Thursday, February 5, 2015

Husband's Garb (in a hurry!) Part 1

I've been a member of the SCA since december, something I'd hardly heard about before this fall. How did I miss out on this? A whole society of people obsessed with ancient civilizations who love to discuss their research and bash each other with sticks? It's like little history geek heaven. I attended my first event in december in some slapped together from a house gown, marginally accurate 14th century garb and had a wonderful time. Everyone was so NICE. Now we're thinking of going to a family even this weekend, and husband hasn't a thing to wear (eek!) so I've spent my week busting out some quick viking garb for him.

Why viking? well. I've been obsessed with vikings since I was a kid. Probably my older brother's questionable influence.... Actually I'm fascinated with a lot of the early european cultures because it's such a mystery. Every new find fills in a piece of a really fascinating puzzle. And the viking puzzle is a particularly interesting one: sometimes raiders, sometimes traders, sometimes settlers, they had a complex, warlike culture with advanced legal system, rights for women, and as artisans? unparalelled in their time. Metalworkers, shipbuilders, and in terms of the household arts? I go all dewy eyed and wax lyrical about their feats of weaving. So obviously I leap at the opportunity to make any viking clothes, and only partially because it gives me an excuse to research things, and read grave finds, and, and, and.....

However with the weekend fast approaching I am doing the quick and dirty version. I will continue to add acessories and embellish pieces in the future, but for now I just want to get him CLOTHED.

So what is the "quick and dirty" viking ensemble? A shirt, sometimes called a serk, or smock, in fine wool or linen, with a tunic over the top. Drawstring linen drawers, and wool or linen pants over, with a belt holding it all together at the waist. construction techniques vary, but were advanced for the period (10th century for us) including set in sleeves, and shaping techniques like darts. Vikings preferred layers of closely fitting clothing because their climate was a cold one. They also liked patterned twill weaves, flamboyant colors, and lots of embellishment (I love vikings....). Since I'm working with what I have on hand, I cannot be as dead accurate as I would like. He's ending up with underthings in my all purpose cotton linen blend (like linen on a budget....) a plainweave tunic in green wool, and similarly plainweave trousers in brown. It will probably be devoid of trim until a later date since I don't have any tablet woven braid lurking in the corners, and haven't time for embroidery.

I like to make shirts/undertunics by the measure and cut rectangle method. With variations in details it's an accurate way to make shirts right up to the 1800's when the "french sleeve" or set in sleeve became popular. It's fascinating to me that women made shirts for their husbands in almost exactly the same way for at least 800 years. The viking version of this shirt  includes a tapered sleeve, underarm gusset, keyhole neck with facing or binding (I extend the facing along the whole shoulder for strength and wear, a larger version of "wear bands" found in the shoulders of later shirts.) and either gored or slit sides. I prefer slit sides in the shirt because it reduces bulk/weight and takes less fabric. Examples of both ways have been found. The whole is put together with small flat felled seams, for comfort and strength, another detail found on fragmentary extant garments.  This is how I made shirts for the boys, how I made made ladybug's shift, and how I have made many other garments. So. I blithely measured my husband, cut, and sewed, popped it over his head..... and it was too small. I still don't know what I did. I suspect that carrying on conversations with your two and three year old while you attempt to tear rectangles for your husband's shirt can lead to mistakes in measurement. I had to start over, at great waste of time and fabric and to my intense personal annoyance. Which is proof that even really experienced seamstresses sometimes screw up. Even my mother probably occasionally makes sewing errors. Well.... maybe not....
One of these things is not like the other..... 
From now on if whatever I am working on for my husband doesn't feel like sewing a smallish tent I am going to be VERY suspicious. The other conclusion I drew from the shirt making expirement is that it is very hard to get a flattering fit on a man with really broad shoulders with this method.

The tunic construction I chose is based one of the garments found at Hedeby, with side gores, set in sleeves, and a keyhole neck. Infomation about the cuts of mens tunics and historical evidence pertaining thereto can be found in overview form from Madam Pora. From there you can go down the rabbit hole of original sources.... I do reccomend it, it's a really INTERESTING rabbit hole. 

 Because I do not have a current body block for my husband, partly from lazyness, partly because most of my drafting books are in storage from our move, I drafted from a polo that had holes in it. This can be a great method, but has some flaws. In general it's best to draft from a block. You are going to get better  results with less fitting steps. You also work with what you have! In this case I drafted directly onto the mock up fabric to streamline the whole process. 

