leather costrel

Last medieval week I ran around with a plastic bottle in my bag, since drinking water is important but plastic bottles are not all that fun I decided to make a leather bottle in stead.

Looking around there is two options, the bottle looking kind and the one that looks like a small barrel. As I do both medieval and 16 century stuff I wanted a bottle that I could use for both. Leather costrels seems to have been around forever, a quick google search found me both museum pictures of costrels from the late 1300 and from 1500 and they were in use at least up until the 18th century.

I also found a picture of huntsmen with costrels.

So I decided on a costrel, I like the idea that it could easily be made so that it would stand on its on to. I looked around at different techniques, some people use wooden moulds but I don’t want to bother with mould making so I went with the sand version. Haandkrafts beautiful costrel gave me lots of help figuring out how to actually make one.
I chose to take away some of the layers that he used, and it worked fine anyway.

leather costrel - pattern
Here is the pattern for it, it is in cm and I made one difference from my original costrel, it is only that the outer seam allowance is 0,5cm in stead of 1cm on the sides. There is no difference in function only the look. You need to use vegetable tanned leather for this project. Chrome tanned leather is never healthy, especially not if you use it for storing water that you want to drink. I worked with 3mm thick leather and found that it was perfect thickness for me. This costrel holds 9 dl of water or any other liquid.

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Using an awl I made all the holes for the main part. I do not make any holes in the sides, they will be made as we go along with the sewing. Make sure that the holes in the top part matches, count them and make sure, you are sewing these together so they need to be the same amount and at the same places.

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I have also prepared for the decoration, using a knife I have cut the decoration into the leather, but only 1mm deep. Mu decoration is based on this costrel but with my initials on it.

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I started with sewing to top together, I use blunt needles and waxed flax thread.

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Making it look like a small leather tent.

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Take one side piece and wet the edges shape it with your hands, you might want to take some of the corners of, but don not cut away to much, it might cause the corstel to leak.

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I have marked out where the top and bottom are supposed to be, so put the side piece into the “tent”. As I have not made any holes in the side piece, you will need to make these as you go along. Just put your awl in one of the holes in the main bottle piece and push it through the side piece as well, but watch your fingers.

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I start in the centre bottom, with the seam that is farthest from the edge. I sew it from the middle to the top on both sides. I don’t knot any threads, I fasten them by making them overlap by three stitches.

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I try to not end in the centre top, it is tricky to sew there anyway so I fasten the seams by overlapping a bit down on the sides as you can see it you look closely on this picture.
Sew the other seam, closest to the edge and sew the other side on. It is important to have two seams , it will make you costrel less prone to leaking.

Cut out holes for carrying straps.

Now submerge your half finished costrel in lukewarm water and let it stay there for at least some hours. Then you can force the leather to make the opening, my pattern will give you a opening that is just so wide that you can use a cut of plastic bottle as a funnel. It is also a width of opening that we are all used to. The water will come out just as well as from a ordinary water bottle.

Now you stuff it full of sand. Pour first dry sand into it. When it is full, add some water. Then you continue to stuff it with sand until it can not take no more and feels solid.

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Now you can make the pattern if you want to, you will feel if the leather is to wet, then the pattern will not be as distinct. If this is the case, wait a day or so and try again.
I use a modelling tool for leather but you don’t really need any special tools, use what you have around you, a nice rounded stick, a fork to make a pattern with.
I don’t have any leather stamps so I used a edge cutter to make the dotted pattern.

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One side done, one to go!

Now let your costrel sit and dry, this might take some time. I put mine in a sunny window and it helps to pour out sand as you go along.

When it is completely dry and all the sand is removed it is time to pour wax into it.
I used beeswax. Melt it carefully, get a old sauce pan from the thrift shop since the pan you use will forever be your bees wax pan.
Pour the warm wax into the bottle (wax is WARM so use caution) you should fill it at least until it is half full. Put a cork into it and move the wax around and make sure to cover all of the inside, it is easy to miss so make sure that the ceiling of the costrel is covered.
When you have done this you can pour the wax out again, pour small amounts into moulds made of of old plastic cups and you will have sewing wax for later. and it is easier to melt if you need more wax some other time.

Some fill the bottle completely with wax and put it in the oven on low heat, then they remove it when they see the wax seeping through on the outside of the bottle.

