three gores sewn between them. Add in straps and loops, and you're done.
From there you just keep moving on down the seam! But what do you do if you run out of thread before you finish the seam? Yes, it's time to talk about knots. I've talked to a lot of other sewers over the years, and some will shout and rave about using knots and others will do the same about the opposite. It gives me a headache, so I just hide my knots.
What works best for me is to sew the last stitch I can, and then pick up the seam allowance I'm sewing down. I will then line up my needle, with fresh thread, and carefully line it up right next to my previous stitch.
I pull the new stitch through the fabric until only a short tail remains. Next I use my needle to pull out the last stitch of the old thread.
I tie the two small ends tightly together several times until it's secure, then I pull them over until they're sandwiched between the seam allowance and the fabric.
After that I just keep sewing down the seam as normal. There's no ugly knot on the inside, and the outside looks like a continuous line of stitches. It's super easy and very secure.
Here's an image of the finished seam. The garment is now stronger since the gore fabric is overlapping the piece it's attached to, and that also serves to dish up some additional fullness. Here's to a greater swish factor!
Next on my to-do list were the straps and loops. I actually made these twice. The first time I used my sewing machine for the hidden seams, but this fabric has enough of a stretch to it that the thread broke when I turned the tubes right-side out. I ended up sewing them entirely by hand in a nice backstitch. With the Guterman Heavy Duty Thread I always use for my hand-sewing, a simple backstitch was a heck of a lot stronger and more reliable.
Finally, I was able to attach the straps, loops, and the green accent wool. I ran a line stitch over the edge and sewed down the loose end by hand. This time it was for two reasons: It looks better and it's strong enough to deal with the somewhat stretchy wool. The only thing left to do was sew down the trim!
And finally we have the finished garment! I am very, very pleased about how this turned out. There was a brief and very scary issue with the delivery, but it made it safely into its new owner's hands. Hopefully she'll send pictures for me to post, but for now, here's a close-up of the top front of the garment:
Bibliography:Crowfoot, Elisabeth, Frances Pritchard, and Kay Staniland. Museum of London: Textiles and Clothing c1150-1450. The Boydell Press, Woodbridge: 2002. Page 150-7.
Østergård, Else. Woven into the Earth: Textile Finds from North Greenland. Denmark: Aarhus University Press. 2004. Page 98-99.
Wild, John Peter. Shire Archaeology: Textiles in Archaeology. Shire Publications LTD. Great Britain, 2003. Page 54.