Some time ago, Son sent me a link to NorthernFox. He was thinking of getting something like this for his wife for her birthday. At this point it was many months in the future. As it happened, I had just been reading an article about textiles found in Viking graves. I got excited for this project too! Fast forward into the future and we arrived in September. Where did all the time go?
The instructions for creating the patterns were purchased from HeddlesandTreadles. It all starts with actual measurements followed closely by math (I used a calculator and checked my math several times). I drew the working paper patterns on freezer paper, cutting them out using dedicated paper scissors. This allowed me to arrange them in a couple of different ways to figure out my most efficient cutting layout based on fabric width. Then I could determine how much of each fabric needed to be ordered. It is a cotton/linen blend by Kaufman and it was ordered right before leaving for vacation.
As soon as it arrived, it went into the washer on the hottest setting to achieve maximum shrinkage. Each color was washed separately in case of color bleed. Once washed and dried, the fabric was ironed on high heat with steam.
Before starting this project I asked Son if these garments needed to be historically accurate. He said that they didn’t. This freed me up to use my sewing machine for the main seams. There aren’t any construction instructions included, but how hard could it really be? LOL. I started with the “shoulder seams” on the Serk (under dress). On the top edge of the rectangle there is a slit for the head to poke through. There is also supposed to be a circle. I figured that I could cut that a little later… When I sewed the top edges together to make the “shoulders”, there wasn’t any room for any head to poke through except for that little 3″ slit.
Next came the gore to the side seams. Starting the seam at the front bottom and ending at the sharp pointy end of the gore. Re-starting at the bottom, of the back this time, and ending at the sharp pointy end again. Both sides were finished up to this point (I’m so punny), leaving rest of side seams open. When both side seams of each gore were finished, it was time to go the rest of the way up the side seams. The seam allowances were finished open and felled down.
Having achieved success with these seams, I switched to the Smokkr (apron dress) to do the same thing with the gore seams. Having done more reading, I found that the seams were usually felled to one side. Being that I wanted to watch a television program while sewing, all the seams on the Smokkr were hand done with back stitching.
To create the hem I rolled up the raw edge, using a running stitch to hold it in place. Turning it twice more, to hide the running stitches, then hem stitched it. As evidenced by all the dog hair, Pixie has been very helpful in the creation of this project. I think she believes that I am sewing her new blankets.
The last thing I needed to do on the Smokkr was to finish the raw edge on the top, sew the straps and attach them. I wanted them to be sturdy and not tear out. While trying to figure out the best way to accomplish this, I saw that there is a lot of different styles of straps. This lead me back to the original piece of grave textiles. First it stated that there were 4 loops found in each brooch, 2 from back loops and 2 from front loops. From the line drawings it was apparent that the loops were from long narrow straps that both ends were sewn to the Smokkr. This differed from some straps that I’d seen on modern made ones, where the strap was solid with small loops attached at the end that goes into the brooches. The construction of the loops starts with a long piece of fabric folded in half lengthwise. The raw edges were then folded in lengthwise to the first fold line with the edges whip-stitched closed. It also states that the straps 1-1.3cm wide when finished. Originally, I hadn’t planned on adding the decorative band, leaving the choice of the band up to DIL at a later date. However the article states clearly that the loops are attached to the decorative band. Although I do have two amazing friends (BP and DH) that do tablet weaving, I wanted to have this project finished in time for DIL’s birthday with only two days to go. Off to the store I went…
There were several trims that would fit requirements. There were some with tighter weaves and more intriguing patterns, but they also had gilding. This project needed something without that. Once the trim was in place, it was time for the straps.
The pattern gave measurements for the widths and lengths the straps were to be. I had already decided from the grave paper that I wanted the finished straps to be 1cm wide, so set the cut width to be 4cm. After cutting strips for the straps, it was onto the ironing board. They were folded in half lengthwise with each side being folded in again to the center fold. The straps were whipped closed starting at one end, along the long side, finishing on the other end. Once all straps were complete, it was time to attach them to the band on the Smokkr.
To determine front strap placement I held the garment up to myself, placing a pin where each small loop would go. Each front loop was attached using the whip stitch. The back loop placement was based on where the front loops were and where the center back was. Being that the back loops should be closer to each other than the front loops (according to what I read), I picked a point 1/2 way between the center back seam and where the front loop placement was. For the second back loop the garment was folded on the center back seam with the final loop being placed to mirror the other.
The brooches that fasten the back loops to the front loops were purchased from Amazon. The glass bead swags were made by Gson#1 and Gson#2 for their momma’s Bday. Although I did help with getting some of the beads onto the hemp string and made the rule that there was to be 10 beads between each rock pendant, the boys did all the choosing each bead and most of the stringing themselves. It was interesting to see the difference in each string of beads. Both strings have the same amount of beads, but the lower one is obviously much longer. G.son#1 liked the larger beads with his colors starting out dark and going toward lighter. Gson#2 liked the smaller beads with more color variations all along the strand.
I was so excited to give the completed Serk to DIL when she was over one evening, that I forgot to take a picture of the finished garment. I was very grateful for the pictures that Son sent me of DIL in the whole outfit! 😀