A Sontag, or a Historical Shawl

For the second challenge of the Historical Sew Monthly, “Blue”, I decided to knit a blue Sontag, or shawl.

Actually, I decided to knit a blue sontag, then realized it fit perfectly into the February challenge!  That’s the way it went.  Really, I had no idea what to make otherwise, other than a fuzzy idea about a blue work shirt for my husband.  I’m still working on the shirt.  (Yep, making a shirt too.  He is going to need one for blacksmithing at Stuhr Museum this summer.)



There is not really a definition of “Sontag” anywhere to be found, but they are generally known as a long slim shawl that overlaps in front and ties in back.  This prevents the struggle of dealing with the ends of a shawl, and keeps it in place while one is working.  Sontags are somewhat related to bosom friends but a bit more aesthetically pleasing, at least to my eye.

I of course knit mine, and chose a pattern that was no-frills and no-fuss, but still feminine and pretty.  I did not use a historical pattern, but one the same shape.  I knit my sontag from the Marianne Dashwood Shawl from Jane Austen Knits Magazine, with three skeins of Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool.  (Not the most accurate choice, but it was that or buy new yarn.  I own a yarn shop.  I shouldn’t have to buy new yarn.  At least it has the right hand and look.)

Sontag Back

Sontag Back

So without further ado, here are the challenge details!

Historical Sew Monthly Challenge Blue

What the item is: A Blue Sontag

The Challenge: Blue!

Fabric: Knit from three skeins of Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool in Woad. (45% wool, 35% silk, 20% nylon)

Pattern: Marianne Dashwood Shawl from Jane Austen Knits

Year: 19th Century in general.

Notions: None.

How historically accurate is it? A Sontag is a historically correct type of shawl for much of the 19th century, but this is not a specific pattern from any historical time frame, rather just a pattern designed in the style of. The yarn is not right by content, but the look is just right. It looks like a homespun yarn and has the right body when knit up, and I didn’t have to order something special in. I’d say maybe 50% accuracy, giving myself points for the right shape. I hope to wear this on chilly days when I’m working at Stuhr Museum this spring and summer, and also with my brown 1830’s dress.

Hours to complete: Yikes. 30? All I know is that I spent an entire event working on it trying to finish it and couldn’t.

First worn: As a modern piece in my yarn shop. It works well with a fitted modern shirt too!



Please comment below if you have any questions!

Published in: on February 16, 2015 at 7:00 pm  Comments (6)  
Tags: , , , , ,

A Plaid 1830 Dress!

A couple of years ago, I ordered in seven yards of silk taffeta for a dress for a customer.  It was a glorious blue and yellow plaid.  I whacked off a yard to send to them for a hat, only to be informed that they had wanted a different fabric.  Cue lots of furious rush-ordering to get the proper fabric in, and the taffeta languished on my shelf, bereft of meaning.  I offered it to several customers, with nary a taker.  None of them wanted such a loud fabric.

Then, I found this dress, made in 1830 and housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Plaid Dress


Dress Back

Suddenly, that silk had a purpose!  It would be six months between discovering that dress and making my own, but at least I had a plan.

Fast forward to the first week of August, 2014.  I just finished moving from Minnesota back to lovely Nebraska, and was in fact still unpacking the house and starting to get burnt out by boxes.  “Hey self,” I said to myself, “how about you make that dress you’ve been wanting to make?”  So I dug out my other 1830’s pattern, that I know fits me, and a bunch of paper and mock-up muslin, and got to work!

I took flat patterning in college.  Figuring out the pleats in the bodice was not difficult, but getting the neckline sorted was another story.  I checked, and counted, and there are nine pleats in the front, with only seven going into the shoulder, and there are five pleats in the back.  So far as I can tell, in the original the pleats are an overlay blindstitched down. Easy enough, right?  Well, for starters, I had about an hour of counting and recounting pleats on zoomed-in images before I was finally satisfied that there are different numbers of pleats on the front and back at the shoulder.  At least I don’t have to line them up, right?

Secondly, I put my brown dress on the dress form and used string to mark out a tentative neckline.  Thinking it looked good, I made markings on a copy of my pattern and started cutting.  I then made a mock-up.  WRONG.