Now you can test your bottle by simply pouring water into it. You will quickly see if you need to redo the waxing part.
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I coloured my costrel with modern leather dye. and this is how it turned out.
I added a carrying straps to be able to put it on my belt. I also carried it a lot as a small silly handbag ;)

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A kind of a toggle lock, for quick removal from the belt.

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A wooden cork attached with a thinner leather string.

It was SO useful to be able to carry around water with me the whole week without any problems, just remember to store it without the cork in to prevent it from moulding.
The first day of use the water tasted very much of honey, it might had been nice it if the water had been something else then sun warm ;)


I know that I am not all that good with updating here, especially not with things like in progress photos. But I thought that with this new year I would try to share some of my process with you.

I will keep this blog as it is, as a way to show my finished objects and tutorials, but my progress can now be found on my brand new and shiny Facebook page

So come along, there is a lot of things over there that I have not shown here yet.


16th century German – wulsthaube

Happy new year!
I start my new year with a tutorial on how I made my wulsthaube.

My wulsthaube is in one piece, I love that it is so simple to put on, I can even do it without a mirror (or running uphill the streets of Visby to attend 100 landsknecht march as I did 2011 medieval week), not pinning and tugging at a piece of fabric in the morning.
As I always wear a steuchlein my wulsthaube is never visible.

wulsthaube tutorial - 1
You start out with making a fabric roll. Mine is made out of a piece of linen that is 16cm wide and 44 cm long. It is cut on the bias and when it is sewn together it is stuffed with wool. You can use whatever stuffing you want to and I have also read about people using wicker wreaths padded with fabric for their wulst, I guess that it would be a good lightweight option if you want to do a super size wulsthaube.

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Then I take a piece of fabric, I used a old linen panel curtain found thrift shopping. The size is based on the size of your wulst and it is not 100% important as you are draping your wulsthaube. I think that my fabric was somewhere between 65-85 cm long and and 50-60 cm wide. The linen is cut straight on grain so that the front will not stretch. you can also cut it on the bias to make it drape over the wulst better, but then you will need to add a strip of fabric in the front that is on straight grain before putting it on to keep the front solid.

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I pin it in the nape of my neck (I look kind of aggressive in this picture, angryfrau!)

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Put the fabric over your head.

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And add the wulst.

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I start with pinning it at the centre top.

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Then I pull the fabric taut over the wulsthaube pinning it as I go along.

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Now you are ready to start draping.
You can do this while wearing it with the help of mirrors, having a friend wear it or as I do it, putting it on a doll.

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Remember to put pins where you pinned it at the nape of your neck.

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Put it on your trusty helper.

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And start draping.

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As you go along you can cut away some of the fabric that is hidden by the pleats, it only adds unnecessary bulk.

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When draping it you can decide what shape you want it to have by pulling the fabric taut in the back.

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Here you can see that I have cut away some on the inside.
But you don not want to cut it all away, as you will notice in a few step. You will need a flap to cover the raw edges in the front.
My wulst looks kind of gross, but that is what happens if you use wool that is not properly washed. You smell slightly of sheep and the wool geese leaves stains. I recommend using washed wool! ;)

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In my finished wulsthaube, I don’t want the ends to meet in my neck, I want some space to be able to put it on tightly and the linen will probably stretch some with use.
So I remove some cm in the neck and put new pins. The pin to the right is the old pin, and the new pin is to the left.

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Then I cut away the excess and pin a nice hem.

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Lots of pins! I want to sew the pleats down to make them stay in place, make sure to catch more then just the outer layer of fabric. I do the same on the inside, to make it look neat.

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As you see here I have only sewn the pleats down for about 5cm

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A flap have been naturally shaped on the inside by the draping, sew down the side of it.

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Cut away excess fabric.

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Hem the edges you pinned a few steps before.

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It is now time to fix the finishing on the outside in the back.
See the flap, make sure that it is moderately the same width all along.

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Fold it to the font and put some pins.

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Trim it down and fold under the raw edges.

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Sew it in place.

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I then add a band around the head, it is cut straight on grain and is as wide as you like. Mine is 2cm wide and just as long so that I can pin or tie it.

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And then it is finished!
I might had wanted to have the square lower in the neck, my other wulsthaube is like that. But as it is always covered with a steuchlein that is not really a problem.

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I usually baste my wulst with big stitches to the haube, so that I can take it out and throw the haube in the washing machine after events. But you can also pin it if you want to.