Tutorial: How to hand-wash clothes

As we mentioned in our previous post about caring for your medieval clothes, hand-washing is the best way to clean your woolens without having to worry about shrinking or damage. But, how do you do it?

Hose: they just about always need washing!

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Guide: Kit maintenance – Fabric and clothing

Nobody can deny that re-enactment kit is expensive and most re-enactors invest a great deal of capital into it. With this in mind, it’s definitely helpful to keep your kit maintained so it lasts as long as possible. In this series of posts, we’ll show you how to maintain medieval re-enactment kit so it looks terrific for as long as possible.

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A Garrison member by a display of period items of clothing in wool, linen and silk

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Tutorial: How to pre-wash fabric

So, you’ve been shopping. You’ve got yourself some nice fabric which you’re planning to have turned into your brand new medieval clothing.

Purchases! Including two lengths of fabric for medieval clothes.

However, before you can cut your fabric out and sew it together you first need to pre-wash it. This tutorial will show you how.

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Tutorial: A 14th Century hair and veil style

A popular fourteenth-century veil style is to have a pair of plaits framing your face which are visible under your veil.

Follow our tutorial to recreate it.

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Tutorial: Women’s footed hose

I’ve been re-enacting since 2002, and have made cotes, shifts, veils, hoods and surcotes. I have had a go at making almost every piece of standard feminine soft kit except hose!  I had always been a little intimidated by footed hose. Every time I had looked into making some I saw tutorials which required so many measurements – 26 in one version – or required a complex pattern which I wasn’t happy scaling up to my big feet.

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Show report: Newport Ship Open Day – October 2016

Cardiff Castle Garrison were thrilled to return to the Newport Ship for another Open Day. The charity are continuing to preserve the 15th Century timbers of the ship found in the River Usk in 2002, and hope to finish this process over the next year. They then plan to display the ship in a purpose-built museum.

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Show report: Bank holiday at Caerphilly Castle – 28th & 29th August

Garrison had a lovely time this August bank holiday with a show at the thirteenth-century Caerphilly Castle.

Craft, clothing, cooking, weapons and armour displays were provided for the public.

Please check out our photos below, and thanks to everyone who came and made it such a fun event!

Show report: Grand Medieval Melee at Cardiff Castle – 13th & 14th August

Another old favourite this weekend at Cardiff Castle’s Grand Medieval Melee: a show Garrison have been attending for many years. As usual, we had a wonderful time demonstrating crafts, clothing, arms and armour, and even had authentic music provided by one of our members. Have-A-Go archery was also a great hit with the public. Thanks so much to everyone who came along and made it such a special show for us.

NB: Garrison are going to be super-busy over the next couple of weeks. Please drop in and see us at the Newport Ship Open Day on 20th August, or at Caerphilly Castle on 28th and 29th August. See our event page for more detail.

Review: The Medieval Tailor’s Assistant, 2nd edition

So, I have Sarah Thursfield’s The Medieval Tailor’s Assistant: making common garments 1200-1500 (1st edition) and my friend bought The Medieval Tailor’s Assistant: Common Garments 1100-1480 (2nd edition – revised and expanded). So, as I’m sure many of you are absolutely dying to know what’s in the new edition, we thought I should write a review and comparison.

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Herjolfsnes Challenge

Sometimes an idea seems to spread; you can’t be sure if you thought it up yourself or if you are just catching it from your community.  This has just happened to me with the Herjolfsnes Challenge!

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Some of the wool earmarked for my Herjolfsnes garments, from left to right: yellow for hose, blue for a hat and grey twill for the surcote.

Herjolfsnes is a site in Greenland where the dead were buried wrapped in clothes. Those clothes were preserved by the cold and now represent a wonderful collection of ordinary garments which are believed to have been made between 1100 and 1400.  As Greenland was a colony of Iceland and Iceland had close links with Scandinavia these clothes seem to follow European fashions.  As the clothing of ordinary people is so rarely preserved it is difficult to tell how much these garments differ from those worn towards the core of Europe as we have so little to compare them to. Nevertheless this is a fantastic resource for all re-enactors seeking to get closer to an authentic impression of the Middle Ages.