Mock-up number one!

Well, my pleat technique was obviously right.  (I flat patterned that.  No draping for me!  Yes, I started taking draping in college too, but I dropped that class because my schedule was too full.  I should learn how some day…)  But the neckline was too narrow, and the pleats looked too narrow because of the angle.

So I started chopping and rotating on my pattern, til I came up with a mock-up that suited me.  I never did put it completely together, because really, what’s the point?

I have clipped a pattern piece for the lining to it for safekeeping.

Random View of my Sewing and Weaving Room with the Final Mock-up In It

(For the pleated overlay, I made pieces the shape of my finished piece, then slashed them where I wanted the pleat edges to be and spread them and taped them to a new piece of paper.  It was easy.)

(I also used my final mock-up for the lining.  Waste not, want not.)

So then it was on to cutting the fabric.  Yikes.  Cutting silk is always a little nervewracking.  Cutting plaid is plenty nervewracking, even though I can do it with the best of them.  Cutting a silk plaid that you can never get more of was worse.  But I made it through!

If you look closely at the original, the two front pieces of the bodice proper are cut, well, not on the bias, but not on grain either.  Just at a pretty angle.  Well, I can do that too!

Cutting out the Bodice

Cutting out the Bodice

I cut two of these.  Yay!

The rest of the bodice pieces went easily enough, then it was time for the sleeves!

Most of the fine ladies on The Historical Sew Fortnightly had agreed with me that the sleeves on the original dress were two pieces, but then, I found a pattern in “The Workwoman’s Guide” that looked pretty darn close. Like almost identical close.

Circle Sleeve

Circle Sleeve

The instructions in “The Workwoman’s Guide” are as follows:


This takes rather more of the material than the other shapes, but it is so easily cut out, and looks so well when made up, that it is allowed a place here.

For the full size it is a perfect circle, in a square of about 15 nails.  (A nail is about 2.25 inches.)

After the circle is formed, double it in half (see Fig. 8); measure at A B a sufficient width to admit of the wrist, and slit up, in a slightly curving line, from B to C for about 4 nails, to form the arm of the sleeve.   A little of the circle, from E towards B, is then sloped off to form the hollowing.

When made up, this part E is all taken up and gathered into the shoulder strap.  It is considered to hang particularly well, falling over the tight part of the sleeve (see Fig. 7).  

This seems quite a bit easier than a two-piece sleeve to me.

So, I made a tiny sleeve to test it.  It worked!  So I cut my silk.  I was pretty trusting of this pattern.

Circle Sleeves

Circle Sleeves

Close-up of the Curved Cut

Close-up of the Curved Cut

After cutting out the waistband and the skirt (one panel, full width of fabric, 90-some inches long) and TONS of bias tape in differing sizes, I was ready to sew!

First step: lots of piping.  I made piping in two sizes and it took a while.

For the back, I just basted the curved panel on, since there would be a bias strip covering the raw edge.

Back Piece Step One

Back Piece Step One

Then I hand-tacked the bias tape down on the back pieces, covering the seam.

Bias Tape on the Back

Bias Tape on the Back

Most dresses of this time frame seem to have piping on the back, but this one had a bias strip.  It makes sense, actually.

Then I pleated and tacked down the back pleats.

Back Pleats

Back Pleats

Then I sewed together the front pieces and made the pleated overlay for the front.  I sprayed my silk with a mixture of water and white vinegar to set the pleats and it worked like a charm!

Pleated Overlay

Pleated Overlay

Here you can see how well the front seam matches.  The front seam that will never be seen.

Matching Front Seam

Matching Front Seam

From this point on, I have only two construction photos, but I will still explain my process.

I sewed all bodice pieces together and did a preliminary fitting to check the neckline.  So far, so good.

Bodice Fitting

Bodice Fitting

I think I bound the top edge with piping and bias tape at this point, before I did the sleeves.  Of course, I also put piping around the armscyes.

