Edges and hems

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There aren’t all that many serious crimes against authenticity, but ragged edges are one of them. Regardless of status or character, all garments must be properly finished, which means leaving no exposed edges that are going to fray. All fabric was hand-woven and therefore valuable. Higher status characters wouldn’t dream of wearing ragged clothing – they had money and people to keep things in good trim. Lower status characters could not afford to replace clothing all that often, and there was no point in patching and repairing if the weave was unravelling from the edges.

All edges must be properly hemmed, i.e. turn the edge in on itself and sew it in place (neatly!). However, if you plan to machine-wash your kit frequently, this will put quite a bit of pressure on your costume and may well lead to exposed edges fraying and seams coming apart. An easy way of reducing damage to your costume is to fold edges over twice – once so that there isn’t an exposed edge on the outside, and then again so that the exposed edge is covered up. Then sew in place, and you should have a much more robust seam.

Simple hemming techniques - Lyndsey Kindred

Blanket stitch and couching - Lyndsey Kindred

Examples of sewn hems

Drawing of first method for finishing a hem While ‘rolled seams’ like this may be difficult to sew with very thick fabric, they work well with fine linens and silks.

Drawing of a second method for finishing a hem, suitable for heavy wools With thick wools, you may only want/need to fold the fabric over once.

Drawing of a third method of finishing a hem The cloth is folded twice and can be used on linen or fine wool. If coarse wool is doubled over twice it may tend to stick out stiffly.

Drawing of a fourth method of finishing a hem This herringbone stitch holds down a hem on wool which has been folded once. As a decorative stitch it could be used on the outside of a piece of clothing.

Drawing of a fifth method of finishing a hem

In this hem from London, two different coloured threads have been used alternately to give a decorative edge. Unusually this seam does not use one of the standard four stitches. It has been worked over the edge of a piece of wool without any folding. This sort of hem should only be used on a cloth which does not fray much, or on leather.

Tablet weave at hems

Drawing of how tablet weave was attached to a hem at Evebo Eide

Tablet woven braid can be sewn over the edge of the cloth and used to cover up the hem. Alternatively, you can use a row of blanket stitches to stop the edge of the cloth fraying, then use oversewing to join the braid to the blanket stitches (employed on the cloak found in a chieftain's grave at Evebo Eide)