The brown Greenland gown.

I started to feel like it was about time to sew a new dress, after three years (or tree weeks as I only really worn it to medieval week) in my green gown I had so many things I wanted to do better. I did my green gown before I started tailoring school and when I was really new on medieval stuff. I decided on brown last summer, but did not buy any fabric, and then the yellow gained on the “most wanted dress list” as it felt like “everyone” was doing brown. In the end I did a small poll on my personal facebook, and everyone said yellow… And a small voice in my head said but, but, the brown, is so pretty.

That is how you choose colours ;) so I bought a lovely oak brown thin twill from Handelsgillet a thin ans shiny fabric perfect for summer, a lot thinner then my green dress. I got it home and steamed it and put it on the “to do shelf”.

Brown Greenland gown - 1

Next of was pattern, I knew I wanted to do a Greenland inspired gown, so I looked a lot on Greenland no. 38 for this dress. I love the slim panels in the sides that flare into a wide skirt, it is perfect for fitting on a large bust and “hides” hips in the fullness of the skirt. I tried my hands on the 38 in my green gown, but now I wanted to master it with my tailoring skills.
I choose to make it much more fitted then the original gown, as the trendy tight fitting dresses from the manuscripts. I also choose to have buttons in the sleeves as you can see in the London findings. As I wanted to make this so that I can wear it as a middle dress I choose to make it with lacing in the front in stead of buttons, also this is inspired by period art, in the shape of the grave effigy of Katherine, Countess of Warwick. She sports lots of tiny buttons on her sleeves and then spiral lacing in the front.

Brown Greenland gown - 2

Also I did not know when I made the green dress but the panels of the original 38 is actually cut slightly on bias. I wanted to see what difference it makes. For one it makes the cutting of the dress very fabric effective. You get a lot out of your fabric with not all that much waste but a great fullness of the skirt.

Brown Greenland gown - 3

A big bust is troublesome when fitting and it took me about six toilles before I felt that the fit was nice, as always it is hard fitting yourself, but I am happy with how the pattern turned out. Keeping the side panels slim as in the original felt important, is would have been a lot easier it they had been wider and more of princess seams, but then it would not have been the same dress.

Brown Greenland gown - 4
Brown Greenland gown - 5
I basted together the whole dress to check the fit, I want to show you my stitches. I find that many people baste very small, this is my stitches. I make them smaller in the tight fitting areas, and then really big in the skirts. Don’t waste time on small basting, do small stitches where it matters in stead.

Brown Greenland gown - 6
After the fitting I started to sew the real seams, I do it like this. A ribbon is tied around my leg just over my knee, and then the fabric of the dress is pinned to the ribbon. As I sew the fabric is tight and it makes for quicker sewing and easier to make straight seams. I sew with backstitches where the dress is tight, until my hips, and from there I sew with running stitches in stead, with the occasional backstitch. Again, don’t waste your time with backstitches on such a wide skirt, it is unnecessary and only takes time.

Brown Greenland gown - 7
Brown Greenland gown - 8
After sewing all seams I pressed them really well and then I felled the seams to one side using a filler thread. The filler treads can be found in the seams just as this on the Greenland finds. I sew down the wool filler thread with sewing silk.

Brown Greenland gown - 9
Where the buttonholes and lacing holes are I have reinforced with a linen strip.

Brown Greenland gown - 10
I choose to sew my buttonholes with a real buttonhole stitch with a knot in buttonhole silk, as you can see on the buttonholes of the London finds, it makes for durable buttonholes that are easier to do straight, even and also look very pretty. Also note the round buttonholes without thread bars in the end, just as a medieval buttonhole should look. Also my lacing holes are sewn in silk with buttonhole stitch.
Here you can see another thing inspired by the London findings, a thing silk edge weave, tone in tone silk to match the fabric of the dress. I used DeVere silk treads in the colour Cigar and thread thickness 36 and three cards that were threaded in all holes both as warp and weft, to weave was really boring actually. It was so slow, but I love the end result. Subtle but very nice and it makes the edge more durable.

Brown Greenland gown - 11
The backside looks alight, not as pretty as in the front but it is ok the buttons are 5 mm from the edge, and then the edge weaves comes and is 3mm wide. I should have put the even close to the edge, next time I might dare more.

Brown Greenland gown - 12
Then it was time to do buttons, tiny tiny buttons and in the end it became 31 on each arm, so a grand total of 62 buttons.

Brown Greenland gown - 13
So close that they almost touch.

Brown Greenland gown - 14
Here you can see the lacing holes and also the string that I made for the spiral lacing. I card weaved it in the same silk as the edge weave and it was even more boring. Six or eight cards threaded in all four holes with DeVere silk thickness 36.
What you can’t see is that all the edges are stab stitched, around the neckline, in the front and around the hem of the sleeve and buttonhole side. Just as in the Greenland findings. It makes the edge less prone to stretching and also keeps it very flat and nice.

