An Evening in the Solar, Feb. 2017

Please join us on our usual third Thursday in February at 7:30pm for a social and A&S gathering featuring Tudor foods, courtesy of Lady Beatrice, and a class on hand-sewing, taught by various ladies of the canton.

The class will be a practicum with multiple instructors available for one-on-one teaching and consultation. Among our topics will be rolled hems, period materials, a subset of stitches useful in all periods & specific decorative stitches such as the Viking herringbone, and assembly techniques for seam construction such as hemming first followed by edge whipping for a spiral-bound seam.

We will meet in the usual place, 255 W. 105th St., #21. Practice materials and tools will be provided. Please bring your sewing kit, if you have one.

References for the class are courtesy of three amazing women, whose work on archaeological sewing is worth exploring in depth. First up is Heather Rose Jones, aka Tangwystyl verch Morgant Glasvryn, with her helpful article Archaeological Sewing. She also maintains the Surviving Garments Project, “a searchable catalog of surviving garments from Europe and the Mediterranean from the dawn of time up through approximately 1500.”

Next we have Jenny Baker, of the New Varangian Guard, in Australia, expert in many things including Viking, Saxon and Frankish attire. The handout for our evening tonight is her very thorough compendium of attestable Stitches and Seam Techniques.

Finally, I would bring to your attention Carolyn Priest-Dorman, aka Þóra Sharptooth, and her research into all things fiber: tablet weaving, spinning & weaving, dying, sprang, nålbinding and embroidery, such as this article on Anglo-Saxon and Viking Needlework.

Below are pictured some of our tools used in this class. I recommend using a blunt rather than a sharp needle for sewing. My preference is for a #28 cross-stitching needle. It has a large eye and a blunt tip. With the blunt tip, you a) are less likely to poke yourself and b) avoid punching through fibers in your fabric, causing less damage.

Silk & 2 weights of linen thread, cross-stitch needles, C-clamp.
Silk & 2 weights of linen thread, cross-stitch needles, C-clamp.

The threads for our experimentation are a Gütermann silk (S 303), Londonderry linen (100/3), and a Gütermann linen (much thicker and universally disliked). Gütermann silk comes in a wide range of colors & two sizes: S 303 (for sewing) and R 753 (thicker, for buttonholes).

Londonderry linen comes in 5 weights (18/3, 30/3, 50/3, 80/3, 100/3) plus a lacing weight (4). With the linen weights, the smaller number equals a thicker thread. The /3 is 3 plies (in spinning up the thread, not separable when stitching). The colored Londonderry comes in a lovely range of shades in the 1st 4 weights. Only white, gray, beige, ivory and black are available in the 100/3 weight.

The Gütermann linen is designed for buttonholes, and heavy articles like rucksacks. It washes up well but is stiff and awkward to work with. Much too large for general sewing.

The clamp, available in local hardware stores for ~$3, is a nifty way of holding one end of your seam, rather like a Victorian sewing bird. I find my stitches are easier to form, my tension is more even, my fabric slips less, and my seam / hem sews faster, when I clamp one end (say, to a table). Both my hands are free to work the needle & thread.

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