Then I pleated and repleated and repleated the sleeves until they fit the armscyes.  Literally, I pleated them about six times.  And even though the sleeves were equal size and the armholes were equal sized and I was measuring pleats, one sleeve had to be tweaked a bit to make it fit right.  Not that you can tell from the outside.

Bodice with Sleeves

Bodice with Sleeves

See?  The bodice is all finished except for the ends of the sleeves and the hooks and eyes up the back.

After this, I hand-finished the cuffs with a narrow rolled hem and added hooks and thread eyes to close them.

Then, I made a wide waistband with large piping on each side.  I attached it to the bodice, then pleated the skirt to fit the waistband.  (I handfinished the placket and hand felled the skirt seam first.)

Then I gave the skirt a great deep hem.  I think it was 8″ .  No facing, just a deep hem.  That’s what the original seemed to have.

The last thing was the hooks and thread eyes all down the back.

Then I was done!

Of course, then I had to get all dressed up, and my husband and I went down to the park for some photos.  I brought my 1830’s shoes with me intending to wear them for the pictures, but it was pretty damp so I never did put them on,  I just held them while wearing my modern business heels.  Tee-hee.


1830's Dress

1830’s Dress

I really should have made the back closure a little tighter.  If I ever wear it again, I’ll add new thread eyes further in.  It kept slipping off my shoulders and slipping down.  Ooops.

1830's Dress


1830's Dress

I’m holding my shoes!

Actually, holding my shoes gives a pretty good effect.

1830's Dress

Look, I have shoes that I’m not wearing!

1830's Dress

Droopy Hair

Fun fact:  I actually spent a great deal of time on my hair.  I had perfect ringlets, but as it was August in Nebraska, they fell out right away.  That was before I knew about curl papers.  Phooey.

1830's Dress

Back Detail. There is much piping!


1830's Dress

Happy That It’s Done!  Sad That My Hair Drooped!

The next day, after these photos were taken, I brought this dress to the Nebraska State Fair.  There I won Best in Division, Best in Show, and Best Sewn Garment!  (Lots of prizes!)  My 1830’s work dress which I have yet to show you won best garment of quilting cotton too!

Thanks for reading about my 1830’s dress, and please ask if you have any questions!

Published in: on December 4, 2014 at 10:21 pm  Comments (9)  
Tags: , , , , ,

The Making of a Pair of 1830’s Shoes

As you may know, I have been making an 1830’s dress, complete with all the undergarments, for the past few months.  I’ve had a few stalls and delays along the way, but it is all done!  I will tell you all about the dress once I have pictures of it in all it’s glory, along with the pictures of all the completed undergarments.  Wheee!!!

But first, shoes!  You can’t have a full historical costume without shoes, and quite frankly, 1830’s shoes are really darn hard to find.  I looked high and low for some shoes that would work, but all the flats available right now are either pointy-toed or extremely expensive for a shoe that still isn’t what I’m looking for.  So, last fall, I got some lightweight dark brown lambskin, since I couldn’t find kid leather at my local Tandy Leather.  It sat in my sewing room, with my fabric stash, for many months, because I just wasn’t quite brave enough to cut into it, and didn’t have a pattern.

Enter this wonderful little book:

Every Lady Her Own Shoemaker

Every Lady Her Own Shoemaker

“Every Lady Her Own Shoemaker” was written in 1856 by an anonymous lady, and details how to make your own shoes.  It contains several different styles– high boots, gaiters, and low cloth shoes.  None of them have heels, and all are made as “turn shoes”, or shoes that are sewn together inside out and turned right side out– rather like medieval shoes.  I had made a couple of pairs of Viking Shoes before, so I thought, “How hard can this be?”

The first step was to fit the pattern to my foot.  Yes, the book has a variety of sizes of patterns, but none were exactly the right size for me.

First Shoe Pattern Attempt

First Shoe Pattern Attempt

The first attempt fit, kinda, but had a few issues.  The sole was too narrow, and the upper had to be folded into pleats at the toe to fit.

Second Shoe Pattern Attempt

Second Shoe Pattern Attempt

The second one, the upper was still just a bit too large (apparently a 1/4″ seam allowance is given in the patterns in the book), but the sole was the right side, and there was no need to gather in the toe.  Yay!  I had a workable pattern!

