Kit Making Guide
A downloadable pdf document containing most of this information and the measuring guides is available here. In the table below you will find links to individual patterns and instructions. You will notice that some phrases are repeated on different pages. This is because they are relevant to all of those stages and each of the accompanying PDFs can be printed off individually.
Most of these patterns are based on personal experience so no bibliography! However I’ve always sought advice from a Society authenticity officer when unsure about a specific time period style, fabric or decoration.
Tools and Equipment
Tools you will always need:
- Dressmakers tape measure (not a Stanley spring return job - they’re not too good with fabric!)
- Fabric scissors - long blades. (Don’t use your kitchen scissors or the kids paper-craft scissors!)
- White or grey thread for tacking, and matching thread (or near as dammit) to your chosen fabric
- Dressmaking pins and dressmakers chalk or pencil
- Needles for hand-sewing; Sewing machine (if desired) fitted with a new, size 90/14 needle.
Fabrics usually come in two widths 60”/150cms or 45”/115cms and you will need to buy enough to fit. The table below is based on average sizes of a chest/bust measurement of 38”/95cms. If you are much larger in size you will need to discuss quantities with the fabric seller - they’re very experienced and good with advice!
|Fabrics and Patterns|
|Garment||Fabric Length||Pattern and Instructions||Additional information|
|Hangeroc||1.5m||Hangeroc patterns||1. Hangeroc|
|Wimples, Headscarfs and Hoods||1m||Assorted patterns|
IMPORTANT! ALWAYS WASH & DRY YOUR FABRIC BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING ELSE!
Notes on Fabrics, Colours and Stitches
Most of the fabric vendors at shows and living history fairs really know their stuff and will help you choose if you don’t have a handy authenticity officer, but a few basic rules apply:
1) Avoid bright or very dark reds, blues and greens, and never wear black! If you’ve just embarked on your journey with The Vikings your status will be Thrall (or slave) and you’re better off going for plain or “tabby weave” natural browns and soft greens in wool, and undyed linens or very pale, washed out colours. (Tabby is a simple plain weave). See here for a range of colours that can be achieved by natural Dyeing techniques.
2) As you work your way up the food chain, other good colours are natural warm yellows (weld), warm orange and brick red (madder) Certain blues (grey-blue and woad blue) are good, but be careful before buying as some brighter blues do not simulate natural dyes. Herringbone weaves also work, but avoid obvious stripes and checks unless you’re Welsh.
3) Please DO NOT use purples unless you’re based in parts of the West Country, Wales, Scotland or other heathery areas of the UK… or you’re a sufficiently high status who can afford to pay to have the rich purple dye extracted from molluscs. Only use purples when you have had them specifically approved by an authenticity officer, especially when you are first starting out. Elderberries can dye a browny-purple but this is not light-fast and fades over time. Brighter purples are only for royalty and high clergy and must be checked before use with a senior member of the authenticity team.
4) Avoid synthetic fabrics and threads wherever possible. Wool/synth blends are cheaper , but will bobble with regular use and synthetic anything just looks shiny! Natural fibres are warmer in winter, cooler in summer and wick away sweat. Cotton hadn’t been discovered so avoid like the plague, instead use Linen. Silk is generally acknowledge to be high status as it would have been traded from the Far East. Please do not use ANY silk in your first set of kit. When you upgrade to higher status kit, small amounts are possible e.g. embroidered trims and silk fillets for ladies. Don’t have whole silk garments unless you are VERY high status, royalty or high clergy, and then only after serious discussion with the senior authenticity team.
Go to the Measurement Guide to find out how to accurately measure yourself/someone else.
Any questions, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll do my best to help.
Otherwise here are a few links to good information and diagrams on embroidery and stitching on the society wiki:
Credits: with thanks to Alix Cooper