I love my blue dress, and I have redone it so many times now, but one thing was bugging me. It is to bright for what I want to do. I am aiming to do a lower class woman, a woman that could have been a follower of the German landsknecht tross. And for that my blue dress was to fancy.
I wanted to do something simpler, a lighter colour and a more “believable” dress. Then the idea of dying the fabric myself using a plant that would be easy to find and use.
There are plenty of birch trees around so I knew that I would be able to gather all the plants I needed to dye the around 4 meters of fabric I needed for this dress.

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I started of by getting a really big pot. I got my 70 litre brewing pot including a lid at www.storagrytor.se and then I ordered some mordants and iron sulphate from www.dengamlaskolan.se I choose to use the twill raw weave from www.medeltidsmode.se for this project. As I love the surface it gets after washing and I had heard that it would be nice to dye.

The raw weave is bought as the name implies “raw”. It is straight out of the loom, filled with spinning oil and the weave is quite loose. It is a fabric that is meant to be washed and fulled and should not be used as it is. It is inexpensive and kind of ugly with a dirty beige colour. But when washed in 60°C it fulls nicely and you get a soft cream coloured fabric with a visible twill structure and it becomes a sightly fluffy but not to thick fabric. You can wash it in 90°C as well to get a heavier, more fulled fabric, but I just washed it in 60°C before I dyed it. One should also note that it does shrink a bit when you dye it as well.

After getting a big pot it was time to add mordant to the fabric to make it possible to dye it. I added 10% of Alun and 5% Cream of tartar of the fabrics dry weight to a bit of luke warm water in the pot. Stirred it well to make sure it was all solved and then filled the pot up with water. Then the fabric was added and the heat was turned on. You need it to heat up slowly to not chock the wool but that really is not a problem with such a big pot. It took me around one hour to get it up to the 80-90°C that you need and I kept stirring the fabric around all the time. Then the temperature was held at 80-90°C for one hour and then the heat was turned down and I let the fabric cool down in the mordant water until the next day.
You can either dye directly on the wet fabric, or you can let it dry (no need to rinse it out) to have for dyeing later. I choose the first one.

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It takes a lot of time to get all the leaves. You need to collect t least the double amount of leafs of the fabrics dry weight. As I had around 1,5kg fabric I choose to pick around 4kg of leafs. Getting more then you need will perhaps not give you more colour but it can help with the light fastness of the colour. Better safe then sorry, also for birch it is good to know that if you pick the leafs after midsummer you can get a green tint to your dye, in stead of a clear yellow. This is what happened to me but I like it. You will want to get only the leafs and not any branches.

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When all the leafs was picked it was time to add it to the dyeing pot that was now emptied of water and rinsed out. I added the leafs and then poured on water until the leafs was covered. Then the leaf soup was brought to a boil and then boiled for one hour. Birch leafs does not smell bad, but they smell special.

After one hour it was time to take out the leafs. All the leafs need to be taken out as they can make stains on the fabric. Emptying a pot of 50 litres of warm water with leafs is a hassle. Really no that easy, but it can be done.
When it was empty of leafs I added more water. I had so much fabric that I needed as much water I could get and also it is a good way to get the temperature of the birch leaf soup down. You do not want to add the fabric if the water is over 50°C as this is bad for the wool fibre.

Then it was time to add the fabric. To make the fabric is even it is good if it is wet when you add it, mine came directly from the mordant bath so there was no need to wet it more. When the fabric is added you need to slowly raise the temperature to 80-90°C and you need to stir the fabric often to make sure that the colour gets even. When the temperature is at 80-90°C you need to keep it there for one hour stirring now and then during this time. When one hour is over I simply turned of the heat and let the fabric cool down to the next day. When cooled down I took it out of the bath and rinsed it well in cold water until the water was clear.

Next day I needed to dye my accent colour. As I had so much fabric the first round there was no space for that piece. There is kind of a lot of colour last in the bath after the first round, so adding a fabric to the after bath and redo the heating and one hour at 80-90°C would give a nice but lighter yellow. As I wanted to have the same strength but green I added the leafs to the water again and boiled them again, to get some extra colour into the bath. After the same procedure as the last time; straining of the leafs, adding more water to cool it down, I added the last piece of fabric to the bath and let it slowly go up to 80-90°C. When the temperature was right I let my fabric sit for 45 minutes in the bath, stirring well. Then the fabric was taken out temporarily and iron sulphate was added; 5g for each 100g of fabric. I stirred it well to make it dissolve into the water and then added the fabric again. This turns the yellow fabric green. But it is kind of bad for the fibre so I only let it be in the bath for 15 minutes. Then It was taken out and I let it cool down a bit before washing it well in first warm water that gradually was made cooler to not shock the wool.

