Diary Started June 2, 2005 - Shirt finished August 11, 2005
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Research and background

Running cost of project:

White linen (3.3 metres) 322 kr
+ Linen thread 41 kr

Total: 363 kr
In order to wear a doublet, or doublet bodice gown, one needs a shirt, or high-necked smock. I opted for a shirt, and in my quest for authenticity I decided to use the Sture shirts as my inspiration. They are male shirts, but we will gloss over that, as other research shows no discernible difference between male and female shirts of this period. Linen purchased, plans were made!

June 2 - Beginnings: Since I am determined to make a doublet, I need the layer beneath it: a shirt. I have also produced one doublet bodiced kirtle which requires more coverage than a square-necked smock gives, so the plan is to make a shirt, patterned after one of the Sture shirts. The documentation is from one of the pamphlets the Royal Armoury put out about the Sture clothes, in particular the quotation I wrote down was: "Journal of the Royal Armoury" Vol IV: 8-9 (häfte 8-9) The article is titled "Stureskjortorna" and it was written by Anna-Maja Nylén.

More research was done at the Uppsala Cathedral where the Sture costumes and shirt are on permanent display. Pictures from this excursion are in my gallery, including some nice close-ups of cuffs and collars.

Collar Cuffs Collar ties Pleated into the collar Attachmend of cuffs

Links of interest:


My pattern From the article by Nylén I re-drew the pattern pieces with measurements to fit me. The pattern pieces are: sleeves x2, gussets x2, shoulder seam strengthening x2, body x2, cuffs x2 (per sleeve), collar x2, collar ruff x8 and sleeve ruff x3 (per sleeve). (For reference, the diagram is to scale and the gusset piece is 10 x 10 cm).

The original has the body pieces measuring 125 cm, I thought this a little excessive, so I shortened it, reasoning that I will wear a smock as the first layer beneath a shirt so it will not need to be longer than 90 cm. Her drawing calls for the collar ruff to be 8 times 80 cm long, which I also deem a little excessive, especially since I can not afford the grade of linen this would need to be in order to physically fit my collar measurement. For the cuffs the pattern as drawn specifies a ruff of 3 times 80 cm, which I will also ignore.


So far, I have cut out all pattern pieces in my prewashed linen, I have stitched up the sleeves with gussets inserted, doing a flat felled seam, first time around using 1 cm as my seam allowance, backstitching with linen thread. Then I went back, pulled a thread at 5 mm on one allowance, cut along that and felled all seams neatly.

Being a bit silly I then proceeded to pleat the sleeves to the cuffs, which I prepared simply by folding and pressing down a 1 cm allowance all around. The pleating was done with the divide-and-conquer method(*) which is relatively quick to do. This is where the silly bit comes in: I did not do it consistantly on both sleeves. On the first I had the cuff piece on the outside and pleated the sleeve to the inside of this, I found it very awkward so reversed the order on the second sleeve with predictable results. The second sleeve looks flawless while the first one has the pleats done inside out. I did not notice my mistake until I had folded up, pressed and whipstitched around the cuffs, sandwiching the pleated fabric in between them in a nicely finished sleeve. I have so far not found it annoying enough to fix it, and I might just leave it as is.
(*) Divide-and-conquer method of pleating: Pin the edges of the piece to be pleated to the edge of the piece it needs to be pleated to. Find the middle on both by folding in half (divide), pin together at this point. Find the middle of the two halves this creates, pin together at these points. Continue until you have no room to put another pin in between the ones already in. Then do a neat pleat with the fabric that is still not pinned down (conquer) - I usually do a box pleat as defined on Drea Leed's page on period pleats.

I meant to do drawn thread hemstitch all around the cuffs, but I went ahead and did the pleating before I had properly thought through what I was doing, so that has become impossible. I also forgot to leave the last bit of the sleeve seam open so I had to take out about three inches of my seam and finish the raw edge before stitching on the cuffs.

Decoration: Blackwork

In the extant pieces there is very little in the way of decoration, a couple of the shirts have white on white lace at the edges, but I cannot produce lace, and in any case, I am not a fan. Instead I opted to go with blackwork. I enjoy embroidering blackwork and it gives quite a lot of oomph for a relatively small effort. I had big plans of blackworking the entire shirt, but I shelved those. The decision so far is to blackwork the collar and cuffs only. The cuffs are already sewn up, so I will have to embroider those in-situ, whereas I could prepare the ground for the blackwork on the collar much more.