The last few patern drafting projects I've done, instead of using a paper pattern, modifying that from the marks on the mock up, then cutting out a new mockup, I've been directly modifying the mock up by ripping it apart and then cutting it down, or adding to it by sewing on scraps. Here I am adding to the sleeve cap on the tunic. I like this method especially for my husband because it saves on mockup fabric. it took about three yards of thirty something wide cotton to mock this tunic up for my husband. If I had made a whole fresh mockup, or even a partially fresh mockup, every time I made changes, I would have used three times that much. When I have the mockup fit to my preference I rip it apart, iron, and label it, and keep it as a pattern. The fabric can hold up better as a pattern than paper in some circumstances. 

Isn't this fabric vile? people frequently give me bags of fabric because they know I make clothes for my kids. Such bags often include interesting items like this. I am not sure why anyone would have bought this fabric ever! However it saves me buying muslin for mockups, so I am most thankful for it. When I got this particular jem out I told my husband I was going to make his tunic out of it. He was unimpressed. Alas this sort of practical joke doesn't really work on him any more because he's listenend to me babble about grave finds and weave structures for long enough to know that isn't a finely woven wool in one of the prescribed colors.....  This is halfway through the fitting process. sleeve is looking better but some fine tuning to go. I don't bother with side gores or making it to full length in mockup. Your major fitting challenges are in the shoulder and sleeve here. When I'm ready to cut the tunic I lay out the pattern, measure down from the shoulder, and just cut the length I want. Then I measure down from the "start gores here" mark on the pattern to the hem, and cut the gores accordingly. 

One of the challenges of a fitted tunic is the eternal problem of how to hav a very tightly fitted sleeve and still be able to bend your arm. The extremely fitted garments of later eras (both mens and womens) resorted to multiple shaped pieces in the sleeve which put together yielded a sort of elbow macaroni shape. This is not accurate for 10th century viking, but you still want some elbow room. I draft in extra length at the back of the sleeve in the elbow area. Then I pin simultaneaously up from the cuff and down from the armpit, trapping the extra bubble of fabric at the elbow thusly
Then, using steam if necessary to relax the fabric into the desired shape (one of the great things about wool!) I ease the fullness into the seam without any puckers. This gives in the finished garment a slightly bent elbowed shape with a little "bubble" of space at the back of the arm, allowing the wearer to comfortably bend their arm. Although I don't have direct historical reference for doing it this way, I consider it  to be well within the range of viking garment shaping as we know it. Once the pinned seam shown here is sewn up and steamed into shape, there is no gathered effect at all. The trick is to add enough extra fullness to give elbow room without adding so much as to make an unsightly baggy bubble shape at the elbow. 

Facings at the neck are achieved in the standard manner, althoug they do have to be made in a front and back piece to account for the sloped shoulder. I prefer to mark my sewing lines, sew, then cut out the shape of the neck. This keeps the neckline from getting skewed in the pinning/sewing process. Then it's graded, clipped, and turned. In keyhole necklines like this, the bottom of the slit that allows it to fit over your head is very prone to fraying or tearing. I use a technique from 17th century mens shirts to prevent some of this, and work a bar of satin stitch across the slit about a quarter inch above it's terminal point. I then bind the center of this bar, where it crosses the slit, with knots as if making a hand worked button loop, and tie off. This bar keeps pressure from being exerted on the fragile tip of the slit every time the shirt or tunic is dragged on and off over the head of its owner. In matching thread on a wool tunic, it's basically invisible. Again, I have no historical reference for this, but I doubt viking women were any more excited about having to repair torn out seams than I am! I don't know what their solution to this was (and if I can find reference for it will adopt it immediately!), but feel that I am well within the spirit of recreation. 

The finished tunic is a fairly unpreposessing item. Especially without any trims or embroideries (it actually looks kind of sad). This is just finished with hand topstitching at neck, hem, and sleeves in matching thread. I will later cover the topstitching with embellishments. I plan on trim at neck and wrist, embroideries over all the seams to strengthen them and bind down the seam allowances, and probably applique/embroidery on the shoulders both front and back. I have my eye on the wolf patterns on the hilt of a 10th century sword for the applique.

Mostly I am just relieved that husband will have something to wear, and rushing on to drafting/making trousers! Hopefully I will get better pictures of the tunic with him in it at the event. For now. On to trousers! 

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