Brown Greenland gown - 15
This is the result and I am very happy with it. It will fit better after some wear as always with wool the dress needs to “settle” on the body. After one sweaty day in Visby it was a lot better already.

Brown Greenland gown - 16
The wobbliness that you see here will most likely be gone after some wear, it is due to the side panels being on bias.

Brown Greenland gown - 17
The “prettyness” picture that shoes all that I love with this dress; tiny buttons, pretty buttonholes, edge weave in silk, side panels, lots of hips


21 thoughts on “The brown Greenland gown.

  1. Beautiful work as always. I love the sewing tips you give and the detailed photos; so helpful. Still not sure of the purpose of the green wool. If you have a moment can you explain please? Thanks so much for sharing.

  2. Absolutely gorgeous, especially the finishing! It’s very, very rare to see someone a) put the effort into all the finishing and b) do so with such a high skill level. I’m currently working on a project that’ll have lots of London-style finishing and it’s great to have such an excellent example to aim for.

  3. I forgot to ask – did you like the De Vere silk for the buttonholes and tablet weaving despite it being a filament silk? Or would you prefer spun (twisted) silk?

  4. When I make my Greenland gowns (I’ve been making them for about 21 years), I sew the side seams as a straight cut to a bias cut. That way you have the stability of the straight of grain with the stretch and play of the bias. Also, this facilitates a lovely puddle of a hem around the feet while maintaining an even drape.

    Beautiful gown, by the way.

  5. I must say, that the brown is a very lovely colour! I’ve done a couple based on the Greenland gowns too, and you inspire me to attempt another, but in wool (if I can get something nice! Wool is hard to get here).

    Do your felled seams with the filler thread bind together after washing and wearing? I was wondering if they get filled nicely into a single piece, or if they stay separate. I’ve used your technique on the seams on my wool cloak. :)

  6. Annabel: With the green wool, I refer to my old green wool dress, is that what you are refering to?

    Panth: Oh I forgot to add that for the buttonholes I use Gütermans buttonhole silk. But the De Vere yarn I use for weaving is their 36 yarn, and it is not unspun as the 60 or 72 thread but have a tighter twist. So I don’t know the difference.

    Jessica Norris: I think that they stay separate, I have not worn it that many times yet and I never wash my wool gowns, only hang them out to air. Time might tell, they should go together a bit I think.

  7. It may not be period but when I hand stitch I do it twice…second time fills in the spaces and I like that because the thread does not show when the fabric is stressed.

    This is awesome lovely…..

  8. When you sew your filler threads, do you just sew “around” it, or do you at times sew through it? I find that when just sewing around it, it has a tendency to creep under the edge instead of lying against it.

    Kind regards, Alva

  9. Dear Cathrin,
    It is a very beautiful and well-tailored gown you have made! I wonder if you could tell me more of the purpose of the filler thread. As it is on the inside of the dress, I suppose it is not ornamental.

    Marijn – St. Thomasguild

  10. Marijn van der Gaag: The purpose of the filler thread is to help hold the threads from unravelling on the raw edges, as they are cast down but also it is as a decorative element. Many of the Greenland garments are made that way, with very fine finishing touches on the inside of the garments that was never seen by anyone else then the wearer.

  11. Alva: I sew only around it, if they want to creep under the edge (I find that it wants to do that some times as well) I would recommend you using a thicker yarn in stead, or double threads That will usually keep it where it should be.
    But if you find that sewing through it solves your problem, do that. There is more then one way of solving a problem :)

  12. Oh this is just lovely, and the photos and writing are very nice. I really love the re-enforcing down at the buttonhole edge.

  13. I love your work. Could you explain how to do grand aisette sleeves to a novice seamstress?

  14. In a word: impressive.
    Would you please tell me how many meters (or yards, for us Americans) it takes to construct this gown, or even your other lovely gowns of this era? Thanks kindly!

  15. Hej! Jag har precis börjat bli intresserad av att sy en sent 1300-tal, tidigt 1400-talsutstyrsel som är så gott som historiskt korrekt. Min plan var att sy en klänning efter mönstret från grönlandsfynden som handelsgillet säljer. Och det jag undrar är väl framförallt, funkar det vid den tidsperioden och hur mycket “kan man” avvika från mönstret, tex om jag skulle vilja göra ärmar eller front med tygknappar eller snörning, eller en tajatare modell än vad det modellen verkade va, (som det verkar som du gjorde med din gröna?!) fungerar det att göra utifrån det mönstret eller borde jag följa något annat/göra ett eget mönster efter nån bok? Vet att det här är ett gammalt inlägg men hoppas att du kanske kan ha tiden att svara på min fråga ändå! Vill så gärna göra det bra när jag nu är taggad på att få det “rätt”.
    Tack på förhand!

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