The charted pattern
Current progress
For this project I wanted to try some filler type pattern so I went to Viscountess Helwig who has all the books and looked through QEWU. I quickly gave up drafting the patterns I found there and instead went home to the course handout Helwig provided for her Blackwork class at the Feast of St. Bruno of last summer. It included drafted blackwork patterns taken from QEWU. I picked one pretty filler and one lovely border and set about designing the embroidery for my collar. I counted the threads of my linen and from there produced a complete pattern, to scale, in photoshop. The embroidery will be done in black silk thread, and so far I am pleased with how it is turning out.

The finished collar embroidery
Close-up of the finished collar embroidery
July 3 - Yesterday the final stitch of embroidery was done and the collar is now finished, awating a lining and being attached to the shirt. I myself am quite pleased with how it looks. The back even looks quite neat. The outside border is the only part of my pattern which is not fully reversible. It is also really designed to be a filler pattern, so the squares should interconnect into a web, rather than just in this single weave up and down. The stars between this web are the only non-reversible part of the pattern since they are free-floating. This border was done in two passes. On the first pass I basically just did a straight line two stitches forward, two diagonally down, two forward and two diagonally up. On the two stitches forward I then did a side-trip to accomplish the crossed over squares. On the return pass I then filled in the straight line (forward, down, forward, up) and at each void below or above the square I jumped over and did one complete star as can be seen on the in-progress pictures.

July 18: Assembly - With the blackwork done there is not much left to do on this shirt. The sleeves are done, they only lack ruffs at the cuff, the hemming is already accomplished be utilising the selvedge. All that remains is to mount the collar to the shirt. Before that, however, the embroidery needs to be lined. I did this by cutting out a piece of interlining material the exact size of the embroidered piece, minus the drawn thread hemstitching I did all around. I then wrapped the interlining in white linen, stabstitched the overlapped edge in place and placed it against the embroidery so that the inside of the collar is linen and the interlining gives support. I whipstitched all around this sandwich, using the little holes of my hemstitch as placements for the stitches. The join is not noticeable at all, and quite stable. I left the upper edge of the collar unstitched, for me to insert a ruff there when I get around to it.

With the collar as finished as it can be without the ruff, I then did a narrow hemming all around the neckline of my shirt since I want this to be stitched to the outside edge of the collar. This done I have begun to pin the neckline to the collar, by the divide and conquer method. When this is done I will end up with a cartridge pleated neckline stitched to the bottom of the collar. If I am feeling very ambitious I might then add smocking to the pleats, but I doubt I will ever get to that.

Pretty Much Finished

The neckline pleated to collar
Close-up of the pleated neckline, inside and out.
August 16: Only three ruffs away - Thinking ambitiously I brought with me several unfinished projects to Visby Medieval Week. The only one that I actually did finish was this shirt however. I had all but given up on the divide and conquer method when I had gagued how small the pleats would end up and then I gave up entirely and pulled all the pins out. Going for a much quicker and easier method I ran a simple gathering thread all along the neckline of the shirt itself the approximate size I had gagued my pleates to become. Marking centre back (CB) and shoulder seam join (halfway between CB and CF) on the collar itself I also marked CB on the neckline. After pulling the gathering thread I lined up my pins and whipstitched the neckline into the collar. All in all I did not spend very much time at it and the results look good!

I also had, in my sewing pouch, ties which I had taken off the Tudor court gown false sleeves which were perfect for ties at both cuffs and the neck. I put only one pair at the neck at the event, but have since added another pair above those to keep the embroidery more visible.

The only flaws with this shirt now is my dubious "decorative" stitch at the lower end of the neck slit. It works well enough to prevent ripping or unravelling, but pretty it is not. Also, I thought the shirt looked a bit poor without ruffs at collar and cuffs. I shall have to rectify that. Also, the sleeves are very much too long, annoying but not a catastrophy, only shortening them will enable me to fix the inside-out pleating I did on one sleeve (the one not pictured) so I think I shall fix that problem in any case. Until then, however, I call this project finished

Additions After The Fact

The first shirt sleeve's cuff September 27: Details, details - At the last update, right after Visby Medieval Week, I had finished attaching the blackworked collar to a pleated neckline. It made my shirt wearable, but it was still lacking in ruffs. Today I tackled the sleeve-ruffs. I finished the first one and took a picture of it. I took a strip of linen, three times the length of the cuff itself for single box pleats, folded it double and used the pin-method(*).
(*) The Pin-method: Add pins at both cuff and the ruff-length, using the divide-and-conquer method. Line up the end of the ruff with the end of the cuff, and then the first pins on both. Arrange the pleat neatly between the beginning and the first pin. Continue in same manner between first and second pin, etc to the end.

Picture gallery

For images I may not have linked in the diary, close-ups and overviews et cetera please have a look at the photo gallery.

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