So it was on to cutting the lining!

The Lining is Cut Out

The Lining is Cut Out


I cut the lining out of teal linen, and the interlining out of unbleached linen canvas.  I treated them as one layer when sewing them together.  So far, so good!

The Uppers are Cut Out

The Uppers are Cut Out


I then cut the lambskin uppers out.   The leather was a bit wrinkly and wavy– so it was difficult to cut out nice pieces without being wasteful.  But I did it!

Uppers Together!

Uppers Together!


I then stitched the uppers together (with my sewing machine and a leather needle), and bound the top edges with a grosgrain ribbon.  The book asks for galloon, but quite frankly, I don’t know what that is.  The dictionary describes it as a type of woven trim or edging, but isn’t specific.  I suppose grosgrain counts as a woven edge and trim?  As a side note, you will need at least 1/2″ grosgrain for this.  3/8″ simply will not do.  Also, if I had to do it over, I would definitely take the time to handstitch the grosgrain all around, as the machine stitching was messy, and it was difficult to keep all the layers corralled and lined up correctly.  Don’t make my mistakes!

Soles and Heel Stiffening Cut Out!

Soles and Heel Stiffening Cut Out!

The next step was to cut out the sole.  I used some lightweight veggie tanned leather, but it beats me what weight it was.  My dear husband got it for me at Tandy while I was working on the uppers.  (Then he came home and made me Swedish Pancakes for brunch!  Best Saturday EVER!)  It’s sturdy enough it will work for my soles, but not so stiff it would be impossible to work with.  These are not left or right specific soles.  Lefts and rights were known by the time this book was written in the 1830’s, but because of the way lasts were made in the 1830’s, shoes were non-specific to left or right.  However, because leather stretches, shoes would become left and right specific after they were worn.  In addition, some shoes had lacing or other decoration on one side or another, they would of course be made symmetrically and thus be specific left-rights.  Confused yet?  Good.

After all that, I was ready to punch all the holes for sewing the soles to the uppers!  But wait!  My dear husband actually punch all those tiny little holes for me with my awl, because I was helping a friend of his to cut out a Viking tunic.  Win-win.  Basically, I wet each sole down, and scored a line where I wanted the holes punched on the flesh side of the leather, then Philip laid the soles on an old board punched all the holes for me!  With a hammer!  Yay!    I also took a skiver to the edges of the heel stiffenings, so I wouldn’t have ridges that might rub against my foot.  That part wasn’t called for in the book, but it was mentioned in another shoe tutorial I read, and seemed like a good idea.

Sewing the Sole to the Upper

Sewing the Sole to the Upper

The next step was to sew the soles to the uppers.  Really, this was a lot bigger ordeal than I anticipated.  It easily took me two hours per shoe, and I could only do one shoe at a time.  I sew a lot.  I had the right glover’s needles with the sharp points that prick right through leather.  I had pre-punched holes.  It still took a lot of oomph and a lot of time.  Oh, what I wouldn’t do for my leather sewing machine to be in the same place as I am!  (I can sew through kid, lamb, or buckskin with my regular sewing machine, but not through sole leather!)

Almost Around the Shoe

Almost Around the Shoe

I do have to say, though– these little clips were just the thing for sewing leather.  I was able to completely match up the shoe all around, at least once I had stitched the back with the heel stiffening, and make sure I didn’t end up with a crooked shoe or anything weird like that.  I couldn’t use these clips in the back by the heel stiffener, but I treated that like a collar, and matched up the center, then sewed from the center out on both sides.  Easy as pie.

This was also about the point I realized that my lining seemed to have grown, and was larger than the lamb!  No fix for that now– onwards and upwards!

It's Together!

It’s Together!

Now the next step, I don’t have any pictures of.  I just don’t trust myself with Philip’s camera near water.  His camera costs much more than my first car.  Basically, you have to wet down the sole, and then turn the shoe right side out.  It’s important to get the leather wet, or it can crack as you turn it.  So I took a sponge, and started to paint water on with my sponge until my hand inside the shoe was wet.  Then it was turning time!