A little while ago I borrowed from Membership Officer Miriam her copies of “Woven into the Earth” and “Medieval Garments Reconstructed” (http://www.oxbowbooks.com/oxbow/woven-into-the-earth.html and http://www.oxbowbooks.com/oxbow/medieval-garments-reconstructed.html) intending to use them as a source for my new surcote. It looks like I am not the only one with these plans:

Merviand her lovely madder dress: http://hibernaatio.blogspot.se/2015/08/oranssi-mekko-toinen-otos-orange-dress.html

Elina who got us all together on Facebook: http://www.neulakko.net/?p=9988

Andrea who like me and a few others is warming up to the challenge with a hood: http://andrea-hakansson.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/en-till-herjolfsneshatta-another.html

As my plans involved plenty of things I hadn’t done before I decided to start with something fairly small to learn some of the new techniques: a hood for Displays Officer Sam.  As I have no experience with patterns I chose the one that best matched Sam’s measurements without modification which was D10597 (Norland number 66 from the original excavation reports).

The patterns in “Medieval Garments Reconstructed” are at 1:5 scale so a couple of hours’ work with a pencil and ruler on squared paper got me my pattern.

Herjolfsnes D10597 pattern
Main pattern piece for D10597 (Norland 66), I cleverly forgot to include the pieces for the centre front gore and liripipe in this picture, one is a triangle, the other is a rectangle.

My cloth was a little small for the pattern so I had to move it around until it fit. This means I have had to ignore the twill pattern, though the original makers of these garments were very careful to keep the twill pattern continuous around the whole garment.

Fitting my pattern onto the dark grey wool twill, a charity shop bargain for this first experiment.
Fitting my pattern onto the dark grey wool twill: a charity shop bargain for this first experiment.

Cutting was easy as this cloth is so well fullered that fraying just doesn’t happen, this also means pinning was virtually impossible so I used heavy stuff to hold the pattern in place instead. The nearest heavy thing? “Woven into the Earth”!

The point of no return!
The point of no return!

As the pattern is so straightforward I didn’t bother with muslins or tacking. I started off pinning my seams but that was even worse than when I tried pinning the pattern down!

According to the book the seams used a running stitch from the outside with the allowances whipped down on the inside. I started doing this but quickly found the thickness of my wool made running stitch impossible, I tried a hem stitch but found a stab stitch worked very close to the edge was more effective for a smooth finish. I also found working the whip stitch first on the back made it far easier to manage the seam.

Sewing the seams.
Sewing the seams.

I started sewing with my bronze needle; it is my favourite sewing tool and I have never found one quite like it but have since switched to a modern one as I didn’t want this heavy sewing to damage my precious.

My bronze sewing needle and thread.
My bronze sewing needle and thread.

The Herjolfsnes garments were sewn with an unplied wool thread, probably specially spun to be suitable for the job. Having tried sewing with a commercially produced crewel wool before I thought I would try spinning my own. The bought wool was too thick and rough to sew easily with on wool cloth and if I split it into singles it was too weak. I had some white Cotswold fibre on my spindle so I have been unwinding a couple of feet of thread at a time from the spindle, overspinning it and using that to sew with.

Hood 1/3 done with my spindle.
Hood 1/3 done with my spindle. The whorl is lead and the initial spinning was done on a distaff.

The liripipe pieces were whipped on as I couldn’t find how the originals were done and I wanted to keep the bulk down to avoid any odd kinks when it is worn. As you may be able to see, I have yet to sew the top and front seams or add the centre front gore.

So there should be another post soon as I get this finished, then another when the long planned  D10581 gets started!

If you are working on your own Herjolfsnes reconstruction I would love to see it, so please comment!