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Then it was finished and I only had to wait for it to dry, and clean up the mess in the kitchen. Taking a good photo of the colours was hard, but it kind of what they look like but they do change in visual appearance if you are inside our outside, in the sun or the shade.

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Then it was time for the cutting and sewing part. Of course I had very little time to sew this as I wanted to make it for medieval week on Gotland. I only had a few days but I was pretty sure I could make it at least wearable for medieval week. The assembly for this is the same as for my blue dress tutorial. The difference is that for this dress I choose to not use the filler thread as there are no evidence that this was used in the 16th century and also I choose to try hooks and eyes and to not bone the front of the dress.

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Otherwise it was very straight forward sewing, I timed the dress as it is always interesting to see how much time it takes and for this dress it took me 25 hours and 5 minutes. Not bad for a totally hand sewn dress, and yes it was finished enough to wear for medieval week. What was left to do was to attach one more stripe on the skirt as I wanted two and the cast down some of the edges inside the dress but that is included in the 25 hours and five minutes.
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Under this dress I wear my wool under dress. A sleeveless wool dress lined with two layers of heavy linen that is laced in front. The under dress is not boned and I find that wearing the under dress and over dress is plenty of bust support for me. And also it gives you a proper silhouette.
To make this outfit better I will be making a new smocked shirt and veil, pure white and embroidered it not all that fitting for a poorer woman so I will be making them in non bleached linen in stead. And smock using a tone on tone thread in stead.

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I hope you like it as much as I do. I like the fact that it is so simple and not slashed at all. It feels very real and possible.

So I have spoken about my new 16th century German chemise/shirt, and I have also documented the whole process of making it so that I can show you how it is made.

This hemd goes under the name of “silly eternity hemd” because it have a rather silly amount of fabric in it, and a equally silly high collar with a ridiculous tight smock, and it really have taken an eternity to sew.
I like things silly, especially with my German outfit, and I love to work a long time on things, but I have to admit that it might be a bit to much to have 4,5 meters of fabric smocked into the collar.
It is in a thin linen fabric from medeltidsmode.se and is sewn with silk thread.
The seam allowances are felled and when done they are only 0,5 cm wide.
The embroidery is in linen thread but for a more period correct thread I would suggest silk if you want to use colour.

Print
So here is the pattern, it is in cm and not inches.
I am using the width of the fabric, using one width for the front, one for the back and half a width for each sleeve. Using 3 meters gives you enough fabric for these pieces, the sleeve gusset and for lining the collar and end of the sleeves.
In centre front, we have a slit that is cut open.
As said, to use 150cm to the font and the back might be a bit to much, so if you want to using half a fabric width, 75 cm that will turn out as a nice hemd that to.

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When I work in linen fabric, I like to pull threads. This ensures that I cut 100% on the grain.
Using a big needle, I pull up one thread.

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Pulling it out until it breaks.

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When it breaks, you just use the needle to pull it out again and then when you have gone the full width of the fabric it will look like this.

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And now you can cut your fabric.

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Voila! 100% straight on the grain.

Print
Print
Now it is time to start sewing. You need to sew your pieces together before you smock. I have a seam allowance of 1 cm.
As you can see in this picture, you need to sew your pieces together so that they form a “tube”. Sew only down to the X mark, witch is in my hemd 31 cm down. My hemd is rather tight fitting around the armcycle, and this measurement decides this. For a looser fit you need to sew longer. Or if you are smaller you might need to have this distance shorter if you want the tighter fit. You can if you want sew just as much as you need for the smocking (15cm) and then when the smock is finished, put it over your head and pin with needles so that it fits right here.
The blue in this picture shows where my smocking is going to be.

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Of course I forgot to take photos of how I sewed it together, but I have these stand in pictures to show you how I sew a felled seam. It is important that the finished seam is not wider then your smock pleats, or else it will look funny and you will see the seam in your smocked collar. As my smock pleats are 0,5cm therefore my finished seam is 0,5 so that it blends in. Therefore I start out with a 1 cm seam allowance.
I sew with running stitches as there is no strain on this seam and we are also felling it witch means that it will be stronger because of that.

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Then I scrape the seam open with my bone tool, this is a period way of getting flat seams with out ironing them, and linen takes this treatment fabulously.

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Then I cut down the seam allowance on one side.

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Folds the other sides seam allowance in half, here I use a fingernail to scrape it down.

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Fold the whole thing to one side, scraping it a bit with my bone tool to make it lie flat.

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And then I sew it down. And that is how I make my felled seams.

