Sunday, July 20, 2014

Apron Dress Hand Stitching Techniques: Part 2

As I mentioned in the blog post for Part 1 of this project, this summer vacation is dedicated to bumping up the authenticity (and documentation) of our garb, using materials I have on hand. This apron dress was originally an Edwardian style linen skirt, and has been paired with a bit of silk I'd been hoarding for a while.

To finish up the project, I need to complete the hem, decide on the pattern and colors of the trim I'd like to use, weave it on my rigid heddle loom, and attach it to the garment.

To the left is an image from my sketchbook, where I took notes on the documentation, construction, and stitching types that I was planning on using. There have been some slight changes, but for the most part I have been able to follow this plan.

The first item on the agenda was to learn how to do the decorative hemstitch style. I've chosen to use a contrasting thread for this, simply because it's supposed to look cool and if I'm going to do something like this, then I want it to stand out!

It took a little messing around, but I eventually got the hang of it. I ended up working on the wrong side, so that I was better able to use the fold of the fabric as a guide. That allowed me much better control in terms of spacing. Looking back at it now, I wish I had chosen another color, but there's no way I'm going back over it now!

In the last image you can see the recently woven trim I chose for the top of the apron dress. I made the pattern using that absolutely wonderful tool, the Inkle Loom Pattern Generator. It's just awesome.

The actual weaving was done with linen yarn. I went to see the lovely ladies at White Rock Weaving and they suggested the Flax 100% Linen yarn from Fibra Natura. They only had a couple colors, so I picked up Tarragon (#12) and White (#14) and then promptly hit the craft store on the way home to pick up some RIT.
While RIT may not be the most authentic dye, it was a lot closer to my budget than the smallest quantity of woad I could find. I measured out the approximate yardage I would need, looped it into a nicely loose knot, and then tossed it into the dye pot with a couple random things that I thought deserved to be blue.

 I love how this trim turned out - and it looks simply gorgeous next to the purple silk and teal linen!

But I wasn't done there! I wanted to make sure I'd have an underdress to coordinate with it, so I pulled out a white linen dress I made a couple years ago and covered up some of my old hand-stitching with a more delicate version of the trim I used on the apron dress. This element is not quite as authentic - only the top-stitching has been done by hand - but the cut and construction are correct to the period. While not perfectly accurate, it fits into my goal of using materials on hand where possible.

And, finally, it all comes together...

The underdress is still a little on the tight side, but I think the trim looks wonderful on it - and you wouldn't believe how close my stitching had to be to get that sucker to lie pretty in the curve you see here!

My brooches are TB-26 from Raymond's Quiet Press, and are very, very close to the examples shown on pg. 61 and the first color page (after pg. 64) of Ewing's Viking Clothing. While modern, the beads were chosen specifically for their resemblance to examples from pg. 19, 40, and 120 of Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga. Also attached is a replica needle case based on a find in Birka and two more replica pieces from Raymond's Quiet Press: A Viking ear spoon (X-12) and a Viking key (N-53).

While I would normally wrap it up there, I do feel the need to address something that came up since the first posting...

Notes on Fabric Widths:

In Part I, I mentioned that Countess Gwen covered fabric widths in her Viking Clothing class at Gulf Wars XXII. While the class was riveting, we were crowded under a small shelter at the Early Period Life section of camp during a downpour and had to make frequent seating/standing adjustments for new roof leaks. Suffice it to say that my notes on her documentation did not survive, but she said that typical looms of the Viking period would make up to 24" wide fabrics but that an 18" fabric width was more common. That sparked some interesting debate on the Viking Clothing Facebook group and a couple members were kind enough to point me in the direction of any documented linen fabric widths they could find.

Bránn Mac Finnchad pointed me in the direction of the 11th century Viborg shirt. According to author Mytte Fentz, who included a rather fabulous cutting layout in Fig. 10, the linen that the shirt was cut from was 95cm by 235cm, which is approximately 37.4" wide by 92.5" long.

Unfortunately, that was the only piece mentioned, so I'm going to continue to keep an eye out.


Baker, Jennifer. "Stitches and Seam Techniques Seen on Dark Age/Medieval Garments in Various Museum Collections." 2009. <> 11 June 2014.

Ewing, Thor. Viking Clothing. Gloucestershire: Tempus Publishing, Inc. 2006.

Fentz, Mytte. "An 11th Century Shirt from Viborg Søndersø, Denmark." Archaeological Textiles in Northern Europe - Report from the 4th NESAT Symposium. Ed: Lise Bender Jørgensen and Elisabeth Munksgaard. Tindens Tand 1992, nr. 5 pp 83-92 <>

Fitzhugh, William W. and Elizabeth I. Ward, eds. Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga. Smithsonian Institution Press. Japan, 2000.

Geijer, Agnes. "The Textile Finds from Birka." Cloth and Clothing in Medieval Europe: Essays in Memory of Professor E.M. Carus-Wilson. Ed. N. B. Harte and K. G. Ponting. Pasold Studies in Textile History. 1983.

Hägg, Inga. "Viking Women's Dress at Birka: A Reconstruction by Archeological Methods." Cloth and Clothing in Medieval Europe: Essays in Memory of Professor E.M. Carus-Wilson. Ed. N. B. Harte and K. G. Ponting. Pasold Studies in Textile History. 1983.

Stewart-Howard, Stephanie (aka Countess Gwendolyn Isabella Stewart of Meridies). "Viking Clothing." Gulf Wars XXII. Lumberton, MS. 11 March 2014. Workshop.

Thunem, Hilde. "The Apron Dress from Køstrup (Grave ACQ)." 21 October 2013. <>

Thunem, Hilde. "Viking Women: Apron Dress." 25 February 2015. <>

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