I’ve had this fairly large piece of pink linen sitting in my fabric stash for years now. I’ve never really been one to go crazy over the colour pink, but it was linen – which, along with wool, is one of the top fabrics for constructing viking period clothing from, and when I purchased it (off of another person, rather than at a fabric store), the seller mentioned that the colour is one of the shades you can get out of an almost-exhausted dyebath of madder root. Ok, what the heck, I figured, and I could always overdye it later.
Years later, I’m finally getting around to using the fabric, and I’m finding that the colour has actually grown on me. I’m still not sure what colour I’m going to put with it in the form of an apron dress – my navy blue one will look fine, but I’m a little bit concerned that my grass green wool one will make me look a little bit like an easter egg.
In terms of the research behind underdresses, I’m actually putting together a separate research page on the reasoning behind the style of dress I’m constructing, etc., and this series of posts tagged with “pink underdress” will stick more to this actual dress I’m constructing. I’m using the rectangular construction principles for this dress, working with a piece of fabric that is 60 inches wide. I pulled out another underdress I’ve made in the past to use in helping measure, as well. Now I know that in the Viking period, the common measurement for a piece of fabric was the “Ell” – in fact Vaðmál, which is wool cloth of a certain standard quality that was woven to be two ells wide, was a form of currency in Iceland. This leads me to believe that most, if not all, looms, were probably built to accommodate the weaving of fabric that was at least this width, though I have read of looms that were much wider and required two people to weave on them. The ell was originally the same length of a cubit, which was the distance between a man’s elbow and the tip of his middle finger, or 18 inches. This would mean the looms were built to weave fabric that was at least 36″ wide. This also happens to be the same length as a yard, which is the standard unit for fabric measurement in the US. Fabric in the US and Canada comes in a variety of widths, and being that I am a much larger than average woman trying to construct clothing using traditional techniques, this will allow me to make things without having to do extra piecing of my fabric. I do already have to make concessions to the standard design of a rectangular construction dress to accommodate my size and build.
Here is the basic layout I use for my underdresses:
The main body of the dress is two rectangles – in this case, they’re each 30″ wide (half the width of the fabric), and to get the length, I usually just hold the fabric up to myself and take my shoulder to floor length and then add an inch or two for seams and hemming. With the way I’m built, 30″ is quite wide for my shoulders, but I need the width everywhere else, so I usually end up with dropped shoulders on my dresses, and I’m ok with that, I like the room to move.
The sleeves are cut as rectangles to start – and in this case, I’m again using the width of the fabric as one of my base measurements. I cut a piece long enough accommodate my bicep at its widest part, plus a couple of inches for seams and movement room, and used the width of the fabric for the other measurement. I then folded the piece in half width-wise, so that each sleeve pieces is 30″ x the length. I will trim the pieces later to get the angle from the top of the sleeve to the wrist.
The side gores (the triangles shown on the diagram) will be added later, once I have everything but the sides and hem done. They will be long triangles of fabric added in to the side seams to make the dress big enough to go over my hips and drape nicely, but not big enough to make the dress too loose. At this point it’s looking like I will have enough of the fabric to make myself either a tunic blouse or sundress from the remainder, and I’m really hoping that’s the case.
I’ve started stitching the dress together in hopes of having it ready for Winter War, which is two weeks from today. I’m using threads pulled from the edge of the rest of the fabric to stitch it with, and stitching it entirely by hand with what is believed to be period stitch techniques. Unfortunately using the same exact thread to stitch with is making it almost impossible to see my stitches in photos, which means for my next post, which will be about period stitch techniques, I’m going to have to make up some sample bits using contrasting thread.