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So let me introduce my bone tool, it is made as you all can guess out of bone. Moose bone to be exact. I have made it myself and I originally use it when working with leather, polishing the edges among other things.
But when I was reading in “Woven into the Earth: Textile finds in Norse Greenland” by Else Ostergaard there was information about tools found that was connected with textile working (pages 111-115). Among the tools were the “seam smoothers” that were used to make the seams flat. They could be made out of every kind of material, wood, bone, stone, glass, horn, it even says something about a pigs tooth.
So I thought that “well I need to try it” and said and done, and now I use my bone tool with all my linen fabric. So nice not having to use the iron all the time, especially with small seams and narrow seam allowances that you end up burning your fingertips of while working with.
But now, lets continue on our hemd.

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Now it is time to hem the top of your hemd, that will become your collar.
I pull a thread at 1 cm and make a double fold.

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Like this, here you can see my felled seam.

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Now we are going to make a dotted grid for the smocking. I have made a guide out of thin cardboard, this saves so much time! I am going to dot each cm with one cm between each row.
I am dotting 10 rows.

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It is just to put it along with the hemmed edge and with a pen make a dot using the grid, This takes almost forever, remember to sharpen your pen now and then.
Yes that is about 4500 dots… yes you are crazy for doing this ;)

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Here you can see that I have also hemmed the slit in the front. (or at least one side of it).

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The end of the slit is hard to hem in a good way, and it is also a place that have a lot of strain on it. So I finished it of with some buttonhole stitches to cover the raw edge and then some stitches across to make it durable. And it is pretty to.

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Now it is time to sew your gathering stitches. I use a regular polyester thread in a bright colour, so that I remember to take it away later. I sew with a long double thread and pick up a few threads at each dot.

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Sew all the lines.

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Then gather your fabric and tie it of when you have gathered it to your neck circumference + some ease. Hold a measuring tape against your neck to know what you want ( mine is 44cm ).

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Really dense smocked fabric, ridiculously dense.

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Now I baste some guide threads on the front, to help me with my embroidery. They are 1cm apart.

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I start my embroidering with this, along the whole collar, to keep it together.

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Like this

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Then I want to have these.

And this is how you sew that stitch. If you reverse it you can sew a diamond.
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And this is how it ended up, with decorative dots in the middle. And in the bottom is honeycomb stitch.

This is how you sew it.
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to get to the next row, skip one row.

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Now you just continue on like before.

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This is how my backside looks.

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And the finished front.

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Then it is time to line your collar. My lining is a strip of fabric that is 5cm wide finished width, and as long as my neck circumference, the measurement that we tied of the threads on.

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When sewing it on, be sure to catch each fold to sew it to the lining.

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This makes sure that your smock stays put and looks pretty.
Do not sew the front shut before you cut the thread knots of, that will make it hard do take them away.

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Now take your gathering threads away.

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And now your collar is done! I have a pearl closure.

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Pearls and thread loops.

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A close up of the hemmed slit.

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And the reinforcement again.

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Now you are going to sew the sleeve seam and the side seams. Put your hemd with your wrong sides together.

Print
And this is how you are supposed to sew. Leave 10 cm toward the X. This is were you are going to sew your sleeve gusset.

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Like this.

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Now sew your sleeve gusset.

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Like this.

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The sleeve gusset is also going t have felled seams, put it on your knee and it is easy to see when you work.

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Fell the seams on the sleeve and the side seam to. And hem the sleeves and the bottom hem.

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And now do the same thing to the sleeves as you did to the collar part. Make dots, sew dots, gather.
But here I gather against a bottle that have the same circumference as my hand. I don want to have a closure on my sleeve but I still need to be able to put it on.

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And do some honeycomb smocking.

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And then line it.

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Remember to not sew it shut before you remove your gathering thread.
Remove gathering threads and sew shut.

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Now it is done!

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Close up on the collar.

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Close up on bottom.

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This is where your first seam ends up in the end. Not visible at all when you are wearing it.

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Close up on sleeve gusset.

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Finished sleeve.

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The inside of the sleeve.

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Back of hemd.

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Back of collar.

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How the honeycomb looks.

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Inside of collar.

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Ruffles on the collar.

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As an addition to the button closure I also have a hook in the bottom of the collar, to keep in shut better, it fastens in a loop on the other side.

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And then a picture of me wearing the shirt.
I hope you have found this tutorial helpful.

As always I give you, my inspiration for my outfits.
Really high collars
Schneider-n-Neterin
holbein noblewoman
BRONZINO, Agnolo 1530-32
Basel_Woman_Turned_to_the_Left_Costume_Study_by_Hans_Holbein_the_Younger1520
inspiration for hemd
meyer

And also one, where I got the inspiration for the pearl closure from.
HEEMSKERCK, Maerten van 1531