Hammering the Seam Flat

Hammering the Seam Flat

But wait!  First, you should hammer the seam flat, all around, in the direction the seam will be folded when the shoe is turned.  This is best done wet, and makes the shoe a lot more comfortable.

It's a Finished Shoe!  --Almost.

It’s a Finished Shoe! –Almost.

Here you see my first shoe, which later became my right shoe, all turned right side out.  But it is not done yet!  First, I had to repeat that whole sewing and turning process with the second sole.  Then I fixed the grosgrain ribbon around the top edge, and sewed on two little ties at the little front slit.  It looked weird just open, and didn’t fit as well as with it closed.   I also glued in an insole of the same teal linen with rubber cement– such insoles are important according to the shoemaking book to prevent the sweat and oils of your foot from showing through to the outside of your sole!

Finished Shoes!

Finished Shoes!

This picture was taken by my husband.  Here we have my 1830’s shoes, next to my little Swedish girl and my husband’s York Viking Chess Piece.  I’m really not sure why they were included, but it looks like they are considering conquering my shoes.

The little shoemaking book recommends blacking the edges of your soles with ink, which I may do.  It would make a nicer appearance and not show the edges of the sole.  However, I don’t have any black ink right now, and I’m a little worried of it bleeding and coming off on things in damp weather.

In conclusion, by the time I bought all the materials and book and spent 10 hours making a pair of shoes, I don’t think I saved any money at all over, say, buying a pair of shoes from American Duchess.  However, I still have enough material for about… 6 more pairs of shoes.  At least.  Especially if I make the uppers of different materials.  (They can be made of silk and heavy canvas, or linen, or cotton, or all sorts of things, and sewn to a leather sole!)  Also, I got to make them all by myself, all for myself, and being as I am, all about the process, I greatly enjoyed it.

This project was partially inspired by The Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge “Tops and Toes”.  (But I got it done almost a week late.)  Here’s the challenge details:

The Challenge: Tops and Toes!
Fabric: Lambskin, shoe sole leather, linen, and polyester ribbon.
Pattern: The cloth shoe pattern from “Every Lady Her Own Shoemaker”, altered and adjusted to fit my own feet.
Year: Mid-late 1830’s
Notions: Heavy-duty waxed thread, rubber cement.
How historically accurate is it? I would say about 80%. The style is right, they look right, they should be made of kidskin instead, probably. Lambskin was a mistake. Don’t think you can use it like I did and be fine!
Hours to complete: 11.
First worn: Haven’t been worn to an event yet.
Total cost: Well, the lamb skin was $20 and the sole leather was “I’m-not-sure”. (Hubby picked it up for me.) Plus I had to buy the book. BUT, I probably have enough left over for about 4-6 more pairs of shoes. I probably actually used about $20 worth of materials, tops. 


If you have questions, put them in the comments, and I’ll do my best to answer!


Published in: on April 24, 2014 at 7:58 pm  Comments (3)  
Tags: , , , , ,

The Beginnings of an 1830’s Dress

A Lovely Dress from the 1830's

A Lovely Dress from the 1830’s

About a month and a half ago, in a moment of sheer madness, I decided I was going to sew another big costume.  A big costume, like my 1886 dress I made when I was 16, or my first Civil War Dress.  Maybe it was because I realized I was making far too many dresses for customers without making any for myself.  Maybe it was all the wonderful inspiration from the lovely people participating in the Historical Sew Fortnightly who were churning out lovely costumes left and right.  Maybe it was because I still have several eras I haven’t sewn dresses from.  (A friend in high school once suggested I sew a full costume for every decade of the 19th century.  I’ve still got a ways to go on that.)  Maybe it was because a friend of mine lent me a pattern for an 1830’s dress.

How’er it was, I reignited my secret love for the costumes of the 1830’s, watched “The Young Victoria” several times, read a lot of blog posts,  started doing a lot of research, and started collecting 1830’s pins on Pinterest like nobody’s business.

The first thing I had to do was pick out fabric (to keep me motivated) and make all of the undergarments.  Because, of course, you have to make all the undergarments so you can take measurements and make the dress to fit when you are done.  (Did I do this with most of my previous historical costumes?  No…  I just laced the corsets tight and hoped.  It worked most of the time.)

Does this look like old lady material to you?

Material and Pattern

My friend from the Scandinavian Sewing Group, Sarah, lent me this pattern, and I, after a lot of looking at original dresses and fabric swatches, chose a brown calico.  It was on the half-off rack at the quilt store.  I may have to go back and get more, though, since I realized when I got home the pattern calls for 7 yards of fabric, and I bought 5.  Ooops.  I’m going to be sewing the dress shown on the left, and am going for a late 1830’s look.

Of course, the 1830’s not being a popular time period to sew dresses for, paling beside the popularity of Civil War and the splendor of the bustle years, I had to search a bit for the proper corset pattern.  Past Patterns makes an 1830’s corset pattern, but I didn’t find it until after I ordered the 1800-1820 pattern from The Mantua Maker, figuring I would alter it.

Reluctant to spend money on yet another corset pattern, alter it I did.  I made the bust gussets longer and added hip gussets, and it ended up looking and fitting a lot like corsets from the 1830’s.  Also, I got rid of the shoulder straps.  The 1830’s were rather transitional as far as shoulder straps go, and I decided I just didn’t need them.  I found several examples of 1830’s corsets both with and without straps, and none of the corsets in “The Young Victoria” had straps, and they were very meticulous in recreating the costumes for that movie.

Here is an original 1830’s corset, to give you an idea of how they are supposed to look and fit:

With bonus sleeve puffs!

1830’s Corset

And here is mine all done, kindly modeled for me by the lovely Sally:

With a wooden busk!  (I thought I swore these off after the 1750's dress...)

My 1830’s Corset

Corsets never fit quite right on dress forms unless the form is made for it.  I guarantee it fits me better.  Now, this corset laces up the back, as is usual, and I learned two fun things while making the lacing!

First, metal corset eyelets were invented in 1828.  No hand-sewn eyelets!

Secondly, I knew spiral lacing was used for corsets prior to the invention of the opening front corset busk, but I had never made spiral lacing.  I always heard bad things about how hard it was to do, etc.  Well, let me tell you spiral lacing is amazing!

Dress forms don't squish.

1830’s Spiral Lacing

First of all, it is MUCH faster to lace up than cross-lacing.  Second of all, you only have to put in about half as many eyelets as usual.  I love it.  My husband did agree that having a bodkin (a large blunt needle) would help tremendously in threading the cording through the eyelets.  He might even make one for me!

I did make the corset first, but I didn’t get around to taking pictures of it until after I made the chemise.  The chemise fit nicely into project #15 of The Historical Sew Fortnightly, which was back at the end of July.  How time flies!  It took me five hours to sew, and I haven’t even added lace yet,.  That is the longest a chemise has ever taken me.  (And since I made a simpler chemise literally two days before this one that only took an hour and a half, it was really a stark contrast.)

I decided to use Simplicity 9769 for this chemise, since there is a similar one from the 1830’s in the Met.

Original 1830's Chemise

Original 1830’s Chemise

The one at the Met has a ruffle around the neckline, no lace, and does not have the center front buttons that the Simplicity pattern does, so I decided to leave out the buttons.  But I decided that lace pretty much equals ruffles, so I’m going to add lace, eventually.

My 1830's Chemise

My 1830’s Chemise

The next step was making the corded petticoat, which is done, and I will tell you all about in due time (later this evening, if I can help it.)  I am really liking this era of costuming, the pieces are all so interesting and fun to make!

Published in: on September 3, 2013 at 11:16 am  Comments (1)  
Tags: ,

Swedish Costume from Gästrikland

Since I moved to Minnesota, I have become a member of three different Scandinavian Dance groups; the Norwegians, the Swedes, and a third group called North Star.  We mostly dance over the winter, but we do have a few summer performances as well.  I have a costume that I made this past winter that includes a dark blue wool skirt and a red wool bodice, that I wear with the old blouse and särk I made when I was thirteen and made my first folk costume, but that whole costume is just a bit too hot for summer wear.  So, I decided to make a  costume out of cotton and linen instead.

Striped Cotton

Fabric for my Folk Costume

In the 1890’s, my great-grandma Anna Andersson immigrated to America from the town of Ockelbo, in Gästrikland, Sweden.  I decided for my new summer folk costume, I decided to make something similar to what was worn in Gästrikland.  I knew that I couldn’t get the exact fabric that was specific to Anna’s town of Ockelbo, or for any town in Gästrikland, for that matter.  For starters, they are all striped wool, with very specific stripes.  I have been searching for the proper material for the Ockelbo costume for a couple of years with no luck.  So, I went to the little local fabric store and got three yards of the red with tan stripes for my dress, and one yard of the white with red stripes for the apron.

The first piece I made was the apron.  I recently got a little rigid heddle for Swedish bandweaving from Glimåkra, so I wove a six-foot tie for the apron and pleated the red and white fabric into it.

Swedish Apron

Swedish Apron

The band was woven of 16/2 Swedish linen in red and white with a pattern from an old Swedish book on bandweaving I own.

The next thing I made was the livkjol, or as that translates from Swedish, “bodice-skirt”.  It’s an old style of dress in which a sleeveless bodice is attached to the skirt.  It actually predates the folk costumes that have a bodice separate from the skirt.  There are no darts in the bodice to fit it to the waist, rather, the back pieces are cut at a sharp angle to pull the bodice waist in all the way around.  It actually does make the bodice fit well.  

After I cut the pieces for the bodice and sewed them together, I tacked the linen lining in and sewed the edges down with a hem stitch.

Hemstitching the Lining In

Hemstitching the Lining In

Lining All Sewn In

Lining All Sewn In

This is very important to prevent the lining from turning to the outside and showing while you are wearing the livkjol.

Once the bodice was done, I sewed together the skirt sections and pleated them to fit into the waistline of the bodice.  I cartridge pleated together ninety inches of material for the back half of the skirt!

The back of the bodice has a point in the top center, which is usually hidden by the neckerchief.  As near as I can tell, that fashion element must be a leftover from the 1600’s.  Of course, I’m not sure, but it’s the best guess I have.

Gästrikland Dräkt

Back Without the Neckerchief

The next piece I made was the neckerchief.  I took a large square of unbleached linen, trimmed straight along the threads, and then unraveled the the edges to make a self fringe about 5/8″ deep.

The last piece was the särk, or underdress, which I made out of half-bleached linen.  It basically looks like a Victorian nightgown, with long sleeves and a high neck and collar.  I used four antique buttons from my great-grandma Anna’s button jar for the collar and cuffs of the särk.  It is very long, almost as long as the livkjol, as was traditional.

(It is very important to note that most of the folk costume tradition in Sweden originates from the fashions of the 1830’s and 1840’s, though there are a few elements both from earlier and later in fashion history.)

All of this got done just in time for a dance performance in Peterson, Minnesota!  It was a warm day, and the costume was still a little warm to wear, but it was most definitely cooler than wearing my wool costume!  (We were dancing on asphalt in the sun– that is never very pleasant!)

After the dance, my husband, Philip, was able to take some lovely photos of my completed costume in the beautiful backyard of the lady who invited us to perform in Peterson.

Gästrikland Dräkt

Gästrikland Dräkt

(That is a very lovely spring house in the background, which has a lovely burbling spring inside it.  It was the first time I saw such a thing in real life.)

Gästrikland Dräkt

Prim and Proper

Gästrikland Dräkt

Stop to Smell the Flowers

Gästrikland Dräkt

Lovely as a Flower

Gästrikland Dräkt

Back View

Gästrikland Dräkt

My Sound of Music Moment

Gästrikland Dräkt


The last stop in town was to take a picture by the Peterson tity sign, since my great-grandma Anna married a Peterson, so my family is the Peterson clan.

Gästrikland Dräkt

Peterson Town Sign

Thanks for reading!

Published in: on June 16, 2013 at 9:50 pm  Comments (3)  
Tags: ,
%d bloggers like this: